Lavinia Ryves
Lavinia Jannetta Horton Ryves, née Lavinia Serres (March 16, 1797–December 7, 1871), was a British woman claiming to be a member of the British royal family, calling herself "Princess Lavinia of Cumberland".

Born in Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

, England, Lavinia was the daughter of Olivia Serres
Olivia Serres
Olivia Serres , known as Olive, was a British painter and writer. She is also known as an English impostor, who claimed the title of Princess Olive of Cumberland, born at Warwick.-Origins and Early Career:...

 and John Thomas Serres
John Thomas Serres
John Thomas Serres was an English maritime painter who enjoyed significant success, including exhibiting extensively at the Royal Academy, and was for a time Maritime Painter to King George III.-Life:...

. Olivia Serres gained notoriety by claiming to be the daughter of Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn, a younger brother of King George III of the United Kingdom
George III of the United Kingdom
George III was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until the union of these two countries on 1 January 1801, after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death...

. In 1822 Lavinia married Anthony Ryves, a portrait painter. They were divorced in 1841.

In 1844 "Princess Lavinia" tried to take Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS , was an Irish-born British soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century...

 to court for having "overlooked", as George III's executor, a bequest of £15,000 to Olive. In 1850 Lavinia published a pamphlet requesting financial aid from Queen Victoria
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India....


In 1866, aged sixty-nine, Princess Lavinia asked the Court of Probate
Court of Probate
The Court of Probate was created by the Court of Probate Act 1857, which transferred the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts in testamentary matters to the new court so created....

 to declare her the legitimate granddaughter of the Duke of Cumberland and award her the £15,000 bequest "left" by George III. In the process of the 1866 trial, Lavinia produced several remarkable documents attesting to her claims, and a handwriting expert testified to the authenticity of George III's and James Wilmot
James Wilmot
James Wilmot was an English clergyman and scholar from Warwickshire. During his lifetime, he was apparently unknown beyond his immediate circle....

's signatures (modern experts believe them to be forgeries). Testimony was introduced that in fact the Duke of Kent had supported Olive financially, and had spoken of Olive as "my cousin Serres", apparently believing her story.

The trial was most considered remarkable, perhaps, for the claims made by Dr. Walter Smith, Lavinia's barrister, that George III had been privately married to a Quaker, Hannah Lightfoot
Hannah Lightfoot
Hannah Lightfoot the 'Fair Quaker' who is erroneously said to have been the first wife of George III of the United Kingdom.- Biography :...

, and that in consequence thereof, neither George IV nor Queen Victoria had any right to the throne.

Lavinia's case, however, quickly ran into difficulties: in some of the submitted documents, George III had "signed" his name as "George Guelph"; in others, William Pitt and Lord Brook had "signed" as earls before they had in fact become earls.

The court found that Lavinia was the legitimate daughter of John and Olive Serres and was not the granddaughter of the Duke of Cumberland. The court did not prosecute Lavinia for forgery: Lavinia maintained she believed in good faith that the documents left her by Olive were genuine. It is thought that the documents were in fact forged at the behest of Olive, rather than Lavinia, perhaps by William FitzClarence, Olive's boyfriend, who had calligraphic talents.

Lavinia continued to write pamphlets in support of her claims, and her case was reheard by the House of Lords. She died with her claims unrecognized.
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