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LADIES OF THE HAUTE TON 5: JANE, LADY OXFORD

Lady Oxford is mentioned in, Amy, The Story of a Coram Foundling, as the love interest of Lord Byron after he discards Lady Caroline Lamb. She was known for her numerous affairs, and the fact that all her six children were fathered by different men, none of which were her husband.

John Hopner's portrait of Jane, Lady Oxford
John Hopner's portrait of Jane, Lady Oxford

She was born Jane Elizabeth Scott in 1774, the daughter of the Reverend James Scott. Her upbringing was very liberal, and she openly supported the French Revolution and the Reform Movement.

In 1794, she married Edward Harley, 5th Earl of Oxford, but she followed the practises of others amongst the 'haute ton' and embarked on numerous love affairs. As a result, her six children were given the name the 'Harleian Miscellany' in reference to her husband's collection of ancient manuscripts, and the miscellaneous nature of their fathers.

Lady Oxford with her daughter Jane Elizabeth
Lady Oxford with her daughter Jane Elizabeth

In 1812, after Lord Byron's affair with Lady Caroline Lamb had ended, he went to stay at Lady Oxford's country estate and the two started an affair, even though he was fourteen years younger than her.

Whilst staying there, Byron started writing his poem 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage' and dedicated the first two cantos to Lady Oxford's daughter, Lady Charlotte. There has been some debate as to the nature of Byron's relationship with Charlotte, and there is evidence that he was sexually attracted to her, even though she was only 12 at the time, and there is a possibility that he molested her.

Lady Charlotte Harley, who Byron called Ianthe in 'Childe Harold'
Lady Charlotte Harley, who Byron called Ianthe in 'Childe Harold'

Lady Oxford died in 1824 aged only 50.


Sources: 'Byron: Life and Legend' by Fiona MacCarthy.

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