Tag Archives: emily petty-fitzmaurice marchioness of lansdowne

Charlotte Is Pregnant

From this highly-dramatic atmosphere the calm of Claremont seemed far removed. Charlotte, who from time to time received a hint of her mother’s way of life, tried to obtain first-hand news of her. She begged Lady Charlotte Bury, who kept up with the Princess, to ask her to write. That she wrote herself is certain: and, surprisingly, Leopold approved of her doing so. ‘I heard from my daughter de oder day,’ the Princess of Wales is quoted as writing (the spelling is Lady Charlotte’s). ‘She expect to be confined in November.’ From this announcement, the letter must have been written in the spring or early summer of 1817.

On April 30, 1817, Prince Leopold arrived in his travelling carriage at Carlton House. For once, he was without Princess Charlotte, because she was in an interesting condition, and he was come to bring the happy news to the Prince Regent.

Charlotte was in radiant health, and all through the summer was able to keep up her social activities. On May 2, the anniversary of their wedding, the Coburgs gave a party, to which they invited the Duke and Duchess of York, the Castlereaghs and Lievens, the celebrated Marquis of Anglesey who had lost a leg at Waterloo – and Miss Mercer Elphinstone. Alas, the friendship had foundered. Mercer’s politics, since her intimacy with the Comte de Flahaut, were alarmingly Jacobinical, and she was now affronted because, on arrival at Claremont, she was not shown straight into Charlotte’s presence, as of old, but was obliged to wait with other guests to be received by their host and hostess together. Two days later, Prince Leopold wrote to tell the Regent that Charlotte had failed to persuade Miss Mercer to give her back, or to destroy, all her letters.*

* It is, for the biographer, a very great blessing that she did fail. Charlotte’s inimitable letters remained firmly in Mercer’s hands, were inherited by her daughter who married the Fourth Marquees of Lansdowne, and eventually reached the Lansdowne family archives at Bowood, where they are today.

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

Charlotte Befriends Mercer Elphinstone

The other friend was introduced to Charlotte by Dr Nott’s replacement, the Rev. Dr William Short. Dr Short was handsome and a bit more of a dandy than most clergymen. He was always light-hearted, even though he had recently been widowed and was still receiving consoling letters and visits from members of his wife’s family.

One of these was his brother-in-law, a distinguished admiral, who had been raised to the peerage as Baron Keith of Stonehaven Marischal. Lord Keith’s first wife, a Scots heiress, had died shortly after giving birth to their daughter, and that girl, now twenty-one years old, self-confident and strikingly beautiful, had inherited her mother’s enormous fortune. She was the embodiment of Jane Austen’s Emma – ‘handsome, clever and rich’. Charlotte worshipped her the moment she met her. Here at last was the companion, confidante and counsellor that the Princess had always needed. Her name was the Hon. Margaret Mercer Elphinstone.

Princess Charlotte wrote frequently to her ‘dearest Miss Mercer’, and Mercer Elphinstone kept almost all the letters. In later life she resisted every demand to hand them over. The best that she was prepared to do was to destroy those that were ‘upon particular subjects’.

Whether she did or not can never be known. Before she died, however, she gave all the letters that were still in her possession to her daughter, who married the fourth Marquess of Lansdowne, and they remained in his family until sold in 1994. Due to Mercer’s defiance, they were never read by the contemporary royal family. But they have survived to be read by posterity , and they are a moving testament to the hopes and fears of the ill-fated Princess.

The earliest letters are little more than gushing expressions of affection and eagerness for news. On the whole, the most amusing passages are the regular disparaging references to Mrs Udney. Yet even in these letters there is a sense of threat and caution. The fifteen-year-old Princess had already endured enough to know that, if she was going to be frank, she would also have to be careful.

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

Mercer Elphinstne by John Hoppner

Picture: the Hon. Margaret Mercer Elphinstone by John Hoppner

Miss Mercer Elphinstone