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.

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

‘On athe available evidence it has to be assumed that the Prince of Wales did not greatly care whom he married. Since he was being forced into wedlock for sordid financial reasons alone he seems to have felt that any Protestant princess would do, seizing cynically on the first name which was suggested to him, whether by his brother William or another. Certainly he was impatient to get the whole tiresome business over with as quickly as possible, but such matters were not to be hurried. Although the King had given his consent and notified the Prime Minister of his son’s projected engagement by the endof August, it was late autumn before Lord Malmesbury received His Majesty’s command formally to ask for the Princess Caroline for the Prince of Wales. His lordship was in Hanover, on his way home after completing a special mission to Berlin, when these instructions arrived in the post, and he needed to make only a short detour to reach the neighbouring Duchy of Brunswick in Lower Saxony (just inside the eastern border of the modern Federal Republic) on Thursday 20 November. He got a warm welcome, the offer of apartments in the ducal palace, servants, the use of a carriage, and an invitation to dinner from the Duchess, who was “all good nature”, and the Duke, “as usual civil, but reserved and stiff”.

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

He reached Brunswick on 20 November and was “much embarrassed” on being presented to Princess Caroline. It was clear from the dishvelled state of her clothes that no one had helped her to dress and that no one ever taught her how to do it herself; it was also obvious for other reasons that it was at least several days since she washed herself. The great Ambassador’s report on what he saw was more matter-of-fact than diplomatic. “Pretty face – not expressive of softness – her figure not graceful – fine eyes – good hands – tolerable teeth but going – fair hair and light eyebrows, good bust…”. The Duke of Brunswick was much more interested in the progress of the war than in his daughter’s impending marriage. But he was concerned enough to take Malmesbury aside one evening after supper and give him what he thought was an honest assessment of her. “She is no fool”, he said, “but she lacks judgement”. It was understatement. Twenty – six – year – old Princess Caroline did nothing discreetly. She was very over-familiar with everyone, and her conversation was coarse and tactless. During his stay in Brunswick Malmesbury spent most of his time teaching her manners, dignity and discretion.’

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

1st Earl Of Malmesbury

Picture: Portrait of James Harris, 1st Earl of Malmesbury (1746-1820) by Caroline Watson after Joshua Reynolds

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