Tag Archives: edward duke of kent

Charlotte’s Heart Is Broken

Perhaps it was, after all, a good thing that she was going back to Cranbourne Lodge. The season was over at Weymouth and the place had lost its summer charm. It was too windy for sailing, and she spent far too much time by herself. She admitted that her health was better: even though her heart was broken, she looked well, and she told Lady Ashbrook that she had been trying to ride again, ‘and really it goes off better than I could have hoped, which I know you will be glad to hear’. But she went on to tell this kind friend that she had been ‘very uneasy & unhappy upon certain subjects’, and to excuse herself from writing further as she was ‘out of spirits’.

On December 16, she and her ladies set out of for Windsor. She described the journey as sad and uncomfortable. Lady Rosslyn, ‘old Cross Bones’, who always got on her nerves, sat opposite her in the carriage, ‘& really her eternal fidgets & frights nearly drove me distracted’. In any case, Charlotte was hardly in the mood to enjoy herself: two days before, she had written, ‘My hear has had a very sudden & great shock.’ On her return, a letter from Mercer awaited her, which confirmed what she had already heard: Prince August was to marry an Englishwoman, a Miss Rumbolt.

At last, quite suddenly, the wretched, pathetic dream was shattered, the bright bubble of hope vanished into thin air. Charlotte accepted that F had played her false. Her feeling, she said, was not anger or resentment, ‘it is too deep … to allow of anything else but grief’.

At the Castle, she learned a little more about her faithless lover, to whom she now always refers as Prince Augustus. ‘The Duke of Kent told me that P. Augustus was the only black sheep in the family, & que sa main gauche a était offert a tous les jolies femmes en Allemagne.’ But the black sheep’s cousin, the Duchess of York, whether or no she knew anything of Charlotte’s infatuation, gave an even more daunting account of him. His breath, she said uncompromisingly, stank. ‘Handsome as he was, there was no going near him or bearing his approaching, for that it was worse than anything ever was, & at the opera she was obliged really to get one of her brothers to change places with her for fear of being sick.’

It seems strange that this unfortunate defect was not noticed by all the jolie femmes to whom he made love; even stranger that it should have passed unnoticed by the exquisite Madame Récamier. But nothing could have been more precisely aimed to disillusion a lovesick girl.

‘I feel quite convinced,’ wrote Charlotte, ‘that regrets are of no avail … As faith was broken, confidence is gone for ever.’

Throughout the F affair the assiduous Miss Knight – banished and living with friends – had linked the lovers by receiving and forwarding letters. Charlotte dreaded that Notte (as she now always called her) would make things worse for her by reproaching the Prussian prince for his faithlessness. However, she misjudged her. Cornelia managed to smuggle Charlotte’s picture and a ring, returned by F, and wrote calmly and sadly, enclosing a letter – ‘an easy, cool, familiar, friendly letter’ in which Prince August regretfully brings the correspondence to an end. ‘If anything was further wanted to decide the affair,’ said Charlotte, ‘this does it.’

The Duchess of York, having dropped one highly-charged bombshell, followed it up with further disclosures: that, as well as having ‘horrible’ breath – was he, perhaps, too fond of garlic? – he had at least two mistresses. ‘He is not a general favourite,’ she assured her niece; in fact, nobody really liked him except his mother. If the Duchess had set out to finish the affair she could hardly have done so more efficiently. ‘Have I not echappé belle?’ Charlotte demanded of Mercer, and in the next breath went on to discuss the Prince of Saxe-Coburg.

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

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Whose Child is Willikin?

‘The child which she claimed to be her own eventually made its appearance – a puny little creature named William Austin, who was said to be the son of a Deptford dock labourer and his wife. This may have been true; but years later Caroline swore that this baby was the bastard son of Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, who was smuggled into England and exchanged for the docker’s son. Prince Louis Ferdinand had been her lover, she said, when she was a girl, and she brought up the boy for his sake. Certainly Willikin, as she called him, was her favourite child, invariably given pride of place, pampered and spoiled, though by all accounts he displayed neither charm nor intelligence. “A sickly looking child with fair hair and blue eyes,” was Charlotte’s description of him.

There was also a girl, whom the Princess named Edwardina Kent: there was no question of the Duke of Kent having fathered her; she was probably the illegitimate child of Admiral Sir Sidney Smith,* who was one of Caroline’s courtiers at Blackheath, and who was an intimate friend of the Douglases.

