An American waxes indignant about the English aristocracy’s shameless ways.
One of his subjects said that Charles II. was the father of many of his people in a literal sense. He recruited the ranks of the nobility largely with his children and their mothers, and at least five English dukes to-day can trace their lineage to the monarch who left no legitimate descendant . . .
These offshoots of royalty claim all the distinction that their birth confers. The daughter of a ducal house prides herself on her likeness to her great ancestor, Nell Gwynne, whose portrait hang in her drawing-room, so that all who come can compare. You can pay her no higher compliment than to notice the resemblance which proves her royal origin . . .
Illegitimacy, however, in England is not confined to the descendants of royalty. The nobility emulates the example set by a long line of sovereigns. In the exalted circles of the aristocracy the bastards of peers go about bearing the family names, and daughters whose mothers are unrecognized marry into families as “good” as those on the paternal side. There are even instances of sons born before the marriage of their parents, whose younger brothers inherit titles to which the elders would have succeeded, but for the neglect of their mothers to go to church in time: the legitimate and illegitimate children can claim precisely the same progenitors. Some of these premature sons are to-day ministers at foreign courts, others have been masters of ceremonies in royal houses, while dukes and earls have been able to find places for the spawn of shame in the army, the Foreign Office, and even in that Church whose rites they had themselves neglected to observe.
God knows the unfortunates are not to blame; but to make their birth a distinction and an advantage is a greater enormity than the offence to which they owe their origin.—Adam Badeau, Aristocracy in England, 1856
~~~I'll let my readers decide whether American Victorians were more “Victorian” than their English counterparts . . .
Illustration: Charles Beauclerk, 1st Duke of St. Albans, son of King Charles II & Nell Gwynne