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Lady Culpeper
Original Author: Unknown
Created: 1653
Medium: Oil on canvas
Publisher: Virginia Historical Society

Lady Culpeper

This 1653 oil portrait by an unidentified artist shows Margaretta van Hesse, a wealthy Dutch heiress who, six years later, would become the wife of Sir Thomas Culpeper, second baron Culpeper of Thoresway. The inscription at upper left, "The Lady Culpeper, 1653," was subsequently added to the painting to denote the title she acquired upon the succession of her husband as the second baron Culpeper in 1660. The couple had one daughter.

Culpeper served as governor of Virginia from 1677 to 1683 and a proprietor of the Northern Neck, but eventually returned to England. In later years, he lived openly on the Isle of Wight and in London with his mistress, Susanna Willis, with whom he had two daughters. His wife Margaretta, meanwhile, resided in Kent at Leeds Castle, which Culpeper had purchased earlier with her money.

When Sir Thomas Culpeper died in London on January 27, 1689, a contentious, decade-long legal battle over control of the Northern Neck property ensued, as he had transferred ownership of it to his mistress and their daughters. Ultimately, the Northern Neck Proprietary went to his legitimate daughter, and it descended to the Fairfax family following her death in 1719.

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