History

Angela Burdett-Coutts

History

Near the west door in the nave of the Abbey is a simple gravestone reading "BARONESS BURDETT-COUTTS 1814-1906". This great Victorian philanthropist was born in Piccadilly, London on 21 April 1814, the youngest of six children of Sir Francis Burdett (1770-1844), politician, and Sophia, daughter of the banker Thomas Coutts. Angela inherited her grandfather Coutts’ fortune and then assumed the additional surname of Coutts by Royal licence and she became known as "the richest heiress in England". Charles Dickens dedicated his novel Martin Chuzzlewit to her and she had many royal and eminent friends. She applied her fortune to many charities connected with the Church of England, the relief of the poor, children and animals. In recognition of her work Queen Victoria in 1871 conferred a peerage on her under the title Baroness Burdett-Coutts of Highgate and Brookfield. On 12 February 1881 the Baroness married William Lehman Ashmead-Bartlett, aged 27, who was a Member of Parliament for Westminster and her secretary. He was of American birth, his grandparents having been British subjects, and he assumed by Royal licence the surname Burdett-Coutts, but he was not called Baron. The age difference caused a stir at the time, but it was a very happy union, although without children. She died on 30 December 1906 of acute bronchitis. Her body lay in state at her house and 30,000 people paid their respects. The burial took place at Westminster Abbey on 5 January 1907 attended by a vast congregation.

Further reading:
Clara Burdett Patterson: Angela Burdett-Coutts and the Victorians, London 1953.

Portraits of the Baroness and her parents are at the National Portrait Gallery in London www.npg.org.uk and collections of her letters are noted by the UK National Register of Archives www.hmc.gov.uk/nra