Things that make you go “Hmm…”

I’ve been doing a bit of trawling through Wikipedia today, building up a list of historical personages to use as extras in my current WIP. And I came across this lady:

The Duchess of Leinster as painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in the 1770s;  courtesy of Wikipedia

Emily Lennox was (according to Wikipedia) married to James Fitzgerald, the Earl of Kildare (and later Duke of Leinster), in 1747, when she was “almost 16”. That is, when she was FIFTEEN.

Apparently the marriage was a happy one.

Well, good. Because the couple had 18 children. That was not a typo. Here, I’ll write it out, just to make sure: eighteen.

Actually, there were 19 children “of the marriage”, but the last kid, born in 1773 was actually the son of the tutor of the Fitzgerald brood, one Mr William Ogilvie. When James Fitzgerald died, in November of 1773, Emily married Ogilvie the following year (which, understandably caused something of a sensation.)

She then went on to have THREE MORE CHILDREN with her new husband!

So that’s a total of 22 children. In an age where childbirth was absolutely a matter of life and death for the mother. No antibiotics. No blood transfusions. No safe surgical procedures. No anaesthetic.


Sadly, and predictably, twelve of her children predeceased her. Of those, nine died by the age of 10. Her eldest child, George, died when he was 17 and two others died in adulthood.

Just one other interesting thing I noted concerning the difficulties posed by such an enormous amount of offspring: obviously finding suitable names posed a challenge. She had two daughters named Louisa, two named Charlotte and two named Caroline, as well as two sons called George (ironically, George and George were her eldest children by each of her two husbands.)

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