9780307383372

Wedlock

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780307383372

  • ISBN10:

    0307383377

  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2010-02-09
  • Publisher: Broadway Books
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Summary

With the death of her fabulously wealthy coal magnate father when she was just eleven, Mary Eleanor Bowes became the richest heiress in Britain. An ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II, Mary grew to be a highly educated young woman, winning acclaim as a playwright and botanist. Courted by a bevy of eager suitors, at eighteen she married the handsome but aloof ninth Earl of Strathmore in a celebrated, if ultimately troubled, match that forged the Bowes Lyon name. Yet she stumbled headlong into scandal when, following her husband's early death, a charming young army hero flattered his way into the merry widow's bed. Captain Andrew Robinson Stoney insisted on defending her honor in a duel, and Mary was convinced she had found true love. Judged by doctors to have been mortally wounded in the melee, Stoney persuaded Mary to grant his dying wish; four days later they were married. Sadly, the "captain" was not what he seemed. Staging a sudden and remarkable recovery, Stoney was revealed as a debt-ridden lieutenant, a fraudster, and a bully. Immediately taking control of Mary's vast fortune, he squandered her wealth and embarked on a campaign of appalling violence and cruelty against his new bride. Finally, fearing for her life, Mary masterminded an audacious escape and challenged social conventions of the day by launching a suit for divorce. The English public was horrifiedand enthralled. But Mary's troubles were far from over . . . Novelist William Makepeace Thackeray was inspired by Stoney's villainy to writeThe Luck of Barry Lyndon,which Stanley Kubrick turned into an Oscar-winning film. Based on exhaustive archival research,Wedlockis a thrilling and cinematic true story, ripped from the headlines of eighteenth-century England.

Author Biography

WENDY MOORE is the author of The Knife Man. A journalist and writer specializing in health and medicine, she lives in London with her husband and two children.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpts

AN AFFAIR OF HONOUR
London, January 13, 1777

Settling down to read his newspaper by the candlelight illuminating the dining room of the Adelphi Tavern, John Hull anticipated a quiet evening. Having opened five years earlier, as an integral part of the vast Adelphi development designed by the Adam brothers on the north bank of the Thames, the Adelphi Tavern and Coffee House had established a reputation for its fine dinners and genteel company. Many an office worker like Hull, a clerk at the government’s Salt Office, sought refuge from the clamor of the nearby Strand in the tavern’s upper- floor dining room with its elegant ceiling panels depicting Pan and Bacchus in pastel shades. On a Monday evening in January, with the day’s work behind him, Hull could expect to read his paper undisturbed.

At first, when he heard the two loud bangs, at about 7 p.m., Hull assumed they were caused by a door slamming downstairs. A few minutes later, there was no mistaking the sound of clashing swords. Throwing aside his newspaper, Hull ran down the stairs and tried to open the door to the ground- floor parlor. Finding it locked, and growing increasingly alarmed at the violent clatter from within, he shouted for waiters to help him force the door. Finally bursting into the unlit room, Hull could dimly make out two figures fencing furiously in the dark. Reckless as to his own safety, the clerk grabbed the sword arm of the nearest man, thrust himself between the two duelists, and insisted that they lay down their swords. Even so it was several more minutes of struggle before he could persuade the first man to yield his weapon.

It was not a moment too soon. The man who reluctantly surrendered his sword now fell swooning to the floor, and in the light of candles brought by servants, a large blood stain could be seen seeping across his waistcoat. A cursory examination convinced Hull that the man was gravely injured. “I think there were three wounds in his right breast, and one upon his sword arm,” he would later attest. The second duelist, although less seriously wounded, was bleeding from a gash to his thigh. With no time to be lost, servants were dispatched into the cold night air to summon medical aid. They returned with a physician named John Scott, who ran a dispensary from his house nearby, and a surgeon, one Jessé Foot, who lived in a neighboring street. Both concurred with Hull’s amateur opinion, agreeing that the collapsed man had suffered a serious stab wound when his opponent’s sword had run through his chest from right to left–presumably on account of the fencers’ standing sideways–as well as a smaller cut to his abdomen and a scratch on his sword arm.

Disheveled and deathly pale, his shirt and waistcoat opened to bare his chest, the patient sprawled in a chair as the medical men tried to revive him with smelling salts, water, and wine and to staunch the bleeding by applying a poultice. What ever benefit the pair may have bestowed by this eminently sensible first aid was almost certainly reversed when they cut open a vein in their patient’s arm to let blood, the customary treatment for almost every ailment. Unsurprisingly, given the weakening effect of this further loss of blood, no sooner had the swordsman revived than he fainted twice more. It was with some justification, therefore, that the two medics pronounced their patient’s injuries might well prove fatal. The discovery of two discarded pistols, still warm from having been fired, suggested that the outcome could easily have been even more decisive. With his life declared to be hanging by a thread, the fading duelist now urged his erstwhile adversary to flee the tavern–taking pains to insist that he had acquitted himself honorably–and even offered his own carriage for the getaway.

This was sound advice, for duels had been repeatedly banned by law sinc

Excerpted from Wedlock: The True Story of the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore by Wendy Moore
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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