Good Gentlewoman

The history of Lydiard House is woven through with the stories of remarkable women. Explore Frances Bevan’s Good
Gentlewoman articles and learn about the diverse and determined women of the St John family.

Lacock Abbey and Elizabeth Leighton
Published on: 1st June 2021

Now I may be stretching the St. John connection too far with this Good Gentlewoman, but I hope you will humour me. When...

Devonshire House Fancy Dress Ball
Category: 19th century Published on: 22nd April 2021

In the summer of 1897, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire hosted a Fancy Dress Ball to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond...

The tragic story of Lady Mary Campbell
Category: 18th century 19th century Published on: 3rd April 2021

In 1752 Mary Meredith married Laurence Shirley, 4th Earl Ferrers. Her parents must have been well pleased that their...

The Ladies of Lydiard
Published on: 31st March 2021

This week I am thrilled to announce the publication of my book The Ladies of Lydiard, which has been my work in progress for...

Buried - The Lady Ellinor Roberts Widd
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 4th August 2020

When war raged across England in the 17th century the St. John family, like so many others, were divided by the conflict....

Cecily, Princess of York
Category: 15th century women’s history Published on: 27th May 2020

There's no denying the Woodville women were a fine-looking lot. Elizabeth Woodville was said to have used her beauty and...

The other Margaret Beaufort
Category: women’s history Published on: 6th January 2020

It's all very confusing! Some of the public family trees posted on the online genealogy website Ancestry are in a right...

Theresa Villiers MP for Chipping Barnet
Category: women’s history Published on: 28th December 2019

Theresa Villiers was returned as MP for Chipping Barnet for the 5th time in the December 12, 2019 General Election. A former...

Katharine Pleydell Bouverie - A Simple Potter
Category: women’s history Published on: 28th January 2019

  Katharine Pleydell Bouverie Today Katharine Pleydell Bouverie’s work comes with an expensive price tag, which...

The Favourite
Category: 18th century women’s history Published on: 20th January 2019

Have you seen The Favourite, the story of Queen Anne, her long-time favourite Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough and the...

A Treasure Trove of Family Wills
Category: women’s history Published on: 17th September 2018

Sometimes the handwriting is almost illegible, the archaic language difficult to interpret, but I do love grappling with a...

Anne, Mrs Wharton
Category: women’s history Published on: 31st August 2018

Have you ever heard of the 17th century poet and dramatist Anne Wharton? No, neither had I. The only work published during...

Charlotte Calvert, Lady Baltimore
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 11th August 2018

How does Maryland, one of the Thirteen Colonies on the Eastern seaboard that came together to form the United States, have a...

Elizabeth St John - Puritan pioneer
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 12th May 2017

Established in 1607 the Jamestown colony had been without suitable marriageable women for 12 years when the enterprising...

The Lost Palace of Nonsuch
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 15th December 2016

Earlier this month the future of a watercolour painting of the lost palace of Nonsuch by Flemish artist Joris Hoefnagel was...

Coventry v St John
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 31st July 2016

When it comes to family tombs, St Mary’s, Lydiard Park has the daddy of them all. The St John alabaster, black limestone...

Croome Court
Category: 18th century Published on: 30th July 2016

“Welcome to my office,” said Joe as he led the Friends of Lydiard Park group from the visitor’s centre along a winding...

Lady Mary St John
Category: 18th century women’s history Published on: 3rd April 2016

Lady Mary Kerr married Frederick St John in December 1788. She had just celebrated her 21st birthday and he was soon to turn...

Fonmon Castle and another St John connection
Category: 15th century women’s history Published on: 28th February 2016

The Lydiard Park estate came in to the possession of the St John family when Oliver St John married Margaret Beauchamp in...

Strawberry Hill: the eccentric house that inspired the Gothic Revival
Category: women’s history Published on: 1st February 2016

From the 1770s, Strawberry Hill became famous for 'Works of Genius … by Persons of Rank and Gentlemen not artists'. Most...

The Other Boleyn Girl's daughter
Category: 16th century women’s history Published on: 4th December 2015

Does this good gentlewoman, Lady Katherine Knollys, remind you of anyone? Her mother was Mary Boleyn and her father William...

The Bedstead Tomb
Category: 17th century Published on: 25th July 2015

It was the year 1615 and Sir John St John began commissioning a series of quite astounding monuments to immortalise his...

Some right royal St John connections
Category: women’s history Published on: 21st May 2015

If you've ever wondered just how many royal connections the St John family has, I can tell you the answer - loads! But what...

Lady Anne Clifford
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 13th February 2015

Don't you just love the St John women - intelligent, feisty, and brave? From Anne St John, Countess of Rochester who...

