Marriage à la Mode, Part II

Terzameron Day 6
March 26, 2020

Jim McConnaughy



Today’s tale of a mercenary marriage is even more shocking than yesterday’s, and shocking in more ways than one.


The 1st Duke of Richmond was one of the seven illegitimate sons of Charles II. Like others to the manor born, he was a huntsman, a wastrel, and a very heavy gambler. In 1719, in the Hague, he racked up extraordinary debts to the Earl of Cadogan—the Duke of Marlborough’s right hand man—debts that were well beyond his means to pay. By way of settlement , this paragon unblushingly offered his son, the Earl of March, as a husband for Cadogan’s daughter Sarah. Cadogan, whose earldom had been an up-by-the-bootstraps affair, jumped, thrilled that his little girl would one day be a Duchess.


Charles and Sarah (he 19; she 13) were not pleased. When Sarah was brought out of the nursery (I know, I know) for the wedding ceremony Charles cried out, “Surely they are not going to marry me to that dowdy?” But they were, and they did, so immediately after the wedding the Earl, being a man of action, took matters into his own hands, and left. He spent the next three years on the Grand Tour.


He returned to London. Balancing a total lack of interest in seeing his wife with a healthy appreciation of women not his wife, he went off to the theater. And you know how it is: he’s an Earl, he’s at the theater, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel: he spots an alluring woman in a nearby box and coolly asks who she is and hears: “You must be a stranger in London not to know the toast of the town: the beautiful Lady March.”


Charles and Sarah were happily married for the next 31 years. They had four extraordinary daughters, but that’s another story.

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