John Davinier was a Frenchman who married Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed-race daughter of a British naval officer and an enslaved African woman, in 1793. Dido Belle was raised by her great-uncle, Lord Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice of England, who played a significant role in the abolition of slavery. Their marriage was depicted in the 2013 film Belle, directed by Amma Asante, although the film took some liberties with the historical facts. But what happened to John Davinier after his marriage to Dido Belle? How did he die and when? This article will explore the mystery behind John Davinier’s cause of death and his life with Dido Belle.
John Davinier’s Early Life and Career
John Davinier was born in 1768 in France, as Louis Jean Charles Davinière. He was the son of Louis Davinière, a merchant, and Marie Anne Le Gouvello. He had two brothers, Edward and Charles, and a sister, Marie Anne. According to English Heritage, John Davinier moved to England in the late 1780s or early 1790s, possibly to escape the French Revolution. He worked as a steward or valet for Lord Mansfield at Kenwood House, where he met Dido Belle.
John Davinier’s Marriage to Dido Belle
Dido Belle was born in 1761 in the West Indies, as the illegitimate daughter of Sir John Lindsay, a British naval officer, and Maria Belle, an enslaved African woman. Sir John Lindsay brought Dido to England in 1765 and entrusted her to his uncle, Lord Mansfield, and his wife, Lady Mansfield. Dido grew up at Kenwood House with her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray, who was also under Lord Mansfield’s guardianship. Dido was treated as a member of the family, although her social status was ambiguous due to her mixed-race heritage and illegitimacy.
Dido Belle and John Davinier fell in love and married on December 5, 1793 at St. George’s Church in Bloomsbury. Lord Mansfield gave his consent to their marriage and also gave Dido a generous dowry of £500 per year. The couple had three sons: twins Charles and John, born in 1795, and William Thomas, born in 1802.
John Davinier’s Later Life and Death
John Davinier and Dido Belle lived in Pimlico, London for some years after their marriage. They later moved to France, where John inherited some property from his father. According to FamilySearch, John owned a house in Ducey, Normandy, where he was involved in some legal disputes with the local authorities. He had apparently threatened to “blow out the brain” of the mayor of Ducey and had made threats against the mayor’s wife and her servant. He also had a conflict with his brother Edward over their father’s inheritance.
John Davinier died in 1847 at the age of 79. His cause of death is unknown, as there are no official records of his death certificate or burial place. However, some sources suggest that he died of natural causes or old age. He was survived by his wife Dido Belle, who died in 1851 at the age of 90.
John Davinier’s Legacy
John Davinier’s legacy is mainly linked to his marriage to Dido Belle, who was a remarkable woman in her own right. She was one of the first black women to be portrayed as an equal to a white woman in a painting that hangs at Scone Palace in Scotland. She was also a witness to Lord Mansfield’s landmark rulings that paved the way for the abolition of slavery in Britain.
John Davinier’s story is also a testament to the power of love that transcended racial and social barriers in a time when interracial marriages were rare and frowned upon. He supported his wife’s identity and heritage and raised their sons with pride and dignity.
John Davinier’s cause of death may remain a mystery, but his life with Dido Belle is an inspiring example of courage and devotion that deserves to be remembered and celebrated.