Monthly Archives: May 2014

Shock On The Brunswick Court

‘So a heartbroken but dignified Mrs Fitzherbert retired to a beautiful villa by the Thames at Twickenham, Marble Hill, and the greatest British diplomat of the age, James Harris, who had been created Baron Malmesbury six years earlier, was instructed to go to Brunswick and escort Princess Caroline to England.

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Two Scheming Ladies

‘According to other sources, any of his brothers, or anyone else who had been in Germany recently, could have told the Prince of Wales that the Brunswick Princess had the reputation of being “very loose”; but although he must surely have heard the gossip he appears to have paid no attention. He did not even make any of the usual discreet enquiries regarding the lady’s personal appearance, character, and habits. In fact, he seems to have spent considerably less time and trouble over his choice of a wife than he would have done over a pair of boots or a new waistcoat. Nor is it clear why Caroline should have been so immediately and obstinately preferred to every other possible candidate. It later occurred to Lord Malmesbury that she may have been put into the Prince’shead by the Duke of Clarence out of spite, “with a view to plague the Duke and Duchess of York whom he hates…well knowing that the Princess Caroline and the Duchess of York dislike each other, and that this match would be particularly unpleasant to her and the Duke”. But if this was so, then the Duke of York gave no hint of any displeasure in his congratulatory note to his elder brother. The Princess, he wrote, was “a very fine girl and in every respct in my opinion a very proper match for you. That you may be completely happy with her, is my most hearty wish.”‘

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

‘But the woman who had the most influence over the Prince of Wales, Lady Jersey, was equally enthusiastic in her support for Princess Caroline. Lady Jersey had managed to replace Mrs Fitzherbert in the Prince’s bed, but she had not succeeded in replacing her in his heart. Now that good fortune had come to her aid and removed Mrs Fitzherbert from the stage altogether, Lady Jersey was determined to ensure that the next wife should be the least formidable rival; if only half the stories were true, Princess Caroline was certainly that.

Naturally the Prince was persuaded by Lady Jersey. Yet even after he had plumped for Princess Caroline, his mother made no secret of her continuing disapproval. From all that she was saying, it was obvious that she was going to make her daughter-in-law’s life as difficult as she could – and she clearly realized what Lady Jersey was up to. Applying the old adage “my enemy ‘s enemy is my friend”, she invited Lady Jersey to visit her regularly at Windsor. She lobbied everyone at court on Lady Jersey’s behalf, recommending her for a position in the Prince’s new household. In the end she succeeded. At the insistence of the mischievous old Queen, her son’s mistress was appointed to serve as lady-in-waiting to his wife.’

[an extract from ‘Charlotte&Leopold’ by James Chambers]

Frances Lady Jersey

Picture: portrait of Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey (1753-1821) by Daniel Gardner

Two Cousins

‘Once it was agreed that the Prince was free to marry, the next step was to find him a bride. There were two candidates, both of whom were his cousins. One was Princess Louise of Mecklenburg – Strelitz, whose father was the brother of his mother, Queen Charlotte. The other was Princess Caroline of Brunswick, whose mother was a sister of his father, the King.The Queen was enthusiastically in favour of Princess Louise*, not only because Louise was her niece and reputedly the better looking, but also because, like many other people at court, she had heard too many unsavoury rumours about Princess Caroline. The Brunswicker Princess was said to be coarse and uninhibited. She was said to have had several affairs, one with an Irish officer in her father’s army, and it was known that earlier marriage negotiations had been broken off without reason.’
[an extract from ‘Charlotte&Leopold’ by James Chambers]

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Enters Lady Jersey

‘In June 1794 the Prince wrote a letter breaking off his connection with Maria Fitzherbert. The difficulty and heart-searching with which he composed it suggest that he still loved her and was reluctant to leave her; but writing to the Duke of York he refers to “the various disagreements and misunderstandings” between Maria and himself; and the Duke in reply writes, “I have long been grieved to see how very miserable Mrs. Fitzherbert’s unfortunate temper made you.”This unfortunate temper may well have been roused by the Prince’s friendship with Lady Jersey. Exquisite, immaculate as a humming bird, Frances, Countess of Jersey, was a grandmother of forty-one, but looked years younger than the matronly Maria, who was only thirty – eight. We hear of Lady Jersey’s “irresistible seduction and fascination”, and from the Queen, whose Lady of the Bedchamber she was, that she was little and bewitching, which from that lady, was high praise. The Queen was inclined to encourage the Prince’s infatuation, in the hope of its bringing the Fitzherbert affair to an end, as, for the time being at least, it did. Mrs. Fitzherbert, stricken to the heart, wrote at the bottom of the Prince’s letter, “Lady Jersey’s influence” and withdrew without a word of protest. She was rewarded with a pension of £ 3, 000 a year for life.

The Prince’s decision to marry, while it came as a shattering blow to Mrs. Fitzherbert, was accepted calmly by Lady Jersey, who – though she indignantly denied that she was his mistress – considered that her own position was secure.’

an extract from ‘Prinny’s Daughter: A Biography of Princess Charlotte of Wales’ by Thea Home

Frances Villiers,Countess of Jersey (1753-1821) by Thomas Beach

Picture: Portrait of Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey (1753-1821) by Thomas Beach