Dorothea Jordan

Jordan, Dorothea, a distinguished actress, was born near Waterford in 1762. Her maiden name was Bland. When but sixteen she went on the stage, appearing in Dublin in Mr. Daly's company under the assumed name of Miss Francis, so as not to hurt the susceptibilities of her father's relatives. The charms of her manner, her graceful figure, her talents, and her voice, captivated the public, and it was not long before she came to be acknowledged one of the foremost British actresses. She appeared in London in October 1785, as Mrs. Johnson. Hazlitt, in his criticisms of the stage, writes of her: "Her face, her tones, her manner, were irresistible; her smile had the effect of sunshine, and her laugh did one good to hear it; her voice was eloquence itself — it seemed as if her heart was always at her mouth. She was all gaiety, openness, and good nature; she rioted in her fine animal spirits, and gave more pleasure than any other actress, because she had the greatest spirit of enjoyment in herself."

In 1790 she became the acknowledged mistress of the Duke of Clarence (afterwards William IV.), and for twenty years they lived happily together. About 1811, partly in consequence, it is said, of her extravagance, a separation took place, and an annuity of £4,400 was secured to her upon certain conditions. In August 1815 she was obliged to fly to France from her creditors, and at Versailles, under the name of Johnson, in the greatest privacy, she awaited in vain some settlement of her affairs. She died at St. Cloud the 3rd July 1816, aged about 54. Sir Jonah Barrington bears the highest testimony to Mrs. Jordan's disposition and accomplishments. Mrs. Jordan had nine children by the Duke of Clarence, who were granted the titles and precedency of the younger issue of a marquis. The sons were well provided for in the army, the navy, or the Church; the eldest was created Viscount FitzClarence, and eventually Earl of Munster, whilst the daughters made brilliant marriages.


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22. Barrington, Sir Jonah, Personal Sketches of his own Time: Townsend Young, LL.D. 2 vols. London, 1869.

54. Burke, Sir Bernard: Peerage and Baronetage.

199. Jordan, Mrs., Memoirs: James Boaden. 2 vols. London, 1831.