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Elizabeth Chudleigh, Duchess of Kingston

(b. 1720, Ashton, Devon – d. Aug. 26, 1788, Paris, Île-de-France, France )

Gender: F

Elizabeth Chudleigh (1721-1788) was the centre of a scandal in 1776 when she was put on trial in the House of Lords for bigamy. It was claimed that at the age of twenty-three she had entered into a secret marriage with Augustus Hervey, grandson of the 1st Earl of Bristol. They never lived together or acknowledged their relationship, and in 1769 Chudleigh succeeded in bringing a case in the consistory court, which ruled that she was a spinster and free to marry. Chudleigh promptly married Evelyn Pierrepont, 2nd Duke of Kingston (nephew of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu), whose mistress she had been for some time. The Duke died four years later, and his family brought the case to prevent her inheriting his estate, claiming that she was not lawfully married to him because of her previous marriage to Hervey. The trial took place over a number of days and attracted large audiences; Chudleigh was convicted by unanimous vote of her peers, but avoided the sentence of branding that would be imposed on non-aristocratic bigamists by pointing out that if she was not Duchess of Kingston then she was Countess of Bristol. She kept her money and lived an affluent lifestyle in France, Russia and Rome. She died in Paris, still insisting on calling herself the Duchess of Kingston.

Also known as:

  • Elizabeth Chudleigh
  • Duchess of Kingston

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