Although the concept of millionaire heiresses may conjure up visions of care-free get together women drenched in champagne, the reality of some of historical past’s wealthiest debutantes is usually extra tragic than glamorous.
From a 12-year-old baby bride who inherited modern-day Mayfair and Belgravia to a lady whose merciless marriage led to her dying of a damaged coronary heart, the lives of heiresses from the seventeenth century onwards have been explored in a new book.
Written by journalist and biographer Laura Thompson, who has penned critically acclaimed books on Agatha Christie, Nanacy Mitford and Lord Lucan, Heiresses: The Lives of the Million Dollar Babies reveals ill-fated ladies who confronted a fixed battle to regulate their very own lives.
Frequently discovering themselves the goal of males desperate to safe their huge fortunes, ladies had been married off as younger as six, whereas others needed to be taken overseas to keep away from kidnap.
Another needed to ship her personal kids away as a result of her debt-ridden ex-husband was consistently making an attempt to grab them for ransom, and it is suspected that he could even have murdered her in the tip to get his arms on a £50,000 inheritance.
Here Femail takes a take a look at the scandalous goings-on that formed their lives…
Drugged by a priest who illegally married her to his brother
Mary Davies was born in London in 1665, the yr the Great Plague started to brush throughout England, to oldsters Alexander Davis and Mary Tregonwell
Mary was born in London in 1665, the yr the Great Plague started to brush throughout England, to oldsters Alexander Davis and Mary Tregonwell.
Her great-uncle Hugh Audley had made his fortune throughout the Civil War, a lawyer who profited off of lending cash to either side. He owned land throughout England, however his best asset was Ebury Manor.
Upon his demise he had no kids, and had determined to go away his fortune to his great-nephews Thomas and Alexander Davies. When Alexander died of the plague in 1665, his fortune was left to his solely baby – six-month-old Mary.
She would grow to be heiress to some of essentially the most precious land in the world with the manor bordering what’s now Bayswater Road and Oxford Street, and the River Thames.
Heiresses: The Lives of the Million Dollar Babies, by Laura Thompson, explores ill-fated ladies who suffered kidnap, compelled marriages, and the risk of confinement in an asylum
With an urge for food for heiress brides among the many gentry, Mary was despatched to France to evade kidnap, however by the age of seven her ambitions mom was displaying her to potential patrons in Hyde Park.
The minimal marriage age of sixteen was not enforced in regulation till 1929 and so by the age of 12, Mary was married on the church of St Clement Danes in the Strand, to Sir Thomas Grosvenor.
Grosvenor was a Cheshire landowner who was 9 years her senior and he paid £9,000 to marry her, whereas her dowry was the 1000-acre Manor of Ebury
She was not obliged to reside with Grosvenor, who would later grow to be an MP and the native mayor, at his residence at Eaton in Cheshire till the age of 15. Mary spent twenty years along with her husband and gave start to eight kids.
Forty years of political upset ended when Catholic James II was despatched into exile and changed by William III after the Glorious Revolution of November 1688 – however the deposed king nonetheless had many English supporters.
Among them was Lady Mary, who grew to become a convert to Roman Catholicism, whereas her husband remained anti-popish and constant to the new king.
Grosvenor died on the age of forty in 1700 whereas Mary was pregnant along with her final baby, and the heiress was stated to be misplaced with out him.
The day earlier than his funeral she met Father Lodowick Fenwick – a Benedictine monk who satisfied her to journey round Europe with himself and his sister.
After sharing her new friendship with the trustees of her inheritance, amongst them her mom, they tried to grab her cash, her kids and have her dedicated to an asylum because of her Jacobean beliefs.
They had been unsuccessful and Mary quickly made her method to Paris, the place she took a number of suitors -including Fenwick’s brother Edward – earlier than travelling to Italy for the Papal Jubilee with the chaplain.
When the pair returned to the Hotel Castile in Paris, Father Fenwick organized a courtship between Edward and Mary.
‘It is clear that from day one the Fenwicks had a well-worked plot to ensnare this lady’, writes Thompson. ‘The priest performed his cautious half, and set the scene for the attractive brother.’
Soon after her transfer again to France, Mary fell ailing with a mysterious situation and whereas Thompson suggests her preliminary sickness was real, it was utilized by the Fenwicks to ensnare her in their duplicitous plot.
They employed a physician to manage Mary with emetics appropriate ‘for a horse’, drugged with laudanum which had been sprinkled over her meals and repeatedly bled with leeches.
After waking up from an unconscious state, Mary was knowledgeable that she and Edward had been married by Father Fenwick – however that she merely could not keep in mind the ceremony happening.
Incredibly, Mary was in a position to contact her mom in England and flee to her residence in Millbank – however quickly Fenwick turned up, claiming she was insane, and demanding the rights to her properties and £30,000.
A two yr court docket case in which Mary tried to show she had not willingly married Edward ensued.
The Spiritual Court of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster quickly pronounced their marriage a sham, however a retrial in 1703 noticed a jury at Westminster Hall rule in Fenwick’s favour.
Despite his win, Edward by no means claimed his land or cash and a yr later, the ruling was overturned and the wedding annulled on grounds that Mary had been ‘of unsound thoughts’ on the time of the marriage.
While her mom as soon as once more tried to regain custody of Mary, Thomas Grosvenor’s sons stepped in and Mary was cared for by Grosvenor’s household till her demise in 1730.
Seven years earlier than her demise, Grosvenor Square was laid out on Mary’s land whereas some of her fields could be the realm surrounding Buckingham Palace and others dotted round Hyde park.
‘Queen of the poor’ who housed prostitutes with Charles Dickens
Baroness Burdett-Coutts was born in 1814 to Sir Francis Burdett, a politician and Sophia Coutts – whose father Thomas based the distinguished London financial institution of the identical identify
Baroness Burdett-Coutts was born in 1814 to Sir Francis Burdett, a politician and Sophia Coutts – whose father Thomas based the distinguished London financial institution of the identical identify.
Thomas had three daughters along with his spouse Elizabeth and when he died in 1822 the banker left his fortune to his second spouse Harriet Mellon – an actress he wed on the age of 80 who was 40 years his junior.
She was left directions to distribute it to the member of the family she felt was most worthy, and after 15 years she selected his granddaughter, Angela.
Her father, Sir Francis, was a liberal politician who gained fame as an advocate of common suffrage and he had insisted that every one of his 5 daughter obtain an schooling.
Harriet’s resolution was swayed by Angela’s ‘modest manner, becoming to the Victorian-female preferrred’ and he or she was given her £1.8 million fortune on the age of 23 in August 1837. She was additionally entitled to half of the shares in the Coutts banking home.
Also inheriting Thomas’ residence in Stratton Street, Angela grew to become one of the richest ladies in Europe and was considered the wealthiest heiress in England.
Due to her new discovered riches the heiress was overwhelmed with letters from keen suitors, a lot in order that she and her governess Hannah Meredith needed to provide you with a sign to finish the assembly when a bachelor proposed.
Angela grew to become one of the richest ladies in Europe and was considered the wealthiest heiress in England on the age of 23
She was even stalked for 2 years by Richard Dunn, a bankrupt Irish barrister determined to get his arms on her fortune.
But there was one man who caught her eye, the Duke of Wellington – whom she proposed to on the age of 33 when he was seventy-eight, nonetheless he declined, sure that he was too outdated for her.
Her life’s work started when she met Charles Dickens, quickly after she inherited her fortune. He was one of many excessive profile company who visited Angela, together with Queen Victoria.
While their relationship was by no means romantic, the pair shared an intimate friendship, and Angela was the writer’s inspiration for the character Agnes Wickfield in David Copperfield.
One of her first endeavours was providing sizeable donations to the ‘Ragged Schools’, a challenge began in 1818 by a Portsmouth shoemaker to teach the very poorest kids.
In 1846, she and Dickens got here up with the concept for a residence for prostitutes in Shepherd’s Bush, which opened a yr later as Urania Cottage, after Angela observed intercourse employees pacing from Piccadilly to Green Park from her bed room window.
