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Will you go and drink a glass of wine with me? But they were also deeply shocked by the unsavoury private lives of the ruling nobility, revealed during the trial. This monthly series on the intimate secrets of notorious couples was an early form of tabloid journalism, digging up all the dirt it could find, and proved so popular it ran for over 20 years.
After infecting his wife with venereal disease, she had an affair with Topham Beauclerk, discovered when a footman spying on them found dirty marks on a rumpled parlour couch. InBolingbroke became only the fifth peer ever to divorce. The lovers were caught in bed together half-naked, by a maid. Lord Percy sued for adultery inand Town and Country Magazine alleged he was impotent due to excessive masturbation as a schoolboy and habitually visiting brothels.
He later became 5th Duke of Marlborough. Grafton had himself been carrying on a five-year liaison with a courtesan called Nancy Parsons, who reputedly charged a guinea a session and boasted she had once earned guineas in a busy week. The sarcastic malice of the letters echoed public feeling and made Junius into a popular political commentator. It is not that he kept a mistress at home, but that he constantly attended her abroad. It is not the private indulgence, but the public insult, of which I complain.
Such appalling immoral behaviour began to undermine traditional respect for peers, and raise serious questions about the whole basis of legitimate hereditary power.
Two anti-adultery bills in the s were defeated, but after the chaos of the French Revolution had sent shivers of apprehension throughout England, the mood of panic escalated. Many feared that the insidious moral decay would soon have dire consequences. Two more attempts were made to curb adultery in and by proposing it was made a criminal offence, but both failed.
The case was so sensational it was reported in papers nationwide and made two of The Times.
The next day they eloped to the continent. Harriette Wilson had once been the most desirable woman in London, but by her charms had faded and, desperate for money, she published her Memoirs. To raise as much cash as possible they were released in 12 instalments. Before each part was printed, she wrote to her best-known former clients demanding payment to keep them out of the book.
With spiteful relish Harriette took her revenge in the next volume, telling the world that the military hero was a pathetic lover. Anger centred on the blatant collusion at his adultery trial, and the fact that divorce was allowed without the normal legal requirements. The Satirist reported how just a week after their marriage, he was seen Wilson sex spots a prostitute. When the House of Lords rejected voting reform, riots broke out across the country, and soon afterwards the passing of the Great Reform Act marked the first steps in the gradual decline of aristocratic power.
Many people felt that peers only had themselves to blame. But this was no ordinary encounter with a penniless commoner seeking a cheap thrill.
On that summer evening in he took the girl, Elizabeth Roberts, to a hotel in Leicester Fields where in an upstairs room they drank a five shilling bowl of arrack punch together. There were many other furtive couplings until the guilty pair were entrapped at the White Hart Inn, St Albans, when the butler bored holes in their bedchamber door to spy on them. The new mass media of the day pounced on the scandal, eager to expose the hidden moral corruption endemic in the establishment, and cash-in on the public appetite for sensation.
Naturally readers loved every titillating anecdote.
By the late 18th century a rapid expansion of the commercial press had made it a powerful force shaping public opinion, with a vast range of newspapers, magazines, pamphlets and books being printed for a growing readership. When these aristocrats got caught with their pants down, the press had a field day. The Marquis of Blandford below was heir to a dukedom and Blenheim Palace, but vowed to give up his inheritance if his married mistress agreed to elope.
The couple appeared openly together at public events and hosted lavish dinners at his London home, apparently impervious to all the gossip. Vitriolic attacks on Grafton by an anonymous writer, known only as Junius, were published regularly in the influential London paper the Public Advertiser for three years.
Lurid tales of infidelity among the nobility continued to draw extensive coverage in print. It was an instant bestseller and the spicy revelations shook the establishment, as so many distinguished figures had bedded her in the past, including the foreign secretary George Canning, the ambassador to Paris, several dukes and even the king.
Many of them paid to buy her silence, while others sued the publisher. The Duke of Wellington had been a regular client in his younger days, but now he was a prominent member of the Tory cabinet and refused to be intimidated by his ex-mistress. Another high-profile case created outrage in April when a cabinet minister, the 1st Earl of Ellenborough, was granted a private parliamentary divorce and the case was splashed across the front of The Times.
When his beautiful young wife, Jane, had a torrid romance with the Austrian diplomat Prince Felix Schwarzenberg and fell pregnant, there was little sympathy at this very public humiliation. The flood of print exposing all Wilson sex spots sexual intrigues confirmed suspicions that the ruling class was no longer fit to rule. The new mass media of the day pounced on the scandal, eager to expose the hidden moral corruption endemic in the establishment.
Strife in the public eye When these aristocrats got caught with their pants down, the press had a field day Lord Bully v Lady Di: A marriage made in hell ends in divorce The marriage of Viscount Bolingbroke pictured below to Lady Diana Spencer was doomed from the start. More on: Duke of Wellington.Wilson sex spots
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Georgian Britain: sex in high places