Even though he was regarded as supremely ugly, the lord chancellor Henry Brougham, who courageously defended Queen Caroline in the divorce suit brought by George III, attracted many women.
Before his secret marriage in the summer of 1809 to Mary Anne Spalding, a widow with two children, he had an affair with Lady Caroline Lamb. His marriage, which since the couple had a daughter born that November, may have been something of a ‘shotgun’ affair, was not a success. Mary was not his intellectual equal and he left her behind in his Mayfair home to go to receptions and balls, where she soon became a recluse and slid into insanity.
Even after his bad experience with Harriet Wilson, Brougham continued to dally with the queen of the demi-monde of the time, the dancer and courtesan Betty James, known to the world as ‘Lola Montez’ (pictured above). Just what the lord chancellor’s relationship with her amounted to is very much open to question.
In 1835, when the Whigs triumphed at the election, Lord Melbourne refused to appoint him lord chancellor because of his dissolute behaviour. Melbourne told him that his conduct had been one of the principal causes of the fall of the earlier government. When Brougham protested, Melbourne replied: ‘God damn you but you won’t get the Great Seal.’
It was after that when Brougham met Lola, possibly at Fanny Kelly’s Dance Academy in Covent Garden, where young and not-so-young bucks went in search of company.
Were he and Lola ever an item? She certainly claimed so, but there again she was an inveterate liar.
James Morton is a writer and former criminal defence solicitor