Andrew Lycett

Queen of the East

Star of the Morning: The Extraordinary Life of Lady Hester Stanhope


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It was the George Cruikshank cartoon that never appeared and the one meeting in her peripatetic career that the wildly adventurous Lady Hester Stanhope funked. In July 1816, Caroline of Brunswick, the estranged wife of George, Prince of Wales, was paying a supposed pilgrimage to the Holy Land (in reality, a forced long vacation from her adopted British homeland together with her lover, Bartolomeo Pergami).

The Princess had reached the old crusader city of Acre, close to where Stanhope was living at Mar Elias, a disused monastery in Druze country near Sidon.  Word went out that, like most travellers who arrived in those parts, she wanted to meet the extraordinary titled English woman who had turned her back on a life of Georgian privilege and taken to lording it over the Levant, where she was regarded with mystical awe as the ‘Queen of the East’ – a role she hammed up by sporting theatrical versions of Arab dress (often male Arab dress).

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