Elizabeth Wynne (1779–1857)

Author of The Wynne Diaries

Includes the names: Elizabeth Wynne Fremantle, Lady Elizabeth Fremantle, formerly Wynne

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Elizabeth "Betsey" Wynne was born to an English Catholic family, a daughter of Richard Wynne, a Lincolnshire gentleman, and his French wife Camille de Royer. She began keeping a diary at about age 11. Her father got into financial difficulties in the 1780s, sold his estates, and took his family to live in Europe. They moved between Venice and various courts in Italy, Germany and Switzerland. Betsey became an accomplished linguist and musician. In 1797, she married Captain Thomas Fremantle, a British naval officer who had rescued her and her family from Italy during the French invasion and taken them to safety in Corsica. The marriage took place in Naples at the home of the British envoy, Sir William Hamilton and his wife Emma Lady Hamilton. Betsey was unflappable and useful in a crisis: later that year, newly pregnant, on board the warship HMS Seahorse, she nursed both her own wounded husband and Lord Nelson, who had lost an arm at the Battle of Tenerife. Thomas Fremantle later distinguished himself at the Battle of Copenhagen and rose to the rank of admiral. The couple had several children, including Charles Fremantle, for whom the city in Western Australia was named. Betsey and her husband kept up an intimate correspondence during his absences at sea as well as her diary. The now-famous Wynne Diaries, which run from 1789 to 1857, provide a vivid account of life for a well-connected Englishwoman in the late 18th-early 19th centuries. Most of the entries were written by Betsey, but contributions from her younger sisters Eugenia and Harriet also survived. The diaries, except for one notebook covering part of 1796, which was lost at sea, were preserved by the Fremantle family, but not published until the 1930s.
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