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Astor [née Langhorne], Nancy Witcher, Viscountess Astor (1879–1964), society hostess and politician, was born at Danville, Virginia, on 19 May 1879, the eighth child in a family of eleven. Her father, Chiswell Dabney Langhorne (1843–1919), a veteran of the American Civil War, had made his fortune in railway construction and bought an estate at ...

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Brooks [née Goddard], (Beatrice) Romaine Mary (1874–1970), painter and lesbian icon, was born in a hotel in Rome on 1 May 1874, the third of three children of Major Harry Goddard, army officer, and his wife, Ella Waterman (d. 1902), who were both American citizens. Her father was reputed to be an alcoholic, and her parents divorced not long after her birth. Her mother was very rich, having a number of residences in various European countries. Despite this she seems to have spent little time or money on her two daughters, reserving most of her affection for her sickly and unstable son, ...

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Brummell, George Bryan [known as Beau Brummell] (1778–1840), dandy and socialite, was born on 7 June 1778 in Downing Street, Westminster, the last of three children of William (Billy) Brummell (d. 1794), private secretary to the prime minister, Lord North, and his wife, ...

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Buller, Charles (1806–1848), politician and wit, was born in Calcutta on 6 August 1806, the son of Charles Buller (1774–1848), civil servant in India and politician, and his wife, Barbara Isabella Kirkpatrick (d. 1849), daughter of Major-General William Kirkpatrick of the East India Company...

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Butler, Lady (Charlotte) Eleanor (1739–1829), elder of the two Ladies of Llangollen, was born at Cambrai, the youngest daughter of Walter Butler of Garryricken (1703–1783) and his wife, Eleanor (d. 1794), daughter of Nicholas Morres of Latargh, co. Tipperary. Her father was the only lineal representative of ...

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Carstairs, Joe [formerly Marion Barbara] (1900–1993), heiress and motor-boat racing driver, was born on 1 February 1900 at 115 Park Street, Mayfair, London, the daughter of Albert Joseph Carstairs, a captain in the Royal Irish Rifles, and his wife, (Frances) Evelyn (1872–1921)...

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Cavendish [née Hervey; other married name Foster], Elizabeth Christiana, duchess of Devonshire (1757–1824), society hostess and patron of the arts, was the middle daughter of Frederick Augustus Hervey, fourth earl of Bristol (1730–1803), and his wife, Elizabeth Davers (1730–1800), and was known for most her life as ...

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Cavendish, Louise Frederica Augusta, duchess of Devonshire [née Countess Louise Friederike Auguste von Alten; other married name Louise Frederica Augusta Montagu, duchess of Manchester] (1832–1911), society figure, was born on 15 January 1832, the second of the three daughters of Karl Franz Victor, ...

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Charteris [née Wyndham], Mary Constance, countess of Wemyss (1862–1937), hostess, was born on 3 August 1862 at 44 Belgrave Square, London, the eldest of the five children of the Hon. Percy Wyndham (1835–1911), second son of the first Lord Leconfield, and his wife, ...

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Churchill, Gladys Marie Spencer- [née Gladys Marie Deacon], duchess of Marlborough (1881–1977), society beauty, was born on 7 February 1881 at the Hotel Brighton in Paris, the eldest of five children of Edward Parker Deacon of Boston (1844–1901) and his wife, Florence Mary (1859–1918)...

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Churchill [née Jerome], Jeanette [Jennie] [Lady Randolph Churchill] (1854–1921), society hostess and writer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, on 9 January 1854, the second of four daughters of Leonard Jerome, American sportsman and speculator, of New York, and his wife, Clarissa...

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Cooper [née Manners], Diana Olivia Winifred Maud [known as Lady Diana Cooper], Viscountess Norwich (1892–1986), actress, society hostess, and author, was born on 29 August 1892 in London into the Manners family where she was accepted as the third of three daughters and the fifth of five children. Her assumed father was ...

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Cumming, Sir William Gordon Gordon-, fourth baronet (1848–1930), disgraced socialite, was born on 20 July 1848 at Sanquhar House, near Forres, Moray, the eldest son and second of four children of Alexander Penrose Gordon-Cumming (1816–1866), later third baronet, of Altyre and Gordonstoun, landowner and army officer, and his wife, ...

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Digby, Jane Elizabeth (1807–1881), adventuress, who was known successively as Lady Ellenborough, Baroness von Venningen Üllner, Countess Theotoky, and the Honourable Mrs Digby el Mesreb, was born on 3 April 1807, the eldest child of Captain, later Admiral, Sir Henry Digby (1770–1842) and his wife, ...

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G. F. R. Barker

revised by Anita McConnell

Dunstan, Jeffrey (1759?–1797), hawker and ‘mayor of Garrett’, was a foundling reared in the parish workhouse of St Dunstan-in-the-East, in the City of London. At the age of twelve he was apprenticed to a greengrocer, but he ran away to Birmingham, where he worked in the factories. The heavy labour probably added to his deformities, for as an adult he had knock knees, a large head, and grew to a height of only ...

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Elizabeth [née Lady Elizabeth Berkeley], margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Bayreuth [other married name Elizabeth Craven, Lady Craven] (1750–1828), travel writer and society hostess, was the youngest daughter of Augustus, fourth earl of Berkeley (1716–1755) and Elizabeth, countess of Berkeley (1719/20–1792), daughter of Henry Drax...

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Fitzgerald, Pamela [formerly Anne Caroline Stéphanie Sims; Lady Edward Fitzgerald] (1776?–1831), celebrity and associate of Irish nationalists, was almost certainly the illegitimate daughter of Louis-Philippe Joseph, duc d'Orléans (1747–1793), cousin of Louis XVI of France, and his mistress, (Caroline) Stéphanie Félicité Brulart, ...

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Fleming [née Charteris], Ann Geraldine Mary [other married namesAnn Geraldine Mary O'Neill, Lady O'Neill; Ann Geraldine Mary Harmsworth, Viscountess Rothermere] (1913–1981), society hostess, was born at 26 Catherine Street, Westminster, London, on 19 June 1913, the eldest daughter of Guy Lawrence Charteris (1886–1967)...

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Lloyd George [née Owen], Margaret (1866–1941), politician and charity worker, was born on her family’s farm, Mynydd Ednyfed Fawr, near Cricieth, Caernarfonshire, on 3 November 1864. She was the only child of Richard Owen, a prosperous tenant farmer and ‘offspring of landed gentry stock’ (Lloyd George, 37), and his wife ...

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Goody, Jade Cerisa Lorraine (1981–2009), television contestant and celebrity, was born on 5 June 1981 at King's College Hospital, Denmark Hill, London, the daughter of Andrew Robert Goody (1963–2005) and Jacqueline Patricia (Jackiey) Budden (b. 1958). Her father was a pimp, heroin addict, and habitual criminal who served several prison sentences. He and ...