It’s time for more James Gillray and I’m not the least bit sad. I love it when his art fits my Word of the Week choice.
This cuckold print shows Lady Tyrconnel in flagrante in bed, with a “come hither” look for the Duke of York as he joins her. Her husband is shown leaving the room, saying, “A good night to your R . . . l High . . . s!!! Bon Soir, my lady; I’ll be back to breakfast! so let the butter’d Bun be ready for Jerry.” The Duke’s breeches and military coat (with its distinctive royal star insignia), are on a chair by the door.
This cuckold scene is Lady’s Jersey’s bedroom, she being the old lady in the opulent bed. Her husband, Lord Jersey, carries the Prince of Wales on his back. Prinny holds up two fingers and asks the question – “Buck! Buck! – how many Horns do I hold up?” – classic signs of his cuckolding. Also alluding to the adultery is the earl’s coronets on the bed fringe that sport horns. Lord Jersey responds to the Prince’s question: “E’en as many as you please!”
La, is there a story behind this print. Sometimes a cuckold is not simply a cuckold.
Gillray created this print after the infamous trial of Sir Richard Worsley versus George Bissett for criminal conversation with Lady Worsley. Sir Richard sued Bissett for damages for the latter’s adultery – the cuckolding. He sought £20,000 in the hopes of bankrupting Bissett and driving his wife back into his arms (and purse).
Or so it seemed.
Lady Worsley did not dispute the charge of adultery; quite the contrary. Her defense instead insisted her husband made the habit of and thoroughly enjoyed prostituting his wife, and thus suffered no damages in her affair with Bissett. Lady Worsley stated her value, and that of their marriage, was nonexistent long before the adultery with Bissett because of the numerous affairs previously arranged and encouraged by her husband.
Whether fueled by hatred for her husband or love for George Bissett, Lady Worsley’s assertations swayed the jury. They did find in favor of Sir Richard, but reduced the amount of his damage award from £20,000 to one shilling.
- Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.