Friday, January 30, 2009

Tart of the Week: Lady Henrietta Grosvenor

Henrietta Vernon was born in the most fortunate of circumstances. Not only was she an aristocrat (grand-daughter of the famous politician Thomas Wentworth) but she was a noted beauty. Therefore, it may come as no surprise that she was married very early in life. She met her future husband in one of the most cinematically romantic of ways, during a rainstorm. Richard Grosvenor, the 1st Baron Grovesnor captured the young girl's fancy despite the 14 year age gap between them. They married within a month of their initial meeting, in 1764.

Henrietta soon realized that her hast in marrying Richard had been a huge mistake. He was a huge gambler, even by 18th century standards. We're talking £250,000 in one night (more than a million today)! When he wasn't gaming away the couple's money he was out whoring in every brothel in London. Yuck! Imagine the diseases he brought back to his young bride. It was not long before Henrietta admitted to feeling "ill used." Do you blame her eye for wandering?

Henrietta's attention fell on the King's brother, Henry Duke of Cumberland who just happened to be the same age as her. Henry himself, already had a rebellious history, it was rumoured that he had married a commoner, Olivia Wilmot and there was to be more commoner marriages in his future as well. Henry was young and royalty; there was a dangerous appeal to having an affair with him. The couple would meet in secret in inns around the country. One time, while they were out at a friend's house in Cavendish Square Henrietta asked for a private meeting with the Duke to talk about her brother in the dining room. They were excused but after a half hour, the friend decided there had been enough talking and went in to interrupt. She found Henry on top of Lady Grosvenor, "with her petticoats up" on her couch. There is nothing I hate more than rude house guests! A crim con trial was soon underway.

As with just about every other crim con trial, this was the talk of the town, especially since it involved royalty. Henrietta, was outraged at her husband's hypocracy. She slept with one man and was to be damned for all time while her husband constantly frequented brothels. She went to bawdy houses in search of witnesses to testify upon Richard's many infidelities. But this was not to aid her defense. Henrietta and Henry's dirty letters to each other was enough to award Richard damages of £10,000. After a mere seven years of marriage, Henrietta and Richard were seperated in 1771.

Now Henrietta was an outcast with a mean £1,200 allowance. But rather than wallow in the sorrow of her situation she made the best of it, and became friends with other social outcasts. Soon she was seen at the Pantheon arm in arm with Lady Worsley. The papers would follow her, in hopes of catching her in a scandalous act with a rake. Once they reported that she showed up to the opera with a different man every night. Well, can you blame her? With such a small allowance, Henrietta needed rich men to support her elegant lifestyle.

In 1802 Richard finally kicked the bucket. Relieving Henrietta of her marriage limbo. A month later Henrietta was no longer Lady Grosvenor. She married Lt.-Gen. George de Hochepied, 6th Baron de Hochepied and retired to a quiet life with him until her death in 1828. Her second husband followed, two months later.


  1. Awesome, a tart, I've never heard of! Thanks, Heather.

  2. Interesting... It's sad how hypocritical 18th century society was towards affairs and lovers.

  3. Oh good! It was hard to find a good tart to write about after Lady Lade, who is a hard act to follow.

    I know, the hypocrisy is so annoying, even if it does produce some great gossip!

  4. I like the detail of the Reynolds portrait--and not because of the insipid pink. Her face has more individuality and personality than most. I'm glad she was finally able to remarry. Lots of women weren't so lucky.

  5. The gossip is great and so is this new tart- Hadn't heard of her before. Crim cons were all the rave it seems!

  6. Thanks! Very interesting. And her husband was not so bad looking, either! Then again practically all men in the late 18th century were attractive.

  7. Lord Grosvenor was infamous for his keeping "low company". He apparently liked getting his women from the filthiest parts of London and Ann Sheldon, his short-term companion, reported that the two of them had contracted lice on one of his amorous expeditions. Long after her relationship with Lord Grosvenor was over, Miss Ann Sheldon wrote her memoirs and published them. She describes the end of their
    relationship, "...after this period, I received very few visits from his Lordship---nor did he ever fulfill any of his promises to me. After all the trouble he had given, his memory failed him in the rewards he had declared should follow it..."
    (Authentic and Interesting Memoirs of Miss Ann Sheldon...written by herself. 1787-88) p. 213