Lord Byron

Lord Byron


“Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know” - The inimitable and intimate life of Lord Byron

Lord Byron has become an icon in history and literature, and not just thanks to his beautiful and unparalleled command of the English language. Throughout his 36 years, Lord Byron infamously acquired a litany of lovers, some of whom caused controversy, and some who inspired a handful of the most important and beautiful poems ever written. Georgie Broad explains more…

George Gordon Noel Byron was born in 1788 to a small aristocratic family that was rapidly losing its luster. As a whole, Byron’s family life was the epitome of dysfunctional. His father left the family while Byron was a young boy, his mother suffered from schizophrenia and he was put under the care of an abusive nurse. The only place where the young Byron could find familial respite was with his sister Augusta… but more on that relationship a little later.

In 1803, at the tender age of fifteen, Byron fell in love with his distant cousin Mary Chaworth. This love was not reciprocated however, and as is often the nature with unrequited love, his feelings for Mary inspired several of his earlier poems. A few years later Byron began his intermittent studies at Trinity College, Cambridge. While there, studying wasn’t exactly at the forefront of his mind instead he turned his attentions toward sports, gambling (which forced him deeper into debt) and a great many sexual escapades thanks to how naturally handsome he was.

EARLY CONNECTIONS

During his time at Cambridge, though, Byron made some of his first important steps to becoming the man we know so well today. He met John Cam Hobhouse, a lifelong friend who aided his induction into the ideals of liberal politics that remained with him for the rest of his life,and during his last year at Cambridge, he wrote Hours of Idleness, a compilation of poetry. Upon its publication, it received harsh and damning reviews, though they couldn’t have been better for Byron’s success. As a reaction to these scathing reviews, Byron published English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, a satirical piece that openly attacked the literary community with wit and without fear that actually earned him high acclaim throughout the very community he criticized.

At the age of 21, Byron began an intrepid journey around the Mediterranean with his friend Hobhouse, and continued to indulge his two passions on the trip: poetry and a fair few lustful tristes however his adventure was cut short when he had to return home following the death of his mother. Although in his childhood the two never had a picture postcard relationship, the passing of his mother plunged Byron into a period of deep and desperate mourning. As was characteristic of Byron, he was pulled out of his despair through praise of his work from respected London critics and another string of lovers.

One such lover was the novelist and aristocrat Lady Caroline Lamb who uttered the infamous description of Lord Byron as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”. Caroline and Byron had a whirlwind romance passionate, intense, and short lived. Caroline had no qualms about making their love affair very public, and wouldn’t shy away about being demonstrative about her feelings. After their affair ended, Caroline was plunged into depression and turned to drinking to deal with the loss of her love. She also wrote a book, Glenarvon, which detailed their tempestuous romance.

It was at this time, amid the love of Lady Caroline and Lady Oxford, rumors began to circulate about the relations between Byron and his married half-sister, Augusta. To dispel the gossip and to seek a little respite from his Lothario-like ways, Byron proposed marriage to Annabella Millbanke. The marriage was something of a train-wreck from start to finish, and crumbled rapidly due to financial debts, the persistent rumors of incest surrounding Byron and Augusta, and gossip about his sexuality. (Today, it is widely accepted that Lord Byron was bisexual given the accounts of his sexual exploits during his time at school and university with men and women). Although Byron and Millbanke had a daughter, after the ending of their marriage, Byron saw neither his ex-wife nor his daughter again. It was around this time that Byron penned the immortal poem She Walks in Beauty, supposedly about a married woman he met at a ball. The poem has since become an iconic piece of literature and a cornerstone of romantic poetry.

SAILING AWAY

In 1818, Byron set sail for Europe, never to return to England. He saw the European attitude as more romantic, liberal, and accepting of the way he conducted himself. True to form, Byron carried on his womanizing ways while he travelled around with the mother of sci-fi, author Mary Shelley, her husband and her sister - with whom Byron fathered another daughter, Allegra. During these travels, the infamous Don Juan was written, arguably one of Byron’s most successful and important works, a witty and satirical poem that detailed many romantic encounters and was remarkably similar to his own life.

The last and most enduring of his romantic affairs was that with Teresa Giuccioli, a married countess of only nineteen, compared to his 30 years of age at the time. He described her “as fair as sunrise – and as warm as noon” and the two, unlike many affairs of Byron’s before, carried on their relationship unconsummated until Teresa separated from her husband. Although by today’s standards, the relationship seems unconventional, Teresa’s father actually liked Byron, and initiated him into the Carbonari, a group of Italians who sought the independence of Italy and helped bring about the Risorgimento (the process of Italian unification).

Byron died in 1824, aged 36, and was buried in a family vault. He was, and remains, a legend of the literary world, having penned some of the most iconic verse in English literature. He was the king of sharp wit and satire and defined a genre of writing that is still revered to this day. His private life was as turbulent and passionate as his writing, and he can truly be considered one of the masters of romance.

You can read Georgie’s previous article on why King George IV may have been the worst king of England by


Early Life

George Gordon Byron was born on January 22, 1788 to an aristocratic family in England. His father abandoned their family at a young age and eventually cut his own throat. His mother suffered violent schizophrenic episodes and left the young Byron to an abusive nurse.

At the tender age of 10, in 1798, George Byron became a young lord. When he was twelve, he was sent to Harrow School in London. While there, he began experimenting with his sexuality, engaging in relationships with both young men and young women.

In 1803, he had his first big romance. He met his distant cousin, Mary Chaworth, and fell passionately in love. Unfortunately for Byron, Mary didn’t feel the same. Fueled by the pain of teenage angst and unrequited love, Byron wrote the first of his poems, “Hills of Annesley” and “The Adieu”.

When he was fifteen, he attended Trinity College and spent his time falling in and out of love, gambling, spending money on his lovers, and falling into a deep pit of debt. He had a long affair with his half-sister, and several relationships with married women, young men, and actresses. He had so many dangerous sexual relationships that, by the time he was twenty-one, he had both gonorrhea and syphilis.

He had a great love of animals, and, when he was a student, he even tried to get a tame bear enrolled as a student so he could keep it with him in his room. Despite the rules at his college, he kept the bear with him, and even enjoyed taking it for walks around campus just to get a reaction out of people walking by.


Love Affairs & More Poems

In July 1811, Byron returned to London after the death of his mother, and in spite of all her failings, her passing plunged him into a deep mourning. High praise by London society pulled him out of his doldrums, as did a series of love affairs, first with the passionate and eccentric Lady Caroline Lamb, who described Byron as "mad, bad and dangerous to know," and then with Lady Oxford, who encouraged Byron&aposs radicalism. Then, in the summer of 1813, Byron apparently entered into an intimate relationship with his half sister, Augusta, now married. The tumult and guilt he experienced as a result of these love affairs were reflected in a series of dark and repentant poems, "The Giaour," "The Bride of Abydos" and "The Corsair."

In September 1814, seeking to escape the pressures of his amorous entanglements, Byron proposed to the educated and intellectual Anne Isabella Milbanke (also known as Annabella Milbanke). They married in January 1815, and in December of that year, their daughter, Augusta Ada, better known as Ada Lovelace, was born. However, by January the ill-fated union crumbled, and Annabella left Byron amid his drinking, increased debt and rumors of his relations with his half sister and of his bisexuality. He never saw his wife or daughter again.


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Lord Byron - History

The idea persists since the early 19th century that Lord Byron, the famed romantic poet of such pieces as “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” and “She Walks in Beauty,” had an incestuous relationship with his half sister, the Hon. Augusta Byron Leigh.

In his day Byron was notorious for being a very talented bad boy, so it is easy to understand why people were ready and willing to believe in the affair. But what evidence is there? Only what today would be called circumstantial.

A young George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824)
The basis of the charge was that Augusta (who was married) visited London and saw her brother in the summer of 1813 and then had a baby in April 1814. The child was named Elizabeth Medora.

This was considered suspicious because Byron had a character named Medora in a poem published in 1814. Also, Byron wrote a letter on the 25th of April, 1814 saying, "and it is Not an Ape." Almost every editor says this was a reference to a belief that a child of incest would be deformed or look like an ape. Yet there is no evidence of such a belief having been in existence at that time.

Medora's father was satisfied that the child was his. Yet it is on such flimsy evidence that Byron is indicted as having had an incestuous affair with his sister. Flimsy evidence that makes the brooding, handsome poet, already infamous for notorious affairs and questionable deeds, appear even darker.

What of His Wife?

Anne Isabella Byron, Baroness Byron

Byron's brief marriage (1815) was an unlikely match at the outset, and it was no secret he sought the union out of financial necessity. He was not easy to live with, and his behavior worsened as his monetary woes increased. It was he who suggested Lady Byron take their child, Ada, to her parents' home while he sorted out the financial mess he was in. His wife, who had already begun cataloging his moods and speech (suspicious that he was becoming deranged) agreed to go and at first kept up an affectionate correspondence. Shortly after the separation began, however, she became convinced that Byron's behavior was not a result of mental illness--the doctors' opinions were unanimous in that regard--and her tone changed. She sought a legal separation, and, ultimately, divorce.

This cast a dark shadow upon the poet, for Lady Byron, the former Miss Milbanke, was a known specimen of gentle propriety. What awful thing had Byron done to estrange her?

Another female with a grudge against Byron was the emotionally unstable Lady Caroline Lamb. Byron did have an affair with Caroline before his marriage--it was passionate but brief. He grew tired of her and broke it off. She never resigned herself to his loss, and it is alleged that she authored the rumor.

Augusta herself presents a problem for those who believe the affair took place because all descriptions of Augusta that we have show a religious woman who was concerned about her brother's rackety ways as an older sister would be. Indeed, even Lady Byron loved Augusta--although she abandoned her after the divorce. (Was this because she'd become convinced of the affair?)

After Byron's death, any credence that had been given to the rumor was drowned among a litany of praise for the "noble" poet. He had died young (at only 36) after being weakened while fighting in the cause of freedom (Greece's civil war). In 1869, however, Harriet Beecher Stowe (of Uncle Tom's Cabin fame) wrote an article called, "The True Story of Lady Byron’s Life." This added a new iron to the fire of controversy that remains to this day.

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Harriet Beecher Stowe

The article caused such a storm that the magazine went bankrupt. Mrs. Stowe then wrote a book, Lady Byron Vindicated,** to justify herself and Lady Byron. It was written, also, in protest to biographies that had cast a favorable light upon the poet.

But disbelief persisted. Why, if the account were true, had it not been published earlier, critics asked. Stowe's response was that her ladyship had given the information to her in confidence, asking that it be suppressed until after her death. Then, the War of the Southern Rebellion made it impossible to publish the article earlier. (Lady Byron died in 1860.)

Society was split. Some were scandalized, and others refused to believe the allegations. Lord Lovelace, Lady Byron’s grandson, took his grandmother’s side. But many critics and others took the side of Byron.
A major difficulty was that everyone intimately involved was dead by this time. Lord Byron had died earliest, in 1824 Augusta in 1851, and Lady Byron in 1860.

An argument of the believers was to say that proof of the allegation was not needed because the charges, made by the saintly Lady Byron, must be true. She would never have invented such a monstrous lie. Others, however, suspected precisely the reverse: that such charges coming from an alienated, estranged wife must be suspect.

Lord Byron, by Richard Westall

Weighing the Evidence:
We can't know when Augusta got pregnant--whether before her visit to her half brother or not. Unless someone can find evidence of this on record, say, from a physician of the day, then it is an unknown and can always be speculated upon.

Then, Byron wrote to Lady Melbourne on the 8th of April in 1814 to say he had just come from visiting his sister and the baby this was two weeks before the aforementioned letter--and he was more concerned with his indigestion than anything else. Another letter, written April 25, starts off discussing Lady Caroline Lamb. Augusta and the baby are not mentioned at all.

While Medora was the name of a character in Byron’s poem, it was also the name of a race horse with connections to Augusta’s family that won a big race in 1814.

Personally, what seems to speak out against Byron for me is that Lady Byron was sincerely religious, and devout people don't go about inventing rumors. It's conceivable that she was sincerely mistaken regarding the incest, but by all accounts she absolutely believed it occurred.

Finally, it doesn't speak well for the poet that he left England shortly after the dissolution of his marriage (never, alas, to return). Was he afraid of being found out and publicly humiliated?

On the other hand, Bryon himself was known to take a morbid delight in being accused of wrongdoings, and so might have inadvertently taken "credit" for the affair to his wife--not suspecting she would believe him. However, when he refused to give her a legal separation and pleaded ignorance as to why she left him, her lawyers offered to take the matter to trial where they would furnish "evidence" against him. He declined to go that route, and instead granted the divorce.

In the end, it is a matter of "he said, she said." And, whom shall we believe?

Lady Shelley’s comments will be the last word here. She was a friend of both Byron and Augusta. She wrote,


VERDICT: True or False? You decide! Byron’s incestuous affair with Augusta was (in my opinion) quite possible, but the evidence available makes it technically FALSE. What do you think? Leave a comment and let us know.

This article was adapted from my PDF, "Myths and Mysteries of the Regency." Earlier, I was convinced that the incest was a mere rumor. After doing more reading, I'm not quite so sure. Special thanks to Nancy Mayer for providing information used here. Ms. Mayer is a Regency research expert who shares her knowledge at http://www.susannaives.com/nancyregencyresearcher/

** You can read Stowe's book, Lady Byron Vindicated, free online, if you wish. Warning: it is tediously long. In the end, you are convinced of two things: One--Lady Byron was sure of the incest, and Two-- Harriet Beecher Stowe was sure of Lady Byron.


Lord Byron Life Chronology & Timeline

1788 Byron is born on 22 January in London to Catherine Gordon, a Scottish heiress, and Captain John ‘Mad Jack’ Byron. He is officially named George Noel Gordon, for – as part of the marriage settlement – his father took his mother’s family name.

1790 Byron is taken by his mother to Aberdeen, Scotland. They live above a perfumers’ shop. His father is mostly absent, returning occasionally to beg money from his wife. Byron and his mother are destitute.

1791 Byron’s father dies in France, possibly a suicide.

1793 Byron enters his first school, in Aberdeen.

1794-95 He attends Aberdeen Grammar School. In 1794, on the death of his great uncle, he becomes heir to the title Baron Byron of Rochdale.

