Tag Archives: james chambers

Skeletons Falling From The Closet

Charlotte, her ladies and her servants set out from Windsor for the town of Weymouth in a column of coaches on Friday, 9 September.

If she had forgotten the warmth of the crowd’s reception on the day when her father opened Parliament, she was soon reminded. She was still the most popular member of the royal family. ‘Wherever I changed horses’, she told Mercer, ‘there were people assembled to see me, & they all looked good humoured and took off their hats’. She stopped in Andover for an early dinner and then drove on to spend the night at the Antelope Inn in Salisbury, where, she was delighted to report, the ‘Bish-UP’, as usual, was not in residence. She had to press through the crowd to get from her carriage to the inn, and in answer to their calls, she stood at her bedroom window for a long time with a candle held up so that they could see her.

Next day the party drove on through crowded towns and villages towards Weymouth. They stopped for dinner at Puddletown, where General Garth*, who had gone ahead of them, had rented a house for himself. There was a young boy running around in the house, and the General, who said he was his adopted nephew Tom, told Charlotte after dinner that the boy would be ‘much mortified’ if she did not take notice of him. ‘A heart of steel could not have refused that’, wrote Charlotte, ‘for a more lovely boy was never beheld’.

Skinny old Lady Rosslyn and her nieces, whom Charlotte was now calling ‘Famine and the Consequences’, were no longer in the room by then, but Lady Ilchester and Mrs Campbell were still there, and they were both shocked that the General had introduced the boy to the Princess.

If not also shocked, Charlotte was at least taken aback when she was told his true identity. Tom’s mother was her favourite aunt, Princess Sophia, and General Garth was his father.

In the course of the next week all the ladies were surprised by the extent to which the strict old General spoiled the boy. He even allowed him to stay on for a few days after the new term had started at Harrow. But now that Charlotte knew who he was – and the General clearly knew that she knew – it was embarrassing for her to have him around. Everyone in Weymouth seemed to know who he was as well. People even gathered to have a look at him when he was taken into town to have his hair cut. As she told Mercer, Charlotte suspected that the General was making her uncomfortable on purpose, probably because it was an indirect way of getting his own back on her aunt for having spurned both him and their son. It was not Tom’s fault, but Charlotte was relieved when he did at last go back to school.

* General Thomas Garth (1744–1829) was a British Army officer and chief equerry to King George III. He was added to Charlotte’s entourage when she moved in to Cranbourne Lodge.

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

Picture: Princess Sophia by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1825, Royal Collection

Advertisements

Charlotte Is Allowed To Go For Holiday

For the rest of that month the principal preoccupation at the isolation lodge was the holiday that the Duke of Sussex mentioned in his questions to the Prime Minister. Charlotte, as the Duke knew, was longing for a holiday by the sea, and her doctors were all in favour of it. She really did have a sore, swollen knee, which was now so bad that they told her to stop riding, and since her arrival at Cranbourne Lodge she had been displaying symptoms of depression. The sea air, in their view, would be ideal for both. But, to everybody’s exasperation, the Prince Regent prevaricated. As Earl Grey put it in one of his letters to Mercer, ‘All the best season will be wasted before she gets to the sea-side.’

Charlotte wanted to take Mercer with her, but the Regent said no. He claimed that Mercer’s father would not allow it. Lord Keith, he said, did not want his daughter to spend too much time in isolation with Charlotte, where there would be no chance of her meeting a suitable husband.

Charlotte wanted to go to fashionable Brighton, but the Regent said no to that as well. He wanted Brighton to himself. Eventually he asked the Queen if they could borrow Gloucester Lodge, a house that she and the King owned far away in Dorset, in no longer quite so fashionable Weymouth. The Queen took her time and then said yes, reluctantly. And so, at last, with September approaching, Weymouth was chosen as the setting for Charlotte’s seaside holiday.

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

picture: Gloucester Lodge in Weymouth, source Wikipedia

Messengers Come And Go

The party was upstairs in the drawing room when Mercer arrived accompanied by ‘the Great UP’. After Charlotte’s flight, when the Prince Regent went off to join a card party at the Duke of York’s apartments, Mercer and the Bishop had agreed to go up to Connaught House and try to persuade Charlotte to come home, and Cornelia Knight had refused to come with them because she could no longer bring herself to set foot in a house that belonged to the Princess of Wales.

Mercer was invited up to the drawing room, while the Bishop was shown into the dining room. It was a pattern of precedence that was to be maintained throughout the night. Partisans of the Princess were brought straight upstairs: representatives of the Regent were at best shown into the dining room and in most cases not even admitted to the house.

The Bishop did not have to wait too long, however. He was soon sent back to find the Regent with a note from Charlotte, in which she promised to return to Warwick House provided she was allowed to see Mercer as often as she wished, and provided Miss Knight and Mrs Louis were allowed to remain members of her household.

He had not been long gone when a series of coaches and carriages arrived carrying the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice and the other law officers, advisers and privy councillors who had been summoned and sent out by the Regent. To Brougham’s much amused embarrassment, Charlotte merrily instructed the servants to tell them all to wait in their carriages.

Then Cornelia Knight arrived. As soon as Mercer and the Bishop had left the Warwick House she had become so anxious about Charlotte that she changed her mind. She would have come after them then and there if she could. She had sent a note to Lady Salisbury explaining the emergency and asking if she could borrow her carriage. But the carriage had not been available until after it had dropped Lady Salisbury at the opera house.

In her memoir, Cornelia Knight wrote that once she was in the drawing room she gave Charlotte her royal seal, a key and a letter that had arrived after her departure. But she did not say who it was from.

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

The Prince Regent Is Annoyed

Just before 5 p.m. on the evening of Monday, 11 July 1814, Cornelia Knight walked over from Warwick House for a meeting with the Prince Regent at Carlton House. Princess Charlotte had been summoned as well, but she had stayed behind, claiming that a sore knee prevented her from walking.

Miss Knight was anxious, the more so for being left to face the Regent on her own. A few days earlier her friend Lady Rolle had warned her that the Prince was planning changes, and had reassured her that, if she suddenly needed somewhere to stay, she would always be welcome at the Rolles London house. Since then she had learned that the Duchess of Leeds had been asked to resign. Naturally the lady companion now feared for her own position as well.

The Regent was ‘very cold, very bitter, and very silent’. He had heard that a German prince had been paying court to his daughter.

Miss Knight reassured him that Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg was an honourable man. He had called only once at Warwick House and had behaved impeccably, and both she and the Duchess had been present throughout his visit.

The Regent did not disagree. He knew that Prince Leopold had behaved entirely properly. He had just received a long letter from the young Prince assuring him that his intentions were honourable and that he had only gone to Warwick House at the invitation of the Princess. The Prince about whom he complained was Prince August of Prussia.

When Miss Knight had delivered a similar but slightly less honest defence of Prince August, the Regent dismissed her and warned, that if his daughter did not come next day to explain herself, he would go to her.

Back at Warwick House, where Mercer was waiting with Charlotte, Miss Knight reported all that had been said. Charlotte and Mercer were disappointed. They had hoped that Prince Leopold was romantic enough to keep his courting a secret, and Miss Knight was dismayed to have discovered that Prince August’s courting was even less of a secret.

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

Charlotte Breaks Off The Engagement

On 16 June Charlotte had a meeting with William at Warwick House and told him that she could only marry him if he would accept that her mother would always be welcome in their home. When he said that he would never be allowed to agree to that, she told him that she could not marry him. The Hereditary Prince could not believe it. He asked her to think again and then left, offended and crestfallen.

Charlotte thought again and wrote to him that evening, with words, grammar and spelling that sounded more like the voice of Brougham than her own.

After reconsidering according to your wishes the conversation that passed between us this morning, I am still of the opinion that the duties and affection that naturally bind us to our respective countries render our marriage incompatible… From recent circumstances that have occurred I am fully convinced my interest is materially connected with that of my mother… After what has passed upon this subject this morning between us (which was much too conclusive to require further explanation) I must consider our engagement from this moment to be totally and for ever at an end. I leave the explanation of this affair to be made by you to the Prince…

She then ended with her sincere concern for causing him pain and asked him to accept her best wishes for his happiness.

Two days later she received a brief reply. ‘I found the night before last your letter, and have lost no time to acquaint my family with its contents, but cannot comply with your wish by doing the same with regard to the Regent… Hoping that you shall never feel any cause to repent of the step you have now taken, I remain… etc.’

‘Good English he writes’, said Charlotte sarcastically.

Since Charlotte was the one who had broken off the engagement, it was reasonable to say that she was the one who should tell her father, but Charlotte thought it was cowardly. When she wrote to her father herself that day, she made out that it was the Prince who had broken off the engagement. ‘He told me that our duties were divided, that our respective interests were in our different countries… Such an avowal was sufficient at once to prove to me Domestick happiness was out of the question.’

The Prince Regent received the news ‘with astonishment, grief and concern’. When it got out, as it was bound to do, the Radical Whigs and the Princess of Wales were jubilant. But the Regent and his advisers bided their time. His imperial and royal guests were about to leave. Since they were all sympathetic to Charlotte, it would be wiser to let them go before starting any family rows.

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

Suddenly Another Suitor Appears

On 10 June, while her father and most of his guests were at Ascot at the races, Charlotte signed her marriage contract and sent it round to Carlton House. In the evening she learned that her ‘Slender Billy’ had been made drunk at Ascot by Prince Paul of Wurtemberg and sent back to London like a day-tripper on top of a stagecoach. It was not the first time she had heard about her prince getting drunk – it was said that he got drunk on a visit back to Oxford – and it was not to be the last.

Two days later Charlotte attended the great banquet which her father gave for all his visitors at Carlton House. It was the only state occasion that she was allowed to attend. She had never seen anything like it. The house was full of young princes and officers. Next to most of these, her own Prince of Orange, who was a little bit drunk again, did not look like much of a catch.

By common consent, the handsomest of all was a tall, very dark young officer wearing the striking all-white uniform of the Russian heavy cavalry. When Charlotte noticed him he was at the other end of the crimson drawing room talking earnestly to a young lady. According to one of the friends who were with her, Charlotte turned to them and ‘observed how strange it was that the young lady did not seem more gratified by his attention’.

Charlotte did not get a chance to be introduced to this officer. But during the evening she was introduced to another, who was very charming, distinguished, almost as handsome and about ten years older than the hero in white. He was Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich August von Preussen, a nephew of Frederick the Great. In the course of the next month, with the giddy assistance of Cornelia Knight, this Prince was to be calling recklessly often at Warwick House.

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

Picture: Prince Augustus of Prussia by Franz Krüger, circa 1817, Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin

Princess of Wales Is Using Her Tricks Again

When all the sovereigns, princes, statesmen and commanders were received at court, the only members of the royal family who were – conspicuously – absent were the Princes of Wales and her daughter Princess Charlotte. Realising that this was a slight, the Tsar and his sister decided to go up to Connaught House and call on the Princess of Wales. But they were dissuaded by their Ambassador, who threatened to resign if they did – his wife was having an affair with Earl Grey at the time, and as a result he knew rather more than most people about the real nature of the Princess of Wales.

The Tsar and his sister did have a chance to see the Princess of Wales, however. It was on the evening when all the royal guests went to the opera. The Prince Regent sat in the royal box with the Tsar of Russia, the King of Prussia and the Grand Duchess Catherine, and the other princes sat in the boxes on their left. As they entered to the strains of the national anthem, they saw that the Princess of Wales was standing in the box opposite.

When the anthem was over, some of the young men in the stalls encouraged the audience to applaud the Princess of Wales. Her lady-in-waiting, Lady Charlotte Campbell, suggested that she should rise and acknowledge the applause with a curtsey.

‘My dear’, said the Princess, ‘Punch’s wife is nobody when Punch is present.’

She was sure that her husband would think that the applause was for him. And sure enough she was right. The Prince Regent stood up and bowed to the audience in acknowledgement.

At the end of the performance, the audience stood and applauded again as the Prince Regent and other sovereigns left. But they were applauding his guests, not him. When they had all gone, the audience turned and directed much warmer applause to the box where the Princess of Wales was still standing. This time she acknowledged it with three smiling curtsies.

A few days later, however, at a breakfast party near Woolwich, she was seen sitting under a tree in the garden with a pot of strong beer on her knee. By the end of the party she was in a mood to be merry. She ordered all the doors in the house to be opened, grabbed a partner and set off at a gallop, calling to the other guests to follow her in flat-out procession through every room.

It was not regarded as seemly conduct for a member of the royal family. Some of the gentlemen present had been among those who led the applause at the opera. After seeing their reaction to the latest spectacle, one of the ladies, the Hon. Amelia Murray, reported that, in her opinion, they would not be so anxious to clap the Princess again.

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

Picture: Caroline, Princess of Wales by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1798,  Victoria and Albert Museum

(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation