The Crawford Divorce Scandal of 1885

In today’s world, divorce is an unfortunate but common thing, where 40-50% of marriages in North American end in divorce every year (Doherty, 2014). There are many reasons why people get divorced in our culture, such as getting married at a young age, a premarital pregnancy, arguing, infidelity, unrealistic expectations or lack of equality in the relationships (Doherty, 2014). Nowadays divorce is an all too common thing, conversely during the 1800’s divorce was rare, hard to come by and frowned upon, especially for the rich, where it was a very scandalous and public affair. This is especially true for the Crawford divorce scandal of 1885. Crawford vs. Crawford and Dilike was among the first Victorian Divorce cases to involve a well-known politician. It attained scandalous and shocking status for its sexual details and its high-profile group of people, which quickly became a very public event being broadcasted in all of the newspapers of the time.

Mrs. Crawford Posing for a Picture
Mrs. Crawford Posing for a Picture

On Friday, February 12, 1886, Mr. Donald Crawford, M.P., petitioned for dissolution of his marriage on the grounds of adultery by his wife Virginia Crawford and Sir. Charles Wentworth Dilike, M.P. (The Ipswich Journal, 1886). There was a large amount of people that came to the case, the courtroom was overflowing with people and the rest waited outside the courthouse doors, anticipating the scandalous results of the case (The Ipswich Journal, 1886). Mr. Inderwick and Mr. Wright were the council for the petitioner; Mr. Lockwood and Mr. Thompson were representing the respondent and Attorney General Mr. Russell and Sir. Henry James were representing the co-respondent (The Ipswich Journal, 1886).

Mr. Inderwick opened the case and discussed the couple’s history, explaining when they got married, where they lived and that Mr. Crawford spent a lot of his time out on business in London (Glasgow Herald, 1886). He then discussed the subsequent years after their marriage where the petitioner received anonymous letters suggesting that his wife had been cheating on him. One letter said that his wife was “ruined” by Mr. Dilike and further letters said there had been other men in his house attending to his wife when he was away on business (The Ipswich Journal, 1886). After receiving the third letter, Mr. Crawford went up to his wife like he did after every letter, to ask her if any of it was true. This time, she admitted to her husband that she had been with Sir. Dilike, and that he began to pay attention to her shortly after their marriage began (Glasgow Herald, 1886). She told her husband that she would go over to Sir. Dilike’s house while he was away on business and do whatever he would like (Glasgow Herald, 1886).

Sir. Dilike
Sir. Dilike

After Mr. Inderwick’s explanation of the story, Mr. Crawford testified on the stand, reiterating the story his wife told him that night of her guiltiness. Mr. Crawford’s maid at the time also testified that she saw Mrs. Crawford leave one night in London and did not return until early the next morning (The Ipswich Journal, 1886). Mrs. Crawford did not speak at the trial, which left her with no defense but this was mainly done because her statement would have been good evidence against Sir. Dilike and everyone knew that it would be unjust to condemn a gentleman of his position to a statement of a person that was never put upon oath (Glasgow Herald, 1886). Mr. Russell concluded that there was no case against Mr. Dilike whatsoever and therefore there was no need to call him a witness to discuss his personal life. The Judge thereupon granted the divorce to Mr. Crawford and declared the decree of nisi (a court order that does not have any force), and dismissed the case against Sir. Dilike with costs, but no specific amounts were ever mentioned (The Ipswich Journal, 1886).