Friday, February 27, 2009

Tart of the Week: Nancy Parsons


Another humble tart from humble beginnings, Annabella was said to be the daughter of a tailor on Bond Street. If this is the case, her family took care in Annabella receiving a good education, possibly abroad. Perhaps, her father serviced the well-to-do which made little Annabella accustomed to the cultured set. Unlike some of our favourite tarts, Annabella was deeply religious with a calm temperament. It was said that any harsh words said against her left deep scars; she was a gentle soul at heart.

At a young age she eloped to the West Indies with a Captain Horton. The whole idea probably seemed romantic at the time but once she began her new life in Jamaica she was soon to discover the true nature of Captain Horton. He abused her so much that she ran away, first boarding a ship to the Americas and then finally managing to make her way back to London.

Now going by the name of Mrs Nancy Horton (widow), our heroine found herself completely penniless and out of luck. Praying wasn't gonna help her put food in her stomach and find a place to live, Nancy had to act fast. She managed to find a series of men to take care of her in exchange for, ya know, the goods. One of these men just happened to be the newly separated Duke of Grafton who had had enough of his wife's gambling. The Duke was head over heels for Nancy and the two were the example of the perfect couple for years. Nancy even acted as the incumbent wife, hosting dinners and such-all while the Duke was serving as Prime Minister. They saw each other as equals and the Duke was never adverse to seeking Nancy's advice in political matters. The breakup came as quite a shock to everyone including Nancy. The press was quick to report that while the Duke wanted to keep things amiable, Nancy was too hurt. Soon afterward, the Duke remarried.

Nancy was no longer in the height of her beauty and although she was getting an annuity, her future security was still uncertain. However, she still had her charms and networking skills so she wasn't without a list of admirers. One of these admirers was the young Duke of Dorset who would later be known as quite the ladies' man. He and Nancy were a couple for more than a year before he moved on to the much younger Elizabeth Armistead.

Then suddenly Nancy was the Viscountess Maynard. The fact that Nancy and Charles, Viscount Maynard were even seeing each other had slipped under everyone's radar until the marriage announcement was in the Morning Post. Even more surprising, Charles was 15 years younger than Nancy. Whispers surfaced that Nancy's intelligence made up for Charles' lack of it. Now in her older years, it was her smarts that attracted many men, not her beauty; and that sexy brain of hers got her a title.

Men of all ages and ranks continued to fall in love with Nancy up until the time of her death in 1792 at the age of 69.

9 comments:

  1. I love these blogs about the tarts and the femmes. Many times, historical romance can be so "American" and "Hollywood" in its storytelling and its characters. I love that these women fascinated and captured their men not solely because of their beauty, but because of their intelligence, wit and charm--and still had IT well past their thirties.

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  2. Love that portrait! Someone should write a book about her life. It seems to be a bit outside the usual "tart" line.

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  3. What a beautiful painting of her. She almost looks real- a real beauty. I'm sure that this too was a big factor in her being so appealing to men of her time.

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  4. Agree. She does seem a cut above a 'mere' tart. I think it's so much more natural that attraction is built on things like wit and charm than solely a recognizably beautiful visage. Yet society and media tell us another, less true story about that. I agree with Evangeline about this post.
    It makes you see how, despite the ways in which institutional culture degraded [and still does to some extent] women in politics, religion and laws, in everyday life, many men longed for the companionship of women with whom they could forge an intellectual relationship.

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  5. Wasn't Charles Maynard one of Harriet's lovers? No?

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  6. Oh splendid, I'm glad you all like her! It's true Kitty Fisher, the most notorious courtesan of the age was also recognized for her intelligent contributions.

    @Paul- It was actually Charles Wyndham whom Harriet was involved in, and probably the true father of Caroline Lamb...but that's a post for another time :)

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  7. I love the tart of the week :-) What a great story and a fascinating life.

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  8. Cool another tart that I didn't know about. Great portrait of her.

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  9. She reminds me of Emma Hamilton, except not as self-absorbed and irritating. Who commissioned that portrait?

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