Regency Scandal Most Sensational

In the spring of 1809, Lady Charlotte Wellesley eloped with Lord Paget. Lady Charlotte was the sister-in-law of the Duke of Wellington and the mother of four children. Lord Paget was the heir to the Earl of Uxbridge and a cavalry officer. Unfortunately, Paget was still married to Lady Caroline Villiers, the daughter of Lady Jersey, the Prince Regent’s ex-mistress. London could speak of nothing else.

Field Marshal Henry William Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey, was a British military leader and politician, who lead the charge of the heavy cavalry during the Battle of Waterloo. Born in London, as Henry Bayly, Paget was the eldest son of Henry Paget, 1st Earl of Uxbridge. Paget served well during the Peninsular War, but after his liaison with Lady Charlotte, the wife of Henry Wellesley, his service with Wellington, Wellesley’s brother, became problematic.

In 1810, his wife, Lady Caroline, sought a divorce in Scotland (where such matters were easier to do).

Prior to the divorce, Paget and Lady Charlotte were gossip fodder. In Hary-O: The Letters of Lady Harriet Cavendish, 1796-1809, Harriet Granville (the former Lady Harriet Cavendish, daughter of William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire and Lady Georgiana Spencer) wrote of the spectacle: “London is full of impenetrable fog and horror at Lady Paget’s elopement – he went off the day before yesterday with Lady Charlotte Wellesley. It is in every way shocking and unaccountable. He has left his beautiful wife and 8 or 9 children and she a husband whom she married about five years ago, for love, and who is quite a Hero de Romance in person and manner, with 4 poor little children.”

To fuel the fire of the scandal, Paget left behind  letter in which he praised his wife, but said, “[H]e could not resist taking the step he had done.” Paget’s family blamed Lady Charlotte, calling the woman a maudite sorciéré. 

In An Elegant Madness, it says, “The Duke of Wellington felt that Lady Charlotte’s brother, Lord Cadogan, should have been able to stop her living ‘and performing’ with a divorced man, and concluded that ‘poor Henry will again be dragged through the Mire & will marry this blooming Virgin as soon as she will have been delivered of the consequences of her little amusements.'”

When it became known Lady Paget was also having an affair – hers with the Duke of Argyll – a double divorce and two weddings resolved the scandal.

Marriages and children

Lord Anglesey was first married on 5 July 1795 in London to Lady Caroline Elizabeth Villiers (16 December 1774 – 16 June 1835), daughter of George Villiers, 4th Earl of Jersey and Frances Villers, Countess of Jersey. They had eight children:

  • Lady Caroline Paget (6 June 1796-12 March 1874). Married Charles Gordon-Lennox, 5th Duke of Richmond. 
  • Henry Paget, 2nd Marquess of Anglesey (6 July 1797- 7 February 1869). Married Eleanora Campbell, granddaughter of  John Campbell, 5th Duke of Argyll. 
  • Lady Jane Paget (13 October 1798-28 January 1876). Married Francis Conyngham, 2nd Marquess Conyngham.  
  • Lady Georgina Paget (29 August 1800- 9 November 1875). Married Edward Crofton, 2nd Baron Crofton. 
  • Lady Augusta Paget (26 January 1802- 6 June 1872). Married Arthur Chichester, 1st Baron Templemore.  
  • Captain Lord William Paget RN ( 1 March 1803-17 May 1873). Married Frances de Rottenburg, a daughter of Francis de Rottenburg. 
  • Lady Agnes Paget (11 February 1804- 9 October 1845). Married George Byng, 2nd Earl of Strafford. They were parents to George Byng, 3rd Earl of Strafford, Henry Byng, 4th Earl of Strafford and Francis Byng, 5th Earl of Strafford. 
  • Lord Arthur Paget (31 January 1805-28 December 1825).

Lord Anglesey and Lady Caroline were divorced on 29 November 1810. The same year, he married secondly to Lady Charlotte Cadogan (born 12 July 1781), former wife of Lord Henry Wellesley and daughter of  Charles Sloane Cadogan, 1st Earl Cadogan and Mary Churchill. Mary was a granddaughter of Lady Maria Walpole, an illegitimate daughter of  Robert Walpole and Maria Skerret. They had ten children, of whom six survived infancy:

  • Lady Emily Paget (4 March 1810 – 6 March 1893). Married John Townshend, 1st Earl Sydney. 
  • Lord Clarence Paget (17 June 1811 – 22 March 1895). Married Martha Stuart, the youngest daughter of Admiral Sir Robert Waller Otway. 
  • Lady Mary Paget (16 June 1812 – 20 February 1859). Married John Montagu, 7th Earl of Sandwich. They were parents of Edward Montagu, 8th Earl of Sandwich.  
  • Lord Alfred Paget (29 June 1816 – 24 August 1888).
  • Lord George Paget (16 March 1818 – 30 June 1880). A Brigadier General of the British Army. 
  • Lady Adelaide Paget (Jan, 1820 – 21 August 1890). Married Frederick William Cadogan, a son of George Cadogan, 3rd Earl Cadogan and his wife Honoria Louisa Blake.
  • Lord Albert Paget (Dec 1821-Apr 1822)
  • Lord Albert Paget (29 May 1823-d. an infant)
  • Lady Eleanor Paget (21 May 1825-d. an infant)

Lady Anglesey died on 8 July 1853, aged 71. Lord Anglesey survived her by less than a year and died on 29 April 1854, aged 85. He was succeeded by his eldest son from his first marriage, Henry.

Regency Tidbit: When Paget’s daughter married the Duke of Richmond, Jane Austen privately criticized the union. “What can be expected from a Paget, born and brought up in the centre of conjugal infidelity & Divorces?”

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About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and contemporary novels.
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