Tag Archives: frances villiers countess of jersey

Charlotte Is Writing To Her Father

It is difficult to understand why the Regent was so stubborn in his determination to marry Charlotte to the Dutch prince. Certainly it was a good alliance for the country; but there was more behind his uncompromising support of the match than the country’s future: he believed that his enemies were responsible for Charlotte’s change of heart, that Lady Jersey in particular had insinuated herself into the affair, gaining Charlotte’s confidence and working upon her to defy her father. He also suspected the arch-enemy, the Princess of Wales: she it was who had planned the Hesse affair, resolved to compromise her daughter, in the hopes of insinuating William Austin as claimant to the Throne. If she were to succeed in this nefarious – but possibly imaginary – plot, not only the Dutch marriage, but any royal marriage for Charlotte, would be scotched. In his way, he allowed his imagination to take hold of him, and to override every other consideration including his daughter’s feelings.

When Charlotte decided to appeal to her father to put an end, once and for all, to the possibility of her marriage with the Prince of Orange, he wrote her a letter which threw her into the depths of despair. It is a cruel letter because the Regent is playing cat-and-mouse with his daughter, allowing her to think that he is a loving father, planning everything for her happiness; and at the same time cold as steel in his unswerving attitude to the Dutch marriage, reminding Charlotte, falsely, that she had ‘earnestly and ardently begged him to betrothe her to the Hereditary Prince’. ‘Nothing has happened (to my knowledge),’ he said, ‘… to account for this change of heart.’ He blames the advice of ‘mischievous, false and wicked persons’, for raising ‘these unreasonable and groundless doubts in her mind’; and he thanks heaven that she is now withdrawn from all communication with such counsellors, ‘and justly rely upon me, as your best friend, and most anxious and dispassionate adviser’.

He goes on to remind her of ‘the melancholy and frightful disclosures’ she had made to him on Christmas Day, and her mother’s attempts to place her in a compromising situation, in which – unless adopting the advice of those who have her real interest at heart – she must feel the effects for the rest of her life.

The Princess of Wales has only ‘to make known the documents so unfortunately in her possession’, to ruin Charlotte’s chances of marriage, ‘not only with the Prince of Orange, but with any Prince of character, power and respectability’. After this frightful threat, based upon what turned out to be a false premise (it was later disclosed by Captain Hesse that he had destroyed all the letters that he had received from Charlotte), he draws to a close, assuring Charlotte that the earnestness and interest which he has expressed need not alarm her: he has taken no steps to renew the union with the Prince of Orange; and that however much he might wish for a revival, it can only come ‘from the parties themselves’.

All that night Charlotte lay awake, turning over what she could say in reply to her father’s letter. ‘I find the answering of it more painful even than the perusal,’ she told him. The Regent had suggested that she discuss his views with ‘a friend … who may be already acquainted with … your story’. By this he clearly meant Mercer, whom he thought he had won over to his point of view. ‘I feel quite confident,’ he said, ‘that your friend’s advice will not differ even in a shadow from mine.’ He was mistaken; or Mercer had not, in her long interview with him at Brighton, spoken up as ‘impudently’ as she said she did.

Charlotte regretted terribly Mercer’s absence at this juncture. Nobody at Windsor could advise her: she could only stand by her determination. ‘I remain firm and unshaken, & no arguments, no threats, shall ever bend me to marry this detested Dutchman.’

She decided to show the Prince’s letter to the Queen, who, she said, ‘was all eagerness …’ to know what the Regent had written, but ‘when I told her it was not quite what I could have wished or hoped for, she instantly said, “That is very bad indeed,” & then followed a dead silence of 10 minutes.’ When, after dinner, Charlotte read the letter to her grandmother, the Queen, she said, was ‘deeply overcome & she wept, wh. is very uncommon for her. She was very affectionate tome, implored me on her knees not to marry ever a man I did not like.’ The Queen urged her to answer at once, ‘as the less he thought I was hesitating or wavering the better’. The whole conference, said Charlotte, seemed to have upset the Queen very much.

