Wedlock: the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore

by Wendy Moore
Published by Crown, 2009, $26.95

Reviewed by Sharon Shervington, June 5, 2009

Imagine being one of the wealthiest women on the planet, widowed and with young children. Still, you’re barely into your second decade. Your father, your greatest protector, is no longer their to look out for your interests. Then imagine a man you think loves you – even fighting an illegal duel in your honor. So you marry him, and suddenly your fortune is no longer your own. That is what happened to Mary Eleanor Bowes in the late 18th century. Within hours of the marriage, literally, Prince Charming turns into Mr. Hyde, abusing her physically, imprisoning her and separating her from both her children, her money, even her beloved servants. And it was all absolutely legal. Shortly, the countess is a mere shadow of her former self, in a society where divorce was nearly unthinkable. Finally she gathers the strength to withstand the rage and abuse sent her way by those who believe that divorce is worse than death, not to mention her vicious, adulterous husband.

Wedlock is an interesting look at the historic reality of power as anathema for women. As such, it shows how far society has developed, in terms of availability of divorce for women as well as inheritance laws (although in England, a great deal of property remains entailed to this day.) This book reads like a historical Ann Rule and really spans the genres, working as history, biography and alas, true crime.

One Response to “Wedlock: the Disastrous Marriage and Remarkable Divorce of Mary Eleanor Bowes, Countess of Strathmore”

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