Sarah Murden and Joanne Major, authors of the much-praised All Things Georgian website, have once again used their formidable genealogical and investigative skills to conjure an amazing tale out of the archives. In fact their new book, A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages that Changed History, gives double value since it relates two scandalous stories.
The first concerns the elopement in 1815 of Lady Anne Abdy, the married niece of the Duke of Wellington, and her lover the widowed Lord Charles Bentinck. A divorce and swift remarriage (the bride was already pregnant) ensued. The second scandal concerned a son of that marriage. Charley, an Oxford student, defied convention and married an illiterate Gypsy girl, the daughter of an Oxfordshire horse dealer. As the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was a direct descendant of Charley, who went on to be ordained, that means that all the current Royal family are related to Charley too.
As in their first book, An Infamous Mistress, which detailed the life of Lord Charles Bentinck’s first mother-in-law Grace Dalrymple, the authors dig out some fantastic nuggets of interest. For example, Georgiana, Grace Dalrymple’s granddaughter and Charley’s half-sister, was known in the family as Hippo, probably a reference to her obesity. By following her progress we learn of her sad spinsterhood and chaotic finances. It’s a vivid picture of the life of a high-born misfit.
This really is a case of ‘You couldn’t make it up’. The plots may seem to come straight out of the world of Regency Romance but they are all true, and carefully annotated and verified by Major and Murden. With An Infamous Mistress, this family saga would make an excellent historical drama series.
by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden
Publisher: Pen & Sword