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Wedlock : the true story of the disastrous…
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Wedlock : the true story of the disastrous marriage and remarkable divorce… (2009)

by Wendy Moore

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This is a horrifying tale set in the late 1700s of a wealthy, intelligent heiress tricked into marriage with one of the worst human beings who ever lived. "Wedlock" is truly the correct title for this book as it envokes the image of being chained, locked, stuck in marriage. Mary Eleanor has a loveless first marriage, but her marriage to Andrew Stoney (he takes her last name as stipulated in her very smart father's will) is truly horrific. Stoney physically and mentally abuses Mary: punching, kicking, burning, starving, isolating, etc. It's truly sickening. And then there's the fact that a woman had no legal protection from this sort of behavior. It was a husband's right to treat his wife as he chose. "Luckily" Stoney's behavior is so egregious that finally, after a decade of abuse, Mary Eleanor finds a friend in some servants who help her escape. Lengthy legal battles over the divorce, Mary's estate, and the children ensue over decades.

This is a fascinating look at the horrific lack of legal rights that women had in the 1700s. It's very well written and in places reads like a novel. It will turn your stomach to read about this woman's life, but I am glad I read this book. Can't say I enjoyed it because of the subject, but it's worth reading. It will make you very grateful to live when and where we do! ( )
  japaul22 | Jul 24, 2014 |
A well put together and interesting read. Combining plenty of historical fact with a great story telling tone Wendy Moore brings the trials of eighteenth century marriage to life. ( )
  barpurple | Nov 2, 2011 |
Falls under the "truth is stranger than fiction" genre.

Wendy has produced a very readable story out of potentially complicated material - and this was a joy to read.

Mary Eleanor Bowes, Dowager Countess of Strathmore, one of the richest women in Georgian England in the 1740s was tricked into marriage by Andrew Robinson Stoney Bowes, an soldier, Irish rogue, and sadistic abuser. How she survived and lived makes an amazing (and rather depressing) tale. ( )
  coolmama | Oct 26, 2011 |
In (reasonably) straight-laced Georgian society, Mary Eleanor Bowes was a carefree spirit, a talented linguist and botanist. She was also the richest heiress in Britain. Andrew Robinson Stoney grew up on a small Irish farm, before entering the King’s army and rising to Lieutenant. Having seen his first wife into an early grave he was now on the hunt for another.

With Mary in his sights, Stoney orchestrated their courtship, but with his leave from the army about to run out and his debts mounting, the audacious and desperate final step in his plan was put into action. Her wedding day had barely passed before Mary realised she’d been duped, and it quickly became clear to her that the fit of romanticism that led to the wedding was a very big mistake. After the wedding, and by law, Stoney took full control over Mary’s possessions and her large estate. And he wasted no time in introducing Mary to his tyrannical temperament.

Georgian Britain was a man’s world, and Wedlock is a forceful indictment of this. Stoney was wily, cunning and possesses an impressive Machiavellian mind. But he was also vicious, extravagant, ruthlessly ambitious and a consummate actor, able to maintain his façade is polite company. Under his complete control, Mary was cut off from her friends and children, and endured 8 years of brutal domestic violence. She effectively became her husband's prisoner, and would later describe him as “the greatest monster that ever disgraced the human shape and at the same time, the most artful”.

Finally finding the ally and the courage she needed, Mary would make her escape, but was by no means free or safe. Unable to access her money, and with few friends (none of which had any influence or power) and the English law absolutely stacked against her Mary initiated the arduous divorce proceedings. With impatient creditors chasing him and control over Mary’s vast wealth at stake, Stoney would employ every dirty ploy he could to avoid a divorce.

Wedlock is no dry, dusty history tome. I could not put this book down.

With an extensive citations list and bibliography, this is a thoroughly researched, sympathetic biography. While aware that I was projecting 20th/21st century ideas onto a 18th century context I was frequently appalled by the lack of action taken by others, and in some cases individuals who simply turned a blind eye. And it was not just his wife who suffered Stoney’s brutality.

As a reader, I waited horrified on tenterhooks for Stoney’s next malicious plot to be revealed while hoping Mary, against huge odds, would be granted her divorce – something awarded to very few people, and far fewer women.

I found the most poignant moment of the whole story was one of Mary’s final wishes. A large statue of Lady Liberty had watched over Mary’s childhood home, but in death Mary would wish for a statue of Lady Justice to watch over her grave.

I’d highly recommend Wedlock. The story of Mary’s plight is heartbreaking while the historical context is extremely interesting and filled with details. This is a very readable and a compelling story. ( )
3 vote SouthernKiwi | Aug 3, 2011 |
An out-and-out pageturner, 'Wedlock' is clearly aiming for the same market as the wonderful 'Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire'. However it is written in a somewhat more racy and sensationalist style and there were times when I found the 'little did she know...' and 'this was to be a fateful moment' phrases a bit wearing. I think that every last bit of this extraordinary and shocking story was exploited in 'Wedlock', whereas the effect in 'Georgiana' was a subtler: I felt it was a story that would not be believed if it were fictionalised (unless, as with the film, 'The Duchess' much of it were dropped). Nevertheless, highly recommended, and in both cases, makes you very glad to be alive now rather than in the 18th Century. ( )
1 vote Schopflin | Feb 18, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307383369, Hardcover)

With the death of her fabulously wealthy coal magnate father when she was just eleven, Mary Eleanor Bowes became the richest heiress in Britain. An ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II, Mary grew to be a highly educated young woman, winning acclaim as a playwright and botanist. Courted by a bevy of eager suitors, at eighteen she married the handsome but aloof ninth Earl of Strathmore in a celebrated, if ultimately troubled, match that forged the Bowes Lyon name. Yet she stumbled headlong into scandal when, following her husband’s early death, a charming young army hero flattered his way into the merry widow’s bed.

Captain Andrew Robinson Stoney insisted on defending her honor in a duel, and Mary was convinced she had found true love. Judged by doctors to have been mortally wounded in the melee, Stoney persuaded Mary to grant his dying wish; four days later they were married.

Sadly, the “captain” was not what he seemed. Staging a sudden and remarkable recovery, Stoney was revealed as a debt-ridden lieutenant, a fraudster, and a bully. Immediately taking control of Mary’s vast fortune, he squandered her wealth and embarked on a campaign of appalling violence and cruelty against his new bride. Finally, fearing for her life, Mary masterminded an audacious escape and challenged social conventions of the day by launching a suit for divorce. The English public was horrified–and enthralled. But Mary’s troubles were far from over . . .

Novelist William Makepeace Thackeray was inspired by Stoney’s villainy to write The Luck of Barry Lyndon, which Stanley Kubrick turned into an Oscar-winning film. Based on exhaustive archival research, Wedlock is a thrilling and cinematic true story, ripped from the headlines of eighteenth-century England.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:43:49 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"With the death of her fabulously wealthy coal magnate father when she was just eleven, Mary Eleanor Bowes became the richest heiress in Britain. An ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II, Mary grew to be a highly educated young woman, winning acclaim as a playwright and botanist. Courted by a bevy of eager suitors, at eighteen she married the handsome but aloof ninth Earl of Strathmore in a celebrated, if ultimately troubled, match that forged the Bowes Lyon name. Yet she stumbled headlong into scandal when, following her husband's early death, a charming young army hero flattered his way into the merry widow's bed. Captain Andrew Robinson Stoney insisted on defending her honor in a duel, and Mary was convinced she had found true love. Judged by doctors to have been mortally wounded in the melee, Stoney persuaded Mary to grant his dying wish; four days later they were married." "Sadly, the "captain" was not what he seemed. Staging a sudden and remarkable recovery, Stoney was revealed as a debt-ridden lieutenant, a fraudster, and a bully. Immediately taking control of Mary's vast fortune, he squandered her wealth and embarked on a campaign of appalling violence and cruelty against his new bride. Finally, fearing for her life, Mary masterminded an audacious escape and challenged social conventions of the day by launching a suit for divorce. The English public was horrified-and enthralled. But Mary's troubles were far from over." "Novelist William Makepeace Thackeray was inspired by Stoney's villainy to write The Luck of Barry Lyndon, which Stanley Kubrick turned into an Oscar-winning film. Based on exhaustive archival research, Wedlock is a thrilling and cinematic true story, ripped from the headlines of eighteenth-century England."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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