The Duke Ran Away with the Maid
Those dukes are often the wildest Regency romance heroes. Here’s a true story that is stranger than fiction!
(With one too many deadlines this week, I’m reprising this post from August 2013.)
Buying and Selling a Wife
In my post a few weeks ago about the release of my novella, Rosalyn’s Ring, the topic of Wife Sales drew a lot of interest.
Legend has it that the highest ranking purchaser of a wife was Henry Brydges, Master of the Horse to Frederick, Prince of Wales, second Marquess of Carnarvon, tenth Baron Chandos, second Viscount Wilton, and the second Duke of Chandos.
A duke—imagine? The fictional regency world is populated with dukes aplenty, and though I’ve seen a duke matched up with an innkeeper’s serving girl in Tessa Dare’s latest book, I’ve yet to see a story about a duke purchasing a wife.
On the way to London, he stopped at an inn…
The story goes that the Duke of Chandos stopped on his way to London at an inn, possibly the Pelican, Newbury, or the Marlborough, Wiltshire, and drawn by a commotion, stumbled into an ostler leading his wife in a halter, intent on selling her. Taken with her beauty and demeanor, the Duke, described by King George II as “a hotheaded, passionate, half-witted coxcomb”, promptly bought her.
But it’s unclear when. Though the Duke’s first wife had died in 1738, readers of historical romance fiction know a truly roguish aristocrat would not let the existence of one wife get in the way of buying a second one. Historian E.P. Thompson puts the date of the purchase as 1740. Certainly it was before 1744, when their marriage was officially recorded.
Yes–the Duke who ran away with the maid actually married her! Thompson gives the new wife’s name as Maria. Wikipedia, with the source unclear, says her name is Anne Wells.
But is it true?
Historian Samuel Pyeatt Menefee, believes the story may be fictitious, but Thompson believes it probable, “since the story clung to him persistently”.
Alas, poor Anne, (or Maria)—she died in 1759 “without male issue”, reminding us that, unlike romance fiction, in real life happily ever after comes to an earthly end.
I love “truth stranger than fiction” stories. Do you know any? Share them in the comments!
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons