Published 20th August 2012
I can’t decide whether Lady Hester Stanhope was brave, foolish or just a risk taker. Originally house keeper and hostess to William Pitt the Younger she was awarded a hefty pension on his death.
After three years in the public eye she left for a quiet life in Cairo, but lost everything in a shipwreck on the way, so took to wearing borrowed (male) Turkish clothes. A fortune teller told her she was to marry the ‘New Messiah’ and she became known as Queen Hester. Wandering freely as a Bedouin she acquired a map that suggested that there was gold under the ruins of a Gaza city, but failed to find it during her ‘archaeological’ excavations.
She interfered in local politics and was given a surprising degree of tolerance by her Arabic locals and when Pasha decided to invade Syria he sought her promise of neutrality beforehand. On her eventual return to ‘Blighty’ she died eccentric and penniless.
Staffordshire Pottery Figures Lady Hester- Stanhope and Dr Meryon