Friday, January 9, 2009
Tart of the Week: Mary Anne Clarke
Mary Anne Thompson was born into humble beginnings in 1776, but her crafty and ambitious personality would not let her stay there for long. At the age of 18 she married a stonemason and possibly even had a kid or two. As soon as Mr. Clarke's financial history exposed him as bankrupt Mary ditched him. There was no way she was staying with a penniless husband!
The more appealing option Mary chose was to sleep around with rich men in London. She was smart, sassy, and beautiful; a hard tart to resist! Soon enough she was an established courtesan and that is when Frederick, Duke of York took notice of her. Frederick, although not very bright, was the Commander-in-chief of the army. Mary took advantage of Frederick for all that he was worth. She threw extravagant parties in the house he paid for and, if you were willing the pay the price, she used her influence with Frederick to help promote officers. So not only was Mary sponging up Frederick's money, she was also making a business out of sleeping with him. How diabolically clever!
Sadly, things couldn't last and Frederick dumped Mary in 1806, leaving her in a lot of debt. Two years of financial crisis later, Mary resorted to blackmail, threatening to publish Frederick's love letters unless he paid her the annuity he had previously promised. Ironically, this same thing had happened to Frederick's brother, the Prince of Wales, about 20 years prior, when his affair with Perdita Robinson soured. Mary's accusations against the Duke of York brought forth stories about her selling army commissions. Oops. Mary was charged with corruption and had to defend herself in court, which she actually did quite well. Meanwhile London errupted over the scandal. Mrs. Clarke was the talk of the town, and you couldn't pass a print house without seeing one of the satires on her, or read a newspaper without seeing her name.
Eventually, the Duke gave up £7,000 and a life annuity to keep Mary from blabbering. She happily accepted. After being imprisoned for her crime for nine months she happily took her cash and settled in Paris to live out her remaining days.