Lady Charlotte Guest
Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Guest, (née Bertie) (19 May 1812 – 15 January 1895), later Lady Charlotte Schreiber, was an English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 businesswoman and translator. An important figure in the study of Welsh literature and the Welsh language
Welsh language
Welsh is a member of the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages spoken natively in Wales, by some along the Welsh border in England, and in Y Wladfa...

, she is best known for her pioneering English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 translation of the major medieval work, the Mabinogion
The Mabinogion is the title given to a collection of eleven prose stories collated from medieval Welsh manuscripts. The tales draw on pre-Christian Celtic mythology, international folktale motifs, and early medieval historical traditions...



Guest was born at Uffington House in Uffington
Uffington, Lincolnshire
Uffington is a village in the valley of the River Welland, between Stamford and The Deepings, in the South Kesteven district of the English county of Lincolnshire.-Geography:...

, Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire is a county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders...

, the daughter of Albemarle Bertie, 9th Earl of Lindsey
Albemarle Bertie, 9th Earl of Lindsey
Lieutenant-General Albemarle Bertie, 9th Earl of Lindsey was a British nobleman and general.He was the son of Peregrine Bertie, a barrister and great-great-grandson of Montagu Bertie, 2nd Earl of Lindsey....

 and his second wife Charlotte Susanna Elizabeth Layard. Her father died when she was six, and her mother remarried to Reverend Peter Pegus, whom Charlotte disliked. She showed a great talent for study and taught herself Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

, Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

, and Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...


After what may have been a brief flirtation with the future Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 Benjamin Disraeli, she escaped her unhappy home life through marriage in 1833, which was, however, not a conventional one for her age. Her husband, John Josiah Guest
John Josiah Guest
Sir Josiah John Guest, 1st Baronet, known as John Josiah Guest, was a Welsh engineer and entrepreneur.-Life:Born in Dowlais, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, as the son of Thomas Guest, a partner in the Dowlais Iron Company...

, was an industrialist in Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

, the owner of the Dowlais Iron Company and rather older than she was; he was 49 while she was 21. They moved to Dowlais
Dowlais is a village and community of the county borough of Merthyr Tydfil, in Wales. As of 2001, it has a population of 6646.Dowlais is notable within Wales and Britain for its historic association with ironworking; once employing, through the Dowlais Iron Company, roughly 5,000 people, the works...

 in Merthyr Tydfil
Merthyr Tydfil
Merthyr Tydfil is a town in Wales, with a population of about 30,000. Although once the largest town in Wales, it is now ranked as the 15th largest urban area in Wales. It also gives its name to a county borough, which has a population of around 55,000. It is located in the historic county of...

 after he was elected Member of Parliament
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

 for the constituency
Merthyr Tydfil (UK Parliament constituency)
Merthyr Tydfil was a parliamentary constituency centred on the town of Merthyr Tydfil in Glamorgan. From 1832 to 1868 it returned one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and in 1868 this was increased to two members...

 in 1832. Charlotte was very happy in her marriage, which produced ten children. She took an enthusiastic interest in her husband's philanthropic activities on behalf of the local community and also became involved in the business of the iron works, translating technical documents into French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

. John Guest eventually obtained a baronetcy in 1838.

The decline of her husband's health meant that Charlotte spent more time administering the business and took over completely following his death in 1852. She stood up to both her workers and other foundry owners until she relinquished her position to G. T. Clark
G. T. Clark
Colonel George Thomas Clark was a British engineer and antiquary, particularly associated with the management of the Dowlais Iron Company.-Early life:...

 in 1855 upon her marriage to Charles Schreiber
Charles Schreiber
Charles Schreiber was an English academic, fine arts collector and Conservative Party politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1865 and 1884....

. Schreiber was a classical scholar and a Member of Parliament for Cheltenham
Cheltenham , also known as Cheltenham Spa, is a large spa town and borough in Gloucestershire, on the edge of the Cotswolds in the South-West region of England. It is the home of the flagship race of British steeplechase horse racing, the Gold Cup, the main event of the Cheltenham Festival held...

 and later Poole
Poole is a large coastal town and seaport in the county of Dorset, on the south coast of England. The town is east of Dorchester, and Bournemouth adjoins Poole to the east. The Borough of Poole was made a unitary authority in 1997, gaining administrative independence from Dorset County Council...

. They left Wales and spent many years travelling in Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 collecting ceramics which she bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum , set in the Brompton district of The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, England, is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects...

. She also collected fans
Fan (implement)
A hand-held fan is an implement used to induce an airflow for the purpose of cooling or refreshing oneself. Any broad, flat surface waved back-and-forth will create a small airflow and therefore can be considered a rudimentary fan...

, board game
Board game
A board game is a game which involves counters or pieces being moved on a pre-marked surface or "board", according to a set of rules. Games may be based on pure strategy, chance or a mixture of the two, and usually have a goal which a player aims to achieve...

s and playing card
Playing card
A playing card is a piece of specially prepared heavy paper, thin cardboard, plastic-coated paper, cotton-paper blend, or thin plastic, marked with distinguishing motifs and used as one of a set for playing card games...

s, which she donated to the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...


