Turning to acting out of necessity rather than choice, her father having abandoned his family to marry an Irish heiress, she became known as the most famous comedic actress of her day. Dora began her career on the Dublin stage and became the sole source of income for her family from the age of sixteen. Suffering a sexual assault from the manager she fled to Yorkshire, already pregnant, where she went on the circuit to learn her craft. She endured much jealousy from her fellow actors, but her talent was soon recognised and she moved on to Drury Lane where her fame spread.
Ultimately she became mistress to the Duke of Clarence, later William IV, with whom she lived in happy domesticity for nearly twenty years, presenting him with ten children while striving to balance both career and ‘marriage’ as her modern counterparts do today. Her life was blighted by an insincere and weak father, a dependent mother, inadequate siblings, selfish children, and more than one man who betrayed her trust. Her flaw was that she was perhaps a little too trusting, caring and eager to help those she loved, which proved to be her downfall in the end.
She was a woman of great courage and independence, fiesty, warm-hearted and generous to a fault. But when things started to go wrong she needed to call upon all her resources to survive. Yet she bore her troubles with astonishing good will, and to the end of her life never said a word against the Duke. ‘Had he left me to starve I would never have uttered a word to his disadvantage!’ And following their separation the Duke collected as many portraits of her as he could find, so perhaps he did still love her after all.
|Publication Date: 29 Nov 2012|
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