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Serres, Olivia (1772–1834)

Serres, Olivia (1772–1834)

English painter and impostor. Name variations: Princess Olive, Olive Serres. Born Olivia Wilmot, April 3, 1772, in Warwick, England; died Nov 21, 1834, in England; dau. of Robert Wilmot (house painter); m. John Thomas Serres (Marine Painter to George III), 1791 (sep. 1804); children: 2 daughters, including Lavinia Janetta Horton de Serres (who married portrait painter Antony Ryves).

Infamous impostor who claimed to be the niece of George III; studied drawing with John Thomas Serres, former marine painter to George III and married him (1791); separated from husband (1804), devoting life to painting and literature; appointed landscape painter to George, Prince of Wales (later King George IV); produced novel, poems and memoir of uncle Rev. Dr. Wilmot which endeavored to prove that her uncle wrote Letters of Junius; claimed to be illeg. daughter of the king's brother, Henry Frederick (b. 1745), duke of Cumberland (1817), petitioning George III and later George IV; supported claim with documents and also bore significant resemblance to Henry Frederick, thereby winning some to her cause; had herself re-christened with title Princess Olive of Cumberland, placed royal arms on carriage, dressed servants in royal liveries, and published Memoirs of a Princess (1812); created a public scandal with her extravagance, pretensions and claims of royalty, leading to husband's attempted suicide (1808) and his death in debtor's prison (1825); was herself arrested for debt (1821), but produced a will of George III, leaving her £15,000; found to have falsified all claims, was officially rebuffed by Sir Robert Peel, while speaking in Parliament (1823); died in King's Bench Prison (1834); daughter Lavinia pursued Olivia's cause, but a jury found the documentation to be false (1866).

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