Alice St John, Lady Morley
Category: women’s history Published on: 5th February 2015

Did you catch Jane, Lady Rochford in last night's episode of Wolf...

Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Countess Kildare
Category: women’s history Published on: 3rd February 2015

On February 3, 1537 five brothers, Sir James, Sir John, Oliver, Richard and Walter Fitzgerald, were taken from the Tower of...

Margaret Clifford, Countess of Cumberland
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 22nd January 2015

If you enjoyed reading about Anne Dudley, Countess of Warwick I'd now like to introduce you to her younger sister Margaret,...

On This Day - 18 January 1486
Category: women’s history Published on: 20th January 2015

...

Ursula Pole, Baroness Stafford
Category: 16th century women’s history Published on: 14th January 2015

Keeping one's head in a crisis had a whole different connotation in the 16th century. And the more closely one was related...

Wolf Hall
Category: 16th century women’s history Published on: 4th January 2015

Tudor fans this side of he pond are eagerly awaiting the launch of Wolf Hall, a major new BBC drama based on the Man Booker...

Anne Dudley, Countess of Warwick
Category: 16th century women’s history Published on: 28th December 2014

Chirk Castle has stood sentinel over the Welsh Marches for more than 700 years, one of a chain of 13th century fortresses...

Henrietta, Louisa and Elizabeth Molesworth
Category: 18th century women’s history Published on: 2nd September 2014

There appears to have been some confusion concerning the portraits of the three Molesworth sisters in the Springhill...

Mary O'Brien, 3rd Countess of Orkney
Category: 18th century house history women’s history Published on: 28th July 2014

There's nothing that excites me more than finding a family with multiple links to the St Johns of Lydiard Park - I know,...

The Beautiful Lady Craven
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 27th June 2014

Ashdown House was the subject of a recent talk at Swindon Central Library by best selling author of historical...

Elizabeth Countess of Portsmouth
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 12th June 2014

If the family stories handed down to you included the fate of two first cousins twice removed, beheaded by a tyrannical...

Elizabeth Malet Palk - married by owl light
Category: 18th century women’s history Published on: 6th January 2014

When Horace married Elizabeth they tied the knot 'at half past seven by owl light.' Now doesn't that sound magical - I shall...

Anne Wilmot
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 1st January 2014

At the end of the 17th century life continued to be pretty short and precarious whatever one's status. Medicine was still...

Malet Wilmot, Lady Lisburne
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 29th December 2013

If you've ever been embarrassed by a spot of dad dancing or a dodgy jumper and slacks combo, spare a thought for Malet...

Margaret Neville, Countess of Oxford
Category: women’s history Published on: 20th August 2013

Well, it's all over - the hype, the excitement, the criticisms - as last Sunday evening saw the conclusion of The White...

Katherine Neville, Baroness Hastings
Category: 15th century women’s history Published on: 12th August 2013

So who did kill the Princes in the tower? Sunday's penultimate episode of The White Queen did a good job of considering all...

Me and Joan Neville, Countess of Arundel
Category: 15th century 20th century women’s history Published on: 29th July 2013

Joan Neville and I go back a long way. In fact, my love of history, stately homes and a predisposition to being nosey could...

Alice Neville, Lady Fitzhugh
Category: 15th century women’s history Published on: 27th July 2013

Now more than half way through the ten part series and the success of The White Queen is no longer up for debate. You are...

Eleanor Neville, Lady Stanley
Category: 15th century women’s history Published on: 9th July 2013

This week's episode of The White Queen placed the scheming Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, centre stage with his daughters...

Lady Cecily Neville, Duchess of Warwick.
Category: 15th century women’s history Published on: 2nd July 2013

Second Neville sister Cecily was named for the least attractive female character in The White Queen BBC1 series, excepting...

Joan Neville, Countess of Arundel
Category: 15th century women’s history Published on: 1st July 2013

During the 15th century the Church banned sex on every Sunday during Lent, and for pretty much half the rest of the year as...

Warwick the Kingmaker
Category: 15th century women’s history Published on: 30th June 2013

In this week's episode of the White Queen (BBC1 9pm Sunday) St John sister Margaret Beaufort joins Warwick's rebellion...

The White Queen
Category: 15th century women’s history Published on: 24th June 2013

Are you captivated by the new BBC1 historical drama The White Queen - or are you busy looking for zips, down-pipes and...

Pole Position
Category: 15th century 16th century women’s history Published on: 27th May 2013

On this day in 1541 Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury was beheaded at the Tower of London. She was 67 years old and...

