Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts, 1st Baroness Burdett-Coutts
|Angela Burdett-Coutts |
by Unknown artist oil on panel,
circa 1840 National Portrait Gallery, London
Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts, Baroness Burdett-Coutts (1814-1906), philanthropist, was the daughter of Sir Francis Burdett (1770-1844) and granddaughter of Thomas Coutts, banker. She became the richest heiress in England, met leading politicians, scientists and literary scholars, entertained English and foreign celebrities and her wide social circle included members of the royal family, the Duke of Wellington, Sir Robert Peel, Benjamin Disraeli, William Ewart Gladstone, the Duke of Cambridge, Napoleon III, Empress Eugenie, Charles Dickens.and Sir Henry Irving.
In 1837 she became the wealthiest woman in England when she inherited her grandfather's fortune of nearly three million pounds sterling, following the death of his second wife, Harriot Mellon, who had enjoyed a life interest in the estate. Angela joined the surnames of her father and grandfather, by royal licence, to become Burdett-Coutts.
As well as banking interests, she was interested in schemes for social reform, personally administered her private charities and was a significant benefactor to the Church of England. In 1847 she endowed the Church of St Stephen, Rochester Row, followed by other churches and schools, including the Westminster Technical Institute in 1893. She endowed the bishoprics of Cape Town, South Africa and Adelaide, Australia and in 1857 founded the bishopric of British Columbia. In education terms she introduced sewing and cooking into elementary schools and in 1861 endowed two geological scholarships at Oxford University.
Amongst her wide range of interests and activities were subsidises for the Ragged School Union, helping to fund the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 1884, setting up a sewing school for women in Spitalfields in 1860 (sending many to the colonies 1863-1869), instituting the Flower Girls' Brigade in 1879, founding the Burdett-Coutts Working Youths' Club in Shoreditch in 1875, leading the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, seeking to improve conditions and industry amongst the Irish poor, aiding colonial missionary work in Africa and Borneo, helping Turkish peasantry in the Russo-Turkish War in 1877 and sending out medical equipment for the wounded in the Zulu War of 1879. She was raised to the peerage in 1871, received the freedoms of the Cities of London in 1872 and Edinburgh in 1874. In 1881 she married William Lehman Ashmead-Bartlett and following her death in 1906 was buried in Westminster Abbey.
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