The 93rd footnote to Lord Mansfield’s Women: Belle had a brother

Reveries Under the Sign of Austen, Two

Detail from Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and Lady Elizabeth Murray attributed to Johann Zoffany: Belle

Dear friends and readers,

Carolyn Steedman whose important book, Labours Lost: Domestic Service and the Making of Modern England, I reviewed here, recently told me that the film-makers of Belle overlooked a document that at the very least would have changed the cast of characters in the movie (and its story) considerably: Elizabeth Lindsay (Dido Belle’s legal and perhaps her familiar name too) had a full brother, John (named in the document) and Elizabeth’s father, John Lindsay (played by Matthew Goode in the movie) a sufficiently long-term and continuing relationship with Elizabeth’s mother to father two children by her and in his will ask his legal wife, Mary, to make sure the money that had been provided for them in trust became theirs. These three people, the son, John, the unnamed slave woman (concubine…

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