The Princess’s reply to her father, written without advice, was brilliant. She was gentle and affectionate, but made it clear that she was resolute in her decision. And she pointed out that it was by no one’s advice that she had broken off her marriage. ‘On the contrary, it was against the advice of many.’ ‘Believe me,’ she went on, ‘my reputation is as dear to me as any woman’s … but when I know … that I am now going to be placed under your more immediate care & attention I feel no longer any anxiety upon the score. Indeed,’ she added confidently ‘were the whole known to the world very little blame could attach to me considering how very young I was.’

She made no reference to marriage, beyond saying that the union with the Prince of Orange was ‘quite impossible’. The Prince could only complain, in reply, at the speed with which she had answered, allowing herself no time for thought. This, he said, had given him no inconsiderable degree of pain. And thus, on a note of sorrow rather than anger, he dropped the subject, which he was obliged, for one reason and another to do anyway.

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

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The Prince Regent Is Becoming More And More Suspicious

For Charlotte the spring and summer of 1813 were for the most part dreary and sad. The only balls that she attended were in the houses of her father or her uncles, and at all of them the Prince Regent was as paranoid as ever.

At one ball, given by the Duke and Duchess of York, the Prince saw that his daughter was again sitting on a sofa talking to the Duke of Gloucester, for whom, if he only knew it, she did not have ‘the smallest partiality’. He instructed Lady Liverpool to go over and tell her to change places with Lady Bathurst, who was sitting on the other side of her. Instead of obeying, Charlotte stood up and strode out of the room. Later she went back and apologised to the Duke, and she went home, in the words of Cornelia Knight, ‘indignant and hurt at having been watched and worried’.

The Prince was equally suspicious of the Duke of Devonshire, who was certainly very attentive to Charlotte. But, as she told Mercer, he would bestow his attentions somewhere else, where they might at least be appreciated. Sir Henry Halford, who was fast becoming the Prince’s favourite messenger, was sent more than once to admonish the Duchess of Leeds and Miss Knight for not keeping a close enough watch when the Duke of Devonshire was around. And on another occasion he was sent to tell Miss Knight that the Prince was not pleased to learn that she and Charlotte had been seen out in her carriage one morning on the road to Chiswick, where the Duke was giving a breakfast party at his villa – to which Miss Knight pleaded honestly that life at Warwick House was so dull that they had simply gone out to all the fancy carriages drive by.

The Prince even forbade Charlotte to continue sitting for the painter George Sanders at his studio, because while she was there she was exposed to the bad influence of such visitors as Lady Jersey. Both the Duchess of Leeds and Miss Knight insisted defiantly that the pious painter and his studio were beyond reproach. Charlotte was having her portrait painted as a birthday present for her father, and the visitors were only there to see how it was coming on, sometimes at the Prince’s request. But it was to no avail, and since Sanders refused to paint at Warwick House, where the light was as bad as everything else, the birthday present was never finished.

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

(c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Picture: George Sanders, by Andrew Geddes, (c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation from the page https://georgianera.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/george-sanders-1774-1846/

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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

Who Cares For The Heiress Presumptive At All?

‘During the first few years of her life, Charlotte saw more of her father than her mother. But it was only just more. The Prince was often away from Carlton House, and when he was there his time with his daughter was always brief. Although he was said to be good with children, he only played with them and he soon tired of it. He devoted much more of his energy to preventing his wife and parents from influencing his daughter than he did to trying to influence her himself.Eventually, however, when the Prince’s affections were restored from Lady Jersey to Mrs Fitzherbert, he decided that he wanted Carlton House to himself again. So his wife was given apartments in Kensington Palace, and his eight-year-old daughter and all her staff were moved into Warwick House, a crumbling old brick building which stood just to the east of Carlton House.From then on, for the rest of her childhood and throughout her youth, Princess Charlotte Augusta, who was fully expected to succeed her father one day as Queen of England, lived in a household of her own, in the company of no one who was not paid to be there.’

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

george fitz and charlotte

Enough Is Enough

‘In December 1798, the Prince, who cannot be considered totally harsh in his attitude, made one more attempt towards a more friendly relationship. He wrote to his wife, now living at Montague House, Blackheath, inviting her to spend winter at Carlton House. She refused. This exchange is reported by Lord Minto, who was at that time in Caroline’s confidence. He wrote to his wife:

“I told her she was wrong [in declining the invitation], and begged her to reflect seriously on any step she might take if similar overtures were renewed, but she said she was a very determined person when once she formed an opinion…that she knew I should think her a very wicked woman, but that I did not know and could not imagine all the circumstances: I might otherwise agree with her…” This was a typical Caroline scene: she loved to make a mystery of her grievances, telling just enough to whet the appetite of her listener, and indicating untold horrors in what she left unsaid. But Lord Minto was right: she should not have refused the Prince’s odder. It was her last chance.

