Over the last couple of days, we've looked at events in the life of Robert Horace "Robin" Walpole, heir to the Earldom of Orford and father of Lady Dorothy Mills, that would undoubtedly have shaped Lady Dorothy's entire life, and certainly her relationships with the family of George Mills. 1888 certainly was a big year in the lives of the Walpoles, a year of what was probably great joy and, I suspect, of great pain as well.
Miss Louise Melissa Corbin married Robert Walpole at the English Embassy Church in Paris, France, on 17 May 1888. With a rich father-in-law, 56 years of age, named D. C. Corbin living almost half the world away, it must have seemed like a match made in heaven—Walpole's mother was apparently quite insistent that he marry a rich girl.
I'm certain there was much joy all around—until Valerie Wiedemann rose up from Walpole's at times quite unsavory past. After a spring wedding in Paris, he and his new American bride—by late autumn about six months pregnant with their first child, a daughter who would grow to become Lady Dorothy— soon found themselves embroiled in a nightmarish trial in London, a scandalous trial covered in every lurid detail in the press around the world.
Why would I want to spoil it by putting it at all into any of my own words? I can't do any better. Let the proceedings wash over you just as they would have if you'd opened the London Times on 29 November 1888 to page 3 and seen this headline: "WIEDEMANN v. WALPOLE."
Here's the story just as it was printed almost 122 years ago:
(Before MR. BARON HUDDLESTON and a Special Jury.—) In this remarkable action Miss Valerie Wiedemann, a German lady, sued Robert Horace Walpole, to re-cover damages for an alleged breach of a promises of marriage and also for an alleged libel. The defendant denied the promise and also the alleged breach; he also denied that words complained of were written with malice, and alternatively pleaded privilege. Upon these pleas issue was joined.
Mr. A. Cock, Q.C., Mr. Davis, and Mr. Evans Austen were for the plaintiff; and the Solicitor-General (Sir Edward Clarke) and Mr. W. Graham appeared for the defendant. Mr. Cock, having briefly given an outline of the case, called Mr. R. Cook, a confidential inquiry agent, who deposed that about November 30, 1882, he had been employed by Mr. Walpole, who saw him personally. Witness's instructions were partly verbal and partly in writing. (Witness was here handed a letter from Mr. Walpole of some six sheets; written from White's Club, and marked "Strictly private.") It was identified by witness and read. It gave details as to Walpole's connexion with the plaintiff whom, he said, he had only known for three weeks, and stated that he wished her to be kept away from England and that he wished that his intimacy with her should entirely cease.
Examination continued.—That was written after an interview between Walpole and witness. On that occasion Walpole had said he had known the plaintiff for a few weeks in. Constantinople, and had left her there, not thinking to see or hear any more of her; but said that she had turned up at Cannes and stayed at the same hotel—the Continental—as his mother, and had introduced herself to his mother as his wife. Walpole had shown witness a telegram from his mother asking it that were true, also a letter from the plaintiff, dated Hotel Continental, Cannes. Walpole had stated to witness that she was a great annoyance to his mother, who was in very bad health, and witness wished to send someone over there to get her away. Witness inquired if Walpole had gone through any form of marriage. He said no, and he had only known her two or three weeks, and that when he left her he had given her a cheque for £100, being then under the belief that be would never bear of her again. On the same day Walpole had written witness the letter just put in and read. Witness said he forgot to state that Walpole had said he might have made Miss Wiedemann a promise of marriage when he had seduced her. In pursuance of Mr. Walpole's instructions witness started on December 2, 1882, for Cannes. He there found the plaintiff at the Hotel Fleury, and took her to Paris. Witness went under the name of "Captain Darlington." Witness had told the plaintiff that he was a friend of Mr. Walpole's. At Paris they went to the Louvre Hotel, where he left the plaintiff and came back to London. Witness paid the expenses with Mr. Walpole's money. After seeing and reporting to Mr. Walpole, the latter was very much annoyed, saying he would now have her coming over to London; and said that witness must get her away from Paris as soon as possible. Witness asked where to? Mr. Walpole said, "To the devil if you like; anywhere away from me." Witness told him he doubted being able to induce the plaintiff to leave Paris without his help. Mr. Walpole asked in what way he could help. Witness suggested by a letter to him, which he (witness) dictated. This was done, and though written in London it was dated "Royal Hotel, Brighton." Witness suggested taking the plaintiff to her home in Germany. Witness returned to Paris with the letter, which he eventually showed the plaintiff, not being able to prevail upon her to leave Paris otherwise. All the expenses were again paid by witness, and they traveled together as far as Namur—they having through tickets to Berlin. There he left her because of a difference, she having snatched Walpole's letter away from witness and declined to give it back. He got out to frighten her only, but the train went on and left him behind. After that he saw nothing more of the plaintiff until a few weeks before. He had forwarded her ticket on to Berlin when left behind as related. The witness them formally proved having received the letter of Walpole's, dated "Tuesday," which, the plaintiff alleged, was libellous.
The witness was cross-examined at great length by the SOLICITOR-GENERAL as to his instructions from Walpole. The witness said he had not taken any notes of these at the time. He had brought an action about three months ago against Mr. Walpole for the balance—viz., £52—of his expenses and charges, and that had been settled for £25. He also admitted having received on the same account £75. He also admitted that, about two months ago, he had handed over to a solicitor named Wout—who was interested in the plaintiff's case—all the papers, letters, &c., connected with the Mr. Walpole's case. During the course of his cross-examination he said he would like to state that he had been suffering for the last two years from a brain affection, which made his memory bad. He had not, in his statement to his solicitors in his action against Walpole, mentioned that Walpole told him that he had promised to marry the plaintiff at the time he had seduced her. He had not thought it necessary. He could not name a single person to whom he had ever said this. He also absolutely denied that he had ever importuned the plaintiff. If any one said so it was utterly false.
Miss Valerie Wiedemann, the plaintiff, was then called and said she was the daughter of a German pasteur in Silesia. She had met Mr. Walpole while he was staying at the Hotel d'Angleterre, giving lessons in German to the proprietor's daughters. It was in December, 1882, at the table d'hôte that she met him, and from that day he tried to meet her. He would come into the room where she was with her pupils and pressed her to go with him to see pictures of his in the hotel. For some days this went on, and he had pressed his attentions upon her upon every opportunity. He told her of his journeys in Bulgaria, where he had told her he had bee some eight months in order to study the law there. He had asked witness if she would go with him to New Zealand. She said she had to return to Germany and could not do that. He said that he had liked her very much from the first time he had seen her, and that if she would go with him he would marry her. She said she would not as she wished to go back to Germany. He said he quite intended she should be his wife, and that he would make her his wife against her will. She was angry and she left the terrace. Mr. Walpole followed her and took her in his arms and kissed her saying, "There, now you are my wife." Witness was very angry, but did not say anything and went up to her room. The proprietor came up and said he had seen the defendant proposing to her and embracing her, and that he supposed she was engaged to him. She did not answer anything, but said she would not go down to the table d'hôte that evening. The proprietor asked if she would like to go to the opera with his daughters. She accepted and went. They got home very late and witness went to her room. The key was not in the door when she was going to lock it, so she bolted it, but did not perceive it did not catch. There was no light in her bed room and the windows were open; she was sitting at the window for some time in her night costume when suddenly she perceived Mr. Walpole at her side, but could not imagine how he had got in. It shocked her and she went towards the bell, saying he must instantly leave her room if he did not wish her to believe he was entirely mad. She had tried to ring the bell, but he had got hold of her. She told him that it was a great disgrace for him to come into her room. He tried to convince her that he loved her very much. She had struggled hard to resist him, but he was too strong and she fainted. The next morning she awoke and found herself alone. The next morning he sent her a letter and some money. (The letter was put in and read.) It stated that Mr. Walpole would meet her on the terrace of the hotel at 6 o'clock, if he did not see her before. The daughter of the hotel proprietor slept next door to her, and could have heard any struggle if one had taken place. On her way to call on a lady she had met Mr. Walpole who said he had been waiting for her, and they went off together to the gardens, and he asked her to trust him, saying that he liked her and should like her to marry him, and that she was already his wife. She did not entirely refuse; she was very angry with him and said she would only go with him if he would consent to contract a marriage at the consulate. He promised he would do so, but that day it was not possible and it would do the next morning. Under that promise she consented to go with him to the Hotel Luxembourgh, where he said he ordered her luggage to be taken. They went there and he dined with her, and she said what he had done was very wrong, whereupon he renewed his assurance and took off his rings—about three—and asked her to keep them all. He took his signet ring and put it on her finger as, he said, a token of his pledge and promise. The ring was now on her finger; it contained his arms; she had never taken it off. Mr. Walpole then left her and went back to his hotel. They breakfasted together next morning, and he told her that he had just had letters from his mother and that she wished to see him again; and he told her he would take her to Cannes—where his mother was—with him. He said he would put her on board a steamer, so that she might go to Cannes, but that he could not come just yet, but would later. Subsequently, on Tuesday, Mr. Walpole had taken her aboard the Tira, a steamer, which was to sail for Malta, then on to Naples. Before she sailed Mr. Walpole had given her £100 and said he would send more if she required it. When she arrived at Cannes she went to a private hotel, and had written—November 27, 1882—a long letter to the defendant. (Letter put in and read.) It described how by accident she had become intimately acquainted with the defendant's mother, who had discovered the fat to her by talking about her children, mentioning her son Robert (the defendant). It went on to state how embarrassed she had become upon finding this out, and went on to describe what his mother had said when she had told her all about their connexion—that she had said he, her son, was a flirt, &c., and added that she (the plaintiff) had become very fond of her (the defendant's mother). It also alluded to her social position, and that she was connected with General Manteuffel, and concluded by referring to their mutual love. Some time after this she had seen Mrs. Walpole, who had a letter in her hand. She received her very unkindly and said she must give back the ring, as her son had to marry a rich girl. The proprietor of the hotel had made a communication to her as well as Mrs. Walpole, and she left the Continental and went to the Hotel Fleury. She had subsequently seen the person calling himself Captain Darlington, who said he was a friend of Walpole's and that she was to go to Paris, where he would meet her. She had gone to Paris with Darlington. Witness then corroborated the evidence of Cook, alias Darlington, upon this part of the story. At Namur he had left her taking nher ticket with him. At Liège the tickets were examined and she was not permitted to go on, and she telegraphed to Darlington for her ticket. When she finally arrived at the hotel at Berlin Mr. Walpole was not there as he had promised, but she found a telegram addressed to Darlington from the defendant telling him to give her money and take her to her friends. Mr. Walpole never came to her. Subsequently she went to Nordhaussen, in Prussia, where her brother was mayor, and from there she wrote, on December 30, 1882, to the defendant. (Letter put in and read.) It expressed surprise at not having heard a word from him and told him that her mother scorned her, owing to what had occurred, and besought him to write a few lines of explanation to her mother; also that Darlington was the worst possible, character and had more than once importuned her, and had at the hotel in Paris tried to throw her down. It also charged the man with generally treating her badly. This was followed by another letter, couched in similar terms and reminding him of his duty towards her and his child, to be so shortly born.
Examination continued.—The child was born in June, 1883; it was a boy and it was still living. Her mother had, in 1883, commenced an action against the defendant, and it was stayed because of her having to give security for costs; and she had also asked her mother not to proceed as she still believed in the defendant. (In November, 1883, action dismissed by order of Mr. Justice Field, because of no security, for costs.)
Cross-examined.—September 27, 1882, was the last occasion on which she had spoken to Mr. Walpole. That cheque (shown her) for £100 was given her on that day by him and she had cashed it. That was three days after he had seduced her. She had been about three months at Constantinople before she had met Mr. Walpole. She had told Mr. Walpole everything about her past life and that she had travelled to Constantinople with an Austrian countess. She lived at different places, and witness would rather not mention her name. She had certainly not told Mr. Walpole she had come with a German officer. She had never been in Constantinople before. She did not go there to fulfil any engagement, but she knew some German friends there. She afterwards entered the service of Marko Pasha as a governess. He was the Court physician and had a family. She was with him about two months. She had left him about three weeks before meeting Walpole. Meantime she had stayed with her German friends for three days. She went into the employment of the hotel proprietor as a governess to his daughters. M. Lögotheti was his name. There was a Madame Lögotheti. There were four children, whom she taught. When her engagement was over she remained a fortnight at the hotel. She met Mr. Walpole at dinner at the hotel, and told him about herself. She had not asked him to take her with him to England. (To the JUDGE.—It was about eight days after seeing Mr. Walpole for the first time that the scene in the bed room had occurred.) She had never told him that all she wanted was to get to England, where she could get a post as governess. She emphatically denied the suggestion that she had ever been on terms of intimacy with M. Lögotheti or that he was an old man. Her bed room did not open on to a balcony, and Mr. Walpole must have come in through the door. The daughter of Lögotheti's who slept next door had been to the opera with her. When she returned she and that girl went up to their bed rooms and said good night. lt was about half an hour afterwards that Mr. Walpole came into her bed room. She usually locked the door of the room, but on this occasion the key was gone. There was a door between her room and Miss Lögotheti's. She was very much frightened when Mr. Walpole came in. She was in her night dress; there was no light, but it was moon-light. Why did you not call out ?—I tried to do so, but he prevented me. He kissed me. She had tried to ring the bell; she was disgusted and frightened. He prevented her by holding her arms by force. That frightened her more. Did you call out to the girl next door?—Oh, yes. Do you mean that?—I do; and I say that it was entirely against my will and by force that he took possession of me. I fainted. When I came to he had gone. On the following night she stayed at the Hotel Luxemoburgh. Mr. Walpole did not stay with her either of those two nights. Pressed, she stated that Mr. Walpole upon neither of those occasions had renewed his intimacy with her. Mr. Walpole certainly had given her the signet ring. She denied that she had picked it up off the table and had put it upon her finger and refused to give it back. She had first heard that Mr. Walpole was going to be married in January last. A portrait of Mr. Walpole's fiancée was put in which had been defaced by the plaintiff, who had written across it "Horrible, honourless girl," and added that she would meet her one day when she should hear her curse, which would follow her to the end of her d-----d existence. Witness said she did not send those to Mrs. Walpole and refused to give the name of the person who had.
MR. BARON HUDDLESTON.—Who was the person? I must have the name.
Witness.—She was a friend of mine. I will not tell the name.
MR. BARON HUDDESTON.—Said he had the power to compel her to do so, but did not wish to exercise that power. If she took the responsibility of it there would he no need for the name.
The witness said she would take it upon herself, then.
The Court then adjourned.
Read Part 2 of this, the first of their trials, next time…
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