Wilmot, Katherine (c.1773–1824), traveller and diarist, was eldest daughter among three sons and six daughters of Edward Wilmot (1747–1815), army captain in the 40th Regiment of Foot, stationed in Cork, and his wife Martha, daughter of the Rev. Charles Moore, rector of Innishannon, Co. Cork. After his marriage (1771) Edward Wilmot retired from the army to be port surveyor in Drogheda, Co. Louth; later, he moved to Cork. The family lived in Glanmire, not far from Moore Park, the seat of the Mountcashells. Katherine, who had become a friend of Lady Mountcashell, joined the Mountcashells on their tour of Europe in 1801. On the way through France and Italy the group took part in social gatherings, mixing with representatives of all shades of political opinion. Katherine's letters home give an unbiased account of all met and seen – in France November 1801–October 1802, and in Italy until July 1803. Katherine observes that the Bonaparte court resembles that of the ancien régime. She notes idiosyncrasies of character and dress. She assesses as found – Napoleon gets favourable notice, not so Talleyrand (1754–1838); Robert Emmett (qv), met fleetingly in a private house (13 March 1802), is portrayed with sympathy. From Rome comes a vivid picture of Frederick Augustus Hervey (qv), earl bishop of Derry, with his entourage. She recounts an audience with Pope Pius VII and a visit to the cardinal duke of York (1725–1807). When England and France resumed hostilities Katherine left the Mountcashell party in Italy and travelled back through Germany, sailing from Husum, Denmark (1 September), landing at Southwold (19 September), and arriving back in London in October 1803.
In August 1803 her sister Martha (qv) had gone to Russia to stay with Princess Dashcova (1743–1810) at her estate in Troitskoe. With the intention of accompanying Martha home, Katherine, with her maid Eleanor Cavanagh, left Cork 5 June 1805, and reached Russia 4 August. As members of Princess Dashcova's household, both sisters became acquainted with the customs of the Russian élite in St Petersburg and Moscow and those of the Russian country folk – festivities and religious rites. Katherine describes the extravagant opulence of the aristocracy, fears the consequences of the absolute power wielded by the nobles over the servile classes, and wonders at the Russians’ expressing fear and hatred of France yet adhering to French modes and manners. Katherine departed from Moscow 4 July 1807. Delayed because of passport problems on land, and wars and storms at sea, she finally reached Yarmouth 7 September 1807. Katherine returned to Ireland in October 1807. Some years after, she moved to France and settled in Moulins, to avoid the damp climate of England and Ireland. When her health deteriorated further she moved to Paris, where she died 28 March 1824.
She had taken home from Russia Martha's transcript of the Princess Dashcova's memoirs, which was published in 1840 by Martha, who had to burn the princess's original manuscript when leaving Russia in 1808. Katherine's letters awaited publication for more than a century. They show a unique picture of the Napoleonic period – bringing the social scene to life, also the pleasures, irritations, and dangers of travel by coach and ship. Her family knew their worth and made transcriptions of them. Thus treasured, a few collections survive. Those held by Martha were given to the library of the RIA by Elisabeth Lecky (née van Dedem), widow of the historian W. E. H. Lecky (qv), whose family was connected with the Wilmots. Among the letters from Russia are a few written by Eleanor Cavanagh, describing the lives of the house servants.
A portrait of Katherine, painted in Russia by an unknown artist, was in the possession of Ms Janet Adam (great-great-great-grand-niece) in 1992.