Fanny Fust (born in Bristol in 1764) was the only surviving child of Denton Fust, and a niece of Sir John Fust. She was descended from “the celebrated John [Johann] Fust, the [German] inventor of printing” and was the heiress to Sir John’s vast fortune, including his estate at Hill Court in Gloucestershire. She was mentally disabled and incapable of managing her own affairs.
This did not stop Henry Bowerman, with the help of his confederates, carrying her off to Belgium in 1787 in order to marry her. The marriage was annulled in the court of Doctors Commons and the Lord Chancellor put Fanny’s finances into the hands of a committee.
Fanny died in 1827, aged 68, having been cared for by her cousin Flora Langley, who inherited her property and changed her surname to Fust.
More details about the Fanny Fust case here: The Curious Case of Miss Fanny Fust (BBC) – 8 December 2017
On Wednesday Mr. Mingay moved the court of King’s Bench, for a rule to shew cause why an information should not be filed, by the master of the Crown Office, against Henry Pawlet Bowerman, Matthew Willick, esq., and his wife and the two Miss Paynes, for conspiring to carry off Miss Fust, a rich heiress of Herefordshire.
This young lady, just turned of 21, appears to be the niece of Sir John Fust, upon whose death she becomes entitled to an estate of £2000 per annum, and is also possessed of a very considerable fortune derived from the death of her father. From her infancy, however, she has labored under so unfortunate an imbecility of mind, that it was necessary a confidential servant should be placed over her, to superintend, and in a great measure to direct her actions. Upon this rich prize H. P. Bowerman had for some time meditated an essay of gallantry and had, in some measure, found opportunities of breathing love-tales into her unsuspecting ear; but the jealous eyes by which she was hourly watched, obstructed their frequency, and prevented the courtship from rising to its full maturity. Despairing, therefore, of enjoying the rich harvest of his assiduities by the regular and gradual approach of the lover, he determined by one vigorous effort of dauntless gallantry to carry her off. For this purpose, Mr Bowerman made himself agreeable in the family of Mrs Payne, who was upon terms of familiar intimacy with the mother and aunt of the rich heiress; and the Miss Paynes, with a disposition natural to the young and lively of the sex, were soon induced to listen to the scheme.
Soon after the three ladies arrived at Mrs Payne’s Mr Bowerman made his appearance; and shortly after that a post-chaise and four horses drove up to the door. It did not appear whether during the short interval which followed, Miss Fust was prevailed upon to accompany her hero, or whether she reluctantly entered the chaise; but Mr Bowerman, by some means, drove furiously away with the lady.
The lady’s family, alarmed at the length of her visit, sent an escort to fetch her home. The elopement was thus discovered; alarm took place, enquiries were made, scouts were instantly dispatched round the country, but no tidings could be obtained. Soon afterwards, however, certain intelligence was received of their being on the road to France.
One of the judges of the King’s Bench, on being applied to granted a habeas corpus, but before the officer had got half his journey, to execute the writ, Mr Bowerman, his brother, one of the Miss Paynes, and the lady eloping, were landed, as they thought, with security, upon the French shore; these endeavours to recover the person of Miss Fust from the possession of her paramour proving abortive, new measures for the purpose were immediately and vigorously adopted.
Mr. Lewis, the law agent employed for the family of the Fusts, procured letters to the Duke of Dorset, the English ambassador at Versailles, stating the particulars of the transaction, and requesting his immediate interposition. His industry, assisted by the representations of the Duke of Dorset, procured an edict from the French king, to seize the young lady in any part of his dominions. They were found at Lisle; but Bowerman resisted the order of the king, claimed possession of the lady, as his true and lawful wife, and solemnly declared that they had been deliberately married at Tournay; Mr Lewis’s clerk immediately went to Tournay to enquire into the truth of Mr Bowerman’s story; and he there learnt that the monks of every convent in the place had been very seriously applied to by the parties to perform the holy office, but that they had una voce refused it.
In consequence of this intelligence, the young gentleman returned to Lisle, executed the orders of the king, and resorted Miss Fust to the custody of her family.
The court without hearing more particulars granted a rule agains the defendants, to shew cause why they shold not be tried upon an information for this offence.
Chelmsford Chronicle, 16 November 1787
BOWERMAN and MISS FUST
The long depending suit, instituted in the Doctors Commons, to try the validity of the marriage between Mr. Bowerman and Miss Fust, is decided by the Ecclesiastical Court against the marriage; but the cause is removed, by appeal, to the High Court of Delegates. The ground upon which the Ecclesiastical Court have pronounced judgment is, That the young lady was not of competent understanding to contract matrimony. To prove the imbecility of her mind, several voluminous affidavits were made, from which it appeared, that she was incapable of preserving herself from any kind of danger, and that a servant used to attend her when she went into the yard, to prevent her from walking into the pond; that, notwithstanding every effort that had been used, she never was capable of being taught to read or write, or to understand the ordinary affairs of life; that she would have gone away with any body, and knew nothing of the nature of marriage.
Caledonian Mercury, Saturday 27 June 1789
CASES IN CHANCERY
In Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Lord Thurlow, Dec. 22, 1787
IN MATTER OF FUST.
An application had been made for a commission of lunacy against Fanny Fust, against which a caveat was entered by Mr. Bowerman, who alleged he had married Miss Fust in Flanders, according to the rites of that country. An attendance was ordered upon the petition and several affidavits were read on each side as to the sanity or insanity of the young lady. It appeared that she had just attained her age of 21 when Mr. Bowerman carried her off from her mother’s house near Bristol, and in company with two other ladies conveyed her to Flanders, where they were married two several times. She was entitled to a very considerable fortune, a real estate of £1500 per annum, and a large sum of ready money, in all of the value of about £70,000. On hearing the petition and the affidavits the Lord Chancellor directed the commission to issue, upon which Miss Fust was found a lunatic. The present petition was preferred by Mr. Bowerman, praying the inquisition might be quashed, and a new commission issue, or that the petitioner might be at liberty to traverse the former inquisition.
The former part of the prayer of this petition which went to quashing the inquisition was not much insisted upon by Mansfield and Graham on behalf of the petitioner, but upon the latter part, they urged that by the stat. 2 and 3 Edw/ VI. C. 8 sect. 6, it is provided that “if any person be untruly found lunatic, every person and persons grieved or to be grieved by any such office, or inquisition shall and may have his or their traverse to the same immediately, or after, at his or their pleasure, and proceed to trial therein, and have like remedy and advantage as in other cases of traverse upon untrue inquisitions or offices found;” …
Lord Chancellor. – Most certainly, if this Court has a discretion, which I believe it has, in respect of permitting these inquisitions to be traversed, great care should be taken in the exercise of that discretion, that the Court does nothing which can stand in the way of the great ends to be answered by the protection it affords to persons in the unhappy situation of lunatic. I do not think much argument follows from the act of Edw VI. That act was meant only to remedy a very harsh prerogative. But where the court is applied to upon these occasions, it must take great care that the general object of the proceedings under a commission shall not be disappointed by such applications. It will be a very proper step for the mother to discuss this marriage. By the account given by the petitioner’s friends themselves, she was very weak and infirm of mind. She had a very large fortune: she was of age, and there was no reason for an elopement but from an apprehension of her infirmity. She had been kept and treated by the family as a very weak creature; and when she was stolen from the family, she was kept and treated much in the same way. The Court will never give any assistance or countenance to a man who has obtained this woman in such a manner: she is now in the properest hands, and it is the duty of the mother to discuss this marriage most seriously, and to see whether she cannot in that manner get rid of this gentleman’s pretensions.
From Cases Determined in the Courts of Equity: from 1783 to 1796 Inclusive by Samuel Compton Cox, Reed & Hunter, London 1816
11 March 1827
GLOUC.- At Hill Court, aged 68, Miss Fanny Fust, niece of the late Sir John Fust, the sixth and last baronet of that place. She was the only surviving child of the late Denton Fust, of Clifton, esq. and was born at Bristol, Dec 11, 1764. This unfortunate lady was at no period competent to partake in the management of her own affairs, and in consequence her large estate was placed by the Lord Chancellor under the control of a committee, and her person confided to the care of her cousin, Miss Langley. That lady, dau. of Geo Langley, esq. Capt, of Marines, by Flora, dau of Sir Francis Fust, the fifth baronet, was succeeded to the entire property.
The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, Volume 97, Part 1