A Goodwood House Story

The First Duke of Richmond had royal blood in his veins: you could even say that he was a prince since his father was King Charles II. But that was not the case because his mother was not the queen, but one of the king’s many mistresses. King Charles II did not manage to have a legitimate heir, but he did manage to fill the ranks of the nobility with his bastards. The Duke of Monmouth, the Duke of St Albans and the Duke of Grafton were but a few of his illegitimately-born children. 

Charles Lennox could not inherit the role of king, but he did manage to inherit the monarch’s passion for gambling. Apparently he did it very well because in 1719 the Earl of Cadogan offered to settle his gambling debts to the duke by arranging a marriage between his daughter Sarah and the duke’s son and heir. Marriage in the 18th century, especially amongst the nobility, was not an act of love, but a business and social pact. Since the earl had no male heirs, Sarah’s dowry, and later inheritance, were of far greater value than his gambling debts and so the duke happily agreed. 

When the arranged wedding took place Sarah was only aged thirteen and the duke’s son (also named Charles, of course) was eighteen. Subsequently, the marriage could not be consummated. The duke, therefore, sent his son (that by this time was known as the Earl of March) to travel in Europe for what was known as ‘the Grand Tour’. The young earl travelled and enjoyed himself for no less than two years. 

When Charles Lennox, the Earl of March, finally returned to the UK, he did not feel the urge to reunite with his now fifteen-year-old wife and instead he continued with his decadent life as usual. The twist came one evening. The earl went to the theatre in London and became mesmerised by a beautiful young lady. When he asked someone about her identity, he was shocked to learn that she was the Countess of March, or in other words, his wife.  This was a very happy surprise for the young earl and it led to a long, happy love story. Charles and Sarah were devoted to each other for 30 years. In fact, Sarah was so devoted, she was pregnant for much of the time, and had no less than 19 children of which 12 survived.

Sometimes love stories have a strange twist and in the case of Charles and Sarah, their happy marriage heavily influenced their children, especially their four daughters who are known throughout history as the Lennox sisters.  Caroline, Emily, Luisa and Sarah saw how content their parents were in their union and so they also sought love. Unfortunately the end-results in their cases were mostly scandalous, but that is a whole different story.

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