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Lady Louisa Conolly (5 December 1743 – August 1821), was an Anglo-Irish noblewoman. She was the third of the famous Lennox Sisters, and was notable among them for leading a wholly uncontroversial life filled with good works.
Born Lady Louisa Augusta Lennox, she was the third of the four Lennox Sisters immortalised in Stella Tillyard's book Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox and in the BBC television series based on it. The Lennox sisters were daughters of Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond, whose father, the first duke, was an illegitimate son of King Charles II of England.
Louisa was still a child when her parents died within a year of each other in 1750 and 1751. After this, Lady Louisa was brought up by her much older sister Emily FitzGerald, Duchess of Leinster, in Kildare. In 1758, aged 15, she married Thomas Conolly (1738-1803), grand-nephew of William Conolly, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. Her husband, a wealthy land-owner and keen horseman, was also a successful politician who was elected to Parliament as early as 1759. The couple lived in the Palladian mansion Castletown House in County Kildare, the decoration of which she directed throughout the 1760s and 1770s.
Themselves unhappily childless, the couple took up the welfare of young children from disadvantaged backgrounds as a lifelong project, contributing both money and effort towards initiatives which would enable foundlings and vagabonds to acquire productive skills and support themselves. They developed one of the first Industrial Schools where boys learnt trades, and Lady Louisa took active personal interest in mentoring the students. In middle age, Lady Louisa also virtually adopted her niece Emily Napier (1783-1863), the daughter of her sister Sarah Lennox. Emily, who would spend long months with her aunt in Kildare, married Sir Henry Bunbury, 7th Baronet, and moved to Suffolk, although she would remain close to her aunt until her death.
Thomas Conolly died in 1803. Upon his death, the major part of his estates, which included Wentworth Castle, passed to a distant relative, Frederick Vernon. Lady Louisa received the Castletown House and estate, as also certain liquid investments and valuable urban properties, which enabled her to live in comfort and continue her charitable activities until her own death in 1821. She willed these substantial properties to a great-nephew, Edward Michael Pakenham (grandson of Thomas' sister Harriet), later the MP for Donegal, on condition that he adopt the surname of Conolly, which he did.
|Ancestors of Lady Louisa Conolly|