Pre-Raphaelite Circles: Mary Caroline Stuart-Wortley, Lady Artist

Mary Caroline Stuart-Wortley on her Wedding day on 30th December 1880

Although needed at home to nurse her invalid father, Mary Stuart-Wortley wanted to be a professional artist. She even considered commercial work, notably designing greetings cards. Perhaps she hoped to supplement the family’s income. According to family tradition Mary yearned to be an artist from her youth: ‘She ardently wished to study painting, and she put all the force of an exceptionally strong will into becoming an artist. She decided to have training at the Slade School in Gower Street.  Her parents always bent to her will and they agreed to this’ (Tweedsmuir 1952, p. 28). Unlike the Royal Academy Schools, the Slade, which opened in 1871, admitted both male and female students to the life classes.

Although Mary might have envied her brother Archie’s educational opportunities, he likewise enrolled at the Slade.  Their attendance may have overlapped, as Mary was enrolled c.1872-73. She would have found herself in the company of Evelyn Pickering (1855-1919), who married William De Morgan in 1887 and Mary Fraser-Tytler (1849-1938), the second wife of the painter and sculptor George Frederick Watts. 

Evelyn De Morgan: pioneering professional female artist - The De Morgan  Foundation

Drawings from cast and life undertaken by Evelyn De Morgan at the Slade School of Art, De Morgan Collection. 

Apparently, Mary S-W hung her martial home Wentworth House with Evelyn’s paintings.  Her family had little regard for them, although ‘they respected Evelyn de Morgan as a hard-working and dedicated artist’ (Tweedsmuir 1966, p. 23). I only painting I can securely document is The Sea Maidens (1886), as this was returned to Mrs Wilhelmina Stirling, Evelyn’s sister and biographer.

‘Aunt Mary had strong views about the necessity of helping artists of her date and age, and she inveighed against the many people who bought old masters or hung reproductions on their walls’. Mary preferred ‘the company of architects and craftsmen’ (Tweedsmuir 1966, p.23).

Susan Buchan, Lady Tweedsmuir claims that once married, her aunt had ‘to endure a quiet and ingrown existence’ (1966, p.22). Her ‘strange and lonely life caused her opinions to be frozen into the attitudes of her youth’. Mary, Lady Monkswell’s Diary, gives us a rather different picture of life at Wentworth House (Sat 16th March 1889; Collier 1944, p.148):

‘We dined with the Wentworths our neighbours & had the great, almost overwhelming honour of meeting the Grand Old Man (William Ewart Gladstone). I cannot say what I feel when I see him & consider his wonderful appearance his age (79), his past…I sat between an agreeable Mr Leveson Gower & Henry James, the American…Every word he says is worth taking down.’

Also present was Lady Compton, 5th Marchioness of Northampton (1860-1902) the Hon. Mary Florence Baring, daughter of the 2nd Baron Ashburton. Lady Monkswell noted ‘I should like to have her for a friend’. Apparently she was ‘the only child of an exigeante Mother & had to look after an exigeant husband & a very exigeant father-in-law’ (p.149). On the evening in question she was wearing black velvet with strings of diamonds & turquoises, ‘tall & pretty but extremely thin, which is not to be wondered at’.

Lady Monskwell observed: ‘Wentworth House was charming, full of old pictures, china and the central figure Lady Wentworth, with her fair hair, in white and diamonds’.

Lady Monkswell, nee Mary Josphine Hardcastle (1849-1930), married Hon. Robert Collier in 1873, becoming Lady Monkswell upon the death of her father-in-law Robert Collier, 1st Baron Monkswell (1817-1886).

Mary Hardcastle also enrolled at the Slade during its opening years, her attendance perhaps overlapping with her brother-in-law, the Hon. John (Jack) Collier (1850-1934), who took 1st prize for painting from life in 1874.

Mary Hardcastle, Lady Monkswell by the Hon. John Collier

Portrait of the Hon. John Collier by his wife Marion Huxley (1859-87)

The Slade attracted serious female students from the middle and upper classes. Their aspirations were satirized by novelist Vernon Lee:

‘Young ladies, varying from sixteen to six-and-thirty, with hair cut like medieval pages, or tousled like moenads [sic], or tucked away under caps like 18th century housekeepers, habited in limp and stayless garments, picturesque and economical, with Japanese chintzes for brocade, and flannel instead of stamped velvet– most of which young ladies appeared at one period, past, present, or future, to own a connection with the Slade school, and all of whom, when not poets or painters themselves, were the belongings of some such’ (1884, p.309).

According to her niece, Mary S-W was the only girl in the family with no dress sense. Allegedly, she never wore corsets. Her family clearly regarded her as an ‘oddity’, referring to her paintings as ‘Mary’s Daubs’.  Yet Mary was still anxious to safe-guard her social position as a respectable lady. Travelling from St. James’s Place to the Slade on Gower Street was a tricky task:

‘When she was young, no girl of quality could be seen alone in the street without scandal.  She had to leave too early for the schoolroom party and their governess to be free to go with her. Her mother’s maid was busy with the much more congenial task of running up the seams of cheap stuff for ball dresses for the young ladies, and the daily ride in a four-wheeler (hansoms were barred as being too exposed to the public gaze) was much too expensive to be contemplated.  However, by sheer force of character and insistence she managed to get an escort through the danger zone of Bond Street and Regent Street, where friends and acquaintances might be met.  Then, alone, she embarked on a quick rush through the remaining streets till she reached the Slade, and she told me amusingly of her terror lest any friends, returning in a luggage-laden four-wheeler from King’s Cross or Euston, should catch a glimpse of her.  After all these dangers were past, she stood at her easel all day, walked to within a shilling fare for a cab in the evening, and came home to amuse her invalid father’ (Tweedsmuir 1952, p.28). 

Mary would have studied under Edward Poynter, Burne-Jones’s brother-in-law, who was appointed the first Slade Professor at University College in 1871. 

Edward Poynter 1836-1919

Poynter forged a friendship with the Stuart-Wortley family through several different avenues.  He was a close friend of Millais, who tutored Mary’s brother Archie. Through Millais, Poynter secured a prestigious commission from Edward Montagu-Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie, Earl of Wharncliffe (1827-99), Mary’s cousin. Poynter was charged with decorating the billiard room of Wortley Hall, near Sheffield, in June 1871.  Poynter’s pencil drawing of Margaret Stuart-Wortley, dated 1875, appears to have been a preliminary study for a portrait (Christie’s Victorian Paintings, 1995, Lot No.66, p.43).

It seems probable that Mary was introduced to Edward Burne-Jones by Poynter. Their relationship is dealt with in a further post.

Although Mary allied herself to the avant-garde, preferring to show her paintings at the Grosvenor Gallery rather than the annual summer exhibition of the Royal Academy, her style was informed by Poynter’s academic standards. Her illustrations to The Story of Zelinda and the Monster or Beauty and the Beast, re-told after the old Italian version and done to pictures by Mary Stuart Wortley, Countess of Lovelace (London: Dent, 1895) would appear to place her amongst the so-called ‘Olympians’. The classical setting echoes paintings by Poynter and Lord Frederic Leighton.

There stood the Monster, and he came down to meet them.

“Zelinda, canst thou love me?”

Marriage did not deter Mary, Lady Wentworth from exhibiting. The following were shown at the Grosvenor Gallery, the titles giving us a good idea of the subject matter she was attracted too:

1879: Evening on the Cherwell

1882: Perdita

Here’s flowers for you; hot lavender, mints, savory, majoram.

The marigold that goes to bed wi‘ the Sun, And with him rises weeping.

1884: Bavarian Orchard

Marsh Marigolds

April Gardening

1885: In an upright country

Portrait of Five Sisters.

Of these works, only a photographic copy exists of Portrait of Five Sisters in the archives of the National Portrait Gallery. Mary based her self-portrait on an image by Frederick Hollyer (1837-1933), the famous photographer who reproduced many paintings by Burne-Jones. She sits with her face in profile, turned away from the viewer. Both the painting and the photograph depict a fashionably dressed lady, not the ‘oddity’ described by Susan Tweedsmuir.


Collier, Hon. E. C. F. 1944. A Victorian Diarist Extracts from the Journals of Mary, Lady Monkswell, 1873-1895, London: John Murray.

Lee, Vernon. 1884. Miss Brown A Novel. Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood & Sons.

Tweedsmuir, Susan. 1952.  The Lilac and the Rose, London: Duckworth.

Tweedsmuir, Susan. 1966. The Edwardian Lady. London: Duckworth.

Pre-Raphaelite Circles: De Morgans and Lovelaces — Anne Anderson

In her reminiscences, The Lilac and the Rose (1952), Susan Buchan, Baroness Tweedsmuir, the daughter of Caroline and Norman Grosvenor, recalled: We did not know many artists when we were children. But William de Morgan and his wife were friends of the Lovelaces and I saw them for time to time, though they were hard […]

Pre-Raphaelite Circles: De Morgans and Lovelaces — Anne Anderson

Pre-Raphaelite Circles: De Morgans and Lovelaces

In her reminiscences, The Lilac and the Rose (1952), Susan Buchan, Baroness Tweedsmuir, the daughter of Caroline and Norman Grosvenor, recalled:

We did not know many artists when we were children. But William de Morgan and his wife were friends of the Lovelaces and I saw them for time to time, though they were hard working artists with little time for social life.  They lived at The Vale, King’s Road and I recall that it was heavy with Virginia Creeper, whose strands had to be parted to allow passage to the house, where a pleasant shabbiness reigned. There was a gentle charm and philosophy about Willian De Morgan and he was a delightful talker. I remember we once went to see them in Florence one evening- in their little apartment. Conversation turned to life after death, and William De Morgan said ‘I should like to be a speck somewhere in the sky when I die, a speck with intense perception’ (1952, p. 56)

This Blog relates to a Zoom presentation I gave on the De Morgans and the Lovelaces for the De Morgan Foundation. Ralph Gordon King Noel Milbanke (1839-1906), Viscount Ockham and Baron Wentworth from 1862 and 2nd Earl of Lovelace from 1893, was William De Morgan’s friend since childhood. He married Mary Caroline Stuart-Wortley (1848-1941) in 1880; Mary attended the Slade School of Art alongside Evelyn Pickering, William De Morgan’s future wife. I first came across Mary Stuart-Wortley while researching Edward Burne-Jones’s painting The Golden Stairs (1880, Tate Britain). Several sources placed Mary on the stairs alongside her contemporaries: Francis Graham, May Morris, Laura Lyttelton and Burne-Jones’ daughter Margaret.

Penelope Fitzgerald, Edward Burne-Jones: A Biography, 1975.

Having never come across her before, I set out to recover Mary Stuart-Wortley’s story. Over the following twenty years this endeavour has taken me down some strange paths. Lady Mary became a prominent activist in the Royal Amateur Art Society, Octavia and Miranda Hill’s Kyrle Society and the Home Arts and Industries Association founded in 1884. It is worth tracing Mary’s trajectory from aspiring artist to committed philanthropist. Her story also offers insight into the complexities of Victorian society. Family ties and friendships formed during childhood and schooling forged alliances later in life. 

As the interconnections through family ties and marital alliances are so complex, I have broken my account of the Stuart-Wortleys into sections on individual family members. I am rapidly concluding everybody in this story is a ‘cousin’.  In addition, we are dancing on the edges the coterie known as The Souls, who dominated intellectual life at the close of the century.

Physical proximity also played its part: Mary’s neighbours in Chelsea included her two brothers, portrait painter Archie Stuart-Wortley and Charles, 1st Baron Stuart of Wortley. The famous tea merchant and anthropologist Elmslie Horniman, George Frederick Samuel Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon and Sir Robert Collier, 1st Lord Monkswell, lived close by on the Chelsea embankment, while novelist Henry James resided at Carlyle Mansions on Cheyne Walk.

Marital home of the Wentworths from 1880.

Wentworth House, 12, Chelsea Embankment. Designed by John Hungerford Pollen for Ralph, Lord Wentworth in 1877.

File:George Frederick Samuel - 9 Chelsea Embankment Chelsea London SW3  4LE.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Turners Reach House, 9, Chelsea Embankment, London

Home of George Frederick Samuel Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon. Block designed by Richard Norman Shaw.

No.7 Chelsea Embankment, ‘Monkswell House’.

Designed for the judge and amateur painter Sir Robert Collier, later 1st Baron Monkswell, by R. Phené Spiers, architectural master at the Royal Academy. This large residence also included a flat with a studio for Collier’s son, the Hon. John Collier and his wife Marion Huxley, both professional painters.

