Friday, August 21, 2009
Tart of the Week: Anne Countess of Upper Ossory
It's strange that there isn't much information on Anne since she was both a tart and a best friend of Horace Walpole. For this reason I have also thought of her as the great (and please don't be offended by this title since there's no nicer alternative) 'fag hag' of the eighteenth century. In fact, Anne is best known for her gossipy correspondence with Walpole but today it is she that we will be gossiping about!
Anne was born around 1738, the only issue of her father, the first and last Baron of Ravensworth. She was clever and beautiful and was known for being quite the charmer. Like many a daughter of a peer, Anne entered the marriage market in her teens and was probably eighteen when she was scooped up by a duke. A duke, of course, was quite a catch for Anne who didn't have much to offer in terms of titles. This Duke just happened to be the well-rounded, youthful, and not bad looking, Augustus, 3rd Duke of Grafton. From the outside the couple looked almost ideal. They were both beautiful, young and successful. Anne immediately began having babies, one of which would grow up to be very hunky, and Augustus busied himself in politics and hunting. But below this facade of ideal living was a bored and unhappy duchess.
To amuse herself, Anne took up the national pastime of gambling, a pastime her husband was not exactly fond of. The Duke was especially not fond of Anne gambling when she began to loose large sums of money, this caused some marital tension. Their relationship only went downhill from there. The duke began taking up with a series of mistresses, and not even trying to cover this up from his wife. Five years into their marriage, the couple were living in separate homes and the latest mistress, Nancy Parsons was playing wife to the Duke, even hosting social gatherings and whatnot in Anne's former house. Skank! Anne was able to take her daughter but her poor little sons had to be left behind to live with their father and his mistress.
Now that Anne was separated from her husband she began to continue her partying ways that were formerly curtailed by her husband. First she had an affair with the Duke of Portland and then she moved on to John, the young Earl of Upper Ossory. A pregnancy was a result of the later affair and it did not take long for the Duke to find out. He promptly divorced Anne and then set out to marry some one else...who happened to not be Nancy Parsons. But luck was on charming Anne's side. Unlike many of our other pregnant tarts' stories, the Earl didn't leave Anne hanging and he married her, making her the Countess of Ossory.
The rest of Anne's life seems to be lived out in happiness with her younger, new husband. She had her fun and gossiped with Mr Walpole until the end of her days in 1804.