Ghita Stanhope, from the cover of The Bystander, December 23, 1903
Ghita Stanhope, 1903:
Sadly, Ghita Stanhope, daughter of the Honorable Henry Stanhope, committed suicide in 1912 at age 31. She had been nursing her sick mother for the previous two years, and had been visiting friends Moreton and Clara Frewenin in Sussex for about six weeks after what was said to be a recent nervous breakdown. Until a month before her death she had been taking a strong sleeping draught which friends said they thought had been affecting her mental health. While the couple were at a birthday party at their daughter’s home in Surrey (which Ghita declined to attend on account of the length of the journey), she tied a bootlace to a bed frame and to a shotgun on the floor and killed herself. A note found in her bedroom read:
At the time of her death she had been writing The Life of Charles, Third Earl Stanhope which was completed by G. P. Gooch (unfortunate name) and published in 1914.
On a lighter (?) note..
The next year her sister, Hester, gave a party celebrating her divorce with jack-in-the-box for party favors.
Hester was named for their relation,
Lady Hester Stanhope, a socialite and adventurer. Born in Kent in 1776, the daughter of an Earl, her life reads like that of a heroine in a novel.
In 1810, after years of moving in the highest society, befriending King George III and Lord Byron, and keeping house in Downing Street for her uncle (the Prime Minister, William Pitt), she took her maid and a young doctor (Dr. Meryon), and traveled through Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Constantinople. She learned Arabic, was the first English lady to enter the Great Pyramid of Giza, took part in archaeological expeditions,
collected jeweled daggers – and quite a following.
After losing most of her fortune and possessions in a shipwreck (she received 1200 pounds a year from the government for her work with the Prime Minister), she refused to wear the traditional women’s clothing – especially the veil – of the Dodecanese islands and the Turkish Empire, she instead adopted men’s clothing – turban, slippers, trousers and robe. She returned shortly to England, undeterred, just long enough to take what was left of her fortune, and continued with her travels through the Middle East, finally settling in what is now Lebanon and giving home to numerous refugees.
She viewed herself as royalty and was said to dabble in witchcraft (she studied astronomy and astrology), and only grant interviews in the middle of the night. In later years her health and wealth were in decline, one guest told of a visit where tea was served: the teapot, having had it’s handle broken, was brought in by a servant who was carrying it by it’s spout.
Her horse, a white Arabian, was said to have a deformity which made it appear to have a built-in saddle, which she said was meant for the Messiah to ride on his return. Incidentally, she believed she was to be the bride of the Messiah. She fed the horse sherbet.
Here’s a detailed account of Lady Hester Stanhope’s life.