Elizabeth Hervey, Countess of Bristol
Category: 17th century 18th century women’s history Published on: 28th April 2013

Elizabeth Felton was born on December 18, 1676 the only daughter of Betty and Sir Thomas Felton. One cannot help but wonder...

Lady Mary Villiers
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 13th April 2013

Sometimes it seems as if the 17th century St John family is related to just about everyone of any note ...or otherwise,...

Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland
Category: 14th century women’s history Published on: 3rd March 2013

When the remains of Richard III were found beneath Greyfriars Car Park, Leicester in September 2012 many had great and...

The Three Wives of General Frederick St John
Category: 18th century 19th century women’s history Published on: 24th February 2013

It has to be said that the St John men didn't make very good husbands, but that didn't stop them from trying! Frederick St...

2012 in review
Category: women’s history Published on: 12th January 2013

I'd like to say a huge thank you to my readers for their support during Good Gentlewoman's first year.  Actually, this blog...

Julia, Countess of Jersey
Category: 19th century women’s history Published on: 4th January 2013

According to librettist W.S. Gilbert - 'When constabulary duty's to be done, a policeman's lot is not a happy one.' The same...

Jane Eyre
Category: 19th century women’s history Published on: 1st January 2013

Frederick St John's wife may have had a novel name and like that other Jane Eyre she too stood by her man through good times...

Lady Methuen of Corsham Court
Category: 19th century house history Published on: 30th December 2012

When the three St John Mildmay sisters married in the early nineteenth century, they each acquired a country residence...

Three literary sisters
Category: 20th century women’s history Published on: 9th December 2012

Antonia Fraser, Judith Kazantzis and Rachel Billington are three sisters who have made their mark on the literary scene...

Eleanor St John wife of Thomas Grey 2nd Marquess of Dorset
Category: 15th century women’s history Published on: 5th December 2012

Sometimes the fleeting good gentlewoman passes almost without trace, leaving us to marvel at her wondrous ancestry and her...

Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey
Category: 18th century women’s history Published on: 16th November 2012

If there was one attribute the Villiers family had in abundance it was - how can I put this - a tendency to be lewd and...

Lady Eleanor Cave
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 10th November 2012

When it come to memorials, whether in stained glass, marble or oil painting, no family does it better than the St John...

Katherine Fitzgerald Villiers, Viscountess Grandison
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 4th November 2012

In the 1660s the war torn medieval castle of Dromana high above the River Blackwater in County Waterford commanded stunning...

Lady Constance Lytton
Category: 20th century women’s history Published on: 24th October 2012

Lady Constance Lytton will be a name familiar to anyone who has studied the Votes for Women campaign waged between 1903 and...

Edith Villiers, Countess of Lytton
Category: 19th century women’s history Published on: 17th October 2012

Symbolist, sculptor and portrait painter George Frederic Watts is widely considered to be the greatest Victorian painter....

Elizabeth St John, Lady Bernard
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 20th September 2012

For those who really like a challenge, try following the intermarriages between the St John, Cromwell and Bernard...

The Codrington Divorce
Category: 19th century women’s history Published on: 15th September 2012

Returning to our screens this weekend, Downton Abbey portraits an establishment where gentry and servants co-exist in a...

Abigail Masham
Category: 17th century 18th century women’s history Published on: 9th September 2012

And just when you thought you had heard the last of the St John family at the court of Queen Anne - along...

The Mapledurham Portrait
Category: 16th century women’s history Published on: 4th September 2012

You know how it is - you flip through the family photograph album and suddenly you come across that old snap, a woman...

Betty Felton - lewd and pocky
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 28th August 2012

Elizabeth Felton was a chip off the proverbial Villiers's block. The only daughter of James 3rd Earl of Suffolk and his...

Another Barbara Villiers
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 22nd August 2012

Two first cousins named Barbara Villiers - born thirteen years apart and named after their grandmother Barbara St John....

Barbara Villiers - Countess of Suffolk
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 18th August 2012

This is the tale of yet another ambitious Villiers girl, and another Barbara to boot.  This Barbara was the eldest daughter...

Elizabeth Villiers - another Royal mistress
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 14th August 2012

William III is probably the last person one might expect to have a mistress.  In fact it has been suggested he was probably...

Lady Mary Bentinck - Countess of Essex
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 9th August 2012

The Villiers family exploded onto the Royal scene in 1614 when George, later Duke of Buckingham, caught the roving eye of...

Lady Dorothy Carey
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 4th August 2012

Today it seems incredible that the distinctive work of 'Curtain Master' William Larkin remained neglected and in question...

