The Edmondson Blog

Dorothy Jordan

Dorothea Bland was born in 1761 near Waterford the daughter of Francis Bland and his mistress, Grace Phillips. In 1774, when she was 13, Dorothea's father abandoned the family to marry an Irish actress. Though he continued to support the family by sending them meagre sums of money, they were poor and Dorothea had to go to work to help support her four siblings. Her mother, an actress by profession, saw potential in Dorothea and put her on the stage.

She became a famous actress of the day and was said to have the most beautiful legs ever seen on the stage. She moved to London and assumed the name Mrs. Dorothy Jordan, because it was slightly more respectable for a married woman to be on the stage. In fact, there was no Mr. Jordan and she never married, she chose the name Mrs. Jordan as a reference to her escape across the Irish Sea, likened to the River Jordan.

Pretty, witty and intelligent, in England, she had a number of affairs before becoming the mistress of William, Duke of Clarence, later King William IV, in 1791. She continued her acting career, and made public appearances with the Duke when necessary. Together they had at least ten illegitimate children, all of whom took the surname FitzClarence.

In 1811, she and the Duke separated. She was given a yearly stipend by him and custody of their daughters while he retained custody of the boys. A condition of her stipend was that in order to continue receiving that money, and retain custody of the daughters Dorothy must not return to the stage.

In 1814, when a son-in-law became heavily in debt, Dorothy returned to the stage to help pay off that debt. Once the Duke received word of this, he removed their remaining daughters from her care, and took back her yearly stipend. To avoid creditors, she fled to France in 1815 and died at Saint-Cloud, near Paris, in poverty just a year later.

She has a number of notable descendants:
  • David Cameron, Leader of the Conservative Party, (born 9 October 1966)
  • Sir Edward Bellingham, 5th Bt. Brig.-Gen., Senator of the Irish Free State (26 January 1879-19 May 1956)
  • Fra Andrew Bertie, Prince and Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller (1929-2008).
  • Duff Cooper British diplomat, Cabinet member and author (February 22, 1890 - January 1, 1954).
  • John Crichton-Stuart, 7th Marquess of Bute (b.1958), aka Johnny Dumfries, former racing driver.
  • Brigadier General Charles Fitzclarence, recipient of the Victoria Cross (May 8, 1865- November 2, 1914).
  • Adam Hart-Davis, British author, photographer, and broadcaster (born July 4, 1943)
  • Rupert Hart-Davis, British publisher, literary editor, and man of letters (August 28, 1907 - December 8, 1999).
  • Merlin Hay, 24th Earl of Erroll a cross-bench member of the House of Lords (born 20 April 1948).
  • Violet Jacob, Scottish writer (1863 - 1946).
  • William Sidney, 1st Viscount De L'Isle 15th Governor-General of Australia, the last British Governor-General (23 May 1909 - 5 April 1991).

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