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A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History Hardcover – 30 Nov 2016
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About the Author
Sarah Murden and Joanne Major are joint authors of this compelling biography, brought together through their shared passion for history and genealogy, having met online via a genealogy forum. Living hundreds of miles apart from each other, lengthy telephone conversations to discuss 'long dead folk' became very much the norm, and it was during one of these calls that Joanne asked Sarah if she had heard of the gypsy girl who married the ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II. This book is the result of that innocent question. For more information visit: www.georgianera.wordpress.com
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The first concerns the elopement in 1815 of Lady Anne Abdy, the married niece of the Duke of Wellington, and her lover the widowed Lord Charles Bentinck. A divorce and swift remarriage (the bride was already pregnant) ensued. The second scandal concerned a son of that marriage. Charley, an Oxford student, defied convention and married an illiterate Gypsy girl, the daughter of an Oxfordshire horse dealer. As the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was a direct descendant of Charley, who went on to be ordained, that means that all the current Royal family are related to Charley too.
As in their first book, An Infamous Mistress, which detailed the life of Lord Charles Bentinck’s first mother-in-law Grace Dalrymple, the authors dig out some fantastic nuggets of interest. For example, Georgiana, Grace Dalrymple’s granddaughter and Charley’s half-sister, was known in the family as Hippo, probably a reference to her obesity. By following her progress we learn of her sad spinsterhood and chaotic finances. It’s a vivid picture of the life of a high-born misfit.
This really is a case of ‘You couldn’t make it up’. The plots may seem to come straight out of the world of Regency Romance but they are all true, and carefully annotated and verified by Major and Murden. With An Infamous Mistress, this family saga would make an excellent historical drama series.
This book is a very enjoyable and informative read. Like the authors’ first book, An Infamous Mistress, this is the story of a family (or rather two families), and the characters weave in and out of the pages in a masterly fashion. Tightly written and engaging, the book delves beautifully into a number of complicated but fascinated aristocratic domestic arrangements. The depiction of the Wellesley family and its tribulations was especially well done, particularly the very convincing portrait of Lady Anne, who came across so three-dimensionally I half expected her to have materialised in the room as I was reading. (I am not sure I would have been very pleased had she done so!)
Charley and Sinnetta were equally well-drawn, and their heartbreaking story was evocatively depicted. Sinnetta’s plight, existing neither in the gypsy world nor in her husband’s aristocratic circles, was wonderfully explained: little details like her trying to whiten her own skin to fit in better were particularly sad. It is a very relevant story to the present day, a cautionary tale for the twenty-first century to remind us that in many respects we are not so very different from our Victorian ancestors after all.
The reason for the intriguing title is not discovered until the very final chapters of the book, but I will not spoil it for readers by giving it away. This excellent, heartfelt and touching read is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the nineteenth-century British aristocracy.
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