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Lord Byron features heavily in my 1st book 'Amy, The Story of a Coram Foundling'. Amy first encounters him as the lover of Lady Caroline Lamb when he visits Lady Bessborough at Cavendish Square. Having heard of his reputation as a womaniser, Amy is disappointed by his small stature, pale sickly complexion, and pronounced limp; leaving her wondering what all the fuss is about.

George Gordon, Lord Byron
George Gordon, Lord Byron

He was born in 1788 to parents John 'Mad Jack' Byron and his second wife Catherine Gordon. Mad Jack had previously been married to Lady Amelia D'Arcy, who had divorced her first husband to marry him, but she later died, leaving behind their daughter Augusta -more of her later.

Mad Jack quickly squandered Catherine's large fortune, the couple fell into debt, and they settled in France to avoid his creditors. Catherine moved back to England where she gave birth to her son, George, but by this time the Byron's had separated. Heavily in debt herself, Catherine managed to lend Mad Jack some money to return to France, and he died there in 1791.

In 1798, the 10-year-old Byron inherited the title of Lord Byron from his great-uncle, as well as Newstead Abbey, a large stately home in Nottinghamshire. He was born with a deformed right foot, which caused him to limp for the rest of his life, but he managed to remain active, play sports, and learnt how to become a good swimmer whilst at school in Harrow.

Byron at 21
Byron at 21

In 1803, when Byron was 15, he fell in love with Mary Chaworth, his neighbour at Newstead Abbey, but on his return to Harrow he started a number of homosexual relationships with young men, most notably Lord Clare, and John Edleston who later died, leaving him heartbroken.

Byron left Harrow and attended Trinity College, Cambridge, for three years. This was where he met his companion, Robert Rushton, whom he carried on an affair with for the next few years. He also constantly used female prostitutes, and had affairs with his housemaids, one of whom, Lucy, gave birth to his son, but the child later died.

In 1809, Byron published his first poetic work 'Hours of Idleness', which received poor reviews, so the highly sensitive Byron decided to travel around Europe, the Middle East, and Greece, where he swam the 3-mile-wide Hellespont. He also embarked on many affairs with young Turkish and Greek men.

Byron returned to London in 1811 and established himself in St James's Street. He wrote his first major success 'Child Harold's Pilgrimage' which was published by John Murray, who would become his lifelong friend.

Byron at The Albany
Byron at The Albany

For the next three years, Byron published 'The Giaour' (rhymes with shower), 'The Bride of Abydos', 'Parisina', and 'The Siege of Corinth', all to enormous success, and he achieved fame and celebrity status almost overnight.

At the beginning of 1812, he started an affair with the mentally unstable Lady Caroline Lamb, but he soon tired of her and ended the affair after a few months, even though she continued to pursue and stalk him.

In the summer of 1813, he met his half-sister Augusta, who was married to George Leigh, a horse breeder and former friend of the Prince of Wales. They started an incestuous affair and Augusta conceived a child, giving birth to a daughter, Medora Elizabeth, the following year. There were later rumours that Medora was Byron's daughter, but he never openly acknowledged her, even though he later admitted to other illegitimate children.

Byron went to live in the Albany in Piccadilly in 1814, and it was here that Amy became his housekeeper when he was at the height of his success.

He did much to foster the Byron legend that still exists today, of the brooding lothario personified in his 1814 work 'The Corsair' with its swashbuckling pirate hero, Conrad. This inspired the 'Byronic Hero' in literature, the proud, moody, and cynical male protagonist which has been a blueprint for characters ranging from Emily Brontë's Heathcliff to Ian Fleming's James Bond.

Byron later married Annabella Milbanke, the niece of his great friend Lady Melbourne, in order to pay off his enormous debts which totalled £30,000.

Annabella Milbanke, Lady Byron
Annabella Milbanke, Lady Byron

The Byron's marriage was short-lived as he was constantly unfaithful to her, and after Lady Byron gave birth to their daughter, Augusta Ada, in 1816, the marriage broke down and she returned to her parents in Leicestershire.

News of their separation leaked out and there were rumours about his incestuous relationship with his sister Augusta Leigh, and his homosexual adventures in the Middle East.

Drowning in debt and with society turned against him, he left to travel in Europe at the end of 1816, and first settled in the Villa Diodati on the shores of lake Geneva, with the poet Shelley and his wife, Mary. It was here that Mary Shelley wrote her masterpiece 'Frankenstein', and also where Byron impregnated Clare Clairmont, Mary's stepsister, who gave birth to his daughter Allegra. He arranged for the child to be raised in a convent in Italy, but she later died.

Byron then left for Venice where he embarked on a number of affairs and in 1818, he published 'Don Juan', based on his amorous adventures in Italy. In 1820, he met Countess Teresa Guiccioli, who became his long-term mistress after he settled with her in Ravenna. She was married to a much older man, and Byron lent Count Guiccioli large sums of money in return for him allowing Byron to sleep with his wife.

 Countess Teresa Guiccioli
Countess Teresa Guiccioli

In 1823, Byron was living in Genoa with Teresa, who had left her husband for him, but he started to tire of her and became bored with his life there, so he decided to leave for Greece in order to help the Greeks in their fight for independence against the Ottoman Empire.

In 1824, whilst in Missolonghi, he contracted a violent fever. He was bled by his physician who took too much blood from the already weak Byron, and he died. His body was returned to England where he was supposed to be buried in Westminster Abbey, but they refused, due to his 'questionable morality', and he was buried in the parish church of Hucknall in Nottinghamshire instead.

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


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