Born to an aristocratic family in 1776, a young Hester Stanhope was passed from her eccentric father to her grandmother who, not knowing how to deal with the rebellious child, handed her off to her uncle. That uncle just happened to be British prime minister William Pitt the Younger, who led the country during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars after taking office at 24.
After arriving at number 10 Downing Street, Stanhope became a smart young hostess for her bachelor uncle, charming his many important visitors with her wit and intelligence. Later on, she nursed Plitt when he fell ill from ulcers and gout. When the prime minister died, in 1806, he left his niece a generous pension of £1,200 a year to live on.
Stanhope’s inheritance allowed for a comfortable life in England, but it wasn’t enough to partake in the endless socializing expected among her social circle. Aged 33 and despondent after a thwarted love affair that scandalized London society, Stanhope took her inheritance and headed east, writes Lorna Gibb in Lady Hester: Queen of the East. She would never again set foot in England.