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Mary Campbell, Lady Coke

(b. Feb. 6, 1727, 27 Bruton Street, Mayfair, London – d. Sept. 30, 1811, Morton House, Chiswick Mall, Chiswick, London )

Gender: F

Mary Campbell (1727-1811) was the fifth and youngest daughter of John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll (1680-1643) and his second wife Jane, who was a maid of honour to Queen Anne and later to Caroline, Princess of Wales, wife of the future George II. Mary grew up in Sudbrook in Surrey and in London. In 1747 she married Edward Coke, Viscount Coke (1719-1753) son of the 1st Earl of Leicester. Edward abandoned her on their wedding night and then imprisoned her at Holkham Hall, his family estate in Norfolk. She reacted by refusing him his marital rights. Their families negotiated a separation and her husband died in 1753, when Mary was twenty-six. She was financially independent and never remarried. She travelled extensively around Europe, visiting the royal courts in Vienna and Paris, but her self-importance and suspicious nature led her to fall out with many of her friends, including the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. She became a lady-in-waiting to Queen Charlotte, but attracted ridicule by her excessive displays of grief over the death of the Duke of York, King George III’s younger brother, whom she hinted had secretly married her, despite the fact he was thirteen years her junior. Horace Walpole wrote of her: “She was much a friend of mine, but a later marriage, which she particularly disapproved, having flattered herself with the hopes of one just a step higher, has a little cooled our friendship. In short, though she is so greatly born, she has a frenzy for royalty, and will fall in love with and at the feet of the Great Duke and Duchess, especially the former, for next to being an empress herself, she adores the Empress Queen, or did—for perhaps that passion not being quite reciprocal, may have waned. However … Lady Mary has a thousand virtues and good qualities: she is noble, generous, high-spirited, undauntable, is most friendly, sincere, affectionate, and above any mean action. She loves attention, and I wish you to pay it even for my sake, for I would do anything to serve her. I have often tried to laugh her out of her weakness, but as she is very serious, she is so in that, and if all the sovereigns in Europe combined to slight her, she still would put her trust in the next generation of princes.” (Walpole to Horace Mann, 28 November 1773). Her letters and journals were published in 1889.

Also known as:

  • Mary Campbell
  • Lady Coke


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