Biography of Constance MacDonald "Connie" Gilchrist Countess Orkney 1865-1946

On 23 Jan 1865 Constance MacDonald "Connie" Gilchrist Countess Orkney was born to David Gilchrist in Agar Town, London.

1872 to 1874. James Abbott McNeill Whistler (age 37). "Blue Girl". Model Connie Gilchrist (age 6).

In 1873 Constance MacDonald "Connie" Gilchrist Countess Orkney (age 7) performed at the Drury Lane Theatre playing the Prince of Mushrooms in a play entitled, Jack in the Box.

Around 1873. James Abbott McNeill Whistler (age 38). "Harmony in Yellow and Gold". Model Connie Gilchrist (age 7) performing her skipping rope stage act.

1875. Frederick Leighton (age 44). "Little Fatima". Model Connie Gilchrist (age 9).

Around 1876. Frederick Leighton (age 45). "Study: At a Reading Desk". Model Connie Gilchrist (age 10).

1876. Frederick Leighton (age 45). "The Daphnephoria". The model for all five girls centre Connie Gilchrist (age 10).

1877. Frederick Leighton (age 46). "The Music Lesson". Model for child Connie Gilchrist (age 11).

Frederick Leighton Biography. One day, somewhere in the winter of 1879, on opening a gate which leads from our garden to the Holland Park Studios, I saw standing at one of the studio doors a figure which I described to Leighton as a "vision of beauty (age 20)" - a young girl with a lovely white face, dressed in deepest black, evidently a model. Needless to say, Leighton, ever eager to procure good models, obtained her name from the artist to whom she was sitting when I first saw her, and engaged her as a model for the head. Shortly after she began to sit to Leighton, he wrote to me saying the young girl was in sad circumstances, and he would be very glad if I could help her by making some studies from her. I agreed, and he arranged with her to give me sittings. She told me that she had recently lost her mother, her father had deserted his family of five girls and two boys, and she with her elder brother were left to support them. She was endeavouring to act the part of mother to her younger sisters and brother. As Leighton and I grew to know her better we found her very intelligent and conscientious in acting this part, and she enlisted our sympathies entirely. She confided to me, while sitting one day, that she longed greatly to find something to do more interesting and remunerative than spending her days as a model. She thought she could act. I consulted Leighton. His first exclamation was, "Impossible! with that voice! How could she go on the stage?" I thought the voice, which had a singularly unpleasant Cockney twang in it, might be trained, as I had observed how very eager she was to learn to speak in a more educated manner, quite realising her own shortcomings. Leighton came round to my opinion; and, once having made up his mind that she was bent on educating herself for the stage, showed himself as ever the most unselfish and untiring befriender. Meanwhile four of these beautiful children became useful to him as models. From the second daughter [Edith Ellen Pullen (age 13)], who afterwards married an artist (age 22), Leighton painted "Memories," reproduced here; from the third, Hetty (age 11), he painted "Simœtha the Sorceress" and "Farewell"; but it was the youngest, Lina (age 6), quite a small child, who delighted him most, and who had a rare, refined charm which must have captivated any child-lover. She took the place of little Connie Gilchrist (age 13) of the "Cleobouline," the "Music Lesson," and other of the earlier paintings, in the later pictures. She sat for "Sister's Kiss," "The Light of the Harem," "Letty," the sleeping group in "Cymon and Iphigenia," "Kittens," in the friezes "The Dance" and "Music," and "A little girl with golden hair and pale blue eyes" -

"Yellow and pale as ripened corn

Which Autumn's kiss frees—grain from sheath

Such was her hair, while her eyes beneath,

Showed Spring's faint violets freshly born."

Robert Browning.

VVHxNnGcalso the child (age 20) in "Captive Andromache." Of the sister-mother of this little family, beautiful as she was, Leighton declared he never could paint a successful likeness, notwithstanding his attempts in "Viola,"[75] "Bianca," "Serenely wandering in a trance of sober thought," and "Miss Dene." Her very beautiful throat, however, was reproduced worthily in many of his subject-pictures, and the true dramatic instinct she undoubtedly possessed enabled her to be of help in such pictures as "Antigone," "Return of Persephone," and the last picture, the passionate "Clytie." But however useful she proved as a model, Leighton never for a moment thought of his own interests before the serious welfare of the young girl's life. He realised that if she was to make a successful actress, it involved serious and concentrated study. One morning I received the following note:—

Dear Mrs. Barrington,—Miss Pullen (age 20) will be very happy to sit to you on Monday, and will talk over the rest when you meet. You are very kind about it all, as is, indeed, your wont.

P.S.—You see my harassed old head does sometimes remember what I promise.

Note 75. As portraits, the two heads Watts painted from "Dorothy Dene (age 20)" were superior to those Leighton painted.

Before 1882 George Henry Lowther 4th Earl Lonsdale (age 26) purchased a house for Connie Gilchrist (age 16) and other girls of the Gaiety Theatre.

On 08 Feb 1882 George Henry Lowther 4th Earl Lonsdale (age 26) died at a house in London he had purchased for Connie Gilchrist (age 17) and other girls of the Gaiety Theatre. He bequeathed the house, and a sizeable legacy, to Gilchrist. His brother Hugh Cecil Lowther 5th Earl Lonsdale (age 25) succeeded 5th Earl Lonsdale, 6th Viscount Lowther, 6th Baron Lowther. Grace Cecilie Gordon Countess Lonsdale (age 27) by marriage Countess Lonsdale.

On 19 Jul 1892 Edmond Fitzmaurice 7th Earl of Orkney (age 25) and Constance MacDonald "Connie" Gilchrist Countess Orkney (age 27) were married.

On 09 May 1946 Constance MacDonald "Connie" Gilchrist Countess Orkney (age 81) died at his her Tythe House, Stewkley.

On 21 Aug 1951 [her former husband] Edmond Fitzmaurice 7th Earl of Orkney (age 84) died.