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Lady Ellen Stirling

1807 – 1874

Lady Ellen Stirling (1807-1874) was the third daughter of James Mangles of Woodbridge in Surrey, a Director of the East India Company and later an MP. On her sixteenth birthday, Ellen married James Stirling, a naval officer twice her age. After the customary honeymoon tour of the Continent, the Stirlings settled at Woodbridge for around two years. Ellen bore the first of eleven children during this time, before James Stirling was recalled to active duty and given command of HMS Success. Stirling sailed for Sydney in early 1826, his arrival in the colony coinciding with renewed British suspicions about the intentions of the French regarding the west coast of Australia. Stirling eventually managed to convince the Colonial office of the political and commercial advantages of establishing a settlement on the Swan River and in 1828 he was appointed to the post of the new colony's Lieutenant Governor. With her husband and 3-year-old son, Ellen left England in February 1829, giving birth to her second son at sea en route to present-day Perth. The 'very affable and unaffected' Ellen Stirling was one of only a handful of 'ladies' in the new settlement, and like other governor's wives would have fulfilled the role of a hostess and focal point for colonial Society. Ellen has also been described as a courageous woman with a warm personality who took an active, if typically genteel, interest in the landscape and botany of the colony. Her 'dignified bearing', charm and youth are said to have endeared her to many in the settlement and softened some of the criticism of her husband and his governorship. Almost every year between 1831 and 1838, Ellen gave birth to more children - three daughters and three sons, one of whom died in infancy. James Stirling retired as Governor of Western Australia in 1838 and returned home with his family. The couple had three more daughters after returning to England; Ellen survived her husband by nine years.

Updated 2018