Happy Anniversary, Lord Byron?

Happy 198th anniversary, Lord and Lady Byron!

Image Courtesy Wikipedia: Portrait of Lord Byron by Thomas Phillips, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_Byron

Image Courtesy Wikipedia: Portrait of Lord Byron by Thomas Phillips, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_Byron

 

 

Image courtesy Wikipedia: Anne Isabella Milbanke in 1812 by Sir George Hayter, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Byron

Image courtesy Wikipedia: Anne Isabella Milbanke in 1812 by Sir George Hayter, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Byron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, George Gordon, Lord Byron and Anna Isabella Milbanke, Lady Byron are no longer alive and able to enjoy marital bliss.

But did they ever?

After all, Lord Byron is considered by many to be the ideal romantic hero. His marriage, then, must have been ideal, too. Right?

Oh, so wrong.

Byron’s first and only  marriage was likely motivated by that infamous killer of romance, debt: he had them, she had expectations of a fortune to inherit. They  separated only fifty four weeks later, after the birth of both a daughter and a scandal that rocked even the notoriously relaxed morals of Regency London’s ton.

In one way, then, the marriage could be called a success: it is still discussed, studied, argued about, nearly two hundred years later.

On January 2, 1815, Byron married Anna Isabella Milbanke.1

Though legally separated in 1816, Byron and Annabella remained married until Byron’s death in Greece on April 19, 1824. 2, 3

Annabella, as she was called, was the cousin of Lady Caroline Lamb, with whom Byron had conducted a notorious affair in 1812-1813. Byron broke off the affair with little consideration, repelled by Lady Caroline’s growing possessiveness.4

Lady Caroline famously described Byron as, ‘bad, mad and dangerous to know.’5

Byron retaliated with his poem ‘Remember Thee! Remember Thee!’ whose last line refers to Lady Caroline as, ‘Thou false to him, thou fiend to me.’6

The ever-short-of-funds Byron began to court Lady Caroline’s cousin Anne Isabella Milbanke (“Annabella”) who was heiress to a large estate. Annabella was a highly intelligent and moral woman who refused Byron’s first proposal of marriage but later relented. Her mathematical genius led Byron to call her his ‘Princess of Parallelograms.’ 7,8

Upon her marriage, Annabella became Anne Isabella, Lady Byron or Baroness Byron.

However, Annabella’s mother disliked Byron so much that she requested the Prince Regent give Annabella the title ‘Lady Wentworth’ so that her parents would not have to call her ‘Byron.’

When Annabella’s mother died, in order to inherit the large estate, Annabella changed her surname to Noel, a condition of her mother’s will. 9,10

The marriage proved unhappy almost immediately. Byron’s best man, John Cam Hobhouse, alleged Byron had written but failed to send a letter calling the wedding off. Another rumor is that Hobhouse himself tried to convince the vicar to refuse to perform the ceremony because Byron was, ‘a monster of cruelty.’ 11

They moved to a London townhome where Byron behaved badly from the start.

He was frequently drunk, entered into affairs, fired pistols into the ceiling, spoke viciously to Annabella, and in general made his friends fear for his sanity.12, 13

Annabella became pregnant almost immediately. Byron noted that the naïve Annabella, ‘could always be caressed into tractability.’14 Their daughter, Augusta Ada, was born on December 10, 1815, and on 16 January 16,1816, Lady Byron left him, taking Ada with her. 15, 16

On 21 April, 1816 Byron signed the Deed of Separation. Rumors of domestic violence, sodomy, and incest with Byron’s half-sister Augusta Leigh, began making the rounds of London society, likely assisted by a jealous Lady Caroline. 17, 18

Of the rumors, Byron noted, “Even to have such a thing said is utter destruction and ruin to a man from which he can never recover.”19, 20

Though he had long delighted Society with his outrageous behavior, delicious scandals and brilliant poetry, such accusations put him beyond the pale and he found most doors closed to him.

Byron left England, never to return.21

Byron and Annabella’s daughter, Ada Augusta, inherited the best of both her parents. She was a brilliant mathematician, collaborated with Charles Babbage on his analytical engine, a predecessor to modern computers, and has been called the world’s first computer programmer.22,23

Sources:

1, 2, 6, 9, 15, 17, 19  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Gordon_Byron,_6th_Baron_Byron

3, 10, 16, 23  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Isabella_Byron,_Baroness_Byron

4, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 20 http://www.internationalbyronsociety.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8&Itemid=7

5 http://fascinatinghistory.blogspot.com/2005/10/mad-bad-dangerous-to-know.html

6 http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/lbyron/bl-lbyron-remem.htm

7, 8 http://androom.home.xs4all.nl/biography/p006574.htm

21 http://englishhistory.net/byron/life.html

22 http://www.biography.com/people/ada-lovelace-20825323

Comment... 5 I'd love to hear your thoughts.

5 Comments

  1. Posted January 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Wow – Was this ever the case of a bad marraige.
    Thanks for the post!

    • Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      You’re so right, Danielle. I just can’t believe Annabella married him in the first place!

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