Constance with her son Cyril in 1889
|Born||Constance Mary Lloyd
2 January 1859
|Died||7 April 1898
|Notable works||There Was Once|
Constance Wilde (2 January 1859 – 7 April 1898), born Constance Mary Lloyd, was the wife of Irish playwright Oscar Wilde and the mother of their two sons, Cyril and Vyvyan. The daughter of Horace Lloyd, an Irish barrister, and Adelaide Atkinson Lloyd, she married Wilde on 29 May 1884, and had both her sons within the next two years. In 1888 she published a book based on children's stories she had heard from her grandmother, called There Was Once. She and her husband were involved in the dress reform movement.
It is unknown at what point Constance became aware of her husband's homosexual relationships. In 1891 she met his lover Lord Alfred Douglas when Wilde brought him to their home for a visit. Around this time Wilde was living more in hotels, such as the Avondale Hotel, than at their home in Tite Street. Since the birth of their second son they had become sexually estranged. It is claimed that on one occasion, when Wilde warned his sons about naughty boys who made their mamas cry, they asked him what happened to absent papas who made mamas cry. Nevertheless, by all accounts, she and Wilde remained on good terms.
After Wilde's imprisonment, Constance changed her and her sons' last name to Holland to dissociate themselves from Wilde's scandal. The couple never divorced and though Constance visited Oscar in prison so she could tell him the news of his mother's death, she also forced him to give up his parental rights and later, after he had been released from prison, refused to send him any money unless he no longer associated with Douglas.
Illness and death
Constance died on 7 April 1898 five days after a surgery conducted by Luigi Maria Bossi.
According to The Guardian, "speculative theories [about her death] have ranged from spinal damage following a fall down stairs to syphilis caught from her husband." However, again according to The Guardian, Merlin Holland, grandson of Oscar Wilde, "unearthed medical evidence within private family letters, which has enabled a doctor to determine the likely cause of Constance’s demise. The letters reveal symptoms nowadays associated with multiple sclerosis but apparently wrongly diagnosed by her two doctors".
Constance sought help from two doctors. One of them was a "nerve doctor" from Heidelberg, Germany who resorted to dubious remedies. The second doctor—Luigi Maria Bossi—conducted two operations (for uterine fibroid) in 1895 and 1898, the latter of which ultimately led to her death. According to The Lancet, "the surgery Bossi performed in December 1895 was probably an anterior vaginal wall repair to correct urinary difficulties from a presumed bladder prolapse. In retrospect, the actual problem was probably neurogenic and not structural in origin." During the second surgery in April 1898 Bossi probably "did not attempt a hysterectomy but merely excised the tumour in a myomectomy". However, shortly after the surgery Constance developed uncontrollable vomiting, which led to dehydration and death. The immediate cause of death was likely severe paralytic ileus, which developed either as a result of the surgery itself or of intra-abdominal sepsis. "Ultimately, both Bossi and the hapless Constance met their ends tragically: he by the bullet of an assassin and she by the knife of an irresponsible surgeon."
- See Oscar Wilde On Dress, CSM Press, 2013.
- Moyle, Franny (2011). Constance. New York, NY: Pegasus Books. p. 1. ISBN 9781605983813.
- Oscar Wilde by Richard Ellman, published in 1987
- The Trials of Oscar Wilde
- Ellman, Richard. Oscar Wilde. New York: Vintage Books, 1988. 497–98.
- Robins, Ashley; Holland, Merlin (3 January 2015). "The enigmatic illness and death of Constance, wife of Oscar Wilde". The Lancet. Elsevier. 385 (9962): 21–22. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(14)62468-5.
- Dalya Alberge (1 January 2015). "Letters unravel mystery of the death of Oscar Wilde's wife". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
- Oscar Wilde Biography—Poems
Moyle, Franny (2011). Constance: the Tragic and Scandalous Life of Mrs Oscar Wilde. John Murray.