Tag Archives: allan ramsay

Royal Nursery: Countess of Elgin

‘A few weeks later the Prince was faced with another crisis. Lady Dashwood became gravely ill, and could not attend to her duties in the Royal Nursery (…) It was several months before “this most incomparable and amiable woman” was replaced. Eventually, in January 1797, Martha Countess of Elgin was appointed. A new set of nursery rules was drawn up, ‘TO BE OBSERVED BY LADY ELGIN AND MISS GARTH AS GOVERNESS AND SUB-GOVERNESS TO HER ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCESS CHARLOTTE OF WALES.’

Regularity of hours, the importance of midday sleep and daily airing are stressed. “It is absolutely necessary that her R.H. goes to bed at or before eight o’clock-& it is requested that either Lady Elgin or Miss Garth will attend occasionally at her Royal Highness’s dinner supper&undressing.” There is no mention of the child’s mother, and once again the rules are signed by the Prince.’

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

‘In 1804, Princess Charlotte’s little world received a fresh shock. Lady Elgin, now in her sixties, and suffering from gout and weak health, resigned. There is a suggestion, in her letter to the King, that she was compelled to do so, “by a new arrangement of education deemed necessary, as her Royal Highness is advancing in life’. Whatever the reason, this resignation was unfortunate from Charlotte’s point of view: ‘Eggy’ was the one person – apart from her grandfather – for whom she had both respect and affection. It is noticeable that in the new regime which followed, the young Princess began to show signs of becoming a problem child. She was noisy and disobedient; she showed off and told lies. Gentle, good Lady Elgin, who had watched over her “precious charge” so carefully, had succeeded in curbing her temper and instilling in her something of the prim virtue of the model child of that period; and although Charlotte’s temperament was far too passionate and impulsive to remain within these bounds, her affection to Lady Elgin often brought her to her senses when nothing else would. Under ‘Eggy’ we find Charlotte, age five, weaving a tasselled cape string for her grandfather, and sewing laboriously and probably not very well at a footstool for the Queen. She wrote to the King that she wished the cape string were better, “but it is the first I have ever done…” “Pray come back soon to Kew,” she ends, “and for Eggy and me,” and signed herself “Your dutiful Child, Charlotte”. This docile child was to vanish with Lady Elgin’s departure.

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


Portrait: Martha Bruce, Countess of Elgin and Kincardine by Allan Ramsay, 1762, National Gallery of Scotland