Lady Elizabeth Hatton was the toast of 17th Century London society. The widowed daughter-in-law of the famous merchant Sir Christopher Hatton (one-time consort of Queen Elizabeth 1), Lady Elizabeth was young, beautiful and very wealthy. Her suitors were many and varied, and included a leading London Bishop and a prominent European Ambassador. Invitations to her soirees in Hatton Garden were much sought after.
Her Annual Winter Ball, on January 26, 1662, was one of the highlights of the London social season. Halfway through the evening’s festivities, the doors to Lady Hatton’s grand ballroom were flung open. In strode a swarthy gentleman, slightly hunched of shoulder, with a clawed right hand. He took her by the hand, danced her once around the room and out through the double doors into the garden. A buzz of gossip arose. Would Lady Elizabeth and the European Ambassador (for it was he) kiss and make up, or would she return alone? Neither was to be. The next morning her body was found in the cobblestone courtyard – torn limb from limb, with her heart still pumping blood onto the cobblestones. Henceforth, the yard was to be known as The Bleeding Heart Yard.
Charles Dickens and the Bleeding Heart
Charles Dickens knew Bleeding Heart well. In ‘Little Dorrit’ he wrote of folks in the yard, saying ‘The more practical of the Yard’s inmates abided by the tradition of the murder’. But he went on to document another Bleeding Heart story: ‘The gentler and more imaginative inhabitants, including the whole of the tender sex, were loyal to the legend of a young lady imprisoned in her own chamber by a cruel father for remaining true to her own true lover – but it was objected to by the murderous party that this was the invention of a spinster and romantic, still lodging in the Yard’.
Today the Bleeding Heart’s long–established and extremely popular French Restaurant offers superb food in historical surroundings within the centre of London. It takes its name from the yard where it is located which, according to the history books, was named after a 17th century beauty, Lady Elizabeth Hatton, who was found murdered there. The warm, wood-panelled Restaurant is an ideal venue for both an important business lunch (customers cross the City of London for its famed Cheeseboard) and for a romantic ‘diner a deux’ – it was voted by ‘The Times’ as the most romantic restaurant in London.
Bleeding Heart’s French Restaurant is the flagship of the group, which offers modern French food, ‘impeccable service’, an award-winning ‘encyclopaedic’ wine list and above all a uniquely welcoming ambience.