slim, silky Argentines

On July 8 1922, attention turned to the divorce courts where the strange marriage of Mr and Mrs John Russell came under public scrutiny. It was stated that the day before her wedding, Christabel Russell had obtained a promise from her future husband that there should be no question of their having children, at least to begin with. Having apparently complied with this request, Mr Russell was shaken by the arrival of a child and thus was suing his wife for adultery. After a lengthy hearing it was decided that there was no evidence of adultery and Mr Russell, heir to Lord Ampthill, lost the case.

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Fast forward to 1976

The House of Lords hearing resurrected one of Britain’s most publicized scandals of the early 1920s, a story that has since been tagged as “The Case of the Virgin Birth.” It involved a young aristocrat, John (“Stilts“) Russell then heir to the Ampthill title, his vivacious and liberated wife Christabel and her baby Geoffrey, who was born in October 1921. Soon after Geoffrey’s birth, John Russell filed for divorce charging that the baby could not possibly be his. He claimed that he and his wife had agreed before the wedding to lead separate lives and leave the marriage unconsummated.

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Christabel Russell admitted that she had never had full intercourse with her husband. But she insisted that she had not had sex with any other man either. Her proof: after learning that she was pregnant, she had undergone a medical examination. Doctors testified that she was still technically a virgin; her hymen had been only partly perforated. How then had the baby been conceived? During a night of “Hunnish” behavior ten months before Geoffrey’s birth, she testified, when her husband tried to force her to have intercourse, but succeeded only in an incomplete act. He flatly denied any such behavior occurred.

Attila the Hun

One divorce trial ended without a decision, but a second in 1923 explored the details again. Christabel, her husband charged, had cavorted across the Continent, writing home about “slim, silky Argentines” and “marcel-waved” Italians who courted, wined and dined her. She still insisted that they had not slept with her; medical experts conceded that her story of Geoffrey’s conception might be true. A ten-month gestation was not unknown, they said. Impregnation without penetration, though rare, was possible. Still, the jury in the second divorce trial found her guilty of adultery with an unnamed man.

slim silky Argentinian?

Christabel Russell appealed the divorce decree to the House of Lords and won. In 1924 a panel of lords, Britain’s highest court, ruled that no child born after a marriage could be declared illegitimate merely on the testimony of his mother or father. Two years later, a High Court judge reinforced this decision by issuing a certificate of legitimacy for Geoffrey. Not until after John Russell succeeded to his title as the third Baron Ampthill in 1935 did the redoubtable Christabel finally divorce him.

Published in: on July 12, 2010 at 8:32 am  Comments (39)  
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39 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. So this is what comes of getting up at 4:30 a.m.? I get to be first to comment? By the way, GOOD MORNING.

    Nowadays there would have been a paternity test and the whole thing would have been over before it started. Personally, I think all the cavorting and testifying and court hearings are a lot more interesting. I want me a silky Argentine. (When I first typed that it came out “silly Argentine” — I suppose I could like one of those too.)

    • yeah… pass the Argentines, silky or silly, doesn’t really matter

  2. I’m sure Geoffrey was relieved to learn that the Lords didn’t think he was a bastard.

    • Well not out loud anyway

  3. She’s right. A simple genetic test would have cleared that whole mess up. That’s why I love science.

    I have a friend who became pregnant, even though her night of canoodling with her boyfriend did not include intercourse. Can you imagine anything more disappointing? It’s like gaining all the weight without having eaten any of the cake.

    • wow – super sperm!

  4. given the “hunnish” behavior, and a mostly intact hymen? why “Geoffrey”? “Jesus the Hun” would be SO much more festive…

    • Where’s my Hun?

  5. I have to wonder why they decided to marry and then live separate lives. Be that as it may, I’m more interested in this Hunnish behaviour. Just how did Huns behave anyway? Is there a test?

    • Perhaps I could apply for a grant to devise one….

    • yeah i gotta agree with me anchovy, i dont get why they would marry and not consumate. that part sounds like it could be a juicy story too!

  6. I want a slim silky Argentinian something – although I would prefer pajamas than a marcel-waved man.

    • Did you know the marcel wave was invented by a man? Francois Marcel Woelffle

  7. Dasiyfae has it….Geoffrey might well have been the new Messiah (although he might just have been a very naugfhty boy).

    • I like naugfhty boys

  8. Did she not bathe often? Took a month for the sperm to make it all the way to its destination?

    • Some guys have slow swimmers

  9. That gal was one clever little minx. Her and Mary. Clever.

    • She should have patented her hymen, that would have been really clever

  10. I’m beginning to wonder about stuff now. The chap who taught me art at school was called John Russell – he had fascinating thumbs that he could bend right back to his wrists. Somehow I’m sure there’s a connection …. *scratches head*

    • Art school must have been really interesting back in 1922

  11. I wonder what a marcel waved Italian is? I can’t help thinking of Marcel Marceau…

    • John Russell has marcel waves in his hair – I suspect it was the Italian blood that he objected to

  12. russel the hun or tom thumb…

    • Neither. But I still have the photos of your thumbs!

      • john thomas thumb.

  13. That first photo makes it appear that Mr. Russell either liked to wear his hair in two small buns or was wearing an early version of a mickey mouse hat.

    • haha…. I missed that. Very observant Don

  14. So in Britain the rule for virginity is the same as scoring a goal in hockey: It has the cross the goal line completely for the goal/deflowering to count. Not like NFL football where the ball only has to cross the plane of the goal line/hymen for the score to count.

    Considering the epidemic of horrid missed calls in soccer, no wonder Cristobel got away with that virgin birth story.

    • How did we get on to the subject of ball sports? they make my head spin

  15. It’s like those women who don’t know they’re pregnant until the baby like, falls out of them while they’re sleeping or something. Those stories be fucked up.

    • They be fucked up indeed

  16. I’m considered as another one of those “stocky dry Americans”.

    • I would have said “muscular and strong”

      • Cool . . . I just blushed. Thanks, NM!

  17. I had no idea pregnancies could last 10 months. I thought they sounded miserable at 9…

  18. Awesome stuff as usually I can confuse my workmates with this trivia!

  19. perhaps slim, silky argentines are a type of cookie?


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