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1887

Sin and Scandal: The Langworthy Case of 1887

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Divorce court scene from 1910

It’s always interesting to stumble across long-forgotten scandals of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. The tragic case of Mrs. Langworthy (née Mildred Sabine Palliser Long), as recounted by Mrs. Stuart Menzies in her second book of gossip, Further Indiscretions (1918), chills the blood over one hundred years later.


The Langworthy case was remarkable chiefly as a record of villainy that to my mind seems almost unique, and leaves one dumbly wondering at the dark possibilities of cruelty that lie in the human heart.

It also shows the apparently anomalous case of a woman who first obtained a decree nisi with £1500 a year alimony from the Courts and subsequently £20,000 for breach of promise of marriage against the same man. The law is a wonderful institution.

The way I came to know so much about the case was through being asked by Dr. Godson, the great ladies’ doctor of those days, if I would go and see a patient of his who was in great trouble and ill health as well as practically penniless. Of course I went, and from Mrs. Langworthy’s own lips heard her pitiful story, which as it appears to have been entirely forgotten, I relate briefly.

The Mrs. Langworthy of the case had been a Miss Long, the daughter of well-to-do people in Ireland, her father being estate agent at one time to the Marquess of Downshire and later to Lord O’Neile. She was a tall, handsome girl and gifted, as was proved by her passing in 1873 as one of the senior candidates at the Dublin University, taking honours in French, Latin, Euclid and Algebra. Her composition on English literature was chosen as good enough to be read aloud by Professor Dowden. Fired with her success she then went to Cambridge, where she shone in Latin, Divinity, etc.

About this time her father lost most of his money, and Miss Long decided she would cost him nothing more and went out as governess. During a visit to Paris with her brother, who was staying at that comfortable old-fashioned Hotel Bedford, she met the man who was to ruin her life, namely, the exceedingly rich and not ill-looking Mr. Langworthy, with great estates in South America, a magnificently appointed yacht, French chef and all the luxuries and comforts which usually surround men with large fortunes. At the time he became enamoured of Miss Long he was a widower. His first wife, Lady Alice, sister of the second or third Earl of Limerick, died at sea in 1876, under what circumstances I do not know. Mr. Langworthy proved a devoted if somewhat dictatorial lover, and an engagement quickly followed on their first meeting, but Miss Long was told under no circumstances must his mother know anything about it as she might disinherit him; the engagement must be a secret.

During this time he persuaded Miss Long to go for a little cruise in his yacht, having provided a suitable ballast of chaperonage. They stayed at Cherbourg for a day or two, and while there he introduced his fiancee to a number of people, including the Hon. Cecil Cadogan, Mr. Dennison and others. While at Cowes Mr. and Mrs. Vereker invited them to dinner. All was comfortable and plain sailing. One day Mr. Langworthy while at Cherbourg asked Miss Long to go for a drive with him to Caen; they looked at the cathedral and then taking both her hands said, “I want you to marry me at once; I cannot wait any longer for you and have arranged everything.” She was entirely taken by surprise and objected. While he pleaded she turned over in her mind all the circumstances, and feeling there could be nothing but love to influence him, as she was penniless except for her own earnings, consented, knowing nothing about French marriage law.

The carriage was told to stop before a Catholic Church some miles out in the country from Caen. Here awaited them (all having evidently been arranged) a priest in a black cassock and a fat, disagreeable smile, who read some sort of a service in Latin. As a matter of fact the whole thing was a fraud; seemingly such things can be arranged where money and villainy are not wanting. There were many interesting features in the story at this time, much too lengthy and complicated to relate here, but various thoughts came to her mind making Miss Long doubtful about the legality of this marriage ceremony, and suggesting that she would be happier with a second ceremony.

Mr. Langworthy, having had the legal training of a barrister, knew how to turn his knowledge to account, said, certainly if she wanted another ceremony she should have one. This time the chaplain of the American Seaman’s Mission at Antwerp performed it, the divine’s name being the Rev. Doctor Potts, a member of the Presbyterian Church.

What Mr. Langworthy knew and his unfortunate dupe did not know was that only civil marriages are valid in Belgian law. However, in all good faith she had taken part in two ceremonies, the one near Caen in September, 1882, the second in January, 1883, at Antwerp. After this latter Mr. Potts entered the following in his register:—

Antwerp, January 10th, 1883.—Edward Langworthy, England, widower, 35 years old. Mildred Pallise Long, Belfast (Ireland), maiden, 27 years old. Marriage ceremony by Rev. Arthur Potts.”

This was duly signed by the witnesses, one being Mrs. Potts, the other a Mrs. Bailey, whom I think was acting companion, chaperon or something of the kind, I have forgotten what. A copy of the certificate was handed to Mrs. Langworthy, but it was taken away by her husband, who said he would send it to his solicitors for safe keeping, and he would mark it private and important. He then made his wife promise to keep the marriage secret for a year as he did not wish his mother to know anything about it.

A happy time followed in the yacht; Mr. Langworthy seemed to be deeply in love with his wife; it was all glorious and the days chased each other like some love poems under sunny skies. They stayed a few days at Lisbon, where Mr. Langworthy introduced his wife to Lady Ashton, Lord Francis Cecil and others (this is a point to bear in mind).

From Lisbon, if I remember correctly, they sailed for Buenos Ayres, where Mr. Langworthy owned property. During the voyage his wife told him she expected to become a mother. From this moment his manner entirely changed and, instead of expressing pleasure, exclaimed, “We must put the little beast out to nurse.” By degrees he now became so brutal it was forced upon her he was hoping his treatment, drugs and starvation, would kill the child, and possibly the mother also.

Driven nearly mad by his treatment, one evening she got out of her bed and went in search of her husband, threw her arms round him and implored him to say why he had so changed. He then told her not to make a fool of herself, she knew perfectly well she was not his wife and the child would be illegitimate, and as this had happened she must leave the yacht on reaching Buenos Ayres and go home again at once; if the affair became known it would be his ruin.

Without allowing her to land at their destination, he put her on board a French tramp steamer without a deck house, that having been washed away on its last voyage, and of course without either a doctor or stewardess. Mrs. Langworthy begged for some baby clothes, and was given a box containing a few yards of flannel and calico, and £50 in her pocket and sent off home!

So back to England she came full of misery and shame with nothing to prove the story she had to tell but her wedding ring and the baby. Her pride would not let her seek her people, whom she knew would wish to help her but could not afford it. To use Mrs. Langworthy’s own words to me, “When I first arrived I tramped London trying to find some clergyman to take up my case for me and see me righted; I could get help from none. One told me he had heard stories like that before and was sorry he could do nothing for me.” Another, living in some state in Grosvenor Square, who preached regularly in a fashionable chapel not far from Berkeley and Grosvenor Squares, was sitting one evening after dinner before a comfortable fire sipping coffee from delicate china and toying with a gold spoon, surrounded by expensive fur rugs, books and comforts of all sorts, when Mrs. Langworthy sought his help and told her story. He did not rise from his chair while the poor woman poured forth her tale and implored him to help her. It was a wet night and she was wet through, having tramped the streets all day in hopes of finding some one to help her, her boots were worn through in places and her teeth chattered from cold and want of food. She eventually was told he did not believe a word of her story, it was too impossible, but if it was true she must “Have faith.”

Poor soul! she asked how that was going to find food for her child and herself and turned bitterly away. She described to me her despair as she once more walked along the wet pavements and meditated drowning herself and her child. Passing down Conduit Street she noticed a brass plate on a door with the name of Lumley and Lumley, solicitors, printed on it, she had not tried them, but would do so first thing next morning. She had already tried several solicitors, but she was destitute, friendless, broken in health, the law and the Church refused to help her, justice was her only weapon, while the whole force of the Langworthy’s immense wealth was thrown into the scale against her.

