Elizabeth Foster, ‘Bess’ is one of the larger than life characters that occasionally flits
across the pages of history. Born in 1757 as Elizabeth Christiana Hervey, the daughter
of the eccentric Frederick Hervey, Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry, she led a
privileged life and married John Thomas Foster in 1777. Following their separation,
Foster took her infant sons from her and the distressed Bess led a bitter life, made
more tolerable by the kindness and affection shown to her by her best friend,
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. The friendship developed into a further intimate
friendship with ‘Canis’ the nickname given to the Duke by Bess and Georgiana. Soon
they were living in a ménage à trois resulting in two illegitimate children, which Bess
bore in exile in France, terrified of discovery and social ostracism. The births were
successfully kept secret, and the children themselves grew up without knowing who
their true mother was. The children were Caroline St. Jules, and a son, Augustus (later
Augustus Clifford, 1st Baronet), who were later raised at Devonshire House with the
Duke's legitimate children by Georgiana.
Two years after Georgiana’s death in 1806, Bess married ‘Canis’ and the couple
lived together in happiness at Devonshire House and at Chatsworth, but the happiness
was short-lived, for after only 21 months ‘Canis’ died. Bess spent much of the
remainder of her life in Italy.
Fluent in French and Italian, and living abroad for many years, Bess maintained a
voluminous correspondence, and as a consequence an amazing picture has been built
of this amazing woman, the friend of Marie Antoinette, the Prince Regent and many in
the top circles of society in England, France and Italy. Following John Foster’s death,
she was re-united with her beloved Frederick and Augustus, and much of the
correspondence in later years is between her and her influential sons.
234 x 156 mm • paperback • 288 pages • 16 mono
New introduction by Alan Sutton.
Dorothy Margaret Stuart was a poet
and the author of 28 books, mainly
historical biographies. Little is known
of her life and it seems likely, or at
least plausible that she was a direct
descendent of Bess. Notwithstanding
this, and the inevitable favourable
colour with which she paints her
subject, Dorothy Stuart was a poetess
and an author of skilled old-school
competence and as a consequence her
text reads smoothly, cleanly with
well-crafted passages making the
biography a delight to read. She died
unmarried in 1963.
Sample pages will be available soon.
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