The woman who shocked society at Hatchlands Park

The Saloon at Hatchlands Park, Surrey

Beatie Holme-Sumner was a controversial figure, who upset her peers by wearing masculine dress and refusing to ride side-saddle. But that wasn’t all that she was famous for.

Celebrated beauty, Beatrice Holme-Sumner was born on 12 July 1862 at Hatchlands Park, her family tree sprinkled with royalty and other notable ancestors. A controversial figure known for her strong will and defiant nature, Beatie seemed born to shock society.

From socialite to scandal

In 1885 scandal broke. Beatie appeared in court with a man twice her age; he was married with five children. She and Charles Hoare, a banking heir, had been accused of breaking a court ruling forbidding them to have contact. They’d lived together for almost two years but Charles had first met Beatie years before.

As the scandal unfolded more details came to light. Beatie had been banished to live with relatives at remote Berkeley Castle after her father, Arthur Sumner, discovered that Charles had been found in her bedroom ‘in circumstances which he could not satisfactorily explain’. Undeterred, the couple continued to exchange letters. It was even rumoured that Beatie had staged a riding accident leading her to be bedridden, and therefore closer to Charles.

At the end of his tether, Arthur shockingly had Beatie declared a ward of court, the couple now legally bound against communicating. Arthur’s troubles continued as his debts mounted. Astonishingly, as a solution to their financial worries Mrs Sumner demanded £3,000 from Charles Hoare before leaving for Germany with Beatie and her Uncle Fitz. Unknown to Mrs Sumner, Fitz already owed money to Charles and ended up passing letters between the forbidden couple.

The fall...

In 1883 Beatie turned 21 and, no longer under court protection, moved in with Charles instantly. It was not to be happily ever after, the relationship crumbling when Charles heard about the contempt of court case being built against him. Fitz confessed his involvement alongside testimonies from servants who had been party to their secret meetings.

Beatie and Charles got off lightly, being ordered to pay court costs but the scandal caused shockwaves through polite society. Beatie’s parents fled to Malta, never to return. Uncle Fitz’s reputation lay in tatters and another uncle, Colonel Kingscote who’d brought the case to court, was forced to resign from parliament and withdrew from public life entirely.

...and rise

Happily, Beatie retained her spirit and independence and she went on to live an incredible life. She spent time aboard the naval training ship Mercury and eventually married cricketing superstar CB Fry, the pair becoming a society power couple to rival the Beckhams.