Not all fish go with the flow

Eleanor Palmer

Lady Eleanor Palmer (1720?-1818), born about 1720, was the daughter and coheiress of Michael Ambrose, a wealthy brewer, second son of William Ambrose of Ambrose Hall, co. Dublin.

During the period of Lord Chesterfield’s viceroyalty of Ireland (1745-7), Miss Ambrose was pre-eminent among the court beauties. Chesterfield himself greatly admired her, and was said to have called her ‘the most dangerous papist in Ireland.’ At a ball given at Dublin Castle on the anniversary of the battle of the Boyne, when she appeared with an orange lily at her breast, the lord lieutenant improvised the lines:

Say, lovely Tory, where’s the jest?
Of wearing orange in thy breast,
When that same breast uncovered shows
The whiteness of the rebel rose?

In 1752, when the Gunnings were proving formidable rivals, Miss Ambrose was married to Roger Palmer of Castle Lackin, Mayo, and Kenure Park, co. Dublin, who was then member for Portarlington. He was created a baronet on 3 May 1777. By him she had three sons: Francis, who predeceased her; John Roger, the second baronet, who died 6 Feb. 1819; and William Henry, third baronet, who died 29 May 1840, leaving three sons and three daughters as the issue of his second marriage with Alice Franklin. Lady Palmer survived her husband, and, though rich, lived for some time before her death almost alone in a small lodging in Henry Street, Dublin. Here it was that Richard Lalor Shell visited her. He gave a highly coloured account of his visit, declaring that she was ‘upwards of a hundred years old,’ and was excessively vehement in her support of the catholic claims. With every pinch of snuff she poured out a sentence of sedition. A half-length portrait of Lord Chesterfield hung over the chimneypiece of the room.

Lady Palmer died at Dublin, in full possession of her faculties, on 10 Feb. 1818, aged 98. A pastel, seen at the Dublin National Portrait Exhibition in 1872, has since perished by fire. Seductive eyes, a dazzling complexion, and an arch expression, were the leading features of the portrait.