Wednesday, January 10, 2007


"She at once displayed such consummate art with such bewitching nature, such excellent sense, and such innocent simplicity, that her auditors were boundless in their plaudits."

Dorothy Jordan [1761- 1816] was one of the most famous actresses of her day. She was my kinswoman, born Dorothy Bland, the daughter of my great[x7] grandfather, Captain Francis Bland, by his first wife, Grace Phillips, a marriage subsequently annulled. The Blands were proud squireens on 40,000 acres of bog and mountain in remote County Kerry. And there had already been trouble with actresses. John Bland, Francis' uncle, had been disinherited for marrying an actress and going on the Dublin stage; he was hissed off "by the merited indignation of his father's friends".

She had many children, including ten by her last and most famous lover, the Duke of Clarence, who later became King George IV. Her statue by Chantrey, rejected by Westminster and St.Pauls, now sits in the gallery in Buckingham Palace, not far from an allegorical portrait of Dora by Hoppner as the Comic Muse repressing the advances of a Satyr - something she failed to achieve in real life.

She was a brilliant and versatile actress. Joshua Reynolds wrote of her Viola, "she does as much by the music of her melancholy as the music of her laugh". Queen Victoria quotes Lord Melbourne in her Diaries as saying of Dora's Rosalind "...her acting was quite beautiful." He added "And her legs and feet were beautifully formed, as this statue is" - they were in Chantrey's studio at the time. The attached picture is of a plaster cast of Chantrey's statue, which sits in my hall. Judge her feet for yourself - and read Claire Tomalin's excellent biography, Mrs. Jordan's Profession.


Blogger Derek said...

Why has no-one made a film of this woman's amazing story - from feted actress and consort to the future king to a misrable death in abject poverty in France. Just to keep the record straight, the Duke of Clarence became King WIlliam IV.

(posted by another of Francis' many descendants).

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