Labby and Dora

IXa Right Hon. Henry Dupré LABOUCHERE, P.C., nicknamed Labby, was born at 16 Portland Place, London 9 Nov. 1831, went to Eton 1844-1850, Trinity College, Cambridge (were he was disposed) 1850-'52, travelled through the United States of America 1852 '54, during which period he worked with a circus and spent six months with the Chippeway Indians.

His family found him a place in the diplomatic service where he served as an attaché (1854 '64) in Washington, München, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, Dresden & Constantinople, but when appointed to a post in Buenos Aires he accepted on the condition that he remained where he was in Baden Baden. The jest led to his dismissal and so he became M.P. for Windsor 1865, Middlesex 1866, 'the christian member" for Northampton 1880 1905.

Labby was a first-class journalist, Co-owner of the Daily News ca 1870, founder of paper the "Truth" in 1876, which was for many years the most successful of personal organs in the press. His reputation as a wit was well established, he had an easy style unsurpassed in clearness, and he wrote with candour about his own adventures and the follies and failings of his contemporaries. Above all, Truth won admiration and gratitude by its fearless exposure of fraudulent enterprises of all sorts. This brought upon him a long series of libel actions, most of which he defended himself and won.

In 1870 he became owner of New Queen theatre, which he let his wife manage. He became one of the more powerful Radicals in the Commons, and an especially dangerous critic in foreign affairs, advocating Irish Home Rule and opposing imperialism in Egypt and South-Africa. He was however not included in the liberal cabinet of 1892 because of the personal dislike of Queen Victoria. He was by nature a rebel, and the only English politician of the 19th century who made himself popular by cynical wit. He was a strenuous advocate of the abolition of the House of Lords, had much to do with the exposure of Pigott at the time of the Parnell commission. He was a member of the inquiry into the Jameson raid, but in spite of his brilliant gifts and of his industry for a quarter of a century he left no permanent mark on British politics, but is well remembered for his wit, his personality and his unconventional ways, being more French than English in his mind and appearance. When again not included in the liberal cabinet, of 1905, he withdrew from politics and was made a P.C. in 1906.

He then retired to Italy, where he died at Villa Christina, Florence 15 Jan. 1912. (His biography is written by his nephew Algar L. Thorold: The Life of H.L. (1913) and by Hesketh Pearson: Labby, the Life of H. L. (1936))

From about 1868 he lived together with Henrietta Ellen HODSON, and finally married her at Holborn on 12 Dec. 1887. At first she claimed that she was a widow of her first husband, but in December 1882 she filed for divorce in the court of Richmond, Virginia, as she discovered that he was still alive. In the 1881 census she happily states her profession as "concubine". The fact that they lived together unmarried for so long caused quite a scandal in Victorian London. However, they suffered and defied the social disabilities with a perfect sang froid despite the many insulting anonymous letters that they received. She was born at Upper Marsh, Westminster (London) 26 March 1841, the daughter of George Alfred Hodson, a comedian and singer from Dublin, at one time owner of the Duke's Arms Inn at Westminster but in 1864 styling himself "gentleman", and of Henrietta Elisabeth Noël.

As a young girl Henrietta went to the stage. Her first performance took place in Glasgow in 1858, soon she was promoted to small parts, in 1860 she and Henry Irving went to Manchester. In 1861 she became a well-known soubrette and burlesque actress in the stock company of the old Theatre Royal at Bristol. In 1863 she played Oberon in Shakespeare's A Midsummer night's Dream. She married in London (St George's, Hanover Sq.) 2 July 1864 one Richard Walter PIGEON (from Long Ashton, Som.), a third rate Bristol solicitor and widower with several children, and she retired from the stage. However, as he was rude and uncaring to her she left him, and returned to the stage. She applied for a divorce, which he resisted and therefore did not succeed, but a formal agreement of separation was made up. Pigeon's life went downhill: in 1875 he went bankrupt, and in 1877 he conspired to defraud. He died Nov. 5, 1887 at Staple Hill, Mangotsfield, 55 years old, of a diseased heart and kidneys and dropsy.

On April 8, 1865 a son was born from this marriage: George Walter Noel Pigeon. In 1867 Henrietta performed at the newly founded Queen's Theatre, in which her future husband held a stake, and after Henry had acquired the entire theatre in 1870 she became a celebrated actress there until her retirement in 1878. In 1881 she was instrumental in bringing Lilly Langtrey to the stage. An actress of individuality and high technical accomplishment, she was at her best in characters where she could mingle demureness with an underlying sense of fun and mischief. When pathos or sentimentality was demanded she was found wanting. In the burlesque, however she showed lack of animal spirits. Under the pen-name of Emily Taylor she wrote some short pieces. Oscar Wilde knew her well and called her "little Hetty".

