Elizabeth le Blond (1860-1934)
An unstoppable Victorian adventuress who pioneered mountaineering, photography and film-making.
Lizzie Le Blond, born Elizabeth Hawkins-Whitshed in Ireland, was the daughter of a baronet. Though she inherited the family wealth and estate, Lizzie did not choose a traditional aristocratic life.
She briefly joined London society aged 18, married a dashing army officer Captain Fred Burnaby and had a son, but the marriage did not last long. Lizzie was troubled by lung problems and moved to Switzerland in search of a cure. It was here that she developed a taste for mountaineering. Though she did wear a demure skirt to climb, Lizzie’s choice of activity and outfits were scandalous to her titled Victorian family.
The spectacular Alpine scenery inspired Lizzie to take up photography, and she wrote and illustrated a number of books about climbing. Her lifelong interest in the sport led her to make over 100 ascents, including 20 first ascents of peaks in the Alps and Norway. She also help set up the Ladies Alpine Club.
Lizzie married again after Burnaby was killed in action, but her relationship with engineering professor John Main was equally short-lived. However, her third marriage to Aubrey Le Blond in 1900 seems to have been much more successful. She travelled widely with Aubrey, taking photos and writing. She was also one of the first women to go into film-making, shooting a series of highly-regarded short films in Switzerland.
Lizzie had already lived a remarkable life by the time the First World War broke out. She volunteered in France, and was awarded the Cross of the Legion d’Honneur for her work as a nurse, fundraiser and campaigner for Anglo-French understanding during and after the war.