My Recollections by Adeline Horsey Countess Cardigan 1824 1915 Chapter IV: Presented at Court is in My Recollections by Adeline Horsey Countess Cardigan 1824 1915.
My mother presented me at Court in February 1842, and shortly afterwards I went with my parents to the first fancy dress ball given by Queen Victoria (22).
Our dresses were lovely. My father (52) wore the uniform of a Garde Francaise, and my mother was dressed as a Court lady of the same period. I went as a Louis XV. shepherdess. Mamma took endless pains in seeing that my costume was perfectly designed and carried out, and the result amply repaid her. I was very pleased with my own reflection when at last I was ready after what seemed hours of preparation. My hair was exquisitely poudre and my beautiful pink and white brocade gown, garlanded with roses, looked as though it had actually belonged to my prototype at Versailles. The Queen (22) and Prince Albert (22) complimented mamma on my appearance, and told her that my dress was one of the prettiest in the ballroom. I wore my " Shepherdess " costume at Stafford House St James' in the following July when the Royal Ball was reproduced.
On March 23, 1843, I experienced the first real sorrow of my happy girlhood, for my beloved mother died after an attack of scarlet fever.
The blow was a terrible one. Mamma was a beautiful, charming woman, and she was loved by every one who knew her. It seemed hard to bow to the decree of a Providence that deprived us of her, for she was so helpful, so interested in all we did, the most perfect wife and mother, and the most sympathetic of friends.
One of my treasured possessions is a gold cross containing a relic of St. Stephen which she once gave me ; I often wear it, and I then always feel very " near " to her, and I am convinced that her gentle spirit has sustained and comforted me in many sorrows I have experienced.
After mamma's death I kept house for papa at 8 Upper Grosvenor Street. My brothers were rarely at home. William (17) was educated at Eton, and when he was sixteen years old the Duke of Wellington (73) gave him a commission in the Grenadier Guards. Later he went through the Crimean War, and he retired from the Army in 1883, on account of ill-health, with the rank of Lieutenant-General.
Algernon (16) entered the Navy in 1840 as a midshipman, and the same year took part in the operations on the coast of Syria. After the battle of Acre he received the Turkish medal and clasps : his promotion was rapid, and as Admiral, his flagship, the Shah, engaged the Huascar, which he forced to surrender to the Peruvian authorities.
Now that I was so much alone I occasionally found time hang heavy on my hands, and I welcomed any excitement as a break in the monotony, for of course our period of mourning prevented us entertaining or accepting invitations. One day my maid told me about a fortune-teller who had a wonderful gift for predicting the future. I was very much interested, and made up my mind to consult the oracle. My maid attempted to dissuade me, saying that the woman lived in Bridge Street, Westminster, which was not at all a nice neighbourhood. I have always had my own way and, disguised in a borrowed cloak, bonnet and thick veil, and accompanied by my protesting servant, I started off to Bridge Street late one November afternoon.
It was dusk when we reached Westminster and found Bridge Street, badly lighted and evil-smelling. We knocked at the door, stated whom we wished to see, and we were ushered through a dark passage into a dirty room reeking of tobacco.
The fortune-teller was a wrinkled old woman who was smoking a short clay pipe with evident enjoyment. When I told her what I had come for, she produced a greasy pack of cards, and after I had "crossed her pahn " she commenced to tell my future.
" Ah ! " said she at last, and she looked curiously, " my pretty young lady, fate holds a great deal in store for you. You will not marry for several years, but when you do it will be to a widower — a man in a high position. You will suffer much unkindness before you experience real happiness, you will obtain much and lose much, you will marry again after your husband's death, and you will live to a great age"..
I was quite impressed by my "fortune", but I was a little disappointed, for like most girls I had my day-dreams of a young husband, and the prospect of a widower was thus rather depressing.
Strangely enough, the prediction came true, for Lord Cardigan (45) was a widower, and nearly all the men who proposed to me were widowers ! I was asked in marriage by Lord Sherborne (38), a widower with ten children ; by the Duke of Leeds (40), who was a widower with eleven children, and by Christopher Maunsell Talbot (39), once Father of the House of Commons, also a widower with four children. Prince Soltykoff, the Duke of St. Albans (41), Harry Howard, and Disraeli (38) were other widowers who proposed to me, so I suppose I must have had some unaccountable fascination for bereaved husbands.
One of my most amusing experiences about this time originated in my wish to see a rather risque play at the Princess's Theatre.
" Papa", said I one morning at breakfast, " I wish you would take me to the Princess's Theatre : every one's talking about the play. Do let us go this evening"..
" Quite impossible", answered papa, with great decision. "Quite impossible, Adeline — I am dining to-night with General Cavendish at the Club, a long-standing engagement, and", he continued, in a tone of conscious virtue, "even if I were disengaged, I should not think of taking my daughter to see such a play ; nothing, my dear, is so degrading as a public display of lax morals, and it is the duty of every self-respecting person to discountenance such a performance. Let me hear no more about it " ; and he opened the Times with an air of finality.
The evergreen fabrication of "going to the Club", the most obvious and clumsy of lies invented by man to deceive woman, was as flourishing then as it is to-day. Perhaps it was more successful, as the telephone was not invented. I quite believed papa's statement, but I was deceived, as subsequent events proved.
I was very much annoyed. All the morning I brooded over papa's refusal, and then I suddenly made up my mind that I would go to the play in spite of him.
I rang for my maid. " Parker", I said, "go at once to the Princess's Theatre and bespeak a box for me, and be ready to come with me to-night"..
"Alone, miss?" ventured Parker.
" Yes, alone, now don't waste a moment " ; and no sooner had she set off than I wrote and despatched a letter to Lord Cardigan, who was a friend of papa, and asked him to come to my box at the Princess's that evening.
Parker and I arrived early and I settled down to enjoy myself. The overture commenced, and I was just about to inspect the audience when Lord Cardigan came into the box ; he was rather agitated. " Miss de Horsey", he said, without any preliminaries, "you must leave the theatre at once"..
" I'll do no such thing", I cried angrily. " What on earth is the matter? ".
" Well", reluctantly answered Cardigan — "well, Miss de Horsey, your father and General Cavendish are in the box opposite — with " (he looked at me apologetically) — " with their mistresses ! It will never do for you to be seen. Do, I implore you, permit me to escort you home before the performance begins"..
I was seized with an uncontrollable desire to laugh. So this was the long-standing engagement, this papa's parade of morality ! I peeped out from the curtains of the box — it was quite true ; directly opposite to me there sat papa and the General, with two very pretty women I did not remember seeing before.
" I shall see the play", I said to Lord Cardigan, "and you'll put me into a cab before it is over ; I shall be home before papa returns from — the ' Club ' " ; and I laughed again at the idea.
I spent a most exciting evening hidden behind the curtains, and I divided my attention between papa and the performance. About the middle of the last act we left. Lord Cardigan hailed a hackney-carriage and gave the driver directions where to go ; he then wished me good-night and a safe return. It was a foggy evening, and the drive seemed interminable. I became impatient. "Parker", I said, " lower the window and tell the man to make haste"..
Parker obeyed, and I heard an angry argument in the fog. She sat down with a horrified face and announced : " we are nearly at Islington — and the driver's drunk ! ".
Here was a pretty state of things ! " Parker, tell him to stop at once". She did so, and I got out to ascertain what was happening. The man was drunk, but I succeeded in fightening him into turning his horse's head in the direction of Upper Grosvenor Street, and we set off again.
Theatres were " out " much earlier then than now, but it must have taken a long time to reach Mayfair, for I heard midnight strike when the cab stopped at the end of the street. I sent Parker on to open the door while I paid the man, and I devoutly hoped the " Club " had proved attractive enough to prevent papa returning; home before me. As I stood in front of No. 8 the door was opened — not by Parker but by papa. I felt I was in for a mauvais quart d'heure, but I walked quietly into the hall. " Adeline", said papa in an awful voice, "explain yourself. Where have you been.-* Is this an hour for a young lady to be out of doors? How dare you conduct yourself in this manner ? ". The courage of despair seized me — and, let me confess it, a spice of devilment also. I faced my angry parent quite calmly. "I've been to the Princess's Theatre, papa, I said demurely (he started) ; and I saw you and General Cavendish there ; I thought you were dining at the Club . . . and I saw . . ".. "Go to bed at once, Adeline", interrupted papa, looking very sheepish, "we'll talk about your behaviour later". But he never mentioned the subject to me again !.
The intimate history of Society is full of unsuspected tragedy, but when the veil is torn aside, the unhappiness of many a husband and wife becomes tragedy in real earnest, and the light-hearted butterflies who sip the sweets of the good things of this life are horrified at the idea of such things happening in their midst. The grim story I am about to relate concerned particular friends of mine, and it made a great impression upon me. Constance de Burgh (22) was one of my great friends, she was a very pretty, charming girl who married Lord Ward (34), who had always been considered a great parti by mothers with marriageable daughters.
