"Star of the Morning"

"All I can say about myself sounds like conceit, but others could tell you I am the oracle of the place, and the darling of all the troops, who seem to think I am a deity because I can ride, and because I wear arms; and the fanatics all bow before me, because the Dervishes think me a wonder" (Lady Hester Stanhope in a letter from to Damascus to Lord Sligo)

12 March 1776: Today, 237 years ago, the "Star of the Morning" and "New Queen Zenobia", Lady Hester Stanhope, was born in Kent.

Born into a family of archetypical eccentric British nobility, Lady Hester started out as hostess of her unmarried uncle William Pitt the Younger and, awarded with a rather generous pension after his death in 1806, was free to travel.

She started to head out for the East, met Byron in Athens, was not impressed and finally ended up in Syria and finally the Lebanon, wearing men's clothing and weapons, became the first modern European who visited Queen Zenobia's old capital of Palmyra and impressed the local Bedouin tribes with her eccentricity as well as her adventurousness and sheer, foolhardy bravery that they made her their chief.

Her residence near Sidon became known Dahr El Sitt, the well of the mistress, where she was visited by "Pickwick" Fürst Pückler and Alphonse de Lamartine, took a not inconsiderable influence on Ottoman politics in the 1830s in the Near East... and wasted her money as if there were no tomorrow - she died completely impoverished in her Lebanese refuge at the age of 63 in 1839.

Cascade Pictures plans to begin shooting for a biopic about Lady Hester later this year based on Kirsten Ellis' biography "Star of the Morning" (2008), with "The King’s Speech" writer David Seidler authoring the screenplay.

More on:


and in an excellent post by Simon Bendle in his charming blog "Great British Nutters - A celebration of the UK's pluckiest adventurers":