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News & Views

Celebrating Black Lives: Dido Belle

This month we celebrate local resident Dido Belle, who lived at Kenwood House in Hampstead.

Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761–1804) was raised as part of an aristocratic family in Georgian Britain. She was the illegitimate daughter of a young black woman named Maria Bell and a Royal Naval officer, Sir John Lindsay. Dido spent much of her life at Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath in north London. She lived there with her great-uncle William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice. He presided over a number of court cases that examined the legality of the slave trade.

The only known portrait of Dido Belle shows her standing beside her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray on the terrace at Kenwood. The portrait of the two women is highly unusual in 18th-century British art for showing a black woman as the equal of her white companion, rather than as a servant or slave.

Each month we mark the significant life of a person of colour as a positive statement and a contribution to redressing historical imbalances in our society.


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