Audrey Tennyson née Boyle, wife of Hallam Tennyson, is one of the many women with a fascinating past overshadowed by that of her husband.
Like many women, Audrey’s history is one that has all but vanished, unconsciously written out of history by the online bias towards recording the lives of men over and above those of women (in 2015 only 15% of the biography pages on Wikipedia were about women, noticeably Audrey Tennyson doesn’t have her own Wikipedia page).
Audrey Boyle grew up in Cape Town and Mauritius during the first part of the 19th Century, her family were international, with her brothers and family spread across the world. Her brother Lionel Boyle lived in Manitoba, Canada as well as Buenos Aires before settling in London. Her brother Mordaunt fought as part of the relief force for General Gordon in Khartoum and was eventually killed whilst in Egypt. Similarly, her brother Cecil fought in the Boer War in South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal, and, like Mordaunt, was killed in action whilst abroad.
Artistic and literary, Audrey Boyle first met Alfred, Lord Tennyson at the house of the painter G.F. Watts, and was invited to visit Farringford, where she met Hallam. When Hallam was offered the position of the Governor General in Australia, it has been widely commented that Audrey encouraged him to accept. Used to an expatriate life, and clearly possessing a thirst for travel, Audrey was excited to move to Adelaide, taking her children with her, despite the risks of travelling and living abroad in that period.
Her role in the community in Australia was active, and she was most notably responsible for funding and patronising the building of a maternity hospital for women giving birth in the outback, which she named after Queen Victoria.
When she returned to Farringford, she once more took on an energetic role, often writing for Tennyson as he was more and more frequently inflicted by gout and rheumatism. This role perhaps sums Audrey Tennyson up above all others, for her hand and help was necessary in much of the activity of the family, whilst often remaining invisible.