Caroline Norton is still best known as the woman who stood up to the patriarchal Victorian society and fought for basic legal rights for married women in Britain. Norton was a passionate advocate for women’s rights. Her sad marriage led her to fight against unfair marriage laws. The Custody of Infants Act 1839, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857, and the Married Women’s Property Act 1870 were all passed because of her hard work. In a funny way, she couldn’t take advantage of the laws because her husband, George Norton, used legal tricks to get around them. Caroline Norton was a well-known feminist and social reformer, but she was also known for her writing. Writing began as a way for her to calm her mind, but it turned into a career in the end. She wrote in all types of writing, including poetry, prose, novels, stories, and reviews of other writers’ work. But her polemic pamphlets were the best part. They led to important changes in English law and inspired other women of her time to keep fighting for women’s rights.
Early years and childhood
Caroline Norton’s parents, Thomas Sheridan and Caroline Henrietta Callander had her on March 22, 1808. Her father was an actor, a soldier, and a colonel who ran things. Her mother was a writer. She had one older sister and one younger sister.
After her father died in 1817, the family was in a lot of financial trouble. With the help of Prince Frederick, who had known her grandfather for a long time, they were able to find shelter at Hampton Court Palace.
The young Caroline was very smart, funny, and talented. She went to a boarding school in Shalford, Surrey, in the year 1823. The next year, she met George Chappal Norton for the first time. He was a lazy lawyer and Lord Grantley’s younger brother.
He was so taken with how pretty young Caroline was that he asked her to marry him almost right away, but she said no. In 1825, she went home again.
Her Later Life
In 1825, Caroline and her sisters met some of the most important people in London. Even though she was beautiful, it was her intelligence that made her so popular.
At age 19, Norton, who had just been elected as a Member of Parliament and wanted to become a Tory, asked her out again. Even though she didn’t want to get married to him, she did so because her mother told her to.
She married George Norton at St. George’s Hanover Square in London on July 30, 1827. The marriage didn’t work out at all because she was very independent and he was very aggressive. He was a jealous, possessive husband who had violent outbursts often.
Norton’s failed career made him even angrier, and she was always the target of his anger. Still, she stood by him and used her charm and wit to make political connections that helped him move up in his career.
She turned to write, which not only helped her deal with her hard marriage but also gave her financial freedom and support. Her first book was called “The Sorrows of Rosalie: A Tale with Other Poems.” In it, she wrote a long poem about what happened to a woman who was seduced. People liked the book a lot.
She was happy with how well her first book did, so she decided to write for a living. In 1830, she wrote a poem called “The Undying Love” about a wandering Jew that was both romantic and well-liked. Norton lost his seat in Parliament the same year.
Norton was given the job of Metropolitan Police Magistrate in 1831. He got this job because Caroline had a strong relationship with Lord Melbourne.
She was given the job of editor of “La Belle Assemblee” and “Court Magazine” in 1831. She was also the editor of the English Annual for the next three years.
They were lucky to have three sons: Fletcher, Brinsley, and William. In 1835, they were about to have their fourth child, but Caroline lost the baby after Norton beat her up. So upset, she ran away from home and went to court to get a divorce and custody of her sons.
Norton said that Caroline and Lord Melbourne were having an affair, and he threatened to sue Lord Melbourne if he didn’t pay the money. Lord Melbourne refused to give in to his blackmail, which led to the most scandalous lawsuit in history. After nine days of trial, Norton’s claim was thrown out, and Lord Melbourne got a clean bill of health. However, Caroline’s reputation and friendships were ruined as a result.
When Caroline was trying to get a divorce, she found out that under English law, a married woman does not exist. She was taken care of by her husband, and she had no legal rights to her children. Norton stopped her from getting a divorce, but he also stopped her kids from seeing her. She also lost the money she was supposed to give to Norton by law.
After she and her husband broke up, she became known as a writer. She wrote a lot of prose, poetry, plays, literary criticism, and pamphlets. During this time, some of her best-known works were “Voice From Factories,” “The Wife and a Woman’s Reward,” “The Dreams and Other Poems,” and others.
She began working to change England’s unfair marriage, divorce, and child custody laws. She sent letters to important newspapers and put out several polemical pamphlets that insisted that the custody of children law needed to be changed. She also worked with several MPs to get a Bill passed that would let non-adulterous mothers appeal to the court of Chancery for custody of children younger than seven.
After a lot of work, the Bill that gave mothers the right to fight for custody of their children was finally passed by both Houses in August 1839. It then became a law. Ironically, she couldn’t use it because her children were stationed in Scotland, which is not governed by English law.
She wanted to change the divorce and property laws in England because she didn’t like how women were treated. She told shocking but true facts about the rights of married women in her two pamphlets. The Marriage and Divorce Act of 1857 was passed because of what she did.
After being involved in politics, Caroline calmed down a bit and became more interested in her writing career. Her later years were hard because she was sick and her oldest son, Fletcher, died young.
When her husband George Norton died in 1875, she was legally able to get married again. In March 1877, she married Sir William Stirling Maxwell. Maxwell, on the other hand, turned out to be a caring husband who helped her feel better.
Works of note
Caroline Norton’s best-known works are her polemical pamphlets, “Observations on the Natural Claim of a Mother to the Custody of her Children as Affected by the Common Law Right of the Father” and “Separation of Mother and Child by the Laws of Custody of Infants Considered,” which led to the creation of the Custody of Infants Act 1839, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857, and the Married Women’s Property
Death and History
Caroline Norton died at her home in London on June 15, 1877. She was buried at Lecropt church, near Keir, in the Stirling Maxwell vault.
Caroline Norton’s life has been used as a source of literary allusion by well-known Victorian writers.
Alfred Tennyson wrote a long poem called “The Princess” about her literary accomplishments. Charles Dickens made fun of the Melbourne scandal in his book “The Pickwick Papers.” “Diana of the Crossways,” a book written by George Meredith in 1885, is based on the sad life of Caroline Norton.
Estimated Net worth
Caroline is one of the wealthiest authors and is on the list of the most popular authors. Based on what we found on Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider, Caroline Norton has a net worth of about $1.5 million.
Caroline, like her two sisters, was a very pretty and charming person. So, they were often called “The Three Graces” by the most important people in London.