Bellamy, George Anne (1731?–1788), actress, was born in Fingal, Co. Dublin, illegitimate daughter of James O'Hara (qv), 2nd baron of Tyrawley, then British ambassador to Lisbon, and a Miss Seal, an actress of quaker extraction from Kent. Her mother married a sea-captain named Bellamy after her affair with Tyrawley ended; however, that relationship broke up soon after George Anne's birth, the date of which is uncertain. She claimed it was 1733, later citing 1731 when making an application for life assurance; however, it may have been as early as 1728. Educated at her father's expense in an Ursuline convent in Boulogne (during which time her mother, now Mrs Walter, resumed her acting career in Dublin and London), at the age of 11 she settled in London. She lived for some time with her father, who appears to have taken an interest in her, introducing her to Lord Chesterfield (qv) and Alexander Pope. After his appointment as ambassador to Russia she alienated him by going to live with her mother, thus forfeiting a £100 annuity. There she became familiar with actors such as Thomas Sheridan (qv), Peg Woffington (qv), and David Garrick. One of her earliest performances was alongside Garrick in an informal staging of ‘The distrest mother’ in the spring of 1743, in which she played Andromache. She ignored her performances as a servant in ‘Harlequin barber’ (20 April 1741) and as Miss Prue in ‘Love for love’ (27 March 1742) in claiming to have made her Covent Garden debut in 1744, when she performed as Monimia alongside James Quin (qv) in ‘The orphan’. Quin initially felt her abilities inadequate for the part, but the opening night (22 November) was deemed a success after she recovered from her initial stage fright. She went on to have a successful season at Covent Garden, alternating between tragedy and comedy.
In 1745 she was recruited by Sheridan for Dublin's Smock Alley, where she acted with Sheridan, Spranger Barry (qv), and Garrick in the celebrated 1745–6 season. After making her debut there, again in ‘The orphan’ (11 November 1745), she secured a variety of parts, notably Cordelia, Desdemona, Imoinda (‘Oroonoko’), and the title role in ‘Jane Shore’. From her own accounts she also triumphed in petty conflicts over casting with Garrick and costumes with Mrs Furnival. Remaining in Dublin for the next season, she added Portia, Beatrice, Lady Townly, and Estinfania (‘Rule a wife’) to her repertoire, but was most successful headlining with Sheridan in a hugely popular production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (December 1746). Such popularity was evidently maintained throughout the following year, as to meet the demand for tickets for her autumn benefit extra seating was arranged on the stage. Financial disagreements with Sheridan led her to return to Covent Garden for the 1748–9 season, where she saw continuing success in roles such as Lady Froth, Lady Fanciful, and Belvidera.
Popular, fashionable, and a favourite with the aristocracy (her memoirs include a somewhat fantastic account of her abduction by the 5th Lord Byron) she led a notoriously extravagant life. In 1750 she was engaged by Garrick as Drury Lane's leading lady. They began the season (29 September) with a production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, famously coinciding with the launch of Barry and Mrs Cibber in the same roles at Covent Garden. While the Drury Lane production had the longer run, critics were undecided as to who was the better Juliet (Garrick himself being pleasantly surprised by her performance), one reviewer writing ‘For my own part, I shed more tears in seeing Mrs Cibber, but I am more delighted in seeing Miss Bellamy’ (Highfill, 12). At the very height of her popularity, her poor health, heavy gambling, and chaotic private life began to take its toll. She was the subject of gossip around London; in May 1751 the press falsely reported her death. Back at Covent Garden from 1753, she indulged in furious rows with colleagues, most notably over costumes with Woffington during a production of ‘The rival queens’ (1756). Their off-stage scuffle, seen by much of the audience, was satirised by Samuel Foote in ‘The green room squabble; or, a battle royal between the queen of Babylon and the daughter of Darius’. Her 1757 performance as Lady Macbeth proved a disappointment, as did her 1760–61 return to Smock Alley, mainly because Dublin audiences were highly critical of her altered looks. After a period in Edinburgh (1762–4), she returned to Covent Garden, where in 1769 her wardrobe was valued at £106, the highest in the company. Having relied on her looks, in later years she found it increasingly difficult to secure roles and was continually in debt. After a lengthy absence from the stage she gave her last performance at Covent Garden, playing Alicia in ‘Jane Shore’ (1780). Her last public appearance came on 24 May 1785, when she attended her benefit at Drury Lane. That year also saw her publish her memoirs, probably ghosted by Alexander Bicknell. Her private life was dominated by (Sir) George Metham, the politician John Calcraft, and actors West Digges and Henry Woodward. She had children by Metham and Calcraft, and in 1763 married Digges; however, the marriage was illegal, as he had a wife living. Her last years were troubled by constant debt. Surviving on loans and gifts, she died in poverty in London 16 February 1788. Among the portraits of Bellamy are those by F. Lindo (Garrick Club), Benjamin Wilson (c.1751–2) as Juliet to Garrick's Romeo (private collection), and F. Cotes as ‘the comic muse’.