Her husband’s relations would not listen to her, and this is the plight she was in when she entered the offices of Messrs. Lumley and Lumley in Conduit Street. They listened to her story, gave her money to go on with, took the trouble to collect the necessary evidence to prove the ceremonies that had taken place and undertook to fight the case for her. Magnificently they did it through all the courts for four years. Mr. Robert Lumley I do not remember meeting, but Mr. Theodore Lumley I am glad to have known, for he did for this defenceless, broken-hearted woman what not one single shepherd of Christ’s flock would do.

Another revolting feature about the treatment from which this unhappy woman suffered, was the attitude of her own sex, the lodging-house woman where she lodged turned her out on hearing she was not living with her husband! Others treated her as if she was one of the lowest of those who walk the streets for their living. Even had that been the case, they should have shown some humanity to a suffering sister.

I did what I could for her, and by degrees one after another helped her; but that she got justice in the end and her life made possible during the long years while the case was in the courts is entirely due to Messrs. Lumley and Lumley, the solicitors, and to The Pall Mall Gazette, who took her case up warmly, collected money for her, published special editions of their paper with all the details of the case as it unfolded itself from day to day. They also brought out a little booklet or pamphlet, entitled A Romance of the Law Courts, Mrs. Langworthy’s Trials and Triumphs. Anyone wishing to read all the particulars of this extraordinary case cannot do better than get a copy and read it, if there are any now to be had.

Mrs. Langworthy’s troubles were, however, not yet over, though the learned judges held her marriage to be illegal, but a marriage “in fact” and granted her £1500 alimony. Mr. Langworthy had fled to America, refused to pay and was nowhere to be found. His solicitors and counsel worked indefatigably to delay any steps taken by Mrs. Langworthy’s solicitors to obtain the money for her. The husband’s wealth was a terrible weapon. I have been told great London papers even refused, through the influence of Mr. Langworthy’s agents, to insert her lines in their agony columns. Goods of his, seized to pay his debts to his wife, were instantly claimed by his mother as her property and therefore inviolate. While all this was taking place Mrs. Langworthy was often in great need, and but for the kindly help of The Pall Mall Gazette and Messrs. Lumley and Lumley would surely have gone mad.

Twenty thousand pounds on paper did not help her much. Her husband was made a bankrupt, but he had made his English property over to his mother. In the end the victim triumphed, having fought hard for her child, but there was no getting away from the fact that the strain had told upon her considerably. She was aged and broken down at the end of the four years almost beyond recognition.

The end of these people was as tragic as their lives. Mrs. Langworthy rejoined her husband and forgave him; [in 1898] she died suddenly when in Paris with him and he committed suicide next day.

Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee

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The-Family-Of-Queen-Victoria,-1887

1887 marked the fiftieth year since Queen Victoria’s ascension and a jubilee was planned to celebrate this remarkable date in history. In those fifty years, Great Britain had grown into a vast Empire, a top manufacturer and exporter of goods, a social arbiter, an envied nation, and at the top was crowned the greatest monarch of the age: Queen Victoria. The advent of the jubilee rejuvenated Victoria’s public image, which had taken a beating due to her rabid seclusion in the two decades after the Prince Consort’s death, and the subsequent popularity of the Prince of Wales. The date for the jubilee celebration was set for the 20th of June, exact date of her accession, to which dozens of royals and heads of state were invited to partake in a lavish banquet at Buckingham Palace.

The following day, the Queen “travelled in an open landau to Westminster Abbey, escorted by Indian cavalry. The procession through London, according to Mark Twain, ‘stretched to the limit of sight in both directions’. Bodies of soldiers in one colour, then another, marched past the spectators, who were accommodated on terraced benches along 10 miles of scaffolding erected for the purpose. Queen Victoria rode in the procession in her gilded State landau, drawn by six cream-coloured horses. She refused to wear a crown, wearing instead a bonnet and a long dress.”

