A Colorful Duchess [Trial]. Kingston, Elizabeth Chudleigh Hervey, Duchess of [1720-1788], Defendant. The Trial of Elizabeth Duchess Dowager of Kingston for Bigamy, Before the Right Honourable the House of Peers, In Westminster-Hall, In Full-Parliament, On Monday the 15th, Tuesday the 16th, Friday the 19th, Saturday the 20th, and Monday the 22d of April, 1776; On the Last of Which Days the Said Elizabeth Duchess Dowager of Kingston was Found Guilty. Published by Order of the House of Peers. London: Printed for Charles Bathurst, 1776. [iv], 176 pp. Title page preceded by imprimatur leaf. Folio (15" x 9"). Recent period-style three-quarter calf over marbled boards by Philip Dusel, gilt spine with lettering piece, endpapers renewed. Moderate toning, light soiling and dampspotting to margins of a few leaves, faint dampstaining to heads of preliminaries. $1,500. * Only edition. The colorful duchess is said to have been the basis for William Thackeray's character of Beatrice in Esmond and of the Baroness Bernstein in The Virginians and was also ridiculed in a play that she tried to legally suppress, The Capuchin. Prone to romantic entanglements and scandals, she had many lovers, and it is said that George II was one of many to be swayed by her charms. When she determined to marry the Duke of Kingston, Elizabeth feared the scandal of divorce from her first husband, Augustus Hervey, later Earl of Bristol, who wanted a divorce, so she instituted a suit of jactitation against him. His negative response ignored, she took an oath that she was unmarried, and the court so declared her. She married the Duke of Kingston in 1769, and he died in 1770 and left her a substantial estate on the condition that she remain a widow. The duke's nephew, Mr. Evelyn Meadow, brought suit against her for bigamy shortly after the duke's death, while she was traveling in Italy. She returned to England to stand trial. Found guilty, she would have been "burned on the hand" but she claimed the privilege of her peerage which served to exempt her from corporal punishment. She continued a life of travel and adventure until her sudden death in Paris in 1788. Dictionary of National Biography IX:730. Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson 1957. English Short-Title Catalogue T92941.
Book number 71882