The newborn had an illustrious future ahead of him. Not only would he be the 3rd Duke of Portland, he would hold every title of British nobility – Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, and Baron – during his lifetime. He would become the Chancellor of the University of Oxford and the Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1783. Twenty-four years later he would rise again to the position of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (from 1807 to 1809), “the longest gap between terms of office of any Prime Minister”.
He is also a great-great-great-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II.
My favorite part of the queen’s lineage is her decent from Jezebels. One of the fallen women in her majesty’s family tree was the 3rd Duke of Portland’s daughter-in-law, a scandalous divorcee named Anne Wellesley Adby. Anne Wellesley married Sir William Abdy in the summer of 1806, and in the autumn of 1815 she eloped with the 3rd Duke of Portland’s third son, Lieutenant-Colonel Lord William Charles Augustus Cavendish-Bentinck. Sir William Abdy was able to successfully divorce her and won seven thousand pounds in “damages” from Lord Bentinck for absconding with Abdy’s “property” in the form of his wife. After the divorce, Anne and Charles were able to marry — just in time for their first child to be born legitimately. Their third child, and oldest son, Charles William Frederick Cavendish-Bentinck, was the paternal grandfather of Cecilia Bowes-Lyon, Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne, the maternal grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II.
For me, this just proves once again that Mary Crawford’s attempt to help Edmund Bertram’s sister, the scandalous divorcee in Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park, recoup her social losses was both prudent and kind. You never know when that divorcee’s great-grandchild will ascend the throne!
This is one of the main reasons why I felt compelled to write Mary Crawford’s side of the story in Mansfield Parsonage. Rather than condemning her for her merciful (albeit exasperated) attitude toward the wayward Maria Bertram Rushworth, as Edmund Bertram and Fanny Price did, I lauded her for her progressive approach to the issue. In my opinion, Mary Crawford deserved praise for her quick thinking rather than scalding rebukes. What do you think? Was Mary right to try to offer a way to save the misbehaving Mrs. Rushworth, or were Fanny and Edmund on an unassailable moral high ground with their disdain?