Skip to main content
Hide Articles List

13 articles on this Page


[No title]


[No title]


1tt rindl)¡ttity.

¿ ¿\grirutturnt.




THE MORDAUNT DIVORCE CASE. The Mordaunt case in its present stage was concluded on the 25th ult. The small and dingy Divorce Court was again thronged in every part to hear the summing up of the Judge Ordinary. The Judge Ordinary said—There are those who will lament that matters of this kind, arising between husband and wife, should become topics of .public discussion, and there may be some who think that such public discussion, carrying with it as it does knowledge of immorality, and matters which every one would wish should be kept from the eyes of the many, is not desirable, and that in this case the avidity of the public to take an interest in the trial arises from the anticipation of the immorality that is to be revealed and made public. Now, as to mere im- morality, abstracted from its incidents and circumstances, it is unfortunately true that in the proceedings of this court there is not a week or a day which would not fur- nish materials that to such depraved tastes would be equally acceptable. But it is the position and station held by those whose names are implicated in the matters which have been made the subject of our inquiry which have excited such keen attention and interest in the pre- sent case, and it is natural that those who stand in high places should be conspicuous, and those who are conspicu- ous must expect to attract attention. It is no doubt matter for regret that in an inquiry into matters arising between husband and wife, things are stated which affect the character and reputation of third persons, who are not directly parties to it. It almost savours of injustice that we should have matters stated or discussions raised which incidentally appear to aim a serious blow at the characters of others, who are not always able to instruct counsel to defend them, and who, indeed, have no charge distinctly stated against which to defend themselves. This is almost an injustice, but is it not a necessary in- justice ? Is it possible that we can conduct an investiga- tion of this character fairly, honestly, and truly without sparing any one, and keep out of sight all the circumstan- ces that may affect the reputation of others ? It seems to me that we cannot, and therefore the supreme interests of justice are best served by presenting, without reserve, whatever matters become important to the interest of the two principal parties, and enter necessarily into the ques- tion to be determined by the suit, even though these may disparage the characters of others. I am not quite sure that there are not corresponding benefits in this. The great pub- licity with which everything is conducted in this country is an advantage in itself, and even as regards the parties them- selves whose names were thus brought into the inquiry independentlyof their own wishes, there may be correspond- ing benefits. You are not called upon to-day to give your verdict upon any of .those matters which concern third persons, but it is no light benefit that all that is known and is to be proved upon the main question and its incidents should be brought forward in open court and in the face of the public, and that you should have the ad- vantage of hearing all that can be said upon the subject without let, hindrance, or favour. The case erf Sir Charles Mordaunt has been conducted by an intrepid advocate, who has omitted nothing which he felt it to lie his duty to state, and who is a consummate waster of legal .rhetoric. „ •< -■ f ■.•••' t, V- ■> a: — The investigation has taught us precisely what could be proved to justify or confirm the statements made by Lady Mordaunt herself after her Confinement; and in reference to the Prince of Wales particularly, it must be a matter of congratulation to you that the advocate for Sir Charles Mordaunt should have come forward and told you fully and exactly whatever he could put before you. I am afraid I rather embarrassed him by suggesting that names of parties should not be mentioned in the first instance, but neither in his opening nor closing speech did he make any charge of adultery against the Prince of Wales, or go farther than to suggest the existence of an intimacy be- tween the Prince and the respondent greater than her husband desired. If Lady Mordaunt is out of her mind now, and if, in three, or four, or five years she is fit to ariswer, Sir Charles Mordaunt will have his remedy. Therefore your finding, if it should be that she is insane, would not put an end to Sir Charles's remedy; however, it is a question which has never been argued, whether, even if Lady Mordaunt is insane, Sir Charles would be stopped from going on with his suit. In this case you will observe the question of adultery is raised only in reference to the proof of the adultery. The sanity of the respondent is the very thing that is at issue, and the question is, if the facts are true, it goes some way to show that she was sane when she made them. Let us see how far it is established incidentally that the lady committed adultery. First, with regard to Lord Cole, the evidence seems to me of a very cogent character. The respondent made an entry in an almanack, and opposite the 3rd of April she put a mark, and wrote "280 days from the 27th of June." Now we have it from Sir Charles Mordaunt that she was expected to be confined about the 3rd of April. What could this mean but that she was to be con- fined on the day 280 days after the day on which her child was conceived ? On the 27th of June her husband was in Norway, and the appearance of the child tallied with that period. On that day Lord Cole was with her, and re- mained one hour and three quarters after those who were there with him had gone. Was this in accordance with the usual custom of society ? This is not all. On the day she goes down to Walton he meets her at Paddington and holds the door open, and travels with her as far as Reading. A few days afterwards he went down and stopped there a guest of Lady Mordaunt for four days. On the 15th of July Sir Charles Mordaunt comes home. Well, when Lady Mordant is confined she says, That is Lord Cole's child," and repeats it several days following. Then in the case of Captain Farquhar, it was certainly proved that Captain Farquhar was in the hotel on the night that Lady Mordaunt went there. Where he passed the night has not been proved. But I doubt whether you would at- tribute much weight to all this but for the letter, supposed to have been written by him, in which he says he got home very tired to the Tower, and speaks of having deceived Charlie. Lady Mordaunt went home on Saturday, the 9th, and she was unwell for a week, and this letter was not discovered until the following Saturday. But some conversation passed between Bird and Clark, which in- duced the former to put by the Morning Post. The suspicious part of the matter is the way the letter came to light, both Bird and Jessie Clark having told everything they knew except about the letter, which was not men- tioned by her to the attorney until April. This throws some amount of suspicion on the matter. The case with regard to Sir Frederick Johnstone is so slight that if I were trying a case of adultery I should have to say that there was no evidence independent of Lady Mordaunt's admission. The whole evidence is that he dined with Lady M ordaunt, and we ^are surely not arrived at such a pass that a gentleman cannot dine with a lady without adultery being assumed to occur. I must not omit the case of the Prince of Wales. In the evidence in his case it is said lie called frequently. (Here the learned judge read the evidence of Jessie Clark, Johnson, and Bird, de- posing to the visits of the Prince of Wales.) Here again I should have to say to you that there is no evidence. The rule in this court has always been to judge of conduct where mere suspicion was raised according to the ordinary rules and habits of society, and if there was nothing ex- ceptional in that respect in the conduct of any persons, not to assume anything against them. In the present instance the visits of the Prince of Wales to Lady Mor- daunt were all made at established hours, and in accord- ance with the usages of society. Moreover, it is necessary to bear in mind that established usage prescribes that during the visit of a royal personage all other visitors are forbidden. There is, therefore, nothing singular in this having happened when the Prince of Wales visited Lady Mordaunt. I now pass away with pleasure from that branch of the inquiry, and approach what is the real ques- tion in the case-the sanity or insanity of the lady at certain times. Tests have been resorted to by the peti- tioner. He says the lady made certain confessions—were they true ? Secondly, he asks did she not say and do reasonable things? I am not quite sure that either of these tests is perfect. Suppose that Lady Mordaunt admitted the adultery, and that it was true, is it quite certain that her mind was not disordered ? Is a woman at the time of her confinement, provided she is of disordered senses, never to refer to anything that occurred ? Is it a test? Would it be impossible for a guilty woman to confess her guilt, and, with her imagination excited, add a number of other things that "were untrue? It has been suggested that she made the confession because she knew the child was diseased. If that was shown it would indicate a rational process in her mind. But facts do not support it. On Monday and Tuesday she said the child was Lord Cole's, and then she asked the nurse whether there was anything the mat- ter with the child? The nurse said "No." Yet she made the confession that the child was Lord Cole's. Although she made the confession she does not try to reconcile her- self to her husband. Her reply to the nurse was that she would humble herself to no man, and to Mrs Cadogan, when that lady asked her to tell her husband she was sorry, But I am not sorry." Passing to the other test, is it uncommon for insane people to talk reasonably ? If we go into a lunatic asylum, should we find everything around us inconsistent with reason ? The ques- tion is not what reasonable things did she say or do, but what unreasonable things did she say or do ? If there is one thing universally attendant upon the birth of a child, it is the mother's clinging affection for it, but in this case the mother seems to have turned from it with loathing, or not to have cared for it, and this is a material circumstance for you to consider. If her mind was shaken from its balance, was it by the consciousness of guilt ? Hancock was a very important witness, and so was the next witness, Mrs Cadogan. (His lordship then read her evidence). We have had an extraordinary contradiction in the progress of this case. Sir Charles Mordaunt writing letters from the Wednesday to Saturday describes the condition of his wife, her prostrate nervous state, odd be- haviour, and so on and then a medical man, Mr Orford, comes into the witness-box and declares that these were not true descriptions of her real state. It is, therefore, very material to observe and weigh Mrs Cadogan's account of her condition on those days. Mr Cadogan next saw her, and it appears from his account that he went for the express purpose of getting from her a more express acknow- ledgment of guilt. (Mr Cadogan's evidence was here read). The Dowager Lady Mordaunt then saw her, and I will read you her evidence, which comes naturally in this place. Having done so, his lordship read the evidence of Sir Charles Mordaunt, and observed As to the condition of Lady Mordaunt up to the 13th March, it is impossible that any evidence in the world can be so trustworthy as the letters written by her husband. (Here these were read). There is a great deal of contradictory evidence in the case, and a great deal that we cannot reconcile at all and it is a singular feature of her state that we find her husband describes her in these letters as sleeping well. That a mind strained by effects of simulation should have such repose would certainly be singular. So far as they go I think you will agree with me that the letters offer un- exceptionable testimony as to the condition of Lady Mor- daunt, and one thing strikes us upon reading them, that at the time of his writing them her husband did not him- self believe in her guilt, and first began to believe in it when he found certain letters in his wife's desk on the 14th. His lordship then referred to the fact that Lady Louisa Moncrieff was not called forward. I was rather inclined to smile at the suggestion of the learned Serjeant, that Lady Louisa need not have felt more pain at being called upon to give evidence than the servant girl, Jessie Clark. I am bound to say that I never recollect a witness who exhibited a more cheerful alacrity in idence to the dishonour of her mistress than JessieTOlark. But the reasonable supposition is that if Lady Louisa could have controverted the evidence of the servant she would have been called. Lady Mordaunt left Walton on the 15th of May, and on the 16th wrote from London the letter to her husband which has been produced and read. This was certainly just as reasonable a letter as any human being ever wrote; but supposing it to be genuine, and not written for the purpose of deception, does it not tend to show that she did not leave her husband's house with a knowledge of her true position as a woman accused of adultery? Again, if she was shamming, is it likely that, beginning with this, she would end by being really out of her mind ? Or, if she is now out of her mind, is the supposition of her shamming any longer tenable, or can it be relied upon with any degree of force? If she was shamming, what did she really propose to herself ? If she could simulate madness so successfully as to prevent her husband from prosecuting a suit for divorce, she must have laid her account with being set down for mad during all the whole remainder of her life and what is life worth under such circumstances? We must ask ourselves how far it is likely that any lady would simulate madness, with the certain prospect before her of this for the rest of her life. There is, however, another view of the case which led in the opposite direction, and which might have operated with Lady Mordaunt to put on these appearances, which is, that if her husband went on with this divorce suit, it would be a very important thing for her to show that she was out of her mind at the time of her confinement, and that the confessions she had made were the offspring of delusion. After referring to other evidence, including that of the doctors, his Lordship said- The medical men said, here are symptoms maintained without any break, and this singular continuity is utterly inconsistent with the notion of simulation. They further reason in this way, and they say it is an extraordinary thing that during all this time she has got fatter and that is a matter worthy of your consideration, whether a per- son suffering under the pressure of mind, which we are told must have been the state of this lady, could or would not fall back in condition. His lordship then called atten- tion to the evidence given by Sir C. Mordaunt's witnesses as to Lady Mordaunt's residence at Bickley. Now, it was stated that she did not care for her child, that she had fits of taciturnity, and that her mind was weakened. He proceeded—Sir James Simpson saw her on the 14th of April, before she left Walton, and he said she was suffer- ing from puerperal insanity, which probably began earlier than her confinement. (The evidence was read, which was to the effect, as will be remembered, that the effect of puer- peral insauity is to lead to self-accusation and taciturnity). Well, gentlemen, I need not trouble you further on his evidence, because a gentleman of great eminence, Dr Tyler Smith, called by Sir Charles Mordaunt, confirmed this evidence. There is, therefore, no doubt that a woman at the jtime of her confinement, if her mind be disordered, is jt -T 'i likely to fall into self-accusation in regard to some sexual matter. Nor is it inconsistent that she should confess some alleged facts which were false, and some which actually had taken place. The evidence of Dr Tuke, Sir James Aiderson, and Dr Priestley goes strongly to show that she was not in her right mind. It is now agreed on all hands that she is insane, and the strength of the respondent's case is that she showed, only in a lighter degree, the same symptoms at Walton as are observable now. The strength of the case on the other side is that notwithstanding those symptoms, she has been able to speak and act with a reasonableness absolutely inconsistent with the fact that her mind was gone. The question then is, whether, balancing the two views, you can come to the conclusion affirmatively that on the 30th of April she was m a condition unfit to give instructions for her defence That she was a maniac, or utterly bereft of her reason, is negatived by every part of the case. Are there any si ens or appearances which enable you to say at what period loss of reason commenced? For that she is at present insane is admitted. Taciturnity and want of compre- hension are symptoms spoken to all along, and it will be for you to say whether these were not evidences of real disease all along, diversified by gleams of rationality and intelligence. It will also be for you to say whether you think the theory of her assumption of insanity, or sham- mmg, to be probable or maintainable. His lordship con- Jlf'i byre-stating the questions to be left to the jury • Whether the respondent was on the 30th of April in such a condition of mental disorder as to be unfit and unable to answer the petition and duly instruct an attorney for her defence; and whether, if she was not then so unable aid. unfit, she at any and at what time afterwards became so ? The jury retired at five-and twenty minutes after two, and returned into court after an absence of only eight minutes. Amidst breathless silence ° Mr Billings, the Clerk of the Court, said-Gentlemen, have you agreed upon your verdict? The Foreman—We have. Mr Billings-Was the respondent, on the 30th of April, in such a condition of mental disorder as to be unfit and unable to answer the petition, and duly to instruct her solicitor for her defence? The Forernan-We find she was totally unfit. Mr Billings (to the Judge Ordinary)-Then the other question, my lord, I need not put, I suppose? The Judge Ordinary—The other question is immaterial, I suppose. Dr-Deane-We should like to have the opinion of the jury on the second point—down to what time she was insane. The Judge Ordinary: The second question is -Did she at any subsequent time become so ? Mr Billings- Then what do you say, gentlemen, as to her state of mind since? The Foreman-We are equally of opinion on that subject. he Judge Ordinary—What is fonr opinion, gentlemen, as to her state now? The Foreman—Our opinion is that she is still unfit, and has been ever since. The crowded court was speedily cleared. The greatest excitement prevailed in Westminster Hall at the an- nouncement of the verdict. rw!if»a..

(Tiinm ? fob tth.


[No title]