- Purchase/rental options available:
The relationship of aristocratic women, the state, and the polity in late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century Great Britain has been the subject of several recent works, but scholars have paid less attention the formidable opposition these women sometimes faced. A revealing episode can be found in the activities of Sarah Sophia Villiers, fifth countess of Jersey (1785-1867) during the infamous "Queen Caroline affair" of 1820-1821. Lady Jersey became the most prominent female supporter of Queen Caroline, King George IV's estranged wife, but her partisan Whig politics made her the object of attack by the loyalist or ministerial press, particularly by John Bull, the most successful and widely circulated contemporary loyalist newspaper. Lady Jersey's behavior, including her libel suit against John Bull, in which she charged the newspaper with attacking her honor, demonstrates the interactions of gender, class, and party politics. The episode also shows how political opponents manipulated the notion of separate spheres in an effort to undermine the legitimacy of aristocratic female political activities. This article thus advances scholars' understanding of women's involvement in politics in late-Georgian Great Britain, sheds new light on the Queen Caroline affair, raises questions about the meaning of female honor, and places the concept of separate spheres into a partisan political context.