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February 20, 2024 53 mins

When Mary Eleanor Bowe's first husband died, he left her a letter warning her that, "A living man have no interest to mislead. A living man may." He could not have possibly predicted just how deceitful Mary Eleanor's next husband would be.

CW: spousal abuse, pregnancy termination.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to Noble Blood, a production of iHeartRadio and Grim
and Mild from Aaron Manky. Listener discretion advised, Hey, this
is Danish sport's host of Noble Blood. Just a few
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in the episode description and one quick note before this episode.

This episode contains fairly graphic depictions of domestic violence. There
are also terminated pregnancies, so if either of those topics
are particularly sensitive for you, this one might be an
episode to skip. In April seventeen seventy six, Mary Eleanor

Bowse received a letter from her husband, Earl John Strathmore.
One month earlier, he had left their sprawling estate in
the Scottish countryside on a trip to Portugal, and upon
opening the letter, Mary Eleanor expected to hear good tidings,

but this letter revealed dark news. Her husband was dead.
He had died of tuberculosis, and this letter contained his
final words to his now widow. While you might be
expecting something vague or sweet, his letter instead revealed how

contentious and challenging their marriage had become. The Earl of
Strathmore wrote, quote, as this is not intended for your
perusal till I am dead, I hope you will pay
a little more attention to it than you ever did
to anything I said to you while alive. I freely

forgive you all your liberties and follies, however fatal they
have been, to me, as being thoroughly persuaded, they were
not the produce of your own mind, but the suggestions
of some vile interested monster. Back in the early days
of their courtship, the Earl of Strathmore had been tall

and elegant, nicknamed quote the Beautiful Lord Strathmore, with a dignified,
if stand offish air. Meanwhile, Mary Eleanor had been just
sixteen years old and well known for being one of
the richest heiresses in the country, if not all of Europe.

She had no shortage of suitors, but the Beautiful Lord
Strathmore caught her eye. She, like many sixteen year old girls,
couldn't help but be drawn to someone so handsome and
also mysterious and aloof Her family had some reservations about
the match, since the Strathmore family had accumulated a number

of debts over the decades, which would potentially even put
Mary Eleanor's fortune in jeopardy. Still, Mary Eleanor was charmed
by the Earl of Strathmore and a little excited to
rebel against her family's expectations. She told her mother that
she would marry either the Earl of Strathmore or no

one at all. Her family reluctantly accepted, and Mary Eleanor
married him in seventeen sixty nine. But if there ever
had been a honeymoon period after the wedding, it was
over quickly. The next seven years of marriage were cold
and unromantic. The Earl of Strathmore gambled, drank, and cheated

on his wife, contracting syphilis along the way, all while
Mary Eleanor attended to their five children and their vast estate.
Mary Eleanor prided herself on her loyalty to her husband
in spite of his dalliances, but by seventeen seventy six,
she was fed up with it and initiated an affair

of her own. She met a man named George Gray,
who from their very first meeting paid her near constant attention,
which was a welcome far cry from her distant husband.
Though resentment mounted in the marriage and indiscretions piled up,

divorce was difficult and highly uncommon, and could have destroyed
both of their reputations, so the marriage only ended when
the Earl died at the age of thirty eight in
seventeen seventy six. But the Earl's final letter complicated Mary

Eleanor's justified feelings of freedom and relief once her husband
was gone. Even though in the letter he dismissed her
ambitions to write as feudal and accused her of being
prejudiced against him and his family for their debts, he
said he was holding back his true feelings, writing that

he wasn't quote tempted to say an ill natured thing
for the sake of sporting a bon mow. Instead. In
his final letter, the Earl of Strathmore wanted to give
his wife some advice from beyond the grave. The Earl
cautioned Mary Eleanor to choose her next partner, wisely writing quote,

