Birth of Philanthropist Angela Burdett
ANGELA BURDETT was born into riches and made the most of her opportunities. She was born on this day, 21 April 1814, in the home of Thomas Coutts, her mother’s father. Coutts was a banker with great wealth. He left his entire fortune to his second wife, Harriet Mellon, who had been an actress. Harriet took a liking to her step-granddaughter, and when she died, left virtually her entire estate to her. Burdett was only twenty-three.
Burdett saw her sudden wealth as a God-sent opportunity for doing good. Deeply religious, she was strongly attached to the Church of England, and many of her charities were connected with it. In fact, two full pages would be needed to document the many missionary and philanthropic causes she funded. Among her proposals were the erection of churches in England and endowment of new dioceses in Britain’s colonies.
Her main focus, however, was on helping the poor to help themselves:
To enable those who would otherwise be destitute to help themselves is more truly generous than to give alms. In the one case those in distress are made self-reliant, independent, and useful members of the community; in the other degradation and demoralization are too often the result.
Her efforts extended to the uneducated, to disaster victims, struggling artists, and young women who had gotten into trouble. She also invested funds in the relief of suffering animals, wounded veterans, scientific research, exploration, nursing, and church schools. She was a chief contributor to the founding of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
In 1871, when the queen elevated Burdett to the peerage, she became Baroness Burdett-Coutts. Ten years later, after turning down offers of marriage all her life, she finally wed an American less than half her age—when she was sixty-seven years old! She died of bronchitis twenty-five years later and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
King Edward VII of England, son of Queen Victoria, is said to have declared that Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts was, “after my mother, the most remarkable woman in the kingdom.”