Friday, August 22, 2008

Tart of the Week: Lady Diana Beauclerk

The original Lady Di was this tart. Born Diana Spencer to the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough in 1734, the young Diana showed an affinity for art. With the luck of being born into one of the grandest families, the young Diana was more than a passing acquaintance with Joshua Reynolds, a family friend.

When she was 23 she made an advantageous marriage to Frederick, Viscount Bolingbroke. Frederick, or 'Bully,' as he was known wasn't exactly looking to get married at that time, he being 23 as well. While walking with Di in the pleasure gardens he jokingly proposed to her and then before he knew it, Frederick was married On the condition of being married, the viscount insisted on keeping his bachelor lifestyle; basically pretending Di didn't exist except to give him heirs. He partied, gambled, slept with many women, and racked up huge amounts of debt. There are also rumors of him having a violent nature. Di distracted herself by becoming a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Charlotte.

It was only so long that Di could handle her miserable marriage. Neither party was happy so she took the initiative to solve this problem. She had an affair with Topham Beauclerk. Beauclerk was a friend of Dr Johnson and was notoriously...stinky. It was once reported of him that he was so filthy he generated vermin. Either way, Di fell in love with him or maybe just saw him as a convenient means of securing a divorce, although it meant becoming a social outcast. When Frederick found out about her adultery he immediately filed for divorce, making the both of them happy. Divorces were unusual (despite the frequent adultery) due to their expense and hassle. Bolingbroke's passed in a month; two days later Diana married Beauclerk.

Despite her social ostracism from respectable society Di was a permanent fixture in the Devonshire House Circle. She had four of Topham's children and began to hone her artistic skills. She illustrated a number of books including one of Horace Walpole's. But of course more gossip-worthy scandal followed into her next marriage. In Brady-Bunch style, one of her sons with Frederick starting a relationship with one of Beauclerk's daughters. Other from that, the remainder of Di's life was happy until her husband's death in 1780. After Topham's death she lived quietly until her own death in 1808.


  1. Wonderful post! She was on my list of Scandalous Women for the future.

  2. Oh good! That means you'll have all the nitty-gritty fun details!

  3. Weren't all the Beauclerks somewhat....wiggy? There's a fabulously confusing epilogue at the end of Charles Beauclerk's biography of his ancestress Nell Gwyn in which he runs down the list of cases of insanity in the family from the late 17th century to the present day. Good reads! Seriously though, it's an excellent book, especially if you enjoy watching the scion of a dukedom fanboy his Royal Tart foremother.

  4. Oh that rocks, I will def be adding that to my wishlist!