Some people in history seemed to have lived a thousand lives in their one lifetime. Lady Hester Stanhope was one of those people, as she fascinatingly went from an English socialite to ‘Queen Of The Desert’ during her 63 years on Earth.
Hester was born into a very politically affluent and wealthy family in England in 1776. While she came from a line of powerful noble and political figures, the most noteworthy of her relatives was her uncle, William Pitt, who was Prime Minister from 1783 until 1801, then again from 1804 until he died in 1806.
Hester was raised to be a prim and proper woman of Britain’s highest society and soon became a great asset to her uncle and his connections, so she went to live with him in 1803 and acted as his hostess.
Hester helped her uncle welcome esteemed political guests and was well known for her beautiful appearance and skills as a hostess and conversationalist. Her presence helped her uncle, who was unmarried and reportedly struggled to engage with others socially.
Hester was eventually promoted to her uncle’s private secretary and adored the position and attention until his death in 1806.
Afterward, she was granted an annual pension, which set her up financially and was enough to sustain her until the end of her life.
While she could have stayed in Britain, Hester reportedly struggled with some personal issues and a messy, complicated love life, which prompted her to travel and get away from her home country. She ended up in Lebanon.
Hester earned her ‘Queen Of The Desert’ title through her extravagant journeys through the Ottoman-controlled areas of the Middle East, including Israel and Syria.
She also spent time in Greece, Constantinople, and Egypt. She became the first English woman to enter the Great Pyramid and the city of Palmyra in Syria and had a lot of influence even though she was outside her home country.