Friday, June 19, 2009
Tart of the Week: Albinia, Countess of Buckinghamshire
I've been dying to make Albinia a tart of the week for ages but always had to put her aside due to lack of information on her. But every tart deserves her day, and Lady Buckinghamshire was quite notorious in her time, so here is her tribute.
Albinia was the lovechild of Lord Bertie and the illegitimate Anne Casey. Being the illegitimate child of an illegitimate child, you would think Albinia was very well screwed in the marriage department, especially since she didn't exactly have looks on her side. But as luck would have it she ended up marrying the wealthy George Hobart, 3rd Earl of Buckinghamshire, a politician and ambassador. By all accounts, Albinia was a good wife of nobility; that is she was able to give the Earl children. She was also very good at entertaining.
Albinia was so good in this department, in fact, she became quite notorious for her gambling parties. Albinia's addiction to the gaming tables made Georgiana's look like a trip to the playground. Because Albinia was a society hostess she was a well known member of the gentry, but it was her love of faro that made her a celebrity. Albinia and her gambling lady friends were always attacked in satirical prints because of their over the top gambling parties. When Lord Chief Justice Kenyon promised to be a bit of a gambling-czar and punish even "the highest ranks of society" who were convicted of illicit gambling with physical punishment or jail time, all eyes turned to Lady Buckinghamshire's gaming tables. No one actually believed Kenyon's threat. Rightly so, for when Albinia was charged and found guilty of running her faro table and taking in a little too much money on it (she was a cheater) she received a slap on the wrist, a fine.
Albinia continued to gamble and be over the top in all aspects of her life, be it gaming, clothing, or the society she kept. She died, unapologetic in 1816.
For a dose of just how lampooned the popular countess was by satirical artists, check out the Nation Gallery's collection of depictions of her here.