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Margaret Beckford, later Margaret Orde

British, 1784 - 1818

Margaret Maria Elizabeth Beckford was born on April 9, 1784, the first child of Lady Margaret Gordon (1762-1786) and William Beckford (1759-1844) of Fonthill Abbey, Wiltshire. Six months prior to her birth, her father (heir to an enormous West Indian sugar fortune and probably the richest man in England) became a social outcast following his alleged sexual assault on a young nobleman. The Beckford family fled to Switzerland on June 23, 1785, and a second daughter, Susan Euphemia, was born at Château-la-Tour, Vevey, on May 14, 1786. The girls' mother died twelve days later of puerperal fever, although the newspapers blamed a broken heart. Margaret and Susan were raised in relative seclusion by their paternal grandmother at West End, Hampstead, while their father lingered on the Continent. In 1801 Beckford resolved to grant each of his teenage daughters an annual allowance of £10,000 (later reduced to £1,000)--sizeable by contemporary standards but a pittance compared with his extravagant expenditures on art and building at Fonthill. The painter William Hamilton instructed the girls in drawing, they were fluent in French, and Susan became an accomplished miniature artist as well as a fine singer. Both were known for their beauty, but Joseph Farington observed, "The eldest Miss Beckford is much taller than Her sister & handsomer with an acute countenance. --The younger Sister is low in stature, & ordinary in her face and general appearance." Samuel Rogers agreed that Margaret was "both in appearance and disposition a perfect angel," but added "her delight was not to be admired herself but to witness the admiration which her younger sister never failed to excite." After infuriating her father in 1804 by refusing to wed an older, aristocratic Spaniard with a reputation for homosexuality, Susan delighted him on April 26, 1810 by marrying her cousin Alexander Hamilton (1767-1852), Marquess of Douglas, who had previously offered his hand in exchange for £20,000 to settle his debts. He acceded as 10th Duke of Hamilton in 1819, and they had two children, William, 11th Duke of Hamilton, and Lady Susan Catherine, later Duchess of Newcastle. The Duchess of Hamilton died on May 27, 1859. Her elder sister Margaret was disowned by their father following her elopement on May 16, 1811, with James Orde of Westwood, Northumberland, an Army colonel (later Major General) who served in Africa (1795-1802) and the West Indies (1807-1810). In addition to a son who died in infancy, Margaret had two daughters, Margaret Juliana Maria Orde (b. 1814) and Susan Jemima Frances Orde (b. 1816). She died at Bath on September 7, 1818.