Our member Terry Sutton told the strange story about eccentric Lady Hester Stanhope who lived at Walmer Castle and eventually starved herself to death in the Lebanon.
Lady Hester, the niece of bachelor prime minister William Pitt the Younger, acted as his hostess in London’s Downing Street and at Walmer Castle when he moved there as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. After Pitt died she moved to the Middle East where she became something of an icon among local tribes.
Hester, dressed as a man in flamboyant Arab attire, became the first European woman to visit the fabled city of Palmyra. She gained widespread admiration as she rode into the city on her horse and became so popular that she was called upon to settle tribal disputes, as well as providing a home to refugees. Hester became known as the Queen of the Arabs.
Terry related her sad end. She slowly became angry with the world and turned nasty to her servants who deserted her. Visiting Europeans described her poor health and general run-down condition. One day Lebanon herdsmen, calling at her walled-up ‘palace’, found her dead. She had died from malnutrition.
“And so this lady, once a top socialite, died alone and friendless. Her fascinating life all ended in tears” concluded Terry.