This is the last story I will share of Caroline’s childhood, but this is another very clear view into the family life of the aristocracy in the late 1700s, but before I tell you the details, here is a quick introduction to this series of posts, if you have already read it then just skip to where I have highlighted the text in bold…
I was drawn to Lady Caroline Lamb, who lived in the Regency era, because Harriette Wilson the courtesan who wrote her memoirs in 1825, mentions the Ponsonby and the Lamb family frequently. Also the story of Caroline’s affair with Lord Byron captured my imagination. Caroline was also a writer, she wrote poems, and novels in her later life. I have read Glenarvon.
Her life story and her letters sucked me further into the reality of the Regency world which is rarely found in modern-day books. Jane Austen wrote fictional, ‘country’ life as she called it, and I want to write fictional ‘Regency’ life rather than simply romance. But what I love when I discover gems in my research like Caroline’s story is sharing the real story behind my fiction here too.
Lady Caroline Lamb was born Caroline Ponsonby, on the 13th November 1785. She was the daughter of Frederick Ponsonby, Viscount Duncannon, and Henrietta (known as Harriet), the sister of the infamous Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
Caroline became an official lady when her grandfather died, and her father became Earl of Bessborough earning her the honorific title ‘Lady’ and she grew up in a world of luxury, even Marie Antoinette was a family friend. Caroline was always renowned as being lively, and now it is suspected she had a condition called bipolar. As a child she earned herself a title as a ‘brat’, by such things as telling her aunt Georgiana that Edward Gibbon’s (the author of The Decline and fall of the Roman Empire) face was ‘so ugly it had frightened her puppy’.
And when she grew up Byron once described Caroline as “the cleverest most agreeable, absurd, amiable, perplexing, dangerous fascinating little being that lives now or ought to have lived 2000 years ago.”
Caroline continued to write to her cousins, Georgiana’s children, as she grew up, and she was particularly fond of Hartington, (known as Hart) who adored Caroline, but was much younger. She was close to the girls too though and used them as confidants. There were still many things affecting their lives though…
Georgiana had lost her looks, she had lost one eye, was going blind in the other, and was terribly swollen due to illness.
While Harriet’s, Caroline’s mother’s, young lover, Granville, had to go to Europe and her mother’s former lover, Sheridan ,who may in reality have been Caroline’s father, began visiting Harriet again, fighting to win Harriet’s attention back.
All these things would have isolated Caro a little more, and she describes her feelings over her personal struggle with her hated behaviour, not to one of her cousins, but to the illegitimate daughter of her uncle, Caroline de St Jules, the Duke of Devonshire’s daughter born of Bess…
‘Car Ponsonby in a Passion to Caroline de St Jules
There is a string when touched that wakes my ire
Boils up my blood and sets my soul on fire
Pride is the ruling of passion of that soul
No chain can bind it and no power control
It snaps each tie to feeling hearts allied
And even affection must give way to pride.‘
But to give you a little more insight in the true person Caro was as a young woman, and how her faimly lived, here is one last odd tale I will share of Caroline’s childhood before we leave her life today… Another odd unusual true insight in Georgian life.
The Bessborough family had driven out one night in a curricle, a small two wheeled carriage, not driven by servants but driven by the Earl himself, Lord Bessborough. The curricle contained Caroline and Lady Bessborough too. Many people believe that people did not travel at night, but I discovered from letters and memoirs sometime ago that people did, they used lanterns on carriages to see their way. But if you have ever been out on a night when the sky is covered with clouds, and there are no streetlights for miles, so none can reflect back from the clouds, then you will know just how pitch black night can be. If they were travelling on tracks, then they could have found their way with lamps on carriages. But I think on this occassion, the Bessboroughs could not have been travelling on clear paths, and they became lost. Or course lamps attached on a carriage would not give you much of a view into the distance.
Lord Bessborough became lost, and Lady Bessborough concerned, then her husband angry that she accused him of becoming lost. But when the carriage horses refused to go forward any further and reared, he realized Caroline and Lady Bessborough were very scared. He climbed from the carriage and moved to hold the horses’ heads to calm them, while Lady Bessborough held the reins and then helped Caro also climb from the carriage. They then discovered that they had very nearly come to a fatal end.
The carriage was on the edge of a quarry, and going either forward or back might topple it over the edge. Caroline ran home alone through the dark to fetch the servants to help them…
Next week will be about the point Caro was launched into society as a young adult.
Go to the index
- the story of the real courtesan who inspired The Illicit Love of a Courtesan,
- another free short story, about characters from book #2, A Lord’s Scandalous Love,
- the prequel excerpts for book #3 The Scandalous Love of a Duke
Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional Historical and New Adult Romance stories, and the author of a No.1 bestselling Historical Romance novel in America, ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’.
Click here to find out more about Jane’s books, and see Jane’s website www.janelark.co.uk to learn more about Jane. Or click ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark
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