Born 1724 Died 1742
Born on the 14th May 1724, Dorothy Boyle died shortly before her eighteenth birthday on the 2nd May 1742. She was the daughter of Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington and 4th Earl of Cork whilst her mother was Dorothy Saville, herself the daughter of William Saville, 2nd Marquess of Halifax. Such aristocratic connections meant that the young Dorothy was worth £40,000 and one of the most well bred young women of her time, her short life is however a perfect example of the truth that being born into the British aristocracy is not a guarantee of happiness, and can sometimes be nothing more than a passport to misery.
It was Dorothy's misfortune to fall in love with George Russell, the eldest son and heir to the 2nd Duke of Grafton and otherwise known as the Lord Euston, a man who has been described as "a wicked and repellent creature" and who was universally regarded by his contemporaries as a brutal thug who mistreated his tenants and anyone else he happened to come across in life. Dorothy was, of course, utterly blind to the many faults of her fiance and remained devoted to him, no matter how many times he humiliated her in company and the pair were duly married on the 10th October 1741. As Horace Walpole was to remark at the time, "Do you not pity the young girl, of the softest temper, vast beauty, birth and fortune to be sacrificed?", whilst recording his expectation that news of the divorce would soon be forthcoming.
To this day, no one knows quite what the Lord Euston did to his poor wife during the course of their brief marriage, but contemporary opinion was unanimous that it was something truly awful. The Complete Peerage records that he "treated her with extreme brutality, the details of which are almost too revolting to be believed", without giving us the slightest opportunity to test our credulity. Charles Hanbury Williams was to record his view that the marriage was never consummated, which might suggest that his abuse of her wasn't sexual, but then again who knows.
Dorothy died on the 2nd May 1742, after less than seventh months of marriage. To be fair to the Lord Euston, Dorothy appears to have been of a delicate disposition all her life and the formal cause of death was smallpox. Everyone however blamed the Lord Euston, and believed that his treatment of her was at least a contributory factor in her death, whilst many breathed a sigh of relief when he also died a few years later on the 7th July 1747.
Dorothy's mother later painted her portrait from memory, which is now in the possession of the Duke of Devonshire, on which she inscribed the following epitaph;
She was the comfort and joy of her parents, the delight of all who knew her angelick temper, and the admiration of all who saw her beauty. She was married October the 10th, 1741, and delivered (by death) from misery.
- Brian Masters The Dukes: The Origins, Ennoblement and History of 26 Families (Blond and Briggs, 1975)
- E.S. Turner Amazing Grace: The Great Days of Dukes (Sutton Publishing, 2003)
- George Edward Cokayne, Vicary Gibbs, et al, The Complete Peerage (St Catherine's Press, 1910-1959)