After receiving great news about the #untitled10 commission I have been on a quest to find out more about this intriguing lady.
Research and Background
I bought a copy of the Confessions of the countess of Strathmore. A book written by Mary Eleanor whilst under duress from her violent and abusive 2nd husband.
In the late 1700’s a woman was rarely educated to the level Mary Eleanor was. Her father was completely devoted to her as his only child. She was taught the classics, Latin, and was whole heartedly encouraged to indulge her intellect.
At the age of 11 her father died, making her one of the richest, and most desirable debutantes on the social scene.
At the age of 14 she was paraded in London where she caught the attention of the 9th Earl of Strathmore.
He was very handsome but quite a bit older than her. He married her on her 18th birthday in 1767. Taking her name as stipulated in her father’s will, changing to John Bowes from John Lyon. She had 5 children to him in the first 6 years of marriage. And, they lived an exorbitant lifestyle.
This was the time when she could enjoy her own intellectual pursuits. She enjoyed botany and was helping to fund plant finding expeditions. She was an avid gardener with an interest in the science of plants. Her father’s home, Gibside, having some world renowned landscaped gardens.
John Bowes 9th Earl of Strathmore unfortunately contracted tuberculosis. The illness made him fatigued and apparently neglectful of his husband duties. This left the Countess to entertain herself. He died in 1776. Leaving the Countess in £145,000’s of debt.
Mary Eleanor had been having a love affair with a Scot called called George Gray and she was pregnant with his child when the Earl finally snuffed it.
However, she did not want to marry Gray as it would cost her social standing dearly. She paid off her dead husband’s debts, and drank a tonic to induce a miscarriage. This was the first of 4 attempted and successful abortions. The 4th child would not abort and the Mary Eleanor found herself in a bit of a bind.
The next part of Mary Eleanor’s life is fairly bleak and grim. So, I shall save it for another update!