Mr. and Mrs Chabot had not long been married when they appeared at the Lambeth Police Court in December 1847. The appearance was a memorable one, although perhaps less so for the couple concerned.
Young Mr. Chabot seems to have been a delicate fellow. He had for some time been imprisoned in Bedlam (Bethlem Hospital for the insane) placed there by his relatives and ‘friends’ suffering from a ‘mental affliction’.
He was released, fully cured, declaring his desire to take a wife. His parents advised him to place his property in a trust fund: for the joint benefit of himself and his wife, and well as for the interest of their children, if they had any’. This may simply have been sound advice but I suspect it had a lot to do with his parents’ misgivings about his mental state.
He quickly found and married a respectable woman named Georgina. It was from here, however, that the problems started.
Georgina Chabot was later described by the court reporter, in full Dickensian style, as ‘a dumpy little woman, whose face was so bedaubed with paint [make up] as to make her quite conspicuous’. On honeymoon the couple rowed constantly, with the husband coming off ‘second best’.
The ‘disagreements’ reached such a serious state that Chabot thought it necessary to come to court to seek protection from his wife’s violence. This was probably more common than historians have so far discovered. Domestic abuse (usually carried out by men) was widespread in the Victorian period but few men would admit to being beaten by their spouses; in a patriarchal society to confess to be unable to control one’s wife would be acutely embarrassing.
On the 6 December, just two months after the fateful marriage, Mr. Chabot returned home from collecting rents and sent the money upstairs to his wife.
Georgian was unhappy with the amount he had brought home and even unhappier that she seemed to have spent an unnecessarily long time at one female tenant’s home.
In a jealous rage she ‘jumped out of bed, rushed down like a fury, and made a vicious attack on her lord and master. She flung a cup and saucer and a flat iron at his head, and after using the poker, managed to cut his head open with the bellows’.
In court at Lambeth the young man was cross-examined by his wife’s legal representative but held to his story. Georgina’s sister said he had started it by punching his wife and denied she had used excessive force. The magistrate must have taken one look at the man and then at Georgina and decided that it was fairly unlikely that the frail youth could have hit anyone.
He fined Georgian £3 (or 20 days imprisonment) and demanded she post 2 months’ bail against her future behaviour or he would remand her. The money was paid and the couple discharged; we can only wonder at their later ‘pillow talk’.
[from The Morning Post, Wednesday, December 15, 1847]