My Thoughts on ‘Wedlock: How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match’ by Wendy Moore



‘Wedlock: How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match’ by Wendy Moore

I know that this doesn’t seem like the happiest, or the most inspiring of subjects to read about upon the dawn of a new year, but I just could not resist getting my nose stuck into Wendy Moore’s ‘Wedlock: How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match’.

Not only did I want this book to feed my Georgian-History Fix, but I was also incredibly intrigued by the book’s alluring title… (I’m sure you guys are too, right)?! I mean, who wouldn’t want to unearth all the juicy gossip surrounding a disastrous marriage, even if the drama did unfold nearly 300 years ago?

Well, Wendy Moore did all of that and more! I was absolutely enthralled with ‘Wedlock’ from start-to-finish and as a consequence, I completed this book incredibly quickly. The Daily Telegraph certainly wasn’t lying when it praised ‘Wedlock’ for flowing as easily as a novel.


Author: Wendy Moore

To give you a taste of just how good this book is, before I had finished the first chapter I had already encountered bloodthirsty duels, near-death-instances and shockingly clandestine marriages to wealthy heiresses! What more could you want when discovering Georgian Britain?

The tale centres around the Anglo-Irish solider Andrew Robinson Stoney, and his second wife Mary Eleanor Bowes. Mary Eleanor was attracted to Stoney for his dashing good looks, persuasive charm and romantic endeavours to win her hand. Stoney on the other hand, was solely interested in Mary’s impressive fortune rather than for her beauty or intelligence. As their story develops, Wendy reveals how this swift romance which took the Georgian world by storm, quickly transformed into a marriage from hell. Mary’s marriage to Stoney was filled with violence, drink, gambling, adultery, lying, debt, humiliation and abduction. You honestly could not make it up!

‘Wedlock’ is similar to reading a Georgian celebrity-gossip magazine. It’s eager to shed light on the scandals and mysteries which surrounding a high-profile marital disaster. What’s more, Wendy Moore not only opens our eyes to the horrific terror which Mary Eleanor faced. She also conveys how Mary eventually found the courage to undergo the unthinkable: divorce!


Mary Eleanor Bowes (1749-1800) with her one of her daughters.

The book is brilliant, simply because Wendy is not afraid to portray her heroine in a not-so-attractive light. Initially I cared little for Mary Eleanor due to her naivety, vanity and spoilt personality. Here was a woman who cared little for her children, whom thought nothing of committing adultery whilst her first husband lay dying, and who willing inflicted several abortions upon herself, as a consequence of her secret love affair. How is it possible to feel much sympathy and respect towards a woman such as this?

However, after Mary’s marital trials are unearthed and the strength she displayed is unveiled, I began to develop a smidgen of respect towards this much-transformed and much-matured lady. Her victories over Georgian Britain’s worst husband is a classic tale of good triumphing over evil, and you cannot help but admire her bravery.

‘Wedlock’ opens our eyes to just how restricting life was for women throughout British society during the 18th century, (and throughout many previous centuries too!). This book is more than just a gossip column; it is also an in-depth and well-researched glimpse into Georgian society as a whole. Wendy describes how British law 300 years ago heavily favoured the male population. Loveless, empty and oppressive marriages were the norm in Britain until very recently, as revealed in ‘Wedlock’. Women were their husband’s property no matter what. Wives were subject to their husband’s desires, with little consideration as to how barbaric they may be. It was practically impossible for a woman to distance themselves from an unhappy union. If they did then they faced the awful punishment of isolation from society, distance from their children and no possibility of remarriage.


Suitably unflattering image of Andrew Robinson Stoney – Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband!

This is what makes Mary and Stoney’s story so unique and worth telling. Wendy Moore has done an applaudable job in bringing the fascinating tale to life. This extraordinary relationship – and its ultimate demise! – was a small, yet highly significant step towards creating Britain’s modern-day attitudes towards marriage and divorce. Page by page, we follow one woman in her attempts to endure, mature and win for herself that much-needed freedom and happiness. As a result, ’Wedlock’ shows how this woman marked a dramatic impact upon Britain’s outlook upon marital law. Even though Mary Eleanor’s story did not transform the law overnight, she certainly caused her peers to reflect upon the rights of women.

The luxury to experience freedom and happiness outside of wedlock, is something which many women within Britain take for granted today. Therefore we should continue to show immense gratitude to Mary Eleanor for her efforts – even if she was incredibly flawed herself. All I can say is: THANK YOU Wendy Moore for bringing this brilliant story to our attention!

I hope that this review has persuaded you to pick up this book too! Whether you’re looking for a shockingly, scandalous tale – (which I forgot to mention, also lies close to that of the Royal Family!) – or seeking a greater understanding of Georgian or women’s history, then I cannot recommend Wendy Moore’s ‘Wedlock: How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match’ highly enough! It has everything in there which you could possibly want in a good history book.



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