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Garrick, Eva Maria

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The future wife of David Garrick, Eva Maria Veigel, was born in Vienna on 29 February 1724, the daughter of Johann Veigel and his wife Eva Maria Rosina. After early training in ballet, by the age of ten she was dancing with the Imperial Ballet in Vienna and came under the protection of the Court. Having adopted the professional name of ‘Violette,’ she was engaged for the Italian company at the King’s Theatre in London. After an adventurous journey during which for some reason she was disguised as a young man, she made her debut at the King’s on 11 March 1746 dancing in the opera “Artamene” and causing a small sensation by showing in a caper ‘a neat pair of black velvet breeches.’ Soon she became quite popular on and off stage, attracting the attention of the Prince of Wales, Horace Walpole, and eventually the protection of the Earl and Countess of Burlington, who took her into Burlington House. It was rumoured, incorrectly, that Burlington was her father. She danced for the first time at Drury Lane on 3 December 1746. That season young David Garrick was at Covent Garden, but he became manager of Drury Lane in the autumn of 1747 and began to pursue Eva Maria with determination. They were married on 22 June 1749 in the Reverend Thomas Francklin’s Chapel near Russell Street, and on the same day were married again, this time according to the rites of the Catholic Church, at the Chapel of the Portuguese Embassy in South Audley Street. Eva Maria gave up her dancing career to be Davy’s faithful companion, enjoying his fame and fortune and the amiable social life it brought them. Their affectionate and tranquil relationship was ended by his death in 1779. Mrs Garrick lived on for another 43 years, living at their house on the Adelphi Terrace and their villa on the river in Hampton, until her death on 16 October 1822 at the former. She was buried next to David in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey. The Garricks had no children. Her late years were spent in correspondence and caring for her husband’s estate and reputation. Toward the end of her life she was described as ‘a little bowed-down old woman, who went about leaning on a gold-headed cane, dressed in deep widow’s mourning, and always talking of her dear Davy.’ Details of her informative will are given in the BDA (6: 111-112), as is a list of 21 portraits, including the three in the Garrick Club.
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