Friday, May 29, 2009

Tart of the Week: Sarah Countess of Tyrconnel

Sarah Hussey was born into money which meant two thing: a prestigious marriage and scandal. Being a grand heiress, poor-ish nobles were lining up to marry Sarah by the time she was sixteen. The man who won Sarah's hand (and money) was George Carpenter, the earl of Tyrconnel, an Irish peer. George has already been married, which made Sarah his second countess. What happened to the first countess you may ask. Well, Lady Frances was still very much alive; she had just gone through the pricey process of divorce, or rather, George had gone through it, to do away with her.

Sarah picked up where the former Lady Tyrconnel left off. She quickly got bored with her older husband and went out partying and man-scouting. She seemed to have hit the jackpot in 1788 when she began an affair with Prince Frederick, Duke of York. As with just about all royal affairs, the press had a field day, boosting Sarah up to celebrity status. The strangest aspect of the whole affair: both Sarah's father and husband were blooming with pride. When Frederick broke off the affair a year later, the two men were more upset than Sarah. It sounds like something out of The Tudors, no?

Sarah wasn't one to mope around about broken relationships. She moved on. The next man in her life was John, Earl of Strathmore, son of none other than Mary Eleanor Bowes. Once again, satirical prints loved the pretty little countess' affair and it publicized for all to see. But this time, the affair seemed to mean a little more to Sarah, she loved John. Finally, one day she just up and left George and went away to live in sin with John. Afterall, she was an independant woman. When the artist John Downman was portraying her, he noted such. Sadly, Sarah's legacy was not to last very long. She died in 1800 from a bad cold at the age of thirty-seven. Her final resting place is the illustrious Westminster Abbey.


  1. Always very interesting are these "Tarts of the Week" posts! Thankyou so much for putting these up!

  2. I always like learning about a new tart. Did her husband divorce her after all or force her to live in limbo? (In a way you can't blame him, but I think he got some just desserts for turning a nudge-nudge-wink-wink blind eye to her first affair with royalty. Hoping he would reap some benefit from that, I'm sure. Humpf.)

    Do you also know what became of his first wife? Is she a tart, too?

    It looks like you were fortunate enough to take a picture of the Downman yourself. Was it included in the Intimate Portrait show you saw in London?

  3. The first countess sounds like she has definite tart potential...but unfortunately there's little information I could find on both!

    The picture is from the Intimate Portrait show. I found out about her there and took it because I knew she would make a great tart!

  4. and Lauren, thank you! So glad that you like them! :)

  5. As they say, "the brightest star burns half as long". Such seems to be the case with all of these tarts!

  6. hey i love "the tudors"!!!


  7. @Eliza- so true!

    @Katie- I meant to link to a youtube video of the tudors and totally forgot! The Tudors is very good but my all time favourite show is Rome.

  8. How she ended up buried in Westminster Abbey, is what I would like to know.

  9. I wasn't totally clear on how that came about either. Perhaps you get to be buried there if you are a fabulous independent woman? Among other things of course.

  10. I'd like to correct one point in your post: Sarah, did not in fact die "of a bad cold", but of the 18th century scourge consumption, leaving the Earl of Strathmore to mourn her passing for over nine years before getting one of his maids pregnant with his illegitimate son who subsequently inherited his English estates.

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