Frances Elizabeth Cowper, the youngest daughter of Earl Peter Leopold Louis and Lady Emily Lamb Cowper, was born in London, England on February 9, 1820. When she was 17, her father died, and Mrs. Cowper subsequently married Henry John Temple, known as the Viscount Palmerton. Her stepfather was a trusted confidant of Queen Victoria, and this royal affiliation led to a lasting association with the royal family. Twenty-one-year-old Lady Frances, known as ‘Fanny’ by her family and friends, married Viscount Robert Jocelyn on April 27, 1841. Settled on the Jocelyn estate in Northern Ireland, the ambitious young Viscount was elected to various parliamentary posts. Meanwhile, Viscountess Jocelyn served as a member of the royal court, and received the title Extra Woman of the Bedchamber in 1842. The busy couple had six children, two of whom died in infancy.
By 1853, Viscount Jocelyn was now Lieutenant-Colonel Jocelyn, and while stationed with his unit in the Tower of London, he contracted cholera. When he died on August 12, 1854, the widow and her children returned to England to live with her mother and stepfather. Within a few years, she moved her family to the picturesque White Rock Villa estate, near the seaside village of St Leonards-on-Sea, and sought to capture the stunning landscape in photographs. It is believed Lady Jocelyn received her initial instruction from amateur photographer (and Royal Court member) Lord Dudley de Ros, Dr. Ernest Becker, and Royal Photographic Society member Graham Vivian. Within a few years, she was an active member of both the RPS and Amateur Photographic Association. One of her landscapes received an honorable mention at the International Exhibition, and her collodion works, “Four Views of Broadlands” and “Groups and Landscapes” received enthusiastic receptions when exhibited. However, unlike professional nineteenth-century photographers who regarded themselves as creative artists, she had no qualms about freely borrowing from commercial designs or adding watercolors to enhance her photographs.
Throughout the 1860s and 1870s, Lady Jocelyn produced six photographic albums that featured imaginative montages celebrating family life, using circles and diamonds to symbolize familial love and loyalty. However, in her “Drawing Room” photograph, the manipulation of light and shadow suggests feminine confinement within the domestic space. As the shadowed woman looks out the brightly lit window, there is conveyed an imprisonment within the household walls, with only a glimpse of the freedom that lurked beyond.
As author and art historian Eugenia Parry Janis has observed, the photographic collages created by aristocratic women like Lady Jocelyn reveal the “psychological directness” that reflects their family lives. Medical maladies dogged the Jocelyn family, as Fanny’s surviving children each succumbed to tuberculosis. This succession of tragedies may have inspired one of Lady Jocelyn’s most famous collages, which features her as a ‘bulls-eye’ target that comes in close proximity to surrounding arrows. With her own health now failing as well, Lady Jocelyn settled in Cannes, France, in the late 1870s. She died quietly in the resort town on March 24, 1880 at the age of 60. Several of her photographic albums are currently housed within the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.
2013 Capturing the Light by Roger Watson and Helen Rappaport (New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press), pp. 249-250.
2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 775-777.
2019 Lady Frances (Fanny) Elizabeth Jocelyn (1820-1880) (URL: https://www.photohistory-sussex.co.uk/HastingsJocelyn.htm).
2019 Norman Point, Going into Jersey, 2nd September 1846: Frances Elizabeth Jocelyn (URL: https://www.watercolourworld.org/painting/norman-point-going-jersey-tww003c47).
2010 Playing with Pictures (URL://https://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2010/02/04/arts/20100205-VICTORIAN_index/s/20100205-VICTORIAN_slide9.html).
2007 Very Important Photographs from the European, American and Australian Photography Collection 1840s-1940s by Anne O’Hehir (URL: https://nga.gov.au/vip).
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