Arcadian Library Online - Lady Hester Stanhope
Lady Hester Stanhope


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Stanhope, Hester, Lady

Lady Hester Stanhope

Lady Hester Stanhope
by Penelope Turson
Penelope Turson
Penelope Turson
DOI: 10.24157/ARCS_012

  • Keywords:
    Minorities, Levant, Mediterranean, Middle East, Modern, Napoleonic era, Orientalism, Gender, Cultural exchange, Victorian Era

Lady Hester Stanhope, who arrived in Istanbul in 1810, perpetuated the tradition of the well-connected, pre-Victorian, aristocratic traveller, elevating the role to new levels of eccentricity. Stanhope’s unconventional life has been the subject of countless biographies, essays and anthologies, and her residence on Mount Lebanon under the protection of the Druses, her visit to Palmyra during which, by her own account, she was famously welcomed as ‘Queen of the Desert’, and her subsequent decline and death in 1839, in complete isolation and debt, have achieved almost mythical status. Born into an aristocratic family, Stanhope had acted as the de facto first lady for her uncle, the Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, before setting of East in 1810. She would never return to England. Several letters addressed from Lady Hester Stanhope can be found in the Arcadian Library, chronicling some of her political allegiances, her travels in the Middle East and how she lived with Bedouin Women.