The scandalous lives of Lord Byron’s relatives have been exposed in a new book – including a great-uncle dubbed the ‘Wicked Lord’ who killed a cousin and abducted an actress.
The poet, who was dubbed ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ by his lover Lady Caroline Lamb in 1812, is well known for his own outrageous affairs.
Throughout his lifetime, rumours surfaced of an incestuous affair with his half-sister Augusta Leigh, who then gave birth to a daughter some believed to be his own.
He went on to die a national hero in Greece after the First and Second Seige of Missolonghi in 1824 amid the nation’s war of independence against the Ottoman Empire.
The poet Lord Byron (pictured), who was dubbed ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ by his lover Lady Caroline Lamb in 1812, is well known for his own outrageous affairs
But as historian Emily Brand reveals in her upcoming biography The Fall of the House of Byron, Lord Byron’s family were just as scandalous as their best-known ancestor.
She told the Times the 18th century members of the family had been ‘absolutely eclipsed by their notorious descendant’ and she hoped ‘to restore their own voices to them’.
Lord Byron’s controversial great uncle William, 5th Baron Byron, was dubbed the ‘Wicked Lord’ after he murdered his cousin and abducted a teenage actress.
Newly uncovered military records also show how William resigned from the cavalry regiment weeks before the Battle of Culloden in 1746 – which became the final confrontation of Charles Stuart’s Jacobite Rising.
William Byron (left) pursued an affair with teenage actress George Ann Bellamy (right) who refused his advances
Pictured: Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire, the aristocratic home of the Byron family
He is said to have told his commanding officers that he was ‘by the present Situation of my private Affairs, absolutely obliged to be from the Army.’
Though charged with cowardice, his resignation from the military allowed William time to begin courting a rich heiress, Miss Shaw.
But he soon became distracted by Irish actress George Ann Bellamy, who took leading roles at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and starred in a production of Romeo and Juliet in 1750.
The teenager, who was born in Fingal, Ireland in 1731, refused William’s advances, saying she ‘would not listen to any proposals but marriage and a coach.’
It was said that William did not handle this rejection well and an ‘ignoble earl’ who associated with the Baron then pushed her into his coach and insisted she ‘had better consent to make his friend Lord Byron happy.’
Miss Bellamy still refused to accept his terms, and shortly afterwards William married the heiress, Miss Shaw.
John Byron (left) was forced to eat his dog after he was shipwrecked and Lord Byron’s great aunt Isabella (right) had a reputation as a cradle-snatcher
Two decades later, William again caused controversy when he murdered William Chaworth, who lived near to his family’s aristocratic home at Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire.
William was said to have stabbed the man with a sword after a drinking session at the Star and Garter in Pall Mall after a ‘snappy’ exchange about estate boundaries, Ms Brand wrote.
The Baron was believed to have declared ‘I suppose you took me for a coward, but by God I have as much courage as any man in England’ as Chaworth died.
His sister Isabella was also a rather controversial figure, and developed a reputation as a cradle-snatcher after she arrived in London to secretly marry Sir William Musgrave, 23, at the age of 38.
Lord Byron’s grandfather, the British Royal Navy officer John Byron, was also among those who gained notoriety throughout their lifetime. The Vice-Admiral, who was known as ‘Foulweather Jack’, was forced to eat his dog to survive after he was shipwrecked in Patagonia.
Letters uncovered by Ms Brand have suggested his son ‘Mad Jack’ – the father of the poet – had an incestuous affair with his sister Fanny; He declared ‘you are the only person I sincerely love’ and ‘I can find no Woman as handsome as you’.