A hundred years ago May 30, 1917 Archives

Mrs. Besant’s husband

Annie Besant  

The Rev. Frank Besant, whose death was announced on April 25, was the husband of Mrs. Annie Besant.

He remained for 45 years vicar of the quiet agricultural village of Sibsey in Lincoinshire, while his wife pursued her career in great cities, across wide seas, fighting in law courts, addressing huge audiences, leading strikes, the one life all storm and stress, like the sea; the other as calm and placid as a lake.

A judicial separation.

Mrs. Besant married the Rev. Frank Besant in 1867, when they were both young.

The Rev. Frank Besant was not a sympathetic counsellor for a heretic wife, and it was obvious that such a position could not last. In 1873, a judicial separation was arranged, by the terms of which Mrs. Besant was to have the custody of her daughter Mabel and a small allowance from her husband.

She came to London to take up literary work, and, thanks to the help of the late Mr. Thomas Scott, was just able to maintain herself and her daughter. She subsequently met Mr. Charles Bradlaugh, and took a prominent part in his propaganda.

The High Court Proceedings.

This led the Rev. Frank Besant to take proceedings in 1878 for the custody of his daughter, on the ground that her mother’s heretical opinions would be “detrimental to the future prospects of the child in society, to say nothing of her eternal prospects.’’

Mrs. Besant appeared in person, and argued her case with great ability, but the Master of the Rolls (the late Sir George Jessel) who behaved with singular brutality, deprived her of the custody of the child, which had been solemnly given to her by the deed of separation.

When Miss Mabel Besant was 21, she at once returned to her mother, who had by that time become a Socialist and then a Theosophist.

The Rev. Frank Besant was 76, and his famous wife is nearly 70.


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