A lady of quality and distinction

Isabella was one of Thomas Coram’s twenty-one ‘ladies of quality and distinction’. She was fifth to sign his petition calling for the establishment of a foundling hospital, on 6 January 1730. The ladies’ petition went to George II in 1735. Although unsuccessful, it set the precedent for the gentlemen’s petition two years later, which led to the Hospital being granted a Royal Charter. Isabella’s husband signed the Charter in 1739.

Daughter of John Montagu, 2nd Duke of Montagu, and Mary Churchill, Isabella was a talented amateur artist. In 1723, she married her cousin, William Montagu, 2nd Duke of Manchester. Her mother wrote that ‘Belle is at this instant in the paradisial state of receiving visits every day from a passionate lover, who is her first love, whom she thinks is the finest gentleman in Europe…’. The marriage was childless and she was widowed in 1739.

Isabella had three children from her second marriage to Edward Hussey-Montagu. He was not a member of the aristocracy and was fifteen years her junior, however, Isabella fought successfully for him to be raised to the peerage as Earl of Beaulieu.

About the artist

Andrea Soldi was born in Florence. After spending time in the Middle East painting British merchants, Soldi came to London in around 1736 and quickly established a successful career. He was popular with the nobility and the Dukes of Manchester were important patrons. Soldi’s extravagance meant that in 1744 he was imprisoned for debt. His work also became less fashionable, and at his death Joshua Reynolds paid for his funeral.