Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Lady Elizabeth Herbert of Lea

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 16
Lady Elizabeth Herbert of Lea

by Herbert Thurston


Authoress, and philanthropist, b. in 1822; d. in London 30 Oct., 1911. Lady Herbert was the daughter of General Charles A'Court, who was a member of Parliament as well as a soldier, while her uncle, who afterwards became Lord Heytesbury, was British Ambassador at St. Petersburg. At the age of twenty-four Elizabeth A'Court, who moved in the best circles of early Victorian society, married one of the most promising and independent of the young politicians of the day, Sidney Herbert, the second son of the Earl of Pembroke. Naturally the wife made herself the sharer of her husband's interests. In the forties she was an ardent Peelite and, when young Herbert was made Secretary of War during the Crimean campaign, she became the ally and ardent helper of Florence Nightingale. In 1861 Sidney Herbert, shortly after being created Baron Herbert of Lea, died, leaving her a widow with four sons and three daughters. Two of her sons succeeded to the Earldom of Pembroke, but only one of her children, who afterwards became by marriage Lady Mary von Hügel, followed Lady Herbert in her change of faith. This took place at Palermo in 1866 and was largely due to the influence of Manning, who had been the friend both of herself and of her husband. From the time of her conversion Lady Herbert became the centre and most zealous promoter of all Catholic charities and interests. The pen more especially was consecrated to the cause, and for many years she produced a large number of books in rapid succession, partly original and partly translations, which found for the most part a ready sale. Among the best known of these may be mentioned: "Impressions of Spain" (1866); "Cradle Lands", i.e. Egypt and Palestine (1867); "Wives and Mothers of the Olden Time" (1871); "Wayside Tales" (1880). Besides these there several stories, some of them autobiographical and a number of Lives, mostly translated or abbreviated from French originals, e.g. those of St. Monica, St. John Baptist de Rossi, Mgr. Dupanloup, Garcia Moreno, Mgr. de Merode, etc. Lady Herbert was a familiar figure in Rome, which she visited annually until almost the close of her long life.

Apart from many autobiographical details incidentally included in her writings, see also The Tablet (4 and 11 Nov., 1911).

HERBERT THURSTON