Easy Peasy

I found the below story in Judith Schneid Lewis's In the Family Way: Childbearing in the British Aristocracy, 1760-1860.

In my last post, I talked about the STUPIDEST depiction of childbirth I've ever read (written by a doctor who clearly had no idea what he was talking about).

Now, while his description of childbirth as painless and over in about 30 seconds is ludicrous, that's not to say that some women don't have a much easier time of it than others.

One such woman was Lady Charlotte Guest who "enjoyed surprising her husband with these quick births. In 1843, on the occasion of the birth of her eighth child, she sent her husband and son off to lunch without telling them she was in labor" (168).

Lady Charlotte wrote in her diary:

"I went to bed as soon as they had left me, and in a very few minutes Merthyr [her 5-year old son] came up again to see why I had not followed them down. I tranquillized him as well as I could and he again went out of the room, but only to be recalled almost immediately to see the eighth child to which, thank [God], I had given birth to with as little pain as I suppose it is possible to suffer on such occasions . . . . She was born at a quarter past four p.m. being only three quarters of an hour from the moment of my having finished writing and dated my journal" (168-169).

She bore ten children in total, and all of them survived until adulthood.

Her husband died at age 67 when she was only 40, so she began an affair with her sons' 26-year old classics tutor, and married him three years later to the outrage and scandal of her friends. However, Lady Charlotte was so entirely badass that she recovered from this scandal and used her connections to boost her low-born husband's reputation so much that she got him elected to Parliament.

I've been studying a lot of the social dynamics of the upper class in the Victorian era, and this is perhaps the thing that astounds me most. The aristocracy did not seem like a particularly forgiving bunch if they perceived that someone had done something that spit in the face of decorum and 'decency' (like marrying the help, especially when the help is way too young for you). People didn't really bounce back from that. She did.

She was widowed again after 30 years of marriage, but didn't sit idly by, either before or after her new widowhood. She traveled all around Europe amassing a huge collection of ceramics, board games, fans, and playing cards that she donated to museums. She was fluent in seven languages and was a proficient writer, especially of Arthurian legend, and was an enormous patron of the arts in Wales.

I guess she was just one of those people to whom everything comes easily. Even childbirth.

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