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Portrait of Hyacinthe Gabrielle Roland
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gstecyk's picture

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Hyacinthe Gabrielle Roland was the bastard child of a French actress and an Irish emigre, who carried on the family tradition, becoming a French actress who had several bastards by an Anglo-Irish politician.  

She lived in sin with the Marquess of Wellesley (a governor of India and brother of the Duke of Wellington), bearing him 5 children before finally marrying.  By one of their illegitimate daughters, Hyacinthe is a great-great-great grandmammy of Queen Elizabeth II, now the longest running monarch in British History.  The Royal Family doesn’t like to talk about this connection because British people are snobs.

Hyacinthe had no friends in England because she only spoke French, was having an illicit affair, and….well, British people are snobs!  Lady Caroline Lamb was warned by her mother-in-law that “no respectable woman could afford to be seen in Hyacinthe’s society.”  The advice didn’t do Lady Caroline much good.  She went on to desert her Prime-Minister husband for a ruinous affair with the poet Lord Byron.  When Byron pumped her and dumped her, she publicly slit her wrists with a wine glass at a ball.  She died in madness and disgrace, of health problem complicated by alcoholism and opium addiction.  Being seen with Hyacinthe was obviously the least of Lady Caroline’s problems.

Hyacinthe’s children had a reputation for being ugly, conniving sociopaths who manipulated their father.  After Hyacinthe’s death, Wellesley married Marianne Patterson, the daughter of a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  Wellington begged Marianne not to marry his brother because Hyacinthe’s brood of evil bastards would turn against her.  Marianne did not heed his warning, and the marriage was a failure.

Whatever critics had to say about Hyacinthe’s wanton sluttiness, and ugly devil spawn, they had nothing bad to say about her own looks.  Vigee Le Brun was famous for idealizing her subjects, but accounts of Hyacinthe’s beauty prove that Vigee Le Brun didn’t have to exaggerate.  Vigee Le Brun alludes to Hyacinthe’s bad reputation, but also her natural grace, by abandoning the conventional formality for a loose, no-bra look.