On the evening of July 15 1864, he accepted an invitation to join Henry and Florence in a box at Covent Garden for a performance of the opera ‘Faust’. It is said Harry spent the evening looking moody and expressionless.
The following morning, just a month before the wedding, Florence visited Marshall & Snelgrove’s fashionable store on Oxford Street, having told her father she needed to do some more shopping for her trousseau. Unusually for a lady of her class, she travelled alone. There is some dispute about what precisely happened next, and who met Florence and who she spoke to, but what is known is that within minutes of her entering the shop, she had left by another entrance and stepped straight into a waiting cab. She was immediately driven to nearby St George’s Church, where she married Harry, becoming the Marchioness of Hastings. Later that day, Florence wrote Henry a long letter, explaining her actions saying ‘…if I had married you, I should have rendered not only my life miserable, but your own also’.
Over the next three years, Henry’s rivalry with Harry Hastings intensified around their mutual interest in horse racing and it climaxed at the 1867 Derby and centred on the chances of Henry’s young colt, Hermit.