OOAK fox dressed in the iconic ridding habit of Lady Seymour Worsley.
Possibly one of the most iconic images of a woman of the Georgian era wearing a riding habit has to be that of Lady Seymour Worsley. So, with that in mind, we thought we would take a look at this fashion statement outfit. We know from Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s receipts that she purchased her riding habits from the tailor to the Prince of Wales, one Louis Bazalgette, as did Mrs Fitzherbert, and it is more than likely that Lady Worsley did too.
The outfit would consist of a tailored jacket or redingote, possibly one of the most glamorous garments a woman could wear, so much so that even today fashion designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier use it for inspiration.
With a long skirt, tailored shirt or chemisette, a hat, low heel boots, glove and a necktie or stock, based on the male coat and waistcoat of the day. Needless to say, though the breeches would have been totally unacceptable. As you can see in the portrait though of Lady W, she was clearly sporting a very elegant pair of shoes, hardly suitable for riding in.
The couple were badly suited to each other, and the marriage began to fall apart shortly after it began. They had one child, a son named Robert Edwin who died young. In August 1781 Seymour bore a second child, Jane Seymour Worsley, fathered by Maurice George Bisset but claimed by Worsley as his own to avoid scandal. Bisset, a captain in the South Hampshire militia, had been Worsley’s close friend and neighbour at Knighton Gorges on the Isle of Wight.
Lady Worsley was rumoured to have had 27 lovers. In November 1781 she ran off with Bisset, and in February 1782 Worsley brought a criminal conversation case against Bisset for £20,000 (2015: £2,220,000). Lady Worsley turned the suit in her favour with scandalous revelations and the aid of past and present lovers and questioned the legal status of her husband. She included a number of testimonies from her lovers and her doctor, William Osborn, who related that she had suffered from a venereal disease which she had contracted from the Marquess of Graham. It was alleged that Worsley had displayed his wife naked to Bisset at the bath house in Maidstone. This testimony destroyed Worsley’s suit and the jury awarded him only one shilling (2015: £5.54) in damages.
Bisset eventually left Lady Worsley when it became apparent that Worsley was seeking separation rather than divorce, meaning Seymour could not remarry until Worsley’s death. Seymour was forced to become a professional mistress or demimondaine and live off the donations of rich men in order to survive, joining other upper-class women in a similar position in The New Female Coterie. She had two more children: another by Bisset after he left her in 1783, whose fate is unknown; and a fourth, Charlotte Dorothy Hammond (née Cochard), whom she sent to be raised by a family in the Ardennes.
Lady Worsley later left for Paris in order to avoid her debts. In 1788, she and her new lover the Chevalier de Saint-Georges returned to England, and her estranged husband entered into articles of separation, on the condition she spend four years in exile in France. Eight months before the expiration of this exile, she was unable to leave France because of the events of the French Revolution and she was probably imprisoned during the Reign of Terror, meaning she was abroad on the death of her and Worsley’s son in 1793. In early 1797, she returned to England, and she then suffered a severe two-month illness. Owing to the forgiveness of her mother, her sister and her sister’s husband, the Earl of Harrington, she was then able to move into Brompton Park, her previous home, but which the laws on property prevented her from officially holding.
On Worsley’s death in 1805, her £70,000 jointure reverted to her and just over a month later, on 12 September, at the age of 47 she married 26-year-old newfound lover John Lewis Cuchet (d. 1836) at Farnham. Also that month, by royal licence, she officially resumed her maiden name of Fleming, and her new husband also took it. After the armistice of 1814 ended the War of the Sixth Coalition, the couple moved to a villa at Passy where she died in 1818, aged 59.
OOAK Foxy Ladsy inspired by the remarkable life of Lady Seymour Worsley.
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