Friday, June 20, 2008

Tart of the Week: Maria Lady Coventry

Do you still have that sour taste in your mouth from last week's tart? You should! This week I'll take it easy on you. This tart comes with a moral that our mothers would probably like.

Maria Gunning and her sister Elizabeth were born into humble beginnings. When things didn't begin to look up for them their mother urged her two expensive daughters to make a living by moving to Dublin to become actresses. This was almost the equivalent to selling your daughter to the whore-house but the girls went anyway.

Both girls became successful enough in Dublin that they eventually made it to West End. It was on her return to London that the Earl of Coventry met, fell in love with, and married Maria. On their honeymoon they traveled to Paris and Maria was MISERABLE. First of all, she didn't speak French very well. More importantly, Maria, being a fashionista and huge fan of makeup, wanted to wear red powder on her cheeks since that was what all the fashionable French ladies were wearing. The Earl wasn't having it, and forbade her from any rouge. Maria was determined to look beautiful in France and wore the powder anyways. When the Earl saw he embarrassed her by attempting to wipe it off her face with his handkerchief!

Upon their return to England, Maria became known as a notable beauty and social hostess. It may come as no shock that the marriage did not remain a happy one. The Earl began a public affair with the notorious tart, Kitty Fisher (we'll get to her later) and the two women were known to have even more public cat fights whenever they came in contact. Maria also retaliated to her husband's infidelities with her own.

It was her makeup habits that were to cause the untimely end of this Jezebel tart. After years of wearing lead-based makeup to keep that fashionably pale look, Maria died from blood poisoning; a real-life example of why sometimes less is best. She became known through social circles as a "victim of cosmetics."

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