Friday, June 6, 2008

Tart of the Week: Mary Eleanor Bowes

Mary Bowes was many of the many female antagonists in English media. For whatever reason she was made out to be the biggest bitch on the block, and maybe that's why I like her so much.

Raised by a libertine rake, Mary became one of England's richest heiresses upon her father's death when she was merely 11. She was extremely smart and rather than spending all her money frivolously she would put it towards advancing her knowledge by buying things such as experimental hothouses to raise exotic plants. She also hung out in bluestocking groups and spoke her mind and didn't care who that bothered. At 18 she married the Earl of Strathmore who would complain about every aspect of her except the fact that she slept around. He thought she had a sharp tongue, was malicious, and had an unhealthy love of cats and dogs. Don't you love Mary? The press hated Mary and capitalized on her love of cats and known dislike of her young son.

Then some real dramz began.

After her husband's death from consumption Mary met Andrew Robinson Stoney whom she fell in love with. She married him and he took her last name in order to secure some of her inheritance. No sooner had they married than Stoney became a total bastard. He beat her, had numerous affairs, sold her beloved greenhouses to pay off his gambling debts, and controlled her every movement including her personal letters. He even forced her to write a memoir called Confessions in which he had her lie about her past life so he could have something to blackmail her with. Finally Mary found an escape and was able to have him arrested and tried for abuse.

But that wasn't the end of Stoney.

He began stalking her, becoming increasingly obsessed with her. He began to commission more damaging satires of her to publicize her sinful and malicious ways. Hired goons watched her every move. One day she was assaulted and kidnapped in her own coach which quickly exited London to the cries of "Murder!" Stoney had kidnapped her and for 11 days drove all over the country torturing and beating his former wife. The abduction was highly publicized and Mary was saved and Stoney captured. He was tried and found guilty but continued to burden her life, eventually publishing her Confessions that he had forced her to write. Mary was now safe but she never gained a positive reputation despite the empathy she received from her abduction.


  1. Poor thing! What a horrid tale of abuse and stalking!

  2. Too bad he didn't have some counter goons stalk him. R

  3. I have just finished reading Wendy Moore's fantastic "Wedlock", an account of Mary Eleanor Bowes' life, in particular, her disastrous marriage to Stoney. What a woman, not only did she survive incredible domestic abuse and terror at the hands of her second husband, who tricked her into marrying him, but also had to suffer the heartbreak of losing her older children because of the dictates of the Georgian society of the time. Yet Mary Eleanor's spirit was not crushed and eventually she managed to escape Stoney's clutches and obtain just retribution for all his wrongdoings through the courts. The biography reads like a novel, I have never read a historical account so quickly. I can only recommend it.

  4. It's a really fantastic book, I totally agree. I was lucky enough to have a review copy but only after I had written this (which is actually probably good because it would have made my post much more long-winded)