Henrietta Ponsonby, Countess of Bessborough

Jun 16, 1761 - Nov 11, 1821

Henrietta Ponsonby, Countess of Bessborough, born Lady Henrietta Frances Spencer, was the wife of Frederick Ponsonby, 3rd Earl of Bessborough; the couple were the parents of Lady Caroline Lamb. Her father, John Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer, was a great-grandson of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. Her sister was Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire.
Being the youngest child, Harriet was often left in England when her parents and older sister Georgiana would visit the continent for her father's health. As a child, Harriet was frail and sickly, which led her mother to send her abroad for schooling, thinking that foreign air would help strengthen her. However, she grew into a young woman of exceptional beauty and intelligence, witty, well-read and self-assured.
On 27 November 1780, Harriet married Frederick Ponsonby, then the Viscount Duncannon, an Anglo-Irish nobleman who later became 3rd Earl of Bessborough. Their marriage was a difficult one; because Harriet and her husband were both gambling addicts, they often found themselves in debt.
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