The Prince of Wales Becomes Regent

When that letter was written, at the beginning of June 1811, the atmosphere in Windsor Castle was more likely to have been bitter than dull. The King’s latest bout of insanity had lasted so long that no one now expected him to recover. In January the government had brought in the Regency Bill. On 6 February, while Charlotte rode up and down in the garden, peering through the windows of Carlton House to see what was going on, the Prince of Wales had been formally sworn in as Prince Regent. Charlotte’s father was now nominal head of state, and her grandmother and most of her aunts and uncles were more inclined to feel gloomy than glad about it.

Typically, the Prince Regent decided to celebrate his appointment with an extravagant fête at Carlton House. His excuse was to entertain the exiled pretender to the throne of France, Louis-Philippe, who had actually been living in Twickenham for the last ten years. But the real reason was to mark the opening of what he hoped would be his own splendid reign.

When she heard about it, Charlotte felt sure that she would be invited, that her first ball would be this memorable event. But there was never any chance of that. As Lady Rose Weigall put it:

‘The Regent had reason to fear that her appearance in public would give a fresh stimulus to the widespread feeling in favour of herself and her mother and render him proportionately more unpopular. He was further bent upon avoiding everything which could look like a recognition of her as the heir presumptive to the Crown, probably hoping that by the death of his wife or by a divorce he might hereafter have a son through a second marriage and shut out the daughter of his deserted consort from the throne…For these reasons the Princess Charlotte was regarded as a rival to be suppressed rather than as a future sovereign.’

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

Henry Pierce Bone, George IV, 1840

Picture: George IV (The Prince Regent)

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