Monthly Archives: August 2014

Enough Is Enough

‘In December 1798, the Prince, who cannot be considered totally harsh in his attitude, made one more attempt towards a more friendly relationship. He wrote to his wife, now living at Montague House, Blackheath, inviting her to spend winter at Carlton House. She refused. This exchange is reported by Lord Minto, who was at that time in Caroline’s confidence. He wrote to his wife:

“I told her she was wrong [in declining the invitation], and begged her to reflect seriously on any step she might take if similar overtures were renewed, but she said she was a very determined person when once she formed an opinion…that she knew I should think her a very wicked woman, but that I did not know and could not imagine all the circumstances: I might otherwise agree with her…” This was a typical Caroline scene: she loved to make a mystery of her grievances, telling just enough to whet the appetite of her listener, and indicating untold horrors in what she left unsaid. But Lord Minto was right: she should not have refused the Prince’s odder. It was her last chance.

She must have known that Lady Jersey, the original femme fatale, was no longer of any significance: the Prince was tired of her, and was trying to disentangle himself. He was also, with the help of intermediaries, planning to return to his kind, beloved, comforting Maria Fitzherbert. “Fat, fair, forty”, Caroline had called her in her tactless way when she spoke of her to the Prince; but she felt no ill will towards her, and is said to have remarked later that she, Caroline, had committed adultery ut once, with the husband of Mrs. Fitzherbert.

In 1798, although there was no legal separation, the Prince and the Princess lived separate lives. Caroline moved to Blackheath, where she rented from the Duchess of Buccleuch a comparatively small villa, Montague House.’

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

george fitz and caroline

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The Princess Just Wanna Have Fun

‘Montague House stood on the south – west corner of the park, in its own grounds, a pleasant country property. Caroline lived there for sixteen years, decorating it to please her rather freakish taste: one room was furnished “in the Turkish style” under the direction of Sir Sidney Smith. The Princess enjoyed entertaining, and her guests were made free of the house and the grounds. The Hon. Amelia Murray describes how her brother went to a party at Montague House, and in the garden “saw the Princess, in a gorgeous dress, which was looped up to show her petticoat, covered with stars, with silver wings on her shoulders, sitting under a tree, with a pot of porter on her knee; and as a finale to the gaiety, she had the doors opened of every room in the house, and, selecting a partner, she galloped through them, desiring all the guests to follow her example.”‘

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

NPG 244; Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Picture: Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1804, National Portrait Gallery

So Much For The Marriage

‘In August 1797 the Princess of Wales left Carlton House and went to live at Charlton, near Blackheath. As a concession to her feelings as a mother, Lady Elgin and Charlotte were sent to Shrewsbury House, Blackheath, for the summer. The situation must have been difficult for Lady Elgin, who needed all her tact to keep on the right side of both parents-between whom at the end of the year there was yet another crossing of swords.

The Princess of Wales, finding herself freed from the restrictions of Carlton House, began to enjoy herself. She gave parties, and invited anyone who took her fancy: the parties were harmless enough, but the Prince decided that her guests were not, and wrote to the King. In due course King George, though generally on his daughter – in – law’s side, wrote to Lord Cholmondeley asking him to “acquaint the Princess that it was my opinion she could not receive any society but such as the Prince approved of.”

The Princess happened to be at Carlton House (where she still had a suite of rooms) when this letter was delivered to her, and immediately demanded to see the Prince. His Royal Highness was about to mount his horse when a page hurried out with the message. He agreed to meet his wife later that day, and decided to take Lord Cholmondeley with him, whether as witness or a bodyguard it is not certain.

According to his own account, as soon as they entered the Princess’s room she let fly. “Since I have been in this house,” she cried in French, “you have treated me neither as your wife, nor as the mother of your child, nor as the Princess of Wales: and I tell you that from this moment I shall have nothing more to say and that I regard myself as being no longer subject to your orders – or to your rules” – the last word in English.

As she seemed to have stopped, the Prince enquired if that was all that she had to say.

“Yes,” she replied. The Prince bowed and withdrew, and “thus,” he said, “ended the interview.” It also ended any hope of reconciliation.

But the King still set his face against a formal separation.

“You seem,” he said, “to look on your disunion with the Princess as merely of a private nature, and totally put out of sight that as heir apparent of the Crown your marriage is a public act wherein the kingdom is concerned…” The marriage must somehow be held together in the eyes of the world.’