She very probably had another son in 1887, with Charles Haydon Coffin, the well-known baritone of American descent, who was however named after his mother as Gilbert Stephen Hodson and had offspring. Henrietta rebelled against her husband's agnosticism and became a Roman Catholic later in life. She died of apoplexy at Villa Christina, Florence 30 Oct.1910. Both are buried at the cemetery of San Miniato al Monte, Florence. They lived in London at 10 Queen Anne's Gate, 24 Grosvenor Gardens, and 5 Old Palace Yard; in about 1880 he acquired the villa that Alexander Pope had built in Palladian style facing the river Thames at Cross Deep, Twickenham, but which had been demolished and rebuilt in 1845 (it is now the St James' boys school). Here they invited all the Indians of Buffalo Bill's Circus in 1887 for a Sunday luncheon. In 1903 they bought and moved to Villa Christina at Montughi, Florence (now Villa Ruspoli, Via di S. Marta) His will is dated 4 sept.1909 setting everything in trust in favour of the legal heirs of his daughter Dora, in default of which his brother Arthur would inherit. Dora received all Tuscan property. Will opened 9 march 1912, leaving £522.306 (or in those days about 4 million US dollars). They had one daughter:

Mary Dorothea (Dora) LABOUCHERE, born Paris 4 Febr.1884. She had a roman-catholic education and married (1) Florence 12 Nov.1903 Carlo Emanuele STARRABBA, 2nd Marchese DI RUDINI, born Milano 25 Dec.1867, son of Marchese Antonio, dei Principi di Giardinelli, Prime minister of Italy, and of Maria de Barral. He was a member of the Italian parliament, but also a drug-addict who regularly beat her. In roman catholic Italy getting a divorce was of course impossible, but as a divorce obtained elsewhere could be ratified her very close friend, Prince Gyalma Odescalchi De Szerem, advised here to go to Hungary and get divorced there. She and her husband became Hungarian citizens and were divorced Nyiregyhasa 7 Nov.1914. The Vatican dissolved the marriage in Jan. 1915. Later Di Rudini killed himself because of gambling debts in Rome 4 Nov.1917.

Dora then married (2) Fiume (then Hungary) 23 Feb.1915 Prince Baldassare Gyalma Bede Vilmos Auguste Arthur ODESCALCHI DE SZEREM, born Szkiczo 12 Jan.1884, died Scarsdale (New York, U.S.A) 14 July 1957, son of Prince Arturo, and Countess Giulia Zichy-de-Zich en Vasonykeoe. They lived at Ouchy (Switzerland), in the Palazzo Barberini in Rome and in the Palazzo (Contarini-) Polignac in Venice.

Their first years were happy, but after a while she found her interests waning. He left her, but was forced by the court of Budapest to return to her upon which she demanded a divorce on the ground of desertion. In court she testified that she had never loved him, but that he had forced her into a marriage by threatening to make public all the details about her divorce from di Rudini. She found some witnesses to testify for her and the divorce was pronounced by the court of Budapest 10 July 1926, and confirmed by the court of Fiume (since 1920 Italian) 23 Oct.1926. He then went to the United States and married New York City 30 Sept.1927 Elaine Daniels Wilcox, from Denver (Colorado), divorced her in 1948 and by her had a son and a daughter, married to John F. Kelly.

Dora had given birth to a daughter, Francesca, at Varese on 24 July 1925. The father was her lover of that period, don Eugenio RUSPOLI, who registered the birth, declaring that he was the father and that the mother was a noble woman that could not be named. After her divorce from Odescalchi she remarried (much to the dismay of his family) at Colle Salvetti 22 Jan.1927 Don Eugenio Mario Guiseppe Bartolomeo RUSPOLI, born Senigallia (Italy) 18 July 1894. He had gone to Eton (1907-1911), was a Captain in the Italian army and chamberlain and master of ceremonies to King Vittorio Emanuele II. He died Rome, June ... 1980, son of Don Emanuele, Prince di Poggio Suasa, dei Principi Ruspoli, and his third wife Josephine Mary Curtis. They lived at Palazzo Ruspoli, Giannicolo, Rome (now the residence of the Spanish ambassador), where she became one of the most appreciated hostesses and smartest women of Roman society.

The Rudini drama and the Odescalchi divorce prevented her from being received in strict Old Roman circles, but as she was English it was considered forgivable. Because Francesca had been born during her marriage to Odescalchi, but was registered as a Ruspoli, and because Dora wanted her heir to be legal in accordance with the stipulations of her father's will, she tried to annul the marriage with Odescalchi. The annulment was pronounced by the court of Brno 15 April 1935, and was confirmed in Italy by the court of Fiume 15 Dec.1935. Dora and Eugenio recognized Francesca as their legal daughter Rome 19 Febr.1936.

Dora suddenly died in Rome 27 Sept.1944, when falling through a trap-door that had been damaged by bombardments. Francesca married and divorced Prince Giulio Rocco di Torrepadula and had children by him.