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The Scandalous Lady Fleming

Updated on January 8, 2020

The early Life of Lady Fleming Worsley

Born Seymour Dorothy Fleming 1758 England to Sir John Fleming, First Baron, and Jane Coleman, she was only five when her father and two sisters died. She and another sister raised by her mother. In 1770 her mother remarried to Edwin Lascelles, a wealthy plantation owner in the West Indes.

Now 17, Seymour, a very wealthy young woman, married Sir Richard Worsley. Unfortunately, they were ill-suited for each other Sir Richard was a cad and only sought the large inheritance of Lady Worsley. It wasn't long before their marriage was falling apart. Sir Richard had several affairs ignoring his wife.

At this period in England, a married woman and any money, property, real or personal belonged to the husband. Sir Richard had purchased Appuldurcrombe House and wanted to add more land to the estate.

George Bisset was a neighbor and best friend of Sir Richard and Lady Worsley. It wasn't long before Bisset and Lady Worsley were infatuated with each other with Sir Richard seeming to encourage the relationship.


First Affair of Lady Fleming

Before long, Bisset and Lady Worsley fell in love, and pregnancy was made apparent. In August 1781, a daughter was born, Jane Seymour Worsley with Bisset being the father. Sir Richard claimed the daughter as his to avoid any scandal. And then it got worse because Lady Worsley and Bisset eloped in the fall of 1781. They stayed in a hotel in London for several days, hardly leaving their room.

Sir Richard had tracked them down and was threatening to sue Bisset for making him a fool. Sir Richard was intent on making Bisset pay for his humiliation. He obtained an attorney and filed for a separation. By filing for separation and not divorce meant neither party could remarry until the death of the other.

Harewood House

Today, the painting of Lady Fleming Worsley hangs in the Cinnamon Drawing Room at Harewood House. The beautiful painting was done by Joshua Reynolds.

Lady Seymour Fleming Worsley

Lady Seymour Fleming Worsley
Lady Seymour Fleming Worsley

Sir Richard Worsley

Sir Richard Worsley
Sir Richard Worsley

Trial of Bisset

On 21 February 1782, the trial Worsley v. Bisset began with the public and newspapers following every step of the way of this scandal. Lady Worsley was ready to answer the complaint of Sir Richard in court. She was going to stand by her man regardless of the consequences. She had gotten several of her lovers along with her doctor, Dr. William Osborn. Bisset was questioned if he had soiled Lady Worsley's reputation. When he answered, he said, "how could I, I wasn't the first lover."

Then several of the lovers were taking the stand, and each was separately saying how Sir Richard seemed to encourage them and at no time seemed even a little upset

And the defense now called Marion Marriott, the bathhouse attendant about an incident that took place at Maidstone. She said how she saw Sir Richard letting Bisset climb on his shoulders to observe Lady Worsley naked. This testimony was probably the final nail in the coffin for Sir Richard. The jury deliberated a short time and issued an award of one shilling. The judge concurred and stated Sir Richard had a hand in his wife's adultery, allowing it to happen and even encouraging her.

At the conclusion, the newspapers were adding cartoons depicting Sir Richard the fool. After the trial, Sir Richard went into seclusion completely humiliated. He then left London on a long journey collecting art and antiques for his estate.

Maidstone Bathhouse

Maidstone Bathhouse
Maidstone Bathhouse

Sir Richard Files for Separation

After Sir Richard returned he was now officially filing for separation and not a divorce. By filing for separation it meant neither party could remarry until the other party died. Sir Richard still had complete control of her property and inheritance. He even refused to give her clothing and jewelry. By now she had a daughter, Charlotte Hammond by Bisset. Without funds, she had no choice but to send them to a family in Ardennes. Bisset learned there would be no divorce only a separation so he left Lady Worsley on her own.

There were not a lot of options for Ladt Worsley and she did the only thing a woman in her situation could do. She joined a coterie club for the aristocrats to gather together. Several other ladies of society were also members. Some of them were Lady Grosvenor, Lady Derby, Lady Ann Cork, and the Honorable Catherine Newton. The ladies would play cards, gamble, have parties and dinner with the male members who included some dukes among them.

Conditions of the Seperation

Sir Richard, still hurting from the outcome of his humiliation, now set conditions on Lady Worley. She was to spend four years in exile in France and no contact with her children. She accepted these terms. When she was in France, it was while the French Revolution was going on, and at one time she was imprisoned but managed to escape. She would later learn her son died during her exile. She knew anyone could go to the guillotine so she was very lucky to escape.

She returned to England in 1797. Richard died in 1805, and finally, her inheritance and property became hers again.

Less than a month later, Lady Worsley would remarry John Lewis Cuchet, and she took back her maiden name along with her husband, also using the name Fleming. She was 47 years of age, and John was 26. Shortly after their marriage, a young lady showed up at their door, claiming to be her daughter by Sir Richard and Lady Worsley. Rather than go through another trial, Lady Fleming settled with her.

They moved back to Paris, where she died in 1818. Her marriage to John seemed to be a happy one, and he was always by her side taking care of her. Even though John remarried after her death, he requested to be buried beside her.


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