In order to guard her repute, Angela donated the cash to fund the house below the pseudonym ‘Lady Unknown’. The residence managed to rehabilitate thirty ladies of the 56 who had handed by their doorways by 1853.
‘How outstanding she was. It was a singularly uncommon Victorian lady who really appeared upon prostitutes, who didn’t flip her head away, or shut the curtains, or inform herself that if their existence was not acknowledged then they didn’t exist’, writes Thompson.
In 1871, Angela – who was hailed ‘the Queen of the Poor’ by her followers – grew to become one the primary ladies to be made a Baroness ‘in her personal proper’ earlier than changing into the primary feminine Freeman a yr later
Other initiatives of the heiress embody donating assets to Florence Nightingale in the Crimea in addition to financing a new growth for the poor referred to as Columbia Square in Bethnal Green.
She arrange stitching colleges and financed silk weavers in Spitalfields and when the cholera epidemic of 1867 hit, organized for an assist programme of £20,000 for victims.
Angela ultimately grew to become President of the Ladies’ Committee of the RSPCA and gave monetary assist to explorer David Livingstone’s 1858 Zambezi expedition.
Since the early 1860s, her relationship with Dickens grew to become extra distant, however earlier than his demise in 1870, the writer travelled to Paris the place he gave a to not Hannah Browne saying that he ‘lived over once more the years that lie behind us’.
In 1871, Angela – who was hailed ‘the Queen of the Poor’ by her followers – grew to become one the primary ladies to be made a Baroness ‘in her personal proper’ earlier than changing into the primary feminine Freeman a yr later.
Nine years later, on the age of 66, Angela lastly introduced to her engagement – to a 29-year-old actor referred to as William Ashmead Bartlett.
Her good friend Queen Victoria was stated to have proclaimed that ‘Lady Burdett actually have to be loopy’, later writing in her journal: ‘That poor silly outdated lady Lady Burdett-Coutts was offered on her marriage with Mr Bartlett forty years youthful than herself.
‘She appeared like his grandmother and was all decked out with jewels – not edifying!’
Her husband, who later grew to become Tory MP for Westminster, remained married to Angela till her demise in 1906 and continued working to assist her causes.
CATHERINE TYLNEY LONG
The devoted spouse whose merciless husband tormented her
Catherine Tylney Long, born in 1789, was a ‘brilliant and savvy’ new cash heiress whose huge fortune got here from commerce
Catherine Tylney Long, born in 1789, was a ‘brilliant and savvy’ new cash heiress whose huge fortune got here from commerce.
Hailed the ‘Regency It Girl’, Catherine inherited her cash at simply 16 and would have had gathered a ‘Kardashian-level following on Instagram’ had she been born right this moment.
She was the daughter of James Tylney-Long and Lady Catherine Sydney Windsor and resided at Wanstead, her property in Essex, which might grow to be the topic of a cartoon titled Worshippers at Wanstead depicting her hoards of followers.
When Sir James’ solely son died in 1805, Catherine inherited his fortune and property, which comprised of the £360,000 Palladian mansion, Draycot House in Wiltshire, hundreds of acres over numerous counties and not less than £40,000 a yr.
After shifting to Mayfair to study the methods of a society girl, she attended a get together held by the future George IV the place she met the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV. He was besotted with Catherine.
While Lady Windsor was thrilled on the prospect of the Duke’s proposal, the good-looking and badly behaved William Wellesley Pole, son of the third Earl of Mornington, caught her eye as a substitute.
Described as ‘immensely attractive and properly travelled’, Catherine fell immediately for Pole – who had already lived with a seamstress in Ipswich and had racked up debt playing and ingesting.
Men with a style for cash: How males bartered with juvenile heiresses for wealth and standing
Margaret Beaufort, heiress to the fortune of the first Duke of Somerset, was married aged six in 1450 to the son of her guardian, who was eager to get his arms on her cash.
The marriage was annulled and 5 years later Henry VI married her off to his half-brother Edmund Tudor.
A yr later she was the widowed mom of the longer term King Henry VII at twelve-years-old.
The minimal age of sixteen was not enforced in regulation till 1929.
Elizabeth Percy, the one baby of the eleventh Earl of Northumberland was married to a son of the Duke of Newcastle at 12.
