Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Elizabeth (1770-1840)

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876207Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 17 — Elizabeth (1770-1840)1889Jennett Humphreys

ELIZABETH, Princess of England and Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg (1770–1840), artist, seventh child and third daughter of George III and Queen Charlotte, was born at the queen's palace, Buckingham House, on 22 May 1770. She had the usual allowance of 2,000l. a year from the king, but was by her own report a bad economist. She early began to use her pencil, and was called 'The Muse.' In 1795 she designed a series of pictures entitled 'The Birth and Triumph of Cupid,' which were engraved by Tomkins, and published by the king at his own expense. In 1796 this series was re-issued as 'The Birth and Triumph of Love,' dedicated to the queen, with poetical letter-press by Sir J. B. Burges [q. v.] Dean Vincent made the pictures the theme of his election verses at Westminster School. In 1804 the princess produced, with a frontispiece, 'Cupid turned Volunteer,' 4to, dedicated to Princess Augusta, with a poetical description by Thomas Park, F.S.A. In 1806 appeared 'The Power and Progress of Genius,' in twenty-four sketches, folio, each sketch signed 'Eliza, inv' and sculp',' and the princess says in her dedication to the queen that she is venturing before the public alone. In 1808 she established a society at Windsor for giving marriage portions to virtuous girls; shortly after she had her own residence assigned her, The Cottage, Old Windsor. She was always busy in philanthropic work, the patronage of literature, and attendance upon her father.

In 1818, on the evening of 7 April, at Buckingham House, she was married to Frederick Joseph Louis, the hereditary prince of Hesse-Homburg. Parliament voted her 10,000l. a year. In June she and her husband left for Germany, where in 1820, on the death of the prince's father, they succeeded as landgrave and landgravine, and established themselves at the family castle. There the princess devoted 6,000l. a year of her allowance to the settlement of the difficulties in which the public funds of Hesse-Homburg had become involved. She produced in seven subjects 'The New Doll, or Birthday Gift,' 8vo. and in four subjects 'The Seasons' (the Flower Girl, Milk Girl, Hop Girl, Wood Girl), her work being generally announced as that of 'an illustrious personage.' In 1822, and again in 1823, appeared fresh editions of her 'Love' in octavo, still with Burges's poetry. William Combe, or 'Doctor Syntax' [q. v.], also co-operated with her. In 1829 the landgrave died, and the princess, then dowager landgravine, took up her residence in Hanover, where, by one of the first acts of William IV, a palace was made over to her. In 1881 she paid a visit to England. In 1834, to benefit the poor of Hanover, she permitted a new issue of her 'Genius,' engraved (and considerably altered) by Ramberg, and illustrated by the poetry, in German, of Minna Witte, afterwards Maedler. This work, 4to, dedicated by the princess to the Duke of Cambridge in a lithographed autograph letter, realised 800 rixdollars profit for the poor-box, with 103 more in 1837. About this time the princess's health obliged her to pass the winters at Frankfort-on-the-Maine, and there she died on 10 Jan. 1840, aged 70. She was buried in the mausoleum of the landgraves of Hesse-Homburg. Her library was sold in London by Sotheby & Wilkinson in April 1863.

[Jesse's Memoirs of George III. ii. 531, iii. 134, 280-2, 452; Dict. of Living Authors; Hutton's Bland-Burges Papers, 277, 279, 294, 297, 298; Russell's Moore, ii. 99, vi. 206, viii. 203; Gent. Mag. for 1770, 1788, 1818, 1829, 1840.]

J. H.