Monthly Archives: July 2014

Bad Fairy At The Christening

‘On Thursday, February 11 the baby was christened in the great drawing-room of St. James Palace. Lady Dashwood, who was hard up, was given a dress for the occasion, made of satin covered in lace. The baby was also covered in lace, and her cradle, cushion and lace-trimmed sheet were given by the Queen. “I regret”, she wrote to her son, “that my finances will not allow me to offer more.”

Charlotte Augusta were the names bestowed upon the child, after her two grandmothers, who were also her godmothers. Her dotting grand-papa, King George, stood godfather, and it must have seemed, as she lay in her lace-trimmed cradle, surrounded by beaming royal countenances, that an auspicious future lay ahead of this fortunate infant.

But one bad fairy was there in the background, although it was Charlotte’s mother rather than Charlotte who was affected by her presence. As far as Caroline was concerned, Lady Jersey was always there, smiling, cool, perfectly dressed, entirely sure of herself (…) basking in the Prince’s favour, Lady Jersey made it her business to humiliate his wife whenever she could. It cannot have been difficult: Caroline was gauche, unversed in etiquette, stumbling in her English and apt when nervous to blurt out tactless comments and opinions, or to make coarse jokes, all of which were noted by Lady Jersey and relayed to the Prince.’

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

st james palace

Picture: St. James Palace, London, UK

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Charlotte’s Family: Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

CHARLOTTE’S PATERNAL GRANDMOTHER

Queen Charlotte by studio of Allan Ramsay

Charlotte Sophia (19 May 1744 – 17 November 1818), daughter of Duke Charles Louis Frederick of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Princess Elizabeth Albertine of Saxe-Hildburghausen, Princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744 – 1761), Queen Consort of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1761/1801 – 1830), Charlotte’s paternal grandmother

‘At the age of eighteen, Charlotte of Mecklenburg – Strelitz had been brought to England to marry, on the evening of her arrival, a young man, King George III, whom she had never met. She was a plain girl, small and thin, with fuzzy hair and a large mouthful of white teeth. “She looks very sensible, cheerful, and is remarkably genteel,” was Horace Walpole’s impression. During the very rough crossing from the Continent she remained in her cabin, playing little tunes on her harpsichord and singing; and this may be said to typify her demeanour as Queen. However stormy her life – and after the King became ill she suffered a great deal – she was able to withdraw from pain and misery by busying herself over small things. She knitted, she embroidered, she played with her little dogs, she collected – and read – books; she took snuff and bullied her daughters. She had courage and self-discipline, two queenly virtues, but in later life she developed a vile temper. The English never loved her, a fact of which she was aware. “The English people did not like me much, because I was not pretty,” she declared; “but the King was fond of driving a phaeton in those days, and once he overturned me in a turnip field, and that fall broke my nose. I think I was not quite so ugly after dat.” In fact, as she grew older, she grew less plain, and her Chamberlain, Colonel Disbrowe, remarked, “I do think that the bloom of her ugliness is going off.”

(an extract from Thea Holme’s ‘Prinny’s Daughter. A Biography of Princess Charlotte of Wales)

Picture: Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, by studio of Allan Ramsay, 1762. National Portrait Gallery, London: NPG 224

Charlotte’s Family: George III

CHARLOTTE’S PATERNAL GRANDFATHER

George III in Coronation Robes

George William Frederick (4 June 1738 – 29 January 1820), son of Frederick Prince of Wales and Augusta of Saxe – Gotha, King of United Kingdom Great Britain and Ireland as George III (1760/1801 – 1820) and of Hanover (1814 – 1820), Charlotte’s paternal grandfather

‘King George had simple tastes, and was happiest when he was away from London. His nickname [‘Farmer George’] was not ill-chosen: he loved the country, and was knowledgeable about farming, writing little pieces for a periodical called “The Annals of Agriculture” under the pseudonim of Ralph Robinson. Out of doors at Windsor he behaved like a country squire rather than a king, chatting with farmers about the weather and the crops, dropping in, friendly and voluble, on surprised cottagers. Although, inside the castle, the most elaborate etiquette was observed, out of doors the King liked to stroll about unattended. His tall, ungainly, pear-shaped figure in the blue uniform of his own design often appeared unexpectedly and joined in a conversation (…) His own habits, both of eating and drinking, were abstemious. Determined to overcome the tendency to enormous bulk which was the heritage of his family, he walked and rode energetically, exhausting his horses and his equerries. His meals were regular: breakfast at nine and dinner at four. What he ate was as carefully chosen and as frugal – in those days of gormandizing – as a modern slimming diet. He lived on cold mutton, salad and fruit; and on Sundays he ate roast beef with vegetables, turnips for choice. His greatest indulgences were plovers’ eggs and cherry pie, and he enjoyed a nice cup of tea.

