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Astley, John (1720–1787), portrait painter and beau, was born at Wem in Shropshire on 24 June 1720, and baptized there on 6 April 1724, a younger son of Richard Astley, surgeon, and his wife, Margaret. After attending school in Shropshire, in the early 1740s he went to ...

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(Beatrice) Romaine Mary Brooks (1874–1970) self-portrait, 1923 National Museum of American Art, Washington DC / Art Resource, NY

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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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Elizabeth Christiana Cavendish, duchess of Devonshire (1757–1824) by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1787 Chatsworth House. Photograph: Photographic Survey, Courtauld Institute of Art, London

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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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Colefax [née Halsey], Sibyl Sophie Julia, Lady Colefax (1874–1950), hostess and interior decorator, was born on 4 December 1874, at The Poplars, Wimbledon Common, Surrey (the house of her uncle, Walter Bagehot). She was the third but only surviving daughter (and fifth and last child) of ...

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Gédéon Gaspard Alfred de Grimaud D'Orsay, styled Count D'Orsay (1801–1852) by Sir George Hayter, 1839 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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D'Orsay, Gédéon Gaspard Alfred de Grimaud [Alfred Guillaume Gabriel], styled Count D'Orsay (1801–1852), artist and dandy, was born in Paris on 4 September 1801, second son of Albert, Count D'Orsay, a general in Napoleon's grand armée, and Eleanore de Franquemont, an illegitimate daughter of the ...

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Emma Hamilton, Lady Hamilton (bap. 1765, d. 1815) by George Romney, 1782–6 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Hamilton [née Lyon], Emma, Lady Hamilton (bap. 1765, d. 1815), social celebrity and artist's model, was born at Ness, Cheshire, and baptized nearby at Great Neston on 12 May 1765. One month later her father, Henry Lyon, an illiterate blacksmith, died and she was thereafter brought up by her mother, ...

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Frances Jane Horner, Lady Horner (1854/55–1940) by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, 1879 Christie's Images Ltd. (2004)

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Horner [née Graham], Frances Jane, Lady Horner (1854/5–1940), hostess and patron of the arts, the fourth daughter and sixth of the eight children of William Graham (1818–1885), MP, India merchant, and art patron, and Jane Catherine, daughter of John Lowndes of Renfrewshire...

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Howell, Charles Augustus (1840?–1890), artists' agent and rogue, was born on 10 March, probably in 1840, in Porto, Portugal, the youngest of the six children of Alfred William Howell, an English drawing master and wine merchant, and Dona Enriqueta Amelia de Souza De Rosa Coehlo...

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Millie Miller (1922–1977), by Dennis Oulds, 1974 [L-R: Helene Hayman, Joan Maynard, and Millie Miller]

© Dennis Oulds/Stringer/Getty Images

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Miller [née Haring], Millie (1922–1977), social worker and politician, was born at 9 Windsor Terrace, Hoxton, London, on 8 April 1922, the fourth of five children of Barney Haring (1881–1947), diamond polisher, and his wife, Sarah, née Zomerplaag (...

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Neil Munro Roger (1911–1997) by Francis Goodman, 1951 © reserved; collection National Portrait Gallery, London

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Roger, Neil Munro [Bunny] (1911–1997), couturier and socialite, was born on 9 June 1911 at 90 North Gate, St Marylebone, London, the second of the three sons of Sir Alexander Roger (1878–1961), businessman, and his wife, Helen Stuart Clark (1884–1976), the daughter of a mayor of ...

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Rundell, Philip (1746–1827), jeweller and millionaire, was born on 15 January 1746 and baptized on 8 February 1746 at Norton St Philip, near Bath, Somerset, one of the large family of Richard Rundell, victualler or maltster, and his wife, Ann Ditcher. Shortly after his fourteenth birthday, on 10 May 1760 ...

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Sands, Ethel (1873–1962), painter and hostess, was born at Newport, Rhode Island, USA, on 6 July 1873, the eldest of the three children of Mahlon Day Sands (1842–1888) and his second wife, Mary Morton Hartpence (1853–1896), whom he had married in 1872. The success of his father's business as a manufacturer of patent medicines had allowed ...

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Stephenson, Rowland (1782–1856), art collector, politician, and bankrupt, was born at sea between Florida and England on 19 May 1782 and baptized at St Andrew's Church, Holborn, London, on 2 August. He was the third surviving son and fifth of eight children of ...