1798 He is titled Lord Byron and moves with his mother to Newstead Abbey, ancestral home of the Byrons.

1801-05 Byron attends Harrow School. In 1803, he falls his love with Mary Chaworth, his neighbor at Newstead. She rejects him.

1805 Byron enters Trinity College, Cambridge. He is popular and makes several devoted friends.

1806 His first volume of poems, Fugitive Pieces, is privately printed. Upon the Reverend John Beecher’s objections to some of the poems, Byron withdraws the volume.

1807 Poems on Various Occasions, an expurgated version of Fugitive Pieces, is privately printed. Later in the year the volume appears in a public printing as Hours of Idleness. On 13 March, Byron takes his seat in the House of Lords.

1808 Hours of Idleness receives a scathing critique in the Edinburgh Review. On 4 July, Byron receives his A.M. degree from Cambridge.

1809 Byron responds to bad reviews with English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. On 2 July, he sails from Falmouth for Lisbon with his friend John Cam Hobhouse. They travel through Portugal, Spain, Malta, and Albania, reaching Athens at the end of the year. Byron writes the first Canto of “Childe Burun” (later Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage).

1810 Continues to travel through Greece and Turkey. On 3 May, Byron imitates Leander and swims the Hellespont from Sestos to Abydos. He writes the second canto of “Childe Burun”.

1811 Byron returns to England on 14 July. His mother dies soon after, as does his friend John Edleston (“Thyrza”).

1812 Byron delivers speeches in the House of Lords. Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, cantos I and II, published in March. Byron meets his future wife for the first time. He has a scandalous affair with Lady Caroline Lamb. He has another affair with the countess of Oxford. He has another affair with Lady Webster.

1813 Publication of The Giaour (June) and The Bride of Abydos (December). Some biographers believe he begins an affair with his half sister, Augusta Leigh, but the ‘evidence’ is nebulous.

1814 Publication of The Corsair (January) and Lara (August). Augusta’s daughter, Elizabeth Medora, is born and later claims Byron is her father. Byron becomes engaged to Annabella Milbanke.

1815 Byron marries Annabella on 2 January. Publication of Hebrew Melodies. Daughter, Augusta Ada, born to Byron and Annabella on 10 December.

1816 Byron’s wife leaves him in January. The Siege of Corinth and Parisina are published in February. In April the separation from his wife is formalized. Byron leaves England forever on 24 April. Arriving in Geneva, he befriends Percy and Mary Shelley and Claire Clairmont, spends the summer with them, and has an affair with Claire. He then travels to Venice and has an affair with Marianna Segati, his landlord’s wife. At the end of the year, Childe Harold canto III and The Prisoner of Chillon are published.

1817 Byron’s daughter, Allegra, is born to Claire Clairmont on 12 January. Byron travels to Rome with Hobhouse and returns to settle in Venice. He has an affair with Margarita Cogni, wife of a Venetian baker. He sells Newstead Abbey. Manfred is published in June.

1818 Beppo (satire in the ottava rima of Don Juan) is published in February. The Shelleys come to Italy and are with Byron from March to November. Childe Harold canto IV published in April. Byron’s daughter Allegra comes to Venice. She is eventually sent to a convent.

1819 Byron begins an affair with the married Countess Teresa Guiccioli. Mazeppa is published in June, Don Juan cantos I and II in July. Byron moves to Ravenna at the end of the year to be near Teresa.

1820 Byron lives in the Guiccioli palace with his daughter Allegra, Teresa and her husband. He becomes involved in the Carbonari movement, the Italian revolution against Austrian rule. Teresa and her husband officially separate in July.

1821 Teresa’s family, the Gambas, are banished to Pisa after the defeat of the Carbonari movement Byron moves there with them. Marino Faliero is published in April, Don Juan cantos III-V in August, Cain, The Two Foscari, and Sardanapalus in December. Byron promises Teresa to discontinue Don Juan.

1822 Allegra dies in April. Leigh Hunt moves to Byron’s house in June, where they collaborate on the journal The Liberal. Shelley is drowned 8 July in his boat, the Don Juan. The Vision of Judgment appears in The Liberal in October.

1823 Don Juan cantos VI-XIV is published. Byron sails for Greece, arriving at Missolonghi on 30 December.

1824 Byron catches a chill in the rain on April 9. He dies at Missolonghi on 19 April. Don Juan cantos XV and XVI are published in March. In June, Byron is buried in Hucknall Torkard Church, near Newstead Abbey. His memoirs, which he intended for publication after his death, are burned by a group of his friends.

