Prince Regent Has An Ambiguous Attitude To His Daughter

Princess Charlotte, in exile at Windsor – ‘Heavens how dul,’ she wrote – had been deeply hurt by her exclusion from the Prince’s party. Her only entertainment had been through the Queen’s kindness’ to be present at the Eton Montem. ‘Not having ever seen the sight before I was much interested in it,’ she said; but her pleasure was marred by the Prince’s inexplicable coldness to her. He ‘hardly spoke to me AT ALL,’ she said, ‘& when he did his manner was so cold that it was very distressing.’

It is difficult to follow the fluctuations of the Regent’s attitude to his daughter. It is possible sometimes to guess the cause of his coldness: that she is irritating to him, through her enthusiasms, her friendships, or her loyalty to her mother. But no doubt there were more subtle causes: at times she may have reminded him of himself (‘in everything she is his very image,’ said Lady Charlotte Bury) – not always a pleasant reminder. On the other hand, some look or mannerism may have recalled to him the Princess Caroline, which was an affront. She was nervous in his presence, and consequently at a disadvantage: her stammer, inherited from himself and at its worst in his company, was maddening to him. She was clever enough to be aware of these things, and tried desperately to counteract them; but all this trying did not make for an easy relationship. Nor did the Prince’s temperament. He could change direction like a weathercock, so that we hear, one day, of his being ‘remarkably kind and attentive’ to his daughter, or even ‘VERY KIND INDEED’, only to be told soon after that ‘he never spoke to me & and when we came to supper he went to bed’.

There was another reason for the Prince’s uncertainty of manner. He preferred, as we have seen, to treat his daughter as a child, and he must have been disconcerted to find that at fifteen Charlotte was, in mind and body, a woman. Those slightly prominent Hanoverian blue eyes, that ‘full but finely shaped bosom’ and ‘voluptuous’ figure, the Regent must have observed with disquiet. Charlotte would have to be kept on a tight rein. The swashbuckling tomboy of George Keppel’s acquaintance was changing rapidly, and although she still strode about showing her ankles and her drawers, she did so now because she knew that she had pretty legs. Like Jane Austen’s Catherine Morland, and at the same age, she ‘curled her hair and longed for balls’ because she wanted to meet young men and be admired.

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

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