Monday, July 4, 2011

As Good as God, as Clever as the Devil: The Impossible Life of Mary Benson by

Rodney Bolt

As thunder rumbled in the skies above Canterbury Cathedral, and hailstones as big as eggs smashed against its ancient stained-glass windows, a demure old lady murmured a prayer in front of the newly-built monument in honour of her husband.

Three years had passed since the death of Archbishop Edward Benson, but at that memorial service on a stormy summer’s day in 1899 his wife Mary was still dressed in her black widow’s weeds. With her white hair and rotund figure, she bore a remarkable resemblance to Queen Victoria — but anyone with a less conventional private life it would be hard to imagine.

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