A recent BBC television drama covered this little known story in one episode, but what was the background to this fascinating if little remembered story?
The BBC adaptation was based on this intriguing and well written book by Hallie Rubenhold, providing plenty of detail with regard to the divorce that scandalised Georgian England.
At first, it takes a while for the real story to begin to emerge as Rubenhold provides plenty of background information as far as it is possible about the three key characters involved. But when it does emerge – it is as gripping as any modern day scandal if not more so.
Lady Worsley and Sir Richard Worsley had a marriage that was unhappy for both parties for many reasons. But the turning point was when they both became good friends with their neighbour George Maurice Bisset and Sir Richard Worsley encouraged his friend to take advantage of his wife. What wasn’t expected however was the pair to fall in love and elope. What followed was one of the most scandalous trials to experienced in Georgian England.
Rubenhold writes in a frank and yet engaging style that really gets the reader hooked and intrigued in the story and how it all plays out. As you would expect it is balanced, and no one really emerges from the story with their reputation in tact.
It is honest and although balanced, Rubenhold does express (even if it is subtly done) some sympathy for Lady Worsley and the situation that her husband placed her in, yet it is her reputation most at risk.
Despite the opening section perhaps being slightly longer and detailed than necessary, the book slow burns to its conclusion – which is an effective style to use when it comes to relating to a story of this kind.
Occasionally, the story flits about from situation to situation incoherently in places and this can distract from the overall flow of the story.
But it is a story that says a lot about the society of Georgian England and how marriage was regarded particularly in the upper classes. It is a simple and clearly written with complete and utter honesty – particularly with regards to the difficulty in researching for the book as well as details of the trial and everything that emerged during the course of the trial.
What emerges in Hallie Rubenhold’s book is a woman who although was forced into an unthinkable situation, but also remarkably impulsive, brave and adventurous. Well worth a read.
The Scandalous Lady W is available to buy on Amazon.