Constance Lloyd will for ever be remembered chiefly as Mrs Oscar Wilde, though she was an original and unusual person in her own right. As the subtitle of this new biography makes plain, Franny Moyle’s emphasis inevitably falls on the marriage and its aftermath, particularly the scandal and disaster that overtook Constance and her children following Wilde’s disgrace and imprisonment. When Constance died prematurely at the age of thirty-nine, her sons effectively lost both parents. They were never to see their father again and were kept away from Oscar’s friends, who might have helped them to come to terms with what had happened. The concealment, deception and prejudice that surrounded the two boys affected them deeply, as Vyvyan Holland’s heartbreakingly sad and angry book Son of Oscar Wilde (1954) revealed.
Constance’s life began almost as badly as it ended. Her father died when she was sixteen and her mother abused her, physically and emotionally. Though she was close to her brother Otho, Constance was desperate to escape from home. Moving to her grandfather’s house after her mother remarried