Untold lives blog

05 May 2015

Anne Blunt - ‘Noble Lady of the Horses’

Lady Anne Blunt née King (1837-1917) was a keen artist, horsewoman and traveller. She recorded her experiences in a series of diaries and in her beautifully illustrated sketchbooks, which are held at the British Library (Add MS 53817-54061).

Watercolour of camels by Anne Blunt
Watercolour by Anne Blunt Add MS 54048  Noc

Anne was born on 22 September 1837 to William King, first Earl Lovelace and his wife Ada, the only daughter of Lord Byron and his wife Anne Millbanke. After the death of her mother when Anne was only 15 her father took her on many continental travels where she learnt four languages and began sketching the scenery she encountered. It was whilst travelling that she met her future husband Wilfred Blunt. They married in 1869 when Anne was 32 and had four children, only one of whom, Judith survived into adulthood. In 1872 Wilfred inherited a family estate in Sussex and the couple built their home Crabbet Park.

Wilfred Blunt Anne Blunt   Wilfred and Anne Blunt Add MS 54085

The couple travelled widely including across Europe and to parts of India. It was however, the Middle East that sparked their interest with Wilfred the politics and Anne the horses. The couple began a stud in 1878 breeding only with horses with excellent confirmation and lineage. Anne’s diaries reveal their travels across the desert visiting sheikhs and providing critiques of the horses they saw. Anne had a good eye for confirmation and the extract below shows one of many assessments she made:

Diary of Anne Blunt from 1881
Diary of Anne Blunt from 1881, Add MS 53911 f.11 Noc


    Watercolour of desert scene by Anne Blunt
Watercolour by Anne Blunt Add MS 54048 Noc

In 1882 they opened a second stud outside Cairo called Shaykh ‘Ubayd. Anne was by now fluent in Arabic and had a good insight into the people and their customs.  She was also compiling a book on the Arabian horse, and her notes were later used in her daughter Judith’s volume, The Authentic Arabian Horse (1945).

Photograph of Anne and Wilfred Blunt on horseback
Photograph of Anne (AB) and Wilfred Blunt (WSB) on horseback Add MS 54085 Noc

Anne’s marriage however was not happy and in 1906 the couple were legally separated after Wilfred’s mistress Dorothy Carleton (later adopted as his niece) moved in to the family home. She went to live with her daughter Judith and son-in-law near Crabbet Park and spent the winters at Shaykh ‘Ubayd. In 1913 she moved out to live in Shaykh ‘Ubayd permanently and died in Cairo in 1917.

Photograph of Anne Blunt on horseback
Photograph of Anne Blunt on horseback taken by Gertrude Bell Add MS 54085 Noc

Anne’s passion for breeding the Arabian horses she loved has had a huge impact on the breed itself and the majority of Arabian horses today would have at least one Crabbet ancestor. For this passion she became known and respected as the ‘noble lady of the horses’ by many of her friends.

Watercolour of desert scene by Anne Blunt
Watercolour by Anne Blunt Add MS 54055Noc


Laura Walker
Lead Curator, Modern Archives and Manuscripts 1850-1950


Further reading:
Lady Anne Blunt. Journals and Correspondence 1878-1917, edited by Rosemary Archer and James Fleming (Alexander Heriot 1986)
Oxford Dicionary of National Biography - Rosemary Archer, Blunt [née King], Anne Isabella Noel, suo jure Baroness Wentworth (1837–1917), traveller and breeder of Arab horses
A.V.F. Winstone, Lady Anne Blunt. A Biography (Barzan 2003)



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