Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761–1804) was born into slavery as the natural daughter of Maria Belle, an enslaved African woman in the West Indies, and Sir John Lindsay, a British career naval officer who was stationed there. He was later knighted and promoted to admiral. Lindsay took Belle with him when he returned to England in 1765, entrusting her raising to his uncle William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, and his wife Elizabeth Murray, Countess of Mansfield. The Murrays educated Belle, bringing her up as a free gentlewoman at their Kenwood House, together with their niece, Lady Elizabeth Murray, whose mother had died. Belle lived there for 30 years. In his will of 1793, Lord Mansfield confirmed her freedom and provided an outright sum and an annuity to her, making her an heiress. In these years, her great-uncle, in his capacity as Lord Chief Justice, ruled in two significant slavery cases, finding in 1772 that slavery had no precedent in common law in England, and had never been authorized under positive law. This was taken as the formal end of slavery in Britain. In the Zong massacre, a case related to the slave trade, he narrowly ruled that the owners of the ship were not due insurance payments for the loss of slaves they had thrown overboard during a voyage, as their killing appeared to be related to errors by the officers.
Dido Elizabeth Belle