Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Curious Case of Caroline Ponsonby

Lady Harriet Duncannon had already produced a heir and a spare by the time she found comfort in the rake, Charles Wyndham's arms. Her next child, born in 1785 proved different from the others right away. She was a frail and sickly infant; the complete opposite of her brothers when they were born. She also looked slightly different too...a little impish, in fact. Truth be told, Harriet was sleeping with both her husband and Charles Wyndham around the time of her daughter, Caroline's, conception.

A few years earlier Lady Melbourne was conducting one of her own affairs; one of many. This one was with the Earl of Egremont, George Wyndham. Lord Egremont just happened to be the father of Charles Wyndham-the possible father of Caroline. Lord Egremont was also probably the father of Lady Melbourne's son whom she had at the time of the affair, William Lamb.

How ironic, then, that these two probable results of affairs, Caro and William Lamb, would fall in love and get married. As Harriet's biographer, Janet Gleeson points out, if these two were, in fact, not fathered by their mother's husbands, then Caro was actually marrying her uncle. Oh dear.

While there is no direct proof of the parentage, Caro's difficulty in pregnancies offer strong evidence for inbreeding. Caro suffered many pregnancies before finally delivering a sickly child, who would die prematurely.


  1. It seems like affairs were a more accepted part of life in that time. Or is it that people take more pains to conceal their affairs now?

  2. I love the pictue. Must be damage to the art but that look of her peering out through foggy decay is really both interesting and hip.

  3. And that was just the start of her problems! But thank goodness she never realized it!

  4. It's probably me being confused by the webs. Though, I thought that there should be one sentence that says clearly: Caroline married William Lamb. I had to go through it a few times to figure that out clearly.

    Love the blog.


  5. Thanks Kimberly, in my quest to make the complicated family webs clear I think I made it more complicated. Sorry about that!

  6. Poor Caroline Lamb! She might have married her uncle? I remember reading that she used to sit on William's lap a lot, I thought it was sweet but now I think it's a little creepy!

  7. Caro´s maiden name was not Ponsoby, it was "Ponsonby"

  8. woops, serves me right for writing so late at night and on little sleep! I missed that typo in the title

  9. There's only one problem with this -- Caro looked EXACTLY like her father and brothers! The hair, the Roman nose, and the bug-eyes! Compare her to the portrait of her brother, Sir Fredrick:

    Not only that, but Caro and her favourite brother, John, were two peas in a pod. Right down to the sex scandals and severe drinking problems.

  10. Hello! Now, I have another comment. (Thanks for writing stories that are good enough to come back to!)

    I feel like your story is incorrect on the subject of offspring. Your story mentions a child that died young, in a way that it seems the child died an infant or toddler.

    I am not sure you are aware - because history tends to ignore certain people - that Caroline and William had a child who lived to be in his twenties. The child probably had autism.

    I think this child -- Augustus Lamb -- is an important person to acknowledge. And, indeed, by studying his life, researchers may learn more about historical, psychological, and educational needs of people with disabilities.