When she was widowed two years later, aged fourteen, she married the MP Thomas Thynne.
By 15, Thynne had been murdered Swedish depend who had taken an curiosity in the Percy fortune.
Elizabeth Malet was fourteen when she was kidnapped by the Earl of Rochester 1665.
While his preliminary try was unsuccessful, two years later, this time with Elizabeth’s consent, the couple married in a ‘clandestine’ ceremony at Knightsbridge Chapel .
The revised Marriage Act of 1823 specified that a man who married a minor below 21 with out consent would haven’t any entry to her cash.
Ignoring recommendation from her mom and sister, Catherine married Pole on the age of 23 at St James’s, Piccadilly in 1812.
‘His sexual prowess was the stuff of excitable gossip’, writes Thompson. ‘To be frank about it, the more than likely clarification for Catherine’s resolution to marry him is that that they had slept collectively – she was rumoured to have sneaked him into Draycot, the Wiltshire household residence – and that she grew to become unwilling to relinquish this beguiling new expertise.’
The marriage got here with a prenup and Pole, who quickly grew to become an MP, was entitled to his spouse’s property and her earnings – together with Wanstead House.
But the connection turned bitter rapidly, with Pole denying Catherine’s sister of the £15,000 every left to them in their fathers will and shortly changing into ‘extra careless of his spouse’s emotions’.
He was quickly spending huge quantities on garments and renovating the home and requested for extra cash from his spouse’s personal protected earnings, which she agreed to.
The couple had a son in 1813, and whereas Catherine was thrilled about her child, her husband described the new child as an ‘ugly little wretch’.
By his mid 30s, Pole started to ‘despise’ her and boasted that he had slept with ‘a thousand and three ladies’ and in 1815, requested Catherine to signal a will leaving him £50,000 if she died in childbirth.
In 1818 she realized that Pole had a secret love baby, who was born across the time as her personal child, and he or she agreed to pay her husband’s mistress £500 a yr to go away England for France along with her baby.
But very quickly the mistress returned and continued her affair with Pole, in the meantime his spending had spiralled out of management – with Catherine’s husband spending £300,000 in 1818-20.
As his money owed stacked up, Pole escaped prosecution as a result of he was an MP – however when he retired in 1820, he was declared bankrupt and fled to France the place he offered extra of Catherine’s belongings to attempt to pay what he owed.
Despite all this – Catherine was nonetheless in love with Pole and travelled to Paris with their three kids.
Public opinion was largely in favour of Catherine, with those that attended an public sale at Wanstead declaring Pole a husband who had ‘in some dozen years solely, dissipated the gathered riches of ages, with out dignity, and sunk into comparative poverty, with out pity’.
Ultimately, Wanstead was demolished so Pole might promote the bricks and timber to clear his money owed whereas Catherine’s residence in Tylney Park in Hampshire was additionally offered off.
Soon the couple moved to Italy, the place Pole determined to ditch his unique mistress and embark on a relationship along with his married cousin Helena Bligh.
When she fell pregnant and had an abortion Bligh left her husband for Catherine’s husband, writing to his spouse to inform her about their relationship.
Somehow – Pole satisfied Catherine that Bligh had fled a merciless marriage and urged that the 2 ladies grow to be pals, which they did briefly, travelling as a trio to Florence.
When the reality was out, Catherine demanded Bligh depart their lodge – however quickly she would return to hitch the couple in Paris.
A devastated Catherine ultimately wrote to her father-in-law, insisting: ‘My pricey Lord, this should finish… I’ve borne it until I can bear it not. There is a level the place submission turns into a weak spot, and resistance is felt a responsibility. I’ve reached it…’
Pole reacted by calling Catherine a ‘damned bitch’ and accused her of turning his dad and mom towards him.
As Catherine’s well being declined, Pole started to ‘use the youngsters as weapons’ and he or she ultimately returned to Britain along with her children below the situation she paid her husband £4,000 a yr.
Her solicitors informed Catherine to hunt a divorce and reclaim what was left of her belongings whereas Pole returned to England along with his cousin, who was now pregnant along with his child.
