1805       Thomas Sheridan marries Caroline Henrietta Callander.

1806       Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the eldest son, is born into a grand but impoverished family.

1807       Helena Sheridan, the eldest daughter, is born.

1808       Caroline Sheridan is born in London on 22 March.

1809       The Drury Lane Theatre is destroyed by fire, and with it the greater part of Caroline's father's income and her grandfather's possessions.

1813        Caroline's father, Tom Sheridan, is appointed, through the influence of his father's old friend, the Duke of York, to a colonial secretaryship at the Cape of Good Hope. He leaves England together with his wife and elder daughter Helen, hoping to improve his health. Richard Brinsley, Caroline, Jane Georgiana and Richard are left in the care of two unmarried aunts, Georgiana and Fanny, at Ardkinglas, their mother's home, on the shore of Loch Fyne, Argyllshire, Scotland.

1817        Caroline's father dies of tuberculosis in South Africa. Henrietta Sheridan returns to England with Helen and two boys, Frank and Charles, born at the Cape. Together with Caroline, Georgiana and Richard (the eldest brother) they all move into a “grace and favour” residence in Hampton Court.

1823        Caroline is sent to school in Surrey. She meets George Norton, Esq., at Wonersh Park, the home of his elder brother, Lord Grantley. George becomes infatuated and proposes marriage, but is told that he must wait three years until she reaches maturity.

1825       Caroline returns home from school.

1826        Caroline's eldest sister, Helen, marries Captain Price Blackwood. George Norton is elected member of Parliament for Guildford.

1827        At age 19, Caroline marries George Chapple Norton, aged 26, at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, London, on 30 July.

1829       Caroline's first son, Fletcher, is born. Publishes The Sorrows of Rosalie. A Tale with Other Poems.

1830        George Norton loses his seat in Parliament as Tory for Guildford. Caroline publishes The Undying One and Other Poems.

1831        Caroline is presented at King William IV's Court. Her splendid beauty makes a sensation. She begins an intimate friendship with Lord Melbourne, the Whig Home Secretary. At Caroline's request Melbourne arranges for her husband to be appointed as a magistrate in the Lambeth Division of the Metropolitan Police Courts, with a salary of L1,000 a year. Caroline's second son, Thomas Brinsley is born.

1832        Caroline becomes editor of La Belle Assemblée. She supports the Reform Act of 1832 by sending letters to members of Parliament.

1833       The third son, William, is born.

1834       Caroline becomes editor of the English Annual.

1835        A number of articles appear in the press suggesting that the Whig Prime Minister Lord Melbourne is having an affair with Caroline Norton. Caroline publishes her first novel, The Wife and Woman's Reward, and The Coquette and Other Tales and Sketches, in Prose and Verse.

1836        George Norton leaves his wife taking their sons with him and begins a criminal proceeding against his wife accusing her of adultery with Lord Melbourne. Caroline moves to 16 Green Street, London, to live with her uncle, Charles Sheridan. Publishes anonymously.A Voice From the Factories. In Serious Verse, a long social problem poem.

1838        George Norton takes his sons to Scotland so that Caroline cannot have access to them. Caroline publishes a polemical pamphlet for private circulation, Separation of Mother and Child by the Laws of Custody of Infants Considered.

1839        Caroline publishes A Plain Letter to the Lord Chancellor on the Infant Custody Bill. The Custody of Infants Act, which is passed thanks to Caroline Norton's reformist pamphlet, allows mothers with “ unblemished characters” to have access to and custody of their children under the age of seven if they are divorced or separated from their husbands. Caroline travels to Italy with her sister Helen, her brother-in-law Lord Dufferin, and her uncle Charles.

1840        The Dreams and Other Poems published.

1841        Caroline is allowed to see her three sons for a week at Christmas. Has a relationship with a prominent Conservative politician, Sidney Herbert, which ends in 1845, when he gets married.

1842        Death of Caroline Norton’s youngest son, William, from complications following a riding accident

1843        Charles Brinsley Sheridan, Thomas's brother, dies and leaves his real estate to Caroline Henrietta Sheridan. He also leaves residue of his estate to Thomas's children.

1845         Caroline Norton lives alone at 3 Chesterfield Street, London, where she continues to entertain guests and is engrossed in literary work. She publishes The Child of the Islands addressed to the infant Prince of Wales.

1847       Publication of Aunt Carry’s Ballads for Children.

1848        George Norton and Caroline Norton finally sign a separation agreement. Lord Melbourne dies. In his last will he stipulates that Caroline shall receive an allowance of 200 pounds a year from his estate. Letters to the Mob, an anti-Chartist pamphlet published.

1849        Caroline Norton joins her son Fletcher in Lisbon, Portugal, who stays there for his health.

1851        Mrs Sheridan dies leaving her daughter 480 pounds yearly as a separate estate. Caroline Norton publishes an autobiographical novel, Stuart of Dunleath: A Story of Modern Times.

1854        Publishes a pamphlet English Laws for Women in the Nineteenth Century, which criticises the laws governing married women's property rights. Goes to Italy for her the wedding of her son Brinsley and Maria Chiara Elisa Federigo, a young Italian lady.

1855        Caroline leaves Italy for Paris and next Ireland. Publishes A Letter to the Queen on Lord Chancellor Cranworth’s Marriage and Divorce Bill.

1857        Publishes A Review of the Divorce Bill of 1856, with propositions for an amendment of the laws affecting married persons. Caroline Norton is influential in the passing of the Marriage and Divorce Act of 1857, which allows divorce, but only in limited instances: it permits men to divorce on grounds of adultery, but not women.

1859        Caroline goes to Edinburgh for the celebration of the centenary of the birth of Robert Burns. Her eldest son, Fletcher dies of tuberculosis in Paris.

1862        Writes her best poem The Lady of La Garaye.

1863        Publishes the novel Lost and Saved.

1867        Caroline's elder sister Helen dies. Publishes the novel Old Sir Douglas.

1870        Caroline Norton is influential in passing The Married Women's Property Act of 1870, which allows for women to keep their earnings and even inherit personal property and money.

1875        George Norton dies and Caroline is legally free to remarry, but she becomes seriously ill and is confined to a wheelchair in her home in Chesterfield Street for eighteen months.

1877        Caroline, aged 69, marries her old friend, Sir William Stirling Maxwell, a Scottish historical writer and politician, in March but dies at her new London home, 10 Upper Grosvenor Street, on 15 June.

1882       Passage of the Married Woman’s Property Act, which Caroline Norton strongly promoted.

1883        Passage of the Custody Acts, which allowed for women to be awarded custody of children up to the age of 16.

References

Perkins, Jane Grey. The Life of Mrs. Norton. London: John Murray,1909.

Shatock, Joanne, ed. The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature

. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.


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Last modified 2 February 2013