Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match

Wendy Moore

Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match

When Mary Eleanor Bowes, the Countess of Strathmore, was abducted in Oxford Street in broad daylight in 1786, the whole country was riveted to news of the pursuit. The only daughter of a wealthy coal magnate, Mary Eleanor had led a charmed youth. Precocious and intelligent, she enjoyed a level of education usually reserved for the sons of the aristocracy. Mary was only eleven when her beloved father died, making her the richest heiress in Britain, and she was soon beset by eager suitors. Her marriage, at eighteen, to the beautiful but aloof Earl of Strathmore, was one of the society weddings of the year. With the death of the earl some eight years later, Mary re-entered society with relish and her salons became magnets for leading Enlightenment thinkers - as well as a host of new suitors. Mary soon fell under the spell of a handsome Irish soldier, Andrew Robinson Stoney, but scandalous rumours were quick to spread. Swearing to defend her honour, Mary's gallant hero was mortally wounded in a duel - his dying wish that he might marry Mary. Within hours of the ceremony, he seemed to be in the grip of a miraculous recovery. Wedlock tells the story of one eighteenth-century woman's experience of a brutal marriage, and her fight to regain her liberty and justice. Subjected to appalling violence, deception, kidnap and betrayal, the life of Mary Eleanor Bowes is a remarkable tale of triumph in the face of overwhelming odds. 4.1 out of 5 based on 6 reviews
Wedlock: How Georgian Britain's Worst Husband Met His Match

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Biography, History
Format Hardback
Pages 376
RRP £18.99
Date of Publication January 2009
ISBN 978-0297853312
Publisher Weidenfeld & Nicolson
 

When Mary Eleanor Bowes, the Countess of Strathmore, was abducted in Oxford Street in broad daylight in 1786, the whole country was riveted to news of the pursuit. The only daughter of a wealthy coal magnate, Mary Eleanor had led a charmed youth. Precocious and intelligent, she enjoyed a level of education usually reserved for the sons of the aristocracy. Mary was only eleven when her beloved father died, making her the richest heiress in Britain, and she was soon beset by eager suitors. Her marriage, at eighteen, to the beautiful but aloof Earl of Strathmore, was one of the society weddings of the year. With the death of the earl some eight years later, Mary re-entered society with relish and her salons became magnets for leading Enlightenment thinkers - as well as a host of new suitors. Mary soon fell under the spell of a handsome Irish soldier, Andrew Robinson Stoney, but scandalous rumours were quick to spread. Swearing to defend her honour, Mary's gallant hero was mortally wounded in a duel - his dying wish that he might marry Mary. Within hours of the ceremony, he seemed to be in the grip of a miraculous recovery. Wedlock tells the story of one eighteenth-century woman's experience of a brutal marriage, and her fight to regain her liberty and justice. Subjected to appalling violence, deception, kidnap and betrayal, the life of Mary Eleanor Bowes is a remarkable tale of triumph in the face of overwhelming odds.

Reviews

The Daily Telegraph

Michael Arditti

Moore can scarcely conceal her indignation as she catalogues the horrors to which he subjected his wife. These range from petty cruelties, such as releasing hares to destroy her beloved flowers, through sexual humiliations, such as sleeping with his son’s wet nurse in the marital bedroom, to brutal tortures, such as beating her, burning her and threatening to incarcerate her in an asylum... This splendid book, well researched and richly detailed, is as gripping as a novel.

16/01/2009

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The Times

Sarah Vine

Stoney is the dark star of this tale... Nevertheless, Moore's cool-headed pen does not allow this undeniably charismatic figure to become an antihero. In spite of his repulsive passions... in life Stoney retained a coterie of loyal allies who seemed to view his behaviour as little more than high spirits. Moore is having none of this. It is almost as if she has made it her personal mission to erase any trace of glamour from this man's memory, and to present him not only as a loathsome toad, but as a model for all loathsome toads... [A] fine book.

09/01/2009

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The Financial Times

George Pendle

Wedlock often reads like a cross between Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and the Gothic horrors so popular at that time. Entertainingly digressive and rigorously researched, the book’s only fault is that the litany of abuses can become exhausting.

19/01/2009

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The Guardian

Lydia Syson

Fortunately Moore resists the temptation to make her material read like fiction...Wedlock is set in immaculate historical context, allowing new insights into events that have been well picked over by a prurient public. Recovering from the archives every complexity of her subjects' lives and legal embroilments, Moore has meticulously constructed an ever more compelling tale.

24/01/2009

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The Independent

Marianne Brace

Wendy Moore whips along a story crammed with corrupt surgeons, questionable chaplains, fallen women and gossips... [She] helpfully contextualises everything, from duelling etiquette to procuring abortions and the changing nature of marriage. Whereas traditional arranged marriages were concerned to form alliances and protect bloodlines, during the 18th century the idea of love began to figure – something blamed on the arrival of the novel.

16/01/2009

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The Sunday Times

Sarah Bakewell

Moore makes a gripping narrative of all this, and does her best to make us care about a dispiriting set of characters. The real heroes are the servants who risked everything to help a vulnerable woman: we repeatedly see them taking charge of situations, testifying in court, sharing their homes, and behaving with both courage and compassion.

01/02/2009

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