Grace Darling persuaded her father William, a lighthouse-keeper off the Northumberland coast, to let her help him rescue nine survivors from the wreck of the ‘Forfarshire’ in September 1838. Her heroic actions did not go unnoticed by the Victorian public.
THE Duke of Northumberland wrote to the Duke of Wellington, Master of Trinity House, describing Grace’s part in the rescue.*
The hero of Waterloo sent father and daughter £10 each, with two gold medals from the Royal Humane Society, and to cap it all there was £50 from Queen Victoria herself.
Well-wishers crowded Alnwick and its Castle to see the presentations made, and amidst all the celebrity Grace remained her unassuming self.
But as the fan-mail, product endorsements, donations and invitations to appear in public (including a circus) flooded in from all over the country, the attention became suffocating.
Weighing up the motives behind every request, guilt over each one she declined, mountains of correspondence, day-trippers banging thoughtlessly on her door – it all overwhelmed Grace, whose natural home was solitude.
Her father and the Duke of Northumberland tried to shield her, but the public was pitiless. Grace’s health was increasingly affected, and she passed away on 20th October 1842, aged 26.
* Trinity House (The Corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strond) was and still is a private corporation, governed under Royal Charter, with immediate oversight of lighthouses in England, Wales and the Channel Islands.