Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Queen's Chaplain and his Housekeeper

St. Nicholas, Barton-le-Clay, Beds.
The Rev Timothy Fyshe Foord-Bowes was rector of St. Nicholas church in the Bedfordshire village of Barton-le-Clay. He was a chaplain to Queen Victoria and had preached before her on many occasions. In 1845, Foord-Bowes was in his 60's; his wife, his children, even his grandchildren had predeceased him. Thus, there was "extraordinary interest" when the rector's former groom sued him for criminal-conversation. Until 1857, there was no divorce in England without an Act of Parliament but a husband could sue for financial damages from "his adulterous wife's partner." John Coultas was seeking £2000. He was married to the rector's longtime cook and housekeeper, a woman known simply as Barnes. Coultas claimed that the rector had alienated him from his wife, hidden her away, and subjected her to his “foul & gross lust & passion.” A gamekeeper testified to putting a ladder up to a rectory window and, peering through the blinds, seeing the clergyman and Barnes lie down together. Foord-Bowes insisted he had no more than sincere affection for Barnes - a woman nearly 60 - and he wished to protect her from a drunk and abusive spouse. The rector was well-defended but after a three day trial, the jury - at three in the morning - found for the plaintiff and awarded Coultas £250. Foord-Bowes survived the scandal - his defenders thought he was a victim of a conspiracy of non-believers. Who could believe that a man and woman in that stage of life could even have the strength to "commit such juvenilities?" It was ridiculous nonsense.

Clerical servants were frequently the center of Victorian scandals. One of the most famous involved a Yorkshire vicar - the Rev. Joseph Weedow. His story and more can be found in Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Vol 1.  Kindle apps are FREE for your phone or tablet.


Photo: BedfordshireParishChurches.co.uk

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