Barbara St John - Countess of Coventry
Category: 18th century women’s history Published on: 30th July 2012

Maria Gunning must have been a tough act for Barbara St. John to follow. The five famous Gunning sisters were born in...

Isabella Frances St John
Category: 19th century women’s history Published on: 25th July 2012

Who would live in a house like this? Well apart from Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII and other assorted monarchs, during the...

Anne and the Cholmondeley dilemma
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 17th July 2012

In which Anne fulfills a prophecy and saves a dynasty. Lady Johanna St John Anne St John was baptised at St Mary's...

Elizabeth Barbara St John, Lady Halford
Category: 19th century women’s history Published on: 11th July 2012

When Charles I's coffin was opened during building work in St George's Chapel in 1813, Royal physician Sir Henry Halford...

Catherine St John
Category: 16th century women’s history Published on: 8th July 2012

It's tempting to ponder on how differently things might have panned out had Jane Seymour not been on the marriage market in...

The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 4th July 2012

Summer visitors to London still have plenty of time to catch The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned exhibition at Hampton...

Sarah Whiting Sparhawk
Category: 17th century 18th century women’s history Published on: 27th June 2012

When Sarah Whiting married Samuel Sparhawk on December 2, 1696 in Cambridge, Massachusetts the town was still a small...

The Two Mistresses Ruthven
Category: 19th century women’s history Published on: 18th June 2012

Today's GG post takes a look at a less aristocratic but none the less interesting family and two women who lived an...

Alice St John, Lady Morley
Category: 16th century women’s history Published on: 15th June 2012

The St John family has several close connections with Royalty.  Barbara, Countess of Castlemaine had a whole nursery full...

Jane, Elizabeth and Frances Cavendish
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 13th June 2012

In her book Cavalier - The Story of a 17th century Playboy - Dr Lucy Worsley describes the three Cavendish sisters as...

Elizabeth Bourchier - Mrs Oliver Cromwell
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 9th June 2012

Most of what we know about Elizabeth Cromwell is based on propaganda written either by disaffected Parliamentarians or...

Judith St John - left heare alone
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 6th June 2012

Sometimes it is only in death that we learn a little of the life of a Good Gentlewoman. Judith St John was born in c 1545...

Elizabeth Armistead
Category: 18th century women’s history Published on: 31st May 2012

Elizabeth Armistead's client list reads like a who's who of 18th century society.  The scurrilous Town and Country Magazine...

Barbara St John - Lady Toppe
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 27th May 2012

When Lady Johanna St John wrote her will in 1703 she left personal bequests to her son Henry and daughters Johanna Chute and...

Emma Maria Elizabeth St John
Category: 18th century women’s history Published on: 24th May 2012

Emma Whitbread was probably most men’s idea of the perfect wife.  When she wed Henry Beauchamp, 13th Baron St John of...

Nellie O'Brien
Category: 18th century women’s history Published on: 22nd May 2012

By 1762 the marriage between Frederick St John, 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke and his wife Diana, eldest daughter of Charles, 2nd...

St John Sisters
Category: 19th century women’s history Published on: 20th May 2012

When William Cobbett visited Lydiard Tregoze on his fact finding tour of 1826 he observed that the estate had once been a...

Anne Pleydell-Bouverie, 3rd Countess of Radnor
Category: 18th century women’s history Published on: 17th May 2012

It has to be said that the St John men didn't always make model husbands.  Those who married into the family were also...

Louisa, Lady Bagot
Category: 18th century women’s history Published on: 12th May 2012

Louisa St John was born c1744 just as building work on Lydiard House drew to a close.  The only surviving daughter of John,...

Lady Jane St John Mildmay
Category: 18th century women’s history Published on: 10th May 2012

When Jane married Sir Henry Paulet St John in 1786 he got more than he bargained for – a fortune and a new...

Anne Fitzroy, Countess of Sussex
Category: 17th century 18th century women’s history Published on: 22nd April 2012

It’s hardly surprising that two of Barbara Castlemaine’s three daughters went off the rails.  What is amusing is just...

Charlotte Fitzroy - Countess of Lichfield
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 13th April 2012

Charles II’s mistress Barbara, Countess of Castlemaine, wasn’t big on exclusivity.  She wasn’t what you’d call a...

Lucy and Colonel Hutchinson
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 10th April 2012

When John met Lucy it wasn't her shy smile or her slender ankle that won his heart.  John Hutchinson, a 22 year old law...

Anne Douglas, Lady Dalkeith
Category: 17th century women’s history Published on: 9th April 2012

While three St John sons famously gave their lives fighting for the Royalist cause during the English Civil Wars, another...