Diana Sackville – The Lady who Liked Beer

Diana Sackville was born in 1756 as the eldest daughter to Lord George Sackville, later Lord Germain. She is described as very spirited, very vivid, strong in character and very like her father. In 1778, twenty-two years old, she married Lord Crosbie and moved to Ireland becoming the Countess of Glandore.

Diana wrote a lot of letters, and when reading them it is obvious she had a very open mind and a very good relationship with her father. She felt she could tell Lord Sackville everything and she knew he would enjoy reading all the gossip from Ireland. Soon after her marriage she wrote about a party she had attended:

“I must inform you that your friend the Speaker, with all his outward gravity and demurness, is a Jolly Buck at bottom, and does not dislike the sight of a pretty woman, for such, entre nous, am I universally thought here [….]. I was much surprised as I was quietly seated one evening to feel myself pulled back in my Chair by the shoulders, and, looking up, perceived it was the frisky Speaker’s doing, who voted he had such an inclination to kiss me [….]. Instead of looking grave, I really burst out laughing, and indeed well I might, when I saw that demure old face extemded into a tender simper.”

Diana’s way of writing suggests her looks (see picture). She is a young woman who will have her own way and whose fashion of having it would be singularly attractive. In all portraits of her you see humour, roguery and satirical flair in her eyes and smile.

Nearly all the preserved letters written by Diana are addressed to Mr Gladwell, who was a banker and friend to the family.She always wrote to ask him to get her something – a flute, a frame, some foil, money, or most importantly and most frequently provisions of beer. Diana did not fancy the Irish beer, which becomes apparent in her first “beer letter” to Mr Gladwell.

“I cannot drink the beer at my own house and it is quite a misfortune to me.”

A while later she wrote asking for beer again.

“It is a long time since you have thought of replenishing this old Mansion with comfortable strong Beer, you know my brother always allows me a large cask to be sent to me yearly, and I cannot suffer you to forget it, pray send it off as soon as you can, for we have not a single drop left.”

Diana’s beer consumption seems to have been extreme, and sometimes, when she locked beer, her letters seem almost desperate.

“My brother tells me he sent 4 Hogsheads of strong beer to Ardfert…pray let me know the name of the ship it was put on board of”

It seems like the beer sent was never enough and did not last very long. When Diana in the early 1780’s visited her fathers house in Pall Mall, she wrote to Mr Gladwell asking if he could arrange for some brewers to accompany her back to Ireland.

“I want to consult with you upon the possibility of taking over with us to Ardfert some Northamtonshire Man or boy who you think understands Brewing well. We would give him whatever wages you thought reasonable but then he must really understand it. You must be expeditions about this business…”

In Diana’s letters, beer almost are treated as a human being, and sometimes it seems she even regarded beer more highly than a human being. She expressed worries about a delivery that did not arrive as expected, asking Mr Gladwell:

“Let me know whether it actually set out and on board what ship it was put and let me know immediately it’s name & that of the Captain, that we may know where to apply for intelligence of the vessel.”

One time it was clear that one ship carrying Diana’s beer actually sank.

“It is a serious loss to Ld. G: [Lord Glandore, her husband] as at Ardfert we cannot compass getting good beer ….Pray write soon and tell me the fate of the Beer.”

Diana was a very energetic woman and things were often done in a haste, and she may at times been careless about her own health. She gave birth to three children, but they all died soon after birth. In 1806 she got a very severe fever and it was not until 1807 she recovered properly. She was physically resilient as well as resilient in spirit. Diana Sackville died in 1814 at the age of 58.

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