Lennox Sisters

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Lennox Sisters

Four aristocratic daughters of the duke and duchess of Richmond.

Lennox, Caroline (1723–1774). English peeress. Name variations: Lady Holland; Caroline Fox. Born in March 1723 in London, England; died in July 1774 in London; daughter of Charles Lennox, 2nd duke of Richmond, and Sarah Cadogan (d. 1751); great-granddaughter of Charles II, king of England, and Louise de Kéroüaille; married Henry Fox, in 1741; children: Stephen Fox (b. 1748); Charles Fox (b. 1749).

Lennox, Emily (1731–1814). Duchess of Leinster. Name variations: Lady Kildare; Emily Fitzgerald. Born Emilia Mary Lennox in October 1731 in London, England; died in March 1814 in London; daughter of Charles Lennox, 2nd duke of Richmond, and Sarah Cadogan (d. 1751); great-granddaughter of Charles II, king of England, and Louise de Kéroüaille; married James Fitzgerald, earl of Kildare and duke of Leinster, in 1747; married William Ogilvie, in 1774; children: (first marriage) George Fitzgerald (b. 1748); William (b. 1749), later duke of Leinster; Emily Fitzgerald (b. 1752); Charles Fitzgerald (b. 1756); Charlotte Fitzgerald (b. 1758); Henry Fitzgerald (b. 1761); Sophia Fitzgerald (b. 1762); Edward Fitzgerald (b. 1763); Robert Fitzgerald (b. 1765); Gerald Fitzgerald (b. 1766); Fanny Fitzgerald (b. 1768); Lucy Fitzgerald (b. 1770); George Fitzgerald (b. 1771); and five others who died young; (second marriage) Cecilia Ogilvie (b. 1775); Mimi Ogilvie (b. 1778).

Lennox, Louisa (1743–1821). English peeress. Name variations: Louisa Lennox Conolly. Born in November 1743 in London; died in 1821 in Castletown, Ireland; daughter of Charles Lennox, 2nd duke of Richmond,and Sarah Cadogan (d. 1751); great-granddaughter of Charles II, king of England, and Louise de Kéroüaille; married Thomas Conolly, in 1758; no children of her own but adopted her sister Sarah's daughter Emily Louisa Napier (b. 1783).

Lennox, Sarah (1745–1826). English peeress. Name variations: Lady Bunbury; Sarah Napier. Born in February 1745 in London; died in August 1826 in London; daughter of Charles Lennox, 2nd duke of Richmond, and Sarah Cadogan (d. 1751); great-granddaughter of Charles II, king of England, and Louise de Kéroüaille; married Thomas Charles Bunbury, in 1762; married George Napier, in 1781; children: (with Lord William Gordon) Louisa Bunbury (b. 1768); (second marriage) Charles Napier (b. 1782); Emily Louisa Napier (b. 1783); George Napier (b. 1784); William Napier (b. 1785); Richard Napier (b. 1787); Henry Napier (b. 1789); Caroline Napier (b. 1790); Cecilia (b. 1791).

The four eldest daughters of Charles Lennox and Sarah Cadogan , the duke and duchess of Richmond, were renowned for their beauty and intelligence. The sisters' voluminous surviving correspondence, spanning the late 18th and early 19th centuries, provides a window into the daily lives of the elite in the Georgian period of British history. Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah were four of the seven surviving children of the duke and duchess, a loving couple devoted to their children. Charles' father was the illegitimate son of King Charles II and Louise de Kéroüaille and half-brother to George II, so the Lennox family claimed royal heritage and its privileges. The duke was Lord of the Bedchamber to his half-uncle George II, and the girls' childhood was divided between the ducal country house of Goodwood, Richmond House in London, and the royal palaces, where the king was exceptionally fond of them.

In 1741, the eldest daughter, Caroline, fell in love with Henry Fox, a member of Parliament, Prime Minister William Pitt's greatest rival, and an old friend of the Lennox family. The duke refused to permit their marriage because Henry was a commoner. Unable to change her parents' minds, Caroline and Henry eloped in May, provoking a major scandal in London society. Outraged by Caroline's disobedience, Charles Lennox forbade his family any communication with her or the Foxes. Only after the birth of her first child in 1748 was Caroline reconciled with, though never forgiven by, her parents. Another son followed in 1749, and the Fox couple remained happily married despite their initial difficulties.

By 1748, Emily Lennox was also happily married. Unlike Caroline, Emily had chosen a husband, James Fitzgerald, earl of Kildare in Ireland and later duke of Leinster, who was welcomed as a son-in-law by her parents. The wealthy Fitzgeralds were Ireland's largest landholders and consequently were important players in Irish politics. After her marriage at age 16 in 1747, Emily left her younger sisters at Richmond House for the Fitzgerald estates and Kildare House in Dublin, center of Irish society and politics. Over the next 20 years, Emily would raise a large family, giving birth to 18 children, of whom six sons and a daughter survived to adulthood.

When Charles Lennox died in 1750, Sarah Cadogan moved with her unmarried children to the Fox household in London. She did not long survive her husband, dying in 1751. Her orphaned daughters Louisa, Sarah, and Cecilia were then taken to Ireland to live with their older sister Emily, as their mother's will stipulated, until they were old enough to marry (about age 15 in the late 18th century). Although they spent some time each year in Dublin, most of the time Emily kept her younger sisters at Carton, the earl's magnificent country manor in County Kildare.

Lady Emily was the most intellectual of the Lennox sisters. She read widely and had strong interests in British politics, philosophy, and theology. She was particularly drawn to the new Enlightenment philosophies of such writers as Jean-Jacques Rousseau; one source claims that she unsuccessfully invited Rousseau to educate her children according to his new theories. However, her accomplishments fell short of her ideals, as she did not provide an outstanding education to her children or younger sisters. The Lennox girls were not educated beyond the usual accomplishments thought necessary for aristocratic women—reading, writing, music, and embroidery, along with religious instruction—and much of their time was spent on adult amusements like hunting, riding, concerts, operas, and formal parties. As they matured, the beautiful Lennox sisters made an impression on Dublin society—tall and fair, with cheerful and outgoing personalities, they were always noticed and often written about when they appeared in public.

In 1758, Emily and her husband James arranged a marriage for 14-year-old Louisa to the Right Honorable Thomas Conolly of Castletown. Nine years her senior, Conolly was a member of Parliament and for a long time Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, with close political ties to Emily's husband James Fitzgerald. The couple moved to London briefly after the wedding, returning to the Conolly manor at Castletown in Kildare in 1759. Unlike her sisters, Louisa remained childless, although her desire for motherhood would lead her to adopt one of Sarah's infant daughters, Emily Louisa Napier , in 1784.

When Sarah turned 15, in accordance with the terms of her mother's will, she left for London, where she would live under the guardianship of her beloved sister Caroline and Henry Fox. There she was reacquainted with her great-uncle George II, to whom she was formally presented at court. Widely regarded in her time as the most handsome of the Lennox women, Sarah also drew the attention of the prince of Wales, the future George III, who fell in love with her. Sarah did nothing to encourage his feelings—revealing a lack of ambition for a royal position—but her guardians did everything they could to promote the marriage. George's infatuation continued after his accession as George III in 1760, but he was ultimately convinced by his advisors to marry Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz , a German princess, for political reasons. Sarah became involved in several brief and harmless affairs over the next few years, but until 1762 no serious matches were considered, despite her many admirers.

In that year, the Foxes approved a match for her with Thomas Charles Bunbury, the wealthy young heir to the baronetcy of Bunbury and member of the House of Commons. They married in June, but their initial infatuation quickly faded; Sarah found herself neglected and bored at the Bunbury estate, Barton House in Suffolk; her husband was preoccupied with horseracing and gambling. The same year saw Caroline raised to the title of Baroness Holland by the king, a year before Henry Fox, already secretary of state and speaker of the House of Commons, was made Baron Holland. But royal favor was short-lived, and in 1765, Caroline and Henry sought to escape Henry's political enemies in Parliament by taking Sarah and Louisa to Paris. When they returned to England, Henry Fox was dismissed from his post in the royal administration, a major downturn in fortune for the Foxes.

