Mary Dickenson [née
Hamilton] (c. 1756 - 1816),
courtier and diarist
Mary provides a link between Leighton Buzzard and
Horatio Nelson. She was born in 1756 and was the only child of
Charles and Mary Hamilton. Her father was a soldier and son of
Lord Archibald Hamiton, and the grandson of the thrid Duke Hamilton.
Her mother Mary, was the daughter of Colonel Dufresne, aide-de-camp
of Lord Archibald Hamilton.
The family originally lived in Scotland, but moved
in 1764 to a house near Northampton that they renamed Hamilton
House. From an early age Mary showed an interest in literature.
Mary was an avid reader, as well as keeping a diary and corresponding
regularly with many friends.
After her fathers death, the family remained in Northamptonshire,
until 1775 when they moved to London. In 1777 she was invited to
court by Queen Charlotte, and became third lady to the young princesses.
She remained in this post until 1782, spending her time between
Kew, Windsor and St. James's Palace.
She moved early in 1783 to 27 Clarges
Street, Piccadilly, London, sharing the property with two friends
and she enjoyed a wide circle of literary acquaintances.
On the 13th June 1785 Mary was married to John Dickenson.
John was the only son of John Dickenson of Birch Hall, near Manchester.
The couple had actually first met many years before when John visited
Hamilton House while at boarding school in Northamptonshire. Subsequent
to their marriage, John and Mary settled in Taxal, near Chapel-le-Firth,
Derbyshire. They had their only child in 1787: a daughter named
In 1797 the family moved to Leighton House, Leighton
Buzzard and remained here until 1811 when they moved to 32 Devonshire
The period during which Mary was in Leighton Buzzard
corresponds with the period in which Nelson became a national hero,
victories at the Battle of the Nile, Copenhagen and finally at
the Battle of Trafalgar. Central to Nelson's story is Emma
Hamilton, who became his mistress. In 1791, prior to meeting Nelson,
Emma had married
the widowed, Sir William Hamilton who was envoy at the court
of Naples. Sir William was Mary Dickenson's uncle, and hence Emma
had become her aunt through the marriage.
Mary died on 25th May 1818 at her house in London.
Extracts of her letters and diaries were published in 1925 by her
great-grandchildren, Elizabeth and Florence Anson. Additionally,
the diaries and journals of John Dickenson are held at the Lancashire