Lady Hester Stanhope was an adventurous woman of the early 19th century who chose to leave her native England and spend her life, first traveling around Europe, and then living the remainder of it in an abandoned monastery on a mountaintop in Lebanon among the Arabians. As a female expatriate living in an patriarchal culture, Lady Hester used her money and influence to live an unmolested life; however when her luxurious lifestyle outstripped the pension granted her by the British crown, her ability to purchase security ended.
Lady Hester believed in the science of astrology to the fullest extent. She believed that we are all children of some one of the celestial fires which presided at our birth, and of which the happy or malignant influence is written in our eyes, on our foreheads, in our fortunes, in the lines of our hands, in the form of our feet, in our gesture, in our walk. She believed that, from these various elements, she could read the character and destiny of any individual who was but for a few moments in her presence. In accordance with her belief, she thought that skillful astrologers should be appointed to every district, to consult the heavenly bodies at the birth of every child and the nature of each natal star to be registered by them.
“She wore a white turban, and on her forehead was a purple-colored woolen fillet, which fell on each side of her head as low as her shoulders. A long, yellow Cashmere shawl, and an immense Turkish robe of white silk, with flowing sleeves, enveloped all her person in simple and majestic folds, while an opening of these folds upon the bosom displayed a tunic of rich Persian stuff, covered with flowers, which was attached round the neck by a clasp of pearls. Turkish yellow morocco boots, embroidered with silk, completed this beautiful Oriental costume, which she wore with that freedom and grace, as if she had never used any other from her youth.”
A variety of motives have been ascribed to the unusual conduct of Lady Hester: eccentric imagination, a turn for adventure, a love of power, an intolerance for the constricted life of an England lady in her homeland, or simply because she could. Lady Hester Stanhope—simply eccentric or something more...you be the judge.
To read more about Lady Hester Stanhope, and her adventures and delusions, please see my blog post from September 27, 2011.
Smiles and Good Reading,
Teresa Thomas Bohannon
Author of the Old-Fashioned Regency Romance Novel
A Very Merry Chase
Teresa's Regency Blog MyLadyWeb Women's History & Women Authors
Teresa's Facebook Author Page
Teresa on Twitter