Despite seeing herself as Irish, the famous actress, Mrs Jordan, was in fact born in London near Covent Garden in 1761, no doubt where her stage-struck parents were seeking work at the time, and where she was baptized Dorothy Bland. Her sisters called her Dolly. She preferred Dora and adopted that as her stage name.
Turning to acting out of necessity rather than choice, her father having abandoned his family to marry an Irish heiress, she became known as the most famous comedic actress of her day. Dora began her career on the Dublin stage and became the sole source of income for her family from the age of sixteen.
Dora wasn't considered to be a classic beauty, her nose and chin being somewhat prominent, she nevertheless had the sweetest smile and the most alluring dark eyes, cupid’s bow mouth and rosy cheeks that gave off a healthy glow.
Her expressive face was perfect for comic roles, as was her mop of brown curls. She was not particularly tall but had a neat, elegant figure, was articulate with good diction, and a voice considered to be strong and clear.
She became mistress to the Duke of Clarence, later William IV, with whom she lived in happy domesticity for nearly twenty years, presenting him with ten children while striving to balance both career and ‘marriage’ as her modern counterparts do today. Her life was blighted by an insincere and weak father, a dependent mother, inadequate siblings, selfish children, but more than one man who betrayed her trust.
They lived here at Bushy Park
Dora's flaw was that she was perhaps a little too trusting, caring and eager to help those she loved, which proved to be her downfall in the end. She was a woman of great courage and independence, fiesty, warm-hearted and generous to a fault.
When things started to go wrong she needed to call upon all her resources to survive. Yet she bore her troubles with astonishing good will, and to the end of her life never said a word against the Duke.
‘Had he left me to starve I would never have uttered a word to his disadvantage!’ And following their separation the Duke collected as many portraits of her as he could find, so perhaps he did still love her after all.
Passion, jealousy, scandal and betrayal - a true-life Regency Romance of the rise and fall of an extraordinary woman born into extraordinary times. Growing up in a poverty-stricken, fatherless household, Dorothy Jordan overcame her humble beginnings to become the most famous comic actress of her day. It was while performing on Drury Lane that Dorothy caught the eye of the Duke of Clarence, later to become King William IV. Her twenty-year relationship with the Duke was one of great happiness and domesticity, producing ten children. But ultimately, Dorothy's generous nature was her undoing and she was to be cruelly betrayed by the man she loved.
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