Anne Horton: The Reason the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 was Passed

Anne Luttrell (1743-1808) was born in Marylebone, London to Simon Luttrell (1713-1787), a Member of Parliament, and Judith Maria Lawes (b.?-1798). Simon Luttrell was made Baron Irnham in 1768, then Viscount Carhampton in 1781, and then the first Earl of Carhampton in 1785.

Anne, Duchess of Cumberland and Strathearn by Sir Martin Archer Shee, c. 1795. Credit: Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Anne grew up in a world of wealth and privilege. Certain expectations were placed on her when it came to marriage. She had to marry someone just as titled, wealthy, and privileged as herself, if not even more so. She was considered a great beauty with her animated green eyes and dainty figure, which made it certain she was destined to fulfill said societal expectations. Unsurprisingly, it shocked society when the 22-year-old Anne did the exact opposite and married Christopher Horton (b.?-1768), a commoner. Their marriage lasted four years and a day before Christopher sadly passed away. 

While a widow, rumors swirled around Anne. She flirted with several men of the aristocracy and might have had sexual or romantic attachments to the Duke of Grafton and the Duke of Dorset. Rumors about her supposed looseness didn’t stop her from nabbing the attention of Prince Henry, the Duke of Cumberland (1745-1790). 

Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn by Thomas Gainsborough, c. 1773-1777. Credit: Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The royal family was aghast when Prince Henry declared his intentions to marry Anne. Her marriage to Christopher Horton leveled her as a commoner, her father was only a member of the Irish peerage, and she had a scandalous reputation due to her previous attachments. Despite his family being against the union, Prince Henry and Anne married on October 2, 1771. The Royal Marriages Act of 1772, which forbade any descendants of King George II (1683-1760) from marrying without the consent of the reigning monarch, was a direct consequence of their marriage. Their marriage remained valid, however, since it happened before the act was passed. 

Anne and Prince Henry set off on a Grand Tour of Europe. When they returned to England, they moved into York House, located on Pall Mall in London, and renamed it Cumberland House. Anne established a salon at their new residence, with her acting as its centerpiece and ornament with her beauty, wit, and charm. 

Anne, Duchess of Cumberland and Strathearn by Thomas Gainsborough, c. 1773-1777. Credit: Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

However, their time at Cumberland House didn’t last long. Prince Henry’s poor health had them move to Brighton in 1779. From there, they traveled through Europe again, not returning to England until 1786. Prince Henry died in 1790, leaving Anne a widow yet again. They had no children. 

Their finances had been poor in the later years of their marriage. Due to this, in 1800, Anne was forced to surrender Cumberland House to English banks for unpaid debts and mortgages. She died nearly a decade later in 1808. 


Anne Horton & Maria Walpole – The Royal Marriages Act 1772 by Moniek Bloks, History of Royal Women 

Anne Horton, the Scandalous Duchess of Cumberland and Strathearn by Catherine Curzon, article on the author’s personal website

Anne (née Luttrell), Duchess of Cumberland and Strathearn on National Portrait Gallery

The clandestine marriages of George III’s brothers…and the Royal Marriage Act of 1772 on History Jar

Regency Women of Character: The Duchess of Cumberland on Regency Reader

Why Was the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 Created? by Joanne Hayle, Owlcation

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