Tag Archives: dr george nott

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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The Affair With Testament (Part 2)

‘Before making any decision, however, he consulted the Privy Council. The spring of 1806 stood at the centre of a great crisis in the history of Europe. Less than six months before the little will was written, Britain’s hero, Admiral Lord Nelson, had died saving his nation from invasion at the battle of Trafalgar. The French army that had been waiting to be carried across the Channel had turned east. Just over a month later the armies of Britain’s allies Austria and Russia had been shattered at Austerlitz. Napoleon was the master of most Europe. At his instigation, King George’s Electorate of Hanover had been given to the Prussians. And on top of all that, Britain’s brilliant Prime Minister, William Pitt, had died heartbroken and exhausted. The coalition that replaced him, known optimistically as ‘the ministry of all the talents’, was negotiating for peace with Napoleon.

Yet at that most desperate moment, some of the men who had been entrusted with the safety of the nation were asked to devote time to discussing the implications of a will written on impulse by a lonely ten – year – old child.

To anyone who knew the truth, their judgement cannot have been encouraging. They agreed that Mrs Campbell was responsible.

Mrs Campbell was asked to resign, and Dr Nott, overwhelmed with remorse and frustration, took to his bed and stayed there for several weeks. Charlotte was told only that Mrs Campbell had resigned on grounds of ill health. She wrote in her misery to George’s mother, Lady Albemarle:

“Poor dear Mrs. Campbell is going away, for her health is so bad. If you have any regard to me, you will write to her and try to console her. Do it if you love me. I lose great deal when she leaves me. Indeed she is a charming woman, that is far above Mrs. Udney, for the more I see of Mrs. Campbell, the more I love [her], but Mrs. Udney I still continue to dislike. When you come to town I wish to have a conversation with you about her…You have no idea how unhappy I am.”

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Picture: A portrait of Charlotte as a child http://www.pinterest.com/pin/554153929121829364/

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

The Affair With Testament (Part 1)

‘In March 1806, while they were living at Windsor, ten – year – old Charlotte went into a room where Mrs Campbell was writing at a table. When Charlotte asked what she was doing, Mrs Campbell answered that she was making her will.

“Then I’ll make mine too”, said Charlotte. And so she did, in the same childish detail as she kept her accounts.

“I make my will. First I leave all my best books, and all my books, to the Rev. Mr. Nott.
Secondly, to Mrs. Campbell my three watches and half my jewels.
Thirdly, I beg Mr. Nott, whatever money he finds me inpossession of, to distribute to the poor, and all my money I leave to the poor to them. I leave with Mr. Nott all my papers which he knows of, and I beg him to burn those which he sealed up. I beg the Prayer Book which Lady Elgin gave to me may be given to the Bishop of Exeter, and the Bible Lady Elgin gave me may be given to him also. Also all my playthings the Miss Fishers are to have. And lastly, concerning Mrs. Gagarin and Mrs. Louis, I beg that they may be very handsomly paid, and that they may have a house. Lady de Clifford the rest of my jewels, except those that are most valuable, and those I beg my father and mother, the Prince and Princess of Wales, to take. Nothing to Mrs. Udney, for reasons. I have done my will, and trust that after I am dead a great deal may be done for Mr. Nott. I hope the King will make him a Bishop.

Charlotte.
March, 1806
My birds to Mrs. Gagarin and my dog or dogs to Mrs. Anna Hatton my chambermaid.”

When Dr Nott saw the will, he entered into the spirit of the game and suggested that Charlotte was being too unkind to Mrs Udney. Charlotte agreed and added a codicil making a bequest to Mrs Udney as well. But by then, somehow – and it is not difficult to guess how – the original will had found its way into the hands of the Prince of Wales, who allowed himself to be convinced that it had been written under the influence of Mrs Campbell.

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

testament

Picture: an eighteenth century testament http://www.scottishhandwriting.com/18cTIntro.asp

Mrs Udney

‘Mrs. Udney, on the other hand, was good – looking, ill – tempered and fickle. She was so fond of drink that even Charlotte noticed, and she adored gossip. According to Lord Glenbervie, who heard it from Mrs (by then Lady) Harcourt, she took one of Charlotte’s tutors as a lover. Sadly, however, he was unable to name him. In a letter to his wife, who was one of Lady Jersey’s successors as lady – in – waiting to Charlotte’s mother, he wrote, “She says Mrs Udney had an intrigue with one of the Princess Charlotte’s music or drawing masters – that they used to be lock up together in Mrs Udney’s room, which opened into the Princess’s, and that when any friend or intimate came there, and was going to open the door of communication, the Princess would say: <<You must not to try to go there. Mrs Udney and —— are there, and they always lock themselves in.>>”Although Mrs Udney tried to worm her way into Charlotte’s affection by indulging her, she was never successful. The Princess, who referred to her behind her back as “Mrs Nibs”, was unimpressed by her fondness for drink and her depravity, and she may have had other unrecorded reasons for disliking her as well. But to Lady de Clifford and Dr. Nott, Mrs Udney’s most serious weakness was her fondness for gossip. The drawing rooms of London were buzzing with scandalous stories about Charlotte’s parents, particularly her mother, and there was a real danger that sooner or later Mrs Udney might pass some of them on to her.'[an extract from ‘Charlotte&Leopold’ by James Chambers]’Mrs. Udney was the second sub – governess, and according to that arch – gossip, Lord Glanbervie, she had an intrigue with one of Charlotte’s masters, and they used to lock themselves into Mrs. Udney’s room, which opened out of the Princess’s. Charlotte was well aware of what was going on and would warn people not to interrupt them.

