Mrs Jordan's Children

Dorothea Jordan, or Dora as she preferred to be called, presented the Duke of Clarence with ten children, known by the name of FitzClarence, plus two from previous liaisons. What happened to them all? Were they accepted by society? Did they live a contented life, and remember their mother with affection? Dora had been an indulgent, loving mother. Here is the statue William had made of her after her death.

Dora’s eldest daughter, the child of Richard Daly, had always been difficult and their relationship deteriorated towards the end. But the pair had once been close and she grieved for her mother, angry on her behalf. When her allowance ceased on Dora’s death, she attempted to publish a book of memoirs, perhaps in an attempt to reveal the truth. It never appeared. Publication was halted, probably by Prince William or Barton, his clever man of business. Fanny continued with her acting career till 1820 when the Duke paid for her to go to America. Perhaps he was weary of her sulks and complaints. By this time Fanny had a child, but what happened to it we have no idea. Fanny herself died of a laudanum overdose in her Greenwich Street lodgings in June 1821.

Lucy, wife to Colonel Hawker, was always supportive to her mother, practical and sensible. She became, like Dora, the mother of ten children. As Lady Hawker she saw that her sons followed family tradition by going into the navy, and after some years of widowhood, her husband being considerably older than Lucy, she finally visited Saint-Cloud and her mother’s grave when she was about sixty.

The FitzClarence girls.

They were all charming, clever and pretty, living in Audley Square under the supervision of a Mrs Harpur after their mother’s death. But they were still pilloried and gossiped about in the press, and looked down upon by certain members of the aristocracy. They must have been relieved and delighted to at least be allowed into the royal circle, thanks to Queen Charlotte’s intervention. The Duchess of Kent, however, young Princess Victoria’s mother, would not countenance any friendship, or even contact between them, perhaps in case her daughter became tainted with their scandalous origins. Fortunately their father’s new wife, Queen Adelaide, adored her step-children and was a good mother to them. She insisted that the portraits of their mother remain in place at Bushy.

Sophia had suffered from her lack of status which had badly affected her relationship with her mother during her teenage years, and there must have been some guilt over this following Dora’s death. She married Sir Philip Sidney of Penshurst Place in 1825, dying in childbirth in 1837 aged 42, having given him several children.

Eliza became Countess of Errol in December 1820. She had four children and died in 1856.

Mary married Charles Fox, the illegitimate son of Lord and Lady Holland, great-nephew of Charles James Fox, in 1824, and died in 1864 without issue.

Augusta, or Ta, married John Kennedy Erskine, son of the Marquess of Ailsa circa 1827, with whom she had three children. He tragically died of TB four years later. She married a second time, a Lord John Frederick Gordon in 1836. He was a Member of Parliament and Lord of the Bedchamber. Augusta died in 1865.

Amelia, or Mely as she was called, married Byron’s godson, Viscount Falkland, accompanying him to India where he was made Governor-General of Bombay. She wrote a lively account of her travels, showing herself to be the most adventurous of the sisters.

The FitzClarence boys:
George was promoted to brevet lieutenant-colonel, returning from India in March 1818, and taking his time on the journey home as he explored the pyramids and the Nile. He became something of a scholar, writing a journal of the Peninsular war, and of his travels. He married Mary Wyndham and had a large family. But he could never rid himself of the resentment he felt over his lack of legitimacy. He was an unhappy, discontented man who very much wanted, and believed, he should be King. Instead, a young female cousin, Princess Victoria, was to be second in line to the throne, following Princess Charlotte’s death in childbirth in 1817.

Perhaps he still hoped to be recognised as heir once his father came to the throne in 1830. He was then granted some tasks but William refused to countenance such an act, believing it would lose him credibility with the public. Instead, he made George Earl of Munster, by way of compensation. When Victoria gave birth to a son, Edward, George’s hopes must have been dashed yet again. Nor was he granted any real purpose in life, or way of earning a good income for his own sons, despite asking Sir Robert Peel for a role of some kind. The Prime Minister failed to help and a few months later in March, 1842, George went to his library and shot himself. A tragic end for a man with the potential to have made an excellent monarch.

Henry, Dora’s second son was in India when she died, having spent his early years in the Navy. He’d suffered the icy cold of the Baltic at eleven, campaigns in the Netherlands and the Mediterranean at twelve and thirteen, with the German legion by the age of fourteen, and in the Peninsular War at fifteen. Such a life must have taken its toll as he didn’t grow tall like the rest of his family, no doubt because of the poor food he endured, nor was he robust, or particularly brave. He hated India, and the way his father had treated his mother. News of her death affected his health badly and it was agreed he should be sent home. Sadly, he caught some sort of fever before his departure, and within four days was dead in September 1817. He was 20 years old.

Frederick, a likeable young man with a ‘frank and generous disposition’, spent his entire life in the army, although never saw active service. He married Lady Augusta Boyle, daughter of the Earl of Glasgow. In 1852 he was sent to Bombay, where he died two years later. He had been the one who took possession of most of his mother’s letters, which after his death seemed to become dispersed among other members of the family. He had one daughter who did not marry.

Adolphus or Lolly, served in the navy for thirty-nine years. He always maintained a passion for the theatre, even having his portrait painted in a Byronesque fancy dress. He was involved in founding the Garrick Club where gentlemen and theatricals could meet. He too kept every one of his mother’s letters, never married and died without issue in 1856.

Augustus, or Tuss, managed to avoid the navy, went to Oxford and became Vicar of Mapledurham. It is said that, inspired by Dora’s provision of a girls’ school at Bushy Park, he built a village school in his own parish, and was much loved by his parishioners. His passion for the theatre continued and he often visited Drury Lane where his mother used to perform. He married Sarah Gordon and named his first child Dorothea. He died in 1854, leaving five children.

Resentment and discontent seemed to burn within many of her offspring, yet against all the odds and scandal of their background, they did enter society and make good lives for themselves. Some of their descendants are members of the House of Lords to this day. I’m sorely tempted to research them further and find out what their lives were really like in detail. There’s much more to be discovered, I think.

Growing up in a poverty-stricken, fatherless household, Dorothy Jordan overcame her humble beginnings to become the most famous comic actress of her day. Beginning her career on the Dublin stage, she moved on to the playhouses of Leeds and York before achieving fame and fortune performing at Sheridan’s famous theatre on Drury Lane. 

It was there that Dorothy caught the eye of the Duke of Clarence, later to become King William IV. Her twenty-year relationship with the Duke was one of great happiness and domesticity, producing ten children. But ultimately Dorothy’s generous nature was her undoing and she was to be cruelly betrayed by the man she loved. A spellbinding tale of passion, jealousy, scandal and betrayal, The Duchess of Drury Lane is the incredible story of the rise and fall of an extraordinary woman born into extraordinary times.


Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0727882462

Available as an ebook from 1 March.
Paperback 30 June


  1. My understanding is that Dora had Fanny by Daly the theatre manager where she was first on stage in Dublin. He either seduced or raped her. She moved to England. She later had a more respectable liaison with Sir Richard Ford, who more or less promised marriage then reneged on this. She had two girls with him and a boy who died. Dorothea and Lucy. She went on

    1. Yes Anon, as I say above, and she did indeed have two children with Ford. You can read the whole story in Duchess of Drury Lane. Thanks for your comments.

  2. ... To have ten further children with the Duke of Clarence after she realised Ford would never marry her.

  3. I enjoyed The Duchess of Drury Lane and the first person spin on this tale. Thank you for writing it. My question is, why didn't Dora's unmarried sister Hester visit her in Paris when she was ill?