Myddelton, Jane (DNB00)

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MYDDELTON or MIDDLETON, JANE (1645–1692), 'the great beauty of the time of Charles II,' daughter of Sir Robert Needham (d. 1661) by his second wife, Jane, daughter of William Cockayne of Clapham, was born at Lambeth during the latter part of 1645, and baptised in Lambeth Church on 23 Jan. 1645-6. Her father's first wife, Elizabeth Hartop, was a relative of John Evelyn the diarist. Jane was married at Lambeth Church on 18 June 1660 to Charles Myddelton of Ruabon, third surviving son of Sir Thomas Myddelton of Chirk. By her husband she had two daughters, of whom the elder, Jane, was baptised 21 Dec. 1661, married a Mr. May, and died in 1740. Myddelton and his wife lived in London and appear to have subsisted for a time upon the bounty of relatives. A legacy from Lady Needham fell in upon that lady's death in 1666, and another upon Sir Thomas Myddelton's death in the same year; but from 1663, at least, the family's finances must have been mainly dependent upon the generosity of the lady's lovers. The first of these may have been the Chevalier de Grammont, who was enthralled almost immediately upon his arrival in London, bat found 'la belle Myddelton' more than coy. 'Lettres et présens trottèrent,' wrote Hamilton, but the lover 'en restait là.' Cominges hints, however, in explanation that the chevalier's love-tokens were intercepted by the lady's-maid (Jusserand, French Ambassador at the Court of Charles II, p. 93). Before the year was out De Grammont fell under the sway of his future wife, and the road was clear for Richard Jones, viscount Ranelagh [q. v.] From neither this gallant nor from Ralph (afterwards Duke of) Montagu did Mrs. Myddelton ever incur the reproach of obduracy. To them succeeded William Russell, son of the Hon. Edward Russell, and standard-bearer in the first regiment of foot-guards. In 1665 Mrs. Myddelton's beauty attracted the attention of the king (Addit. MS. 5810, f. 299), and proved for the time a serious menace to the Countess of Castlemaine's supremacy. Pepys states that at this time Edmund Waller the poet was already dangling after her. On 22 Sept. 1665 Evelyn, who elsewhere speaks of her as ' that famous and indeed incomparable beauty' (Diary, ii. 183), told Pepys that 'in painting the beautiful Mrs. Myddelton is rare.' On 23 June 1667 Pepys heard from another authority that the Duke of York's advances were not encouraged by Mrs. Myddelton. During the next year Myddelton and his wife fixed their abode on the north side of Charles Street at the extreme west end of the town. Mrs. Myddelton had besides a country retreat at Greenwich, and she was constantly a guest of George Villiers, second duke of Buckingham, at Clevedon, where during her visits Edmund Waller was a frequent caller (Letter from Waller, Eg. MS. 922). The liaison with the poet seems to have terminated by 1686, when Sacharissa wrote (8 July), 'Mrs. Myddelton and I have lost old Waller he has gone away frightened' (Miss Berry, Life of Lady Russell, 1819, p. 130). St. Evremond, the Earl of Rochester, and the Hon. Francis Russell seem to have been in the train of her lovers, and Andrew Marvell, in his 'Instructions to a Painter about the Dutch Wars' (Works, 1776, iii. 392), appears to allude to an intimacy between 'sweet Middleton' and Archbishop Sheldon.

That Mrs. Myddelton was a peerless beauty of the languorous type seems to be unquestioned. The popular enthusiasm was evinced not only at the play and in the park, but also at church, where the beauty was regular in her attendance. In 1680 Courtin, the predecessor of Barillon, had to take the Due de Nevers and suite (then on a special mission at the English court) in two coaches to see the fair celebrity; Louvois was so impressed by the account they took home that he sent over for a portrait. Her literary attainments were considerable, but she seems to have been prone to platitudinising, and Hamilton accuses her of sending her lovers to sleep with irreproachable sentiments. By St. Evremond, who also contributed an epitaph upon her, she is introduced into a 'Scene de Bassette,' playing cards with the Duchesse de Mazarin and the Hon. Francis Villiers, and talking affectedly to the latter, to the vast irritation of the duchess, who is losing.

After the accession of her old lover, James II, she enjoyed an annual pension of 500l. from the secret service money (Ackerman, pp. 152, 165, 183). The husband, who had for some years held a place of about 400l. a year in the prize office, died insolvent in 1691. Mrs. Myddelton died in the following year, and was buried beside her husband in Lambeth Church.

The most notable of the numerous portraits of Mrs. Myddelton are the three-quarter length by Lely at Hampton Court, formerly at Windsor, and painted in 1663 for Anne, duchess of York (engraved in stipple by Wright for Mrs. Jameson's 'Beauties'); another by the same artist, at Althorp (also engraved by Wright for Dibdin's 'Ædes Althorpianæ,' 1822); and a third by an artist unknown, which has been engraved by Van den Berghe. These three paintings agree in representing a soft and slightly torpid type of blonde loveliness, with voluptuous figure, full lips, auburn hair, and dark hazel eyes.

Jane's younger sister, Eleanor, was mistress for several years to the Duke of Monmouth and mother by him of four children, who bore the name of Crofts (Sandford, Genealogical History of Kings and Queens of England, 1707, f. 645); one of the daughters, Henrietta (d. 1730), married in 1697 Charles Paulet, second duke of Bolton [q. v.] (cf. Treasury Papers, 1683; Post-Boy; 23 Jan. 1722).

[G. S. Steinman's monograph Memoir of Mrs. Myddelton, the great Beauty of the time of Charles II, 1864, which contains a full pedigree, and the same writer's Althorp Memoirs, 1869. See also Mrs. Jameson's Beauties of the Court of Charles II, 1833; Law's Hampton Court, ii. 242; Forneron's Louise de Keroualle; Œuvres de Saint Evrémond, v. 284–5, 316–20, vi. 62–4; Poems on Affairs of State, 1716, i. 132; Granger's Biog. Hist. of England, 1775, iv. 181; Waller's Poems, ed. Thorn Drury; Pepys's Diary, and Hamilton's Memoirs of Grammont, 1889, passim; Julia Cartwright's Sacharissa, 1893, pp. 277–8, 293.]

T. S.