In the Georgian Era, gambling was endemic among the upper classes. “A thousand meadows and cornfields are staked at every throw, and as many villages lost as in the earthquake that overwhelmed Herculaneum and Pompeii”, wrote Horace Walpole.
A lady very fond of gambling, much to her mother’s chagrin, was Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Lady Spencer would often urge her daughter to stay away from this dangerous vice:
“Let em entreat you to beware of it, and if [gambling] is mention’d to you any more, to decline the taking any part in it.” […]
“Play at whist, commerce, backgammon, trictrac or chess, but never at quinze, lou, brag, faro, hazard or any games of chance, and if you are pressed to play always make the fashionable excuse of being tied up not to play at such and such game. In short I must beg you, my dearest girl, if you value my happiness to send me in writing a serious answer to this.”
Unfortunately, Georgiana didn’t listen. She lost a fortune at the gaming table, and was constantly in debt. Afraid to confront her husband, she often borrowed money (which she never paid back) from her friends (including the Prince of Wales) to settle them. At her death, she was said to own today’s equivalent of £3,720,000!
Georgiana: Duchess Of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman