Hastings, Flora Elizabeth (DNB00)

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HASTINGS, Lady FLORA ELIZABETH (1800–1839), daughter and eldest child of Francis Rawdon Hastings, first marquis of Hastings [q. v.], by Flora Mure Campbell countess of Loudoun, was born on 11 Feb. 1806. Her mother was the representative of John Campbell, first earl of Loudoun (1598-1663) [q. v.] Lady Flora's early years were spent at Loudoun Castle, her mother's ancestral seat in Ayrshire; and she was appointed lady of the bedchamber to the Duchess of Kent, mother of Queen Victoria, and held the post until her death, residing with the duchess at Buckingham Palace. On 10 Jan. 1839 she consulted Sir James Clark [q. v.] for an indisposition. Shortly afterwards a rumour arose that Lady Flora's illness was attributable to an alleged private marriage. Two of the ladies of the bedchamber communicated their suspicions to the queen. Lord Melbourne, then premier, was at first unwilling to credit the report, and decided, after a consultat on with Sir James Clark, to take no steps in the matter. It was at last agreed, however, that Sir James should mention the report to Lady Flora. The charge was at once indignantly denied, to the satisfaction of the Duchess of Kent. Application, however, was again made to Lord Melbourne, and he reluctantly consented that a medical examination of Lady Mora should be made. This examination took place on 17 Feb., and resulted in a medical certificate, signed by Sir James Clark and Sir Charles Clarke, who had been the family physician since Lady Flora's birth, explicitly contradicting the slander.

The relatives of Lady Flora demanded, without success, some public reparation. Her disease was so aggravated by the mental suffering that she died at Buckingham Palace on 5 July 1839. She was buried in the family vault at Loudoun Castle. A postmortem examination confirmed the medical report. Charles Greville wrote on 2 March 1839 (Memoirs. 2nd ser. i. 172): 'It is inconceivable how Melbourne can have permitted this disgraceful and mischievous scandal, which cannot fail to lower the character of the Court in the eyes of the world.'

A graceful volume of verse-translations and original poems by Lady Flora was published in 1841 by her sister Sophia, afterwards Marchioness of Bute.

[Annual Register, 1839; Examiner, 24 March 1839; Lee's Queen Victoria, 1902; Castles and Mansions of Ayrshire, 1885.]

A. H. M.