Dorothy Vernon

For the actress, see Dorothy Vernon (actress).
Poster: 1906 production of Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall

Dorothy Vernon (1544 24 June 1584),[1] the younger daughter of Sir George Vernon, was the heiress of Haddon Hall, an English country house in Derbyshire with its origins in the 12th century.[2] She married John Manners in 1563.[3][4] The couple's descendants, the Dukes of Rutland, continue to own Haddon Hall. A legend grew up in the 19th century that Vernon and Manners eloped, and a number of novels, dramatisations and other works of fiction have been based on the legend.

Family background and legend

Sir George Vernon was a prosperous and hospitable landowner in Derbyshire, and his family seat was at Haddon Hall, which is England's best preserved medieval manor house and a major tourist attraction. His second daughter, Dorothy, fell in love with John Manners (c. 1534 4 June 1611), the second son of Thomas Manners, the first Earl of Rutland.[5] According to historian Paul Dare's 1924 book, Ayleston Manor and Church, Dorothy and John were second cousins.[3]

Haddon Hall's long gallery c.1890

According to legend (none of which can be verified), Sir George disapproved of the union, possibly because the Manners were Protestants, and the Vernons were Catholics, or possibly because the second son of an earl had uncertain financial prospects.[6][7] According to the legend, Sir George forbade Manners from courting the famously beautiful and amiable Dorothy and forbade his daughter from seeing Manners.[5] Torn by her love for her father and her love for John Manners, Dorothy fled Haddon Hall to elope with Manners. Shielded by the crowd during a ball given by Sir George, Dorothy slipped away and fled through the gardens, down stone steps and over a footbridge where Manners was waiting for her, and they rode away to be married.[8] The supposed elopement became the subject of several novels and other works of fiction and drama.[9] The marriage could have been held at Sir George's manor at Aylestone, Leicestershire, the Bakewell church or the chapel in Haddon Hall, although no written record survives.[3][8] If indeed the elopement happened, the couple were soon reconciled with Sir George, as they inherited the estate on his death two years later.[8][10] The couple had at least two children, George and Roger (baptised 1610).[11]

Dorothy Vernon died in 1584 and was interred in the Vernon Chapel at All Saints Church, Bakewell. Sir John died in 1611 and was also interred in the chapel.[12] George, the eldest son, inherited Haddon Hall upon the death of his father. He seems to have previously lived at Aylestone Hall as several of his children were baptised in the village church.[12] Haddon Hall remains in the Manners family to the present day.[13]

A poster advertising the Dorothy Vernon story

Dorothy Vernon in fiction


  1. Dorothy Vernon was 20 years old in 1565. Smith, p. 25. She turned 21 during the year. Rayner, pp. 30–31
  2. Dare, p. 24
  3. 1 2 3 Dare, p. 25
  4. Trutt (2006), p. 24 and Dare, p. 33
  5. 1 2 Trutt (2006), p. 7
  6. Walford, Edward. "Tales of Our Great Families: The Heiress of Haddon Hall". 1877, Haddon Hall Books edition 2010, accessed 10 September 2011
  7. According to Dare (p. 25), Sir George is supposed to have referred to John Manners as "that Nobody, the second son of a mushroom earl", since the Manners family had been recently created as earls in 1526. However, the Manners family had long been in the nobility, as the Barons de Ros. Trutt (2006) disputes that Sir George ever uttered such words, noting that this is one of the rare uncited statements in the Dare book and calls it "purely Mr. Dare’s speculation" (pp. 95–96).
  8. 1 2 3 Trutt (2006), pp. 8; Although it is known that Dorothy's older sister, Margaret, had been married for several years before Dorothy's marriage in 1863 (Trutt, 2006, p. 24), in many versions of the legend, the ball is a pre-wedding celebration for Margaret.
  9. Dare, p. 23
  10. The story was created (or first documented, if one believes it to be history rather than legend) in The King of the Peak, written by Allan Cunningham in 1822.
  11. Dare, p. 29
  12. 1 2 Dare, p. 26
  13. "Haddon Hall – the Estate". The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive, accessed 6 September 2011
  14. Trutt (2006), p. 26
  15. Trutt (2006), p. 39
  16. "Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall" - first Broadway production
  17. Smith, p. 28, fn.1
  18. Trutt, David. Introduction and libretto to Dorothy o' the Hall, accessed 5 August 2010


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