Friendship With George Keppel (4)

‘It is difficult to relate the wise maturity of this letter to the harum-scarum behaviour of Charlotte when she was freed from the restrains of Warwick House – “like a bird escaped from a cage”, as George Keppel puts it.

His parents, Lord and Lady Albemarle, had a house in the rural suburb of Earl’s Court, with a garden of about two acres. On Sundays, Charlotte sometimes spent the day there, generally driving in Lady de Clifford’s carriage; but once she went in her own. The scarlet liveries attracted the crowd, who surged round the entrance gates, hoping for the sight of the Princess.

“I told her,” said George Keppel, “how desirous the people were to have a sight of her. <<They shall have that pleasure,>> was the reply.” Charlotte ran quickly out of the garden gate into the road, and made her way to the back of the crowd, pushing and peering, and seeming more anxious than anyone to get a sight of the Princess.

Eventually, tired of this joke, she left the crowd and made her way to the stables, where she saddled Lord Albemarle’s hack, seized a groom’s heavy riding whip, and followed by George, led the horse through an underground passage to the garden. “She now,” said George, “told me to mount. I nothing loth obeyed.”

But before the unlucky boy could grab the reins or get his feet into the stirrups, “she gave the horse a tremendous cut with the whip on the hindquarters. Off set the animal at full gallop, I on his back, or rather his neck, holding on by the mane and roaring lustily”.

At full tilt, horse and rider galloped through the gardens, George clinging on for dear life, till they stumbled on to a flower bed in front of the drawing – room windows, and in this conspicuous place the horse kicked up his heels, tossing poor George, roaring louder than ever, over his head. The family came running, and George, picking himself up with difficulty, saw Charlotte, hot and breathless, emerging from the bushes. She had meant, she said, to stop the horse before it and its rider came into view. As it was, she was obliged to stand up to “a tremendous scolding” from Lady de Clifford, which, according to George, she “took coolly enough”.’

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

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