The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

 
 
 
Lady Isabel Somers-Cocks

Lady Isabella Somers-Cocks


A carte-de-visite portrait of Lady Isabella Somers-Cocks (1851-1921), later Lady Henry Somerset.

Isabella Caroline Somers-Cocks was the daughter of Julia Margaret Cameron’s sister, Virginia, and Charles Somers-Cocks, 3rd Earl Somers.

In 1872 she married Lord Henry Somerset, second son of the 8th Duke of Beaufort. Although a son was born in 1874, the couple separated soon after. Isabella sued for custody of the child, on the grounds that her husband was homosexual. She won the court case but was ostracised by society for having made a public scandal of her husband's sexuality. He soon departed for a new life in Italy but the couple were never divorced, due to Isabella's strong religious principals. She assumed the style of Lady Isabella Somerset and engaged in charitable works. In the 1880s she became a Methodist and a leading figure in the temperance movement. She was also an early campaigner for the rights of women.

Photographed by Oscar Gustavus Rejlander of London.

Often called the father of art photography, Rejlander was a Swede who emigrated to England in 1839. He lived first in Lincoln and then in 1845 moved to Wolverhampton, finally settling in London in April or May 1862. Along with HP Robinson, he became one of the leading exponents of ‘high-art’ photography. His Two Ways of Life was a mammoth composite work which caused a sensation when it was exhibited in 1857. In addition to his art photography, Rejlander also advertised his availability as a commercial portraitist. Nevertheless, he died penniless in 1875; he was buried in London's Kensal Green Cemetery.
 

Code: 122485
 
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