Screen rights for award-winning author Antonia Fraser’s latest biography The Case of the Married Woman have been optioned by Sharon Stirling.
Released in May 2021 to critical acclaim, The Case of the Married Woman charts the extraordinary life of Caroline Norton, celebrated beauty, wit, and author who found herself at the centre of one of the most scandalous court cases of the 19th Century.
“Caroline Norton was a family relation of mine, so I’ve known her story for a while, but it wasn’t until I read Antonia’s engrossing and stunning biography that I understood just what Caroline was up against and how she forever changed the way that women were viewed. With everything that has happened in the last few years, her story must resonate with a modern audience – Think Bridgerton meets A Very English Scandal. It’s a drama I – and surely others – would want to see!” – Sharon Stirling
The year is 1836, and a ravishing young Caroline Norton, granddaughter of playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and an author in her own right, is suspected of having an affair with Prime Minister Lord Melbourne. Her husband, George Norton, sues the Prime Minister for Criminal Conversation (adultery) leading to a farcical trial which captures the attention of one Charles Dickens – so much so that he subsequently writes it into “The Pickwick Papers”. George loses, but out of spite takes away Caroline’s children and bars her from seeing them. He then throws Caroline out of their house and continues living off her copyrights and earnings as a writer, which he legally owns. As a married woman Caroline has no legal status except through her husband, so the courts will not help her.
Rather than succumb to the unfairness of it all, Caroline harnesses her talents as a writer, her powers of persuasion, and her estimable address book to lobby members of Parliament to change the law. Eventually, after many struggles and difficulties, an all-male Parliament decides to grant married women rights to their children. This ground-breaking legislation heralds the first time married women are given any legal rights. Caroline continues to campaign, forever changing the lives of women and the fabric of society.
This is the true story of a most courageous young woman. Set in the context of a country in moral and political flux with a young, underrated Queen Victoria on the throne, famous politicians, intellectuals, and artists all play roles against the backdrop of lavish parties, country houses, courtrooms, and the Houses of Parliament. But mostly, The Case of the Married Woman charts a brave and passionate woman who refuses to be constrained by the societal and political rules of her time.
“Caroline Norton is an inspiring woman whose story deserves to be told to audiences on the widest possible stage. Her views and boldness were at the time radical, and I’m delighted that her lasting legacy could be given a chance to endure on the screen. Caroline was a heroine for her times. Caroline is a heroine for our times.” – Antonia Fraser