‘It destroys one’s whole peace of mind.’Over the next 12 years, she was almost continuously pregnant or recovering from childbirth — so found solace outside the marriage, developing crushes, or ‘swarmings’ as she called them, on a succession of women.
Describing the first stage of these infatuations as the ‘My God What A Woman! Some were unrequited while with others she enjoyed what she described as ‘a complete fusing’.
Their relationship lasted until 1882 when Edward became Archbishop of Canterbury.
Peppering her conversation with slang phrases such as ‘hang it’ and ‘awfully’, Ethel was a very modern young woman whose hobbies included the daring new pastime of cycling.Her dark flashing eyes captivated ‘Robin’, her pet name for Mary and the relationship quickly became physical.‘I love you so dear that not one whit less than all of you will I have,’ Mary confided in one letter.He was only slightly less tyrannical in private, prone to dark moods and frequent bad-tempered outbursts over Mary’s failings as a housewife.After one dispute, involving Edward’s ‘very strong remarks on the subject of the antimacassars’ she admitted in her diary that, while these furniture covers needed changing, it was ‘derailing’ to be spoken to in this way.His achievements there included introducing the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols —still a much-loved feature of Christmas celebrations today — but his wife had rather less spiritual concerns.