Chelsea Lodge built in 1878 for the Hon. Archibald Stuart-Wortley to the design of E.W. Godwin. Archie shared this studio-house with Carlo Pellegrini (1839 – 1889), nicknamed Ape, Italian for Bee.

A Circle of Siblings

Although Oscar Wilde keenly observed Society was ruled by women, Victorian social networks were centred on birth: ancestral, familial and marital ties.  Marriages resulted in complicated interconnecting family genealogies. A web of relationships, family allegiances and alliances, could ensure the progression of one’s career.

Mary or ‘Mamie’, as she was known by her family, was the eldest of nine children.  Her father the Rt Hon. James Archibald Stuart-Wortley, Q.C., M.P., Privy Councillor (1805-81), was the third son of James Archibald Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie, 1st Baron Wharncliffe.  In 1846 Stuart-Wortley married the Hon. Jane Lawley (1820-1900), who was the daughter of Paul Beilby Lawley Thompson, 1st Baron Wenlock. 

See the source image

Rt Hon. James Archibald Stuart-Wortley, Q.C., M.P.

Mary spent much of her early childhood in a handsome London town house, 3 Carlton Gardens (Tweedsmuir, 1952, p.26). 

Inside London's £95 million mansion - MyLondon

Stuart-Wortley was Solicitor General from 1856 to 1857.  He was expected to become the Speaker of the House of Commons until a crippling stroke (or riding accident) left him a permanent invalid and her mother had to cope with increasingly reduced means (Moore, p. 2).  This necessitated moving out of London, to East Sheen Lodge (which was renamed Wortley Lodge) near Mortlake. With his condition worsening, the family moved back into central London to 16, St. James’s Place. Despite this burden, and the loss of two siblings, William aged 10 and James aged four, who died in 1863, the household was described as ‘a rookery, densely crowded by active talkative young birds.’ (Hayles, p.120). As the eldest daughter, Mary had the greatest family responsibilities, particularly nursing her father.  This may account for her younger sister Margaret marrying before her and her own marriage coming relatively late in life: ‘They were an exceptionally devoted family, and their interests were wide and varied’ (Moore, p.1).

Despite financial difficulties, the Stuart-Wortley boys were well educated. Mary’s eldest brother Archibald, ‘Archie’, Stuart-Wortley (1849-1905) attended Eton from 1862 to 1865 before going up to Merton College, Oxford, where he roomed with Lord Randolph Churchill. However, he did not shine academically, failing to graduate. Forsaking a legal or political vocation, he was apparently encouraged by John Everett Millais to pursue a career as an artist. Deemed Millais’s ‘only pupil’, Archie would become a well-known portrait and sporting painter (Hayles, p121).

His portrait of the great cricketer W.C. Grace, the original at Lords Cricket Museum, in his best known work.

Mary’s younger brother Charles Beilby (1851-1926) went to Rugby and then Balliol College, Oxford before being called to the bar in 1876.  Following a distinguished political career, he was raised to the House of Lords being created the 1st Baron Stuart of Wortley in 1917.  His second marriage in 1886 was to Alice Sophia Caroline Millais, the artist’s third daughter, a romantic attachment surely fostered by his brother’s friendship with the famous painter. Carrie, as she was known in the family and Charles shared an interest in music, playing Grieg and Schumann concertos on two grand pianos at their home, 7, Cheyne Walk, on the Chelsea Embankment. Among their friends were the art critic Claude Phillips, the arts patron Frank Schuster, and the composer Edward Elgar to whom Carrie was known as ‘Windflower’ (Moore, p.2).

Circles within Circles

From left to right

Blanche, Mrs Frederick Firebrace,

Caroline, the Hon. Mrs Norman Grosvenor, married 1881,

Margaret, the Hon Lady Talbot, married 1877 (playing the piano),

Katharine, the Hon Lady Lyttelton, married 1883 (leaning on the piano),

and finally, with her back turned, Mary, Countess of Lovelace.

From Alice Buchan, A Scrap Screen, London: Hamish Hamilton, 1979.

Alice was the daughter of Susan Buchan, Lady Tweedsmuir, who in turn was the daughter of Caroline Grosvenor (nee Stuart-Wortley).

