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Byron expected his baby to be a "glorious boy" and was disappointed when his wife gave birth to a girl. Augusta was named after Byron's half-sister, Augusta Leigh, and was called "Ada" by Byron himself.
On 16 January 1816 Ada's mother, Annabella, at Byron's behest, left for her parents' home at Kirkby Mallory taking one-month-old Ada with her. Although English law at the time gave fathers full custody of their children in cases of separation, Byron made no attempt to claim his parental rights but did request that his sister keep him informed of Ada's welfare. On 21 April Byron signed the Deed of Separation, although very reluctantly, and left England for good a few days later. Aside from an acrimonious separation, Annabella continually made allegations about Byron's immoral behaviour throughout her life.
This set of events made Ada famous in Victorian society. Byron did not have a relationship with his daughter, and never saw her again. He died in 1824 when she was eight years old. Her mother was the only significant parental figure in her life. Ada was not shown the family portrait of her father (covered in green shroud) until her twentieth birthday. Her mother became Baroness Wentworth in her own right in 1856.
Annabella did not have a close relationship with the young Ada and often left her in the care of her own mother Judith, Hon. Lady Milbanke who doted on her grandchild. However, because of societal attitudes of the timewhich favoured the husband in any separation, with the welfare of any child acting as mitigationAnnabella had to present herself as a loving mother to the rest of society. This included writing anxious letters to Lady Milbanke about Ada's welfare, with a cover note saying to retain the letters in case she had to use them to show maternal concern. In one letter to Lady Milbanke, she referred to Ada as "it": "I talk to it for your satisfaction, not my own, and shall be very glad when you have it under your own." In her teenage years, several of her mother's close friends watched Ada for any sign of moral deviation. Ada dubbed these observers the "Furies" and later complained they exaggerated and invented stories about her.
Ada was often ill, beginning in early childhood. At the age of eight, she experienced headaches that obscured her vision. In June 1829, she was paralysed after a bout of measles. She was subjected to continuous bed rest for nearly a year, which may have extended her period of disability. By 1831, she was able to walk with crutches. Despite being ill Ada developed her mathematical and technological skills. At age 12 this future "Lady Fairy", as Charles Babbage affectionately called her, decided she wanted to fly. Ada went about the project methodically, thoughtfully, with imagination and passion. Her first step, in February 1828, was to construct wings. She investigated different material and sizes. She considered various materials for the wings: paper, oilsilk, wires, and feathers. She examined the anatomy of birds to determine the right proportion between the wings and the body. She decided to write a book, Flyology, illustrating, with plates, some of her findings. She decided what equipment she would need; for example, a compass, to "cut across the country by the most direct road", so that she could surmount mountains, rivers, and valleys. Her final step was to integrate steam with the "art of flying".
In early 1833 Ada had an affair with a tutor and, after being caught, tried to elope with him. The tutor's relatives recognised her and contacted her mother. Annabella and her friends covered the incident up to prevent a public scandal. Ada never met her younger half-sister, Allegra, the daughter of Lord Byron and Claire Clairmont. Allegra died in 1822 at the age of five. Ada did have some contact with Elizabeth Medora Leigh, the daughter of Byron's half-sister Augusta Leigh, who purposely avoided Ada as much as possible when introduced at Court.