Compton Verney and Women

Lady Margaret and Women in the Arts

In 1816, the 16th Baron scandalised Warwickshire society by marrying a bride twenty-seven years his junior. Lady Margaret, or Miggy, was the daughter of Sir John Williams of Bodelwyddan Castle in North Wales. She had grown up surrounded by inspirational women.

There was Hester Lynch Thrale, salon hostess, friend of Dr Johnson and patron of novelist Frances Burney. Thrale caused a stir with her second marriage to the Italian music master Gabriele Piozzi. The couple moved to her family estate in Clwyd, from where Thrale began to publish her writings and Piozzi tutored the Williams children.

Another neighbour was celebrated poet Felicia Hemans, a few years older than Miggy, who published her first collection when she was just fourteen. Hemans was a major influence on the Victorian poets. She is also thought to have coined the phrase ‘stately home’ in her poem ‘The Homes of England’.

The stately Homes of England,
How beautiful they stand!
Amidst their tall ancestral trees
O’er all the pleasant land.

Felicia Hemans, ‘The Homes of England’

Miggy also knew the Ladies of Llangollen, Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, pictured here. These women were famous throughout Europe for devoting themselves to literary pursuits and dressing like men.

On being widowed in 1852, Miggy returned to North Wales where she commissioned the building of the spectacular Marble Church at Bodelwyddan in memory of her husband.

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