OVERRIDE

The Lady in Red

An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal, and Divorce

Hallie Rubenhold

St. Martin's Griffin

She was a spirited young heiress. He was a handsome baronet with a promising career in government. The marriage of Lady Seymour Dorothy Fleming and Sir Richard Worsley had the makings of a fairy tale—but ended as one of the most scandalous and highly publicized divorces in history.

In February 1782, England opened its newspapers to read the details of a criminal conversation trial in which the handsome baronet Sir Richard Worsley attempted to sue his wife’s lover for an astronomical sum in damages. In the course of the proceedings, the Worsleys’ scandalous sexual arrangements, voyeuristic tendencies, and bed-hopping antics were laid bare. The trial and its verdict stunned society, but not as much as the unrepentant behavior of Lady Worsley.

Sir Joshua Reynolds captured the brazen character of his subject when he created his celebrated portrait of Lady Worsley in a fashionable red riding habit, but it was her shocking affairs that made her divorce so infamous that even George Washington followed it in the press. Impeccably researched and written with great flair, this lively and moving true history presents a rarely seen picture of aristocratic life in the Georgian era.

She was a spirited young heiress. He was a handsome baronet with a promising career in government. The marriage of Lady Seymour Dorothy Fleming and Sir Richard Worsley had the makings of a fairy tale—but ended as one of the most scandalous and highly publicized divorces in history.

In February 1782, England opened its newspapers to read the details of a criminal conversation trial in which the handsome baronet Sir Richard Worsley attempted to sue his wife’s lover for an astronomical sum in damages. In the course of the proceedings, the Worsleys’ scandalous sexual arrangements, voyeuristic tendencies, and bed-hopping antics were laid bare. The trial and its verdict stunned society, but not as much as the unrepentant behavior of Lady Worsley.

Sir Joshua Reynolds captured the brazen character of his subject when he created his celebrated portrait of Lady Worsley in a fashionable red riding habit, but it was her shocking affairs that made her divorce so infamous that even George Washington followed it in the press. Impeccably researched and written with great flair, this lively and moving true history presents a rarely seen picture of aristocratic life in the Georgian era.

BOOK EXCERPTS

Read an Excerpt

Lady in Red, The
1The Heir of AppuldurcombeIn the early morning hours of the 8th of October 1767, a small packet ship sailed out of the harbour at Calais and on to the white crested waves of the English Channel. In addition to a cargo of parcels and letters bound for Dover, the vessel was ferrying an introverted and slightly awkward sixteen-year-old by the name of Richard Worsley. The boy's inquisitive mind and his pocket watch kept him occupied throughout the rough sea passage. As the hulk rolled and dipped with the swells he lost himself in the ticking seconds. By his calculations he and his
READ THE FULL EXCERPT
BACK

REVIEWS

Praise for The Lady in Red

“Hallie Rubenhold’s captivating new cultural history gives an account of one of this century’s strangest marital scandals, the tale of the adulterous Lady Seymour Worsley and her vengeful husband, Sir Richard Worsley. . . . Ms. Rubenhold's book brings to life the dissipated and alluring world of aristocratic Georgian England, particularly its vexed sexual morality, through the story of a marriage and its unraveling . . . an impressive feat.”—Washington Times

“Because the market is saturated with eighteenth-century bodice biographies, most indistinguishable from the next, [The Lady in Red] should come with a warning: nothing else in the genre is close to being this good. As a historian and a storyteller, Hallie Rubenhold is in a league of her own. She keeps you glued to the very last page when, exhausted, exasperated, and elated, you can at last put the book down and get yourself some sleep.”—Frances Wilson, Literary Review (UK)

“The story of the Worsley divorce has never been revealed before, and Hallie Rubenhold tells it with panache. Her account of the elopement is gripping, but this is far more than an eighteenth-century bodice ripper. Rubenhold combines narrative skill with historical expertise, and she traces the knife edge that women walked between social success and public disgrace with subtlety and assurance.”—The Spectator (UK)

“[The Lady in Red] is told as a mystery, with Rubenhold keeping up the suspense and providing some surprises along the way. . . . In this thoughtfully crafted ‘tale of sex, scandal, and divorce’ she shows how Lady Worsley’s sexual energies carried her through to a kind of triumph.”—The Times Literary Supplement (UK)

“[Rubenhold] has an eye for an antique story . . . [and] is sure footed in her research . . . Her special forte is rakes and roués: her depiction of Coxheath Camp, where the country’s militias gathered for months as a glorified Home Guard, idling and fornicating, is deliciously lurid.”—The Sunday Times (UK)

“This is a fabulous eighteenth-century tale of sex, scandal, and divorce, and Hallie Rubenhold tells it beautifully.”—The Telegraph (UK)

“Hallie Rubenhold’s captivating new cultural history gives an account of one of this century’s strangest marital scandals, the tale of the adulterous Lady Seymour Worsley and her vengeful husband, Sir Richard Worsley. . . . Ms. Rubenhold's book brings to life the dissipated and alluring world of aristocratic Georgian England, particularly its vexed sexual morality, through the story of a marriage and its unraveling . . . an impressive feat.”—Washington Times

“Because the market is saturated with eighteenth-century bodice biographies, most indistinguishable from the next, [The Lady in Red] should come with a warning: nothing else in the genre is close to being this good. As a historian and a storyteller, Hallie Rubenhold is in a league of her own. She keeps you glued to the very last page when, exhausted, exasperated, and elated, you can at last put the book down and get yourself some sleep.”—Frances Wilson, Literary Review (UK)

“The story of the Worsley divorce has never been revealed before, and Hallie Rubenhold tells it with panache. Her account of the elopement is gripping, but this is far more than an eighteenth-century bodice ripper. Rubenhold combines narrative skill with historical expertise, and she traces the knife edge that women walked between social success and public disgrace with subtlety and assurance.”—The Spectator (UK)

“[The Lady in Red] is told as a mystery, with Rubenhold keeping up the suspense and providing some surprises along the way. . . . In this thoughtfully crafted ‘tale of sex, scandal, and divorce’ she shows how Lady Worsley’s sexual energies carried her through to a kind of triumph.”—The Times Literary Supplement (UK)

“[Rubenhold] has an eye for an antique story . . . [and] is sure footed in her research . . . Her special forte is rakes and roués: her depiction of Coxheath Camp, where the country’s militias gathered for months as a glorified Home Guard, idling and fornicating, is deliciously lurid.”—The Sunday Times (UK)

“This is a fabulous eighteenth-century tale of sex, scandal, and divorce, and Hallie Rubenhold tells it beautifully.”—The Telegraph (UK)

Reviews from Goodreads

BACK

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Hallie Rubenhold

  • Hallie Rubenhold was born in Los Angeles to a British father and an American mother. She is a young British historian and writer whose first book, The Covent Garden Ladies, created a small sensation when it was published in the UK in 2005. She lives in London. Visit her Web site at www.hallierubenhold.com.
BACK

COMMUNITY

TheHistoryReader.com

    MORE BLOG POSTS
    BACK

    BUY THE BOOK

    Available Formats and Book Details

    The Lady in Red

    An Eighteenth-Century Tale of Sex, Scandal, and Divorce

    Hallie Rubenhold

    BACK

    FROM THE PUBLISHER

    St. Martin's Griffin

    BACK