A dead man can have no interest to mislead living man.
May those words would unfortunately prove prophetic. Unlike many women
trapped in loveless marriages, Mary Eleanor had been given a
second chance at a new life relatively young, giving her

plenty of time to potentially find a new husband who
might share her interests and respect her intelligence. After all,
as the richest woman in Britain, she could pretty much
have any man she wanted. Even the reckless gambling habits
of her late husband hadn't put a dent in her

vast coal fortune. She was the heir to somewhere between
six hundred thousand and one million, forty thousand pounds. But
money cannot save you from bad judgment, and unfortunately, as
Mary Eleanor's late husband predicted, she would ultimately be faced

with a man with every intent to mislead her. I'm
Danas Schwartz and this is noble blood. Mary Eleanor barely
set aside time to mourn her late husband before launching
into enjoying her new single life. Although her newly single

life was not quite as single as she let on,
she already had a lover, George Gray, who she had
started seeing when her husband was still very much alive.
Unlike the late Earl of Strathmore, Gray was a devoted,
attentive lover, visiting Mary Eleanor every day and sitting at

her bedside every evening. Even though she entertained his affections
and did have a sexual relationship with him, Mary Eleanor
seemed to put Gray in the eighteenth century equivalent of
the friend zone, saying that she felt nothing for him
quote that exceeded friendship. As a wealthy single woman, Mary

Eleanor was also free to pursue her intellectual interests unencumbered.
Mary Eleanor's late husband had resented her intellect and viewed
her interests as fruitless dalliances, distracting her from her true
task of tending to the household and caring for their

young children. Her husband had been particularly dismissive of her
interest in botany. Mary Eleanor was one of few women
working as a botanist in Britain at the time. A
colleague described her as quote the most intelligent female botanist
of the age, and she built hothouses and gardens across

her vast estates where she cultivated exotic plants from around
the world, but the late Earl of Strathmore thought that
plant pollination was too sexually suggestive for a woman's delicate sensibilities.
After her husband's death, she supplemented her solo botanical study

by hosting salons. While Mary Eleanor was denied entry into
the all male Royal Botanical Society, she gathered the greatest
botanical minds of the day under her roof for hours
of lively discussions about the latest discoveries. But not everyone
was happy to see her living a life of freedom.

The same colleague that described Mary Eleanor as the most
intelligent female botanist of the age also said that quote
her judgment was weak, her prudence almost none, and her
prejudice abounded, and that she lived in a quote house
of folly. Marie Eleanor did not particularly want to get

married again. She told Gray her friend slash Lover, that
after her dismal marriage to the Earl of Strathmore, she
would never quote engage herself so indissolubly again. But even
Mary wondered if she would receive come uppance for her
fairly reckless, brazen affair with George Gray. She had already

gotten pregnant by him a few times. Knowing that having
a child out of wedlock would destroy her reputation, she
had abortions which were expensive, dangerous, and unreliable. Each time
she took what she described as a quote black, inky
kind of medicine. We don't know exactly what was in it.

According to her, it looked and tasted as if it
might have contained copper. If that didn't work, she'd add
a large glass of brandy, seasoned with a handful of
black pepper. Even though these abortions, in Mary's case, were effective,
each one seemed like a bad omen to marry her luck,

she believed would only last so long. Society could only
tolerate so much of her freedom, and soon she knew
she would have to settle down. Into this picture entered
a charming Irish soldier named Captain Andrew Robinson Stoney. He

was a known figure in the coffeehouse scene of the
late eighteenth century, living above Saint James Coffee House, a
quick walk from where Mary Eleanor lived in Grovesnor Square.
Stoney had a number of qualities that Mary Eleanor found attractive.
He was five foot ten, which was tall at a

time when the average height was five foot five. He
was also handsome and impeccably dressed. He owned over ninety shirts,
according to his valet, very great Gatsby. And unlike her
aloof late husband and her lover, whom she saw more
as a friend, Stoney was passionate and romantic. Sometimes his gentlemanly,

well mannered temperament gave way to expressions of intoxicating, overwhelming ardor.
He wrote flowery letters, left big tips, and gave lavish gifts. Plus,
Mary Eleanor had a particular weakness for Celtic man. Stoney
was Irish, and her first husband and Gray were both Scottish.

Stoney sent a letter of interest in July of seventeen
seventy six, just a few months after Mary Eleanor's husband
had died. Unlike the formal address that she was used to,
he sign the letter with a simple it is for you,
and he arrived at her doorstep to hand deliver it.

With a powerful combination of flattery and alluring informality, Stoney
wrote quote, I have taken some liberties for which your
ladyship can find no excuse unless you apply to the
powerful pleading of inclination for such freedom. I wish to

make every apology, but I cannot get the better of
a passion which has taken the intense possession of my heart.
We don't have Mary's reply, but Stoney would brag about
Mary's equally flowery letters when he was at a coffee
shop in Bath, which suggests that she responded in kind.

