“A Promising Ornament”

Lady Susan Montgomerie


Lady Susanna (‘Susan’) Montgomerie was born in Ayrshire in May 1788, approximately three months after her parents divorced. Divorce at that time was by Act of Parliament and so only available to the very rich. Her mother was Frances Twysden, the second wife of Archibald Montgomerie, 11th Earl of Eglinton, an army general and Clan Chief. The divorce was allowed as Frances had had an affair with Douglas Hamilton, 8th Duke of Hamilton; there was suggestion that Hamilton was Susanna’s true father. Nonetheless she was brought up by the Earl alongside her older sister Mary.

Seen here in part profile with her light brown hair upswept and wearing a white empire-line dress, Susan was plagued by ill health and died in November 1805 at the age of 17. Her parents had both pre-deceased her. The London Star (20 November 1805) paid tribute to her –

The brilliant Circle of the Ton has lost a very promising ornament, in Lady Susan Montgomery . . . who died at Colchester, on Saturday last, at the early age of 17. A delicate constitution had induced her Ladyship to try the air of the Continent, from which she had recently returned; the first medical assistance, and the affectionate attentions of her sister alleviated, but could not avert her premature destiny. With the most resigned submission she met the awful moment, and in the bloom of youth and purity of innocence, sought the repose of another and a better World.

The portrait has a slight undulation to one side, only visible when viewed in a strong raking light. It is set in the original high quality gold frame with a chased border and hanging ring. The frame is also glazed reverse to show a small lock of light brown hair tied with blue ribbon laid on red silk. An old inscription label names the sitter.

Item Ref. 7266

Size: framed, 85 x 75mm

Provenance: UK Private Collection