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  • Susan Stoderl

First, Piggy-Back Rider, then Playwright and Political Commentator | Lady Eglantine Wallace

Satirical Print
Lady Eglantine Wallace

Lady Eglantine Wallace grew up in the shadow of her older sister Jane, who married Alexander Gordon, 4th Duke of Gordon, one of Britain’s most eligible men. She became a leader of fashionable society that hosted Tory political gatherings. Not to be outdone, Eglantine (nicknamed Betty) made a few legends of her own.


Their mother raised the sisters in an Edinburgh tenement where the girls were labeled “rowdy.” Along with the other children of the neighborhood, a favorite sport was riding pigs down the street. Hence, the term “piggy-back rides.” Her sister grew more tame as she ascended society, but Betty not so much.


Betty married Thomas Dunlop in 1770, who became the 5th Baronet of Wallace. The marriage lasted eight years before becoming legally separated. The stated cause was Thomas’ cruelty. However, Lady Wallace later appeared before a magistrate on two separate occasions for assaulting a female companion and a servant. During the 1780s, she had three well-received plays presented in London and one denied a performance license because of its political content.


Betty traveled to France in 1789 to take the spa waters for her health. She neglected to consider that the French Revolution was taking place. After speaking her political opinions, she faced arrest and accusations of espionage. Beheading could have been Betty’s fate, but she escaped.


In 1793 she snuck into the House of Commons to watch a debate, dressed as a man. After being discovered, she was promptly kicked out. Lady Wallace spent the rest of her life traveling in London and Europe.


ABOUT THE IMAGE


“Hints towards a change of ministry” (London: S.W. Fores, 1797) is a satiric print by Isaac Cruikshank that targets ten well-known aristocratic women. In the text, the author assigns the women various positions. The “Lady High Chancellor” is the circled woman, Lady Eglantine Wallace. The other women portrayed are Elizabeth, Margravine of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Bayreuth, Lady Sarah Archer, Albinia Hobart, Countess of Buckinghamshire, Jane Gordon, Duchess of Gordon, Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey, Dorothea Jordan, Lady Letitia Lade, Emily Cecil, and Marchioness of Salisbury.


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