Two of Mary's closest friends, a woman named Elijah Planta,
and a man named Captain Magra, were both both big
fans of Stony. One day, Mary, Eliza, and Magra went
to a fortune teller to get their fortunes read. They
snuck off to a dingy building near Newgate Prison and

sat in a cold, dark waiting room for seven hours.
They passed the time making up poems together and writing
them on the wall in a lead pencil. In one
of the poems, according to historian Wendy Moore, Mary wrote
some lines denouncing matrimony. Mary also passed the time chatting

with the others in the waiting room, pretending to be
a grocer's widow with ten children named Missus Smith. When
finally she got to speak with the fortune teller, she
mentioned her struggle deciding on a husband, and the fortune
teller spoke highly of a tall Irish soldier. Even Magra,

a skeptic, was convinced of this fortune teller's skill. While
the stars seemed to align around her new relationship with Stony,
Mary didn't really think of him as a serious option.
She was still in a relationship with Gray, which was
getting increasingly intense. She had gotten pregnant yet again, but

this time her abortion wasn't working. Seeing that she had
no choice but to get married, Mary proposed to Gray,
which at the time was considered legally binding. They had
even exchanged rings at Saint Paul's Cathedral one night, as
Mary Eleanor promised to marry none but him. Meanwhile, Mary

Eleanor was getting smeared in the press, putting extra pressure
on her engagement. As the richest and most eligible heiress
in Britain, she was a known tabloid figure and she
was very familiar with laughing off articles her libertine lifestyle,
but her feelings were genuinely hurt when an anonymous article

signed from a conscious stinger appeared in the Morning Post
on December twelfth, seventeen seventy six. The letter accused her
of insulting her late husband's memory with her affairs, accused
her of cheating on her husband while he was still alive,
and abandoning her children. A response appeared in the next

issue defending Mary's reputation, but even that more positive letter
seemed ridiculing, even sarcastic, arguing for her quote agonizing and
heartfelt sorrow at her late husband's death, which everyone knew
was stretch. The quote unquote more complimentary letter also portrayed

her as a mercurial, guileless pam being manipulated by men
seeking to exploit her vast fortune. Throughout December and January,
these anonymous letters went back and forth, alternately condemning Mary
for being a cunning seductress and bad mother, and then

shooting down those accusations with a defense that Mary Eleanor
was merely an innocent fool. The court of public opinion
seemed to be closing in on her, a fear only
exacerbated by her pregnancy. Stoney was incensed by these letters
in the newspaper. He approached the editor of the Morning Post,

Reverend Henry Bate, demanding to know who besmirched Mary. Eleanor's reputation.
Bate replied that the letters were anonymous, so he didn't
know the authors. Unsatisfied with that response, Stoney challenged Bait
to a duel to defend Mary Eleanor's honor. Stoney and

Bait met at Adelphi Tavern one night, which was a
bit atypical as duels were typically conducted at dawn and
in more private locations than bustling city taverns, but the
shadowy locale spoke to Stoney's sense of urgency. He wouldn't

even wait until the next morning to defend his beloved
Adhering to dual conduct, both men drew pistols, and Bait
insisted that Stoney fire first. Stoney missed, shooting Bait's hat,
and Bait missed two, the bullet merely tearing Stoney's coat.

The men then drew swords, and in the ensuing fight,
Stoney got slashed several times all over his body. According
to a well regarded surgeon and multiple witnesses, these injuries
were life threatening. He was rushed to the hospital, blood
staining his clothing. The next morning, Mary Eleanor rushed to

Stoney's bedside. Stony seemingly moments from death, proclaimed that he
would only die happy if he married Mary Eleanor. Doctor
said that the wounded soldier only had a few days
left to live, so she would probably be a widow
once again anyway, and it seemed heartless to deny this

man his dying wish after he had sacrificed his life
for her. So, despite the legally binding promise that she
had made to Gray, she accepted Stoney's marriage proposal, and
three days later the two were married at Saint James's Church.
Stoney gave his vows from a makeshift bed, wincing in pain,

but the two were happily wed. The duel was something
right out of Mary Eleanor's most romantic fantasies. Back when
she was still married to the Earl of Strathmore, she
had written a five act tragic play in which two
men dueled for the honor of a maiden. And if
this were a romance, perhaps the story would end here.

The widow and the gallant soldier married headed toward there
happily ever after, But the story does not end here.
Stony recovered from his purportedly life threatening injuries, making this
hasty marriage a fact of Mary Eleanor's life Now. As

it turns out, this dashing Irish captain had some skeletons
in his closet. Nearly every aspect of their courtship, from
the fortune teller to the duel to his status in
the British Army, would turn out to be a lie.
Revelations would nearly destroy Mary Eleanor and transform their seemingly

picture perfect romance into a nightmare. Perhaps Mary Eleanor's romance
with Stony felt ripped from fiction because in some ways
it was the Captain Andrew Robinson Stoney that Mary Eleanor

fell in love with. Was almost a complete fabrication from
the beginning, starting with the captain part. It turned out
that Stoney was not a captain. He was barely even
in the British Army. In November seventeen sixty four, when
Sotny was seventeen, his uncle secured him a position as

an ensign, the lowest rank of officer, as a favor
to Stony's father, who was looking to instill in his
son some much needed discipline. Stoney was fired the following
year for flouting rules, gambling, sleeping around, and erupting in anger.
As another favor. He was allowed to rejoin the army

in seventeen sixty seven, where he was stationed in Newcastle,
but he managed to avoid ever going into battle by
courting the affections of Hannah Newton, an heiress with a
vast coal fortune, and securing her hand in marriage. Once married,
he quit the army and spent his days gambling, shopping,

and cavorting with his various military buddies. The only commitment
he seemed to pursue with any consistency was making his
new wife, Hannah's life a living hell. While Hannah's own
voice is lost in the historical record, none of her
letters or writings survive, witnesses accounts fill in some of

the harrowing details of how Stoney treated her. Once he
locked Hannah in a cupboard in just her underwear and
kept her there for three days, giving her one egg
a day for sustenance. Another account recalls him throwing her
down the stairs. His justification for his abuse was that

Hannah had not yet given him an air, which he
needed in order to have complete control over Hannah's fortune,
as that would legally allow him to maintain his rights
to the Newton estate through his own lifetime regardless of
what happened to Hannah, but she continued to have miscarriages

and steelborns throughout their marriage as her own health failed,
likely compounded by Stoney's abuse. She died March seventeen seventy
six during childbirth, and the baby died alongside her. After
Hannah's death, rumors about Stoney's violence towards his wife abounded.

A letter from a colleague in Newcastle alleged that he
had shortened her days, while an anonymous pamphlet published in
seventeen seventy seven argued that he should be tried for murder.
Stoney had only just collected the five thousand pounds Hannah

left him in her will before he headed off to
London in search of another wealthy bride. Luckily for him,
Mary Eleanor Bows, the wealthiest woman in Britain, had recently
become a widow. It wouldn't be easy for Stoney to
win Mary Eleanor's heart. It seemed an impossible feat for

an unknown soldier saddled with rumors of violence against his
firs wife, especially since Mary Eleanor was already involved with
George Gray. But those obstacles only made Stoney even more
determined to seduce and destroy Mary Eleanor. After making his

way to London, Stoney's first challenge was embedding himself in
Mary Eleanor's social circle. He knew Captain Perkins Magra, one
of Mary Eleanor's closest friends, as an old pal from
the army, and Stoney recruited him as an ally in
his plot to win Mary's heart. Magra served as Stoney's

wingman through the process, picking up a dashing scarlet uniform
and frocksuit for Stoney to wear, and introducing Stoney to
Mary Eleanor's governess, Eliza Planta. Stoney plied Planta with flattery
and bribes, and she even became his lover in addition

to his spy in the Bow's household, Eliza would report
back to Stoney about Mary's vulnerabilities and interests so that
Stoney could woo her. From Eliza, Stoney learned about Mary
Eleanor's beloved cats and favorite daughters, both of which he
was careful to praise. In one letter, Stoney even wished

he were one of Mary Eleanor's cats so that he
could quote be stroked and caressed by her. Stony made
sure Eliza Planta and Captain Magra talked him up to
Mary Eleanor and dispelled any unfortunate rumors about his relationship
with his late ex wife. Stony even had the three

of them meet with the fortune Teller, who he coached
on what to say the entire episode, the seven hour
wait time, Captain Magra's supposed cauvicious skepticism, the fortune teller's
premonition that a tall Irish soldier would be the right
match was all orchestrated by Stoney, But even that hadn't

been enough to win Mary Eleanor's hand in marriage. She
still considered him a dalliance from her real affair with
George Gray, so Stoney played dirty. He approached an old friend,
Reverend Henry Bate, editor of The Morning Post and fellow
army veteran, and they created an elaborate plot to win

