Glover (Betterton), Julia (Juliana) (1779/81–1850), actress, was born 8 February in Newry, Co. Down, in either 1779 or 1781. Both her parents, Thomas Betterton, a native of Dublin, who changed his name from Butterton for professional reasons, and his wife, formerly a Mrs Palmer, were actors. After a period working in Crow Street theatre, Dublin, her father returned to Newry in 1783 and opened his own theatre on Hill Street. Julia was trained for the stage by her parents from a very early age, and may have joined them in productions in Newry. Betterton's venture failed to make money and, having built up hefty debts by the winter of 1785, he fled with his family to Edinburgh, where they stayed for a year, and from there to York, where Julia may have appeared as Page in a production of Otway's ‘The orphan’ alongside Tate Wilkinson.
The Bettertons returned to Newry in 1792, and were engaged by the new management in their former theatre. Julia made her first definite appearance as an actress there on 20 July 1792, when, for her benefit, she played the young Prince Arthur in ‘King John’. This was followed by engagements in Drogheda and Crow Street. Father and daughter continued to tour after the death of Julia's mother in 1793, working in Waterford in March, Wexford in April, Kilkenny in June and July, and Galway, where they were employed until the end of October. She delivered primarily prologues, epilogues, recitations and entr'acte dances, and took boyish parts such as Captain Flash in ‘Miss in her teens’. Towards the end of the year they returned to Dublin, for appearances in the Capel Street theatre and subsequently in Crow Street.
On leaving Ireland in 1794, Julia performed extensively in Bristol and Bath, taking important roles such as Desdemona (opposite Henry Siddons as Othello) and Lady Macbeth. In 1797 she was engaged for five years on comfortable terms by Covent Garden, making her debut as Elwina in Hannah More's ‘Percy’ on 12 October 1797. Throughout the ensuing season she received excellent roles, including Portia in ‘The merchant of Venice’ in a royal performance on 3 November. She also played Miranda in ‘The busy body’, Lady Surrey in ‘England preserv'd’ and Eleanor de Ferrars in the premiere of Cumberland's ‘The eccentric lover’ on 30 April 1798. However, she did not become friends with the company's leading ladies, Mrs Pope and Mrs Abington. She also took on leading parts in comedies, such as Maria in Thomas Dibdin's ‘Five thousand a year’ in 1799.
After a five-year spell at Covent Garden, she was engaged by Drury Lane in 1802, where she made her debut on 21 October as Mrs Oakley in George Colman's ‘The jealous wife’. The remainder of her lengthy career was dominated by these two theatres, though she interspersed work for Thomas Dibdin's company at the Surrey theatre, the Strand, the Haymarket, the Queen's and the Olympic. Good-humoured, quick-tempered, and at times bitingly sarcastic, she was considered one of the foremost comic actresses of her generation. Among her most popular roles were Estifania, Mrs Malaprop, Mrs Subtle, and Mrs Heidelberg. In her later years, by which time she was dubbed the ‘Mother of the Stage’, she appeared in a long line of roles portraying old maids, dowagers, nurses and peasant women.
She appears to have become overweight in middle age, and in 1813 was described as being ‘monstrously fat’ by the artist Charles Robert Leslie. For much of her working life she was plagued by her father, who treated her appallingly and took the greater part of her earnings. She had hoped to marry a fellow actor, James Biggs, but he died in 1798. In 1800 her father gave her over to Samuel Glover in exchange for a bond of £1,000, which was never paid. She and Glover married on 20 March 1800, though it was not until the following May that she appeared professionally as Mrs Glover. The marriage was extremely unhappy. He too sought to live off her earnings, but circumstances were difficult, as the couple had eight children to maintain. Only four survived into adulthood. Three of her daughters, Georgina, Phyllis (d. 1831) and Mary (d. 1860), all took to the stage, as did her son Edmund (1813?–1860), while William Howard (1819–75) became a composer and conductor. In 1817 her husband sought to gain custody of the children to obtain her salary, but he failed and is said to have died in debt, in the Marshalsea prison. Despite grave illness, she made her farewell appearance, as Mrs Malaprop, at Drury Lane on 12 July 1850. She died four days later, and was buried in the church of St George the Martyr, Bloomsbury. Many likenesses of her were made, and her portrait (in pastels) by Samuel Drummond is at the Garrick Club, and another, by George Clint (exhibited at the RA in 1831), is preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum.