Lord Cardigan And The Black Bottle Incident

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A look at an incident involving a black bottle that ended up with Lord Cardigan being found not guilty of attempted murder.

When it comes to the social etiquette of a dinner table it is easy enough to make a simple mistake. Perhaps it could be just a case of using the wrong cutlery for the wrong course, but what's the worst that could happen? A couple of 'tuts' from those who know their table manners better than you.

Spare a thought then for the man arrested for placing a bottle of wine on a table instead of a decanter. Not only that, the whole incident ended in a trial in the House of Lords for attempted murder.

Our story takes us all the way back to 1840. Captain Reynolds was a junior officer in the 11th Hussars, the commander of which was the famously short-tempered Lord Cardigan (James Thomas Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan). On seeing Captain Reynolds place the bottle of wine directly on the table instead of in a decanter, Lord Cardigan flew in to a rage and had Captain Reynolds placed under military arrest.

 It was certainly an over-reaction on the part of Lord Cardigan, and when the incident reached the ears of journalist Captain Harvey Tuckett he grabbed his pen and wrote an article about the incident for the paper the Morning Chronicle. The article criticised the over-reaction of Lord Cardigan so much that it enraged Lord Cardigan even more, to the point that he challenged Captain Harvey Tuckett to a duel.

Once upon a time, dueling was seen as a 'gentlemanly' thing to do, but those days had long since passed. So when Lord Cardigan shot Captain Harvey Tuckett during the duel, wounding him, he found himself on trial in the House of Lords for attempted murder.

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The case was heard in 1841 but didn't even last the full day. Lord Cardigan was found not guilty but that was mainly due to a technicality, mainly that the name of Harvey Tuckett had been incorrectly entered on the charge sheet. 

Such an event led to the press discussing the age old thought about their being one rule for the rich and a different one for the poor. Yet Lord Cardigan did not come out of it in a good light and from that day forth he and his regiment were plagued by people whispering 'black bottle' wherever they went.

It certainly was not a good moment in life for the short-tempered Lord Cardigan, whose life did contain some interesting incidents apart. The knitted waistcoat type garment is named after Lord Cardigan! While on the subject of clothes, Lord Cardigan fought at the Battle of Balaclava! Lord Cardigan was also led the ill-fated charge of the Light Brigade. It is difficult to work out which of any of these incidents was more embarrassing at the end of the day!

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Posted on Nov 22, 2011