Tory MP Fondles Himself At Window, Blows Kisses to Ladies Watching

I found this story on @HistoryWeird's blog here. The original source was Reynolds's Newpaper, June 30, 1861. Believe you me, if there was one newspaper that was sure to report a disgraced, sexually transgressive upper class man, it would be Reynolds's Newpaper. This was published by the same guy (G.W.M. Reynolds) who wrote Mysteries of the Court of London, which we've discussed in the past.


"Sir John Shelley (1808-1867) was a Conservative politician who served several terms in the House of Commons between 1830 and 1865 . . . In June 1861 Shelley, then the Tory MP for Westminster, appeared in a London court charged with gross indecency. Several witnesses testified seeing Shelley expose and fondle himself in the window of his apartment in St James Street. According to Mrs Susan Stafford:

“'I was at the window and Sir John… came to his drawing room window. He had no trousers on but loose drawers and a white or light-coloured dressing gown. I distinctly saw him expose his person. He looked direct to [my house] and used his hands indecently, and then kissed his hands towards our house. There were ladies and servants at our windows.'"

There were three other women who testified in the same manner. One was Mrs. Stafford's maid, another was Maria Hartley, a nurse and another was Miss Mary Griffiths, a relative staying with Mrs. Stafford. Miss. Griffiths said that she saw Sir John:

"'…standing at the window; he appeared to have some loose gown on and drawers but his legs were bare… He exposed his person and did it again several times in the course of the afternoon.'

Maria Hartley testified that she saw:

'"Sir John at the first floor window … I saw him put his hands down and open his drawers and I turned away… I had seen him that day do it two or three times. I have seen him frequently since do it… On those occasions I saw his private parts naked.'

"Sir John Shelley’s barrister responded by claiming the defendant had disrobed to his underwear due to the heat; the witnesses, he claimed, had accidentally spied him through a thin curtain. The judge accepted this, noting that Sir John was a 'gentleman' and 'it was only an illusion'. He dismissed the charge and Sir John 'left the court unstained in character by this case'".

This verdict works on both class and gender lines. Obviously Sir John was a man of money and power, which was often socially and legally interpreted as being "of good reputation", hence the judge's decision that because he was a "gentleman" he couldn't possibly have done such a thing. In addition, there was likely some element of protecting women, even from themselves. "Nope, you didn't see anything indecent. It was an illusion." Like the women were just going to go, "Oh, okay!"

The moral of the story is: it's good to see Tory MPs haven't changed much in the last 150 years. Hey, if that's how you get your jollies, it's none of my business.

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