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Non-Definitive History: Legacy of Emma, Lady Loftus: Vice-Reine of New South Wales

Oil painting style portrait of a middle aged woman with black hair in a bun. Hair is decorated with pale pink flowers. She is wearing an Victorian era dark blue dress with creamy white collar. Behind her are white and gold columns in a formal ball room.

Emma, Lady Loftus as she might have appeared at her final Sydney ball in 1885.

It was reported that she wore a peacock blue satin dress, diamond ornaments, and a floral head-dress.

This "portrait" was created in Adobe Firefly by the author.

Emma, Lady Loftus, makes a cameo appearance in my Crossing the Line series book one–Keeper of the Way, so I thought I'd give her a shout out. But there's not a lot about her in the history books so I've made her part of my Non-Definitive History series.

Lady Loftus was born Emma Maria (1810 to 1902) in Ellesmere, Shropshire England to Harriet Dorothea Despart and Vice Admiral Henry Francis Greville. Emma, one of seven children, married Lord Augustus Loftus in 1845. There's was a happy marriage (according to Lord Loftus's memoir) as traversed the globe as part of his diplomatic career and expand their family.

Black and white print from an 1880's newspaper depiting portrait of Emma, lady Loftus. She has dark hair is wearing a flouncy collar and a dark dress.

Lady Loftus portrait as appeared in Australian Town and Country Journal, 3 May 1879.

In 1879, Augustus was appointed Governor and Commander-in-Chief of New South Wales (Australia). He travelled to his new post in August of that year, along with two of his sons. A few months later, Emma arrived aboard the RMS Indus (Jan 1880). One of her daughters, also named Emma, was meant to travel with her but was embroiled in a divorce trial and couldn't leave England (more on that later).  

As part of her Vice-Reine duties, Emma, Lady Loftus attended and held many balls and other events, and supported several charities as patroness. Her first official event after stepping off the boat was a vice-regal reception at Government House in February 1880. One report described her as a "fine looking woman with a most winning smile and affable manner".

One of her final official events was to attend a ball given by Sir John and Lady (Jessie) Hay. venue was Sydney's Town Hall late in October 1885 just prior to the Loftus's departure for England. 

Lady Augustus Loftus wore peacock blue satin, diamond ornaments, and floral head-dress.

Lady Loftus supported colonial divorce law amendments. Her daughter, Emma Annie Caroline (pictured above), was deserted by her husband when he eloped with an actress (he was Colonel the Hon Frederick Arthur Wellesley, youngest son of 1st Earl of Cowley and his mistress, soon to be wife number 2, was Caroline Anne Candelin AKA Kate Vaughan. Pictured). Lady Loftus and her daughter were quite close so the issue of divorce and rights of the wife was probably close to Emma's heart. The Divorce Bill became law in 1892 after several years of twoing and froing. The divorce scandal stuck to Lady Loftus as if it was her own rather than her daughter's. Good news, Emma junior went on to marry a German gent. Sad news for Caroline Candelin; her marriage to Frederick didn't last long. They divorced and she too remarried. 

Sepia toned Victorian era photographic portrait of Emma Loftus (junior)

 Miss Emma Loftus, daughter of Lord and Lady Augustus Loftus.

Victorian era photographic portrait of actress Kate Vaughan dressed as her character in a play. She has white hair with a feathered headress, heavy makeup and a white corseted dress.

Right: Kate Vaughan (1852 to 1903) as Lady Teazle in The School for Scandal 1886.

Emma, Lady Loftus also supported the admission of women to the University of Sydney (first female undergrads commenced in 1882 and graduated with a BA in 1885) plus a number of charities. She opened, and became patroness for, the "New Home and Open-All-Night Refuge" for homeless women in September 1884.

After their sojourn in NSW, Lady Loftus started in business, opening a fashionable perfumery in London.

Lady and Lord Loftus had five children: Evelyn, Emma, Henry John, Montagu, and Augustus. Emma predeceased Augustus passing away in 1902. She is buried in Surrey, England.


As mentioned, finding information on Lady Emma Loftus was not easy. Sources for this (scant) story are:

  1. Playing their part: vice-regal consorts of New South Wales 1899-2019. Royal Australian Historical Society 2020. Editors: Joy Hughes, Carol Liston and Christine Wright

  2. The RAHS presentation: Scandals in Government House – or were they? (presented by Dr Bruce Baskerville)

  3. Trove: in particular:

    1. Town and Country Journal (1879)

    2. The Bulletin 1885 

  4. The Peerage




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