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Nancy Witcher Astor, Viscountess Astor (1879–1964) by George Charles Beresford, 1920 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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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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Charles Buller (1806–1848) by Edward Scriven, pubd 1840 (after Bryan Edward Duppa) © National Portrait Gallery, London

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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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Dick, Quintin (1777–1858), politician and socialite, was born in March 1777 in Dublin, the eldest of four children of Samuel Dick (d. 1802), East India proprietor and merchant, and his wife, Charlotte, daughter of Nicholas Forster of Tullaghan, co. Monaghan, Ireland. Educated at ...

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Earle, Giles (c. 1678–1758), politician and wit, was born about 1678 at the family residence, Eastcourt House, Crudwell, near Malmesbury, Wiltshire, the sixth son of Sir Thomas Earle MP, a merchant and mayor of Bristol, and his wife, Elizabeth Ellinor Jackson. He was educated at the ...

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James Hare (bap. 1747, d. 1804) by Sir Joshua Reynolds, c. 1774–5 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Hare, James (bap. 1747, d. 1804), social celebrity and politician, was baptized on 9 April 1747 at Somerton, Somerset, the second son of Joseph Hare, an apothecary at Wells, and his wife, Frances. For many years he was wrongly identified as the son of one ...

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Mosley [née Curzon], Lady Cynthia Blanche (1898–1933), politician and society figure, was born at The Priory, Reigate, Surrey, on 23 August 1898, the second of three daughters of George Nathaniel Curzon, later first Marquess Curzon of Kedleston (1859–1925), and his first wife, the American heiress ...

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George Augustus Selwyn (1719–1791) by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1766 private collection

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Selwyn, George Augustus (1719–1791), wit and politician, was born on 11 August 1719 and baptized at Chislehurst, Kent, on 25 August, the second son of the three children of John Selwyn (1688–1751) of Matson, near Gloucester, and Mary (1690/91–1777), daughter of General Thomas Farrington...

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Sharp, Richard [called Conversation Sharp] (1759–1835), politician and wit, was born in the garrison of St John's, Newfoundland, the elder son of Richard Sharp (1737–1765), a British army officer, and Elizabeth Adams (1739–1799), a citizen of St John's. He was related to the ...

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Villiers, George, second duke of Buckingham (1628–1687), politician and wit, was born on 30 January 1628 at Wallingford House, Westminster, the third child of George Villiers, first duke of Buckingham (1592–1628), courtier and royal favourite, and Lady Katherine Manners (later Katherine MacDonnell; 1603?–1649), eldest daughter of the ...

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George Villiers, second duke of Buckingham (1628–1687) by John Michael Wright, 1669 private collection. Photograph: Photographic Survey, Courtauld Institute of Art, London