Jane Elizabeth Digby, Scandalous Beauty

Jane Digby, portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler for Ludwig I's Gallery of Beauties

Jane Digby, portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler for Ludwig I’s Gallery of Beauties (source)

After three husbands and a number of prominent lovers, Jane Elizabeth Digby, born April 3, 1807,  ended her life in a happy marriage to a man 20 years her junior. Jane was the daughter of Admiral Henry Digby and Lady Jane Elizabeth née Coke, a celebrated beauty. Jane inherited her mother’s looks and was described as having a perfect figure, beautiful face, pale gold hair and a wild rose complexion.

In 1824, Jane married Edward Law, 2nd Baron Ellenborough. She had one son who died in infancy and after affairs with Colonel George Anson and Prince Felix Schwarzenberg, an Austrian statesman, Law divorced her in 1830 by an act of Parliament. She had two children with Felix, a daughter raised by his sister and a son who died soon after his birth. After their son died, the affair with Felix ended and Jane moved to Munich where she caught the attention of Ludwig I and became his lover.

Jane took her second husband, Bavarian Baron Karl von Venningen, in November of 1832. They had two children, both of whom survived to adulthood, but when Jane began an affair with Greek Count Spyridon Theotokis, Venningen challenged him to a duel. Theotokis was wounded, but got the girl. Venningen released Jane from the marriage and raised their children. They remained friends. Although the divorce wasn’t official until 1842, Jane converted to the Greek Orthodox faith and married Theotokis in France in 1841. They moved to Greece with their son (born in 1840) and the marriage lasted until 1846. They divorced soon after their son had a fatal fall from a balcony.

Jane’s next affairs were with Greek men, first King Otto (rumored), who happened to be the son of Ludwig I of Bavaria, and then a hero of the Greek revolution Christodoulos Chatzipetros. Acting as his “queen” she lived in caves, riding and hunting, but decided that when he was unfaithful she had had enough.

Now 46 years old, Jane traveled to Syria where she fell in love with Sheik Abdul Medjuel el Mezrab. They were married under Muslim law and Jane became Jane Elizabeth Digby el Mezrab. She adopted Arabic dress, learned Arabic, and spent half of the year traveling in the desert in nomadic style. Jane had a palatial villa built where they spent the remainder of the year. Although the Sheik was 20 years her junior, the marriage was apparently a happy one that lasted until Jane’s death 28 years later. She died in Damascus on August 11, 1881.

Find out what else happened on April 3 in Women’s History.

2 thoughts on “Jane Elizabeth Digby, Scandalous Beauty

  1. I had been looking for this story ever since I visited Munich. I happened across the name in one of the museums, but forgot to write it down to check out upon my return home. Now I know her name. A remarkable woman! Thank you!!

    • So glad to help! This little post doesn’t do her justice, but this segment of the website is about getting women’s history info out there. She’s on my long list of women to learn more about. And thanks for being the first to comment on the Today in Women’s History site!

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