‘[Lady de Clifford] was not in overall command of Princess Charlotte’s education. That was a responsability for a man, a preceptor; at the instigation of the King, the office had been given to the Rt Rev. Dr John Fisher, Bishop of Exeter. Fisher was a favourite at Windsor Castle. He had been tutor to the Duke of Kent, Chaplain to the King, Clerk of the Closet and Canon of Windsor. He was sincerely pious and a connoisseur of painting and drawing. But he was pompous, humourless, dogmatic, wilful and absurdly old – fashioned. In the manner of a generation that had mostly died out towards the end of the eighteenth century, he still wore a wig and spoke affectedly. When referring to himself, which he did often, he pronounced the word bishop “bishup”, emphasising the last syllable. Within weeks of meeting him, nine – year – old Charlotte had nicknamed him “the Great UP”.
Lady de Clifford and the Prince of Wales were convinced that the King had appointed the Bishop to act as a spy and report back on everything that was happening at Warwick House. Delegating the duties of his distant diocese to his archdeacon, he called there regularly, sometimes as often as twice a week, and when he did he was almost always critical.
He argued constantly with Lady de Clifford about what Charlotte should be learning and how it should be taught to her. Their debates were heated, acrimonious and noisy, even in the presence of the Princess. But when that happened, Charlotte used to mock the Bishop behind his back, burdening Lady de Clifford with the added strain of trying to keep a straight face.
According to George Keppel, Charlotte had inherited her father’s talents for acting and mimicry. While the Bishop pontificated, she stood behind him jutting out her lower lip, waving her arms and generally ridiculing his expressions and mannerisms in an exaggerated mime.’
[an extract from ‘Charlotte&Leopold’ by James Chambers]
Picture: Portrait of John Fisher by William Daniell, 1793