My father taught me how to play badminton when we lived in England, although I must admit the eight year-old me thought the game was called “badmitten.” I also didn’t know the name originated from Badminton House where the game was introduced at lawn parties during the 19th century.
I haven’t kept up with all the details of the recent Olympic badminton scandal. However there’s a reference to badminton in my Victorian era manuscript, Much Ado About Scandal, which made me curious about previous badminton scandals.
The Badminton Scandal of August 1895 didn’t involve the game of badminton, but the case originated with Mrs. Jacoby, who lived near Badminton. Newspapers from Australia to the United States reported the events of the three day trial. Some of the notoriety was caused by the large number of legal counsel including Sir Edmund Clarke, the lead counsel for Mrs. Jacoby. Sir Clarke had previously represented Oscar Wilde in his libel case and cross-examined the Prince of Wales in the Baccarat Case.
Mrs. Jacoby accused the Dowager Countess Cowley of slander and sued her for damages. According to Mrs. Jacoby, the dowager was jealous and wrote and shared horrible anonymous letters about her. As a result, Mrs. Jacoby and her husband were “cut” by other members of county society. Many witnesses from various social classes swore that the dowager said that Mrs. Jacoby had written the letters.
Further testimony from Mrs. Jacoby resulted in warnings from the judge and the opposing counsel. Mr. Jacoby testified about a handwriting expert who examined the letters and advertisements for a reward to anyone who helped identify the letter writer. Mrs. Jacoby’s doctor testified about her medical condition, which Mrs. Jacoby blamed on the stress of the social “cut” and slander.
What was written in the letters? We’ll probably never know. Mrs. Jacoby said a Lord Worcester destroyed them, because he recognized the dowager’s handwriting. The opposing counsel did not present any testimony. At that point Sir Clarke attempted to submit a letter as evidence. The judge refused, but he offered to read the letter before rendering his decision the next morning. The decision never came, because the case was settled privately. For detailed excerpts of the testimony, click here.