In 1837, aged 23, Angela Burdett inherits her grandfather’s share in Coutts Bank, making her the richest woman in England. She changes her name to Angela Burdett-Coutts, and dedicates her life and fortune to humanitarian causes. Working alongside her close friend, Charles Dickens, she funds social, health and educational causes in the East End, and establishes a home for ‘fallen women.’ At a time when even wealthy women had limited influence, Angela defies convention by refusing multiple proposals of marriage, preferring her role as a fiercely independent ‘Queen of the Poor’. Her high-profile position in society draws the attention of mentally unstable barrister, Richard Dunn, who stalks the heiress for years, even breaking into her home and stealing a lock of hair.
This fictionalised account of the life of Angela Burdett-Coutts provides a fascinating insight into the privileged, although sometimes lonely, world of a ‘spinster’ philanthropist in 19th-century Britain. Richard Dunn is chillingly portrayed, and even Angela’s vast wealth can do little to protect her from the relentless attention of this obsessive admirer. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in the lives of Victorian women.