I heard of this story from following @HistoryWeird on Twitter, and am reblogging it from the Alpha History website.
In 1785 London, a wealthy man, Mr. George Errington, sued for divorce from his wife. Apparently he just couldn't handle her lewd and lascivious behavior anymore. As the trial unfolded, it became a big news story, and with good reason. Not only had Mrs. Errington been unfaithful with several different men, but she had some patently strange and improper behavior with her servants.
The trial started with reports of her infidelity, since these were the main reasons for the divorce. Mrs. Errington's maid, Molly Mitchell, testified that one of Mrs. Errington's lovers, Captain Southby, came over for dinner, but he and Mrs. Errington disappeared upstairs before the meal was finished. I'm not sure what paper printed this paraphrased testimony, but who ever wrote it had a genius for euphemism:
"We cannot absolutely say how she was engaged while the repast was cooling… The Captain and she, it is supposed, were taking a wet and relish together; or he might probably be instructing her in… the modern methods of attack and defence. She is a woman who thirsted after knowledge and if the Captain had anything new to communicate, she was sure to pump it out of him… Molly Mitchell supposes the Captain discharged his musket, for though she did not hear the report, she smelt the powder…"
I think we get the message.
It would have been bad enough for her to carry on with respectable men, but she also seemingly messed around with her servants. Gross. The help. She had a teenage footman, Simon Orchard, who woke up out of a sound sleep one night in this manner:
"…he was waked by the bedclothes being stripped off him, and upon looking he observed the said Harriet Errington, in her shift only… and Phebe Lush, a fellow servant, by his bedside. And the said Harriet Errington pulled up his shirt and caught hold of his private parts, and pulled him out of bed by the same, and said she would pull him down the stairs… This deponent struggled a good deal with her to get away."
I'm not sure if this was something sexual, or just a reaaaaally awkward way to wake someone up and get their attention. This same harassed footman also had the misfortune to see her . . . uh . . . beauty regime, when she decided to give herself a Brazilian in the kitchen with people wandering around.
"As this deponent was going into the kitchen, this deponent saw the said Harriet Errington standing before the fire, with her petticoats as high as her knees… Phebe Lush and Mary Mitchell and her master’s son, a boy about five years old, were with her… Seeing some small pieces of hair laying upon paper, [Orchard] asked what it was, and the little boy told him, that Mrs Errington had been cutting it off under her petticoats…”
Come on, Harriet, not around the food. Have you not seen American Wedding? Actually, I can't believe I've seen that film.
So after all the evidence was presented, Mr. Errington got his divorce almost immediately. His was not a happy ending, though. He was later shot and killed by a spurned lover. There is no information on the fate of the former Mrs. Errington.
- 1785: Mrs Errington gropes servants, trims pubic hair