A Conversation for The Wicked Wanton Ways of the Worsleys: The 18th Century's Sex Scandal
Bluebottle Started conversation Oct 9, 2014
For more info, see Lady Worsley's Whim, by Hallie Rubenhold
Ut Sursum Desuper
- I swoop to rise again, Worsley family motto.
Since the Norman Conquest, the Worsleys had been one of the most prominent families on the Isle of Wight. Sir James Worsley was Henry VIII's Master of the Robes and stage-managed the Field of the Cloth of Gold. His marriage in 1511 with Anne Leigh, heiress of Sir John Leigh of AppuldurcombeAppuldurcombe means 'valley of the apple trees' and is located outside the village of Wroxall, named after the wroc, a common name for buzzard., founded the Worsley of Appuldurcumbe branch of the Worsley family and his son (Richard Worsley) was the first Baronet Worsley. Richard Worsley had been the Captain of the Island and defeated the French when they invaded in 1545. In March 1648 Edward Worsley awaited beneath Carisbrooke Castle's wall with a horse, waiting for Charles I who was imprisoned within to escape, although Charles became stuck between the bars of his window.
Since Tudor times, however, the Worsley family had been largely insular in their outlook, more concerned with their role within the Isle of Wight than national affairs, despite all but the sixth and eighth Baronets Worsley being Newport's Members of Parliament. The sixth Baronet Worlsey, Sir Thomas Worsley was Sir Richard's father
Sir Richard Worsley
In 1768 Sir Richard Worsley became the 7th Baronet Worsley, inheriting Appuldurcombe House's 11,578 acre estate, which generated an income of over £2,000 a year, approximately £3 million today. Sir Richard was a man who believed strongly in order, that everything had its placeUnfortately he believed that the place for the destitute was in his newly-commissioned Workhouse..
Sir Richard, as a young lad, twice went on the Grand Tour of Europe, stopping to see many of the finest sites of France and Italy. The Grand Tour was a tradition enjoyed by many of England's richest young men and as many destinations and hotels were particularly favoured, naturally the fact that a steady flow of wealthy young men to certain areas attracted attention. Various trades and services to appeal to wealthy young men sprung up close to fashionable areas. While travelling in France, Richard stayed in a hotel overlooking a brothel, and by all accounts the view from his window allowed him to see into the neighbouring establishment. One night, in what would have been his first sexual encounter, he became determined to visit the brothel, but was discovered sneaking out and detained. The following morning he learnt that a wealthy young man had been murdered and robbed there, and from his window he could see the man's naked body. He was convinced that if he hadn't been detained, then he himself would have been killed. The experience also reportedly convinced him that sex with women was inherently dangerous, and best enjoyed at a distance.
Sir Richard Worsley was convinced that he had a duty to restore the influence of the Worsley family name back to the highest echelons of society. Although capable of living comfortably, to reach the top he needed something more; money, ideally found in a wealthy marriage.
Seymour Dorothy Fleming
A wild childOne of her hobbies, by all accounts, was to set fire to things and then extinguish the fire 'with her own water', and not the sort of water one would drink., Seymour, named after the surname of the Dukes of Somerset, was the second surviving daughter of Jane and Sir John Fleming. Born in 1757, Seymour's father had married her 21-year-old mother at the age of 51 in 1753 after having inherited a fairly large amount of money. Sir John Fleming died in 1763, when Seymour was 6, leaving £26,000 to be inherited by his two surviving daughters. After his death his wealthy widow, Lady Jane Fleming, married elderly widower Edwin Lascelles in 1770, who had amassed a fortune of £166,000 including Harewood House outside Leeds. Despite his wealth, Edwin Lascelles did not have a title and so was not fully accepted into polite society, but having a wealthy titled wife would change that. Seymour was 13. Growing up she was considered headstrong, wilful, with little fondness for intellectual pursuits, but a love of horse riding, sport, dancing and cards. She, like her cleverer and prettier older sister Jane, had an inheritance valued at £52,000Over £66 million today..
Worsleys after the Wedding
In 1772 the 21-year-old Sir Richard Worsley, described as tall, athletic and handsome, tried to woo the 17 year old Miss Jane Fleming, who met his attentions with indifference. He did, however, make an impression on her younger sister, 14-year old Seymour. Three years later in June 1775 they met again at the fashionable York races and, within a week, the two were engaged. They were married in September, and in August 1776 a son, Robert Edwin Worsley, was born.
After their marriage, Sir Richard spent almost £19,650 on purchasing vast amounts of land to expand his Appuldurcombe estate. Additional funds were spent on buying a large house in London in order to keep up with society. Appuldurcumbe House was rebuilt as a baroque masterpiece, the grounds sculpted by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown and the interiors filled with Chippendale furniture and antiques. He befriended painter Joshua Reynolds.
As well as improving his home on the Isle of Wight, he used his new-found fortune to improve his social standing. Already Newport, Isle of Wight's Tory MP since 1774, in 1777 he became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries as well as being appointed one of the Clerks Comptroller of the Board of Green Cloth in Lord North's government. In 1778 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society, in 1779 he was appointed Comptroller of the King's Household, a position perfectly suited for his keen mathematical mind. In 1780 he was appointed a Privy Counsellor and Governor of the Isle of Wight, positions worth £10,000 a year. He also spent his time studying history, publishing his History of the Isle of Wight in 1781, as well as commanding the South Hampshire Militia.
One of the Worsley's traditional duties, since the days of Sir Richard's ancestor Richard Worsley, was to lead the local militia in time of danger, and Worsley commanded the recently re-established South Hampshire Militia, a regiment of volunteer soldiers. The south coast of England was certainly in a time of danger in the late 1770s and early 1780s. During the American War of Independence much of Britain's army was abroad, defending the profitable West Indies, while in Europe in February 1778 France declared war on Britain, followed by Spain in 1779 and Holland in 1780. This was a major blow to Lord North. Because King Louis XV of France had ignored Spain's pleas to ally during the 1770 Falklands Crisis North had wrongly assumed that France under King Louis XVI would not become involved with the war in America. This mistake cost him political prestige in Parliament and even endangered the country. In 1779 a vast French-Spanish Armada set sail with 40,000 men intending the capture of the Isle of Wight, only to be defeated by internal conflict, lack of communication and sicknessFor the next three years, the Spanish army intended to invade Britain as soon as it had captured Gibraltar, however despite being besieged between 1779-1783, Gibraltar stayed British.. In 1780 the Gordon Riots swept through London and the militia was needed to restore peace.
Richard was so busy with his new duties and hobbies that Seymour felt neglected. Richard also found he preferred the order of military life to the social calendar his wife was fond of. His life revolved around politics, defence of the realm, collecting antiques and fulfilling his political ambition. Though the Isle of Wight's MP for Newport, his cousins James Worsley and Edward Meaux Worsley held the Island's Yarmouth and Newtown seats, enabling Richard, as head of the family, to command three votes in Parliament.
Seymour was soon seen in Society's fashionable circles, spending time with the Duchess of Devonshire Lady Georgiana CavendishHer life has been portrayed in the film The Duchess. along with many members of her husband's Whig rivals. In 1777 Playwright and MP Richard Brinsley Sheridan based his character Lady Teazle in comedy play School for Scandal on Lady Worsley.
George Maurice Bisset
In 1780 the Worlsy's gained a new near-neighbour arrived on the Island. Four miles from Appuldurcombe lay the estate of Knighton Gorges, considered one of the most picturesque, gothic houses on the Island. This had been inherited by the 23-year-old George Maurice Bisset. Despite not being anywhere near as wealthy as Sir Richard and lacking a title, he had political influence on the Island over the tenants of his land. At first Richard wished to convert him into a political ally but they soon became firm friends. During the election George was constantly at Richard's side as his key supporter, as was Richard's wife Seymour. On 11 September, 1780 Richard Worsley was re-elected MP for Newport. He chose to reward Bisset's support by appointing him in early 1781 to a captaincy in the South Hampshire Militia, of which he was the colonel. With the threat of invasion at fever-pitch, Worsley wished to have a friend by his side. Bisset was all too happy to agree – where Richard went, his wife was sure to follow and he had begun to have an affair with Seymour Worsley.