* But the Princess had another story: Edwardina, she said, was the child of Irish parents “of the upper class” who, being forced to flee from their home, had left the infant with “a poor old peasant woman who lives at Blackheath.’

NPG D38618; William Austin by W. Nicholls, published by  Hassell & Co, after  John Raphael Smith

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

Picture: William Austin

Dr John Fisher, Bishop of Exeter

‘[Lady de Clifford] was not in overall command of Princess Charlotte’s education. That was a responsability for a man, a preceptor; at the instigation of the King, the office had been given to the Rt Rev. Dr John Fisher, Bishop of Exeter. Fisher was a favourite at Windsor Castle. He had been tutor to the Duke of Kent, Chaplain to the King, Clerk of the Closet and Canon of Windsor. He was sincerely pious and a connoisseur of painting and drawing. But he was pompous, humourless, dogmatic, wilful and absurdly old – fashioned. In the manner of a generation that had mostly died out towards the end of the eighteenth century, he still wore a wig and spoke affectedly. When referring to himself, which he did often, he pronounced the word bishop “bishup”, emphasising the last syllable. Within weeks of meeting him, nine – year – old Charlotte had nicknamed him “the Great UP”.

Lady de Clifford and the Prince of Wales were convinced that the King had appointed the Bishop to act as a spy and report back on everything that was happening at Warwick House. Delegating the duties of his distant diocese to his archdeacon, he called there regularly, sometimes as often as twice a week, and when he did he was almost always critical.

He argued constantly with Lady de Clifford about what Charlotte should be learning and how it should be taught to her. Their debates were heated, acrimonious and noisy, even in the presence of the Princess. But when that happened, Charlotte used to mock the Bishop behind his back, burdening Lady de Clifford with the added strain of trying to keep a straight face.

According to George Keppel, Charlotte had inherited her father’s talents for acting and mimicry. While the Bishop pontificated, she stood behind him jutting out her lower lip, waving her arms and generally ridiculing his expressions and mannerisms in an exaggerated mime.’

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

451px-John_Fisher_by_William_Daniell_1793

Picture: Portrait of John Fisher by William Daniell, 1793

Charlotte’s Family: Edward Duke of Kent

CHARLOTTE’S PATERNAL UNCLE

493px-Edward,_Duke_of_Kent_and_Strathearn_by_Sir_William_Beechey

Edward Augustus (2 November 1767 – 23 January 1820), fourth son of George III of the United Kingdom and Charlotte of Mecklenburg – Stirlitz, the Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1799 – 1827), General and commander-in-chief of British forces in North America and the Governor of Gibraltar, father of Queen Victoria, Charlotte’s paternal uncle.

Picture: Portrait of Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, by Sir William Beechey, 1814 (National Portrait Galllery)

Restrictions Imposed By Royal Marriages Act

By the terms of his father’s Royal Marriages Act, princes of the Blood Royal could only marry with the King’s consent, which really meant they could only marry respectable German princesses, who were also Protestant. This was very limiting. George III’s seven sons had the greatest difficulty in keeping within the law, and most of them did not try: it was simpler, as the Dukes of Clarence and Kent discovered, to take a mistress and stick to her. But it did not help the succession.

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

‘George Augustus Frederick, Prince of Wales, eldest son and heir apparent of George III, King of England, was thirty – two old and, on paper at any rate, the most eligible bachelor in the western world. His attitude towards matrimony, however, had always been disappointingly negative. Indeed, some ten years earlier he had sworn that he would never marry. He had “settled it with Frederick” – Duke of York and his next and favourite brother – that Frederick would marry and that crown would descend to his children. But Frederick’s wifehad turned out to be barren, and other princes were now all either comfortably suited with mistresses, or for other reasons unwilling or unable to do their duty by the family. George III’s plain sturdy little Queen (she had been Charlotte of Mecklenburg – Strelitz) had survived no fewer than fifteen pregnancies nd successfully reared seven sons and five daughters, but the remarkable fact remained that by 1795 there were still no grandchildren – or at least no grandchildren born on the right side of the blanket. It was not, however, concern for the future of the Hanoverian succession which had finally propelled the Prince of Wales towards the altar – it was stern financial necessity.

[an extract from ‘Caroline&Charlotte’ by Alison Plowden]

Royal Marriages Act