Rivalry, Camaraderie and the Prima Donnas: Elizabeth Billington & Gertrude Mara

Research output: Contributions to books, editions, reports or conference proceedingsChapterpeer-review


Prima donnas rivalries were common sources of discussion within the press throughout the eighteenth century. They frequently formed a discourse where the two leading ladies were subject to gossip about their personal antagonisms as well as their vocal talents being constantly compared. Yet, aspiring leading ladies could be motivated to encourage such rivalries as it generated media attention, which had the power to secure roles and position within the theatre. This article will focus on the rivalry of Elizabeth Billington (1765-1818) and Gertrude Mara (1749-1833) who both showed much professional respect for one another, despite their vocal talents being constantly compared. Their camaraderie allowed them to maintain professionalism and benefit from various staged events that spurred the rivalry on. Thus, Billington and Mara are key examples of two prima donnas who were not passive in the fabrication of their rivalry, but deliberately assisted in its careful construction.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationExploring the Lives of Women, 1558–1837
EditorsLouise Duckling, Sara Read, Felicity Roberts, Carolyn D. Williams
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPen and Sword
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9781526744975
Publication statusPublished or Performed - 19 Nov 2018