Mary Eleanor's heart. In exchange for a hefty bribe, Bates
agreed to help craft and then publish anonymous letters admonishing
Mary Eleanor for her crimes, as well as the ones
supposedly quote defending her reputation. It's almost mind bending how

evil all of This is while Stoney was privately writing
Eleanor flowery letters about how great of a mother she was,
he was also denouncing her licentiousness and her neglecting her
children in letters published in the Morning Post. The letters
he published that defended her were in some ways even worse.

They blamed her for the lies, because she shouldn't have
fallen prey to them so easily. And he was doing
all of this by bribing the press and bribing Mary
Eleanor's closest confidence with money he had claimed from his
wife's death, which itself was likely in part a result

of his abuse. In early seventeen seventy seven, Stoney and
Bait sent the final steps of their plan in motion.
They decided to stage a fake doule for Mary Eleanor's
honor to appeal to her romantic sensibilities. They went to

the Adelphi one night and bribed three witnesses, including a doctor,
to attest to the brutality of the duel and the
severity of Stoney's injuries. Stoney gave himself a few fake
cuts to complete the illusion, and he painted his face
white so he seemed like he was in dire condition.

A large bloodstain on Stoney's waistcoat might have been faked
with pig's blood. He dramatically collapsed into a chair as
medicks placed smelling salts under his nose to resuscitate him.
He fainted two more times in case the first fainting
spell wasn't convincing enough. When Mary came to visit him

the next morning at his sick bed, he delivered a
flowery speech, pausing to WinCE in fake pain as he
begged for Mary Eleanor's hand in marriage. His ploy worked.
They were married just three days later. After Stoney made
a miraculous recovery from his supposedly life threatening injuries, people

had some suspicions about whether the duel had actually happened.
George Gray, mary Eleanor's spurned lover and whose child Mary
Eleanor was currently pregnant with, had particular reservations. At first,
he believed the story. He was actually the first one
to visit Stoney in bed after the duel, and Gray

thanked him for his bravery in defending Mary Eleanor's honor.
After Gray realized that his bride and fortune were stolen
out from under him, he began to voice his doubts,
but his qualms were dismissed as the protests of a
sore loser. A few months later, the newly married Mary

Eleanor stumbled on a curious letter sitting out on a
table addressed to Stoney from Reverend Henry Bate. Bate was
complaining in the letter to Stoney that he hadn't been
paid yet, and he was threatening him with a real
duel or he would publicly expose the entire scheme. With that,

Mary Eleanor realized that she had been duped. Her fairytale
romance with Andrew Robinson Stoney was nothing more than a
fabrication at her expense. But this was only the first
stage of Stoney's plan, and now he was moving on

to the second. He would ruin Mary Eleanor's life and
take control of her fortune, exactly as he had done
with his first wife, Hannah Brown. On the first anniversary
of their wedding January seventeenth, seventeen seventy eight, Andrew Robinson

Stoney told Mary Eleanor that he intended to make every
day of her life more miserable than the last. Over
the previous year, he had already been making good on
that promise pretty much. Immediately following their wedding, Mary Eleanor
saw her lover transform from a passionate, devoted gentleman into

an exacting, hot headed tyrant. Stoney began his marital reign
of terror by taking control of every aspect of Mary
Eleanor's existence. He forbade her from speaking any language other
than English, even though Mary was multilingual. If she put
on a bonnet he disliked, he would rip it off

her head and cut it shreds. He ordered a carriage
to trail her wherever she went, and a valet to
report back to him on whatever she did. He read
all of the letters she received, as well as her responses.
Planned outings were canceled at the last minute. If Stony

