The opening title sequence of The Scandalous Lady W read “This is a true story. England 1782. A time when a man’s wife was considered to be his property. Much like his home, his land, or his cattle“. Even from the title of the episode, it was clear we were in for some sordid affairs involving a woman who is not to be reckoned with. Although the 90-minute episode includes many frequent flash backs, we are introduced to Lady W upon her marriage to Sir Richard Seymour. However, his unusual voyeurism fetish led her to obediently sleep with a multitude of men while her husband watched through a key hole under his orders.
One of the men she is intimate with, she also falls in love with, and later cuckolds her husband, when she runs away with Lord George Bisset. Furious, Sir Richard responded by suing Bisset for criminal conversation and demanding £20,000 for the damage done to his property – Lady Worsley. Instead of agreeing to the perfect picture that is painted about their marriage by the deserted husband to increase the treachery, she reveals the damage that her husband has inflicted on her, due to all the men she was ordered to sleep with. However, it does not end here – Spoiler Alert – when she is revealed as worthless and a whore, Bisset no longer wants her and she is left alone. Ouch.
This story is quite slow paced and could have definitely fit into an hour’s episode. I’m afraid that all the hype and media build up to “the greatest scandal of the eighteenth century” was greater than the punch of the actual show. However, the story and how women’s sexuality and power is used and abused is really interesting, and the setting and costumes is executed with phenomenal detail. Although it may not be worth changing your schedule for, it is worth a watch on BBC iPlayer if you have an evening in – ideally not with the parents, there is a lot of sex.