J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Elizabeth Armistead, Wife of Charles James Fox

Last month Geri Walton, author of Marie Antoinette’s Confidante, profiled Elizabeth Armistead (1750-1841).

A courtesan and actress in London, Armistead was mistress to the second Viscount Bolingbroke; Gen. Richard Smith, head of the East India Company; the third Duke of Dorset; the twelfth Earl of Derby; and Lord George Cavendish.

And then came Charles James Fox, the Whig politician who was Foreign Secretary at the end of the American war. Walton wrote:
Fox and Elizabeth did not start out as lovers. They had a decade long platonic friendship before they became lovers. After their love affair began, one person asked Fox why he was suddenly absent so much from the gentleman’s club he attended called Brooks’s. He supposedly replied:
“You know I have pledged myself to the public to keep a strict eye on Lord Shelburne’s motions; and that is my sole motive for being so much in Berkeley-square; and that, you may tell my friends, in the sole reason they have not seen me at Brookes’s [sic].”
Fox had always been considered a rake, a drinker, and a gambler. Moreover, he was a notorious womanizer. . . . If Elizabeth planned to have a temporary fling with Fox, it soon turned long-lasting and exclusive. The exclusivity soon caused her financial problems and when she attempted to end her relationship with Fox, Fox would not allow it as he was too smitten.
“I have examined myself and know that I can better abandon friends, country, everything than live without Liz.”
Fox’s gay and frivolous lifestyle ended when he married Elizabeth secretly on 28 September 1795. . . . because of Elizabeth’s past, news of the marriage would cause a scandal and so Fox felt that he could not introduce her into society (supposedly she also insisted that he not do so).

It took seven years before he formally introduced Elizabeth as his wife.
Can this marriage be saved? See Walton’s full article for the full story.

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