Lady Caroline Lamb (1972)



Director:     Robert Bolt. 

Cast:     Sarah Miles (Lady Caroline Lamb), Jon Finch (William Lamb), Richard Chamberlain (Lord Byron), John Mills (Canning), Margaret Leighton (Lady Melbourne), Pamela Brown (Lady Bessborough), Silvia Monti (Miss Millbanke), Ralph Richardson (King George IV), Laurence Olivier (Duke of Wellington), Caterina Boratto, Peter Bull (Minister), Charles Carson (Potter), Sonia Dresdel (Lady Pont), Nicholas Field (St. John), Felicity Gibson (Girl in Blue).

novelist famous for a tempestuous affair with Lord Byron in 1812


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

Caroline rides her horse back to the castle.  She tells her mother:  "He has proposed."  She takes a pen and paper and writes a quick letter saying "yes" to the marriage proposal. 

William Lamb talks with his mother Lady Melbourne.  Speaking of Caroline, mother tells William that her mother was the most notorious trollop of her time.  William objects by saying that mother was the mistress of two men, Lord Egremont and the Prince of Wales. (He forgot Lord Barkley.)  Mom responds by saying that she was at least discreet, whereas everyone knew about the scandals caused by Caroline's mother.  She says that Caroline is capricious, conceited and romantic to the point of insanity.  None of this discourages William.  Mom then warns her son that Caroline will end up making him feel very wretched. 

For the honeymoon William and Caroline go to Italy.  Her behavior is a bit scandalous.  She has lots of male admirers around her and she steals all their shoes.  She then throws them back to them from her carriage.  One fellow says:  "I shall die of love."  She responds:  "Well, do."  After the party William admits that she does embarrass him a little.  On the way home, she has the carriage stop so she can visit the Roman Coliseum at night.  She calls a group of poor beggars in to the Coliseum.  William has some money thrown to them.  But Caroline gets a fellow killed because she throws her expensive diamond bracelet up in the air.  The other beggars chase, catch and then kill the young man who catches the bracelet. 

Back in England, William makes a speech in Parliament, which earns him some praise. 

Lady Caroline is with another woman and two men.  They stop to watch the boxing matches.  Lord Byron is there and he challenges the winner of a boxing match, a man much bigger than the young man.  The heavier boxer knocks Lord Byron down twice, but then Lord Byron starts fighting dirty and wins. The crowd boos him.  But Caroline seems very impressed by him.  She speaks with him.  He tells her that he was most recently in Turkey.  He adds that here he was actually fighting for his supper.  Caroline says:  "I'll buy your supper tonight."  Lord Byron accepts.  When they enter the restaurant, it suddenly gets quiet.  Lord Byron says:  "You are very well known here."  After dinner he invites her over to his place and she accepts.  He shows her the skull of his friend who was beheaded in Turkey.  Caroline picks up some of his poetry and starts to read it.  When he sees her, he grabs the poetry from her hands.  He tells her that material took him two years to write.  Lord Byron then says "Go home to your husband." 

Back at home, Caroline asks her husband if he knows Lord Byron.  Actually word has already arrived about her going over to Lord Byron's place.  He is upset that she went to "his rooms".  She tells William that she does not feel that he loves her.  He responds by saying that perhaps it is she that does not love him.  This remark gets a big reaction from her (but we don't really know if it was because the remark was not true or too true). 

Lord Byron is published.  He sells 10,000 copies within a week.  His publishers want to make another contract to publish another 50,000 copies or so.  But this time Lord Byron wants 33% percent of the profit.  The publishers agree to his terms.  In his fan mail, women fawn over him and make sexual innuendos.  In the mail he also receives an invitation to a grand ball.  He makes a grand entrance and the women rush over to meet him.  In fact, he becomes surrounded by women.  Caroline is there also and is surrounded by a group of male admirers.  Lord Byron sees her and walks over to her.  She turns away from.  The men start laughing at the great poet.  Not discouraged, Lord Byron follows Caroline.  She tells him to go back but he keeps coming.  She tells him:  "That was not well-done.  We have made a scandal."  She then tells him that she has read his poetry and finds him so fearless that she is frightened by him.  He responds:  "That is irresistible."   They leave the party after everyone else is gone.  (After they leave, even the servants start laughing and gossiping about the couple.)

Caroline tells William that she loves Lord Byron.  William starts criticizing Lord Byron and his poetry.  He calls it garbage and throws the poetry book into the fire.  William asks her:  "Do you intend to be discreet?"  She walks out on him.  Later Caroline attends one of Lord Byron's poetry readings.  He is surrounded by women but he breaks away from them to come to Caroline, who has tears in her eyes. 

William is definitely not happy about his wife's behavior.  She has created a big scandal.  His mother asks him:  "Are you perhaps not behaving too well?" 

At a huge costume party, Lord Byron comes in as some sultan with Caroline following behind him as a black slave in black face and black upper body paint with just some gold coins covering the top half of her breasts.  It is quite scandalous.  Caroline carries a long pole with a bunch of feathers at the end used to fan the sultan.  The pole proves too heavy for her and she nearly drops it several times.  This all makes Lord Byron very peeved with her. 

Lady Melbourne gets herself introduced to Lord Byron.  She then introduces him to her niece, the beautiful and rich Miss Milbank.  Lord Byron is very taken by her.  Lady Melbourne is happy.  When Caroline comes out bringing a tray with drinks on it and sees Lord Byron with Miss Milbank, she throws the tray up into the air and the pan and glasses come down crashing to the floor.  She then leaves the party.  Back at home, William and his mother talk about the newest scandal.  She tells him:  "She's drawn quite helplessly to anyone occupying center stage." 

Caroline speaks with Lord Byron and tells him:  "Christ, you are cruel."  He wants to take Miss Milbank to the Wellington dinner, not her.  He tells Caroline that he has no heart.  She says he has a vulgar heart and he hits her for this remark.  Caroline then goes home and tries to find her invitation to the Wellington dinner.  William informs her that they were not invited to the Wellington dinner. 

Miss Milbank and Lord Byron take a carriage ride to the Wellington dinner.  He has four boys run with torches alongside the carriage.  To his surprise, Lord Byron discovers that Caroline has taken the place of one of his runners.  When they arrive at their destination, Lord Byron wants to know from Caroline what she is doing.  She tells him that she loves him.  He responds:  "Neither you nor I know what love is. . . . You are ridiculous."  While the others dine, Lady Caroline stays out in the rain hunched against a wall.  But later Caroline enters the house.  She searches for Lord Bryon and finds him with the women.  She makes a scene by cutting her left arm and forearm.  Blood starts shooting on the gowns of some of the ladies.  Panic sets in.  The men come to the rescue by subduing Caroline and taking her out of the room. 

The King of England, King George IV, speaks with William about his wife.  He asks:  "What are we going to do about your wife, sir?"  William tells him that she has much changed.  She has not even spoken for three months.  The King says that William's mother says that he should separate from Caroline.  The woman is beyond the pale.  The hubby then retorts with an insulting remark referring to the intimate relationship between his mother and the King.  The King excuses himself.  He is not at all happy with William. 

Back at home William tells his mother that the whole thing is just unfair.  He adds:  "I do believe she is quite broken."  But mom says that he must chose between his wife or his political career.  A woman who has created such a public scandal(s) is not acceptable as a political wife. 

Caroline is a depressed mess.  She refuses to eat.  William gets exasperated with her and says that she had her dagger scene followed by the mad scene.  He adds:  "If you persist, you will die.  You are killing yourself."   Caroline finally speaks again.  She says:  "I have been too ashamed to speak."  She and William hug.  Mom comes in at this time and is very disappointed at what she sees.  She leaves after Caroline asks William if he means to leave her and William answers "no". 

Caroline is fairly happy now, but mom wants to put a stop to that.  She tells her that William was offered Ireland.  Caroline can only let her husband be happy if she separates from him.  The wife responds that she will go see the king to help William.  Mom says:  "You have no friends, no influence. . . . A statesman cannot have a notorious wife."  Caroline rushes out.  She gets on her horse and madly rides away.  William and his mother learn later that she took the coach to Dover in order to go to Paris to see the Duke of Wellington. 

The Duke of Wellington invites her in.  Everyone is talking about her.  He asks her what does she want of him.  She says "supper".  O.k., it's one guest for supper.  The next scene is of the Duke of Wellington getting up in the morning with Caroline in his bed.  He wants her to go, but she resists leaving.  He finally tells her that if she wants to please her hubby, then she should leave him.  The Duke finally has to tell his servants:  "Get that woman out of here." 

Caroline returns home.  She asks the servants to bring Lady Melbourne and Mr. Potter to her.  Mr. Potter arrives first.  Caroline asks him to draw up a legal separation from her husband.  Mr. Potter is shocked by the request.  Lady Melbourne arrives and is hit with the surprise.  She says:  "Caroline, I must thank you for this."  Caroline only asks if William could write to her from Dublin.  But Caroline looks so depressed that her mother-in-law becomes worried about her mental condition.  She makes excuses to stay with Caroline.  But Caroline starts going crazy.  She starts throwing items at her mother-in-law in order to force her out of the room.  The servants have to come in and subdue her.  Has she gone mad? 

Later Caroline walks out of the house and down to a large gazebo.  There she faints away.  She is dead.  One of the servants tells Lady Melbourne that Caroline died of a broken heart.  Lady Melbourne says:  "By God, wouldn't she?"


Good movie.   Both my wife and I liked it.  Lady Caroline was indeed quite scandalous.  Personally, I believe she suffered from several mental illnesses. When a person acts so irrationally, irrational enough to destroy themselves and their family, there is usually a mental disorder involved.  For instance, she could have suffered from a bipolar disorder.  Her outrageous behavior seemed to be induced by manic stages.  In these manic stages, she would easily become out of control.  Afterwards, she is in a down stage and tells her husband things like she feels he does not really love her.  When a person continues behavior that they know is irrational and bad for them, but cannot stop this behavior, it's time to seek professional help.  Now a days she could be treated with lithium and even better drugs.  But Caroline lived in the early 19th century, not the 21st. 

Sarah Miles as Lady Caroline Lamb did a very good job.  And she looked sexy in her costume outfit as a black slave.  We both thought that Richard Chamberlain looked just horrible as Lord Byron.  At times he looked like a drugged-out homosexual.  (Actually in real live Richard is gay, but he didn't look gay in his other roles.  Here he does and that's not good.)  But Chamberlain did make us despise him, and that's good.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


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