Hastings, Flora (1806–1839)

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Hastings, Flora (1806–1839)

English aristocrat involved in a well-publicized scandal in the court of a young Queen Victoria. Name variations: Lady Flora Hastings; Lady Flora Elizabeth Hastings. Born Flora Elizabeth Rawdon Hastings in 1806; died in 1839; daughter of Francis Rawdon Hastings (1754–1826), 1st marquis of Hastings (a soldier and diplomat); never married.

Lady Flora Hastings, born in 1806, was the daughter of Francis Rawdon Hastings, a soldier and diplomat who, among many accomplishments, fought at Bunker Hill and was governor-general of Bengal. By the time she was 30, Flora was still unmarried and serving as lady of the bedchamber to Victoria of Coburg , duchess of Kent, mother of Princess Victoria (later Queen Victoria of England). Unfortunately for Flora, the younger Victoria despised her mother. When she ascended the throne in 1837, Victoria maintained close ties with her prime minister, Lord Melbourne, and was easily swayed by his influence. Melbourne also had an antipathy for Victoria of Coburg; he and his queen also disliked Sir John Conroy.

Thus, the queen was incensed when it was rumored that Flora Hastings and John Conroy were conducting an affair, and allegedly even traveled from London to Scotland in the same carriage, a great taboo at the time. Victoria was so furious that she chronicled the tale in her journal.

When Flora Hastings began to increase in girth, there were whispers that she was carrying Conroy's child. Melbourne sought to keep this quiet to avoid discrediting Victoria's court. In an attempt to bring down Conroy, it was ordered that Hastings should be examined by a physician. When she was found not to be pregnant, her brother called for a public apology from the court, but Melbourne—working to keep the queen's reputation free of taint—refused to admit error. The Hastings family then took the matter to the newspapers, and the resulting stories caused a public outcry against Victoria and her court. It was one of the lowest periods in Victoria's reign, and there were rumors that even the unmarried queen and her prime minister were romantically involved. As for the hapless Flora Hastings, the physical examination that proved she was not carrying a child did not manage to detect a deadly cancerous growth. Her distended midsection had been the result of an abdominal tumor, and she died in 1839, age 33, not long after the press-fueled public furor. She was a writer of poetry, and a collection of her work was published two years after her death.


Auchincloss, Louis. Persons of Consequence. NY: Random House, 1979.

Carol Brennan , Grosse Pointe, Michigan

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Hastings, Flora (1806–1839)

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