Coxheath and Maidstone
Since 1778, when France had declared war on England and the threat of invasion loomed, each year the nation's militia assembled in Coxheath near Maidstone in Kent, prepared to meet any threat. In 1781 the militias again were ordered to be at Coxheath between June and November. Rather than stay at the campsite in Coxheath, Richard Worsley hired a large house in Maidstone to stay in. He also allowed George Bisset to have a few rooms within the house. It was considered an unusual gesture for Worsley to honour his neighbour, rather than his cousin Captain Thomas Worsley, in this way. Especially as Captain Bisset spent so much time with Lady Worsley he had been given the nickname 'Lady Worsley's aid de camp'.
The truth is that Richard Worsley was very much aware of Lady Worsley and George Bisset's relationship and, rather than prevent it, actively encouraged it. Seeing Bisset's passion for his wife invigorated his own, and Richard Worsley, a man who preferred voyeurism over playing an active part in sex, seems to have been delighted. It is also, of course, possible that he was bisexual or gay, and found the young, athletic George Bisset attractive. Whatever the reason, he encouraged George to spend time with his wife while he looked on. On 4 August 1781 Lady Worsley gave birth to Bisset's daughter, who was christened Jane Seymour Worsley to keep up appearances of respectability.
A bath laugh?
In September 1781 on a hot day, Seymour, Bisset and Richard decided to enjoy a trip to Maidstone's cold baths. These were segregated baths, men in one room, women in the other, and other than the servants attending the bath, the threesome had the baths to themselves. After bathing quickly, Bisset and Richard found a window high outside the women's bathing room. Richard called out to his wife, 'Seymour! Seymour! Bisset is going to get up and look at you!' He then lifted Bisset onto his shoulders to raise him to the window, where Bisset looked through and spent the next five minutes watching Seymour, who was naked, get dressed, attended by shocked bathing woman Mary Marriott.
In October, the militia was ordered to move from Coxheath to winter quarters in Lewes, Sussex. There it was impossible for Sir Richard to find a property large enough for him, his wife and Bisset to live in, and so Bisset stayed in Joseph Tubb's lodging house nearby. Both Seymour and Bisset found being separated so shortly after the birth of their daughter very difficult, and so they conspired to elope. As it was impossible for a woman to divorce her husband, Seymour hoped that such an act would result in Richard requesting a Parliamentary Divorce, the only way in which two people could separate and be free to marry again. This was a desperate act, as on the day that she married, all of her wealth had belonged to Richard until his death, and then and only then would it revert to her. Women who committed adultery were severely and irrevocably excluded from polite society, as this was a crime considered unforgivable. George Bisset also risked ostracism, as he would have been considered to have acted dishonourably and broken the rigid gentleman's fraternal code of behaviour towards a friend and his superior officer in the militia.
On Sunday 18th November 1781, Sir Richard Worsley was ill in bed. Sir Richard, Lady Seymour, Captain Thomas Worsley and George Bisset were expected to attend an Officers and their Ladies gathering hosted by the regiment's surgeon, Richard Leversuch. Lady Worsley, escorted 'home' by George Bisset, left after midnight, but instead of returning to her husband's side, she followed her lover to his lodgings. At his room, George Bisset wrote a letter to Sir Richard resigning his commission as an officer while Seymour wrote a letter to her maid, Mary Sotheby, requesting that she bring her wardrobe to a friend's house in London. The only possessions that Seymour had with her were the clothes on her back, a brown riding habit. Seymour and Bisset then retired to bed together.
Around 4am they got up and by 5am they fled to London in a post-chaise carriage while the rest of Lewes slept. They arrived in London, where they booked themselves into the Royal Hotel's Apollo suite as husband and wife. The attention of the hotel staff was raised when the couple spent almost all their time in their bedroom, as if afraid to go out, and frequently requesting the services of the housemaids to re-make their bed...
