Category Archives: Adolescence (1805 – 1811)

Dr Nott Must Leave

In December 1807 someone gave the Prince of Wales a note in which Dr Nott had written to Princess Charlotte rebuking her for not turning up for a lesson. There is no direct evidence that the culprit was Mrs Udney, but she was the only member of Charlotte’s household who had the opportunity, a motive and access to the Prince. The Prince wrote to Dr Fisher. In his opinion ‘ remonstrance on the failure might have been made in terms of becoming deference’. But Mr Nott, as he called him, was overreaching his authority in presuming to critisise the Princess. ‘Mr Nott is paid to wait for the Princess, instead of being entitled to expect that she should wait for him.’

The Bishop defended Dr Nott valiantly, reminding the Prince that he was a man of many virtues and an example to his daughter, and for the time being the Prince was placated. Just over a year later, however, Mrs Udney discovered that Lady de Clifford and Dr Nott were about to have her disciplined. They had learned, perhaps from Charlotte, that she had shown the Princess an obscene cartoon of Nelson’s mistress, Lady Hamilton, and had explained the meaning to her. They had already reported the matter to the Bishop, and the Bishop had consulted the Lord Chancellor.

Mrs Udney decided to strike first. She went to the Prince of Wales and complained about Dr Nott. He was always gossiping with Princess Charlotte in order to exercise undue influence and he encouraged her to be disrespectful about Lady de Clifford and even her father.

The Prince of Wales was already prejudiced against Dr Nott, partly because of the earlier impertinence and partly because he suspected that the sub-preceptor had prevented him from seeing some papers in which his daughter had been disparaging about her mother. He believed Mrs Udney’s preposterous story.

This time the Bishop pleaded in vain. Dr Nott was suspended from office and never reinstated, and the Bishop and Lady de Clifford decided that this was not the moment to take the case against Mrs Udney any further.

Charlotte wrote to Dr Nott. ‘If we never meet again, keep for me your regard and affection. If I go into other people’s hands, rely on me, I shall ever remember your kindness and your good advice.’

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

george and mrs udney

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Charlotte’s Life in Windsor

Physically Charlotte developed early, and at fifteen she was a young woman.

‘She is grown excessively,’ wrote Lady Charlotte Bury, ‘and has all the fulness of a person of five-and-twenty.’ This critical lady-in-waiting considered that the young princess was neither graceful nor elegant, but had to admit that the she had ‘a peculiar air’. ‘The Princess Charlotte,’ she continues, ‘is above the middle height, extremely spread for her age; her bosom full, but finely shaped; her shoulders large, and her whole person voluptuous.’ But Lady Charlotte predicts unkindly that ‘without much care and exercise she will shortly lose all beauty in fat and clumsiness’.

The Princess was well aware of this danger: from her father and several of her aunts and uncles she inherited a tendency to stoutness, which she knew that she must fight by taking exercise; but she was lethargic, particularly in the winter, when she felt the cold excessively and hated the thought of going out. She was now spending part of the year at Windsor, and the rest of her time at Warwick House, a small building standing to the east of Carlton House, with a gate leading into the Prince’s grounds. It was shabby and isolated: ‘nothing,’ wrote Miss Cornelia Knight, ‘could more perfectly resemble a convent than this residence; but it was a seat of happiness to Princess Charlotte compared with the Lower Lodge at Windsor, and she was anxiously desirous to remain in Town as much as possible.’

At Windsor when the weather was bad, there was nothing whatsoever to do. She disliked the Queen intensely, believing at this stage that her grandmother was plotting against her; neither could she be sure of her ground with her older aunts, and she found the monotonous life, full of petty intrigue, quite intolerable. She must also have been haunted by the knowledge that her grandfather, whom she loved, was there, in the Castle, shut away from his family, rigorously hidden from sight (but not always from sound). She heard the discreet bulletins given by the numerous tiptoeing obsequious doctors: ‘not so well today as he was yesterday’, ‘the King was composed throughout the day’, ‘the King had had three hours’ sleep and was composed’, or ‘by no means as well as he was’. She learned that it was, among the family, a subject to be avoided; slowly she accepted the cruel truth, that her grandfather was hopelessly out of his mind-and she would never see him again.’

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

charlotte augusta by joseph lee 1814

Picture: Charlotte Augusta by Joseph Lee, 1814

Charlotte, Music and Books

When she was not riding or playing with her dogs or being taught subjects which did not interest her, Charlotte spent a great deal of time playing the piano and reading. ‘This is the only compagny I have…’ And a year later: ‘I apply to reading&musick more than ever, & am fonder of it. I play a great deal of Haydon’s musick and Mozart’s for piano and accompaniments.’ At Windsor she scraped together a small orchestra. ‘Col. Taylor comes generally every Sunday evening & brings his violincello [sic], so that together with the Griesbachs, we make up a tolerable concert.’

Her reading was varied and voracious. She found Madame de Staël’s ‘De la Littérature’ entertaining and instructive, while a Gothic novel, ‘The Sicilian Mysteries’, was ‘most interesting’. ‘It is in five vol.,’ she says, ‘full of mystery & remarkably well worked up.’ At the same time she was reading ‘Sense and Sensibility’ recommended by her uncle York. She shared her father’s appreciation of Jane Austen. ‘You feel quite one of the company,’ she says, and confesses that she identified herself with the emotional Maryanne. ‘I think Maryanne & me are very alike in disposition, that certainly I am not so good, the same imprudence, &c., however remain very like.’

Like most girls of her age, Charlotte admired Byron’s poetry, and went into ecstasies over each new work when it appeared. ‘I had the f i r s t that was issued,’ she said of ‘The Corsair’, ‘&  d e v o u r e d it twice in the course of the day.’ The poet himself was her pin-up.

‘Have you seen a new print of Lord Byron? I have got it and look at it very often. I admire it so very much & think it so very beautiful…’

But, studying the portrait, she shows some discernment.

‘I try to trace the man&his mind in it, but c a n n o t; it belies what he is, for it looks so l o v i n g and l o v e a b l e & something so very much above the common sort of beauty or what is regularly handsome.’

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

SenseAndSensibilityTitlePage

Picture: Title page of Sense and Sensibility’s first edition.

Charlotte and Dogs

‘In Charlotte’s letters we hear of several dogs. One, a pug, was given to her by Lady Albemarle. “Pray,” wrote Charlotte before its arrival, “have the goodness to tell me how old the pug is. Pray give it a name, and tell me whether it is a female or not.” We do not know what name was given to the pug, but some years later Charlotte wrote to tell Lady de Clifford, “I have lost my Puff.” “We have advertised him,” she goes on, “at 2 guineas reward. I hope I shall find him.” But her grief over the loss was softened. “Papa has made me a present of a beautiful white Italian greyhound, with cropt ears, etc.” This creature was a prisoner of war, taken aboard a French ship, and had belonged to Napoleon’s Empress. Captain Lake,* who made the capture, brought the dog, said Charlotte, as an offering to the Prince. “But he said, I don’t care for dogs, I will send it to Charlotte who loves them.”

In December 1812, she announced proudly that Toby, who must have been female in spite of her name, “has at length presented me with 4 beautiful puppies, two black & two white and red: they are all alive and well…”‘

* Captain, afterwards Admiral Sir Willoughby Lake, R. N., Bart., at this time serving on the coast of Spain in command of the ‘Magnificent’.

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

greyhound_puppy2

Picture from http://furever.ca/greyhound-dog-gallery-cute-puppies-photos/

Charlotte and Horses

“I do not think her manner dignified, as a Princess’s ought to be, or, indeed, as I should wish a daughter of mine to behave.” Lady Albinia Cumberland, Lady of the Bedchamber to the younger princesses, watched Charlotte disapprovingly when she was at Windsor in the summer of 1811. Rather grudgingly she admits that Charlotte’s riding is “beautiful-no fear of course-gallops and leaps over every ditch like a schoolboy…” But she criticizes her swaggering manner (“not at all en princesse”) and her habit of “twanging hands” with all the men. Indeed, from her description it would seem that Charlotte at fifteen was altogether too big for her boots. “She…is in awe of no one and glories in her independent way of thinking…Her passion,” adds Lady Albinia, “is horses.” Horses and dogs were, indeed, important to the young princess. Riding was her chief happiness.

In October 1807, when she was eleven years old, the Prince had given her a pony. ‘You could not have given me anything I so much wished for,’ she wrote, and added, ‘I hope some time or other my dear papa will see me mount my charming little pony.’

She was given permission to ride in the grounds of Carlton House because the doctors said that riding would be beneficial to her health. Berkeley Paget recounts how the Prince boasted of his daughter’s prowess as an equestrienne-‘turning the corners in a gallop, stopping short on the horse’s tail, &c., on which I said “Her Royal Highness must have pretty good nerves, Sir.” “God damn you, isn’t she my daughter?” was the reply. I immediately assented to it, with the strongest assurance that the firmness of his Royal nerves was universally held up as an example.’

One of the few advantages of staying at Windsor, from Charlotte’s point of view, was that she could go for long rides in the Park and Forest. The stables were filled with splendid horses, eating their heads off, and now that the King could no longer enjoy his daily ride, the grooms must have welcomed the spirited young princess who rode so fearlessly and well-even if she did give one of them a cut across the back when he got in her way. ‘This was in good humour, though,’ said Lady Albinia Cumberland kindly.

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

horse and charlotte

The Drawers Are Showing

‘By this time, though they [Charlotte and George Keppel] were good friends, it will be seen that Lady de Clifford had very little control over Charlotte. Lady Glenbervie was shocked by the young Princess’s manners when dining at Kensington Palace. In the drawing-room, Charlotte sat with her legs stretched out in front of her-a boy’s attitude. “My dear Princess Charlotte, you show your drawers!” cried Lady de Clifford (long drawers, in 1812, were a new fashion). Charlotte, without moving, explained that she never showed them except when at her ease. “Yes, my dear, but when you get in or out of a carriage…” “I don’t care if I do.” “Your drawers,” insisted the Dowager, “are too long.” “I don’t think so. The Duchess of Bedford’s are much longer, and they are bordered with Brussels lace.”

Lady de Clifford had to admit defeat.

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

charlotte and lady de clifford

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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