Tag Archive | illegitimate children

Episode #6: Lady P Dishes the Dirt on the Duchess of Devonshire

Lady Pendleton, Damian Ashby’s eccentric aunt (see the epilogue to Treasuring Theresa on Susana’s web site), is visiting Susana from the early 19th century. She’s intrigued by life in 21st century Toledo, Ohio, and, of course, Susana is thrilled to have the opportunity to pick her brain about life in Regency England. It certainly gives her a great deal to write about in Susana’s Parlour!

Susana (To the Reader): I’ve always been fascinated by what I’ve heard about Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, who was a great-great-great aunt of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, and who counts among her descendents (through her illegitimate daughter, Eliza Courtenay) Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. Lady P discussed her problem with gambling in Episode #3, but seeing as she and the Duchess were contemporaries—Lady P is two years older—I’ve asked her to tell us a bit about the infamous Duchess’s life.

carolinelambLady P: Lady Caroline Lamb, that silly woman who chased after Lord Byron even after he cast her off, was the daughter of Georgiana’s sister Harriet…if you recall, Harriet was the one who had to be bailed out of the Fleet for debt. Truly, there is something seriously not right about that Caroline. I suppose it’s not to be surprised at, since Bessborough, her father, was such a brute that Harriet and Caroline departed his house and lived with the Devonshires. Caroline grew up there, along with Georgiana’s children, and, of course, the illegitimates.

Susana: Illegitimates?

Lady P: Well, that is the polite term for them. I’ve heard them called worse, let me tell you. First, there was the duke’s daughter by the maid, Charlotte, I believe was her name. Georgiana took her in after her mother died…at the Duke’s request.

Susana: That was generous of her. There were more, you say?

eliz.fosterLady P: Indeed. Georgiana became great friends with a woman estranged from her husband, one with a shady past, if you ask me. That was Lady Elizabeth Foster, and dear Georgiana took pity on her and invited her to stay with them until her situation improved. No money, you see, and no home either.

Susana: The Duchess seems a very kind person indeed.

Lady P: Harrumph! I told her on many an occasion that she was far too kindhearted for her own good. Why, everyone saw through that conniver, Bess Foster, except for Georgiana. And the Duke, of course. She lived with them for twenty-five years, mind!

devonshire_dukeSusana: She was friendly with the Duke as well?

Lady P: Oh, very. She gave birth to two illegitimate children by him!

Susana: Goodness! And Georgiana knew this was going on?

Lady P: Of course she did. Everyone knew. Not that she was happy about it, mind. But by that time, she was far too dependent on Bess to cast her aside. It’s not like she and the Duke were a love match, you know. And Bess helped her deal with her creditors too; I don’t think she could have managed without her.

Susana: This blows my mind. So the Devonshires lived in a ménage à trois surrounded by illegitimate children for twenty-five years, and yet Georgiana was an acclaimed leader of the ton?

devonshireLady P: Indeed. You see, Georgiana’s personality was such that she made it the fashion to be different. You should have seen the hats she wore…some of them scraped the ceiling and one nearly caught fire when it brushed against a chandelier! She was a great friend of Marie-Antoinette, you know, before the Revolution. Georgiana ruled the French court as well, when she was in France. Everyone sought to imitate her.

Susana: Including her lifestyle?

Lady P: Dear Susana, you mustn’t assume that the leaders of the ton actually practiced the morals they espoused for others. No, indeed. Society was full of rakes and drunkards and wife beaters even then. People whispered about the Devonshires, of course, and perhaps even spoke of them openly, but it didn’t stop them from worshipping her. Not even when she fled to France to give birth to her own illegitimate daughter.

Susana: No, really?

Lady P: Georgiana was no paragon, you know. She had love affairs of her own. She fell in love with Charles Grey, who was seven or eight years younger than she, and would have run away to live with him had the Duke not threatened to keep her children from her. As it was, the Duke banished her to France to have Grey’s daughter, and Eliza was raised by Grey’s parents as their own daughter.

Susana: So Georgiana had to give her daughter up while the Duke’s illegitimate children lived in the household with his legitimate children? How hypocritical!

Lady P: That is the way of things where I come from. The men rule—or think they do—and their wives or daughters have little recourse but to become beggars or do as I did, and become an expert at diversion.

Susana: Diversion?

Lady P: Well, I certainly never told Pendleton I had become a Whig follower. He was a Tory through and through, and he would never have allowed me to join Georgiana in her marches for Charles Fox. No indeed. So I never mentioned it, and whenever he asked me what I had done on those days, I simply told him I was at the milliner’s and began chattering away about lace and ribbons and the latest fashions until he changed the subject or stalked off. Of course, now that I am widowed, I can do as I please. Of course, I do miss my dear Pendleton, but I must confess, the freedom of widowhood is much to be desired.

Susana (To the Reader): Our time is up for today, but I’ve asked Lady P to continue her memories of the Duchess, particularly her political activities, in our next episode. Thanks for dropping by.

And, as always, please do comment if you have any questions you’d like to ask Lady P about the late Georgian/Regency era. She does love to chat!

The Lady P Series

Episode #1: Susana’s Adventures With Lady P: The Introduction

Episode #2: Lady P Talks About… Pride and Prejudice?

