Dido Belle at Kenwood House - a life of privilege

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Dido Belle at Kenwood House - a life of privilege and prejudice
Life before Kenwood
Very little is known about Dido before she was
baptised aged 5 in London.
Use the biography on the next page to answer
these three questions
1) How did Dido Belle’s father meet her mother?
2) Where is Dido Belle’s mother?
3) Did she ever see her father again?
Captain John Lindsay
John Lindsay was a Captain in the British Navy. At this point in history British
sea power was expanding.
In 1761 he was sent to Jamaica, where he successfully captured a French
gunship.
In 1762 He fought a battle outside Havana, during this
battle the British fleet captured 9 Spanish ships, holding enslaved people.
By 1763 Lindsay had met Maria Belle- Dido’s mother. He
briefly returned to England to receive a Knighthood. Then
he set sail to the West Indies. There is no evidence that
Maria Belle came to England.
1766 he returned to England
and gets appointed as
government representative for
Aberdeen and Montrose. He
lived in Scotland and then set
sail again for India in 1769.
In 1788 he died leaving money
to two other children but not
Dido.
Final acknowledgement of Dido Belle
Accepted into life at Kenwood?
Dido Bell was baptised in London in 1766. She was 5 years
old and was sent to live with her great Uncle- Lord
Mansfield.
Her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray was one year older and
was already living in Kenwood because her mother had
died and her father was a British Ambassador in Europe.
The two girls were
said to have been
close.
Take a closer look at
the painting of them
and see what you
think.
• Yes she was well looked after
• Wearing a very expensive silk
dress
• Wearing pearls
• Looks happy and energetic
• Looks like Elizabeth has placed a
loving arm on Dido
• The person who commissioned
this painting wanted to show off
their surroundings
• She was seen as very different to
the family
• She is caring a basket of fruits that
would have been seen as exotic
where as Elizabeth
•
•
•
•
•
is carrying a book- showing that she is educated
She is pointing to her face- highlighting the colour of her skin
The different skin tones is highlighted even more due to the colour of the backgrounds
Her headdress is a turban with an ostrich feather, this was a symbol seen frequently in
pictures of black people.
This is the only other image of
A black person in Kenwood
House- how does it compare
to the portrait of Dido Belle?
What can one letter show us?
• Dido could read and write,
so the Mansfield’s had
invested money in her
education
• He was friendly with Didomaking a joke about her
perfect hand writing
• Dido helped Lord
Mansfield with his workthis would have been an
important role as Lord
Mansfield was an
important political and
legal figure.
Kenwood Guests
Lord and Lady Mansfield used Kenwood to entertain. One
guest Thomas Hutchinson revels a lot about Dido’s
privilege but also the prejudice in one letter.
From the extract of the letter can you find phrases that
show prejudice and phrases that show privilege?
Imagine you are Dido or Lord Mansfield,
write a diary entry about Thomas Hutchinson.
Thomas Hutchinson’s visit- 1779
'A Black came in after dinner and sat with the
ladies, and after coffee, walked with the
company in the gardens, one of the young
ladies having her arm within the other. She had
a very high cap, and her wool was much frizzed
in her neck, but not enough to answer the large
curls now in fashion. She is neither handsome
nor genteel – pert enough…[Lord Mansfield]
calls her Dido, which I suppose is all the name
she has. He knows he has been reproached for
shewing a fondness for her - I dare say not
criminal'.
'She is a sort of Superintendent over the dairy,
poultry yard, &c, which we visited, and she was
called upon by my Lord every minute for this
thing and that, and shewed the greatest
attention to everything he said.’
Freedom
• When Lord Mansfield died in 1793, his will stated: ‘I
conform to Dido Elizabeth Belle her Freedom.’
• Why did he have to do that?

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