Sunday, September 4, 2011

September 28, 1858 --- A Marriage in High Life

In the British Garrison Chapel at Gibraltar, the 7th Earl of Cardigan, who had led the gallant "Charge of the Light Brigade," marries his mistress, the beautiful Adeline Horsey de Horsey.

No stranger to scandal, the 60-year old Cardigan's relationship with the 34-year old Miss Horsey, daughter of an Admiral, was "peculiarly shameless." He installed her in a Mayfair flat where he visited her regularly. They rode together in Hyde Park almost daily. When Cardigan's long estranged wife died after a long illness that July, he raced to Adeline's side. In her delicious but unreliable memoirs, Adeline recalls Cardigan's frenzied cries, "My dearest, she's dead ... Let's get married at once!" Atypically, she insisted upon a suitable interval following the first Lady Cardigan's funeral.

It is not surprising that the marriage scandalises respectable society. The Governor of Gibraltar was challenged to a duel by the Earl; the governor had invited Cardigan to dine but pointedly made no reference to his new bride. The Governor ordered the honeymooners to leave the rock. The Earl and Countess, aboard his private yacht, sailed for Italy where they received a friendlier welcome from and even a private audience with the Pope.

Home in England, Cardigan rejected any invitation, including Royal summonses, that did not include his wife. The marriage survived society's prudery. Other than the disappointment of failing to produce an heir, m'Lord and Lady appeared quite happy, save for the odd domestic disagreement.  The servants spoke of much crockery tossing about the Cardigan estate at Deene.

After Cardigan's death in 1868, Adeline married a Polish nobleman, the Comte de Lancastre. Although they soon separated, Adeline kept the title of Comtesse de Lancastre which angered Queen Victoria who traveled for security and privacy reasons as the Countess of Lancaster. Before her re-marriage, Adeline had wooed the widowed Disraeli, who rejected her. In her aforementioned memoirs, My Recollections, however, Adeline reversed the story.  She claims that, on advice from the Prince of Wales, she spurned Disraeli's advances.  And just as well, as she added gratuitously that the aging statesman had very bad breath.

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