Episode #3: Lady P and the Duchess Who Lost a Billion Dollars

Episode #4: Lady P and the Face On the $100 Bill

Episode #5: In Which Lady P Discovers Sparkly Fabrics and Ponders Violating the Prime Directive

Episode #6: Lady P Dishes the Dirt on the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #7: The Political Exploits of Lady P and the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #8: Lady P and the Prince Regent’s Illicit Marriage

Episode #9: In Which Lady P Depletes the Cooking Sherry During Her Discussion of Caroline of Brunswick

Episode #10: Lord Byron: Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

Episode #11: In Which Lady P Talks About Hannah More and the Rights of Women

Episode #12: Lady P’s Revelations Regarding George III and His Peculiar Progeny

Episode #13: Lady P Discusses the Luddite Uprising, the Assassination of Spencer Perceval, and the General Unfairness of Life

Episode #14: In Which Leticia, Lady Beauchamp, Pops In For an Interview On Her Personal Acquaintance With Princess Charlotte of Wales

Episode #15: Lady P On Assignment in 1814 Kent

Lady P Quizzes Jane Livingston, the Hero’s Sister From “A Twelfth Night Tale”

Episode #4: Lady P and the Face On the $100 Bill

ben_franklin

Lady Pendleton, Damian Ashby’s eccentric aunt (see the epilogue to Treasuring Theresa on Susana’s web site), is visiting Susana from the early 19th century. She’s intrigued by life in 21st century Toledo, Ohio, and, of course, Susana is thrilled to have the opportunity to pick her brain about life in Regency England. It certainly gives her a great deal to write about in Susana’s Parlour!

Susana (to the Reader): One of my traditional New Year’s goals is to work on clearing up the clutter in my basement office. I use a FlyLady timer that my friend Ellen sent me and tackle the mess fifteen minutes at a time. Well, I was going through some of the travel paraphernalia I brought back from England last May, and I found a $100 bill I had taken along just in case my debit card got eaten up by some greedy ATM. Since I usually carry around $60 or less at one time, I was just about to take out a bank deposit envelope when Lady P caught sight of the picture of Benjamin Franklin on the bill and mentioned that her father had been a great friend of his and that she had met him several times during her come-out. And she did have some fascinating things to say about this famous American statesman and his progency that you may not have heard before.

Lady P: My father dabbled a bit in science, you know. Younger sons do need to find something to occupy their time, even if they marry heiresses, as Papa did. In any event, Papa was a great patron of the sciences, and he and Mr. Franklin took to each other immediately. Papa visited his lodgings on Craven Street quite often to conduct experiments and whatnot.

Susana: How fascinating that you were able to meet Benjamin Franklin! What was he like?

Lady P: Quite a charming man. Not a dasher, you understand, though exceedingly well-groomed. But his witty conversation and elegant manners…goodness, if his son William had inherited even a small portion of his father’s charm…I daresay he could have married into the ton, despite his unfortunate birth.william_franklin

Susana: Unfortunate birth?

Lady P: Indeed. He was a natural son, you know. Acknowledged, of course, and a British Loyalist all his life. Much better looking than his father, even in his sixth decade, as he was when I met him in the 1790’s, but certainly lacking his father’s éclat. you understand. Landed on his feet, though. Married a sugar heiress, I believe.

Susana: An illegitimate son who was a British Loyalist. Fascinating.

Lady P: Not so unusual. Like many colonists, the elder Mr. Franklin had divided loyalties. Why, Papa told me that many a time Mr. Franklin bemoaned the fact that neither side was willing to compromise on their positions. In the end, he took the side of the colonists and never returned to England, but his son William did. Fathered an illegitimate son of his own, too. Who in turn fathered two illegitimate children by two different women.william_temple

Susana: Oh dear. So many illegitimate children! Must have been quite scandalous at the time!

Lady P: Not really. Natural children are quite common. Our Englishwomen are known for their attraction for the male sex, you understand. It’s all in the complexion.

Susana: Er, yes. Of course.

Lady P: Dear Pendleton, of course, was much too prudent to indulge in such behavior, but his uncle–goodness, I could tell you endless stories about his escapades. Poor Aunt Lavinia was forever being humiliated…

Unfortunately, Susana never did finish de-cluttering her office. But she has pages and pages of notes about late 18th/early 19th century scandals that she plans to turn into a book one day. Lady P predicts an instant best-seller.

See you on Monday! As always, please comment if you have any specific questions you’d like Susana to pose to Lady P while she is here.

The Lady P Series

Episode #1: Susana’s Adventures With Lady P: The Introduction

Episode #2: Lady P Talks About… Pride and Prejudice?

Episode #3: Lady P and the Duchess Who Lost a Billion Dollars

Episode #4: Lady P and the Face On the $100 Bill

Episode #5: In Which Lady P Discovers Sparkly Fabrics and Ponders Violating the Prime Directive

Episode #6: Lady P Dishes the Dirt on the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #7: The Political Exploits of Lady P and the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #8: Lady P and the Prince Regent’s Illicit Marriage

Episode #9: In Which Lady P Depletes the Cooking Sherry During Her Discussion of Caroline of Brunswick

Episode #10: Lord Byron: Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

Episode #11: In Which Lady P Talks About Hannah More and the Rights of Women

Episode #12: Lady P’s Revelations Regarding George III and His Peculiar Progeny

Episode #13: Lady P Discusses the Luddite Uprising, the Assassination of Spencer Perceval, and the General Unfairness of Life

Episode #14: In Which Leticia, Lady Beauchamp, Pops In For an Interview On Her Personal Acquaintance With Princess Charlotte of Wales

Episode #15: Lady P On Assignment in 1814 Kent

Lady P Quizzes Jane Livingston, the Hero’s Sister From “A Twelfth Night Tale”