“On return to the Palace, she appeared on the balcony, where she was cheered by huge crowds. In the Ballroom she distributed Jubilee brooches to her family. In the evening, she put on a splendid gown embroidered with silver roses, thistles and shamrocks for a banquet. Afterwards she received a long procession of diplomats and Indian princes. She was then wheeled in her chair to sit and watch the fireworks in the garden.”

Another account:

“Jubilee Day, the 21st of June, was a day ever to be remembered by those who were privileged to be in London, and to witness the royal progress to Westminster Abbey. The day was observed as a national holiday, and fortunately was one of perfect sunshine. Houses and streets were profusely decorated, and the demonstrations of personal affection for the Queen were universal. Tens of thousands of persons lined the thoroughfares, especially along Piccadilly, Pall Mall, Whitehall, and Parliament Street. The gorgeous cavalcade excited intense interest; the brilliant group consisting of the Prince of Wales, the Crown Prince of Germany, and the Crown Prince of Austria, being singled out for special admiration.

Whenever Her Majesty appeared, however, she was the cynosure of all eyes. She drove in State, accompanied by the members of the royal family, and by the foreign potentates and princes who were her guests. The Thanksgiving Service in Westminster Abbey was most impressive. The interior of the Abbey had been completely transformed, so as to afford the largest possible amount of sitting accommodation. An eyewitness of the ceremony thus described the scene in the Abbey, and the order of the service: “King Henry VII.’s Chapel had been shut off, and not a single monument was to be seen anywhere. The Abbey was more like Cologne Cathedral than the Abbey Englishmen know and love so well. At either end—that is to say, above the altar and at the western end of the choir—were two immense galleries crowded with people. On either side of the nave, too, there were galleries filled with naval and military officers and their wives. On the floor in the nave were the Judges, the Lord Mayor, the Aldermen and Common Councilors, and a host of distinguished personages. The Beefeaters kept the line of route here,but they had little to do, for the arrangements were too admirable to make over-crowding possible. The choir was reserved for minor potentates and for the attendants of the kings and princes, who were seated within the rails of the sacrarium. Between the sacrarium and the choir was thje daiis, a wide structure covered with red baize, with the coronation chair in the centre. On the right of the chair the princes who accompanied Her Majesty were to sit, while the princesses were on the left. On the altar was a splendid gold alms-dish and four large bouquets of white lilies. On one side of the dais were members of the House of Lords; on the other, members of the House of Commons, while above the peers was a diplomatic gallery, where a most dazzling exhibition of classes and orders could be seen.

The Abbey, with the exception of the choir and the sacrarium, was full at ten o’clock. It was a most brilliant sight—one which will never be forgotten by those who saw it. The bright hues of military uniforms and the scarlet and ermine of the judges, blended admirably with the white dresses of the ladies. The black lambswool kalpack of Malcom Khan, the Persian envoy, and the fez of Bustem Pasha, the Turkish ambassador, were very conspicuous amid the brilliant throng. The royal children, who composed the first procession, arrived very quietly soon after ten. The Indian princes came about eleven, when Dr. Bridge played the Grand March in B flat by Silas, succeeded by the march from “Lohengrin.”

The Indians formed a magnificent group, blazing in rose diamonds. There were the Thakur Sahibs of Gomdal, of Lieuri and of Moroi, the Maharajah of Kuch Behar, and the Eao of Kutch. Above all was the Maharajah Holkar of Indore, who seemed to be a mass of emeralds and brilliant Almost at the same time the Sultaneh of Persia, Prince Komatsu e Japan, and other Eastern princes were conducted to their places in tin sacrarium, where also the Queen of Hawaii was allowed to have a place. She wore a large number of Hawaiian orders. Then there was a lull until about twelve, when Dr. Bridge struck up Lemmens’ ‘Marche Pontificate,’ to welcome the foreign royalties. The Queen herself had selected this piece. It was a splendid procession. The King of Saxony, who is blind, was led up the aisle by the Crown Prince of Austria and the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