In Lewes that morning Sir Richard was woken by the loud noise of a carriage racing through the streets at 5am. Noticing his wife's absence, he anxiously shouted out to his staff, 'Who is awake? Why has Lady Worsley not returned home?' Reportedly looking both anxious and confused, he ordered first his butler and then Mary Sotheby, his wife's maid, to go to Mr Leversuch's immediately and find out where she was. When, after a long period of knocking, they butler returned to inform him that she had left around 1am that morning, Sir Richard rushed over and asked him where she was. On hearing that she had left earlier, escorted home by George Bisset, he froze on the spot for 15 minutes before deciding to see if she had spent the night with a married female friend. She was not there, nor with Captain Worsley. At 7am Bisset's valet, Joseph Connolly, gave Sir Richard's butler two letters, one from Bisset addressed to him, and one in Lady Seymour's handwriting addressed to her maid. Recognising the handwriting, he read both letters before uttering, 'Oh, my lady is found.'
He then rushed to the Tubb's lodging house, discovering that they had left. He then ordered that his butler ensured no-one enter or leave the house, and to look after baby Jane and not to allow her mother to see her. He also instructed Mary Sotheby, his wife's maid, not to let Seymour's clothes and jewels out of the house. Sir Richard and Thomas Worsley then left in a post-chaise for London, hoping to find Lady Worsley's whereabouts. When Bisset's valet Joseph Connolly called on Mary, asking her to bring Seymour's possessions and accompany him back to London, Mary refused. Connolly returned to his master, but without any clothing for his master's mistress.
Arriving in London, Sir Richard moved in with a friend from the Royal Society, John Hesse, while he tried to find his wife. Three days later, on Wednesday 21 November, John Hesse was visited at Horse Guards by George William Coventry, Viscount Deerhurst, a friend of Lady Seymour's. He passed on the message that Lady Worsley had absconded with George Bisset and wished for a divorce. Sir Worsley then quickly hired James Farrer, a divorce lawyer of some repute.
At the time there were two forms of divorce. The first was a Parliamentary Divorce. This was expensive, but allowed both parties to marry again. The alternative was a suit of Separation from Bed and Board, an ecclesiastical divorce used by husbands to divorce adulterous wives, however neither the husband nor wife could marry again while their partner lived. Once divorced, the wife would not be entitled to alimony and the husband would have no responsibilities over his ex-wife's finances, although she would be entitled to a yearly pittance known as 'pin money'. In order to punish his wife for running away and to prevent her from marrying again, Sir Worsley chose to pursue a Separation from Bed and Board.
He also wished to severely punish George Bisset, his close friend who had betrayed him. In order to do this, Sir Worsley chose to sue him for Criminal Conversation at the Court of the King's Bench. This was a charge which a husband could bring on another man who had betrayed his trust by committing adultery with his wife. The richer and more noble the cuckolded husband, the more damage was considered to have been done and the more money the victim could expect to receive. As it was a charge on breaking the gentlemanly code of honour, it also relied on the man who had an affair with another man's wife knowing the man, as no betrayal could take place if the two men were strangers. The closer the loyalty between the men, the more the betrayal of both the spousal relationship and male bond of friendship, and therefore the more money the victim could expect to receive. He also could claim to have been robbed of his wife's 'comfort and society'. Sir Richard therefore decided to sue Bisset for £20,000, an unprecedented high sum, over £25 million today. This amount would force Bisset to sell all his property, especially on the Island (where Worsley could buy it) and spend the remainder of his life in a debtor's prison. At the time, most Criminal Conversation trials awarded the defendant half the amount sued for, £10,000 would almost certainly ruin Bisset.
When Lady Worsley, in the Royal Hotel in London, learned that her maid was not coming with her clothes. Despite owning a vast wardrobe of the most expensive and exquisite clothes money could buy, she now only the set of clothes she had worn on the night she had eloped. Since then she had even been forced to spend a day wrapped up in a bedsheet, while those clothes were washed and dried.
Sir Richard was determined not to let his wife recover her wardrobe. At the time, women wore their wealth. The combined value of her clothes and jewellery was estimated at £12,000 – over £15 million today. Sir Richard felt that if he held onto this, as well as both of Seymour's children, his wife would realise the error of her ways and return to him, especially if she knew he was not prepared to grant her a full Parliamentary divorce. At the time, a proven adulteress had no legal right to see her children. However, shortly after Sir Richard brought his wife's daughter, Jane, to London, she died.
