Lucille Dudley

From Historical Hastings

Lucille Dudley was the child of a bigamous relationship between Captain Henry Edwardes Handley and Ellen Keenan and born in Surbiton, Surrey[1]. Moving in society, in part due to her father's connections, she received a convent education in France and aspired to a career in drama. Her surname of Dudley is, no doubt, an assumed name to conceal her true parentage and perhaps, shield her from her illegitimacy[2]. Her mother served several summons upon Handley for not maintaining her and her child, which were reported in the press. Both her parents were known to have lived with her in St. Leonards until she reached the age of 3½; Handley appearing to have abandoned her mother, after which she would appear to have been under the care of governesses and educational establishments in France.

Petty theft

Lucille entered service for the Misses Hathcote of Walton House, West Hill Road on the 16th of September 1882 upon the recommendation of Dr. Cook as a mental health nurse for Miss Mary Hathcote who was an invalid. Leaving their service after a petty theft from her employers, she found herself in the custody of the local constabulary, to whom she stated that she was more than capable of "Opening a vein" and could thus put an end to herself. In all other ways, she appeared to be a perfectly normal young lady, although somewhat attention-seeking. Following a trial at which she claimed the stolen items were a gift from her employer, she was found not guilty and went to reside in the vicinity of Waldegrave Street, and would also appear to have spent some time resident in Silchester Road before moving to Stoke Newington.[3].

Suicide attempts

In July 1883, she was discovered in a first class carriage of the Great Eastern Railway, unconscious with a bottle labelled 'Poison' that contained chloroform. She was taken to the London Hospital, where after receiving eight hours of medical attention she regained consciousness. At the subsequent Magistrate's hearing she described herself as a governess and hospital nurse with no relatives and had been driven to the desparate act by the grief following the loss of her child. Whilst in-transit to the court she was found to have secreted a vial of opium in her dress which she attempted to inbibe. Upon being found unable to meet the sureties asked for by the court, she was removed to Millbank prison. At the prison, the chaplain assisted her to recover her frame of mind. Following her release, she trained as a nurse at Queen Charlotte's Hospital before leaving for Brighton. A further suicide attempt took place; this on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway near Lewes, and a further spell at Lewes prison before being transferred to Haywards Heath Lunatic Asylum. Six months after being admitted to the asylum, she was sent to Canada before heading to New York[4].

Assassination Attempt

In New York, she attempted to assassinate the notorious Irish Fenian leader Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa[a]; the Irish-man having been exiled for crimes including that of treason, with a revolver on the 2nd of February 1885. Approaching him on Chambers Street, she pulled out a five-chambered revolver and fired at him. Upon being hit, Rossa threw up his hands, exclaiming 'I'm hit' and fell to the ground. Dudley, proceeded to empty the gun, aiming at the prostrate figure, then calmly walked away. She was arrested by members of the public who had followed her shortly after. Upon being presented at a police station with the man who had apprehended her giving a brief statement, she uttered 'Yes, I shot O'Donovan Rossa' and appeared to be in command of all her faculties. Giving her name as Yseult Dudley and stating that she was a 24 year old widowed nurse from England, although from her appearance she did not appear to be much over the age of 18. When her motive for the shooting was enquired into, she merely stated that it was 'because I am an English-woman'[4].

References & Notes

  1. Ancestry Lucille Dudley
  2. The Case of Yseult Lucille Dudley Hein Online
  3. British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 7 February 1885 Pg. 0006
  4. a b The South Australian Register 14 Mar 1885