Joseph Grimaldi (18 December 1778 – 31 May 1837), the most celebrated of English clowns. Grimaldi's performances made the Clown character the central character in British harlequinades.
Grimaldi was born in Clare Market, London, the son of an Italian, Signor Joseph 'Iron Legs' Grimaldi, ballet-master at the Drury Lane and Rebecca Brooker, a dancer in the theatre's corps de ballet. Grimaldi's father died when he was nine, and plunged the family into debt. When less than two years old, he was introduced to the stage at Drury Lane; at the age of three, he began to appear at the Sadler's Wells theatre.
As a young man, Grimaldi fell in love and married the daughter of the principal proprietor of Sadler's Wells. Maria Grimaldi died in childbirth 18 months after their marriage. He found solace in performance, and eventually married again, to Mary. A son, Joseph Samuel Grimaldi was born and entered the profession, but drank himself to death by the age of thirty.