Category Archives: Childhood (1796 – 1805)

Intrigues behind the marriage of Charlotte’s parents, their immediate separation, Charlotte’s birth and early childhood spent in Carlton House.

2015, January 7th – Princess Charlotte’s 220th Birthday

Today is the 220th anniversary of Princess Charlotte’s birth. As always on this occasion let me quote the letter which the baby’s father, the Prince of Wales, sent to his mother Queen Charlotte.

‘(…) The Princess, after a terrible hard labour for above twelve hours, is this instant brought to bed of an immense girl, and I assure you notwithstanding we might have wish’d for a boy, I receive her with all the affection possible, and bow with due defference and resignation to the decrees of Providence (…)’

an extract from the Prince of Wales’ letter to his mother Queen Charlotte taken from ‘Caroline&Charlotte’ by Alison Plowden

Personally I would like to wish Princess Charlotte a new biography as a birthday present, I think she deserves it.

We are celebrating the event on FB and you can expect a guest post by Susan Abernethy from The Freelance History Writer really soon.

Charlotte as a child - detail

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Jan, 7th 1796 – Princess Charlotte Is Born

Happy 219th Birthday to Princess Charlotte!

She was born in the morning of January 7, 1796 at Carlton House in London.

This is what the Prince of Wales, child’s father, wrote in a letter to his mother:

‘(…) The Princess, after a terrible hard labour for above twelve hours, is this instant brought to bed of an immense girl, and I assure you notwithstanding we might have wish’d for a boy, I receive her with all the affection possible, and bow with due defference and resignation to the decrees of Providence (…)’

an extract from the Prince of Wales’ letter to his mother Queen Charlotte taken from ‘Caroline&Charlotte’ by Alison Plowden

Charlotte as a child - detail

‘Miss Charlotte and Miss Annie’

‘At two years old, Charlotte made a friend nearer her own age. Anne, or Nancy, Barnard was the orphaned niece of Thomas Deacon, the Prince’s coachman at Carlton House, and lived over the stables with her aunt and uncle. She was nearly two years older than Charlotte, and the little girls played together with their dolls and toys. “Sometimes,” said Anne in later life, “the Princess took me round the waist and danced round the garden with me…For three months we learned out lessons together.” Anne would present herself at nine o’clock each morning, and the little girls dined together, and were together all day. Who was the enlightened person who permitted this friendship? Perhaps the Prince, who used to pat Nancy on the head when he visited the stables, decided that she might be a good friend for his daughter: the fact that they learned their lessons together suggests a plan from on high. However this may be, the friendship brought out Charlotte’s best qualities, her warm – heartedness, her generosity and her loyalty. “The Princess,” said Anne, “hadn’t a bit of pride. She used to say we were Miss Charlotte and Miss Annie.”

This is in marked contrast to the attitude of Charlotte’s cousin, Princess Victoria, some twenty years later. A little girl, Lady Jane Ellison, was brought to play with her. “I may call you Jane,” said the future Queen Victoria, hastily removing all her toys, “but you must not call me Victoria.”

When Charlotte left Carlton House she gave “Miss Annie” a keepsake – a small wax doll with bright blue eyes, known to the little girls as “the great doll’s baby”. This plaything, with its well-worn waxen face, is now in the archives of the London Museum. It is about twelve inches long, dressed in a white muslin gown, with a straw bonnet trimmed with pale blue satin; and with it is Anne Barnard’s account of her friendship with the Princess, which endured to the end of Charlotte’s life.’

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

wax

Picture: a 19th century wax doll http://dollmusem.blogspot.com/2013/06/wax-dolls-back-to-19th-century-and-our.html

The King Falls Into Madness Again

It became a cloak and dagger situation. The Prince consulted Charles James Fox, who wrote a few days later of “the desperate attempt that is making to take the Princess from your Royal Highness”, and advised the Prince to remove his daughter immediately from Woolwich to Carlton House. “Where she is now,” he continues, “she cannot be safe. For God’s sake, Sir, let no one persuade you that this is not a matter of the highest importance to you.”

