The Virgin's Baby: The Battle of the Ampthill Succession

The Virgin's Baby: The Battle of the Ampthill Succession


By (author) Bevis Hillier

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  • Publisher: Hopcyn Press
  • Format: Hardback
  • Dimensions: 160mm x 240mm x 32mm | 630g
  • Publication date: 1 October 2013
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0957297769
  • ISBN 13: 9780957297760
  • Illustrations note: Illustrated.8 pages of black and white photographs. 4 pages coloured.
  • Sales rank: 296,042

Product description

In 1921 the Hon Mrs Christobel Russell, a famously spirited society beauty and the wife of the heir to Lord Ampthill, became pregnant while still a virgin, and gave birth to a son. Her virtue being challenged, she was medically examined by doctors and declared to be virgo intacta, despite her marriage. The resultant court case, in which the husband tried to repudiate paternity and sued for divorce, was eventually won by the lady. Meanwhile the entire nation had gorged for months on salacious speculations and sexual detail from the newspapers and the lawyers, all discussing the question of how she could have become pregnant. Queues of those seeking entry to the courts formed the length of the Strand, bets were laid, and King George V outraged. The private family photographs, letters and documents made available by the present Lord Ampthill to Bevis Hillier have enabled this distinguished and witty biographer to rekindle a never-forgotten scandal. The book includes accounts of contemporary court procedures, a comprehensive social survey of the temper of the age with regard to sex and marriage, and above all an historic phenomenon: the portrait of a woman who fascinated her generation.

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Author information

BEVIS HILLIER was educated at Reigate Grammar school followed by Oxford University, where he was Gladstone Prizeman at Magdalen College. He later joined The Times, became editor of The Connoisseur, editor of The Times Saturday Review, and a columnist on the Los Angeles Times. He is an authority on eighteenth-century English ceramics and the Art Deco and has written more than 30 books, including the very highly acclaimed official biography of the Poet Laureate, John Betjeman, published in 2004 in three volumes by John Murray. For some years he was the lead book reviewer of The Spectator, and is still a regular contributor.

Review quote

"Bevis Hillier is a most witty and eloquent writer. This book is about sex and high society in an art deco setting. It is, by turns, harrowing, hilarious. moving and altogether enthralling." - Sir Michael Holroyd "Bevis Hillier has done a brilliant job, and this book is both entertaining and definitive." - Jane Ridley, The Spectator "Bevis Hillier has manfully managed to overcome his own distress, and has made every effort to include all the juicy details that so upset the King. He also has a wonderful nose for the richly humorous aspects of the case, describing it, quite rightly, as 'a story of incredible accidents, ludicrous misunderstandings, amazing characters and wonderful repartee in the courts'." - Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday