The Scandalous Lady W
Welcome back dear reader to benpechey.com, today is the second instalment of Sartorial Inspirations. Today will be a first for me, I’m going to talk about HISTORY with the medium of FASHION. You join me today in the historic and tranquil calm of Harewood House in West Yorkshire, a rather fabulous location, although I love a good stately home and I have a passion for a Capability Brown Landscape, today I am focusing on a portrait that resides in Harewood House.
The portrait is of Lady Seymour Worsley (by Joshua Reynolds) who was latterly known as Seymour Fleming, and in popular culture is known as 'The Scandalous Lady W'. The scandalous story of Lady W is what I am here to tell you today. Aged 17, on the 20 September 1775 Seymour married Sir Richard Worsley. It was an unhappy marriage, and it was said that Lady Worsley had up to 27 lovers whilst married. Keeping up so far, an unhappily married woman who cheats.
In 1781 Lady W leaves her husband for her lover and former close friend of Sir Worsley, George Bisset. In 1782 Sir Worsley brought what was known then as a criminal conversation (a sort of breach of promise case, within a marriage basically a complaint of adultery held in court) against Bisset for £20,000 (in today's money around £2.2 million).
Being the incredibly brave woman that Lady W was she used this situation and used the testimony of her lovers to prove that her husband had also acted unlawfully within the marriage. One testimonial divulged the fact that Sir Worsley had shown and displayed his naked wife to Bisset whilst she used a bathhouse.
How could Lady W be in the wrong when her own husband had treated her in such a manner. By standing up for herself and facing a lot of public backlash, Lady W was a pioneer of divorce law - in her own way- and earned the respect and freedom she deserved.
The Bath house testimony destroyed Worsley’s case against Bisset. Although Sir Worsley won the case, the issue of adultery never being disputed, he was only awarded 1 shilling (£5) in damages. Allowing Lady W to lawfully leave her husband and live her life as she wished.
In terms of the history of women's rights within marriage, it may not be the hilarious tales of divorce and power portrayed in the First Wives Club or as heart-wrenching and normal as Kramer Versus Kramer. However, this is actual history and an early case of a woman standing up for her rights. I think we all should applaud Lady W for her efforts, and we should try to imbue her gumption and spirit in our modern day lives.
I have used Lady W's strength of character to help me style one if this seasons richest trends- brocades. Using the grand location of Harewood House and by pairing this sumptuous coat with casual elements and a statement shoe, this bold and tricky print becomes a doddle to style and wear.
Thank you so much for joining me today, I hope you all enjoyed something a little different on my blog this week. Keep on reading and I will see you all on Tuesday, where autumn comes to benpechey.com...
Shot by the ever wonderful Rachel Pechey, who without I couldn't have shot half my content so far this 2017.
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