Scandal: Lady Diana Spencer's Illegitimate Baby
An unhappy life
Lady Diana - or Lady Di as she was more commonly known to friends and family - did not enjoy a happy life. This is the little-known story of the birth of an illegitimate baby that she was forced to conceal.
Like many girls of her age and upbringing, she thought that marriage was her goal in life and that it would bring her lasting happiness. But the man she married was notoriously unfaithful.
She was a sensitive, attractive and artistic girl - probably with too many ideals - and she became the envy of many but her marriage was a bitter disappointment. As often happens, this led Diana to have her own affairs.
This led to a scandalous divorce after which she tried to make a life with her new lover but that too was a disappointment as her new man seemed to have no role in life other than that of a social butterfly.
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Expectations of marriage
Lady Di was from a good family. Her marriage elevated her even further in the ranks.
It all seemed too good to be true at first. But then she realised that her husband really had no intentions of giving up his bachelor life. She realised that he maintained a string of mistresses and a stable of sporting horses and all were closer to his heart than she was.
Resentment soon set in.
Her family, she thought, were from the top drawer. (And the Spencers are - when Prince Charles announced his engagement to another Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, he famously remarked that she was more English than he was). Resentment set in rapidly.
- With them both now indulging in their own extramarital relationships, could the marriage survive?
- It would be a scandal certainly, but would divorce be possible?
- If so, who should instigate it?
This was such a tricky and delicate situation.
So, who was Lady Diana Spencer?
She was the lady you see on the left. She was born in 1734. She married a bloke called Frederick St John, who was also the 2nd Viscount Bolingbroke. It seemed like a good marriage, despite the fact that Lady Di was aware of her husband's lifestyle.
It's not unusual - then or now - for new wives to believe that they can reform errant husbands.
A year after her marriage, Diana became part of Queen Charlotte's retinue - Charlotte had just married King George lll - and being part of the royal household may have assuaged her unhappiness temporarily. Another diversion was the wedding of her brother, Charles, but her husband did not change his ways.
Nevertheless, Diana did her duty and provided her husband with two sons.
A secret baby
Diana became more and more dissatisfied with her life and her husband. (Pictured on the right). It will come as no surprise that,knowing about her husband's infidelities, she took a lover.
He was the rather colourfully named Topham Beauclerk, a handsome man who loved society life.
Rather astonishingly, he was descended from King Charles ll (on the wrong side of the blanket) as was the twentieth century Diana Spencer.
Although still married to her husband, she had his daughter, Anne. How she explained this daughter is unclear as versions vary. Maybe, shall we say, her relationship with her husband hadn't deteriorated too much and she was able to claim that the baby was his. But it was undoubtedly Beauclerk's child.
Two years later, she had another daughter, also by Beauclerk.
Deception in childbirth.
In those days, women went to extraordinary lengths to conceal their illicit pregnancies in order to alter the dates. For example, a woman would give birth in secret and then pad herself to appear to be still pregnant.
Then when the dates were right, she would 'give birth' again to a child who could be two or three months old. In the interim, the child would be in the care of exceptionally well paid wet nurses; their high pay being a guarantee of their discretion and silence. Surprisingly, this worked well.
The birth of Diana's second illicit daughter was well-documented. There was a well-known physician by the name of William Hunter whose speciality was to attend the birth of babies that resulted from illicit aristocratic liaisons. He attended the confinement with the utmost discretion .... at first.
Now that Diana had given birth to two children by her lover, it had obviously become clear that her marriage could no longer continue.
She left the marital home.
The couple decided to divorce and that in itself was a scandalous occurrence in those days. Her husband declared to his friends that he truly loved Diana and that he was heartbroken by her infidelity and the fact that she had abandoned him.
Diana and Topham however, were determined that the divorce should go through successfully. With this intent, they insisted that the doctor who had delivered their second child - who had been sworn to secrecy - should tell about the relationship and the babies in court, thus leaving no doubt that the divorce would be granted.
The couple were married just two days after the divorce was finalised.
Not a happy ending
Although the couple went onto have two more children, it was not the fairytale marriage that Diana had hoped for.
Her consolation was her painting and artwork which was widely lauded by society.
Lady Diana Spencer's scandalous children
Lady Di led a scandalous life.
But that was nothing compared to two of her children - their actions shocked society to the core.
Some of the information you have read here comes from this book.The author is an art historian and has made a lengthy and careful study of Diana and her artworks.Recommended.