Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Henry James Fitzroy

Henry James, Earl of Euston (courtesy title), was the eldest son of the 7th Duke of Grafton and appears to have been a spectacular fuck up.

Twice bankrupted in his lifetime, which shows a certain inadequacy, his real claim to aristocratic ineptitude was in his choice of wife and later an interest in Poses plastiques but more of that later.

In 1870 Fitzroy met Kate Walsh (aka Cook, married name Smith) who was the concubine of a circus owner and whose "antecedents were deplorably bad but she was a woman of considerable fascination, although coarse and uneducated".

Having kept her as his mistress for some six months or so the couple were married in May 1871 but marriage proved disastrous both personally and socially - marrying his courtesan in Victorian Britain shows a certain naivety that will be repeated.

In 1875, after 4 tumultuous years of marriage, Henry deserted her and moved to Australia to start his life anew in Government service.

Meanwhile his father instigated a search into the background of Kate and eventually discovered that when she married Henry she was in fact already married to George Manley Smith, who was tracked down, living under a pseudynym, in Australia.

Henry returned to England and started dissolution proceedings in 1884.

In her affidavit Kate denies adultery with George Houghton (with whom she was living at the time), accuses Henry of leaving her without cause in June 1875 and not cohabiting with her since...and that he thereby conduced to the adultery (if any), that on numerous occasions he has committed adultery with Ellen Snow and Georgiana Sheridan (not at the same time I assume).

George Houghton denied committing adultery with Kate and asked for recompense.

Henry petitioned that from 1879 to the present Kate had continuously co-habitated and committed adultery with George.

Interestingly and, I think (actually I think the whole situation is probably unique outside of Mormon circles), unusually for the time Henry lost on a technicality.

His case was that at the time of his marriage Kate was already married to George Manley Smith who was produced as a witness. Kate had claimed to be his widow when she married Henry but this was in fact a lie based on an elaborate story about him dying in the sinking of the ship London in the Atlantic.

It turned out, however, that Smith was also already married when he wedded Kate which in turn nullified their marriage and rendered Henry and Kate's legal and thus led to case dismissed.

Kate was therefore next in line to become the Duchess of Grafton but died on 24th Nov 1903 before becoming a Duchess but still styling herself Countess of Euston, living in Fulham and worth £143 (about £8000.00 today).

Later, in 1894, Henry managed to get himself embroiled in the Cleveland Street Affair when he inadvertently visited a male brothel in search of Poses plastiques - basically the heterosexual porn of his day - he accepted a business card from a tout and visited the premises, realised what was going on, made his excuses and left. He successfully sued the newspaper which published the story of his visit and I genuinely believe he was there by mistake - he was the archetypical Tim nice but Dim. I think this is supported by Kate's annulment deposition - although I suppose he could have swung both ways.

Henry died in 1912 childless so the title passed to his brother Alfred - probably for the best,

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