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Elton*, intervened. He advised the Prince to wait till the King returned from Weymouth before taking further action. He warned him of the effect that any drastic measure might have upon the King’s mind. Now, three years after his last illness, the King was giving unmistakable signs that his mind was unbalanced. Although able to dictate letters and deal with state affairs, in his private life he behaved oddly, buying houses and giving extravagant presents. His family watched him with growing alarm. They viewed his increasing kindness to the Princess of Wales with dismay. He conferred upon her the Rangership of Greenwich, and offered to give her Greenwich Park, which she refused. The Prince’s secretary and spy, Colonel McMahon, reported that he received her at Kew because at Windsor “he knew that the Queen and Princesses would be rude to her”. He treated his daughter – in – law with the greatest kindness and affection, but, sadly, his attitude to the Queen worsened, as illness warped his mind. He reverted to the idea which had possessed him in 1788, that his true Queen was the Countess of Pembroke – ‘Queen Esther’. He would like to live with her, he said, in the Great Lodge in Windsor Park; but if she declined his offer, he would transfer it to the Duchess of Rutland. With one or other of these ladies he would “live snug at the Lodge’ while the Queen went to London to hold weekly Drawing Rooms.

It was hoped that sea bathing at Weymouth would restore the King, and although he had to be restrained from riding his horse into church, he seems to have presented his usual benign and friendly countenance to the world, and The Times correspondent, comparing the respectability of Weymouth with the vulgarity of Brighton, reported that ‘the piety, the morality, the decorum of a virtuous Court shed their influence around…”

But on their return from Weymouth, the King and the Queen, at her instigation, began to live apart: she was frightened of him. Whether at Windsor or at Buckingham Palace, she made sure that there would be no question of their sleeping together, and locked the door against her husband. Her temper suffered under the strain: she bullied her daughters and snapped at the King. She sided with the Prince in royal rows.

The King’s position cannot have been happy. He was beginning to go blind, and could not recognize people across a room; yet, to outsiders at least, he appeared in excellent health.

“Our good King,” wrote Lord Henley, who often saw him at Windsor, “continues mind and body, the sight excepted, better than I have seen him for years…This morning I met him in the Park at ten o’clock and rode with him until a quarter past one. He was cheerful, and we had more than one of his hearty laughs, which I have not heard before for some time.”

This was, indeed, the general impression. At the King’s request “that horrible doctor* had been dismissed, and he believed himself, at sixty – six, fit and well.

*Dr. Samuel Foart Simmons, Physician to St. Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics.He was called in in 1804 when the King refused to see Dr. Willis; brought his assistants and put the King in a strait – jacket. He was with difficulty persuaded to go, at the insistence of the Prince of Wales.

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

220px-George_III_Zoffany

 * Correct spelling: ‘Eldon’. More about him here.

An Unexpected Invitation To The Windsor Castle

‘”The formation of character” in Hannah More’s opinion, “is the grand object to be accomplished,” and here Lady Elgin would have agreed: the character of her “dear precious charge” was her constant preoccupation. Charlotte was emotional, affectionate, but strong – willed; moreover, she was highly strung and we hear of her being “nervous from the weather”. As Lady Elgin knew, she was also affected by the circumstances of her life; in particular, the highly charged atmosphere in which the Princess of Wales lived. In August 1804, Lady Elgin wrote from Shrewsbury Lodge, where she and Charlotte were staying for the summer, describing an unexpected visit from the Princess of Wales.

“On Sunday [August 19] her Royal Highness arrived in great spirits here calling from her carriage that she had great news to tell us, & desired us to guess what would give us the greatest pleasure. Princess Charlotte immediately exclaimed, <<Going to Windsor.>> <<Not just that,>> reply’d her Royal Highness, <<but you are going to Kew, to see their Majesties, &the King has wrote me to desire I would tell you to come in order to take leave of you and me>> (addressing Princess Charlotte) <<before he goes to Weymouth.>>”

“The Princess”, said Lady Elgin, “continued in high spirits and staid to luncheon.” But the Dowager grew more and more uneasy. It was very odd, this verbal message from the King, no word from the Queen, or from one of the princesses. She had never taken Charlotte to see her grandparents without a written invitation; and she began to fear that for some reason the Queen was angry with her.

The Princess offered to take them in her carriage, but Lady Elgin insisted that they should go separately, as Charlotte had better be kept quiet: she was already “agitated from her joy”. When they arrived, “the dear good King” received them with the greatest kindness, and took them into the dining – room. “I was quite stupefied,” wrote the poor worried lady, “when his Majesty said he was alone, and that he came merely to see the Princess of Wales and the dear little girl before he went to Weymouth.” The Princess of Wales the arrived, and the King took her into another room, leaving Lady Elgin trembling with agitation at the appalling breach of etiquette – to visit the King without the Queen’s command, or even knowledge. “I really never was in such a state,” she said; but she revived a little when the party sat down to dinner. The King ate heartily of pudding and dumpling, and insisted upon making the coffee himself.

As Lady Elgin was aware, the King had been seriously ill in 1801, another bout of the strange and frightening malady that affected his mind. This time the illness had been short – lived, but although his bodily health was good, he continued to become quickly excited or depressed, or to indulge in freakish impulses.

She felt now that there was something strange and unnatural in this summons. “I have got you, all to myself,” he said to Charlotte, embracing her fervently and, turning ti Lady Elgin, he added, “The Prince has given up the child to me, but it is not settled.” So nervous was she of the possible consequences of this unauthorized visit that she immediately wrote a full account of it to the Prince. He had been trying to negotiate a reconciliation with his father; but now he forgot everything in the drama of the moment. The King was planning to capture Princess Charlotte and return her to her mother, he believed. The Princess of Wales was trying to insinuate herself into the King’s favour, and must at all costs be thwarted. He told Lady Elgin to keep a close guard on Princess Charlotte; not to part with her “on any account or under any pretence whatsoever”.


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

charlotte caroline lady elgin and the king

The Visit of Miss Hannah More

From now on, Charlotte’s accomplimshments were exploited. We hear of her singing “Hearts of Oak” to her delighted grandpapa, and “God save the King” again, “with much spirit and precision” to Miss Hannah More, when this famous and learned lady visited the royal nursery. Charlotte, now four, was on her best behaviour, and, taking Miss Moore by the hand, showed her round Carlton House, pulling up the dust sheets to display her father’s finest pieces of French and English furniture. She then recited “How doth the little busy bee”, and rounded off the performance by dancing a pas seul. “The prettiest, most sensible and genteel a little creature you would wish to see,” commented Miss More, and went home to write a book, “Hints Towards Forming the Character of a Young Princess”. Five years later, it was published, and she asked permission to present a copy to the Queen: thus Charlotte from the age of ten was educated on the high – flown principles laid down by Miss More. At sixteen she was still studying it. “This I believe is what makes me finde the hours so long,” she complained. “I am not quite good enough for that yet.”
[an extract from ‘Prinny’s Daughter: A Biography of Princess Charlotte of Wales’ by Thea Home]
NPG 412; Hannah More by Henry William Pickersgill
Picture: Hannah More by Henry William Pickersgill, 1821, National Portrait Gallery, London

Lady Elgin Doesn’t Like Princess of Wales And Charlotte Loves Performing

‘Charlotte, aged two, paid regular visits to her mother in Blackheath, but spent most of her time at Carlton House, where she occasionally saw her father. In March, she went to stay at Windsor, and the King gave her “a very large rocking horse”. She was overjoyed, and her aunts wished that the Prince had been there “to see her dear little countenance”. Lady Elgin, whom Charlotte called Eggy, was firm, kind and good, and tried to teach the child to love both her parents equally. This cannot have been easy, Lady Elgin did not approve of the Princess of Wales or her effect on Charlotte, and was tempted to cut short their visits to her. Lord Minto, who was often at Blackheath, wrote, “The child comes only when Lady Elgin chooses; she was there yesterday, and was led about by Lady Elgin in a leading – string; though she seems stout and able to trot without help.” He saw her again and told his wife that she was ‘one of the finest and pleasantest children I even saw…remarkably good and governable”. He may have changed his mind after his next visit. On this occasion, the Princess of Wales, giving a spirited performance of a fond mother, “romped about on the carpet” with her little girl, after which the ladies played on the pianoforte and the excited little girl danced, “which she likes as well as possible.” Charlotte, who was not yet three, then sang “God save the King”, followed by “Hearts of Oak”, and after this it is not surprising to learn that there was a scene: Charlotte screamed and stamped, and everybody scolded her. Miss Garth (who had returned on the departure of Miss Hayman) then said rather feebly, “You have been so very naughty I don’t know what we must do to you.””You must s’oot me,” said Charlotte, who had watched soldiers drilling at Weymouth.”‘
[an extract from ‘Prinny’s Daughter: A Biography of Princess Charlotte of Wales’ by Thea Home]

charlotte caroline and lady elgin