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Gay History – January 22: Hunky Lord Byron and Sir Francis Bacon Were Big Ole Gay Sluts

*1561 – Sir Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626) was born in London. He is best known for his philosophical works concerning the acquisition of knowledge Novum Organum and The Advancement of Learning. Bacon had a preference for young Welsh serving-men. The roll of attendants for Bacon’s household in 1618 lists a total of 75 attendants, of whom some 25 were gentlemen waiters. There was Francis Edney, who, upon Bacon’s death in 1626, received “£200 and my rich gown” young Thomas Meautys, who was to become Bacon’s secretary-in-chief a Mr Bushell, “gent. usher,” who came to the household in 1608 as a lad of fifteen, and who remained until Bacon’s death Edward Sherburn, groom of the chamber and, above all, young Tobie Matthew, who was left only a ring to the value of £30, but who had become Sir Tobie through Bacon’s efforts, and who was well able to care for himself..

Bacon’s mother wrote him a letter, which still survives, complaining about the long list of “servants and envoys” who find their way to his bed. She refers to a gay Spanish envoy as “that bloody Perez and bed companion of my son.” We don’t know what she wrote to her other son, Roger, who was also gay.

*1788 – George Gordon, Lord Byron, was born in 1788. His memoir My Life and Adventures was burned being considered too scandalous for publication. But, bits of his private life have been pieced together . A champion of freedom and an enemy of hypocrisy he had a ravenous sexual appetite.

Byron’s attraction to adolescent boys had first become evident at Harrow, where he referred to his entourage of adoring younger pupils as his Theban band. At Cambridge, Byron fell in with a sophisticated group of like-minded friends fascinated by the theory and practice of sodomy. Their hero was William Beckford, author of the libidinous eastern dream novel The Caliph Vathek, who had been forced to flee the country rather than face possible criminal charges related to a homosexual scandal. They called themselves by the codename Methodists. In autumn 1805, when he was 17, Byron met and fell in love with John Edleston, a Trinity College chorister, and wrote some of his most beautiful lyrics of lament to his “musical protégé”, using the deceptive female name of Thyrza, after Edleston died young.

It is clear from Lord Byron’s correspondence of this period that one of his main motives in setting out on extended travels in 1809-10 was his hope of homosexual experiences. In Greece and Turkey, sex with boys was more or less accepted as the norm and he found willing partners. There was Eusthathius Georgiou, the volatile Greek boy with “ambrosial curls” whose parasol, carried to protect his complexion from the sun, made Byron’s valet cringe. There was the Franco-Greek Nicolo Giraud, with his limpid eyes, who taught Byron Italian in Athens, taking a whole day to conjugate the verb “to embrace”. By the end of Byron’s stay in Greece he was boasting to his Methodist friends that he had achieved more than 200 “pl and opt Cs”, their code for unlimited sexual intercourse, taken from Petronius’s Satyricon “coitum plenum et optabilem”.

When Byron arrived back in England in summer 1811, prejudice against homosexuals was on the increase after a police raid on the White Swan tavern in Vere Street, London. Of the men charged with “assault with the intention to commit sodomy”, six were sentenced to be pilloried in the Haymarket, where they were pelted with mud and excrement by a savage crowd. Byron was lectured about the need for caution by Hobhouse, who had already persuaded him to burn his early journal, which presumably included an account of his love for the choirboy Edleston. Byron later said the loss of this manuscript was “irreparable”.

From 1812 to 1815, Byron’s “curl’d darling” years of literary fame, he was swept up in the whirl of London social activity. For its readers in that period of moral and political uncertainty, two decades after the upheavals of the French revolution, the subversive energy of Byron’s Childe Harold had struck an extraordinary chord. Its success was entwined with the mysterious persona of its author, the 24-year-old Lord Byron, the handsome, lame young aristocrat recently returned from the east.

His sexual conflicts impelled Byron into wild behavior. Due to the hostile climate of homosexuality Lord Byron’s relationships with women needed the extreme, the risqué, to fan them into life. Cross-dressing was a feature of these complicated sex games. The arousing innuendos of his summer with “blue-eyed Caroline”, a prostitute passed off in Brighton as Byron’s brother Gordon, were recreated on a more sophisticated level in his perilously public affair with Lady Caroline Lamb. The gamine, crop-haired Caro was already a page-fancier and needed no encouragement to dress in page’s uniform for Byron’s delectation, their increasingly hysterical liaison being sustained by a creaky assortment of Gothic props.

It was actually Lady Caroline who doomed Byron. Early in 1815 Byron had made an unenthusiastic marriage to Caro’s husband’s cousin, Annabella Milbanke. Caro had predicted that he would “never be able to pull with a woman who went to church punctually, understood statistics and had a bad figure”. The claustrophobia of conventional married life in Piccadilly Terrace prompted Byron to behave badly with a thoroughness only he could have achieved, flaunting his relations with Augusta, throwing out dark hints of his homosexual past and shooting the tops off his soda-water bottles while his wife was in labor in the room upstairs.

On January 15 1816 Annabella and their infant daughter left London, taking refuge at her parents’ country house in Leicestershire. Three weeks later her father, Sir Ralph Milbanke, wrote formally to Byron to request a separation. Rumors of marital violence, adultery with actresses and his incest with his sister began to circulate. In early February the “villainous intriguante” Lady Caroline began spreading her own version of these stories, perpetrating the worst possible revenge of the woman scorned. “Accused B of – poor fellow, the plot thickens against him,” reported Hobhouse. The dash in his diary stands for sodomy. Byron’s sexual predilections, up to then known only to his confidential inner circle, were becoming public property. On February 12, Hobhouse brought Byron the alarming news of what he had been hearing “in the streets” that day.

Shortly after nine in the morning of April 25 1816, the poet George Gordon Lord Byron left England for the continent never to return.


Lord Byron - History

The Byron family and Hucknall Torkard church 1540-1852 (click on the image for a printable PDF version)

In England the history of the Byron family began with the period of the Norman Conquest, when two nobles of the name of Burun came over with William, and settled in England. Of Erneis de Burun, who held lands in York and Lincoln, we hear little.

Ralph de Burun, the ancestor of the Poet, to whom reference has been made before, is mentioned in Domesday Book (1086) as a landowner in Hochenale (Hucknall Torkard). The entry is as follows: &mdash

&ldquoRalph de Burun&rsquos land (Manor).&mdashIn Hochenale &ldquoUlchet had 12 bovates of land to the geld. &ldquoLand for 2 ploughs. There Osmund, Ralph&rsquos &ldquoman, has one plough, and 5 villeins have 3½ &ldquoploughs. Wood for pannage (pigs&rsquo food), one &ldquoleague in length, and half a league in breadth. &ldquoIn King Edward&rsquos time it was worth 30 shill&ldquoings. Now it is worth 15 shillings.&rdquo

A number of illustrious names stand out in the history of the family during the next four centuries.

Hugh de Burun, Ralph&rsquos son, inherited his estates, and became Lord of Horestan Castle in the Park of Horseley, and also of other extensive domains in the counties of Derby and Nottingham. He was succeeded by his eldest son, of the same name, who gave a considerable portion of the family estate to Lenton Priory, and devoted himself to the religious life.

John de Horestan, who was a member of the family, distinguished himself as a Crusader under Richard I. He was killed at the seige of Askalon, and was buried in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Robert de Byron lived in the reign of Henry II. It was at this time that the spelling of the family name was changed from Burun to Biron or Byron. By his marriage with the heiress of Sir Richard Clayton, he added to the family possessions an estate in Lancashire.

Sir John Byron served with distinction in the wars with Edward I. and was made Governor of the City of York.

Four generations later, another Sir John Byron was knighted by Richmond, afterwards Henry VII., on his landing at Milford.

Nicholas Byron, his brother, was knighted in 1502 at the marriage of Prince Arthur.

What associations these members of the family had with Hucknall Torkard the chronicler does not relate. Part of the Byron Manor undoubtedly remained in their hands, although it appears that some of the estate was given to Newstead Priory.

Newstead Priory was one of the three religious houses built by Henry II., to atone for the murder of Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. It was founded in 1170, and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Prior and his Brothers belonged to the Order of St. Augustine, and for 370 years the Priory was the centre of the religious life of this district.

The association between Newstead Priory and Hucknall Torkard was very intimate. From 1288 until the dissolution of the Monastery in 1539, the Prior and his Brothers were Patrons of the Living of Hucknall Torkard.

In 1406, John of Hochendale, was Prior of Newstead.

The second Sir John Byron. Founder of the Byron Charity in 1571.

In 1540, the year following the dissolution of the Monasteries, the Church and Priory of Newstead, the Church Patronage annexed to it, with certain other lands, was granted for the sum of £800 by Henry VIII. to Sir John Byron. He was at the time Constable of Nottingham Castle, and Master of Sherwood Forest. He was known as &ldquoLittle Sir John of the great beard,&rdquo and appears to have been a great favourite of Henry VIII. Although there is no reference to him in the Parish Registers, it is reasonable to suppose that, as Lord of the Manor, he worshipped upon occasions in the Church of Hucknall Torkard, and took a pious interest in the work of the five Priests who held the cure of the Church between 1540 and 1576, the year of his death.

To him the Church is indebted, so it is conjectured, for the gift of the Treble Bell, which was undoubtedly the Angelus Bell of Newstead Priory. It bears upon it the inscription &ldquoAve Maria.&rdquo

His fourth son, of the same name, succeeded him, and his interest in the Church is evidenced by the fact that he was the founder of the Byron Charity on February 1, 1571, by which the Church, and the poor, have during the last 360 years benefited considerably. The original bequest was that of a close of about 21 acres called &ldquoBroomhill.&rdquo Whilst his father was alive he probably lived at Bulwell Wood Hall. His wife was the daughter of Sir Nicholas Strelleye. In 1579 he was knighted by Elizabeth.

Upon his death in 1609, Newstead Priory passed into the hands of his son, another Sir John Byron, who was knighted at the Coronation of King James I. His wife was Anne, eldest daughter of Sir Richard Molyneux, Bart., by whom he had eleven sons and one daughter. He died in 1625.

The Altar monument of the first Sir John Byron. 1576. The canopied monument of the Second Sir John Byron. 1609. The mural monument of the third Sir John Byron. 1625.

These three Sir John Byrons were buried in Colwick Church. Their monuments have recently been moved to Newstead Priory.

His successor was another Sir John, his eldest son, who was appointed Governor of the Tower. He took part in the battles of Edgehill and Marston Moor, where he fought side by side with three of his brothers. For his services he was created Baron of Rochdale in 1643. After this he was made Field Marshal of His Majesty&rsquos Forces in Worcestershire, Shropshire, Cheshire, and North Wales. He held Chester against Cromwell, whom he so impressed that he and his forces were allowed to leave the Town under arms. Still further confidence was reposed in him by King Charles I., who appointed him Governor to the Duke of York, afterwards James the Second, with whom he fled to Holland when the King became a prisoner in the Isle of Wight. He died in Paris in 1652.

The Byron Vault in Hucknall Torkard Church was built by him, and his wife, Lady Cicile Byron, was the first to be buried within it. In the Church Register we have the following entry: &mdash

Burialls 1638
Cicile ladie Byron was buried the XXth February.

Although it has been stated that he himself was buried in the vault, there is no evidence of this in the Church Registers.

During the troublous times in which he lived, the Tenor Bell was placed in the Tower of Hucknall Torkard Church. We may assume that this Bell was his gift as the Lord of the Manor. It was cast in George Oldfield&rsquos foundry, Nottingham, in 1639, and for three centuries it has rung out the prayer inscribed upon it, &ldquoGod save the Church.

Although he was married twice, he left no heir, and his title and estates went to his brother, Sir Richard Byron, who had been knighted by Charles I. after the battle of Edgehill. He is famous for his gallant defence of Newark.

Richard died in 1679. The Registers record his burial as follows: &mdash

Richard Lord Byron was buried the sixth day of October, 1679.


The tablet erected to the memory of Richard Byron,
the second Lord, 1679.

On the North Wall of the Sanctuary of the Church there is a tablet, erected to his memory, which makes reference to his faithful services to Charles I. He, &ldquowith his brothers, suffered much for their loyalty and lost all their present fortunes, yet it pleased God so to bless the honest endeavours of the said Richard, Lord Byron, that he repurchased part of their ancient inheritance, which he left to his posterity with a laudable memory for his great piety and charity.&rdquo

He was married twice, and both his wives are commemorated on the tablet. His first wife, Elizabeth Russell, died on the 22nd of March, 1657. The tablet states that she was buried in the Vault, but there is no entry of her burial in the Register.

Two of his daughters, Anne and Cicile, were buried in the vault. The entries of their burial appear in the Church Register as follows: &mdash

Buriallss 1640.
Anne Byron, daughter of Richard Biron, Esqre., of Newstead, buried the XIIth of Aprill.

Mistris Sicile Byron, ye daughter of Richard Byron, Esqre, buried the 5th of May (1641).

Other members of the family were buried in the Vault about this time.

Mr. Gilbard Byron was buried the 16th day of March, 1655.

He was at one time Governor of Rhuddlan Castle, and was taken prisoner at Willoughby.

Esquire Byrion (Transcript: William Byron) the sonne of Wm. byrion,
Esq., was buried the 13th of Aprill. (1664).


Mr. Byrion, Londoner, was buried the 15th of
August. Anno Domini 1664.
(Transcript: Thomas Byron, gent of London,
buried the 15th of August).

There are entries of the baptisms of two of Gilbard Byron&rsquos children: &mdash

Ales, daughter of Mr. Gilbard Byron, baptised xiiith April, 1652.
Luce, daughter of Mr. Gilbeard Byron, baptised xxxth October, 1654.

Richard Byron was succeeded by his eldest son, William, who married Elizabeth, the daughter of John, 2nd Viscount Chaworth, of Armagh (died 1644), and his wife Penelope Noel, daughter of Viscount Campden, and so &ldquowove the first link in a strange association of tragedy and romance.&rdquo The marriage took place in Papplewick Church, 1½ miles from Hucknall Torkard, on Oct. 18, 1661.

1661. William Byron, esqr., and Elizabeth Chaworth was married ye 18th day of October.

The Chalice given to the Church by the Honble. Elizabeth Byron. 1664. The Paten, given to the Church by the Honble. Elizabeth Byron. 1664.

