Jo here. I became curious about divorce in the Regency, which as we all know was both difficult and expensive and remembered the complicated Wellesley/Paget business, whereupon I stumbled across a duel. The report gives a clear picture of how a duel might go, but first we need the back story. It does become a little complicated!
In fact, she was married to one of Wellington’s brothers, Henry Wellesley, shown left, which made the whole thing even messier as Paget was a crack cavalry officer but the C-in-C wouldn't use him.
She left her husband to live with Paget, and then her brother, Captain Cadogan, called Paget out, presumably for bringing her into disrepute. Apparently her husband, unlike his brother, wasn't at all warlike. From his portrait he certainly looks peaceable.
Some duels were hasty and/or over trivialities with no intention of great harm, though with pistols one never knew. This one was serious and some observers went to pains to give a clear account of it.
“In order to prevent the appearance in the papers of any mis-statement respecting the duel which took place this morning between Lord Paget and Captain Cadogan, we, the respective friends of the parties, feel it incumbent on us to submit the following as the correct statement of the event as it occurred:—In continuence of a challenge having been received by Lord Paget from Captain Cadogan, and every attempt to prevent a meeting having failed, the parties, attended by their respective friends, Captain Cadogan by Captain M'Kenzie of the navy, Lord Paget by Lieut.-Colonel Vivian of the 71st light dragoons, met as agreed, at seven o'clock, on Wimbledon common. The ground having been taken at twelve paces instance, they were directed to fire together. Captain Cadogan fired. Lord Paget's pistol flashed.
Having been decided to go for a fire, a question arose, whether Lord Paget had taken aim, as if intending to hit his antagonist. Both the seconds being clearly of opinion that such was not his intention (although the degree of obliquity he gave the direction of the pistol was such, as to have been discovered only by particular observation), Captain M'Kenzie stated to Captain Cadogan, that as it appeared to be Lord Paget's intention not to fire at him, he could not admit of the affair proceeding any further.
Lieut.-Colonel Vivian then asked Captain Cadogan whether he had not himself observed that Lord Paget had not aimed at him—to which he replied in the affirmative. Captain M'Kenzie then declared his determination not to remain any longer in the field, to witness any further act of hostility on the part of Captain Cadogan.
Captain C. replied, of course his conduct must be decided by his second; declaring at the same time, that he had come prepared for the fall of one of the parties. On Captain M'Kenzie and Lieut.-Colonel Vivian making it known to Lord Paget that as he evidently did not intend to fire at Captain Cadogan, the affair could go no further: Lord P. replied, "as such is your determination, I have now no hesitation in saying, that nothing could ever have induced me to add to the injuries I have already done the family, by firing at the brother of Lady Charlotte Wellesley." The parties then left the ground."
I see some odd things about this duel.
Paget deloped, (though I've seen no evidence of that term being used in the period,) thereby admitting his fault. I wonder if he knowingly used a flawed pistol, though it would have been his second's job to make sure it was good. He didn't fire in the air, but so closely that there was discussion about it. Would he have risked killing his beloved's brother, especially when he knew he was in the wrong?
It would seem that Cadogan meant to kill, so if his aim had been better, the story could have ended there. So I have to wonder, did he mean to kill? Perhaps he, too, fired a little off, but was less concerned about an accident. After all, Paget was a gallant hero and generally admired. Cadogan's sister was passionately in love with Padget and had probably not been happy in her marriage. In addition, if he had killed he could have been open to prosecution, even with everything done by the rules.
What's more, in a case like this they could have replayed it — done it over with fresh pistols — but they didn't.
It seems to me that in the above account everyone's going to a lot of trouble to assure everyone that both men did their duty and felt just as they ought — Cadogan ready to kill, Paget weighed down with guilt but bravely facing death — and that only the seconds compelled them to end the duel.
Was it all staged?
We'll never know, so on to divorces, one of which was staged.
Here's what we start with.
a) Henry, Lord Paget and his wife Caroline, nee Cadogan, with a son.
(You can go here to see a fine miniature of Henry adorned with medals.)
b) Henry Wellesley and his wife Lady Charlotte, with children.
(She’s "Lady Charlotte" because she’s an earl’s daughter. So is Caroline, but because she married a lord she takes his title. The fascinated public call them Car and Char.)
There's a fair bit of odd stuff, including Paget being asked by Henry Wellesley to go riding with Charlotte, but Wellesley seems only to have been clueless. Paget and Char fall in love. Wellesley turns shirty about Char's behaviour and there's a hint in some accounts that he was at least extremely angry and maybe more. She flees into Paget's protection. However, for a while at least he's also living with his wife and family.
1810 Henry Wellesley divorces Charlotte, which was relatively easy when she was openly committing adultery, though it did involve the usual lengthy court procedures and an Act of Parliament. He sued Henry Paget for alienation of his wife’s affections, or crim con, which was standard and even obligatory. If the husband wasn't willing to sue he was seen as complicit. He was awarded 20,000. He then married Lady Georgiana Cecil, daughter of the Marquess of Salisbury.
As was normal in divorces of the time, he had custody of the children. It seems possible that Char never saw her son again.
One down, but Char, Paget and Car are still unsettled.
Paget can't divorce Car because she's done no wrong. Car can't divorce him because the English system only allows a woman to gain a legal separation, not a full divorce and that usually only for cruelty, not adultery.
However by now Car wants a divorce — and why not, when her husband is so besotted by another woman? Especially when she has another man in mind; a duke, no less. Ah-ha! Scotland! Scotland had its own laws, which is why there were elopements to Scotland, and they also apply to divorce. In Scotland a woman could divorce a man for adultery.
Paget and Char take up residence in Scotland for the necessary six weeks. Car traveled north, “discovered the situation” and obtained her divorce. On November 29th 1810 she married the Duke of Argyll.
Paget and Charlotte are now free to marry. In 1812 he succeeded his father as Earl of Uxbridge. Then in 1815, for his heroic military service, particularly at Waterloo, he became the Marquess of Anglesey. He and Char enjoyed long lives and many children. The Angleseys and the Argylls were on good terms with frequent visits.
What are the social consequences of this scandal?
As best I can tell the Duke and Duchess of Argyll carry no stigma at all, and indeed they don't seem to have committed any sins. Wellesley and his new wife are the same, though I suspect some might have seen him as the cuckold.
The Marquess of Anglesey suffered no slur, and in fact was one of the most celebrated heroes of the war. However it seems Char chose or was obliged to live quietly. Definitely a double standard.
A side note.
Interestingly, Paget's son by Car, who became Earl of Uxbridge as heir when his father became Marquess of Anglesey (these things become so complicated!) married Eleanora, second daughter of the late John Campbell, of Shawfield, Esq. who was niece to the Duke of Argyll. Perhaps the families were very close! However,they married in Scotland on August 5, 1819, and remarried at St. George's, Hanover Square on Feb. 8 following. An elopement? Wasn't she considered a good match for a future marquess?
Or perhaps clandestine arrangements run in the blood. One of Paget's brothers ran off with a married woman.
I came across this description of Paget and Char's home that I thought I'd tag on in case anyone is interested.
MARQUESS OF ANGLESEY, K. G.
This elegant Mansion stands upon the site of a House that belonged to the celebrated Gwenllian, a descendant of Cadrod Hardd, and was formerly the Seat of Sir Nicholas Bayly, Bart., an ancestor of the present noble Marquess. It is situated on the banks of the Menai, distant about six miles from Carnarvon, and surrounded by thick woods, which extend for some distance along the shore, a portion of the groves venerated by the ancient Britons: beneath the branches of these noble oaks and large ash trees are several Cromlechs, at a small distance from the House, one of which is said to be the largest monument of the kind in the kingdom; the neighbourhood, also, abounds with altars and other vestiges of Druidical superstition.
The Mansion itself is modern, having been completed in the present century, under the direction of the late Earl of Uxbridge, by Mr. Potter, of Lichfield. It is built with a slate coloured marble from quarries under tbe ground on which it stands, and consists of a centre and two wings, having at every angle an octangular turret, terminated by a pinnacle and gilded vane: it contains three stories in height, the parapet is embattled, and the windows, some lancet-pointed, others square-headed, are surmounted by a scroll cornice: its length of front is farther increased by the domestic offices, over which is the Chapel, all built in a corresponding style: the stables and out-offices are uniform in appearance, and the arrangement of the whole forms a display pf the most judicious taste. The lawn, sloping in front, is terminated by an embattled wall, with bastions at the angles, forming a handsome terrace, on the left of which are Baths constantly filled by the Menai. The opposite shores of the Menai are well wooded, beautifully interspersed with villas and highly cultivated spots, with a back-ground of mountains, intermingling their various summits with the clouds, while the winding strait of the Menai, ever gay with passing vessels, enlivens the tranquil scene.
The principal entrance leads to the Hall, where a particular attention has been paid to uniformity of design; the sides are adorned with canopied niches, its beautifully groined roof terminates in a lantern giving light to the whole; opposite the portal is a gallery enriched with carving and tabernacle work, which communicates to the various chambers; the staircase is of stone.
On the left of the entrance is the Dining Hall, a large and lofty apartment, lighted by three lancet-pointed windows, and having a groined roof covered with beautiful tracery. In this apartment are several family portraits by Hoppner, among which is one of the present Marquess of Anglesey, when Lord Paget, in uniform, standing by his charger; the Marchioness, with an infant daughter; Lady Bayly, and Lady Caroline Capel, a sister of the Marquess. There is also a well painted copy of the large Picture by Sir William Beechey, of His Majesty 6n Horseback, reviewing the 10th Hussars, under the command of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
The Drawing Room is hung with painted silk, surrounded with mouldings of burnished gold. The prospect from the windows of this elegant apartment are extremely fine and very extensive. The Library is very handsome, as is also the Billiard Room. The Parlours and Ante rooms, as well as every part of the interior, present an uniformity of architectural design, seldom to be met with in houses of so recent erection. The Chapel contains an highly enriched Altar, with a canopy and tabernacle work; on each side the entrance at the West end are stalls for the Family, over which is the organ loft; the fretted roof is of considerable height, and the large pointed windows are filled with stained glass.'
The Park, though not very extensive, yet, from being so well clothed with venerable trees and modern plantations, exhibits considerable diversity in the rides and walks through it, which are laid out with much taste.
A Walk has been formed under the Woods on the Seabeach, of considerable extent; and singular, as well for the beauty of its surrounding Scenery, as for the variety of objects, Fossil and Botanical, which exhibit themselves at every step. This Walk is appropriately called the Marine Walk.
I hope you enjoyed this look into the varied aspects of a Regency scandal. Do you, like me, wish you knew exactly what was going on behind the various closed doors. Char and Wellesley were probably unhappy. Were Paget and Car? Wellesley was a home body, but Paget was a soldier and often away. When did Car's attraction to Argyll begin? I don't want to slander a long-deai lady, but things did work out so neatly there.
That's the storyteller in me, spinning out the threads. Feel free to spin some of your own.