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

caroline and george

Parental Arguments Continue

‘This, the King decided, was the moment for reconciliation. A tactful letter from the Queen to her daughter-in-law emphasized that she should now prepare to welcome her husband home, and that, to make the reconciliation complete, both parties should abstain from reproaches, or confiding in others on the subject.

This idyllic state of affairs was not achieved. By now, neither party wanted a reconciliation, and Caroline, knowing that there was no hope of happiness for her in the Prince’s company, was well aware of the strength of her position while she remained the injured party, separated from a man who would never, in any circumstances, remain faithful to her. Through the friends that she begun to make, she saw that she could play a little game of her own.

All this time, the baby in the Carlton House was forgotten; or rather she became a sort of theatrical property baby, dandled by each parent in turn for extra dramatic effect.

“I cannot close this letter,” the Prince told his father, “without adverting to the situation of my poor little girl. As a father I must feel the greatest anxiety to secure to her the advantages suitable to her birth,& which unfortunately her mother has neever known. Straitened as my income is…”

“I adjure you”, Caroline addressed her husband … “to remember … the paternal sentiments you owe to your child, who will suffer all her life from our disunion.”

On the thirteenth of June, when Charles James Fox won the Westminster election, the Prince complained bitterly of his wife “carrying the poor little girl to the window when Fox’s mob was passing, in order to make her also an instrument against her much injured father”.’

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

George Charlotte and Caroline

Exchange of Letters

‘Caroline was not one to suffer silently, or to accept her situation without a struggle. Two months after Princess Charlotte’s christening she wrote the first of what proved to be a series of letters to the Prince, complaining of Lady Jersey’s presence and demanding her removal. This correspondence shows that both parties had a strong sense of theatre, and both were inclined to overact (…) On April 30, the Prince, in a calm and judicial frame of mind, wrote the letter which is often quoted as sounding the death knell of the marriage. “Our inclinations are not in our power, nor should either of us be held answerable to the other because nature has not made us suitable to each other…Tranquil and comfortable society is, however, in our power; let our intercourse, therefore, be restricted to that…” After receiving this, Caroline composed a letter to the King, enclosing the correspondence with her husband, as far it had gone (it continued all through May) and imploring his protection for herself and her child. The Prince also wrote to his father. In this letter he suggests that the Princess has been deliberately slandering him, publishing abroad all sorts of wild stories of his brutality of manner and behaviour towards her. He puts the full blame for the estrangement upon his wife (…) The quarrel now moved from a domestic to a national level. The King, determined to save the marriage, deliberated before replying. He had read in the papers that the Princess of Wales had received a rapturous reception at the Opera. He believed that his son had written in the heat of the moment, after hearing of the Princess’s triumph: he urged him to review the situation in a calmer state of mind (…) The Prince turned in desperation to his mother, imploring her to take his part. The Princess, he said, had stirred up a conspiracy against him (…) Letters between the Prince and his parents, interspersed with letters from Caroline to the King, continued all through June, the Prince convincing himself that Caroline was trying, by political intrigue, to overthrow the monarchy. He became obsessed by this idea, and thoughts of the French Revolution – always in the back of his mind – urged him to warn the King of what might happen (…) But little progress was made in any direction, except that at the end of the month Lady Jersey agreed at last to retire from the Princess’s service. In a letter charged with venomous disrespect, she sent her resignation.’

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

Caroline and George

Parents Living Separate Lives

‘The birth of a daughter did nothing to heal the royal relationship. At first the best that could be said was that the family was living under the same roof, the Prince and the Princess in their separate apartments and their daughter above them in the nursery. But when Charlotte was only just a year old, her miserable mother moved out and went to live in a villa five miles away near Blackheath.

The Princess of Wales still used her apartments in Carlton House when she came in to London to visit her daughter, and after a while Charlotte was sometimes taken out to visit her in Blackheath, although she was never allowed to stay with her.’

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

George Caroline and Charlotte

Charlotte’s Family: Augusta Frederica of Great Britain

CHARLOTTE’S MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER

Augusta Frederike von Hannover

Augusta Frederica of Great Britain (31 August 1737 – 23 March 1813), daughter of Frederick Prince of Wales and Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, an elder sister of George III, Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1764 – 1806), Charlotte’s maternal grandmother

‘Her mother, Princess Augusta, was George III’s sister, a stupid, gossiping woman, who had been obliged for thirty years to put up with the presence at Court of her husband’s handsome mistress’

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

Picture: an anonymous portrait painted circa 1763