Dorothy Vernon

Poster: 1906 production of Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall

Dorothy Vernon (1544 – 24 June 1584),[1] the younger daughter of Sir George Vernon and Margaret nee Talbois (or Tailboys), 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 legendEdit

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.[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, their 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 fictionEdit

  • A story entitled "King of the Peak – A Derbyshire Tale" (Sir George Vernon was known as the "King of the Peak"), by Allan Cunningham, published in the London Magazine in 1822.
  • An 1823 novel The King of the Peak – A Romance, in three volumes by William Bennett (1796–1879), writing under the pseudonym Lee Gibbons.[18]
  • "The Love Steps of Dorothy Vernon", a short story by Eliza Meteyard (1816–1879), writing under a pseudonym in 1849. It was first published in the 29 December 1849 issue of Eliza Cook's Journal and then in The Reliquary, October 1860, p. 79.[19]
  • A light opera of 1892, Haddon Hall by Arthur Sullivan, with libretto by Sydney Grundy.
  • A novel Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall written by American Charles Major in 1902.
  • A play of 1903, based on the novel, by American playwright Paul Kester that debuted on Broadway.[20]
  • A 1906 adaptation of Kester's play by Fred Terry and Julia Neilson, titled Dorothy o' the Hall.[21][22]
  • A film of 1924, starring Mary Pickford, also based on Major's novel.


  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; Trutt, p. 36
  3. ^ a b c Dare, p. 25
  4. ^ Trutt (2006), p. 24 and Dare, p. 33
  5. ^ a b Trutt (2006), p. 7
  6. ^ Walford, Edward. "Tales of Our Great Families: The Heiress of Haddon Hall" Archived 25 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine. 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. ^ a b c 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. ^ a b Dare, p. 26
  13. ^ "Haddon Hall – the Estate". The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive, accessed 6 September 2011
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i Collins, Arthur; Brydges, Egerton Collins's peerage of England; genealogical, biographical, and historical, Vol. 7, 1812
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Richardson, Douglas; Everingham, Kimball G. Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study In Colonial And Medieval Families, 2nd Edition, Vol. 1, 2011
  16. ^ Manners, Victoria. "Pembruge and Vernon Tombs at Tong. – II", The Art Journal, Vol. 68 (1906), pp. 257–258
  17. ^ a b c d Weis, Frederick Lewis Ancestral Roots of Certain American Colonists who Came to America Before 1700: The Lineage of Alfred the Great, Charlemagne, Malcolm of Scotland, Robert the Strong, and Some of Their Descendants, 1992
  18. ^ Trutt (2006), p. 26
  19. ^ Trutt (2006), p. 39
  20. ^ "Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall" – first Broadway production
  21. ^ Smith, p. 28, fn.1
  22. ^ Trutt, David. Introduction and libretto to Dorothy o' the Hall, accessed 5 August 2010


  • Dare, M. Paul (1924). Ayleston Manor and Church. Leicester: Edgar Backus.
  • Rayner, Simeon (2006). The History and Antiquities of Haddon Hall (PDF). London: R. Moseley. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  • Smith, G. Le Blanc (1906). Haddon, the Manor, the Hall, Its Lords and Traditions. E. Stock.
  • Trutt, David (2006). Haddon Hall's Dorothy Vernon – The Story of the Legend (PDF). Los Angeles: Haddon Hall Books. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  • Trutt, David (2007). Poems of Haddon Hall. Los Angeles: Haddon Hall Books.