Guest's eldest son Ivor
Ivor Bertie Guest, 1st Baron Wimborne
Ivor Bertie Guest, 1st Baron Wimborne was a Welsh industrialist.Sir Ivor Bertie Guest was born at Dowlais, near Merthyr Tydfil, the son of Lady Charlotte Guest, translator of the Mabinogion, and Sir John Josiah Guest, owner of the world's largest iron foundry:Dowlais Ironworks...

 eventually became First Baron Wimborne and married Lady Cornelia Spencer-Churchill, eldest daughter of John Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough
John Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough
John Winston Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough, KG, PC , styled Earl of Sunderland from 1822 to 1840 and Marquess of Blandford from 1840 to 1857, was a British statesman and nobleman...

 and thus aunt to Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

. They were parents of the First Viscount Wimborne
Viscount Wimborne
Viscount Wimborne, of Canford Magna in the County of Dorset, is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1918 for Ivor Guest, 2nd Baron Wimborne. The Guest family descends from the engineer and businessman John Josiah Guest. On 14 August 1838 he was created a Baronet, of...

. Among her other descendants are the American Guests (the late socialite C. Z. Guest
C. Z. Guest
Lucy Douglas Cochrane was an American stage actress, author, columnist, horsewoman, fashion designer, and socialite who achieved a degree of fame as a fashion icon. She was frequently seen wearing elegant designs by famous designers like Mainbocher. Her unfussy, clean-cut style was seen as...

 was wife of one of these), the Earls of Bessborough, the Viscounts Chelmsford, and others.


During her time in Wales, Guest learned Welsh and associated with literary scholars, including Thomas Price
Thomas Price (Carnhuanawc)
Reverend Thomas Price was a historian and a major Welsh literary figure of the early 19th century....

, Villemarqué
Theodore Claude Henri, Vicomte Hersart de la Villemarque
Théodore Claude Henri, vicomte Hersart de la Villemarqué was a French philologist and man of letters.-Biography:La Villemarqué was born in Quimperlé, Finistère on 6 July 1815. He was descended from an old Breton family, which counted among its members a Hersart who had followed Saint Louis to the...

, Judge Bosanquet, and Gwallter Mechain
Gwallter Mechain
Walter Davies , commonly known by his bardic name Gwallter Mechain , was a Welsh poet, editor, translator, antiquary and Anglican clergyman....

, who encouraged her in her work. She translated several medieval songs and poems, and eventually the Mabinogion, which was an immediate success. The name Mabinogion for these stories begins with Guest;
the word Mabinogi technically applies to only the first four tales, known as the Four Branches of the Mabinogi
Four Branches of the Mabinogi
The Four Branches of the Mabinogi are the best known tales from the collection of medieval Welsh prose known as the Mabinogion. The word "Mabinogi" originally designated only these four tales, which are really parts or "branches" of a single work, rather than the whole collection...

. One manuscript contains the word mabynnogyon, which she took for a plural and applied to the collection as a whole.

The tales of the Mabinogion had been summarized in William Owen Pughe
William Owen Pughe
William Owen Pughe was a Welsh antiquarian and grammarian best known for his Welsh and English Dictionary, published in 1803, but also known for his grammar books and 'Pughisms' ....

's Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales, and Pughe had completed a translation of the tales which was left unpublished at his death in 1835. Guest did not rely on Pughe's translations, though she did use a Welsh dictionary Pughe had completed in 1803. Her Mabinogion became the first translation of the material to be published. It was printed in several volumes between 1838 and 1849, with the first volumes dedicated to the Arthurian
King Arthur
King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

 material; volume I contained the Welsh Romances
Welsh Romances
The Three Welsh Romances are three Middle Welsh tales associated with the Mabinogion. They are versions of Arthurian tales that also appear in the work of Chrétien de Troyes. Critics have debated whether the Welsh Romances are based on Chrétien's poems or if they derive from a shared original...

 Owain, Peredur
Peredur son of Efrawg
Peredur son of Efrawg is one of the three Welsh Romances associated with the Mabinogion. It tells a story roughly analogous to Chrétien de Troyes' unfinished romance Perceval, the Story of the Grail, but it contains many striking differences from that work, most notably the absence of the French...

, and Geraint and Enid, while volume two contained Culhwch ac Olwen and The Dream of Rhonabwy
The Dream of Rhonabwy
The Dream of Rhonabwy is a Middle Welsh prose tale. Set during the reign of Madog ap Maredudd, prince of Powys , it is dated to the late 12th or 13th century. It survives in only one manuscript, the Red Book of Hergest, and has been associated with the Mabinogion since its publication by Lady...

. Geraint and Enid served as the basis for Alfred, Lord Tennyson's two poems about Geraint
Geraint is a character from Welsh folklore and Arthurian legend, a king of Dumnonia and a valiant warrior. He may have lived during or shortly prior to the reign of the historical Arthur, but some scholars doubt he ever existed...

 in the Idylls of the King
Idylls of the King
Idylls of the King, published between 1856 and 1885, is a cycle of twelve narrative poems by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson which retells the legend of King Arthur, his knights, his love for Guinevere and her tragic betrayal of him, and the rise and fall of Arthur's kingdom...



Lady Charlotte Guest was a "foreigner" (non-Welsh person) who helped revive Welsh culture. She is remembered, along with her near-contemporary Lady Llanover, as a great patron of the arts in Wales. A public house, built as part of the regeneration of Dowlais in the 1980s, was named the Lady Charlotte in her honour.


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