Anspach, Elizabeth, Margravine of (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 02
Anspach, Elizabeth, Margravine of

by Edward Dutton Cook
1904 Errata appended.

ANSPACH, ELIZABETH, Margravine of (1750–1828), dramatist, was the youngest daughter of Augustus, fourth Earl of Berkeley, by his countess Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Drax, of Charborough, in the county of Dorset. In 1767. she married Mr. William Craven, afterwards the sixth Earl of Craven, and of this union six children were born. Lord and Lady Craven separated in 1780, and her ladyship left England for France, and travelled in Italy, Austria, Poland, Russia, Turkey, and Greece. In 1789 she published in quarto her 'Journey through the Crimea to Constantinople,' related in a series of letters. Subsequently she visited Anspach, and took up her abode with Christian Frederick Charles Alexander, Margrave of Brandenburg, Anspach, and Bareith, Duke of Prussia, and Count of Sayn. She wrote to her husband that she was to be treated as the Margrave's sister. She wrote little plays in French for the Court theatre — 'La Folle du Jour' and 'Abdoul et Nourjad' — and, further to entertain the Margrave, translated into French the English comedy of 'She would and she would not.' Lord Craven dying in September 1791, she was married to the margrave in the following month. In 1792 the margrave sold his principality to the King of Prussia, and settled in England, having purchased Brandenburg House, Hammersmith, and the house and estate of Benham, in Berkshire, which had long been possessed by the Craven family. The margrave died and was buried at Benham in 1806. Walpole, who always expressed his admiration of Lady Craven, and even addressed impromptu stanzas to her, furnished the Rev. William Mason with a lively account of the production of her comedy, the 'Miniature Picture,' at Drury Lane, in May 1780: 'She went to it herself the second night in form, sat in the middle of the front row of the state-box, much dressed with a profusion of white bugles and plumes, to receive the public homage due to her sex and loveliness....It was amazing to see so young a woman entirely possess herself; but there is such an integrity and frankness in her consciousness of her own beauty and talents, that she speaks of them with a naïveté as if she had no property in them, but only wore them as gifts of the gods. Lord Craven, on the contrary, was quite agitated by his fondness for her and with impatience at the bad performance.' Nevertheless it was the year of their separation. In 1785 Walpole wrote of Lady Craven to Sir Horace Mann: 'She has, I fear, been infinitamente indiscreet, but what is that to you or me? She is very pretty, has parts, and is good-natured to the greatest degree; has not a grain of malice or mischief, almost always the associates, in women, of tender hearts, and never has been an enemy but to herself.' Her first comedy, the 'Somnambule,' an adaptation from the French, was printed at Walpole's private press at Strawberry Hill in 1778, and acted for a charitable purpose at Newmarket. In 1779 she published ' Modern Anecdotes of the Family of Kinvervan-kotsprakengatchdern, a Tale for Christmas,' a caricature of German pomposity, dramatised by W. P. Andrews. Others of Lady Craven's plays are the 'Silver Tankard,' a musical farce, produced at the Haymarket in 1781; and the 'Princess of Georgia,' presented on the occasion of Fawcett's benefit at Covent Garden in 1799. At the private theatre attached to Brandenburg House the margravine produced in 1794 a comedy called the 'Yorkshire Ghost;' in 1799 a pantomime called 'Puss in Boots;' in 1805 a comedy called 'Love in a Convent,' and other works. For these plays the margravine composed the music. As she writes in her Memoirs, published in 1826: 'My taste for music and poetry and my style of imagination in writing, chastened by experience, were great sources of delight to me.... Our expenses were enormous.' The margravine often took part in the performances at Brandenburg House. In 1796 the comedy of the 'Provoked Wife' was presented there, Mrs. Abington lending her services as Lady Fanciful, while the margravine appeared as Lady Brute. The comedy was reduced to three acts, and great importance was assigned to the character assumed by the margravine. Mrs. Abington, however, insisted that certain of the excisions should be restored, so that her part of Lady Fanciful should not suffer. The margravine died at Naples in 1828.

[Memoirs of the Margravine of Anspach, 1826; Walpole's Letters, 1859; Biographia Dramatica, 1812; Genest's History of the Stage, 1832.]

D. C.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.7
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
36 ii 13f.e. Anspach, Elizabeth, Margravine of: for 1780 read 1783
37 i 34, 35  for Nevertheless .... separation read Three years later they separated