Beauty of Her Age : A Tale of Sex, Scandal and Money in Victorian England by Jennifer Roberts
Yolande Duvernay, the star of this tale, was born in poverty in Paris in 1812. Under the control of her stage mother, she became a celebrated ballerina - a star of the Paris Opera - becoming the favourite dancer of Princess Victoria. She was praised for her grace, her beauty and her provocative style on stage, known as the 'fair brimstone' by William Makepeace Thackeray.
There was a darker side to her success, however, as she became the mistress of powerful men, eventually being sold by her mother to Stephens Lyne Stephens, son and heir of the richest commoner in England, for almost a million pounds in today's values. A few years later, Yolande caused a huge scandal when she manipulated Stephens into marriage. When Stephens died in 1860, he left his widow a life interest in the entire Lyne Stephens fortune - one of the largest fortunes in England.
With an annual income of over two million pounds in today's money, Yolande became the wealthiest woman in the country - even richer, it was said, than Queen Victoria. While her husband's will was placed in the infamous Court of Chancery and lawyers began to pore over every word, she turned her attentions to the British Military Attache in Paris. With an eye on her fortune, General Claremont took charge of Yolande's financial affairs - and soon he and his wife were sharing her wealthy lifestyle in a menage a trois.
Jenifer Roberts unearths this extraordinary story of sex, scandal and money and proves that truth really can be stranger than fiction.