Ada Lovelace

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Ada Lovelace : biography

10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852

Annabella did not have a close relationship with the young Ada and would often leave her in the care of her grandmother Judith Milbanke, who doted on her. However, due to societal attitudes of the time – which favored the husband in any separation, with the welfare of any child acting as mitigation – Annabella had to present herself as a loving mother to the rest of society. This included writing anxious letters to Judith about Ada’s welfare, with a cover note saying to retain the letters in case she had to use them to show maternal concern. In one letter to Judith, she referred to Ada as "it": "I talk to it for your satisfaction, not my own, and shall be very glad when you have it under your own." In her teenaged years, Ada was watched by several close friends of her mother for any signs of moral deviation; Ada dubbed them "the Furies" and would later complain that they had exaggerated and invented stories about her.

Ada was often ill, beginning in early childhood. At the age of eight, she experienced headaches which obscured her vision. In June 1829, she was paralyzed after a bout of measles. She was subjected to continuous bed rest for nearly a year, which may have extended her period of disability. By 1831, she was able to walk with crutches.

In early 1833, Ada had an affair with a tutor and, after being caught, tried to elope with him. The tutor’s relatives recognized her and contacted her mother; the incident was covered up by Annabella and her friends in order to prevent a public scandal.

Ada never met her younger half-sister, Allegra Byron, daughter of Lord Byron and Claire Clairmont, who died in 1822 at the age of five. She did, however, have some contact with Elizabeth Medora Leigh, the daughter of Byron’s half-sister Augusta Leigh. Augusta Leigh purposely avoided Ada as much as possible when she was introduced at Court.

Adult years

Lovelace developed a strong relationship with her tutor Mary Somerville. She had a strong respect and affection for Somerville. and the two of them would correspond for many years. Other acquaintances included Andrew Crosse, Sir David Brewster, Charles Wheatstone, Charles Dickens and Michael Faraday.

By 1834, Ada was a regular at Court and started attending various events. She danced often and was able to charm many people, and was described by most people as being dainty. However, John Hobhouse, Lord Byron’s friend, was the exception and he described her as "a large, coarse-skinned young woman but with something of my friend’s features, particularly the mouth". This description followed their meeting on 24 February 1834 in which Ada made it clear to Hobhouse that she did not like him, probably due to the influence of her mother, which led her to dislike all of her father’s friends. This first impression was not to last, and they later became friends.

On 8 July 1835 she married William King, 8th Baron King, becoming Baroness King.. Their residence was a large estate at Ockham Park, in Ockham, Surrey, along with another estate on Loch Torridon and a home in London. They spent their honeymoon at Worthy Manor in Ashley Combe near Porlock Weir, Somerset. The Manor had been built as a hunting lodge in 1799 and was improved by King in preparation for their honeymoon. It later became their summer retreat and was further improved during this time. The house was built on a small plateau in woodland overlooking the Bristol Channel and surrounded by terraced gardens in the Italianate style.

They had three children: Byron born 12 May 1836, Anne Isabella (called Annabella, later Lady Anne Blunt) born 22 September 1837 and Ralph Gordon born 2 July 1839. Immediately after the birth of Annabella, Lady King experienced "a tedious and suffering illness, which took months to cure". In 1838, her husband was created Earl of Lovelace. Thus, she was styled "The Right Honourable the Countess of Lovelace" for most of her married life. In 1843-4, William Benjamin Carpenter was assigned by her mother Anabella to teach Ada’s children, as well as to act as a ‘moral’ instructor for Ada. He quickly fell for her and encouraged her to express any frustrated ‘affections’, claiming that his marriage would mean he’d never act in an "unbecoming" manner; when it became clear that Carpenter was trying to start an affair, Ada cut it off.