The Lady in Red
When well-bred heiress Seymour Fleming married the urbane Isle of Wight landowner and politician Sir Richard Worsley, it seemed no different from many similar matches of the late 18th century. She sought a title and a lifestyle and he a great fortune. It wasn’t long before the bride startled society with her wild antics. Worse would follow.
The British army is preparing for war in the colonies, and at Coxheath in the South of England a vast militia encampment formed, where aristocrats frolicked with officers. Lady Worsley, famously immortalized by portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds in the vivid red regimental riding habit she wore while there, conducted an affair with Captain Maurice Bisset, apparently with Sir Richard’s knowledge. After the pair ran off together, the cuckolded husband sued for divorce and sought ruinous monetary damages from his rival. Bent on revenge, he never imagined he sowed the seeds of his own downfall, or that his shameless and unrepentant wife would use her very immorality in defense of her lover.
The Worsley trial and its many outcomes are fascinating to follow. More intriguing still are the motives and machinations of those involved—the runaways, the servants at the London inn where they hid themselves, her ladyship’s ever expanding circle of lovers, the lawyers, the caricaturists who profited greatly, and Worsley himself.
Rubenhold cleverly and effectively creates suspense by doling out information when it delivers the most impact. Her skill as a researcher are rivaled only by her talent as storyteller, making this tale of sex, scandal, greed and publicity a must-read for those who enjoy the aristocratic exploits and the seamier aspects of British social history.
Lady Worsley's Whim
308 (US), 320 (UK)