Elizabeth Chndleigh Kingston, duchess of, born in 1720, died near Paris, Aug. 28, 1788. Her father, Col. Chudleigh, governor of Chelsea college, died when she was very young, leaving his family in narrow circumstances. As she grew up, her beauty and vivacity attracted much attention; and in her 18th year, by the influence of Mr. Pulteney, afterward earl of Bath, she was appointed a maid of honor to the princess of Wales, the mother of George III. At the princess's court in Leicester house she became one of the reigning toasts of the day, and among her numerous admirers was the duke of Hamilton, whose proposals of marriage she accepted, with the understanding that the nuptials should be celebrated on his return from a visit to the continent. During his absence Capt. Hervey, grandson of the earl of Bristol, became enamored of her, and with the assistance of her aunt, Mrs. Hanmer, who intercepted the letters addressed by the duke to Miss Chudleigh, succeeded in alienating her affections from his rival and in persuading her to be secretly married to himself. The day after the marriage, which took place Aug. 5, 1744, she conceived so violent a dislike for her husband that she resolved never to see him again.
The duke of Hamilton soon after returned to England, and was naturally astonished that his claim to her hand should be rejected. To escape his reproaches, and those of her mother, who was a stranger to her marriage, at her apparently unreasonable rejection of this and other advantageous offers, she visited the continent, where she pursued a career of scandalous dissipation. During a residence at Berlin Frederick the Great paid her marked attentions, and at Dresden the electress loaded her with presents. Returning to England, she resumed her duties at the court, and became one of the leaders in the fashionable profligacy of the age. The marriage with Capt. Hervey, however, perpetually annoyed her, and in order to destroy all evidences of it she contrived to tear the leaf out of the parish register in which it was recorded. The death of her husband's grandfather, the earl of Bristol, having improved his prospects of succeeding to the earldom, she obtained the restoration of the leaf. Meanwhile the duke of Kingston, ignorant of her marriage, solicited her hand; and having prevailed on her husband to allow a divorce by mutual consent to be pronounced at doctors' commons, she was married a second time, March 8, 1769. The duke died four years afterward, leaving her in possession of a princely fortune on the condition that she should not again marry.
Forthwith she plunged into a course of licentiousness, the censure excited by which constrained her to leave the country for a time. She sailed for Italy in her own yacht, and while living in Rome in great magnificence learned that the family of the duke of Kingston were about to establish against her a charge of bigamy on the ground that her first marriage had been declared void by an incompetent tribunal. Her banker, who was in the interest of her adversaries, refused to advance her money to leave' the country, whereupon she proceeded to his residence, pistol in hand, and extorted it from him. Upon arriving in England she found public opinion strongly against her. Foote satirized her in his "Trip to Calais," under the name of "Kitty Crocodile," which however she found means to have prohibited; but, with a vindictiveness which nothing could appease, she caused some outrageous charges to be trumped up against him, the mortification attending which so affected him that he died soon after. On April 15, 1776, the trial of the duchess came on in Westminster hall, which had been fitted up with great state for the purpose, and during the five days that it lasted attracted members of the royal family and throngs of distinguished persons.
The duchess, attended by numerous counsel, addressed the peers with great energy, but was declared guilty. Thereupon she pleaded the privilege of the peerage, having now virtually become the countess of Bristol, to which title her first husband had succeeded, and thus escaped the punishment of burning on the hand, with which Dunning had threatened her. She retained her fortune, however, and the utmost efforts of her opponents were powerless to affect the validity of the late duke's will. Thenceforth she became a voluntary exile, visiting various European courts, and among others that of Catharine II. of Russia, who received her with great kindness. She ended her days at her chateau in the neighborhood of Paris.