“The kings and princes who passed to the sacrarium did so by side passages; not one of them ascended the steps to the dais where Queen [Victoria and her family alone were to tread. Half an hour more of waiting, and then Sir Albert Woods, Garter King, who was watching at the western door, gave a signal. A voice as of many waters was heard outside, and the State trumpeters, perched aloft on the roodscreen, performed a fanfare on their instruments. The vast crowd of all that is great and illustrious in England rose to their feet. Dr. Bridge played the National Anthem, and afterwards, as the Queen’s procession passed up the nave, a march from the ‘Occasional Oratorio.’ The clergy of the Abbey came first, and behind them were the Bishop of London, the Archbishop of York, the Dean of Westminster, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. After them came the Queen, attended by the princes and princesses of her family. The procession having reached the dais, the Queen took her seat on the coronation chair, and Lord Lathom and Lord Mount-Edgcumbe placed the robes of State on her1 shoulders. She bowed low to the altar just before they did so, and then sat down. At that moment, when the scene was complete, the mise-en-scene was a very striking one.”

~ The Beautiful Life and Illustrious Reign of Queen Victoria by John Rusk

So joyous was this occasion, it moved many of England’s artists, writers, and poets to wax on the might and power of Victoria and the British Empire. The following was composed by Poet Laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, to mark the golden jubilee:

On The Jubilee Of Queen Victoria

I.

Fifty times the rose has flower’d and faded,
Fifty times the golden harvest fallen,
Since our Queen assumed the globe, the sceptre.

II.

She beloved for a kindliness
Rare in fable or history,
Queen, and Empress of India,
Crown’d so long with a diadem
Never worn by a worthier,
Now with prosperous auguries
Comes at last to the bounteous
Crowning year of her Jubilee.

III.

Nothing of the lawless, of the despot,
Nothing of the vulgar, or vainglorious,
All is gracious, gentle, great and queenly.

IV.

You then joyfully, all of you,
Set the mountain aflame to-night,
Shoot your stars to the firmament,
Deck your houses, illuminate
All your towns for a festival,
And in each let a multitude
Loyal, each, to the heart of it,
One full voice of allegiance,
Hail the fair Ceremonial
Of this year of her Jubilee.

V.

Queen, as true to womanhood as Queenhood,
Glorying in the glories of her people,
Sorrowing with the sorrows of the lowest!

VI.

You, that wanton in affluence,
Spare not now to be bountiful,
Call your poor to regale with you,
All the lowly, the destitute,
Make their neighborhood healthfuller,
Give your gold to the hospital,
Let the weary be comforted,
Let the needy be banqueted,
Let the maim’d in his heart rejoice
At this glad Ceremonial,
And this year of her Jubilee.

VII.

Henry’s fifty years are all in shadow,
Gray with distance Edward’s fifty summers,
Even her Grandsire’s fifty half forgotten.

VIII.

You, the Patriot Architect,
You that shape for eternity,
Raise a stately memorial,
Make it regally gorgeous,
Some Imperial Institute,
Rich in symbol, in ornament,
Which may speak to the centuries,
All the centuries after us,
Of this great Ceremonial,
And this year of her Jubilee.

IX.

Fifty years of ever-broadening Commerce!
Fifty years of ever-brightening Science!
Fifty years of ever-widening Empire!

X.

You, the Mighty, the Fortunate,
You, the Lord-territorial,
You, the Lord-manufacturer,
You, the hardy, laborious,
Patient children of Albion,
You, Canadian, Indian,
Australasian, African,
All your hearts be in harmony,
All your voices in unison.
Singing, ‘Hail to the glorious
Golden year of her Jubilee!’

XI.

Are there thunders moaning in the distance?
Are there spectres moving in the darkness?
Trust the Hand of Light will lead her people,
Till the thunders pass, the spectres vanish,
And the Light is Victor, and the darkness
Dawns into the Jubilee of the Ages.

Further Reading:

History of Jubilees: Queen Victoria
Jubilee photos of Swindon
Church House, Jubilee Year
1 July 1887: A golden garden party
Wallpaper for the Golden Jubilee
Golden Jubilee 1887 – A Present to Queen Victoria from Elizabeth of Romania