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A Guardian best history book of 2016 Eccentric, shy aristocrat ... or mad, bad and dangerous to kw? Neighbour Jane Austen found the 3rd earl of Portsmouth a model gentlemen and Lord Byron maintained that, while the man was a fool, he was certainly madman. Behind closed doors, though, Portsmouth delighted in pinching his servants so that they screamed, asked dairy-maids to bleed him with lancets and was obsessed with attending funerals, matter how tenuous his ties to the departed. After he'd lived this way for years, in 1823 his own family set out to have him declared insane. Still reeling from the madness of King George, society could t tear itself away from what would become the longest, costliest and most controversial insanity trial in British history.
Elizabeth Foyster is a Fellow and Senior College Lecturer at Clare College, Cambridge. She explores the sort of subjects that are often left out of the history books - childhood, married life, sex, relationships with siblings and parents, masculinity, old age and widowhood. She lives in Barnet, North London.