Jane Elizabeth Digby, Lady Ellenborough (1807 – 1881) was an English aristocrat who lived a scandalous life of romantic adventure, spanning decades and two continents.
At the age 15 she married her first husband, Edward Law, 2nd Baron of Ellenborough. He was twice her age. Lady Jane was notoriously promiscuous, and her marriage to the Earl did not last. She then married Baron Venningen-Ulner, with whom she had a child. When he 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. 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. 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. When she died, Medjuel rode her favourite horse to her funeral in the cemetery in Damascus. Her grave may still be seen today.
Jane Elizabeth, when she was Countess of Ellenborough by Sir George Hayter
pencil and watercolour, circa 1825 © National Portrait Gallery, London
Jane Elizabeth, when she was Countess of Ellenborough by Maxim Gauci, after Unknown artist lithograph, 1831 © 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 © National Portrait Gallery, London