On the surface Mrs. Udney was prepossessing, but Charlotte called her Mrs. Nibbs, and never liked her. In her letters she described her as “cros”, as “a great goose”, as “selfish and bad – tempered”, “snappish and sharp”, and declared in 1811, “Contempt is not sufficient for her, for I now dislike and I am disgusted with her…” She suggests too that her sub – governess was fond of drink. When they were staying at Bognor Charlotte wrote, “I strongly suspect that she has taken some balsam (or comforting cordial) to sooth, I presume,…the voices of the little harpies that continually prey upon her inside & make her so cross. She is now gone out to walk; inhaling the pure air of the sea will, I hope, refresh her blow away some of the clowdes that are flying about her noddle.”‘

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

370px-John_Massey_Wright_-_Mrs._Martha_Udney_-_Google_Art_Project
Picture: Mrs. Martha Udney by John Masey Wright, 1801, Yale Center For British Art

Mrs Campbell

‘Apart from Dr Nott, there were two other sub – preceptors, who came in as he did to teach English literature, French, German and modern history; and there were masters for music, dancing, drawing and writing. The only resident members of Charlotte’s tutorial staff were two widows who acted as sub – governesses, Mrs Campbell, whose husband had been a Governor of Bermuda, and Mrs Udney, whose husband, according to the Prince of Wales, had been the ugliest man he ever saw.

Mrs Campbell was small, angular and argumentative. Unknown to the Prince of Wales, who affected support for the Whig opposition, she was also, like Dr Fisher, a high Tory. But she was intelligent and strong – willed. As a governess she was strict but fair, and Charlotte respected her for that. Before long the Princess was announcing poignantly that Mrs Campbell and Dr Nott were her adopted parents.

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

WilliamCampbell24thRegt

Picture: A plaque in the memory of Mrs Campbell’s late husband on the right wall of St. Peter’s Church in Bermuda taken from the page http://www.bermuda-online.org/history1700-1799.htm

Dr George Nott

‘Deep down, Charlotte may have been disturbed by the extent to which Dr Fisher and Lady de Clifford argued, but the person who bore the brunt of the conflict was the Rev. Dr George Nott, her chaplain and sub – preceptor. Kindly, liberal, patient Dr Nott was responsible for religious instructions, English, Latin and ancient history, and he received conflicting instructions from the governess and preceptor in almost every field. On top of that, since he saw himself as Charlotte’s moral tutor, he added to his burden by trying to teach her to be honsest. But he was no more successful in that than in spelling. Charlotte wanted to mend her ways. She liked Dr Nott and was eager to please him. She told him so several times. In one note to him she wrote, “Let me most humbly implore your forgiveness…Never shall another lie come out of me.” But, like many children in discordant households, she had discovered that a little falsehood here and there could go a long way towards establishing her innocence or reducing the burden of her studies; it was a tool too useful to abandon completely.'[an extract from ‘Charlotte&Leopold’ by James Chambers]’But [Prince of Wales] made no attempt to settle the Bishop. His only desire was that the learned churchman, with daughters of his own, would cure Charlotte of telling lies. The Prince was well aware of his own tendency to lie when driven into a corner: “You know,” he once said to Lady Spencer, “you know that I don’t speak the truth, and that my brothers don’t…the Queen having taught us to prevaricate.” He hoped that the Bishop would teach Charlotte to be
truthful. But it was Dr. Nott, the Bishop’s assistant, who undertook this task. From eight to nine every morning, after reading prayers with the Princess, he gave her religious instruction and did his utmost to instil into her a determination to be honest as the day. “Never shall another lie come out of me!” she assured him in her impetuous way, and for the moment she meant it. She truly desired to please Dr. Nott. She wrote him little notes, telling him her problems, asking questions on religious matters: she had always taken an interest in religion, and when quite small had announced that in her opinion Joseph should not have been afraid of returning to Judea, when God had told him through an angel that he might do so. “But I leave that”, she ended, “to be settled by the Bishop of London and Lady Elgin.”

Dr. Nott always answered her notes most helpfully and kindly. He also tried to teach her English, Latin, and “Ancient” History for an hour and a half each day. It must have been uphill work. Charlotte was woefully ignorant: her education under Lady Elgin had been sketchy. Scholarly Dr. Nott was grieved by her handwriting and appalled by her spelling: she made mistakes, he said, “which a common servant would have blushed to have committed”.

He upbraided her for her laziness and lack of interest: “When are we to have the satisfaction of seeing your mind animated with a becoming pride and a generous resolution to improve?” he wrote after three months of unrewarding labour.

He also tried to curb her violent bursts of rage, but without success. Although truly penitent and anxious to please him, Charlotte went on scamping her homework, refusing to learn, and making scenes. In the end Dr. Nott broke down: the strain was too great.

Charlotte, now ten years old, was stricken with remorse: his illness was her fault. He might die, and she would be to blame. She prayed fervently, for forgiveness – God’s and Dr Nott’s – and for his recovery.

Fortunately, he survived. “Now”, wrote Charlotte, “I shall labour to recover your health by my industry, and wish to please and make you happy.”

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

dr nottPicture: Armorial bookplate of George Frederick Nott from http://www.flickr.com/photos/58558794@N07/8524211701/