Jane Elizabeth Digby (1807-1881): Scandalous English Aristocrat

Jane Elizabeth Digby, Lady Ellenborough (1807 – 1881) was an English aristocrat who lived a scandalous life of romantic adventure, spanning decades and two continents.

A well known beauty, she married her first husband, Edward Law, 2nd Baron Ellenborough (later Earl of Ellenborough), in 1824, at age 15. He was twice her age.

Lady Jane was notoriously promiscuous, and her marriage to the Earl did not last. After divorcing him she moved to Munich with Felix, Prince Schwarzenberg, an Austrian diplomat who resigned his position at the London Embassy to be with her. When Prince Felix decided not to marry her, she married Baron Venningen-Ulner, with whom she had a child.

When Lady Jane’s husband caught her in an affair with Count Spyridon Theotoky of Greece he challenged the Count to a duel. After winning the duel and wounding Count Theotoky, Baron Venningen released her from the marriage, and their relationship remained friendly. She married Theotoky, moved to Athens, and had a child with him, but divorced him after the accidental death of their 6 year old son. An involvement with an Albanian general ended when he was unfaithful to her.

At age forty-six, Jane travelled to the Middle East, and fell in love with Sheik Abdul Medjuel el Mezrab (also known as Sheikh Abdul Mijwal Al Mezrab in accounts by contemporary Western travellers in Syria). Abdul Medjuel was a sheik of the Mezrab section of the Sba’a, a well-known sub-tribe of the great ‘Anizzah tribe of Syria’.

Although he was twenty years her junior, the two were married under Muslim law and she took the name Jane Elizabeth Digby el Mezrab. Their marriage was a happy one and lasted until her death 28 years later.

Jane adopted Arab dress and learned Arabic in addition to the other eight languages in which she was fluent. Half of each year was spent in the nomadic style, living in goat-hair tents in the desert, while the rest was enjoyed in a palatial villa that she had built in Damascus.

She spent the rest of her life in that city, where she befriended Richard and Isabel Burton while he was the British consul, and Abd al-Kader al-Jazairi, a prominent exiled leader of the Algerian revolution.

She died of fever and dysentery in Damascus on 11 August 1881, and was buried in the Protestant Cemetery there. When she died, Medjuel rode her favourite horse to her funeral in the cemetery in Damascus. Her grave may still be seen today.

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Lady Jane Elizabeth

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Jane Elizabeth, Countess of Ellenborough, by Sir George Hayter, circa 1825 - NPG 883(10) - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Jane Elizabeth, when she was Countess of Ellenborough

by Sir George Hayter
pencil and watercolour, circa 1825

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© National Portrait Gallery, London

Jane Elizabeth, Countess of Ellenborough, by Maxim Gauci, after  Unknown artist, 1831 - NPG D2302 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Jane Elizabeth, when she was Countess of Ellenborough

by Maxim Gauci, after Unknown artist
lithograph, 1831

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© National Portrait Gallery, London

Jane Elizabeth, Countess of Ellenborough, by Thomas Wright, published by  Whittaker & Co, and published by  Martin Colnaghi, after  Henry Collen, published June 1829 - NPG D6861 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Jane Elizabeth, Countess of Ellenborough

by Thomas Wright, published by Whittaker & Co, and published by Martin Colnaghi, after Henry Collen
stipple engraving, published June 1829

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© National Portrait Gallery, London

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2 responses to “Jane Elizabeth Digby (1807-1881): Scandalous English Aristocrat

  1. Jane Digby on 3 of April 1807. First marriage on 15 of September 1824. She was 15 years old at the time of her marriage ???

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