Cads in Fact and Fiction


You would think it was easy to identify a Cad, but it isn’t quite so straightforward.

It seems to me that cads and villains are very different creatures. Cads are posh. Cads have had all life’s advantages and use them for their own selfish ends.  Invariably, cads are dark haired, and above all, have a moustache.

Pr Felix Schwarzenberg
Prince Schwarzenberg by Moritz Daffinger 1838

This gentleman is the original Cad.  His name is Prince Felix Schwarzenberg and he was born into an aristocratic family in Bohemia.  After a short military spell he found the world of diplomacy more to his liking and served in Russia, France, Italy and England.  It was while he was in England that he met the young and neglected wife, Jane Digby, Lady Ellenbourgh.  They embarked on a scandalous affair that left Jane pregnant and decided her husband to divorce her.  Risking all, Jane followed her lover to France by which time he had grown disinterested and soon deserted her.  Fortunately she was made of strong enough stuff to find love elsewhere in a Bedouin tent!  The Prince’s escapades earned him the soubriquet Prince of Cadland.

Cadland, winner of the 1828 Derby

Cadland was a thoroughbred racehorse who snatched victory away from a fancied runner, Colonel, in the 1828 Derby.  Today the idea of the race strikes horror into horse lovers, for having completed the gruelling course, the result was declared a dead heat.  The owners were invited to share the spoils but Colonel’s owner refused and it was agreed to run the race again.  For a second time on the same afternoon the horses gave their all and Cadland snatched away the victory at the very last moment.  His success was compared to Prince Schwarzenberg stealing away the prize that was Jane, from her cousin and admirer George Anson who had appeared about to capture her heart.  From this less than creditable episode, the word Cad found its way into the English language.

Edward VII, King of England, Career Philanderer

One of my nominees would certainly be Edward VII.  His early escapades drove his parents to distraction and his mother, Queen Victoria, blamed him for the untimely death of his father, having very publicly consorted with a known prostitute, Nellie Clifton.  A quick marriage was arranged but it did nothing to “steady” him (his mother’s hopeful words). Apart from a routine life of bed hopping and wife swapping (other peoples wives, his own was above repute), he was partly instrumental in the incarceration of Harriet Mourdant into an insane asylum.

Lady Mourdant
Harriet, Lady Mourdant

Harriet was the young, foolish wife of Sir Charles Mourdant and having got herself pregnant, she decided to confess all to her husband.  Among her lovers she named Edward, then the Prince of Wales.  Sir Charles decided to formally complain and Edward found himself in hot water, being summoned to court to answer for the charges laid against him.  Of course, he denied them and politically as well as socially it was desirable that his name should be cleared.  It appears that another named lover, Lord Cole, was persuaded to acknowledge Harriet’s baby as his own, possibly following a generous pay out and thus taking the focus away from the Prince.

In fact, Edward had more than once visited Harriet at home and he even gave her a gift of two ponies. When her husband arrived unexpectedly to find the Prince visiting, he demanded that he leave and then shot the ponies in front of his wife.  Conveniently it was agreed that Harriet was mentally unstable which was why she had made up such monstrous lies and she was consigned to an institution for the insane for the remainder of her life.


Lord Lucan
John Bingham, Lord Lucan – photo by Desmond O’Neill

Lord Lucan would seem to tick all the boxes to qualify as a Cad par excellence.  Born into an aristocratic family, he followed the path of Eton and then the Coldstream Guards, merchant banking and finally as a professional gambler.  His life benighted by debts, subject of a vicious divorce, in 1970 he attacked his estranged wife, bludgeoned his children’s Nanny to death and vanished.  Despite every effort to find him, dead or alive, he has never to date been found.


Literature abounds with cads – they are the lifeblood of drama, as we wait for them to get their cum-uppance.

Harry Flashman, literary cad, creation of George McDonald Fraser



The wicked Mr Wickham, seducing Jane Austen’s foolish Lydia and bringing ruin to her family




Mr Rochester – one must certainly question his character when his wife is incarcerated in the attic – did he drive her insane?.
Heathcliff fails the Cad test, being a poor boy, mistreated and  hellbound on revenge
Fagin, rogue, villain but not a cad as he had none of the advantages required for the title. This is a too rare portrait that does not scream anti-semitism.




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