disliked Mary's outfit, Visitors to the house were turned away
unless he approved. She was forbidden from visiting her gardens
and hot houses, fully separated from her passion for botany. Soon,
all of this escalated into physical violence. He pinched, kicked,

and slapped her, and threatened to kill her if she
told any of her friends or servants what he was doing.
Mary Eleanor was forced to blame herself for the many bruises, cuts,
and black eyes that Stoney gave her fabricating stories about
running into doors or falling down the stairs. Servants and

housekeepers inevitably witnessed his abuse, but they were forced to
keep quiet out of fear of losing their jobs. Like
many abusers, Stoney blamed Mary Eleanor for his violence. He
was enraged by Mary Eleanor's pregnancy by Gray, and even
more enraged at the fact that Mary had secretly signed

a prenup a few days before she married Stoney that
forbade him from accessing any of her fortune. She hadn't
suspected Stony of any wrongdoing at that time. She had
actually created those documents with Gray in mind, and did
so in order to protect her children from her first
marriage and secure their inheritances. Ironically, when Stoney found out

about the prenup, he thought that he was the victim
of an elaborate at hoax, rather than the other way around.
Stony quickly maneuvered to rest control of his wife's fortune
from her prenum, forcing her to revoke the deeds which
prevented him from accessing her estate. He also curtailed her

relationships with her immediate family, including her five children from
her first marriage, because he mandated exactly who she could
see and for how long. As Stoney's abuse intensified, Mary
Eleanor's confident, plucky and intelligent demeanor were seeded, she became subdued, submissive, fearful, gaunt,

and disheveled. Stony forbade her from speaking or permitted her
only to say yes or no, and so guests assumed
that she was rude, or crazy or dumb. Unfortunately, and
I'm just warning you now, the abuse just continues to
become more and more heartbreaking. A little over a year

into their marriage, Stony forced Mary Eleanor to write a
list of her air quote crimes, titled the Confessions of
the Countess of Strathmore, as evidence that justified the abuse
she endured. The list contained nearly one hundred pages, detailing

quote everything she ever did, said, or thought that was
wrong and quote, including her affairs, teenage romances, abortions, and
even friendships. The education that her father had carefully provided
her and that had inspired a lifetime of curiosity, was

recast as evidence of her inherent worthlessness. In her confessions,
Mary Eleanor condemned her father for not instilling in her
enough reliegeous fervor to prevent her wrongdoings. Meanwhile, Stoney only
gained power both inside and outside the marriage. Stoney used

his new proximity to wealth and his wife's connections to
pursue political power. He served as Higher Sheriff of Durham
in seventeen eighty and was elected MP for Newcastle later
the same year, serving until seventeen eighty four when he
lost his election. It was that election in seventeen eighty

four that would indirectly set in motion Mary Eleanor's escape.
Stressed about securing his reelection, Stoney was less exacting and
monomaniacal about household manners, so when he needed to hire
a new maid for Mary Eleanor, he sought a recommendation

from a colleague in Parliament. He ended up hiring a
woman named Mary Morgan, who was educated and just two
years younger than Mary Eleanor. Unlike many of the other
workers in the Bow's household, Mary Morgan had a small
source of private income from the money her husband had

left behind after his death. She had been working in
Georgian high society to supplement that income, so that meant
she was less dependent on Stoney and less fearful of
his wrath. Shortly after she was hired, Mary Morgan accompanied
Mary Eleanor on a trip to Paris, where she first

became suspicious of her new mistress's husband. Stoney had forbidden
Mary Eleanor from looking out of the window of her
hotel room, and he forced her to keep her face
covered when she went outside. Stoney also instructed Mary Morgan
to keep a chair against the door to trap Mary

Eleanor inside her room. One night, Mary Morgan stumbled upon
Mary Eleanor bleeding profusely from her ear. Blood was covering
her face and neck. Stony claimed that the wind had
blown open a window and struck his wife in the face,
but Mary Morgan knew that that story seemed far fetched.

