a trail of dull gold hairpins

Mabel “Nancy” Atherton was a striking divorcee who had sued a previous lover for breach of promise when, instead of marrying her, he ran off with a pretty young actress.

NOT this Nancy (Sinatra) found here

A year later, she in turn was named by Mrs Clara Stirling who sued her husband Jack, Laird of Kippendavie, on the grounds of adultery with Nancy.

NOT this Clara (Bow) found here

Jack counter-petitioned his wife for adultery with his friend Lord “Fatty” Northland, son of the Governor of New Zealand.

The judge Lord Guthrie could scarcely contain himself in the scorching glare of Nancy Atherton’s considerable charms. She was a lady, his Lordship drooled, ‘with gracious manners, the sort of fascination which captivates man indeed’

First to counter these judicial effusions was Nancy’s French maid who told the court she frequently saw her mistress with dashing Jack Stirling on the couch, and found one of his mongrammed handkerchiefs under her pillow. She also saw Nancy in a kimono wrap, her intentions betrayed by a trail of dull gold hairpins scattered in Jack’s bedroom.

French maids found here

Jack not only denied a romance with Nancy, he accused his wife Clara of throwing herself at Fatty Northland when the foursome swanned over to Paris together for the Grand Prix in 1908.

1908 Grand Prix found here

These four, punting by moonlight on the Thames during regatta week at Henley, flitting furtively in and out of restaurants while arranging nightly bedroom toings and froings, danced inevitably towards their own destruction. A divorce was granted to Jack, and Clara lost custody of her two year old son. I learned all this by reading Roger Wilke’s book “Scandal: A Scurrilous History of Gossip“.

But Roger omitted to tell me about the assault charge brought against Clara Stirling’s mother, Mrs Taylor. Because of Fatty Northland’s New Zealand connection, the Taranaki Times reported it in full

Taranaki found here

“Nancy Atherton was plaintiff in a case of alleged assault against 76 year old Mrs Taylor who took out a cross summons for assault. Counsel for plaintiff, Mr Freke Palmer, said the assault took place last Monday. In the past three weeks, Mrs Taylor had been constantly seen near Mrs Atherton’s house and servants had seen her looking in the dining room windows.

image by Bruce Mozert found here

Shortly after 1:00 pm, Mrs Taylor called upon Mrs Atherton and was shown into the drawing room where she asked Nancy a series of delicate questions. When Mrs Atherton refused to answer, Mrs Taylor allegedly jumped from her chair and put her fingers around Nancy’s throat, doing her best to choke her. 

Nancy managed to throw her off and Mrs Taylor rushed downstairs to the dining room when she found the front door was shut. Two servants prevented her from escaping out the window. 

Mrs Taylor alleges she was locked in the house but made no threats and contemplated no violence. After waiting some time, she was frightened by Mrs Atheron’s eyes which blazed like a tiger’s. She opened the window and called to her cabman that she was being held against her will. While trying to escape, two servants pulled and tore at her clothes until they were nearly off.

cat’s eye contact lenses found here

Mrs Taylor was fined two securities of £25.00 each and Mrs Atherton fined £10. They were both ordered to keep the peace for six months.

Another interesting article on the death of Nancy Atherton can be read here

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35 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Freke Palmer? What an utterly fabulous name!
    Disclaimer: I am not the Mrs Taylor mentioned in this story 😉

    • And you don’t look 76 either 😉

  2. Those can’t be French maids, they’re spanking in English. Unless they’re doing their English homework at the same time.

    • How do you say “Oooh” in French?

      • Ooh la la! Touché! Mais bien sûr, claque claque, n’est-ce pas?

      • I notice the spankee is wearing a nursey cap.

      • Ai, I think.

  3. They had so much more fun in the old days didn’t they?

    • Oh sweetie aren’t you having fun now?

  4. I’ve never found hairpins scattered on the floor to be all that romantic, but that’s probably just because I don’t have any gold ones.

    • Metal ones just don’t make the grade do they?

  5. It is a fact that the best French Maids are, actually, English. French French Maids are less careful of hygiene issues, not least when it comes to mowing the lawn and attending to the other areas of growth.

    Or so I’m told.

    • Isn’t there a gardener on staff to mow the lawn? Or at least do some plowing?

      • When Queenwilly, The King and I had our holiday in the Dordogne region last year we had a French maid. She was so gorgeous we had to hustle The King into a car and drive him away before he attempted seduction…

  6. oh, to be wealthy and scandalous! the story could use a few goats or trained pigeons, i think!

    • Handkerchiefs, hairpins, catfighting and a peeping Thomasina isn’t enough?

  7. I remember when Nancy Sinatra posed for Playboy in 1974, I think. I’d call it modest nude and nothing pornographic. Caused quite a stir. I think most were offended seeing it as disrespectful to her father and shameless on her part.

    • Did she pose twice? I’m only aware of the 1995 spread

  8. Sort of puts the goings on around here to shame.

    How scandalous! hairpins scattered through the house — tsk tsk.

    • There are sequins scattered around my house. I plead not guilty.

  9. The 1908 Grand Prix was the most fun I ever had!
    Until the 1909 Grand Prix, anyway. 😉

    Seriously, though, I love that underwater photo…

    • Me too! I’m glad someone commented on it

  10. Another scandalous slice of life. You truly bring the scurrilous into my life Nursie!

  11. It’s good to see everyone was keeping themselves busy with important scandalous behavior,

  12. I made the same mistake of leaving monogrammed handkerchiefs under the pillows of all my mistresses. Not a good idea.

  13. Throwing oneself at a man with a nickname of Fatty. Wouldn’t think you’d see that in the wealthy classes. 🙂

  14. I promise you, those people were absolutely NOT in our family tree.

    • Are you protesting too much? 😉

  15. I think I’d like some of those cat’s eye contacts.

  16. Lurve the pic of the underwater tableau, Myra.

    And I guess soap operas exist everywhere, in all walks of life…

  17. “These four, punting by moonlight on the Thames during regatta week at Henley, flitting furtively in and out of restaurants while arranging nightly bedroom toings and froings, danced inevitably towards their own destruction.”


    • Yes, Roger has a nice turn of phrase

  18. I need to nickname someone in my life Fatty.

  19. some day, I will swan off to places.

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