Elizabeth Foyster invites us into Freemasons' Hall for the most extraordinary, expensive and controversial British insanity trial ever heard. Amid accusations of abductions, sodomy, blackmail and violence, jurors have to decide if Portsmouth is just a shy, stammering eccentric with foolish habits or a sinister madman attempting to mask his dangerous and immoral nature. Both provocative and heart-rending, The Trials of the King of Hampshire goes beyond the fate of a single man to question Georgian society and examine the treatment of the mentally ill and disabled both then and now.
'A highly engaging book that should reach a wide public'.
‘Foyster has turned a great mound of papers lying neglected in the Lambeth Palace Library into grippingly readable tale'.
‘Reveals an aristocratic household turned upside down by scandal and mental illness...Unputdownable.'
‘Foyster proves to be not only a scrupulous and thorough historian, but also a delightfully inquisitive one…as compelling as a Wilkie Collins novel'.
‘Thoroughly absorbing…heading beyond the immediate confines of its subject…the 3rd earl emerges…as a Georgian "character” to rank with Beau Brummell or Parson Woodforde'.
‘One of the early nineteenth century's most notorious lunacy inquiries and a dynasty in turmoil...If this were a novel, no one would believe it.'
‘Extraordinary...A well researched and vividly readable account.'
‘Portsmouth's story unfolds like a novel, filled with blackmail, abductions, adultery, secret marriages, disputed inheritances and family scandals. Readers will find the book difficult to put down. There's also a Canadian postscript to the story: Portsmouth's widow eventually immigrated to Canada and settled in Chatham-Kent where the story of "How the Countess of Portsmouth came to Chatham” remains a fixture of haunted walks in his Ontario town.'
‘Foyster documents a family scandal ripped directly from early nineteenth-century headlines...The standing-room-only proceedings are exhaustively detailed, but equally as compelling are the stories of Wallop's family, friends, and servants, who contributed, one way or another, to his cover-up, his exposure, and his downfall.'
‘Ms. Foyster did a wonderful job taking all of the information from the case and putting it into chapter form to make it easier for the layperson to understand. She really makes you look at how those with mental disorders or disabilities were treated in Georgian England and makes you wonder if it is any different than today.’