Monthly Archives: April 2015

Whose Child is Willikin?

‘The child which she claimed to be her own eventually made its appearance – a puny little creature named William Austin, who was said to be the son of a Deptford dock labourer and his wife. This may have been true; but years later Caroline swore that this baby was the bastard son of Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, who was smuggled into England and exchanged for the docker’s son. Prince Louis Ferdinand had been her lover, she said, when she was a girl, and she brought up the boy for his sake. Certainly Willikin, as she called him, was her favourite child, invariably given pride of place, pampered and spoiled, though by all accounts he displayed neither charm nor intelligence. “A sickly looking child with fair hair and blue eyes,” was Charlotte’s description of him.

There was also a girl, whom the Princess named Edwardina Kent: there was no question of the Duke of Kent having fathered her; she was probably the illegitimate child of Admiral Sir Sidney Smith,* who was one of Caroline’s courtiers at Blackheath, and who was an intimate friend of the Douglases.

* But the Princess had another story: Edwardina, she said, was the child of Irish parents “of the upper class” who, being forced to flee from their home, had left the infant with “a poor old peasant woman who lives at Blackheath.’

NPG D38618; William Austin by W. Nicholls, published by  Hassell & Co, after  John Raphael Smith

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

Picture: William Austin

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The Princess Grows Fond Of Lady Douglas

‘The Princess was a constant visitor. Thrusting aside her attendant, she would rush straight upstairs for a long tête à tête with her beloved Lady Douglas, pouring out her admiration of her beauty, and her own complaints against her husband and other members of the Royal Family, and indulging in confidences about the babies with which she was beginning to surround herself at Montague House, while hinting that one, not yet born, was her own. She described in unattractive detail the symptoms of her pregnancy.This strange woman, who in adolescence, it may be remembered, successfully enacted the throes of childbirth in order to frighten her parents and get her own way, was now presenting a travesty of motherhood, which might seem pathetic had it not been performed, as ever with Caroline, so aggressively and with such preposterous bravado.’
caroline and lady douglas
[an extract from ‘Prinny’s Daughter: A Biography of Princess Charlotte of Wales’ by Thea Home]

Princess of Wales Meets Lady Charlotte Douglas

‘One November morning, when the snow lay on the ground the Princess of Wales, dressed elegantly if unsuitably in a lilac satin pelisse, yellow hald – boots and a small lilac satin cap lined with sable, walked across Blackheath Common and halted at the entrance to a house on a far side. She was accompanied by only one lady – in – waiting, as was her custom, for she liked to go as and where she pleased, without ceremony, and often, in Kensington, embarrassed her ladies by sitting down and talking to people on benches in the Park, or by knocking at front doors of houses and asking if there were any rooms to let. This time, however, she lingered outside the gate, as if uncertain what to do next. In due course she was observed by the lady of the house, who cam hurrying out, curtseying obsequiously and asking her pleasure.The Princess said, “I believe you are Lady Douglas, and you have a very beautiful child. I should like to see it.”But Lady Douglas explained with many apologies that she was only in Blackheath for an hour or two, and had left her child in London. She begged her Royal Highness to come in out of the cold, and so began a friendship which quickly ripened into an intimacy so enthusiastic on the Princess’s part that it could hardly be expected to last. The very beautiful child appears to have been forgotten, but “in a short time,” said Lady Douglas, “the Princess became so extravagantly fond of me that, however flattering it might be, it certainly was very troublesome”.

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

NPG D15480; Lady Charlotte Douglas by Charles Middlemist, after  Adam Buck

Picture: Lady Charlotte Douglas by Charles Middlemist, after Adam Buck, stipple engraving, 1810s, National Portrait Gallery

The Rumours Are Spreading About Princess Caroline…

‘His daughter’s will was not the only family business with which the Prince of Wales burdened his father’s ministers in the spring of 1806.

Like everyone in London society, the Prince had heard scores of lurid stories about the life his wife was leading in Blackheath. It was said that her dinner parties often ended in unseemly games of blind man’s buff, that she was in the habit of leaving the room with gentlemen guests and not returning for more than an hour, that she had given birth to a child and that she had had dozen of lovers, among them the treasurer of the navy, George Canning, two naval officers, the dashing Captain Sir Sidney Smith and Captain Thomas Manby, and the painter Sir Thomas Lawrence, who was known to have slept in her house while painting her portrait.

If the Prince could prove the worst of these stories, there was a chance that might be allowed to bring an action for divorce against his wife; towards the end of 1805 he was approached by a Lieutenant – Colonel of marines, Sir John Douglas, with what looked like all the proof he needed.’

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

Henry Pierce Bone, George IV, 1840

Picture: George IV by Henry Pierce Bone from http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/the-collectors/george-iv