DEBHAS

Dido Elizabeth Belle Davinière
(1761-1804)
Dido Elizabeth Belle Historical Appreciation Society

The purpose of DEBHAS is to create a safe space for 18th-century living history buffs to come together and celebrate the Georgian, Directoire, and Regency eras which span the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle Davinier (1761-1804) and her biracial half sister Ann (1766-unknown).

The following information on Dido and her siblings is from an article about Dido Belle published in a blog post on https://georgianera.wordpress.com/2018/06/26/dido-elizabeth-belle-new-information-about-her-siblings/ :

“Dido was the natural daughter of a former African slave woman and Sir John Lindsay; she was brought up alongside her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray at their great-uncle William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield’s estate, Kenwood House in Hampstead, London.

Sir John Lindsay, Scone Palace

Her father, John Lindsay, from a well-connected Scottish family, was a career naval officer who, in the summer of 1764, was knighted and eventually became an admiral.

Public Advertiser June 10, 1788

Dido Elizabeth Belle was the eldest of Lindsay’s brood of illegitimate offspring, and she was born in June 1761 (her year of birth worked out from a notation against her baptism). Lindsay had arrived in Jamaica in the summer of 1760 aboard HMS Trent (1757), a Royal Naval 28-gun Coventry-class sixth-rate frigate of which he was captain. 

At Dido Elizabeth Belle’s baptism, which took place on 20th November 1766 at St George’s Church in Bloomsbury, England some five years after her birth, her mother was named as Maria Bell. Maria Bell(e) was a former slave being transported on a sugar ship, the Bien Aimè which Lindsay had captured in 1761.

John Lindsay welcomed the arrival of a second child, a son named John Edward Lindsay who had been born on 19thFebruary 1762. This child was not baptised until 6th November that year, in the church at Port Royal; the record in the baptism register described him as John Edward, son of John Lindsay and Mary Vellet, ‘a mulatto’.

On 15th November 1766, another daughter had been born to Lindsay. The girl was named Ann and her mother was ‘Sarah Gandwell, a free negro’. It appears that Lindsay must have been in Jamaica in the first months of that year and that, nine months later, Ann was born on the island.

On 8th December 1766, yet another daughter was born, Elizabeth whose mother was simply named as Martha G. Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Lindsay was baptised a month later, on 10th January 1767, at Port Royal. This is the Elizabeth named in Sir John Lindsay’s will.

Sir John Lindsay married Mary Milner (1739-1799) on 17th September 1768. The couple had no children of their own. With Dido settled at Kenwood with her great-uncle, the Earl of Mansfield and her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray, Lindsay did not neglect Maria Bell, Dido’s mother.

In 1773 Lindsay began a process to transfer a piece of property he owned in Pensacola, Florida to Maria Bell(e), with the requirement that she build a house there. At the time, Maria Bell(e) was living in London but a year later, when the deal was finalised, she had travelled to America. In the document, she was referred to as ‘a Negro woman of Pensacola, formerly of Pensacola, and then residing in London’.

The house that Maria lived in was on the corner of Lindsay and Mansfield streets (now Reus and Zaragoza streets), in what was then a high-class area owned by the British.

But, during the War of Independence, the Spanish gained control after the 1781 Battle of Pensacola; they compiled a list of property owners which included a Mrs Bell, widow. This is probably Dido’s mother and, if so, is the last known of her.

To recap, we are now able to give the following children for Sir John Lindsay, all, with the possible exception of Dido, we believe to have been born on the island of Jamaica.”

Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761 – 1804) (married John Davinière, 1793), mother: Maria Bell

John Edward Lindsay (1762 – 1762), mother: Mary Vellet

Ann Lindsay (1766 – unknown), mother: Sarah Gandwell

Elizabeth Lindsay or Palmer (1766 – 1842) (married Peter Hill, 1783), mother: Martha G

John Lindsay (1767 – 1821), mother: Francis [Frances] Edwards

Sources

Dido Elizabeth Belle – New Information About Her Siblings https://georgianera.wordpress.com/2018/06/26/dido-elizabeth-belle-new-information-about-her-siblings/

HMS Dido https://georgianera.wordpress.com/2020/10/14/hms-dido-1782/

Where are Dido’s Sons Buried? https://georgianera.wordpress.com/2020/05/20/where-are-dido-elizabeth-belles-sons-buried/

Dido Elizabeth Belle Q&A https://georgianera.wordpress.com/2020/04/29/dido-elizabeth-belle-questions-and-answers/

Is Dido Elizabeth Belle Still Buried at St. George’s? https://georgianera.wordpress.com/2020/01/22/is-dido-elizabeth-belle-still-buried-at-st-georges-burial-ground-in-bayswater-road/

Free Women of Color c.1769


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