Elizabeth Fox (née Vassall)

1771 - 1845


Biography

Born in London in 1771, Elizabeth Vassall was the daughter of Jamaica planter Richard Vassall (1732–1795) and Mary Clarke.

In 1786, aged fifteen, she married Sir Godfrey Webster, 4th Baronet. The couple had five children; Sir Godfrey Vassall Webster, 5th Baronet (6 October 1789 – 17 July 1836), a son (born and died 1790), Lt. Col. Sir Henry Vassall Webster (1793 – 1847), Lady Harriet Frances Webster (1794 – 7 August 1849) and another son (born and died October 1795).

She toured Europe and counted the Duchess of Devonshire and Thomas Pelham among her friendship group. In 1794 she met Whig politician Henry Fox, 3rd Baron Holland, the nephew of Charles James Fox, in Naples and they embarked on an affair. In 1797 she was divorced by Webster on the grounds of adultery, he resumed his previous surname (hers having been added as a condition of gaining access to her fortune) retaining for life her West Indian fortune of £7000 per annum. Elizabeth married Holland two days later. Webster committed suicide on 3 June 1800 and Lord Holland took the additional name of Vassall to safeguard their children's right to Elizabeth's West Indian fortune.

The couple had seven children, the first of whom was born out of wedlock; General Charles Richard Fox (6 November 1796 – 13 April 1873), the Hon. Stephen Fox (18 January 1799 – 22 November 1800), a son (born and died 17 March 1801), Henry Edward Fox, 4th Baron Holland (7 May 1802 – 18 December 1859), the Hon. Mary Elizabeth Fox (19 February 1806 – 7 December 1891), the Hon. Georgiana Anne Fox (7 November 1809 – 31 October 1819) and a daughter (born and died 24 June 1812).

Lady and Lord Holland lived at Holland House where their home became a centre of Whig society. Lady Holland was renowned as a political and literary society hostess, their circle included Lord Grey, George Tierney, Samuel Rogers, Walter Scott, Ugo Foscolo, Sydney Smith and Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

Lord Holland died in 1840. After his death, Lady Holland lived at 33 South Street, a property she had inherited from her mother. In 1843 she resided at 9 Great Stanhope Street a property that she rented from Lord Palmerston. She died in 1845. Some of her letters and diaries were published after her death by her husband's relative, Lord Ilchester. He edited a selection of her letters to the fourth Baron Holland, Elizabeth, Lady Holland to her Son, 1821–1845 (1946), and extracts from her diaries The Journal of Elizabeth, Lady Holland (1908) and The Spanish Journal of Elizabeth, Lady Holland (1910).

Sources

C. J. Wright, ‘Fox, Elizabeth Vassall , Lady Holland [other married name Elizabeth Vassall Webster, Lady Webster] (1771?–1845)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/10028, accessed 30 March 2015]


Further Information

Absentee?
British/Irish
Maiden Name
Vassall
Spouse
Henry Fox, Lord Holland
Children
Twelve children
Will

Lady Holland left to Lord John Russell for his life the income from the family's Lambeth estate. She also left him family papers and materials for a life of Charles James Fox on which Lord Holland and John Allen had worked. Russell published these as The Memorials and Correspondence of Charles James Fox, (4 vols., 1853–7).

Occupation
Plantation owner
Oxford DNB Entry

Associated Estates (2)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1800 [EA] - 1845 [LA] → Owner

Lady Elizabeth Holland inherited the estate under the will of her grandfather Florentius Vassall. She held these properties jointly with her husband Lord Holland until her death in 1845.

1810 [EA] - 1839 [LA] → Joint owner

Relationships (6)

Other relatives
Notes →
Foster brother and...
Wife → Second Husband
Mother → Son
Daughter → Father
Grand-daughter → Grandfather
Wife → Husband