Yolande Lyne Stephens, née Duvernay (1812–1894)

Antoine Watteau, La Gamme d’Amour (The Scale of Love) (NG 2897)

Yolande Marie Louise Duvernay was born at Versailles in December 1812. Her father was an actor, as had been her mother as a young woman. The family moved to Paris when Yolande was six, and she then studied dance for the next twelve years. Her first leading role, under the name Pauline Duvernay, was in Meyerbeer’s opera Robert le Diable performed at the Opéra de Paris in 1831.1 She was greatly admired both as a dancer and as a woman, one contemporary later describing her as ‘one of the most ravishing women you could wish to see; she was twenty years old, had charming eyes, an admirably turned leg, and a figure of perfect elegance’.2 In 1833 she performed at the Theatre Royal, London, where the young William Makepeace Thackeray described her as a ‘vision of loveliness’.3 She returned to London the following year and formed a relationship with Edward Ellice, the son of a Cabinet minister. However, she soon returned to Paris and to her previous lover, Louis Véron, director of the Opéra, who described her as a melancholic who frequently burst into tears.4 Abandoned by him, and then in 1835 by her subsequent lover, the marquis de La Valette, by whom she seems to have had a child, she made two suicide attempts at the end of that year.5 In 1836–7 she performed in London where she was paid £600 a month (the equivalent of some £50,000 today).6 In her celebrated role as Florinda in the ballet, Le Diable boiteux, she was the subject of a number of portrait prints.7

It was during her third and last London season in 1837 that Yolande met Stephens Lyne Stephens (1801–1860), whose father had inherited a substantial fortune from a cousin.8 Lyne Stephens was briefly an officer in the 10th Hussars, but saw no active service, and was even more briefly MP for Barnstaple.9 His preference, however, was for a life of leisure on the back of his father’s fortune.10 With the help of his friend, the comte d’Orsay, Lyne Stephens negotiated for Yolande’s favours: her mother received a one-off payment of £8,000, and she herself an allowance of £2,000 per annum for two years, convertible into a lifetime annuity from January 1840, on condition that she remained faithful during the two-year period. After a period of living together at Lyne Stephens’s father’s house in Portman Square, London, he and Yolande married on 14 July 1845, and honeymooned in France and Italy. Four years later they moved into Grove House, Roehampton (now part of the University of Roehampton), in Surrey. Lyne Stephens’s father died in 1851 leaving him an annual income of £3 million in today’s values, making him allegedly the richest commoner in England.11 In the years that followed he remodelled Grove House and had by early 1856 bought the hôtel Molé (formerly the hôtel de La Vaupalière) at 85 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris.12 He also started to have built a country mansion at Lynford Hall (sometimes called Lynsford Hall), Mundford, near Thetford in Norfolk, on an estate of nearly 8,000 acres.13


I am grateful to Lorne Campbell and Jenifer Roberts for their suggestions made while I was preparing this note.

1 Guest 2008, p. 208.

2 Cited in Roberts 2003 (p. 254), from which much of this account of Yolande Lyne Stephens’s life is derived.

3 Ibid., p. 255. For other portraits of Yolande Duvernay, see Bonhams, Oxford, 17 March 2010, lot 239 (a three-quarter-length oil on canvas portrait by Edouard Louis Dubufe, signed and dated 1853); and Bonhams, London, 18 January 2012, lot 244 (a three-quarter-length pastel portrait by Antonin-Marie Moine).

4 Véron 1853–5, vol. 3, p. 302. Véron, however, had a high regard for her acting ability: ibid., p. 286.

5 Jenifer Roberts has advised me that, for her book The Beauty of her Age: A Tale of Sex, Scandal and Money in Victorian England, London 2016, she undertook further research (since writing Glass, cited in note 2), which indicates that Yolande did not miscarry, as Roberts had previously thought, but probably had two children, one when she was a young ballet pupil, and the other with the marquis de La Valette, and that she might have given them away (email of 18 February 2016).

6 See MeasuringWorth website (www.measuringworth.com).

7 A number of other prints of Duvernay performing are known, including one by Richard James Lane after Alfred Edward Chalon, London, National Portrait Gallery, inv. D22379.

8 Her last stage performance was on 19 August 1837 as Jenifer Roberts kindly informed me.

9 In 1830–1, as a Tory.

10 Roberts 2003, pp. 232–3.

11 Ibid., p. 275.

12 The hôtel de La Vaupalière was built between 1768 and 1775 by Louis-Marie Colignon, architect and property developer, and was initially rented by Pierre-Charles-Etienne Maignart, marquis de La Vaupalière (1731–1792). In 1843 it was bought by Charlotte Lalive de La Briche, wife of comte Mathieu Louis Molé, President of the Council of Ministers under Louis-Philippe. It was inherited by one of his granddaughters, the wife of Charles de Noailles, duc d’Ayen, who sold it in 1856 to Stephens Lyne Stephens. After his death, Yolande had the building facing the road (which contained shops) demolished, and had the architect Révillot build a small hôtel, initially no. 85 bis, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, before it became no. 87. She sold both hôtels in 1875. The building’s courtyard facade was modified in the nineteenth century, and the building divided into two in the twentieth century. The entrance is now at 

13 For an account, and photographs of, Lynford Hall nine years after Yolande Lyne Stephens’s death, since which event no changes to the exterior were noted, see Lynford Hall 1903. The anonymous author writes (p. 762): ‘There is a good deal that is French in the style of this splendid metal-work [of the long ornamental grille on the approach to the house], as elsewhere in the house and gardens, but an effort was made to use local materials wherever possible.’ See also Cocke 2011.

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