Among the gentlemen in attendance upon Prince Leopold was a young German doctor, Christian Friedrich Stockmar, a man of great ambition, who had directed, towards the end of the Napoleonic wars, a military hospital at Coburg, and had become acquainted with Prince Leopold during the final campaign. The Prince took a fancy to him, and Stockmar was now appointed his physician in ordinary. It was during the honeymoon that Princess Charlotte first met this man who was to play an important part in her life. The meeting was a significant one to both. They ran into each other, head on, as it were, in the breakfast room, and there was a pause while they summed each other up. The Princess, Stockmar noted in his diary, was handsomer than he expected, but his ‘his first impression was not favourable’. For her part, Charlotte had no doubt been given a glowing account of the doctor by Leopold, but she wished to form her own opinion. Stockmar apparently passed the test: she decided that she liked him. He remained critical, though her friendliness and lack of ceremony made up for what he considered her unladylike deportment, which he found a little shocking. She would stand, he said, with her hands clasped behind her, her body thrust forward, stamping her foot from time to time in emphasis, ‘laughing a great deal, and talking still more’.
But as time went by, and the critical doctor became accustomed to her mannerisms and her unpredictable moods, he liked and admired her. He approved of her way of dressing. ‘I have never yet seen her in any dress which was not both simple and in good taste,’ he declared, and in October, when the couple had been married for six months, he decided that Prince Leopold’s influence had had a marked effect. ‘She has gained surprisingly in calmness and self-control, so that one sees more and more how good and noble she really is.’
Leopold, gentle, patient, firm but, above all, loving, was undoubtedly having a good effect. ‘Doucement, chérie,’ he would murmur again and again when Charlotte displayed exuberant high spirits, or grew excited and stamped with rage. ‘Doucement, chérie.’ It must have been maddening, but she accepted his correction, and Doucement became her nickname for him.
They were always together, and took a pride in their simple domesticity; and the German Stockmar, observant but self-effacing, wrote approvingly, ‘In this house reign harmony, peace and love – in short, everything that can promote domestic happiness. My master is the best of all husbands in all the four quarters of the globe; and his wife bears him an amount of love, the greatness of which can only be compared with the English national debt.’
Perhaps he exaggerated, but both parties were resolved to make a go on the marriage, and ‘Our rule,’ said Leopold, ‘was never to permit one single day to pass over ein missverständniss, however trifling.’ No doubt this admirable rule was applied when Charlotte was seized with jealousy of the Duke of Wellington’s sister-in-law, Lady Maryborough. Leopold admired her, and reproved his wife, pointing out that the lady was some fifteen years older than himself; but this failed to convince Charlotte. ‘She is a very coquettish dissipated woman,’ she cried, and ‘doucement’ was murmured in vain. But scenes of this kind were rare, and even the cynical Princess Lieven could find no fault with the marriage. ‘I see a great deal of the Coburgs,’ she boasted, ‘and as a matter of fact I claim to be the most intimate friend of the Princess Charlotte … Her husband is behaving very well; she is greatly attached to him, and very submissive.’
To please Charlotte, Leopold grew a moustache, which was an unusual adornment at that time; she took delight in combing and arranging his silky dark hair, and folding his cravats, which she considered to be a wifely duty.
‘Except when I went out to shoot, we were together always,’ said Leopold, ‘and we could be together, we did not tire.’ They drove together, walked together, played and sang together. On Sundays they went to church together, driving to St. George’s, Esher, and sitting in the chamber-pew built by Vanbrugh for the Duke of Newcastle, which had its own fireplace and was hidden from the altar by four Corinthian pillars. Unfortunately, their presence began to attract crowds of sight-seers, and people drove down from London to get a sight of the Prince and Princess. ‘The ladies,’ a resident complained, ‘were dressed so fine, you would have thought you were going to a ball rather than to hear a sermon … ‘ The Reverend Wadham Diggle was growing old, and his sermons were both inaudible and interminable, s o this, as well as the crowds, may have influenced the decision of Charlotte and Leopold to worship in a private chapel at Claremont, under their own chaplain, Dr. Short.
[an extract from ‘Prinny’s Daughter: A Biography of Princess Charlotte of Wales’ by Thea Holme]