When Stony left the room, Mary Morgan pressed Mary Eleanor
on it, who finally revealed that Stoney had clawed her
in the face after he caught her looking out the window.
Mary Eleanor had never admitted his abuse to anyone, let
alone to someone like Mary Morgan, who sympathized with her

and believed her. This small step was crucial after years
of enduring Stoney's abuses alone. Mary Eleanor finally had someone
on her team, but things were only getting worse. While
Stoney was hell bent on withering away Mary Eleanor's life,

he had not actually attempted to end it. He needed
Mary Eleanor to care for two young children. There was Mary,
who was Gray's daughter, born in seventeen seventy seven, and
a son, William, born in seventeen eighty two, who was
Stoney's child. But as little William and Mary got older,

Mary Eleanor began to fear for her life. Stoney talked
about wanting to strangle her, threatened her at knife point,
and he took out a series of insurance policies on
her life. It had been almost eight years at this
point since they got married, and his first wife, Hannah,

had died just eight years after they had been married,
a grim echo of what could be Mary's fate. One night,
Stoney order her to take laudanum and fake a suicide attempt,
threatening that if she didn't, she would be kept from

her children. Stoney poured an entire vial of laudanum in
a glass of water by Mary Eleanor's bedside, well above
the recommended dose. Mary was nervous, saying, perhaps there is
a further design in this than you have acquainted me with.

But I fear not to die, for I have long
been weary of life. And if you will promise me
to take care of Mary, I will drink it off.
She drank the entire glass. At Stoney's insistence, she pretended
to announce her suicide while Stony fake cried. Mary Morgan

rushed over, calling a doctor and giving Mary Eleanor something
to make her vomit. Still, Mary Eleanor was bedridden in
a stupor for four days. Stony used this false quote
suicide attempt to try and get her locked away in
an asylum, and he gave her a letter in December

that confirmed this plan explicitly. Now knowing that her life
would absolutely in danger, Mary Eleanor began to plot her escape.
She sent Mary Morgan to meet with a barrister in
secret to see if she would be legally protected if
she fled, and the barrister, very careful not to offer encouragement,

said that Mary Eleanor could qualify for legal protection if
she had evidence of her husband's abuse, but it would
not be easy. She would almost certainly lose her fortune,
and she might never see her children again. On February third,
seventeen eighty five, Stoney was out to dinner and the

plan was set in motion. Mary Morgan distracted two housekeepers
who were set to keep an eye on Mary Eleanor,
with a conversation about trends in millinery. Meanwhile, another housemaid,
in on the scheme, started a debate with the footman.
Mary Eleanor, wearing a servant's cloak and a maid's bonnet,

scurried down the stairs and out through the basement, borrowing
a few guineas from her maids and bringing with her
none of her belongings. Accompanied by another maid, Ann, Mary
Eleanor went north towards Oxford Street, waiting for a carriage
that would take them away. But the moment they got

into the getaway carriage, they saw another carriage heading their way,
Stoney's carriage. The housekeepers, realizing that Mary Eleanor had escaped,
had alerted Stoney, and he heard worried to track Mary
Eleanor down. His carriage passed by Mary Eleanor's, even getting

within a few feet, but he did not notice her inside.
With Stoney out of sight, and no time to waste.
Mary Eleanor and Anne rushed to the barrister, who consulted
with her for fifteen minutes to confirm her legal right
to escape. Then Mary Eleanor snuck to a secret apartment

hidden in an alleyway that Mary Morgan had secured for her.
After nine years of enduring harrowing, life threatening abuse, Mary
Eleanor was finally free. In a letter she left behind
for Stoney, she wrote, quote, farewell, I forgive but will

never see you again. I can add no more as
you have long ceased to treat me in any respect
as a wife or a But even though Mary had escaped,
she wasn't free. It was incredibly difficult to end a
marriage in Georgian England. The only way to exit a

marriage legally without one spouse dying was in an ecclesiastical court,
a court run by the Church of England. If a
spouse claimed that their partner committed particularly egregious adultery, cruelty
or heresy, the Church might permit the pair to divorce,
and may even entitle both parties to financial remittance. But

this was an extremely long, difficult and expensive process, particularly
for women between sixteen seventy and eighteen fifty seven, two
thirds of the plaintiffs and ecclesiastical divorces were men. And
even though Mary Eleanor had been born with nearly every

advantage beauty, wealth, aguascation, smarts, and was raised to see
herself as an equal of the men she interacted with,
marriage had transferred that power to her husband. Her husband
inherited her fortune and parleyed her famous name and connections

into a political career, and he now had a cadre
of powerful government figures and army buddies at his disposal.
The witnesses to his abuse were housekeepers who were on
his payroll and so were unlikely to back Mary Eleanor
in a divorce trial, but this didn't deter Mary Eleanor.