Sir Richard eventually discovered his wife's whereabouts, and his attempts at persuading Seymour to return to him as his lawful wedded wife were rebuffed.
In order to pursue a criminal conversation trial, Worsley and his legal team needed to have evidence. Gossip and hearsay would not suffice, only two or more witnesses who knew that Bisset and Lady Worsley had shared a bed outside wedlock would prove that adultery had taken place. Farrer decided to recruit the hotel staff as witnesses to the fact that Lady Worsley and Bisset were staying in the same room which had only one bed. One claimed that a parcel had arrived, and asked Lady Worsley to confirm her name to see whether it was for her. It was also felt that people who knew both Lady Worlsey and her lover, such as the Worsley's servants, would be needed as witnesses in order to conclusively prove it was them.
A Little Less Criminal Conversation, A Little More Action Please
On Thursday 21 February, 1782 the case of Worsley v Bisset took place at the Court of the King's Bench. The court was open to the public and there was no admission charge, and with the potential of a scandal, Criminal Conversation charges were popular entertainment. Audiences would know in advance the front-page gossip and scandal even before the newspapers, and the courtroom was a place to be seen.
Criminal Conversation trials were basically about damage to property, the property in question being the wife who allegedly committed adultery. Typically the prosecutor would attempt to prove that the accused had committed adultery with a married woman and therefore devalued the wife. The accused would attempt to prove that no such criminal damage had taken place. If the accused was found guilty, he would be expected to pay compensation to the wronged husband for abusing his property. Obviously the woman in question would not be allowed to take part in such a trial; if a wallet had been stolen, you would not call the wallet into the witness stand, would you? Lady Seymour's role in the trial between her husband and her lover was that of damaged goods.
With the recent death of Jane hurting everyone concerned, both parties agreed to leave Jane's name clear and pretend that she was Sir Richard's daughter, and that George Bisset had met the Worsley's much later than he actually had. This was the first of many little inaccuracies that were allowed in court. The Worsley v Bisset trial would be recorded for posterity.
Sir Richard's prosecution case was simple. Lady Seymour was worth £70,000. George Bisset had betrayed Worlsey's trust, Worsley being both a friend and his superior officer, by damaging his wife through having sex with her. Bisset had absconded with her, witnesses proved that the two of them spent time alone in the same bed, and so therefore he was entitled to £20,000 compensation.
George Bisset's defence was twofold. First he claimed that he could not possibly have damaged Lady Worsley as he was not her first lover outside wedlock (rumours at the time suggested he was her 28th conquest). Lady Worsley had asked for 27 men to appear in court as defence witnesses, and the newspapers immediately concluded that they must all have been her lovers, though some undoubtedly were. As at the time noblemen did not have to appear in court and did not have to tell the truth, only three men of the 27 answered the call to appear as George Bisset's defence. Two of those were reluctant to say anything that would imply that they had enjoyed a physical relationship with Lady Worsley in case Sir Richard would later sue them for £20,000 for Criminal Conversation. The third, Viscount Deerhurst, admitted that he had stayed at Appuldurcombe House on the Isle of Wight in the summer of 1779, shortly after his wife had died. When Worsley had seen him admiring Seymour, he said 'many young men had tried her to no affect; and [Deerhurst] had his permission to try [his] chance with her' and that later he was discovered by Sir Richard in Lady Worsley's dressing roomIt has been suggested that the reason that Sir Worsley was in the dressing room next to Lady Worsley's bedroom was that he was voyeuristically watching them. at 4am, who asked 'Deerhurst! How came you to be here?' A few days later, Sir Richard allowed Lord Deerhurst to solely accompany Lady Seymour to Southampton and London, for three days and two nights.
The second half of Bisset's defence centred on Worlsey's act of encouragement at the Maidstone bathhouse. Mary Marriott, the bath's attendant, confirmed that Sir Worsley had not only allowed but actually assisted Bisset in see Lady Worsley in a state of undress by raising him on his shoulders.
