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Wedlock: True Story of the Worst Husband in British History

Updated on June 10, 2015
The cover of 'Wedlock' by Wendy Moore.
The cover of 'Wedlock' by Wendy Moore. | Source

The scandal of Mary Bowes - ancestor to Her Majesty the Queen

Wow, if you thought you'd heard it all when it comes to abusive husbands, you need to think again. This is the scandalous story of Mary Eleanor Bowes and her marriage to a man who was a marital monster beyond belief.

This is an astonishing story and a true event from British history

Who was Mary Bowes?

When she was eleven years old, she became enormously wealthy. Her father had been one of the richest landowners and industrialists of the eighteenth century.

When she was just eighteen, she married John Lyon, who was the the 9th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorn. Together, they had five children. So far so good.

Enter Andrew Stoney

Mary was only in her mid twenties when her husband died and she was left a widow. Like any red-blooded woman of her age (and of those times) she took a lover and the couple became engaged.

However, adventurer Andrew Stoney had his eye on her fortune.

Tricked into marriage

Attracted by her immense wealth, Stoney considered how he could possibly win her hand. In collusion with the editor of one of the newspaper of the day, he arranged for scandalous articles about Mary and her lover appeared in the press. It's thought that Stoney wrote them himself.

A faked duel

The two conspirators then had a faked duel, with Stoney declaring that he was upholding Mary's honour. He lost.

He summoned Mary to his 'deathbed' and begged that, as he had duelled to his near-death due to his love for her, it was his dying wish that she married him as he was due to expire at any moment.

Would this elaborate scheme work?

Touched by this chivalrous and romantic plea, Mary agreed. A deathbed marriage was arranged.

This was the worst decision she ever made in her life. From this point on, her life - and her fortune - were not her own. She was completely at the mercy of this unscrupulous deceiver.

A miraculous recovery

As soon as the ceremony was over and Stoney had his hands on Mary's vast fortune, he made a miraculous recovery.

For the next eight years he subjected his wife to every abuse imaginable whilst he cavorted with his mistresses. Honestly, you cannot imagine that any man could treat his wife in such an appalling fashion for so many years. If this was a novel, it would be hard to believe but this is a true story - appalling.

I'm not writing a spoiler here but the story of what happened Mary is truly fascinating.

I strongly recommend this true life period drama.

You might also be interested in these two books.

How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain's Most Ineligible Bachelor and his Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate
How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain's Most Ineligible Bachelor and his Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate
The story of Mary Bowes was the first I'd read by the author and I have become a devoted fan. This is now on my wishlist. Again, it deals with eighteenth century marriage but this time, tells of a man who was sure he could create his own perfect wife. An amazing story.
Counting One's Blessings: The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
Counting One's Blessings: The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
You might have made the connection when I wrote that Mary BOWES married John LYON. Before her marriage, the Queen Mother's maiden name was Bowes-Lyon.She is directly descended from Mary Bowes and her first husband. This means that the story in the book you see above tells the story of one of our present queen's direct ancestors.

The fact that these events took place in another age is no excuse for his behaviour. However it's fascinating to read about society in those days - its morals, ethics and day today life. The book below is highly recommended if you'd like to learn more about this period in history.

The Penguin Social History of Britain: English Society in the Eighteenth Century
The Penguin Social History of Britain: English Society in the Eighteenth Century
Mary Bowes was certainly no better than she ought to be but I'm not going to cast the first stone. Before she met Stoney, she had several abortions by her lover. But in those days of dubious contraception this was probably more common than people realised. This is an excellent book that explains more about those times in British history.

Mary Bowes Lyon

Mary Bowes
Mary Bowes

Stoney was not simply content to avail himself of his wife's fortune. He also felt obliged to abuse and humiliate her for years after they manufactured marriage.

He was surely one of the worst - if not the worst - husband in British history.

© 2014 Jackie Jackson


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