While Stony may have duped Mary Eleanor into marriage, in
the end, he was more wrong about her than she
was about him. He thought of her as a mark
that he could ply with sweet nothings before seizing her
assets and either nearly or completely killing her. But her

spirit would not so easily be destroyed. Even after nine
years of being beaten and starved, she knew somewhere deep
down that she deserved more Stony may have been dogged
in marrying Mary Eleanor, but little did he know that
Mary Eleanor would be just as dogged in her attempt

to get out of the marriage. And so on February
twenty eighth, seventeen eighty five, Mary Eleanor filed for divorce
from Andrew Robinson Stoney. But the story doesn't end here.
This decision would set off a series of trials and
retrials that would drag on for decades and become a

media sensation, with both Mary Eleanor and Stony endlessly picked
a part in the tabloids. The marriage may have lasted
a little over nine years, but the divorce which changed
the course of marriage itself for centuries. Going forward. All
this and more in Part two of the story to come.

That's Part one of the story of Mary Eleanor Bows.
But keep listening after a brief sponsor break to hear
a little bit more about how Andrew Robinson Stoney inspired
a novel and much later a film about his quest
for Mary Eleanor's hand. In eighteen forty one, Mary Eleanor's grandson,

John Bows, welcomed a visitor to his home at Streathlam
castle a young writer named William Thackeray. While they hung out,
Bows told Thackeray the incredible story of how his grandmother,
Mary Eleanor, had been trapped in this very castle fifty
years earlier by her husband, who had duped her into

a marriage under false pretenses. After the trip, Thackeray wrote
to his publisher, I have, in my trip to the country,
found materials, or rather a character, for a story that
I'm sure must be amusing. This story became a novel
called The Luck of Barry Lyndon, published in October eighteen

forty three and serialized in Fraser's magazine throughout eighteen forty four.
The book was revised several times, but it follows Barry Lyndon, who,
like Andrew Robinson Stoney, was an Irish soldier who liked
to drink, gamble, and sleep around before managing to dupe

and seduce a wealthy heiress, Lady Lyndon. After Barry Lyndon
mistreated her for several years, Lady Lyndon manages to extract
herself from the marriage, and Barry Lyndon ultimately ends the
novel in jail. While the novel reproduces the events around
Andrew Stony and Mary Eleanor's relationship pretty faithfully, Thackeray imagined

a different past. Barry Lyndon, unlike Andrew Sotny, actually went
into battle. Around one hundred and thirty years later, the
director Stanley Kubrick was looking for a new project. He
had been working on a script about Napoleon that wasn't
going anywhere. He thought about adapting Thackeray's Vanity Fair, but

figured it might be too complicated to fit into a
single feature, and so he turned to Barry Lindon instead.
While Kubrick's film is fairly faithful to the novel, the
tone is extremely different. Thackeray's novel is a farce, narrated
unreliably by Barry himself as he attempts to create a

self aggrandizing account of his schemes, abuses, and misdeeds. Meanwhile,
the movie attempts to be more quote objective. As Kubrick
puts in an interview. Around the time the film came out,
they carefully reproduced costumes from the period and used special

lenses that had actually been developed for NASA so that
they could film interior scenes by candlelight. Thackeray called his
novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon a novel without a hero,
and Kubrick called his version of Barry Lyndon a film
with quote neither a conventional hero nor a conventional villain.

Barry Lyndon, while definitely not a hero, is a little
bit more of a lovable rogue than the cruel, abusive,
murderous stony. Sometimes fiction paints things in a more palatable hue.
Barry Lyndon is the story made glossy by candlelight. Noble

Blood is a production of iHeartRadio and Grimm and Mild
from Aaron Manke. Noble Blood is created and hosted by
me Dana Schwartz, with additional writing and researching by Hannah Johnston,
Hannah Zwick, Mira Hayward, Courtney Sender, and Lori Goodman. The
show is edited and produced by Noemi Griffin and rima

Il Kahali, with supervising producer Josh Thain and executive producers
Aaron Mankey, Alex Williams and and Matt Frederick. For more
podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or
wherever you listen to your favorite shows.
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