A Woman to Know: Lady Hester Stanhope

If I had been a man, my love for fame would have been unbounded. — Lady Hester Stanhope

(image via New York Public Library Digital Collection)


They call her "Florence of Arabia," but Lady Hester Lucy Stanhope traveled the Middle East almost a century before her more-famous male counterpart.

She was born a silver-spoon aristocrat, but Lucy's second, much more exciting life only began after some serious catastrophes: a love scandal that shocked London society, a spur-of-the-moment journey East and a shipwreck off the coast of Egypt.

The shipwreck didn't stop Lucy's path East — the ship's survivors adopted traditional Ottoman male attire and continued riding into Syria, winning the hearts of locals along the way. Legend has it that as Lucy was riding into Damascus, the city residents cheered and scattered coffee grounds in her path. Throughout her adventures, Lucy remade herself as a Biblical archaeologist, forming a team of history nerds to uncover Roman treasures and prehistoric artifacts, many of which have been lost to time. Lucy spent her final days at a monastery in Lebanon, smoking hookah and telling stories. The visitors there crowned her "Queen of the Desert."

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*~ Lucy was featured in a previous edition of this newsletter but since so many more of you have subscribed since then, enjoy the rerun! ~*