She must have known that Lady Jersey, the original femme fatale, was no longer of any significance: the Prince was tired of her, and was trying to disentangle himself. He was also, with the help of intermediaries, planning to return to his kind, beloved, comforting Maria Fitzherbert. “Fat, fair, forty”, Caroline had called her in her tactless way when she spoke of her to the Prince; but she felt no ill will towards her, and is said to have remarked later that she, Caroline, had committed adultery ut once, with the husband of Mrs. Fitzherbert.

In 1798, although there was no legal separation, the Prince and the Princess lived separate lives. Caroline moved to Blackheath, where she rented from the Duchess of Buccleuch a comparatively small villa, Montague House.’

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

george fitz and caroline

Exchange of Letters

‘Caroline was not one to suffer silently, or to accept her situation without a struggle. Two months after Princess Charlotte’s christening she wrote the first of what proved to be a series of letters to the Prince, complaining of Lady Jersey’s presence and demanding her removal. This correspondence shows that both parties had a strong sense of theatre, and both were inclined to overact (…) On April 30, the Prince, in a calm and judicial frame of mind, wrote the letter which is often quoted as sounding the death knell of the marriage. “Our inclinations are not in our power, nor should either of us be held answerable to the other because nature has not made us suitable to each other…Tranquil and comfortable society is, however, in our power; let our intercourse, therefore, be restricted to that…” After receiving this, Caroline composed a letter to the King, enclosing the correspondence with her husband, as far it had gone (it continued all through May) and imploring his protection for herself and her child. The Prince also wrote to his father. In this letter he suggests that the Princess has been deliberately slandering him, publishing abroad all sorts of wild stories of his brutality of manner and behaviour towards her. He puts the full blame for the estrangement upon his wife (…) The quarrel now moved from a domestic to a national level. The King, determined to save the marriage, deliberated before replying. He had read in the papers that the Princess of Wales had received a rapturous reception at the Opera. He believed that his son had written in the heat of the moment, after hearing of the Princess’s triumph: he urged him to review the situation in a calmer state of mind (…) The Prince turned in desperation to his mother, imploring her to take his part. The Princess, he said, had stirred up a conspiracy against him (…) Letters between the Prince and his parents, interspersed with letters from Caroline to the King, continued all through June, the Prince convincing himself that Caroline was trying, by political intrigue, to overthrow the monarchy. He became obsessed by this idea, and thoughts of the French Revolution – always in the back of his mind – urged him to warn the King of what might happen (…) But little progress was made in any direction, except that at the end of the month Lady Jersey agreed at last to retire from the Princess’s service. In a letter charged with venomous disrespect, she sent her resignation.’

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

Caroline and George

Bad Fairy At The Christening

‘On Thursday, February 11 the baby was christened in the great drawing-room of St. James Palace. Lady Dashwood, who was hard up, was given a dress for the occasion, made of satin covered in lace. The baby was also covered in lace, and her cradle, cushion and lace-trimmed sheet were given by the Queen. “I regret”, she wrote to her son, “that my finances will not allow me to offer more.”

Charlotte Augusta were the names bestowed upon the child, after her two grandmothers, who were also her godmothers. Her dotting grand-papa, King George, stood godfather, and it must have seemed, as she lay in her lace-trimmed cradle, surrounded by beaming royal countenances, that an auspicious future lay ahead of this fortunate infant.

But one bad fairy was there in the background, although it was Charlotte’s mother rather than Charlotte who was affected by her presence. As far as Caroline was concerned, Lady Jersey was always there, smiling, cool, perfectly dressed, entirely sure of herself (…) basking in the Prince’s favour, Lady Jersey made it her business to humiliate his wife whenever she could. It cannot have been difficult: Caroline was gauche, unversed in etiquette, stumbling in her English and apt when nervous to blurt out tactless comments and opinions, or to make coarse jokes, all of which were noted by Lady Jersey and relayed to the Prince.’

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

st james palace

Picture: St. James Palace, London, UK