>Home >Black History Month >Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761 – July 1804)

Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761 – July 1804)

Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761 – July 1804) was a British heiress and a member of the Lindsay family of Evelix. She was born into slavery; her mother, Maria Belle, was an enslaved African woman in the British West Indies.

 

Her father was Sir John Lindsay, a British career naval officer who was stationed there. Her father was knighted and promoted to admiral.[1]Lindsay took Belle with him when he returned to England in 1765, entrusting her raising to his uncle William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, and his wife Elizabeth Murray, Countess of Mansfield. The Murrays educated Belle, bringing her up as a free gentlewoman at their Kenwood House, together with another great-niece, Lady Elizabeth Murray, whose mother had died. Lady Elizabeth and Belle were second cousins. Belle lived there for 30 years. In his will of 1793, Lord Mansfield confirmed her freedom and provided an outright sum and an annuity to her, making her an heiress.

In these years, her great-uncle, in his capacity as Lord Chief Justice, ruled in a significant slavery case, finding in 1772 that slavery had no precedent in common law in England, and had never been authorised under positive law. To read more, click here.