The final yr of the heiresses life was ‘fairly ghastly’, spent making an attempt to flee Pole who would break into her residence making an attempt to abduct her kids – ultimately having to maneuver them from her care for his or her safety.
In September 1825, she visited her kids one final time at her residence in Richmond, the place she was being cared for by her sister. She died the next day, aged thirty-six.
‘The trigger, in keeping with her physician, was the damaged coronary heart cited by Catherine herself (or, extra prosaically, the cumulation of years of anguish)’, writes Thompson. ‘However: provided that Pole believed he would inherit £50,000 on her demise, homicide needs to be a risk. Catherine’s weakened state and abdomen cramps are definitely appropriate with poisoning.’
Shortly after Catherine’s demise, for the primary time in authorized historical past, a father was disadvantaged of his kids on the grounds of unfitness and Catherine’s children grew to become Wards in Chancery and had been cared for by their aunts.
The younger heiress kidnapped and married for her fortune
Ellen Turner was the kid of William Turner, a rich mill proprietor in Chester, Ellen held the title of ‘the richest heiress in the dominion’
At simply 15, Ellen Turner was one of essentially the most eligible heiresses of the nineteenth century.
The baby of William Turner, a rich mill proprietor in Chester, Ellen held the title of ‘the richest heiress in the dominion’ and was a prime goal for kidnappers – a lot in order that her father positioned her in a personal Christian boarding faculty in Liverpool.
In 1826, she could be lured out of the varsity by thirty-year-old Edward Gibbon Wakefield, a intelligent and impressive lawyer who was extraordinarily eager to bag an heiress bride.
With the assistance of his brother William and their younger stepmother Frances Davis, the brothers got here up with a plan to get their arms on Ellen’s huge fortune.
Initially, Frances got here up with the concept of courting Ellen and marrying her legally, however progressively determined that it could be simpler to kidnap her and pressure her into marriage ceremony Edward.
Frances lived close by to Ellen’s father, and after studying her whereabouts, ready the Wakefield brothers to hold out their kidnapping.
In March, a letter was delivered to Ellen’s faculty telling her that her mom had fallen very ailing and he or she ought to journey residence in the carriage that may be ready for her outdoors.
Despite noticing that the servant driving the carriage wasn’t her father’s, Ellen went along with her kidnappers and was taken to a lodge in Manchester and informed that her father had fallen into nice debt and wanted to flee his lenders.
He stated that his personal uncle was amongst those that lent William Turner cash and that Ellen’s father had provide you with a plan to absolve himself of debt by marrying his daughter.
According to The Times, he informed her ‘it now remained for her to find out whether or not she would accede, or her papa could be turned out of doorways!’.
Desperate to save lots of her father, Ellen agreed to journey with the brothers to Gretna Green the place they had been married, shortly shifting Ellen to Calais telling her he had an ‘pressing appointment’.
William was knowledgeable by the varsity that his daughter was lacking, however had no concept what had occurred till receiving a letter from Wakefield a few days later telling him Ellen was married.
After eight days lacking, Ellen’s relations arrived in Calais, the place they battled with Wakefield to see their daughter – who he stated was in love with him and had been a keen participant in the wedding.
William’s solicitor delighted Ellen by informing her that the wedding was not authorized, and Ellen managed to flee France for England in the protected arms of her household. But Wakefield did not go down with out a struggle.
His trial garnered big public consideration, and Wakefield was nonetheless combating to clear his identify, insisting that their emotions had been mutual.
After managing to get his trial delayed, he pretended to be a heartbroken lover, sending Ellen books, portraits and love poems to persuade the jury that she was as soon as in love with him too.
In March 1827, the trial went forward with Ellen giving highly effective testimony about th lies that had led her to wed Edward. After simply twenty minutes of dialogue the jury discovered him responsible and sentenced to a few years in jail.
Despite his conviction, Wakefield went on to have a formidable political profession in Canada and New Zealand. He died in 1862.
Ellen married one of her prosecution crew, Thomas Legh however died in childbirth aged 19.
Heiresses: The Lives of the Million Dollar Babies by Laura Thompson, Apollo, is accessible for £25