Outrageous Women

With Lady Antonia Fraser, Catherine Ostler and Hallie Rubenhold.

7.30pm, Friday 21 May

This is an online event hosted on the British Library platform. Bookers will be sent a link in advance giving access and will be able to watch at any time for 48 hours after the start time.

The stories of two women who refused to be defined by society’s expectations.

Award winning historian Antonia Fraser introduces Caroline Norton, a 19th-century poet and pamphleteer who became a pioneering women’s rights activist at a time when married women and their children were considered their husband’s property.

Having fallen victim to a botched court case brought by her husband, the MP George Norton, alleging her adultery with the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, she fought back against multiple injustices as a campaigner. The Infant Custody Act of 1839 was a landmark achievement.

A few decades earlier, in 1776, Elizabeth Chudleigh, Duchess of Kingston, Countess of Bristol, went on trial at Westminster Hall for bigamy. The event was a sensation, but Elizabeth refused to submit to public humiliation and retire quietly.

Rather than backing gracefully out of the limelight, she embarked on a Grand Tour of Europe, being welcomed by the Pope and Catherine the Great and joined the Hanoverian court, where her exploits delighted and scandalised the press and the people.

In an evocative new biography of Elizabeth, Catherine Ostler revisits her story.

The event is chaired by Hallie Rubenhold, author of the critically acclaimed The Scandalous Lady W, and the award-winning The Five.