Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Vicar Fights a Duel

Victorian dueling pistols, from Purdey's of Mayfair
The last clerical duelist in England was the Rev. Edwin Crane, vicar of Crowle. He had been challenged by a neighbour, Capt. William Candler, master of the Worcester Foxhounds. Candler believed, with some justification, that his wife Louisa - a lady of "gay and free manners" - had been unfaithful with the young clergyman. The two men, with their seconds, met in a field near Malvern. Candler fired two errant shots; Rev. Crane discharged his pistol into the air. Everyone walked away. 

Prior to 1857, divorce in Britain required an act of Parliament. But Candler brought a suit for "criminal conversation," seeking £5000 in damages from the vicar of Crowle. The trial was held in 1837 and brought people from throughout the sporting countryside to Gloucester. Witnesses described seeing Rev. Crane and Mrs. Candler on the floor of her drawing room in Malvern Link. They were observed together in a nearby wood. Compromising letters were introduced. But Mr. Crane's attorney said his client was the seduced, not the seducer.  "His only fault had been that he had yielded to the solicitations of a beautiful woman, which very few men in any situation in life would be able to resist." Candler was shown to have been a neglectful husband. Also, the vicar had agreed to meet the chap on the dueling field - for Candler to bring this second action was dashed ungentlemanly. The jury agreed; they found Crane guilty but the damages were reduced to a mere £100.

Rev. Crane was suspended by his Bishop for three years, restored when it was shown that he had "demeaned and conducted himself with the utmost regularity and decorum."

May I call attention to the newly released E-Book Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1. A free app for tablets and mobile phones is available. Comments are eagerly sought either below or at www.victorianga.aol.com

Illustration: www.katetattersall.com

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