Interview with Dido Belle, Kenwood House
Time & Location
DIDO BELLE'S STORY
Dido Elizabeth Belle was the illegitimate daughter of Sir John Lindsay (1737–88), a Royal Navy officer who was stationed for a time in the Caribbean. Her mother was an African woman, Maria Bell, whom he met when his ship was on duty there.
By November 1766 Dido was brought to England and entrusted to the care of her father’s uncle William Murray, Lord Chief Justice, and later 1st Earl of Mansfield. He owned Kenwood House in north London.
It was not unheard of for an aristocrat to be the legal guardian to a relation. But it was extremely unusual at this time for a mixed-race woman – who had perhaps been born to an enslaved mother – to be raised by an aristocratic British family.
MEET DIDO BELLE
I am very pleased to make your acquaintance. My name is Dido Elizabeth Belle and I live here at Kenwood House with my great-uncle, William Murray, Lord Mansfield, my great-aunt, Lady Mansfield and of course my dear cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray.
Ela: Where were you born?
I was born in the Caribbean. My mother was an African woman named Maria and my father a Royal Navy officer. He brought my mother and I over here to England on a ship...