In the 18th Century, some Black people in the Eighteenth Century were considerably more privileged than most. One such Woman was Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay.
Dido was the daughter of Captain John Lindsay of the Royal Navy. She was born in England to an African mother who was captured from a Spanish ship.
Dido lived in Kenwood with her Great uncle William Murray until she was at least thirty. Although she was not a servant, it seems that she had a status slightly lower than that of a full family member. Among her tasks were tending to Cattle and Poultry.
Murray and his Wife were childless and seemed happy to raise Dido and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Lindsay, whose mother had died while she was still an infant. Authors Speculate that Dido’s role in the family might have been that of ‘Playmate or attendant to her cousin.
The Portrait by Zoffany proves that Dido grew up to be an elegant and beautiful young woman. Her high status afforded her presents at Christmas and Birthdays that were more than normal servants would get, yet certainly less than her cousin Lady Elizabeth.
When her cousin left Kenwood to marry in 1785 Dido stayed on to look after the Murrays. While she stayed there records show that she lived in some comfort. Her bed was hung with glazed Chintz, she had asses milk when she was ill and a mahogany table made for her.
After her fathers’ death, she received One thousand pounds. In her fathers’ obituary, which appeared in the London Chronicle she was referred to as having an amiable disposition and accomplishments which have gained her the highest respect.
(London Times, June 9th 1788,555)
When her Great Uncle died he left her a further 500 pounds and 100 pounds per year for life. He also made certain that she was a free woman. Little is known of Dido after the death of her uncle except that we can assume that she married, in 1779 her name changes to Davinier and she left Kenwood.