Marriage à la Mode, Part I

Terzameron Day 5
March 25, 2020

Jim McConnaughy


I came to my love of English silver through English history (social, economic, heraldic) which will gently infuse my stories.


Yesterday’s installment concluded with the happy marriage of the Victoria & Albert. Having introduced the topic of marriage, we now step back into the 18th century when, quite frankly, marriages were often made for all the wrong reasons, money and social status being two of the worst. Such marriages could come out well or poorly, as we shall see.



One of the greatest silver patrons of the century was George Booth, the 2nd Earl of Warrington (shown above along with his home, Dunham Massey). He eventually purchased over 1000 pieces of silver by various London-based Huguenot silversmiths, including a large wine fountain of 1728, a set of six wall sconces of 1730, and a rather more modest silver chamber pot, also of 1730, that was with us here at S. J. Shrubsole a few years ago (below). It is all characterized by tremendous quality, heavy gauge, and fine taste.



To say that he was obsessed may be an understatement: he didn’t have just one silver chamber pot but a set of twelve. In 1750 he meticulously wrote, in his own hand, a seventeen page document entitled “The Particular of my Plate & its Weight”, recording his collection of over 25,000 ounces of silver.

When he inherited the title from his father, in 1693, the earldom was swamped in debt, so how did he afford all this luxury? He made his money the really, really old-fashioned way: he married it, taking as his wife Mary Oldburg, the daughter of a rich London merchant who had a massive dowry of £40,000. It did not go well. As his contemporary Philip Bliss wrote: “Some few years after my lady had consign’d up her whole fortune to pay my lord’s debts, they quarrelled, and lived in the same house as absolute strangers to each other at bed and board.”


Warrington was not one to suffer in silence, and published Considerations upon the Institution of Marriage, with some thoughts concerning the force and obligation of the marriage contract, wherein is considered how far divorces may or may not be allowed. Not surprisingly, he was in favor of divorce based on “incompatibility of temper”.

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