Constance (22) was not in love with her husband (34) ; he had proposed and she was told she must accept him. A dutiful daughter of rather colourless character, Constance never dreamt of opposition, and so she became Lady Ward.
Marriage frequently means disillusion, and the Ward marriage was not a success.
William Ward (34) was a pleasant man, but he had extraordinary ideas of how to treat a wife, ideas which could only be tolerated by a tactful woman who could laugh at them, and forget all the unpleasantness they entailed. Poor Constance was not tactful, and not accommodating. Her husband worshipped the beautiful ; he had selected his wife partly on account of her beauty, and he treated her like some lovely slave he had bought. He had a strange, almost barbaric passion for precious stones, and he bought quantities of them and lavished them on his wife, who appeared at great entertainments literally ablaze with diamonds.
What pleased Lord Ward more than anything was to make Constance put on all her jewels for his special benefit when they were alone. He would admire her thus for hours, delighting in her lovely unclothed figure, and contrasting the sheen of her ropes of pearls with her delicate skin, as she sat on a black satin-covered couch.
These strange proceedings at first terrified and then disgusted Constance. She appealed to her father, but her parents decided that her husband's peculiarities came within the meaning of the marriage vows, and she was told she must submit to her husband's humours.
Fate then threw Constance (22) across Lord Dupplin's (24) path, with the result that the tragedy began.
I knew Blanche Dupplin (23) very well, and often when I was lunching with her she would tell me sorrowfully about her husband's (24) infatuation. "It is useless to expostulate", said Blanche; " Dupplin will not abandon the affair, and I don't know how it will end if William Ward (34) finds out his wife's (22) infidelity"..
Matters came to a crisis at a fancy dress ball given by Lady Londonderry (22) at Holderness House, the chief feature being a quadrille danced by ladies representing famous European queens. I met the Wards there ; Constance looked delicate, and early in the evening she said she felt ill and must go home. She came over to where her husband and I were standing, and asked him whether he intended to accompany her.
" No, I shall stay", said Lord Ward (34), " I mean to have several dances with Miss de Horsey. Go home by all means if you are tired"..
Constance was enceinte, so her absence excited no comment as she was far from strong. Her husband remained until nearly 3 a.m., when he departed for his house in Park Lane — it was daylight, and, as he approached the house, he suddenly noticed a man leaving it. Their eyes met ; it was Lord Dupplin (24), who turned and ran for his life down the street.
Lord Ward entered, and startled the sleepy footman by telling him to rouse the servants and bid them assemble in the hall. He then went upstairs to his wife's bedroom.
What passed between them was told by Constance to a friend ; her husband came to her bedside and accused her of committing adultery with Lord Dupplin (24). " Get up, madame", he continued, "my house is yours no longer; arrangements shall be made for your future, but henceforth you are no wife of mine"..
Tears and entreaties were useless, and Constance was obliged to dress ; William Ward (34) then led her past the scandalised servants who were waiting downstairs, and — turned her out of doors.
The poor frightened girl managed to reach her parents' house in Grosvenor Crescent, and implored them to give her shelter, but they were as heartless as her husband, and told her they could not take her in. More dead than alive, she turned her steps to Conduit Street, where her singing-master lived, and this gentleman, full of compassion for his unfortunate pupil, allowed her to remain there until the next day, when she went to Ostend. From Ostend she went to Ems, where her child was prematurely born and the unhappy young mother died. Her husband brought her body to England, and once again Constance Ward (22) lay in her darkened bedroom.
On the evening of the day before her burial, Lord Colville came to see Lord Ward. They talked for some time and then the widower suddenly turned to his friend.
"Colville — you admired my wife ? " "Yes", replied Lord Colville, " I did". " Well, come and look your last on her", said Lord Ward, and lighting a candle he led the way upstairs.
The room was full of shadows, and the flickering light fell on the lovely face of the dead woman. Silently Lord Colville stood by her, and his heart ached when he thought of her fate. Ward was watching him attentively. "Still admiring my wife? Well, she was a pretty woman — but — you'd never credit she had such bad teeth". He put down the candle on a table as he spoke, and raised his wife's head from the pillow. With cold deliberation he wrenched the jaws apart. " I always told you she had bad teeth", he repeated, "look here, man". But Lord Colville had hurriedly left the room. He told me afterwards it was the most ghastly sight he had ever seen.