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Elizabeth Stanhope
Countess of Chesterfield
A full-length portrait of Lady Chesterfield sitting, wearing a golden dress
BornElizabeth Butler
29 June 1640
DiedJuly 1665 (aged 25)
Spouse(s)Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Chesterfield
FatherJames Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond
MotherElizabeth Preston

Elizabeth Stanhope, Countess of Chesterfield (née Butler; 1640–1665) was an Irish-born beauty. She was a courtier after the Restoration at the court of Charles II of England at Whitehall. She was the second wife of Philip Stanhope, 2nd Earl of Chesterfield.

Birth and origins

Elizabeth was born on 29 June 1640[1] at Kilkenny Castle, Ireland, the eldest daughter of James Butler and Elizabeth Preston. Her father was Earl of Ormond at the time, but would become marquess and finally duke of Ormond. Her father's family, the Butler dynasty, was Old English and descended from Theobald Walter, who had been appointed Chief Butler of Ireland by King Henry II in 1177.[2]

Her mother was the only child of Richard Preston, 1st Earl of Desmond and a rich heiress. Her parents married on Christmas 1629.[3] They had 10 children, but five died in childhood.[4]

Family tree
Elizabeth Stanhope (née Butler) with her husband, her parents, and other selected relatives, including the other 2 wives of her husband as he married three times.[a]
1st Earl

d. 1628)

c. 1585
– 1628

d. 1619

1st Duke


6th Earl


2nd Earl of


2nd Duke

3rd Earl


d. 1677
John Lyon
4th Earl


c. 1663 – 1723
John Lyon
5th Earl

XXXDukes of
XXXEarls of
XXXEarls of
*d.v.p. = predeceased his father (decessit vita patris).
Philip's three wives: 1st left, 2nd right and 3rd below.

Marriage and child

Elizabeth married Philip Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, as his second wife,[6] some time before 25 September 1660. He was one of the lovers of the notorious Barbara Villiers, mistress of King Charles II of England. There were many at court who believed Barbara's first child, Anne bore a strong resemblance to Chesterfield. His first wife was Lady Anne Percy, daughter of Algernon Percy, 10th Earl of Northumberland; she had died on 29 November 1654 with no surviving children.

Philip and Elizabeth had one daughter, Lady Elizabeth Stanhope, later Countess of Strathmore, although the child's paternity was in doubt.

According to Samuel Pepys, theirs was a marriage of convenience, but Chesterfield, despite his own past conduct with Barbara Villiers, became jealous when rumours spread that his wife was having affairs with both James Hamilton and James, Duke of York, with whom she is said to have been caught in flagrante delicto. On the other hand, he describes Elizabeth as "a virtuous lady".[7]

In the Memoirs of Count Gramont it is claimed that King Charles II of England told Gramont that his brother (the Duke of York) was in love with Lady Chesterfield.[8] He also says of Lady Chesterfield that, "she had a most exquisite shape, though she was not very tall: her complexion was extremely fair, with all the expressive charms of a brunette: she had large blue eyes, very tempting and alluring: her manners were engaging: her wit lively and amusing; but her heart, ever open to tender sentiments, was neither scrupulous in point of constancy, nor nice in point of sincerity."[9]

In May 1663, the couple went to live at Bretby in Derbyshire. It was around this time that their daughter, Elizabeth was born.

Lady Chesterfield

Death and legacy

Lady Chesterfield died in July 1665 shortly after her 25th birthday and was buried on 18 July 1665 at Wellingborough, Northamptonshire. Engravings after her portrait by Sir Peter Lely are held by the National Portrait Gallery.[10]

Her daughter, Elizabeth (May 1663 – 24 April 1723), who was a child of two years at the time of her mother's death, married John Lyon, 4th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne in 1691; the couple had 10 children. Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Queen consort of George VI of the United Kingdom was one of her many descendants.

Her husband married as his third wife Elizabeth Dormer,[11] who gave him a son who succeeded as the third earl of Chesterfield.[12]

Notes and references


  1. ^ This family tree is partly derived from the condensed Butler family tree pictured in Dunboyne.[5] Also see the daughter mentioned in the text.


  1. ^ Cokayne 1913, p. 182, line 3. "... he [Chesterfield] m. [married], 2ndly, shortly before 25 Sept. 1660 Elizabeth, da. [daughter] of James (Butler), 1st Duke of Ormonde, by Elizabeth, suo jure Baroness Dingwall [S.]. She, who was b. [born] 29 June 1640, at Kilkenny, d. [died] s.p.m.s. [without surviving male offspring], at Wellingborough, July 1665."
  2. ^ Debrett 1828, p. 640. "Theobald le Boteler on whom that office [Chief Butler of Ireland] was conferred by King Henry II., 1177 ..."
  3. ^ Airy 1886, p. 53, line 2. "... the marriage took place on Christmas of the same year [1629] ..."
  4. ^ Perceval-Maxwell 2004, p. 130, right column, line 3. "... between 1632 and 1646 Elizabeth ... gave birth to eight sons including Richard Butler, five of whom died as children, and two daughters."
  5. ^ Dunboyne 1968, pp. 16–17. "Butler Family Tree condensed"
  6. ^ Ashley 1977, p. 95, bottom. "Elizabeth Butler, daughter of the first Duke of Ormonde and Countess of Chesterfield in her own right, was a virtuous lady."
  7. ^ Pepys 1893, p. 360. "... how the Duke of York is smitten in love with my Lady Chesterfield (a virtuous lady, daughter to my Lord of Ormond); and so much, that the duchess of York hath complained to the King and her father about it, and my Lady Chesterfield is gone into the country for it. At all which I am sorry; but it is the effect of idleness, and having nothing else to employ their great spirits upon."
  8. ^ Hamilton 1888, p. 181. "my brother [the Duke of York] has lately fallen in love with Lady Chesterfield."
  9. ^ Hamilton 1888, p. 167, line 8. As quoted
  10. ^ "Elizabeth Stanhope (née Butler), Countess of Chesterfield". NPG. Retrieved 7 October 2023.
  11. ^ Cokayne 1913, p. 182, line 7. "He m. [married], 3rdly, Elizabeth, ist da. [daughter] and coh. [coheir] of Charles (Dormer), 2nd Earl of Carnarvon, by his ist wife, Elizabeth, da. of Arthur (Capell), 1st Baron Capell of Hadham."
  12. ^ Cokayne 1913, p. 182, line 13. "3. Philip (Stanhope), Earl of Chesterfield, etc., 3rd but 1st surv. [surviving] s. [son] and h. [heir], being ist s. by 3rd wife ..."


1893 text

Lady Elizabeth Butler, daughter of James Butler, first Duke of Ormond, second wife of Philip Stanhope, second Earl of Chesterfield. She died July, 1665 (see “Memoires de Grammont,” chap. viii.). Peter Cunningham thinks that this banishment was only temporary, for, according to the Grammont Memoirs, she was in town when the Russian ambassador was in London, December, 1662, and January, 1662- 63. “It appears from the books of the Lord Steward’s office . . . . that Lord Chesterfield set out for the country on the 12th May, 1663, and, from his ‘Short Notes’ referred to in the Memoirs before his Correspondence, that he remained at Bretby, in Derbyshire, with his wife, throughout the summer of that year” (“Story of Nell Gwyn,” 1852, p. 189).

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

7 Annotations

First Reading

Jeannine  •  Link

Lady Chesterfield-another “virtuous lady, treated badly….(background to November 3, 1662 entry by Sam)

Lord Chesterfield was a rogue and a ladies’ man who “played the field”. He was a major lover of Lady Castlemaine before and during her marriage and overlapping the beginning time period of her affair with Charles II. During his period he feigned great affection for and then married married Elizabeth Butler, daughter of Ormond. Per Grammont” he had therefore married Lady Chesterfield without loving her, and had lived some time with her in such coolness, as to leave her no room to doubt of his indifference. As she was endowed with great sensibility and delicacy, she suffered at this contempt: she was at first much affected with his behaviour, and afterwards enraged at it; and, when he began to give her proofs of his affection, she had the pleasure of convincing him of her indifference.” Over time she began to “understand” and adopt to the ways of Charles’ court and realized her marriage as a loss. In her loneliness she had her eyes set not only on the Duke of York but also a cousin James Hamilton. Around this time her husband had started to “fall in love” with his wife, which, in the court of Charles II was a laughable act of a fool. Lady Chesterfield began flirting around between Hamilton and the Duke of York. In order to throw the suspicion elsewhere, Hamilton started to plant the seed in Lord Chesterfield’s head that his wife was having an affair with the Duke. This made Chesterfield, in his jealousy, ever vigilant of that relationship while Hamilton was sneaking letters back and forth with his wife unnoticed. As all of this progressed none of the parties were particularly honest with the other but Lord Chesterfield’s suspicions were growing as was his jealousy of the Duke. Finally after a few suspicious situations including an incident where his wife ended up alone with the Duke during a guitar playing session, Chesterfield walked into a bombshell. He explained to Hamilton, who was now his confidant (per Grammont) that the Duke “was just now with my wife at a card party in the Queen’s chamber…They imagined they were cleverly hiding in the crowd. I do not know what had become of the Duke’s hand, but I know very well that his arm had disappeared right up to the elbow. He turned round and saw me, and was so disconcerted by my presence that in drawing away his hand he came near to completely undressing Lady Chesterfield”, As Pepys reports Lady Chesterfield was scurried away. Per Grammont “ The court was filled with the story of this adventure; nobody was ignorant of the occasion of this sudden departure, but very few approved of Lord Chesterfield’s conduct. In England they looked with astonishment upon a man who could be so uncivil as to be jealous of his wife; and in the city of London it was a prodigy, till that time unknown, to see a husband have recourse to violent means to prevent what jealousy fears, and what it always deserves. They endeavoured, however, to excuse poor Lord Chesterfield, as far as they could safely do it, without incurring the public odium, by laying all the blame on his bad education. This made all the mothers vow to God, that none of their sons should ever set a foot in Italy, lest they should bring back with them that infamous custom of laying restraint upon their wives.” According to Allen Allen (‘The Royal Whore”, p87), nobody in the court at this time knew that Lady Chesterfield was four months pregnant. “Lady Chesterfield had a child at Bretby, and though Lord Chesterfield was uncertain whether he had become a father he saw that at least he had the decision on who should be godfather, and chose Lord Clarendon. He comforted himself with the thought that he, Chesterfield still wore among the courtiers the faint halo of the fathership of Lady Castlemaine’s first child”…

Pedro  •  Link

James and Lady Chesterfield.

“Charles’ witticism that his brother’s mistresses were so plain that they must have been imposed on him by his confessors as a penance is sometimes quoted as evidence of James’ general boorishness…there is something very unattractive about having a positive taste for plain women. Anne Hyde was undoubtedly plain, but perhaps this early experience gave James a good fright. For Lely made of James’ post-Restoration mistress Lady Chesterfield a doe-like creature with nothing plain about her.

(Antonia Fraser…King Charles II)

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

Elizabeth Butler was eldest daughter of James, duke of Ormond, and second wife to Philip Stanhope, earl of Chesterfield.—It has been observed that a man could not turn round without being struck with beauties in the court of Charles II. The countess of Chesterfield was one of the most striking in the circle. Her husband did not know what a treasure he had in his possession, and treated her, at first, with disregard: but when every body else admired her, he became her admirer too, and was sufficiently slighted in his turn. He rightly concluded, that when the eyes of all the world were turned upon her, there were among them the eyes of some lovers. This naturally excited his jealousy, and he appears to have felt the most unhappy part of the passion of love in a more exquisite degree than any other. His suspicion particularly fell upon the duke of York, who, it seems, was not insensible of her charms, and was far from being the most cautious of men in the conduct of his amours. The name of Lady Ch ... d often occurs in the "Memoires de Grammont."
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1775.

Bill  •  Link

Lady Chesterfield's retirement (or banishment) took place in 1662; about a year afterwards she gave birth to a daughter, and thenceforward her time was spent entirely at Bretby, if not happily, at least irreproachably. She died in 1665, before she had completed her 25th year. Her infant daughter, Lady Elizabeth Stanhope, was educated by her grandmother, the excellent Duchess of Ormond, and afterwards married John Lyon, Fourth Earl of Strathmore.
---The Beauties of the Court of Charles the Second. A. Jameson, 1833.

Bill  •  Link

The scandalous chronicles of those times charge her husband, the Earl of Chesterfield, with having caused her to take the sacrament upon her innocence, respecting any intimacy with the Duke of York, and having then bribed his chaplain to put poison into the sacramental cup, of which she died. His son, Lord Stanhope, by his third wife (father of Lord Chesterfield the author), married Gertrude Saville, daughter of the Marquis of Halifax. The marquis and earl quarrelled, and the latter made his son bring his wife to Litchfield, breaking off all intercourse between the families. Lady Stanhope had always on her toilet her father's " Advice to a Daughter:" her father-in-law took it up one day, and wrote on the title-page, "Labour in vain." On her side, the lady made her servant out of livery carry in his pocket a bottle of wine, another of water, and a cup; and whenever she dined or supped in company with her father-in-law, either at his own house or abroad, she never would drink but of those liquors from her servant's hand, as a hint to the earl, and society present, of what his lordship was suspected of having effected by a sacred beverage.
---Walpoliana. Horace Walpole, 1830.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.


  • Nov