Marriage For Money

Charlotte’s father only married her mother for money – not because Princess Caroline of Brunswick was rich, but because the Prime Minister, William Pitt, had told him that, when he married, the government would raise his income. The increase was intended to cover the cost of an appropriately enlarged household, but to the Prince it was an opportunity to continue his notorious extravagance (…) A suitable marriage was the Prince’s only hope.The promised increase would raise his allowance from the privy purse to 100, 000 pounds a year. Although, in itself, even this would not be enough to support all his extravagance, it would at least enable him to start making annual payments to some of his creditors, and that in turn might encourage others to lend him more. He was unmoved when he was told that it was his duty to get married and provide the kingdom with an heir. But when he was told that a marriage would bring in more money, he agreed at once.

 

(extract from ‘Charlotte&Leopold’ by James Chambers)

‘The scandal of the Prince’s debts was an old story. His income from the Civil List, supplemented by the relatively modest revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall, had never been anything like enough to support his ample life – style as a bon viveur, aspiring glass of fashion, racing man, connoisseur, collector, and patron of the arts – probably no income ever would have been enough to satisfy the needs of so dedicated and proficient a spender of money – and there had been something of a showdown back in 1787. Parliament had then had to be persuaded to settle the most pressing of his Royal Highness’s obligations, and his Civil List allowance had been raised by £10, 000 to £60, 000 a year. But early in 1794 another crisis loomed, and once again the Prince’s debts approached a staggering six – figure sum. Ungrateful tradesmen were beginning to refuse his custom, and he was being dunned in the street by his creditors, some of whom went so far as to petition the Prime Minister for relief. Clearly another rescue operation would have to be mounted, but it was equally clear that this time John Bull, as represented by an increasingly unsympathetic House of Commons, would first demand some earnest of reform from the prodigal. That summer, therefore, the Prince of Wales went to see his father and abruptly informed him that he was now ready to enter “a more creditable line of life”, to get married and settle down.’

[an extract from ‘Caroline&Charlotte’ by Alison Plowden]

George IV in 1785
Picture: George IV of the United Kingdom by Samuel William Reynolds, 1785, National Portrait Gallery

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