Lady Eleanor Charlotte Butler

Butler, Lady Eleanor Charlotte, daughter of the 16th Earl of Ormond, was born in Ireland in 1739; her friend Sarah Ponsonby, in 1755. They formed a romantic attachment, and after several attempts to run away from their friends to England (in one of which Miss Ponsonby broke her leg), were in 1778 permitted to depart with a faithful maid, Betty Carroll. They settled in a cottage at Llangollen, where they passed the remainder of their lives — more than fifty years — together. They were known as "The Ladies of Llangollen," and were visited and petted by the world of fashion and literature. In 1829 the Duke of Wellington perpetrated the job of procuring them a government pension of £200 a year.

In September 1823, Charles Mathews thus wrote from Oswestry to a friend: "The dear inseparable immutables, Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Ponsonby, were in the boxes here on Friday. They came twelve miles from Llangollen, and returned, as they never sleep from home. Oh! such curiosities! I was nearly convulsed! I could scarcely get on for the first ten minutes my eye caught them! Though I had never seen them, I instantly knew them. As they are seated, there is not one point to distinguish them from men; the dressing and powdering of the hair; their well-starched neckcloths; the upper part of their habits, which they always wear, even at a dinner party, made precisely like men's coats, and regular black beaver men's hats."

Afterwards he met in company "the dear antediluvian darlings, attired for dinner in the same mummified dress, with the Croix de St. Louis, and other orders, and myriads of large brooches, with stones large enough for snuff-boxes, stuck in their starched neckcloths. I have not room to describe their most fascinating persons... They have not slept one night from home for above forty years." Betty Carroll died in 1809; Lady Butler, 2nd June 1829, aged 90; Miss Ponsonby, 9th December 1831, aged 76. The virtues of all three are celebrated in long inscriptions on one stone in the churchyard of Llangollen. A minute account of these ladies will be found in Blackburn's Illustrious Irishwomen, from which this notice is for the most part taken.


196a. Irishwomen, Illustrious: E. Owens Blackburne. 2 vols. London, 1877.