Hucknall Torkard Church is indebted to Elizabeth for the gift of a very beautiful silver-gilt Chalice and Paten. The gift was made in 1664, before William, her husband, succeeded to the Peerage.

The Chalice is one of those characteristic English cups called &ldquoSteeple Cups,&rdquo not, as might be supposed, intended originally for sacred use, but for purely domestic purposes.

The title &ldquosteeple&rdquo is derived from the high obelisk, or pyramid, crowning the cover, inspired in its form by a conspicuous feature of Elizabethan and Jacobean architecture, and of the grandiose tombs of those periods in English Churches. No steeple cup would seem to have been made, or been known, earlier than the year. 1599&mdash 1600. Two of this date were given some years later, from the family plate of pious donors, to Charing Church in Kent, and to Buckland Church in Devon.

Most of these cups were made by London Goldsmiths between the years of 1604 and 1615. Many such cups have been given as &ldquoLoving Cups&rdquo to Colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, and to City Companies and Corporations.

A notable instance is the Steeple Cup at St. Ives., in Cornwall, the gift of Sir Francis Bassett, M.P., and appropriately inscribed: &mdash

If any discord &rsquotwixt my friends arise
Within the Borough of beloved St. Ives,
It is desyred that this my cuppe of love
To everie one a peace maker may prove.

The body of the Byron cup of Hucknall Torkard is decorated, appropriately enough for a loving cup, with vines embossed on a matted ground and chased with conventional flat acanthus foliage. In other respects it follows the more common features of these cups, in the short baluster stem supported by three cast scroll brackets with bird-head terminals, a high bell-shaped foot chased with acanthus foliage and with flat straps and scales. Embossed on the cover are vines on a matted ground, as on the body, and engraved on the cover is this inscription :

This cup was given to the Church of Hucknall Torkerd by the honorable Elizabeth Byron, anno 1664.

It is engraved with these arms:

* * * three bendlets . . . . with a label of three points, for Byron, impaling, Quarterly, 1-4, . . . . two chevrons gules 2-3, . . . . barry of ten argent and vert (gules) three martlets . . . . for Chaworth.

Unfortunately, the cup has lost that conspicuous feature, its &ldquosteeple.&rdquo The total height at present is 14 inches. The cup bears the London hall-mark for 1608-9 and the cover that for 1609-10.

The second piece, also of domestic origin, is a plain silver-gilt salver with a curved edge on a short trumpetshaped foot. It is engraved with the same arms as the cup within the scrolled feathers characteristic of heraldic decoration of the time of Charles II. and with the following inscription:

This plate and cup was given to ye Church of Hucknall Torkerd by ye honble Elizabeth Byron daughter of ye Right honble Lord Viscount Chaworth anno: 1664.

The first engraver had omitted &ldquoTorkerd&rdquo from the inscription, and it was added later by another hand.

The diameter is 10½ inches and the height 2 inches.

Stamped upon it is the London hall-mark for 1663-4 with the maker&rsquos mark of RA, and a rose below, in a heart-shaped punch. The maker&rsquos name cannot, unfortunately, be identified because of the loss of the makers&rsquo marks in a fire at Goldsmith Hall in 1681.

Elizabeth, the donor, died in 1683, and her burial is recorded in the Church Registers as follows: &mdash

Elizabeth, wife of the Right Honble. William Lord Byron, was buried June the twentieth, 1683.

Her husband died twelve years later.

The right Honorable Wm. Lord Byron was buried the 16 of November, 1685.

There is a record of his death in the Church Register of the neighbouring Parish of Lynby: &mdash

&ldquoLord Byron died November 13, about halfe an &ldquohour after nine of ye clock at night, and was laid &ldquoin ye Vault at Hucknall Torkard ye 16th day &ldquoabout 8 of ye clock at night.&rdquo


An Archetype For Count Dracula

During his summer with the Shelleys at Lake Geneva in 1816, Byron suggested the group spend a rainy afternoon writing ghost stories. Mary Shelly wrote what became Frankenstein and Byron’s doctor William Polidori wrote ‘The Vampyre’, the story that inspired future interpretations from Dracula to Twilight. This vampire story was read all over Europe and based on a literary idea by Byron himself (the story was first published under Byron’s name originally explaining the great interest). The type of vampire in the story was wholly new. Previously the vampires in European folklore were peasants and villager spectres, dirty with talon-like fingernails as seen in Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu.

By contrast, Polidori’s vampire is rich, aristocratic and weighed down by ennui — much like Byron himself. The vampire is called Lord Ruthren, a name that can be linked back to Byron, as one of his former lovers Lady Caroline Lamb created a villain called Lord Ruthren Glenarvon, incidentally written as revenge against Byron. Lord Ruthren has cold grey eyes, it is impossible to know what he is thinking and he mixes with the cream of high society. He is liked, but is a secret predator eager to lead the virtuous astray with his charms — traits which are familiarly Byronic.


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