Friday, January 16, 2009

Earl Grey: Kind of a Dick

Earl Grey is the name of an absolutely delicious black tea blended from Indian and Ceylon tea leaves with a dash of bermagot oil. Legend has it that the eponymous earl, Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, got the blend off of a Chinese mandarin, after Lord Grey kindly saved said manderin's life.

History has it that Charles Grey was kind of a dick when he was younger.

Charles Grey had a precocious talent and a predeliction for older women and power. When he was first elected at the age of 23 to the House of Parliament in 1786 he lost no time in befriending the leaders of the Whig party. One of those leaders was the political hostess Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire. By having the tenacious persistance that would put a cactus in a drought to shame and an emo obsession with the Duchess that would make Stephanie Meyer's Edward Cullen seem well-adjusted , Lord Grey managed to convince the Duchess of Devonshire (who was rather lonely, as her husband was a cold fish who prefered his dogs to human beings and who was dickishly sleeping with her best friend) into having an affair. In the late 18th century this was not at all uncommon; it was even quite expected. Aristocrats started up affairs to stave off boredom, glean governmental secrets, pay off debts, or gain political power. As long as you were discreet, you were good to go. However, the Key Word was Discreet, and there Lord Grey and Her Grace the Duchess of Devonshire showed themselves to be completely illiterate.

While the Duke of Devonshire was in London, the Duchess was in Bath with her sick sister, Harriet, Countess of Bessborough. Charles Grey was in Bath too, and was very publically seen to go in and out of the Duchess's house. Gossip spread, Lord Grey impregnanted the Duchess, and someone wrote a letter to the Duke of Devonshire to come to Bath immediately.
This was Bad.

The Duke was in a towering rage about his wife's indiscretion (it was impossible to pass of the child as his, as they had been living apart for most of the year) and threated to divorce the Duchess and keep her from ever seeing her three beloved children again if she didn't give up Grey and Grey's baby immediately. Grey was also in a towering rage and demanded that the Duchess give up her other children and social position and marry him. The Duchess couldn't bear to give up her dearly beloved children off of the Duke, or her position as The political hostess of the Whig party/ the arbitrator of Georgian fashion/one of the most popular and influential political figures in Great Britain, and so was forced to give Grey's baby by Going Abroad For Her Sister's Health, i.e. giving birth in France, where hopefully no one would notice she was pregnant, and then shipping the baby off to Grey's parents to raise. Grey was furious, refused to speak with her again, blamed her for the entire mess and married someone else without even bothering to tell her. The Duchess was speechless with grief when she found out, by reading it in a newspaper.

Later on, Grey, who had fifteen children with his wife Mary Ponsonby, found monogomy not to his taste and had a torrid affair with another Whig political hostess, Richard Brinsley Sheridan's second wife, Hecca.

So, Earl Grey. Kind of a dick.

Fun Fact: Earl Bessborough, Harriet (the Duchess's sister)'s husband escorted Georgiana and Harriet to France. During the entire time, Harriet's husband had no idea that the Duchess of Devonshire was pregnant. Absolutely none. However, Earl Bessborough was not known for his powers of observation. Later on, his wife had two children by the love of her life, Lord Granville Leveson-Gower and her husband did not notice she was pregnant either time.

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