It could be argued that marriage was the making of the Stuart-Wortley girls; in 1877 Margaret (1855- 1937), became the first of the sisters to marry.  Her husband, Major General Hon. Sir Reginald Chetwynd-Talbot (1841-1929), was the third son of Henry, Viscount Ingestre, later 3rd Earl Talbot and 18th Earl of Shrewsbury. From 1869 to 1874, Talbot represented Stafford as a conservative MP. He returned to active duty, serving in the Zulu War (1879), Egypt (1882) and the Nile expedition which did not rescue General Gordon (1884-85). He became General Officer Commanding the British Troops in Egypt in 1899. Talbot was appointed Governor of Victoria, Australia, in 1904. As the Governor’s wife, Margaret, Lady Talbot, ‘far from being… the woman behind the man behind the times’, actively promoted social welfare projects. 

The Talbot match established a pattern, with the Stuart-Wortley girls marrying younger sons from illustrious families.  In 1881 Caroline Susan Theodora (1858-1940) married Captain the Hon. Norman de L’Aigle Grosvenor (1845-98), a younger son of Robert Grosvenor, 1st Baron Edbury, third son of Robert Grosvenor, 1st Marquess of Westminster.

Katherine (1860-1943), the youngest sibling, became the Hon. Mrs Neville Lyttelton in 1883. After a distinguished military career, General Sir Neville Lyttelton (1845-1931) eventually became the Governor of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.

These liaisons were largely determined by family ties; their mother Hon. Jane Lawley was connected to the Grosvenor family. Jane’s brother, Beilby Richard Lawley, 2nd Baron Wenlock(1818-80)married Lady Elizabeth Grosvenor (1824-99), daughter of Richard Grosvenor, 2nd Marquess of Westminster. Their son Beilby Lawley, 3rd Baron Wenlock (1849-1912), who came into the title in 1880,  married Lady Constance Mary Lascelles (1852-1932), daughter of the 4th Earl of Harewood. Lady Constance Wenlock was a prominent member of The Souls.

Stuart-Wortley cousins therefore include Lady Constance Wenlock and Lady Emmeline ‘Nina’ Welby-Gregory (1867-1955), who married  the notorious ‘rake’  Henry John Cockayne-Cust (1861-1917); all were prominent members of The Souls.

Confused by all the titles and marriages? Don’t worry, the important point is to realize that Victorian society was highly ‘incestuous’.

However, it was Mary Caroline Stuart-Wortley (1848-1941), the eldest sister, who made the most striking match, marrying at the ‘advanced age of thirty-two’, Ralph, Lord Wentworth, afterwards 2nd Earl of Lovelace (1839-1906), the grandson of Lord Byron. Mary’s marriage must have come as a surprise to her family; she had spent much of her life caring for her invalid father and pursuing a career as an artist.  Marriage did not curtail her ambitions, as she continued to exhibit at the Grosvenor Gallery; it was only when her husband inherited the Lovelace title and estates in 1893 that Mary’s life took a different turn. Determined to revive the family’s extensive properties in Leicestershire, Surrey and Somerset, Mary sought instruction from architects C.R. Ashbee and C.F.A. Voysey; she has even been described as Voysey’s pupil.

My next Blog will cover Mary’s career as an artist….


Some authorities do not hyphenate Stuart Wortley.

Many of the records relating to the Lovelace estates in Leicestershire, Somerset and Surrey were lost after the last world war.  The Blunt Papers are held by the British Museum, the Lovelace Papers are in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.  The latter contains approximately 130 letters relating to Lady Lovelace.


Hayles, Sally. 2014. ‘Archibald Stuart Wortley (1849-1905) Sport and Art in Union’, pp.119-32, Barnsley Art On Your Doorstep.

Archibald John Stuart Wortley – Barnsley Art On Your Doorstep › uploads › 2015/04

Lee, Vernon. 1884. Miss Brown A Novel. Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood & Sons.

Moore, Jerrold Northrop. 1989. Edward Elgar: The Windflower Letters.  Correspondence with Alice Caroline Stuart Wortley and her family. London: Clarendon Press.

Tweedsmuir, Susan, 1952.  The Lilac and the Rose, London: Duckworth.