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Hon. Theresa Parker, later Hon. Theresa Villiers

British, 1775 - 1856

Theresa Parker was born at Saltram, Devonshire, on September 22, 1775, the younger of two children of John Parker, later 1st Baron Boringdon (1734-1788), and his second wife the Hon. Theresa (Robinson) Parker (1744-1775). She never knew her mother, who was ill with fever when she was born several weeks prematurely, and who died on December 21, 1775, after suffering a series of strokes. After her father's death in 1788, Theresa was evidently raised by her mother's unmarried sister, the Hon. Anne Robinson, and she was extremely close to her elder brother John (1772-1840), later 1st Earl of Morley and Viscount Boringdon. The letters they exchanged provide glimpses of Theresa's childhood and are enlivened by her intelligence and lively sense of humor. In late March 1798, she agreed to marry the Hon. George Villiers (1759-1827), third son of Thomas Villiers, 1st Earl of Clarendon, a member of parliament for Warwick (1792-1802), and Paymaster of Marines (1792-1803). Villiers had been "very sincerely attached" to her for the past three years and urged a speedy wedding, which took place on April 17, 1798. A keen follower of contemporary politics, Theresa Villiers was now drawn into close acquaintance with the royal family through her husband's official position as Groom of the Bedchamber to the King. A long residence with the royal family at Kew in 1804 resulted in her becoming the confidante of Princess Amelia (1783-1810), "the greatest & best friend I ever had in my life out of my own family." Inevitably, she and her husband had enemies at court, one of whom complained in 1809 of "the intriguing, selfish, meddling, mischief-making qualities of Villiers, who by his own teizing [teasing], and the illecbrae [sic] of his wife, has gained a great ascendancy over the royal mind." In January 1810 her husband fell into disgrace and financial ruin when an audit of his accounts as Paymaster and Inspector of the Marines (a position he had held since 1803) revealed a deficit to the year 1804 of £280,000, for which he was personally responsible. Their plight aroused sympathy, especially as they had numerous children to support, five of whom survived to adulthood. In 1815, Theresa Villiers became embroiled in the affairs of the poet George, Lord Byron (1788-1824), while acting as adviser to both his wife and his half-sister and lover Augusta Leigh (1784-1851). Her husband died on March 21, 1827, at Kent House, London, where they had been living since about 1812 with her brother, Lord Boringdon, and his family. Theresa Villiers retained her charming vivacity into old age. At the age of eighty, she impressed an acquaintance with "her animated and delightful conversation and manner, with something young about the still well-cut face, the light in her eyes, and singularly agreeable voice." She died on January 12, 1856. Several weeks earlier she had remarked, "It is very wonderful I should have lived so long and retained my senses."