The True Story of the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore
By Wendy Moore
(Broadway Books, Paperback, 9780307383372, 400pp.)
Publication Date: February 9, 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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With the death of her fabulously wealthy coal magnate father when she was just eleven, Mary Eleanor Bowes became the richest heiress in Britain. An ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II, Mary grew to be a highly educated young woman, winning acclaim as a playwright and botanist. Courted by a bevy of eager suitors, at eighteen she married the handsome but aloof ninth Earl of Strathmore in a celebrated, if ultimately troubled, match that forged the Bowes Lyon name. Yet she stumbled headlong into scandal when, following her husband’s early death, a charming young army hero flattered his way into the merry widow’s bed.
Captain Andrew Robinson Stoney insisted on defending her honor in a duel, and Mary was convinced she had found true love. Judged by doctors to have been mortally wounded in the melee, Stoney persuaded Mary to grant his dying wish; four days later they were married.
Sadly, the “captain” was not what he seemed. Staging a sudden and remarkable recovery, Stoney was revealed as a debt-ridden lieutenant, a fraudster, and a bully. Immediately taking control of Mary’s vast fortune, he squandered her wealth and embarked on a campaign of appalling violence and cruelty against his new bride. Finally, fearing for her life, Mary masterminded an audacious escape and challenged social conventions of the day by launching a suit for divorce. The English public was horrified–and enthralled. But Mary’s troubles were far from over . . .
Novelist William Makepeace Thackeray was inspired by Stoney’s villainy to write The Luck of Barry Lyndon, which Stanley Kubrick turned into an Oscar-winning film. Based on exhaustive archival research, Wedlock is a thrilling and cinematic true story, ripped from the headlines of eighteenth-century England.
WENDY MOORE is the author of The Knife Man. A journalist and writer specializing in health and medicine, she lives in London with her husband and two children.
“To call the truth stranger than fiction is, in the case of Mary, Countess of Strathmore, an outrageous understatement. Wedlock is the incredible story of her transformation from one of eighteenth-century England's richest, most free-wheeling heiresses into a piteous victim of a cruel, manipulative abuser into an improbable poster-child for modern women's rights. This book is what all history should be: exciting, inspiring, impossible to forget. ”
—Caroline Weber, author of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
“What a story! A beautiful, wealthy countess, accustomed to a life of cosseted privilege, is deceived by an almost impossibly dastardly scoundrel. In Wendy Moore's skillful hands, the decadent and complex world of eighteenth century England, from the broad lawns and exquisite gardens of vast country estates to the Dickensian murk of the London courts, springs to life in all of its gorgeous detail. A darkly fascinating tale of seduction and domestic abuse.”
—Nancy Goldstone, author of Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe
“Drawing on her extensive research and sure grasp of the period, Wendy Moore has produced a gem. Her compelling account of the feisty Countess of Strathmore is a beautifully written page-turner of a book.”
—Julia Fox, author of Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford
“A gripping story, brilliantly told. The tragic history of Mary, Countess of Strathmore, is more than a cautionary tale. Mary is a true heroine: a survivor and a fighter against a brutish husband and an uncaring society. Wendy Moore succeeds admirably in describing a marriage that was forged in hell but lived on earth.”
—Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire