Lady Augusta Frederica Elizabeth Bruce
Paternal 3rd Cousin
Augusta Frederica Elizabeth Bruce was born on April 3, 1822 to my cousin Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin & 11th Earl of Kindcardine and his wife, Elizabeth Oswald(Countess of Elgin).
Augusta was brought up in Paris, France after the death of her father. Augusta was also a Lady In Waiting to Queen Victoria. History notes that Lady Augusta was a "devoted friend and servant" to both Queen Victoria and Queen Victoria's mother, The Duchess of Kent. She held the office of Resident Bedchamber Woman while in service to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria. Augusta was hand picked by His Majesty, Prince Albert, to be Lady in Waiting to his wife.
While living in Paris, Lady Augusta became friends with Mary Elizabeth Mohl, a 19th century British writer and salon hostess. She was known by her nickname "Clarkey" and was much admired for her conversation and independence. Mary eventually married Julius Von Mohl, from Stuttgart, who was an Orientalist (studies of the Orient).
Mary was a good friend of my cousin, Lady Augusta, as well as Florence Nightingale and Mary Ann Evans who's pen name was "George Eliot". Everyone knows who Florence Nightingale is, and now my cousin Lady Augusta, but "George Eliot" was an accomplished Victorian author. She wrote under a male name to ensure her books were published. Between 1859 and 1876 she wrote and published 7 novels: Adam Bede, The Mill On The Floss, Silas Marner, Felix Holt the Radical, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda.
Mary also had in her circle of close female friends the author Elizabeth Gaskell who was a published short story author, good friends with Charlotte Bronte (author of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights), Charles Dickens, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Ruskin and others.
I am am impressed that my cousin moved in such intellectual circles and imagine that the conversations in the Paris salon of Clarkey would have indeed been stimulating.
History notes that Augusta was not only working for Queen Victoria and the Royal Family, but was a cherished friend of the Queen and Prince Albert, and was adored by her children.
A devoted friend and servant of Queen Victoria and her family, Lady Augusta was present through Prince Albert's illness and ultimate death. As we all know, the Queen became deeply grief stricken and went into mourning for her lost love, a mourning shared by the entire British Empire. Years passed and Queen Victoria remained in her dark period of mourning, driving away almost everyone once close to her. Except Lady Augusta.
Augusta continued to be a devoted friend and servant, travelling with Queen Victoria and comforting her, trying to bring her out of mourning.
Augusta met The Very Reverend Arthur Penrhyn Stanley and the two fell in love. Arthur was also a friend of Queen Victoria, and was a Reverend who had comforted Queen Victoria and for whom she had a deep respect. When Lady Augusta advised Queen Victoria of her intention to marry Arthur, the Queen was deeply upset thinking that Augusta was too old to bother getting married. Some think the Queen was more concerned about losing a close friend and confident. Whatever the case, Queen Victoria finally gave the union her blessin on the condition that Augusta remain "on call" to the Queen.
On December 16, 1863 she married the Very Reverand Arthur Penrhyn Stanley. From all accounts their marriage was one of deep love and mutual admiration. Arthur was the Dean of Westminster and Lady Augusta devoted herself to helping the less fortunate.
Lady Augusta died on March 1, 1876. Her husband outlived her and is buried at Westminster Abbey. Arthur's tomb contains a moving memorial to his wife and stands prominently in King Henry's VII's chapel and some of the stained glass panels on the windows were donated by Queen Victoria in memory of her lost friends.
Lady Augusta was buried at Westminster Abbey in King Henry VII's chapel. Queen Victoria had a memorial erected to her close friend at Frogmore, burial ground of several notable Royal Family members which later included Her Royal Highness, Queen Victoria and Edward VIII.
A book containing Lady Augusta's personal letters to friends, family and those to and from Queen Victoria was also published and is still in limited print. I have yet to read the book but I am sure it will give some more insight into the fascinating life of this relative.
The photos below are of Lady Augusta (photo on right courtesy of the National Gallery, England).