Constance Wilde (January 2 1859 – April 7, 1898) seen here with her son, Cyril
Constance Lloyd was no shy retiring flower. She had a good education, later writing children's stories, painting, and studying poetry. Her interests also extended to fashion, leading to an involvement in the Rational Dress movement.
When she became engaged to Oscar Wilde she declared herself insanely happy, but little did she realise the heartbreak and shame he would bring to her. Even so, early on in their relationship there is every reason to believe that Oscar was equally entranced. He personally designed her engagement ring, and once wrote her a letter with these intensely romantic lines –
‘I felt your fingers in my hair and your cheeks brushing mine. The air is full of the music of your voice, my soul and body seem no longer mine, but mingled with some exquisite ecstasy with yours.’
Constance's 'beloved Oscar'.
But time was soon to take its toll. Following the birth of two sons, Cyril and Vyvyan, Oscar became more interested in the company of younger men. He was intensely attracted to Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas, a vain and selfish young aristocrat whose testimony about their affair would lead to the older married man facing social ruin, with a two-year term of imprisonment on the charge of ‘gross indecency’.
Oscar with Lord Alfred Douglas
Constance and Oscar never divorced, though she did change her name to Holland and spent a great deal of time abroad, insisting that her husband give up all of his parental rights, with the shame of his 'crimes' being almost too much for her to bear. However, it was Constance who visited Oscar in gaol to tell him of his mother’s death. And it was Constance who offered financial support after his eventual release, when he then left England to live in exile on the Continent.
After a serious fall during time in their Chelsea home, Constance suffered a debilitating spinal injury, That, in conjunction with a probable cancer of the uterus, led to her travelling to Genoa in Italy where she underwent dangerous surgery. Genoa then went on to become Constance's final resting place, dying at the age of 39.
Oscar did not visit his dying wife.
If you would like to read more about Constance Wilde, a new book has recently come out – Constance: The Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde, written by Franny Moyle.
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