1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Orkney, Elizabeth Hamilton, Countess of

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16186781911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 20 — Orkney, Elizabeth Hamilton, Countess of

ORKNEY, ELIZABETH HAMILTON, Countess of (c. 1657–1733), mistress of the English King William III., daughter of Colonel Sir Edward Villiers of Richmond, was born about 1657. Her mother, Frances Howard, daughter of the 2nd earl of Suffolk, was governess to the princesses Mary and Anne, and secured place and influence for her children in Mary’s household. Edward Villiers, afterward created 1st earl of Jersey (1656–1711), became master of the horse, while his sisters Anne and Elizabeth were among the maids of honour who accompanied Mary to the Hauge on her marriage. Elizabeth Villiers became William’s acknowledged mistress in 1680. After his accession to the English crown he settled on her a large share of the confiscated Irish estates of James II. This grant was revoked by parliament, however, in 1699. Mary’s distrust of Marlborough was fomented by Edward Villiers and the duchess of Marlborough perhaps helped to secure the duke’s disgrace with William. Shortly after Mary’s death, William, actuated, it is said, by his wife’s expressed wishes, broke with Elizabeth Villiers, who was married to her cousin, Lord George Hamilton, fifth son of the 3rd duke of Hamilton, in November 1695. The husband was gratified early in the next year with the titles of earl of Orkney, viscount of Kirkwall and Baron Dechmont. The countess of Orkney served her husband’s interests with great skill, and the marriage proved a happy one. She died in London on the 19th of April 1733.