The Needhams were Welsh gentry, Sir Roberts father being Thomas Needham, esquire of Clocaenog, Denbighshire, the brother of Robert Needham, first Viscount Kilmorey in the peerage of Ireland. Jane Myddelton was probably born in the Lambeth house of her paternal grandmother Eleanor, Lady Salisbery, and was brought up in Lambeth and Clapham, one of a numerous family. She was married at the age of fourteen, on 18 October 1660 at St Marys, Lambeth, as his second wife, to a man some ten years older than herself, Charles Myddelton (1635–1690/91), sixth son of Sir Thomas Myddleton of Chirk Castle and Cefn-y-wern, Ruabon, Denbighshire.
At Court her striking beauty was the only necessary qualification for advancement, where she had numerous admirers.
When only eighteen years old she had been chosen by the Duke of York for inclusion in Sir Peter Lely’s paintings of the Court beauties that hung in his apartments at Windsor. Two years later she was again painted by Lely for inclusion in the portraits of beauties commissioned by Robert Spencer 2nd Earl of Sunderland for Althorp. Portraits of her were clearly prized; one was owned by Cosimo III Grand Duke of Tuscany, as well as by Colonel William Russell and by a ‘Lord Astley’ identified by MacLeod5 with Jacob 3rd Lord Astley of Reading.
Despite her marriage in 1660 to Charles Myddleton of Ruabon, her known lovers at Court included Ralph Montagu later created Duke of Montagu and Laurence Hyde later created Earl of Rochester. She never became the lover of the King, but in the summer of 1678 she made a concerted attempt to replace Louise de Kerouaille, the King’s unpopular French mistress, with her daughter Jenny (1661 – 1740). The plan failed, although the daughter’s beauty – preserved in a mezzotint by Gascars after his portrait of her – was scarcely less striking than the mother’s.
Hamilton strikes spitefully at : Mrs Myddleton’s ‘extremely pretentious and affected’ speech which was ‘most tiresome when she wished to be most brilliant,’
but he was prejudiced against her, since she had been a rival with his sister for the hand of Gramont.
Pepys finds more to admire in her, and supplies the interesting detail that Jane Myddleton was an accomplished painter.He learns this from her kinsman John Evelyn when speaking ‘of paynting, in which he tells me the beautifull Mrs Middleton is rare.
Ici git Middleton, illustre entre les belles Qui de notre commerce a fait les agrémens Elle avait des vertus pour les amis fidèles Et des charmes pour les amants Malade sans inquiétude Résolue à mourir sans peine, sans effort, Elle aurait pu faire l’étude D’un philosophe sur la mort, Le plus indifférent, le plus dur, le plus sage Prennent part au malheur qui nous afflige tous Passant, interrompt ton voyageEt te fais un mérite à pleurer avec nous
Media in category "Jane Needham"
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