Arthur Shirley

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Arthur Shirley

by Unknown photographer
albumen print, 1860s
3 1/2 in. x 2 1/4 in. (88 mm x 56 mm) image size
Given by Bettina Harden, 2015
Photographs Collection
NPG Ax196683

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

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Events of 1860back to top

Current affairs

An early feminist movement, The Society for Promoting the Employment of Women is founded by Adelaide Anne Proctor, Emily Faithfull, Helen Blackburn, Bessie Parks, Emily Davies, Barbara Bodichon, and Jessie Boucherett.
The Florence Nightingale Training School for Nurses opens at St Thomas's Hospital, in London, funded from the testimonial fund collected for Nightingale following her war services, and helping to establish nursing as a profession.

Art and science

William Morris and new wife Jane Burden move into the Red House, near Bexleyheath, Kent. The house, designed by Philip Webb, represents Morris's principle in interior design, that no object should be in a house that is not beautiful.
Ford Madox Brown paints The Last of England, showing a boat of emigrants leaving England under desperate circumstances, inspired by the emigration of the Pre-Raphaelite Thomas Woolner to Australia in 1852.


Italian unification continues as the Treaty of Turin brings much of Northern Italy under nationalist leader Cavour's control, who cedes Savoy and Nice to France. Garibaldi siezes the opportunity to invade Marsala in Sicily with his army of 1,000 redshirts, proclaiming himself dictator in the name of Victor Emmanuel II.
Republican Abraham Lincoln becomes President of the US, with only 39% of the popular vote.

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Denise Bates

24 October 2018, 16:11

Major General Arthur Shirley
The resplendent whiskers and sartorial elegance of this well-connected mid-Victorian gentleman, give no hint of the depraved life he lived.
Arthur Shirley was born in 1813, the son of Evelyn John Shirley and Eliza Stanhope. Through his father, he was connected to Earl Ferrers, a member of the British aristocracy. Like others of a similar background, he was destined to be a commissioned officer in in the British army.
He was first commissioned in 1830 and gained rapid promotions; to Lieutenant in 1833, Captain in 1836, Major in 1846, and Lieutenant Colonel in 1847. After the Crimean War broke out he was promoted to Colonel in 1854, and then to Major General in 1855. He served in Canada from 1838-42 and in the Crimea from 1854-6, commanding the Cavalry Division of the Turkish forces.
At first as a member of society, and later as a man who became embroiled in scandals, Shirley’s life and character can be glimpsed through newspaper reports. In 1840, he married Christina Wardrop, daughter of James Wardrop, a leading doctor, who had been a personal surgeon of King George IV. For both parties it would have been a good match, but it was not a happy one. After their return from Canada in 1842, the couple attended society functions and race meetings, and Shirley was presented to Queen Victoria, but by the mid-1850s they no longer lived as man and wife. They had no children.
In 1859 Shirley was named as co-respondent in a divorce suit. In 1860, he was sued by his former housekeeper, a young woman, for assault and for infecting her with a loathsome disease in the three weeks that she worked for him. He successfully defended her claim.
He then recruited another young woman, Annie Thomas, as the replacement housekeeper. In 1862 Annie sued him for breach of promise to marry, after giving birth to his child. He successfully defended this claim too, branding her a liar and an extortioner. Public opinion was on Annie’s side and it appears that every time Shirley was taken to court, the establishment had closed ranks to protect one of its own.
The bad publicity that resulted from the breach of promise case severely damaged Shirley’s reputation and newspaper coverage became much more scathing. It did not spare the details when he was cited in another divorce case. A further scandal erupted in 1866 when a letter in The Times, alleged that Shirley had responded to an advertisement for work placed by a young governess. Remembering the Annie Thomas case, and recognising Shirley’s name, the girl’s guardian accompanied her to the interview and was in no doubt that Shirley was trying to lure a young girl into a life of vice.
One of Shirley’s enduring interests was horse racing and he owned several horses. In 1867, he was discovered to be the owner of a horse which won several races for two year olds. The horse was three years old and Shirley claimed that he had been duped about its age when he bought it. The Jockey Club, racing’s governing body banned him from the sport for fraud, considering that an experienced racing man would have known how old the horse really was.
A few months later, Shirley resigned his commission in the Guards and disappeared from society. Possibly he went to live abroad as he had property in Belgium. He died in January 1877, apparently unmourned. His widow died in 1897.

Arthur Shirley was the brother-in-law of James John Marjoribanks Wardrop, who is included in this collection as A 196664.
Wardrop became a surgeon in the 7th Hussars and subsequently in the Grenadier Guards. He served with this regiment in the Crimean War.

He also appears to have been a wealthy man who was not dependant on his army pay.

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