The judge concluded that, '[Lady Seymour], for three or four years, has been prostituted with a variety of people; that is extremely clear, and extremely plain.' The jury were asked to consider their verdict and what sum of money should be paid in damages to Sir Worsley. After deliberation, in which they acknowledged that Bisset had undoubtedly dishonourably absconded with another man's wife, they reached a verdict. Instead of the £20,000 asked for, Sir Richard Worsley was awarded a shilling.
Following the trial, Sir Richard Worsley was humiliated and went into seclusion. He did not attend the vital Parliamentary session the following day, Friday 22 February, 1782. Prime Minister Lord North's Tory government had lost almost all of its supporters since General Cornwallis had surrendered to General Washington at Yorktown in October, with the exception of King George III, who refused to allow Lord North to resign. The day after the trial, the Whigs called for a vote that 'the war on the continent of North America may no longer be pursued for the impractical purpose of reducing the inhabitants of that country to obedience by force.' Lord North, seeing the absence of Sir Richard Worsley, one of his last loyal supporters, exclaimed, 'Oh! If all my Cuckolds desert, I shall be beaten indeed!'
In the end, the Whigs motion failed by one vote; had it succeeded, the war in America would have been ended not by George Washington on the battlefields of America, but by Lady Seymour Worsely and her lover in the bedrooms and courtrooms of London.
Lord North would be expelled soon after, and consequently Sir Richard Worsley would lose all his influential Parliamentary positions and appointments.
Outside Parliament, the sex scandal of the trial caught the public imagination like no other. Not only was it covered in immense details in the newspapers, at the trial was Robert Pye Donkin, a court reporter. He recorded the testimonies of the trial and within 2 days had published The Trial with the Whole of the Evidence between the Right Hon. Sir Richard Worsley, Bart. And George Maurice Bisset Esq, Defendant, for Criminal Conversation with the Plaintiff's Wife – Price, 1 shilling, published in London, Dublin and also available on sale in America – George Washington ordered a copy on 15 May, 1783.
Cartoon images of Sir Richard Worsley, George Bisset and Lady Seymour were popular entertainment. One typical picture has Sir Richard asking Bisset, 'Captain, do you see the whole Garrison?' Bisset replying, 'Only the Breast Work and Cover'd Way.' Mary Marriott, horrified, shouts, 'Lord, My Lady, I believe the Captain wants to be in the watering place!' to which Lady Seymour responds, 'Bliss it, he goes to all lengths to please me.'
This was followed by anonymous publications of the Worsley's lives. These either mocked or claimed to reveal who exactly Lady Seymour had slept with and Sir Richard's arrangements with it. These publications included The Genuine Anecdotes and Amorous Adventures of Sir Richard Easy and Lady Wagtail and The Memoirs of Sir Finical Whimsy and His Lady. There were even erotic poems published, including The Whim!!! Or the Maidstone Bath and Variety, or Which is the Man?, about Lady Worsley's love life. The most sympathetic considered Sir Richard's voyeuristic behaviour to have resulted from his passion for the arts. A theory at the time suggested that collectors of fine art such as marble statues of Venus and paintings of unclothed classic goddesses often saw no difference between displaying their works of art and displaying their wivesThis also happened with fellow antiquarian Sir William Hamilton, who displayed his wife Lady Hamilton to Horatio Nelson..
The standards of the time called for polite society to completely shun Lady Seymour, a confirmed adulteress, with even the members of her family expected to no longer communicate with her. Lady Worsley was expected to withdraw from public life and feel the shame for her lost respectability for the rest of her life. Instead, she joined England's impolite society, known as the 'Demi-monde', of fashionable fallen women.
In April 1782, with the Separation from Bed and Board divorce case underway, An Epistle from Lady Worsley to Sir Richard Worsley was published. This erotic poem was the Fifty Shades of its day, in which her thoughts and feelings were expressed by a hired professional writer. With 16 pages of scandalous rhyming couplets such as
What madness Worsley could posses thy brain
To help a wife to an admiring swain?
Although society was outraged by its content, justifying the actions of a woman in leaving behind her husband and children, it sold outrageously well, and Dr Johnson, inventor of the dictionary, described it with the words, 'it is without exception the best written poem that has made its appearance these many years.' Sir Richard wrote a poem in response, The Answer of Sir Richard Worsley to the Epistle of Lady Worsley, however this was only sold in three bookshops in London.
Their Later Lives
Sir Richard Worsley
Sir Richard, unable to cope at home with the continued hounding and mocking of the press, decided to go on long voyage through 1783-1785. Although his voyage began by visiting the Iberian Peninsula, France, Italy, these were too familiar countries. His expedition then led to the Ottoman Empire including Greece, Egypt and Turkey and Russia at a time when it was virtually unknown for any European to set foot there. Before Napoleon's 'rediscovery' of the Pyramids or Lord ElginLord Elgin was also famously cuckolded.'s collection of the marbles from the Parthenon in 1801, Sir Richard began one of England's first fine collection of Ancient Greek and other classical antiques.
He became a person of note in Europe for his collection, invited to an audience with Catherine the Great, an enthusiastic patron of the arts. His social circle soon included King of Poland Stanislaw August Poniatowski, the German philosopher Goethe and President of Rome's Capitoline Museum Ennio Quirino Visconti, with whom he would write The Museum Worsleyanum in both English and Italian, a book on the priceless works of art in his collection. He was rewarded by being appointed British Minister-Resident to Venice when William Pitt the Younger regained power for the Tories in 1793, and from Venice he was able to expand his collection and influence.
Sadly in April 1795 his only son and heir, Robert Edwin Worsley, died.
In 1797 the Venetian Republic was invaded by Napoleon, and Worsley was still in the city when the French troops arrived. He managed to flee back to the Isle of Wight, leaving a priceless treasure-trove of art treasures and paintings, including works by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian and Caravaggio, behind. There he planted a vineyard on his estate and, rather than living in the grand Appuldurcombe House, lived in a smaller house on the estate named Sea Cottage. He died on 5 August, 1805. He was buried in All Saints Church in Godshill, where in the picture-perfect church he was buried within a 30-ton sarcophagus with lion's feet. This vast work of art was considered such an annoying nuisance that in 1905 it was dragged to the back of the church and hidden behind the organ. On his death, his niece Henrietta Anna Maria Charlotte Bridgeman Simpson inherited Appuldurcombe House and his art collection. She later married Charles Pelham, First Earl of Yarborough, Commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron. After he died in 1859, Worsley's collection was simply sold off.
Appuldurcombe House was badly damaged during the Second World War and is now in the care of English Heritage.
Lady Seymour Worsley
Soon after the trial Lady Worsley became pregnant with her lover's baby. Soon after, George Bisset left her. Lady Worsley would give birth in May 1783, but the baby was either stillborn or died soon after. She became the mistress of various wealthy men, including in France, and had a daughter, who she named Charlotte Dorothy Worsley, who she gave to a French family to be adopted.
Unlike the prudish, rigid England where adultery was considered a crime against society, Seymour found French society of the 1780s to socially accept and indeed encourage extra-marital sex. She joined the fashionable set led by the Duc de Orleans. When the terms of the Worsley's divorce was finally settled in 1788, Sir Worsley insisted that Lady Worsley agree to 'absent herself and withdraw herself from the Kingdom of Great Britain for the space of four years'. Lady Seymour, enthralled with the life of the nobility in France readily agreed.
Within a year of her move to France, the Bastille had been stormed and revolution declared. She fled, along with many French nobility to northern France and Lille. The Duc de Orleans was arrested in April 1793 and anyone associated with him, whether friend or even servant, were considered enemies of the new Republic. Unable to flee to England and with France soon at war with her neighbours, Lady Seymour found herself trapped in northern France during the Reign of Terror, almost certainly imprisoned at a time when anyone in France could be sent to the guillotine for any reason. Lady Worsley survived and managed to return to England in 1797, though extremely ill and heavily indebted.
As soon as Sir Richard died, Lady Worsley married Jean Louis Hummell, who changed his name to John Lewis Fleming, after her maiden name. They returned to France in 1816 after the royal monarchy was restored after the defeat of the imperial monarch Napoleon. She died at Passy, just over a mile outside Paris, on 9 September 1818 at the age of 61. She was buried Père Lachaise cemetery and had the words 'Yes Thou Shalt Be Obeyed' inscribed on her tomb.
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