Caged Angel

Written by Anne-Marie Vukelic
Review by Claire Thurlow

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.