Last week I wrote about the friendships the Bessbroroughs and Devonshires developed during their visit to Paris, and before they left they invited both Germaine de Staël and Juliette Récamier. Madame Récamier was the first to accept the invitation, but before I go on to tell you what happened and how it affected Caroline, here is the background to this series of posts for anyone joining them for the first time today and for those who have been following my posts, as always then simply skip to the bold type after the italics.
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.”
Madame Récamier arrived in England in April 1803, and her name spun about the gossips of high society as she wore white, loose garments and lace, which skimmed across her skin, leaving her curves on show.
The Greek looking style reclaimed from ancient statues became known as Nude, because the dresses and fabrics left so little to imagination.
Madame Récamier had a certain way in which she carried herself, it was dramatic, and Lady Caroline fell in love with it and began to mimic her in a way that replicated her love of theatricals. She liked to dress up and imagine fairies, and she was as much in love with flowing dramatic dresses as with wearing breeches, as women did when playing a man’s role in a play. This quirkiness which ran through her life, and later fascinated Lord Byron, had her riding beside the coachman on the bench when she travelled, and jumping down at her destination.
But during this time, when perhaps a daughter would have appreciated a mother’s guidance, Harriet’s thoughts were more focused on not only her current lover Granville, but also her former lover Sheridan, who was a significant influence in the political set that Harriet and Georgiana mingled with. He was having difficulty with his wife and had turned to drink and chasing Harriet, and when he was not chasing her, stirring up trouble for her, spreading ill rumors, and whispering in the ear of the Prince Regent.
During those two years, Caro continued to be courted by William Lamb, but also by her Cousin Hart, who would be the future Duke of Devonshire, and by another cousin Lord Althrop.
In 18o4 Harriet became pregnant again, but not by her husband, by her lover Granville. The child was a boy who was born in the autumn and soon after Harriet wrote a letter to her lover about a play she had seen, about a natural (the word used at the time for those born out of wedlock) born child who’d discovered his father by stealing from him. She wrote ‘I cried my eyes out. The detail of all ye disadvantages a natural child must suffer would alone have affected me, but it is impossible to give you an idea of what this creature is – his tenderness to his Mother, his perfect freedom from all affection and whining… it is impossible to conceive greater perfection.”
We can only wonder how her mother’s behaviour impacted on Caroline.
But Caroline’s own life was about to take a huge turn… When William Lamb’s eldest brother died, leaving him the heir, he proposed to Caroline…
We will pick them up there next week:D
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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