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Local Matrimonial Suit.

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Local Matrimonial Suit. LADY STEPNEY'S PETITION. REMARKABLE DISCLOSURES. In the DVorce Division of the High Court of Justice on Thursday, the 28th May (be* e the President, Sdr F. Jeune) the case of CowsH-Stepney v. Coweil Stepney came on for hearing. This was a suit of Lady Mar- garet Leicester Cowell-S^pney for a, judicial separation from her husband, Sir Emile Algernon Arthur Kepp 1 Cowell-Stepney, on the ground of alleged desertion. The Hon. Arthur Lyttleton, K.C., Mr Priestley, K.C., and Mr Barnard appeared for the petitioner; and Mr Lawson Walton, K.C., and Mr E. T. Spence for the respon- dent. OPENING STATEMENT. Mr Lytlteton, in opening the ease, said that petitioner was the Hon. Lady Stepney, a daughter of the late Lord Tabley, and the respondent was Sir Arthur Cow ell-Stepney, formerly a member of Parliament, and ia large landed proprietor in Wales. It would be material to know that those1 landed estates were entailed. The petitioner sought a judicial separation on the ground of desertion ond she; took these proceedings with the most profound reluctance. It was Not an Ordinary Case of Desertion. By the pleadings the respondent not merely denied desertion, but lie set up a decree oi divorce obtained by him in Idaho, United States, a decree which the petitioner asserted was founded upon an alleged domicile which was not bona fide, end which had none of the circumstances which really attached to a legitimate domicile. The decree was obtained on the 3rd ot March of this year, and if the decree was unchallenged m the courts of this country, the entailed estates, of which Miss Elsie Stepney, daughter of the marriage, was tena,nt-in-taii, would be affected, and her rights might be impeached. Tne marriage took place on the 24tli of August, lfcWo. lucre were during the, first few months ot the marriage contain eccentricities on the part of Sir Arthur Cowell-Stepney, to which Lady Cowell-Stepney did not pay much atten tion. He absented himself without telling her, and it seemed that, her maid made a communication to her at Dinard, where they went shortly after the marriisgCj that he haa made certain vague insinuations against her. However, he showed the greatest, delight at the birth of the daughter, and expressed himself at that time in the highest terms of his wife. The child was born on the 17th of September, 187 I, and on the 6th October, Uf16, Sir Arthur lett uis home, and had never cohabited with his wife since. Certain alle- gations which had been made at the time against his wife were investigated, and were found to be absolutely baseless. They were the result really of mental delusion, for which he was treated by Sir William Gull and Dr Maudsley, and resulted in the respon- dent being sent abroad wtih a doctor in 1877- 78. During the time he travelled abroad, Lady Stepney ceased actual communication with him, but from time to time sent messages by friends. In 1882, a meeting Was arranged between them, which was of a friendly oharacter, and he showed then, as at all times, great affection for his daugiuer. There were other transitory visits while she was living at Wood End, Berks, one of their residences. On the occasion of tho:oo visits, Lady Cowell-Stepney showed the greatest kindness to him. In 1889 an event occurred worth attention. At an agricultural show at Windsor, Sir Arthur's Welsh tenants were invited by him to luncheon, and he had his daughter there, and introduced her by toasts. On that Lady Cowell-Stepney, on the 28th June, 1889, wrote a kindly letter to him in reference to the matter, and ex- pressed regret that the daughter should not first have been introduced to the public by her mother. She. said — "1 do not want to write upon these matters, yet if I were now quite silent 1 should be giving you every right, to think that I eneeriully agreed to our separation, and as long fas 1 live 1 shall not do that. Please ckon-t mistake my meaning. I do not expect yoc to answer tnis, or to take t,he least notice of it. I am only too delighted tnat you should have our child with you, delighted that you should come whenever you will. Pray, forgive me, it in writing now, I have vexeu or hurt you, but, I feel obliged to send you this letter. I Nothing more tili,t, counsel need mention occurred till 189U, when Sir Arthur fell Under the Strange Delusion that certain pictures of an impure kind were being made ot his daughter, and he wrote to Lady Stepney to the effect that "such por- traiiture would be damaging to the future welfare of our dear child.' Lady Stepney wrote back treating this as a transitory delu- sion, iand saying that she had never allowed, and never wt-uld allow, their daughter to come near anything that Sir Arthur could object to. This was put an end to for a short time, but on the 3rd lebruary 1891, Miss Stepney visited her father at Norwood, where he was, and on the \.I,u February ot that year he visited Wocd End, where Lady Stepney was, and claimed the custody ot their daughter, his mind no doubt being still operated upon by his delusion. That was the only occasion on which Lady Stepney showed her anger in the matter, and she, was angry at his conduct. She took the young lady away from Norwood, and an agreement was made bet wee a them whereby r-e daughter was temporarily placed in the custody of an old friend. On the 21st. February, 1891, Sir Arthur and Lady Stepney signed an agree- ment undertaking to refer the custody ot the child to the Court of Chancery. Pro- ceedings were taekn by Sir Arthur in the Court, of Chancery to obtain the custody ot the ehidl. These were resisted by Lady Stepney, and afterwards abandoned abso- lutely, and by consent of the then plaintiff tan order was made in the Court of Chancery giving the custody of the daughter to Lady Stepney, with the usual power of access. That matter was finally disposed of, and the delusion seemed to pass; altogether tiom Sir Arthur's mind, for 10 year6 at any rate, and an oeca-sional visit, of an hour or so took place. From time to time Miss Stepney visi- ted her father .This state of things unhappily was put an end to in January, 1901, Sir Arthur writing a letter to his daughter on the 1st of that month, sayiing he had to tell J. _L1 _1 L' her something which nugm stariie KLLIU ap- prise her: — "The thing to be told you is that I hive forbidden a long farewell to England,^ intend to become a citizen of the United States. For many years there has been a po&sibliity of this." He gave her at the, same time a number of minute directions as to the management of the Llanelly estate. Left England for Good. On the 17th Sir Arthur wrote a letltr to his wife. "My dear Margarets—You will have gathered from my letters to our dear child tha,t I have lefe, England for good and all. Nothing short, of 13.1 great misfortune such as, limanly speaking, there seems no chance of will induce me to change this intention. I propose to make my permanent, home in the States." The letter went. on, "How would t.he thing act, or how would it, suit you to join me in the country?" and said that it Lady Stepney after their long-more than 20 years- Kerfcarution could make up her mind to join him, she, was to write to him at an address in North Dakota, "As regards our dear child and her best interests, I cannot think or wish that she should come here, even if you individually decided to do so." It would be proved that Sir Arthur had at this time formed the prospect of re-marrying, -and tha,t he was going to the United States with the definite idea of procuring a divorce there against his wife. Lady Stepney replied to tiiis letter in her usual gentle tone that ( she could not separa-to herself from her daughter, and expressed the hope that her husband would som-etimt-s come to the old country to visit them. On the 5th November of that. vear, Sir Arthur went to live at Idnho, and lived at, an hotel there till Jan., 1902. On the 2nd December, 1901, he wrote agaac. to his wife, Ho said: "1 hope yoc will not consider ma unduly persistent if I repeat my request of July. If vou can be happy with me you know in what quarter of ure globe to find me. If you cannot make up your mind to join me me I shall feel bound toi effect something like a full legal separation, as the present situaitton can no longer be endured." The answer, as before, was to be qcldressed to the care of Mr Hayter, of Coutt s Bank. That letter was replied to on the 13th Jan., 1902. Lady Stepney therein told her husband how difficult it was for her to answer his letter without touching upon things which had occurred in the past. Since he left her in 1870. a fortnight after the birth cf her child without, giving tiny reason cr explana- tion. she had only seen him since during occasional short visits in i yieriod of 25 years. She had always locked for his return. There had never been a moment up to the present when she would not willingly have joined him but during later years her hopes of hts coming back to her had been gradually dying •away. "And now quite suddenly you want me I to join you in America, although you give me no address and I have no idea in what part of the States you are living. Still I would go to you if I could, but for two real obstacles." The first, obstacle was her daughter, who, as her husband rightly sa £ d, could not accom- pany her; and the second was her (Lady Stepney's) ill-healtn. Fcr some years she had been far from well. and if she crossed the Atlantic, she said, she would certainly arrive at her destination in such a state as would render her a, burden to everyone. She hoped her husband would consider these things, and subscribed herself "Always your affectionate wife, Margaret Stepney." Sir Arthur next, went to California till the 9tli of April, 1902, and then returnel to Boyes City. On the 20th June he presented A Petition for Divorce from his wife in the Court of Idaho, iand on the 23rd of that month he returned to Eng- land The crrrmnrl unOll which he SOUgllt divorce was the alleged desert.1011 of him by his wife for more than 20 years. Mr Lawson Walton The only allegation, it will be observed, is that of desertion. The President: That I understand. Mr Lyttleton, resuming, said in August, Sir Arthur had aii, interview with his daugh- ter in this country, and avowed his intention of obtaining a, divorce ni Amerea in order to marry there. At the end of September, he returned to Idaho, again went to California,, and remained there till January, 1903. On the 7th of February .of that, year, there being no appearance by Lady Stepney, who would not admit the jurisdiction of the American courts in the matter of an English marriage, the trial took place, and on the 4th March, a decree of divorce was made by the Ameri- can Court, granting a dissolution of marriage on the ground of desertion of her husband. But there had been desertion by Sir Arthur, said counsel, long anterior to this petition, and extending over 26 years. He (counsel) also urged that Sir Arthur had not. acquired any bona fide domicile in Idaho. The President reamrked that if domicile was altered merely for the purpose of obtain- ing a divorce, he should have grave doubts as to whether it really constituted at change ot domicile at all. Mr Lyttleton contended that this was purely a fictitious domicile in America, with no element of permanency about it It was not acquired, he said, with the idea of a change of residence, but merely for a tem- porary purpose, and to obtain a, divorce. The President, here pointed out that the onus of proving an American domicile would rest with the respondent. Mr Lawson Walton said he was not in a position to give evidence in proof of such domicile. LADY STEPNEY CALLED. Lady Cowell-Stepney was then examined by Mr Priestley. :She: said she was married on the 24th August. 1875, and there was one child of the marriage, Catherine Muriel Stepney. Her husband had a large estate in Wales. In the, absence of a male heir her daugnter would inherit that property. After the marriage she first went to live at Wood End, Ascot. On a visit to Dinard, the miaid told her of insinuations which her husband made, but she passed the matter over. Lady Stepney gave evilence generally in support of counsel's statement, and as to the- agree- ment, etc. In 1901 she received a lettei asking her to go out to Dakota, but she saici she was in ill-health at the time, and could not do so. With reference to the divorce suit, she was advised not to put in an appear ance. Cross-examined by Mr Lawson Walton, Lady Cow ell Stepney said that apart from the desertion she had no unkindness to com- plain of against her husband. She had no reason either to complain of the financial position in which he left her. He had kept both houses going-that, in Wales and that at Ascot. Out of his net revenue of P,5,000 a year he had allowed her £2,000 for the support of herself and daughter. HER LADYSHIP'S DAUGHTER. Miss Catherine, Muriel Stepney, daughter of the parties, who said she was known among her friends as "Elsie," said that in August, 1902, she received a letter from her father asking her to meet him, and she did so. He spoke to her about business matters, and told her he had cut off the entail of the estate. He said he wished to settle the estate irrevocably upon her, because under certain circumstances she might, succeed. He spoke of the possibility of there being some other claimant to the estate. She asked if that were possible in her mother's lifetime, and at last she asked if he was thinking of re-marrying in America, and he assented, then asked if he intended to get a divorce from her mother, and he said that he inten- ded getting a divorce. He said he had sent for her mother first to satisfy his conscience. She then said that it appeared that his letters were a sham, and he said that was the case. He also said that he had gone to America for the purpose of getting a, divorce. Cross-examined, witness said her father had been uniformly kind and considerate to her. Counsel intimated he could call other wit- nesses, but His Lordship said that it was not, necessary COUNSEL FOR RESPONDENT. Mr Law son Walton said lie appeared 011 behalf of Sir Arthur Cowell-Stepney, who was in the United States, and lie was not in a. position to dispute the main facts relied on by Lady Stepney, as to the long separation, relied upon as desertion, and as to her rights. Under the circumstances he could J^t con- test her claim that she was entitWr to a decree of judicial separation. In order that, Sir Arthur Cowell-Stepney might not be sub- ject to any unjust reflection, he wished to point out that. Lady Stepney frankly admit- ted tint apart from the desertion she had nothing to complain of in regard to her hus- band. In Sir Arthur's absence he. was not prepared to admit the whole of the story as to their married relations, but lie was not pjepaied to contest it. It was clear that he I had lived apart, from Lady Stepney without her concurrence, and Sir Arthur was anxious, as a map of honour, that it, should be pub- licly efaited that he made no reflection what- ever of any kind upon Lady Stepney. With these observations, he left, the matter in his Lordship's hands. With regard to the Ameri- can divorce he was not, in a position to 1 prove the facts. JUDGMENT. The President said it was clearly proved that there hid been desertion by Sir Arthur Cowell-Stepney of this lady, and it was beyon ddoubt that there was no implication whatever uprf. Lady Htepney, Whatever the cause of the desertion Avas, there was nothing which reflected upon her. There had been desertion, and that justified her in asking for a judicial separation. As to the Ameri- can divorce, it was for the respondent to establish that he had an American domicile at the time of the divorce. He, did not think that had been esitaWished. No evidence, had been put before him by the respondent to prove that there was any such domicile in America as would render the divorce valid. Thefeore the petitioner had made out her case, and the respondent had not made, out the answer which he had set up. His Lordship granted Lady Cowel Stepney a decree of judicial separation. LETTER FROM MR W. E. GLADSTONE. Lady Stepney, it is fairly well known, was a great friend of the late Mrs Gladstone. Referring to the proceedings instituted in Chancery a., to the custody cf her daughter, her ladyship stated in the Divorce Court on Thursday that numerous friepds of the re- spondent made affidavits in support of the

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Local Matrimonial Suit.