Thursday, June 30, 2011

July 22, 1869 --- A Horse-Whipping in Clubland

Lord Charles Carrington (left) is convicted of assault, having horse-whipped Eustace Grenville-Murray on the steps of the Conservative Club.

Grenville-Murray is an illegitimate son of the bankrupt Duke of Buckingham, and edits a satirical journal called The Queen's Messenger.  In which publication, he had recently attacked the Carrington family. They were labeled, "Nottinghamshire nobodies... bargaining bumpkins with a peddler's nature," whose "purchased" peerage is a "very shocking outrage."

Having thrashed the author, Carrington stood over him in the street and shouted, "You may feel yourself disgraced." The fashionable world reveled in "a row of the 18th Century kind." At Carrington's arraignment, a courtroom brawl erupted between partisans of the original combatants. The magistrate fled and The Spectator looked on disapprovingly, "Such a failure of dignity has rarely, if ever, been witnessed in an English court." Even the muck-raking weekly Tomahawk dismissed the raucous proceedings as a "bear-garden."

As the trial. finally opens, Grenville-Murray is portrayed by his attorney as the victim of a "cowardly and dastardly attack." On the stand, Grenville-Murray glibly denies authorship of the offending piece, noting however that it is "very well-written." Carrington's attorney says the young Lord had acted only as any "high-minded, honorable and gallant young gentleman" would have done. The jury, of course, could not but convict him, adding however that the assault had been "committed under the circumstances of the strongest provocation." The judge sets the fine at only £100, condemning the Queen's Messenger as a publication which "must excite in the breasts of every well-minded person the utmost abhorrence."

With a perjury charge almost certain, Greville-Murray opted to flee to France where he continued to use his pen to skewer aristocratic pretensions. In absentia, he was booted out of the Conservative Club; the membership committee declared: "A man who connects himself with scurrilous journalism must not
expect to be considered a fit companion for gentlemen."

Lord Carrington, whip-in-hand, from Vanity Fair, 1874.

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