On a second trip to Paris in 1767, Sarah became involved in a brief affair with Armand de Gontaut, duke of Lauzun. After it ended, she fell in love with a distant cousin, Lord William Gordon. Her relationship with him, which was widely gossiped about in London, led to her first pregnancy and the birth in December 1768 of Louisa Bunbury. Although Sarah's husband agreed to raise the child as his own, Sarah was not content to go back to her life as Bunbury's wife, and in 1769 she stunned her family and acquaintances by leaving her husband for Lord Gordon.

After a few months, however, Sarah and William Gordon parted for good, and Sarah and her daughter were taken in by her brother Charles Lennox, 3rd duke of Richmond. In letters to each other, her family condemned her behavior because of the dishonor she brought to the Lennox name and did not speak of her openly, yet at the same time their letters to Sarah show their love and loyalty for her. She lived in a separate house on the Richmond estate with her daughter through the 1770s, rarely appearing in public and visited only by her family. Her actions had cost Sarah the esteem of the English elite, and her prospects for regaining their respect looked dim.

The early 1770s proved a trying and sometimes tragic period for the entire family, beyond the scandal of Sarah's failed marriage. In 1773, Emily was left a widow with 12 surviving children after the sudden death of the duke of Leinster. Her remarriage the next year to her children's tutor, William Ogilvie, shocked Dublin's elite, who disapproved of the daughter of a duke marrying beneath her rank. Her family was also disappointed, but, as with Sarah, they remained loyal and supportive. That summer, shortly after Emily's remarriage, the Lennoxes were saddened by the unexpected deaths of both Henry and Caroline Fox.

The next year Lord Bunbury sued for divorce from Sarah on the grounds of her adultery with William Gordon. After an extended divorce trial before Parliament, the king, Sarah's old suitor George III, declared that Sarah's adulterous behavior with Gordon and others justified Bunbury's divorce from her, and Sarah and Bunbury were both freed to remarry. By 1780, she was once again in love, this time with Colonel George Napier, a recently widowed British army hero who had fought in the American Revolutionary War. In 1781, they married and returned to London, where Sarah, age 37, re-entered high society. Although her sisters were pleased that she had re-established her good name, their brother, the duke of Richmond, strongly disapproved of her marriage to a poor ex-colonel. But it proved strong and long-lasting, although they had little money, and Sarah had eight children with her second husband. Sarah let one of her daughters, Emily Louisa Napier, born in 1783, be adopted by her sister Louisa when it became clear Louisa would not have any children of her own.

During the 1780s and 1790s, the Lennox sisters and their husbands divided their time between Ireland, England, and Paris. Emily in particular spent most of her time in Paris, then, as her health began to fail, she and Ogilvie settled in London, where Lord Conolly helped Ogilvie obtain a seat in Parliament. Both Sarah and Emily were rarely parted from their husbands in their last years, and occupied themselves with raising their large families. The sisters remained as close and supportive of one another in their later years as they had been as children, as their many surviving letters and frequent visits attest. Both Emily and Sarah found great satisfaction as mothers, and earned the acclaim of their contemporaries by raising sons honored as heroes for their military achievements in the Napoleonic Wars.

Louisa shared a home in London with Sarah after the two women were widowed, Louisa in 1803 and Sarah the next year. As Emily, aging and in poor health, had already retired permanently to her Grosvenor Place house in London, the three sisters were reunited in their final years. With their children grown, the women passed their days in leisure by gardening, reading (or being read to, as Sarah and Emily both became blind), visiting family and friends, and corresponding with acquaintances in France and Ireland. Emily died at age 83 in 1814. Her younger sisters survived her for a number of years; Louisa died in 1821 at age 78, and Sarah died in 1826, age 81.


Curtis, Edith R. Lady Sarah Lennox: A Irrepressible Stuart. NY: Putnam, 1946.

Fitzgerald, Brian. Emily, Duchess of Leinster: A Study of Her Life and Times. London: Staples Press, 1949.

suggested reading:

Tillyard, Stella. Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa and Sarah Lennox. NY: Farrar, Straus, 1994.

Laura York , Riverside, California

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Lennox Sisters

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