A Right Royal Scandal

A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History

by Jeanne Major & Sarah Murden

Almost two books in one, A Right Royal Scandal recounts the fascinating history of the irregular love matches contracted by two successive generations of the Cavendish-Bentinck family, ancestors of the British Royal Family. The first part of this intriguing book looks at the scandal that erupted in Regency London, just months after the Battle of Waterloo, when the widowed Lord Charles Bentinck eloped with the Duke of Wellington’s married niece. A messy divorce and a swift marriage followed, complicated by an unseemly tug-of-war over Lord Charles’ infant daughter from his first union. Over two decades later and while at Oxford University, Lord Charles’ eldest son, known to his family as Charley, fell in love with a beautiful gypsy girl, and secretly married her. He kept this union hidden from his family, in particular his uncle, William Henry Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 4th Duke of Portland, upon whose patronage he relied. When his alliance was discovered, Charley was cast adrift by his family, with devastating consequences.

A love story as well as a brilliantly researched historical biography, this is a continuation of Joanne and Sarah’s first biography, An Infamous Mistress, about the eighteenth-century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott, whose daughter was the first wife of Lord Charles Bentinck. The book ends by showing how, if not for a young gypsy and her tragic life, the British monarchy would look very different today.


This reads like a gossip column version of history where women had “fallen pregnant” and being called a “gilt potato” was not very nice. A Right Royal Scandal tells the stories of several couples lives and the society around them. It’s very entertaining, but also very interesting. This was a really good look at changing times between Georgian and Victorian eras. In particular, the changing norms and values of the upper class with regard to marriage and divorce. The writing is very colorful and illustrative. This is the kind of history book that could get boring rather quickly with all its detail, but instead I was glued to the pages. Very good.