The Charitable Heiress

Angela Burdett-Coutts was a nineteenth-century philanthropist. She became the wealthiest woman in 1837 when she inherited her grandfather’s fortune of around £1.8 million following the death of her step-grandmother, Harriot Mellon.

She collected paintings and among them was Robert Scott Lauder’s Christ Walking on the Sea. She received many marriage proposals. She was a great friend of Charles Dickens and the Duke of Wellington whom she proposed to although there was a great age difference between them.

Three years later at the age of 67 she shocked society by marrying her 29 year old American born secretary, William Lehman Ashmead Bartlett, who became MP for Westminster and changed his surname to Burdett-Coutts.

Angela spent most of her wealth on scholarships, endowments, and different philanthropic causes. The most notable cause was Urania Cottage the home she co-founded with Charles Dickens for young women who had “turned to a life of immorality”, including theft and prostitution. And she took great interest in improving the condition of indigenous Africans, the education and relief of the poor and suffering in any part of the world. In 1871, she was made a baroness by Queen Victoria for her work on behalf of her charitable work.

She died in 1906 of acute bronchitis. Her friend, Charles Dickens dedicated his novel Martin Chuzzlewit to her.

Sources: Wikipedia; Encyclopedia

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