The Redoubtable Lady Holland

Presided over by this difficult, capricious yet highly gifted London hostess, Holland House, wrote a contemporary diarist, became ‘the house of all Europe’. By Prudence Hannay.

Elizabeth Vassall, the future Lady Holland, was born in March 1771, the only child of Richard Vassall, a proprietor of wealthy estates in Jamaica, and of his wife Mary, daughter of Thomas Clarke, a retired British Army officer who had settled on a farm in the neighbourhood of New York.

Vassall forebears had emigrated to America in the seventeenth century, but at the time of Elizabeth’s birth her parents were living mainly in England. When Richard Vassall died in 1795 his considerable fortune passed to his daughter, as she recorded in her Journal at the time:

‘I lost my poor father; a nobler, better man he has not left behind him. Towards me he was always fond and affectionate. His only failings arose from an excess of goodness. He was weak in character, as he idolised my mother and was completely subjected to her dominion. His death puts me in possession of great wealth, upwards of £10,000 per annum.’

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