The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Sir Charles Mordaunt

Sir Charles Mordaunt

A carte-de-visite portrait of Sir Charles Mordaunt (1836-1897).

Born on 28 April 1836, Sir Charles Mordaunt was the son of Sir John Mordaunt, 9th Baronet, and Caroline Sophia Murray. He inherited his father’s baronetcy in 1845. To mark his coming of age he commissioned, for the enormous sum of £30,000, Sir George Gilbert Scott to rebuild the family home, Walton Hall, in exuberant Gothic style. From 1859 to 1868 he was the Conservative MP for South Warwickshire.

On 6 December 1861 he married Harriett Sarah Moncreiffe, daughter of the Scottish baronet Sir Thomas Moncreiffe and Lady Louisa Hay-Drummond.

Sir Charles was a stolid country squire with no interests beyond hunting and shooting, and Harriet was a giddy young beauty who had already caught the eye of the Prince of Wales. Harriet had license, or thought she did, to carry on affairs with other men. While Sir Charles killed foxes, deer, grouse, and salmon, or sat in Parliament, Harriet entertained numerous lovers, including the Prince and several of his aristocratic friends. In 1869 she gave birth to a blind daughter, Violet. Convinced that the baby’s affliction was the result of a venereal disease, Harriet confessed everything to her enraged husband.

Sir Charles immediately sued for divorce, threatening to name the Prince of Wales as a co-respondent. Harriet's father, who had several other daughters to marry off, announced that she was mad in order to prevent a divorce trial and save the family reputation. Harriet was incarcerated in various rented houses, and after some weeks either broke down or agreed to feign madness: smashing plates, eating coal, howling and crawling. The case was brought to court and the Prince of Wales was called as a witness; he admitted visiting Lady Mordaunt but nothing further was proved.

In 1875 Sir Charles sued again. Viscount Cole (later 4th Earl of Enniskillen), the father of Harriet's child, pled guilty to adultery with her and Sir Charles got his divorce. Harriet was kept in asylums for the rest of her life. However, her daughter Violet, sight restored, married the future Marquess of Bath.

On 24 April 1878 Sir Charles married, secondly, Mary Louisa Cholmondeley, the sixteen-year-old daughter of Reverend Hon. Henry Pitt Cholmondeley and Hon. Mary Leigh.

Sir Charles Mordaunt died on 15 October 1897 at the age of 61.

Photographed by Camille Silvy of London on 18 April 1861.

From an album probably compiled by either George Charles Pratt (1799-1866), 2nd Marquess Camden or by his son, John Charles Pratt (1840-1872), from 1866 3rd Marquess Camden.


Code: 125020
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