Cast from a medal
Elizabeth Chudleigh (1720-1788), by her first marriage Countess of Bristol, by her second Duchess of Kingston.
The Duchess of Kingston was attractive, intelligent and so enterprising that her actions almost always bordered on adventurism. Having secretly married Captain Augustus Hervey, heir to the Earl of Bristol, she later decided to wed one of England's richest peers, the Duke of Kingston, after being his mistress for many years. This second wedding took place in 1769.
After Kingston's death, the truth came out. She was convicted of bigamy, but managed to keep her immense fortune as she fled to the continent. In 1777 she arrived in St Petersburg, where she hoped to become a lady of the Russian Empress's court, which would have helped her to recover her standing in European society.
It was impossible to enchant the Russian court and St Petersburg high society without the aid of Potiomkin, which is why the Duchess concentrated her attention on him. Using her skills as a brilliant conversationalist, something much appreciated in elite circles at the time, the Duchess sought to elicit support from the influential favourite of the Empress. It was from her that the Prince probably learnt of Cox's celebrated automata.
Despite the generous gifts that she made to the Russian Empress, the Duchess did not manage to obtain a worthy position at court - Catherine II excused herself on the grounds that a foreigner could not become her lady-in-waiting. In November 1777 the Duchess of Kingston left St Petersburg for France.