CHIVALRY was not a virtue to be associated with Charles Hyatt who cruelly betrayed his ardent fiancee.

He had written letter after letter to Margaret Readhead professing his love, calling her "the dearest upon earth," "his own," and "my dear girl" among fervent terms of his endearment, even flattering her in closing one: "How I wish I could come with this letter."

But within weeks, his ardour for her had mysteriously cooled. Eventually, he told her parents he had been thinking of their future and had decided they could not marry for five years but did not elaborate.

The truth soon became apparent. Hyatt was simply a fake who had blindsided her by going out with another woman, and shortly after breaking off their engagement, he married the love rival.

A woman scorned, Readhead sought revenge by publicly humiliating him to restore her tarnished reputation. With a festering grievance, she sued Hyatt for breach of promise, the undefended civil action being conducted before Mr Justice Lindley at Hampshire Assizes on July 10, 1882.

And true to type, Hyatt shamefully did not attend, no doubt aware he was destined to be exposed as a charlatan and to have his character shredded.

Instead, he cowardly wrote to the court, denying he had proposed marriage and then bizarrely claiming that if he had done so, it was under the belief that she was a "chaste woman and that was not the case." Readhead's barrister, Mr Charles QC, was withering in his disdain: "I am surprised at any defendant with a spark of manliness daring to put such an answer on the records and not being present to support so disgraceful an assertion."

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Jurors heard she was the daughter of the master of Hursley Union, a position he had held for some 30 years, and he was a grocer apprenticed to a shop in Southampton's town centre where her brother was also employed. "An intimacy soon sprung up between them."

However, the course of true love - as they say - never runs smooth and they parted for a short time but was soon renewed when Hyatt cycled to her home in Hursley. The relationship flourished and on September 19, 1881, he proposed with a ring. She joyfully accepted and it was arranged they would get married a month later.

"Both were comparatively young but they had had every opportunity to get to know each other, for the acquaintance was a long one and it was regarded as an excellent match."

As Hyatt was no longer being so attentive, her increasingly concerned parents went to his home where he admitted he had been thinking things over and wanted their wedding postponed.

"Then the engagement was broken off and the reason for this was subsequently seen for within a month, the defendant married Eliza Williams, another girl."

With Hyatt unrepresented, the hearing was swift.

Readhead strenuously denied his accusations of misconduct, and her parents confirmed the engagement and wedding plans.

He was finally denounced by his employer, J A Barling, to whom he had bragged he had come into money, and arrogantly offered to lend him £2,000 if he needed it.

As he left the witness box, Charles immediately turned to the jury, imploring them: "I shall not address you again. Deal with this man as he deserves."

After a few minutes deliberation, they awarded Readhead damages of £200.