Updated date:

Saint And Sinner: The Fleming Sisters

Author:

Scandals plagued society in England with some very famous trials and notoriety of the players.

Jane Fleming, Countess of Harrington

Jane Fleming, Countess of Harrington

Seymour Fleming, Lady Worsley

Seymour Fleming, Lady Worsley

Jane Fleming, Countess of Harrington

Jane Fleming Stanhope was born in 1755 to Sir John Fleming and Jane Coleman. In 1778 she married Charles Stanhope, Earl of Harrington. Both Jane and he sister, Seymour, inherited a fortune after their father died, making them two of the richest women in England. Upon Jane's marriage, she settled all the debts of her husband.

Jane and her husband had ten children and apparently happy life. She was also known for her impeccable taste in fashion along with Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

In 1794 Jane became the lady of the bedchamber to Charlotte of Mecklenburg, wife of King George III, serving until the Queen died in 1824. Jane was the epitome of virtue and generosity. Lady Harrington died on 3rd February 1824 and is buried in St. James Place, Westminster Abbey.

Sir Worsley, Peeping Tom

Sir Worsley, Peeping Tom

Worsley Trial, Crim Con

Worsley Trial, Crim Con

Sir Worsley

Sir Worsley

Seymour Fleming, Lady Worsley, the Sinner

The opposite of her sister, Jane, Countess of Harrington, Seymour married Sir Richard Worsley in 1775. It wasn't long before Seymour caught the eye of a neighbor, Charles Bisset. Sir Worsley had a rather curious behavior and often had his friends spying on Lady Worsley while in the bathhouse.

Bisset and Lady Worsley ran off to a motel sending word back to Sir Worsley she wanted a divorce. Sir Worsley was livid and not about to be embarrassed by Lady Worsley. Hence, he decided to sue Bisset through Crim Con, a legal Tort action arising from adultery that allowed Sir Worsley to claim damages from his wife's lover. It would be the most scandalous trial showing Sir Worsley was guilty of same charges and encouraging the lovers of Lady Worsley.

The court would not go according to it Worsley's liking. Lady Worsley was no fool, and many of her lovers were called to testify, but the only one who did testify was Vincent Deerhurst, who admitted it and then testified Sir Worsley encouraged it. Yes, Lady Worsley's reputation was ruined with her 27 lovers acknowledged, but she also succeeded in damaging Sir Worsley's standing. He had sued for quite a sum but was awarded only one shilling, kicked out of parliament, losing his influence, and left with revenge.

Bisset realized then that Lady Worsley would not be free to marry while Sir Worsley was alive and ultimately left her. Although Lady Worsley had inherited a small fortune, it was held under Sir Worsley's hands. This was a time when women were property and having no control of her own funds.

Lady Worsley was cast out of society, alone, and broke with child. Sir Worsley took her back, agreed to pay her debts on the condition she would leave England for four years. She agreed and left for France. She returned to England in 1797, sick, and moved in with her mother, sister, and brother-in-law.

Sir Worsley died in 1805, allowing Lady Worsley to recover her fortune. One month after his death, 47-year-old Lady Worsley married 26-year-old Jean Louis Hummel. She died in 1818 and is buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France.

The Matrimonial Act of 1857 in England

Not until 1857, when England enacted the Matrimonial Act that ordinary people could now file for divorce under the following criteria:

  • adultery
  • unreasonable behavior
  • desertion after two years if uncontested
  • desertion after five years if contested

King Henry VIII is often called the 'Father of Divorce'. So It is with relief that the archaic divorce laws have been replaced and that women are no longer considered 'property,' can have control over their own property and assets, and custody of their children no longer be taken away from them solely under the old laws.

Comments

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on September 07, 2021:

Rosina, sorry, somehow I couldn't get to the 'comments'. Something I did. I did see your visit and comment and so appreciate them. Thanks, Rosina.

Rosina S Khan on September 07, 2021:

Fran, I was the first to comment on your article. Looks like you didn't receive it. So I repeat below:

This is an interesting account of the The Fleming Sisters- one being a saint and the other a sinner. It is intriguing to note how divorce was modernized and the old laws were replaced. Thank you, Fran, for a marvelous article.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on September 06, 2021:

Thanks, Alicia. I always appreciate your comments.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 06, 2021:

As others have said, I’m very glad that the divorce laws have been updated! Thanks for sharing the information about the sisters.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on September 06, 2021:

MG, thanks for visiting. Hope you enjoyed the article.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on September 06, 2021:

Thanks for your visit, Pamela. Always good to hear from you.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 06, 2021:

It is good the divorce laws have been revised, Fran.

I have never read about the Fleming sisters before. This is a very interesting article, and I enjoyed reading about a situation that the UK would probably rather forget.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on September 06, 2021:

This is a very interesting article about the Fleming sisters about whom I did not know anything. Thank you for sharing.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 06, 2021:

Power41, very interesting read. It is a pity that adultery featured in a noble family.

Rosina S Khan on September 06, 2021:

This is an interesting account of the The Fleming Sisters- one being a saint and the other a sinner. It is intriguing to note how divorce was modernized and the old laws were replaced. Thank you, Fran, for a marvelous article.

Related Articles