The second courtesan to seek a fairytale ending…

Harriette_Wilson00Last week, I told Amy’s story, of how she looked for a fairytale ending to her life as a courtesan, through marriage to a Duke. Amy’s ending wasn’t the fairytale she’d hoped; it came crashing to a sorry conclusion when her Duke married someone else two weeks after she gave birth to his son.

But now I’ll tell the story of Harriette’s younger sister, Sophia. I talked in an earlier post, about how Sophia was seduced into becoming a courtesan, but now she’s parted ways with Lord Deerhurst, she can consider better options.

Before I begin her story, as ever, here’s the quick recap of the background to this series of posts, as usual, if you’ve read it before skip to the end of the italics and read on.

In 1825 Harriette Wilson, a courtesan, published a series of stories as her memoirs in a British broad sheet paper. The Regency gentleman’s clubs were a buzz, waiting to see the next names mentioned each week. While barriers had to be set up outside the shop of her publisher, Stockdale, to hold back the disapproving mob.

Harriette was born Harriette Debochet, she chose the name Harriette Wilson as her professional name, in the same way Emma Hart, who I’ve blogged about previously, had changed her name. Unlike Emma, it isn’t known why or when Harriette changed her name.

She was one of nine surviving children. Her father was a watchmaker and her mother a stocking repairer, and both were believed to be from illegitimate origin.

Three of Harriette’s sisters also became courtesans. Amy, Fanny and Sophia (who I have written about before). So the tales I am about to begin in my blogs will include some elements from their lives too.

For a start you’ll need to understand the world of the 19th Century Courtesan. It was all about show and not just about sex. The idle rich of the upper class aspired to spending time in the company of courtesans, it was fashionable, the thing to do.

You were envied if you were linked to one of the most popular courtesans or you discovered a new unknown beauty to be admired by others.

Courtesans were also part of the competitive nature of the regency period too, gambling was a large element of the life of the idle rich and courtesans were won and lost and bartered and fought for.

So courtesans obviously aspired to be one of the most popular, and to achieve it they learnt how to play music, read widely, so they could debate, and tried to shine in personality too. They wanted to be a favoured ’original’.

The eccentric and outspoken was admired by gentlemen who liked to consort with boxers and jockeys, and coachmen, so courtesans did not aim for placid but were quite happy to insult and mock men who courted them, and demand money for any small favour.

The first we here of Sophia’s new conquest is that he drives, back and forth, past Julia’s front door, in his curricle, all day, and it is highlighted that there is a coronet on his curricle.

Harriette then tells us, that after two weeks of this man passing the house, Sophia now shares with Julia, on a regular basis, he speaks to a friend who knows Julia, and seeks an introduction to Sophia. The man is Lord Berwick, Harriette calls him a Viscount. He was a Baron.

Harriette is very disparaging of poor Sophia, so I am never certain how much in her memoirs is realistic when it comes to Sophia, or whether Harriette just loved having a dig, and being mean to Sophia, but I’ll tell the story as she has.

Unlike Amy, from what Harriette says, Sophia had no eye for wealth or status when she met Lord Berwick, she judged people by whether she liked them or not, and she did not like Lord Berwick. Sophia was still under seventeen; and Lord Berwick in his forties – I think. Yet she had recognised that his barouche was very comfortable to drive in.

Lord Berwick took to calling daily, courting Sophia’s attention, but as she did not like him Sophia refused to meet him alone but always asked either Harriette or Julia to accompany her if she dined with him, or rode with him in his carriage.

Harriette recalls the era of Lord Berwick’s courting as a busy, pleasant time, as he took them all out for parties in Richmond regularly, with friends, and became one of the set the courtesans constantly mingled with (and perhaps Harriette began to build up her own hopes, with one of the party, but that’s another story).  Lord Berwick’s courting even continued when Harriette went to Brighton with her new conquest, and Sophia went too.

But, Sophia’s story is entirely different to Amy’s, in that she never sought Lord Berwick’s favour. You might think she was being coy, perhaps she was, and showing him no interest, to increase his interest. But in Brighton, Harriette tell us, that Sophia so blatantly showed her disapproval of Lord Berwick, by being ill-tempered, that it made the whole party feel uncomfortable.

So when Lord Berwick comes to Harriette, asking her to help him persuade Sophia to become his mistress for £500 a year, Harriette, highlights that Sophia dislikes him. But Lord Berwick says ‘I do not mind that, and by giving her what she wants, she may perhaps get over that dislike.’ He goes on to say, what he likes about Sophia, is that he believes everything Sophia says, and does not feel he would need to watch or suspect her.

Harriette, describes this as Sophia being, candid. 🙂

The following night, they all go to the theatre and sit in Lord Berwick’s box, and Harriette describes Lord Berwick as sitting at the back in the dark, where he cannot see or hear the play, while Sophia completely ignored him.

The next night the party dined at Harriette’s love nest, and when the women retired from the table, leaving the men behind, as part of their discussion they told Sophia, she was wrong to be taking so much from Lord Berwick and to give him nothing. So by the end of the night Sophia had been persuaded to agree to his Lordship setting up, and furnishing, a house for her in London. (Although Harriette later says, Lord Berwick had paid Julia, for persuading Sophia to accept). But still Sophia avoided Lord Berwick, by asking Fanny to stay with her in the town house, he’d set up, for a whole week.

But true to his word, not only did he give her a house, but her own carriage, which she travelled out in with her sisters, paying calls.

Then, without any apparent persuasion from Sophia, he took it in his head to marry her.

Sophia, who Harriette loves telling us had been hugely impressed by a few valueless trinkets when she was seduced at a very young age by Lord Deerhurst, was perhaps convinced purely by his gifts, as he’d planned. Because, although she continued to protest her dislike of Lord Berwick, and Harriette says, delayed the wedding, her sisters thought the delay was only a ruse to make it appear she had not been easily won. Harriette relates, that when Fanny played devil’s advocate and told Sophia his Lordship was thinking of withdrawing the offer, so it was a good thing Sophia did not care for him, Sophia blushed and then the next day went ahead with her wedding plans.

So for Sophia, there was a respectable end, and a very happy father who was thrilled to have a daughter raised to the status of nobility. While Harriette and her other sisters, who were courtesans, were left behind and no longer recognised, now Lord Berwick considered Sophia washed clean of sin by marriage. (This is why I doubt Harriette’s descriptions because jealousy does, sometimes, seem to ooze from the page, although Harriette never admits any envy)

But a fairtytale? Well, Sophia, had everything she wanted, and I’m currently sharing pictures of the house she lived in on my Facebook page, so you can see the luxury she resided in.  Yet although Lord Berwick continued to shower her with gifts, to make her happy, Sophia never really liked him… The consequence was that in the end he became bankrupt and they had to leave the country to avoid debtors prison, while all their lovely things went up for auction. Fortunately Lord Berwick’s brother saved a lot of it.

I think Sophia’s fairytale ending, was far more likely be the point in her life after Lord Berwick died in Naples, when she came back to England, supported by his family, and lived comfortably, and alone, until she died in her eighties.

You can still see some of their furniture at Lord Berwick’s house, and a very special gift Lord Berwick gave to Sophia, a music box…

Like my Facebook page to see all the pictures.

Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional love stories.

See the side bar for details of Jane’s books, and Jane’s website 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


Attingham family tales, Sophia Dubochet and the 2nd Lord Berwick

Sophia Dubochet

Sophia Dubochet

We spent a great day at Attingham recently, it is an amazing house. In a previous blog I spoke of the scandalous real life story of a young courtesan, Sophia Dubochet and the 2nd Lord Berwick. Sophia being the sister of the infamous kiss and tell writer of the 1800’s Harriette Wilson who was also a courtesan, and probably jealous of her lucky younger sister.

You can understand her jealousy when you see the house and park Sophia managed to obtain as a home through her marriage to Lord Berwick.

Lord Berwick was clearly devoted to Sophia. He was brought up a son of a love match. (His father had also defied advice over his choice of bride and married for love.)

His father built Attingham and it is divided in the fashionable style, with a feminine and masculine side to the house.

The feminine side is very romantically decorated, with beautiful ceiling paintings of scenes of idyllic love, with cupids carrying their bows.

Attingham 1

It is no wonder then that when the 2nd Lord Berwick fell in love at forty, with a seventeen year old courtesan, he decided to flout the unwritten rules of society and have her for his wife.

He’d inherited his title at 19, and undertaken the Grand Tour, and probably, as was common in the time, had an ideal poetic image of love, and he must have passed from his 19th year to his 40th being able to have everything he wished, with wealth and status to supply it. Hence he deliberately set out to purchase Sophia’s love, buying her numerous gifts.

His lavish spending on her did not stop when they married. Much of the redecoration they undertook survives at Attingham and what has not survived is being replaced so you can see the house in the style they established.

For instance the black and pink curtains Thomas, the 2nd Lord Berwick, put up in his study.

You can also see one of the gifts Thomas gave Sophia, a gold music box, with a monkey as the conductor and a gold harp.

Sophia collected birds, and spent extravagantly on herself and others. Needless to say they financially ran aground in the end.

In 1827 and 1829 they were forced to hold bankruptcy auctions to pay off debts.

At this point Thomas’s younger brother William came to the rescue and purchased much of the furniture and then leased Attingham.

Attingham 8

Thomas and Sophia went  to Italy following this, where Thomas died in 1832. Sophia then returned to England and died in Lemington Spa at the age of 81 in 1875.

There are some of Sophia’s dresses and other articles on show at Attingham, her fans and calling-card holders.

It sets my imagination off looking at these things and thinking of someone I have read so much about holding them, wearing them and touching them. Quite, quite, amazing.


To see the Attingham website with internal pictures go to


Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional love stories.

See the side bar for details of Jane’s books and Jane’s website 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