The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton
Caroline Norton, born in 1808, was a society beauty, poet and pamphleteer. Her good looks and wit attracted many male admirers, first her husband, the Honourable George Norton, and then the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne. After years of simmering jealousy, George Norton accused Caroline and the Prime Minister of a 'criminal conversation' (adultery) resulting in a trial referred to as 'the scandal of the century'.
Cut off and bankrupted by George Norton, she went on to become one of the most important figures in changing the law for wives and mothers.
Staff Reviews Beautiful, talented and flirtatious, Caroline Sheridan married dull George Norton in 1827. It was a terrible mismatch and he was a violent brute. Manipulated by his brother, Norton sued then Prime Minister, Viscount Melbourne, for criminal conversation with his wife. Despite overwhelming evidence Norton lost the case. However the chief victim in this was Caroline, unable to seek a divorce herself, she was now penniless, denied access to her children and ostracised by society.
Over the next twenty years she used her pen and connections to fight for justice. Her Infant Custody Act is the first feminist law and her lobbying led to the Matrimonial Causes and Married Women's Property Acts which gave women a legal identity. This is a fascinating read about a lively and intelligent woman who despite personal tragedy changed society.
Sally Hughes Assistant Retail Manager