(an extract from Thea Holme’s ‘Prinny’s Daughter. A Biography of Princess Charlotte of Wales’)

Picture:

Portrait in Coronation Robes by Allan Ramsay, 1762

Charlotte Is Born

‘Princess Charlotte was born on the morning of January 7, 1796 at Carlton House, London. Everybody was relieved when the infant finally made its appearance; but the midwife, a man, called Underwood, was disappointed to find it was a girl. Had it been a boy he would have received £700, the traditional gift for the birth of a prince: £100 from each of the principal Officers of State present (in an adjoining room) at the event.

The Prince of Wales, the child’s father, had also waited, sleepless, throughout the previous evening and night, and thankfully acknowledged her arrival. Wiping the sweat and tears from his face (he was an emotional man), he sat down to write to his mother, Queen Charlotte.

‘The Princess, after a terrible hard labour for above twelve hours, in this instant brought to bed of an immense girl (…) I assure you notwithstanding we might have wished for a boy, I receive her with all the affection possible, and bow with due defference and resignation to the decrees of Providence.’

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

Charlotte as a child - detail

Picture: a detail from the portait by Thomas Lawrence

Waiting For The Heir

 

‘As the birth of their child approached, no doubt the Princess was caught up in the excitement, largely generated from Windsor, of preparations and arrangements. She probably felt important, interviewing nurses, appointing a governess as head of the nursery establishment, and ordering, from a carefully prepared list, what the Queen called “childbed linnin”. A month before the birth, the Lord Chamberlain was told to order a cradle. “Tell him”, wrote the Queen, “I, as an experienced woman in such matters, say it should be without rockers to it.”
[an extract from ‘Prinny’s Daughter: A Biography of Princess Charlotte of Wales’ by Thea Home]
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Pregnancy Changes All

‘Meanwhile, the marriage was being received with enthusiasm by the populace. In London there were illuminations, and joyous peals of church bells rang out through the night all over the country. Hopes of a future heir to the throne did something to lessen the Prince’s unpopularity, and the Princess of Wales became overnight a national heroine. As yet, she had scarcely been seen, but at Windsor, the Sunday after her marriage, she appeared for the first time as a member of the Royal Family. It was noticed that the Prince of Wales was not with her, either at St. George’s Chapel or on the first time or on the terrace of the Castle where the Family paraded after the service. But the King made up for it by offering her his arm with every appearance of pleasure. An onlooker thought her “genteel, & her face, exclusively of her exquisitely fine complexion…very pretty. She looked happy”. So, outwardly at least, the Princess of Wales gave the impression of being a radiant bride, and the King, animated and clearly gratified, demonstrated to the crowds that he was delighted with his son’s choice.

Indeed, it seemed that all the Royal Family were determined that the marriage should be a success. In May, Princess Elizabeth was writing to her brother of his wife’s “open character” and “perfect good temper”, and adding, perhaps a little condescendingly, “I flatter myself that you will have her turn out a very comfortable little wife.” “I am commissioned with loves, loves, loves from all sides,” she writes in July, “to you as well as the Princess.” And even the Queen unbent and sent her daughter some suckling pigs. “They are to be refreshed upon the road with milk so that they will be fit for killing immediately,& I hope they will prove to the Princess’s taste.” But by this time it was known that the Princess was pregnant.’

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

Caroline of Brunswick and King George

Bitter Honeymoon

‘Thereafter the relationship continued as it had begun. For all that the Princess was amiable and eager to please, there was no denying that she was slovenly and she smelt. The Prince displayed his displeasure at every opportunity, and the hurt Princess hit back each time by exaggerating whatever she had done to displease him.Within three weeks of their wedding they were no longer living together as man and wife. At night the Princess retired to her own small apartments on the ground floor of Carlton House, and the Prince went to his much more splendid apartments above them.

Then came the development that really did fix the Prince’s dislike for ever. He had married for money, and now he learned that, far from increasing his disposable income, his marriage had actually diminished it.

Pitt went further than he had promised. He persuaded Parliament to raise the allowances from the privy purse to as much as £125,000 a year. But the House of Commons also ruled that for the next nine years £65,000 of this, together with all the income from the Duchy of Cornwall, was to be set aside to pay off the Prince’s debts. In real terms therefore his annual income had been reduced from £73,000 to £60,000; on top of that he now had the added expense of paying his wife’ establishment.

The Prince’s distaste was embittered by resentment. He ignored his wife as much as he could by day as well as by night. On the pretext that he could no longer pay for them, he removed most of the chairs from her private dining room and took back the pearl bracelets that he had given her on their wedding day – although he then gave them to Lady Jersey, who wore them publicly in her presence.

His displays of displeasure became increasingly cruel, and the Princess no longer felt strong enough to meet them all with defiance. Sometimes they reduced her to tears. As one witness, Lady Sheffield, wrote, she lost her “lively spirits”, and in their place her mood became one of “melancholy and anxiety”.’

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

William Pitt the Younger

Portrait: William Pitt, 1759-1806 Mezzotint, 1799 Library of Congress