1803 Rome letter to Lady Elizabeth Foster, later Duchess of Devonshire

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Letter from Rome to Lady Elizabeth Foster, talking about family, friends, and a gift for her best friend Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire. The friendship between Elizabeth and the Devonshires was infamous.

Georgina was the great-great-great-great aunt of Diana, Princess of Wales. Their lives, centuries apart, have been compared in tragedy.

Lady Foster was in Paris at the time, staying with the  famed banker Perigeaux, who helped finance Bonaparte, and gained (amongst other advantages) the monopoly of issuing bank-notes in 1803.

Rome 1st Feb: 803
Here is, mistress Elisabeth a most interesting piece of natural history, the form description & specimen of a fish totally new in these Seas when you have consulted your philosophical friends in Paris upon it & received their observations & instructions be so good as to transmit the inclosed to our Excellent Dutchess (1) who delights so much in--- history as I am persuaded it will give her singular satisfaction.
Augustus (2), the gentle Augustus dines with me to day on wild goat and Torrino veal which my gluttony or hospitality brings every week from Naples.
Poor Mrs. Ellis (3) I fear is --- all hope—at least poor dear Mr. Ellis --- to understand --- last letter.
Take care of---sweet --- sweet Elizabeth, that if I can not see you I may at least hear from you //
and to leave Ranger himself, no doubt which has the best bargain,


(1) Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire

(2) Augustus John Foster her son with first husband John Thomas Foster. Between roughly 1802 and 1804 Foster served as the Secretary to British legation, Naples, Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Having abandoned a military career, he travelled extensively in Europe with his cousin John Leslie Foster* and Lord Aberdeen. In 1803 he and Lord Duncannon were arrested in France on the resumption of war, but allowed to return home on Fox’s application.

(3) Charles Rose Ellis1st Baron Seaford was elected to the House of Commons for Heytesbury in 1793, a seat he held until 1796, and then represented Seaford from 1796 to 1806. ..married the Hon. Elizabeth Catherine Caroline Hervey, daughter of Lord Hervey... She died in January 1803, aged 22.


Addressed to  "---- Empire ----Lady Elizabeth Foster chez Mons Perigeaux banquier Paris" 

Circular black postmark ‘BUREAU FRANCAIS ROME’. Red Paris reception postmark on back.

Folded to form an envelope.


Often cast in the shadow of her close friend Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806), Lady Elizabeth Foster (1757-1824) is an intriguing character in her own right. She grew up in relative poverty before her unsuccessful marriage to John Thomas Foster, from 1776 to 1780, resulting in two children she would not be reunited with until his death in 1796. 1782 was the year Lady Elizabeth met the Devonshires in Bath and the formation of their infamous ménage à trois led to two illegitimate children. She eventually entered marriage with the 5th Duke of Devonshire in 1809, after the death of his wife, Georgiana, in 1806, ending with his own death in 1811. After a spell in London, Rome became Lady Elizabeth’s final, beloved home.


The Fosters had two sons, Frederick (3 October 1777 – 1853) and Augustus John Foster (1780 – 1848).

Partly disappointed by another lover’s failure to propose, she travelled to Paris in October 1802 with two of her children, returning to England in 1803….