Tag Archives: john fisher bishop of exeter and salisbury

An Unfortunate Dinner In Sandhurst

The Prince of Orange [later King William I] was delighted. He was going to be a king, and king of an enlarged kingdom as well. It was more than he could have dreamed possible.

But so far no one bothered to mention it to the future Queen of England or the Prince who might one day succeed his father as King William II of Holland.

Nevertheless there were too many whispers. Charlotte was sure that the plan was true, and she was in two minds about it. On the one hand the Hereditary Prince of Orange came from a family that her mother ‘detested’, and Charlotte would never ‘be tempted to purchase temporary ease by gratifying the Windsor & Ministerial cabals’. On the other hand, if the Prince had enough ‘qualities of the head & heart’ to make him ‘likeable and desirable’, he offered a chance to change her life for the better, even if ‘love’ was ‘out of question’.

All that was certain for the time being was that Charlotte was prepared to give the plan a chance. But her first experience of the House of Orange did not leave her with a good impression.

It was on 12 August, at the Prince Regent’s birthday party – the one to which Charlotte went without a present. The party was held at Sandhurst, the new home of the Military Academy. In the morning ‘the Great UP’, now Bishop of Salisbury, consecrated the chapel, and the Queen presented new colours to the cadets. In the evening, the entire company sat down to dinner. The royal family and the guests of honour, including the Prince of Orange, who was in England to negotiate his son’s future, sat at a table inside the house, and all the other guests sat in tents in the grounds.

According to Charlotte, the only man in the royal party who was not ‘dead drunk’ was her favourite uncle, the Duke of Brunswick. In the course of the evening the Prince Regent slid silently under the table, where he was eventually joined by the Prince of Orange, the Commander in Chief and almost all his ministers. By the time they got there, the dishevelled Prince of Orange had managed to discard his coat and waistcoat, most of the ministers were incapable of speaking and the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, was in such a state that, by his own admission, he could not remember next day where he had been or who he had been with.

The last to fall was the Commander in Chief, the Duke of York, who did so by rolling backwards out of his chair, banging his head against a wine cooler and pulling the table cloth and everything on it on top of him. He was revived by the Duke of Brunswick, who poured iced water over his head, and he was sent back to London in a post-chaise, wrapped in a greatcoat.

When the Queen left, she was kept waiting for ‘a full half hour’ while various nervous equerries searched for her host and helped him out to see her into her carriage.

In Charlotte’s opinion, the double celebration of the opening of Sandhurst and the Prince Regent’s birthday ‘began badly and ended in tragedy’. Miss Knight agreed. ‘It was a sad business. We went home very quietly in an open carriage by the lovely moonlight.’

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

Picture: Portrait of William I, King of the Netherlands by Joseph Paelinck, 1819, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

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Charlotte Meets Sir William Drummond

The men whom Charlotte met at her mother’s dinner table were not attractive to her, though she was aware that several were past or present favourites of the Princess. Conversation, at Blackheath and Kensington, was not censored in Charlotte’s presence, and when she was in her early teens she heard the whole story of Mary Anne Clarke, the Duke of York’s discarded mistress, and the scandal of the sale of Army commissions, relayed, enlarged and dwelt upon with relish. She was not so shocked by this, being accustomed to hear scandalous reports of her uncles, as she was by the conversations she had with Sir William Drummond, the scholar and agnostic, who informed her that the Bible was founded upon myth-‘I can assure you your Royal Highness there is nothing in it, it is all an allegory and nothing more.’ Charlotte met Sir William three times at her mother’s house, in the course of which he told her to study Oriental history, as being more amusing than Scripture, and asserted that the Royalty and Nobility of this country had always been educated by priests-‘the most corrupt and contemptible of mankind’. For once Charlotte found herself on the side of the Bishop of Salisbury – the ‘great U.P.’, her much mocked preceptor, to whom, having extricated herself with dignity from Sir William, she confided the appalling statements which he had made.

A decree came from on high: Princess Charlotte was to meet no society whatever at her mother’s house.

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

More about these meetings in the footnote here

drummondwilliam

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Charlotte Has To Bear The Duchess Of Leeds And Her Daughter

The Duchess of Leeds took up her post of governess. It was inevitable that Charlotte should resent her: she also disliked her heartily, considering her ignorant and ill-mannered, totally unfit to teach anything. Moreover, she was boring, and told long-winded dull stories. She fussed over her own health, took shower-baths and sucked calomel, but was almost always ill: ‘no creature ever had such bad health.’ Socially Charlotte considered her an upstart: even the riding school where she took exercise on an old, quiet horse was second-rate. She had been a Miss Anguish, her father Accountant-General to the Court of Chancery. Now, as the second wife of a Duke, she put on airs; but ‘what can be expected of a low woman who has been pushed up & never found her level?’

There was another reason to resent the Duchess: she brought with her her daughter, Lady Catherine Osborne. ‘Her girl is in the house,’ wrote Charlotte angrily, describing her as ‘stif, no companion to me’, and besides, she was only fourteen. She danced well, conceded the Princess, and they danced together, but there would be no question, on Charlotte’s side, of friendship.

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

‘Depend upon it, as long as I live you shall never have an establishment, unless you marry.’

The Prince Regent did not always mean what he said, but Princess Charlotte knew all too well that he had been serious when he said that. For her, marriage was the price of freedom. If that was not enough of an incentive to marry the first man who asked her, the regime of the Duchess of Leeds was another.

It was not that the Duchess was in any way strict. On the contrary, she was easy-going and avoided every kind of conflict. She concurred with ‘the Great UP’ at every opportunity. When Charlotte was in London, she only came to Warwick House between 2 and 5 p.m., which gave the Princess the evenings to herself. But she was a boring, graceless, self-important hypochondriac. She was forever telling ‘stories of an hour’s length’ and taking cold showers to wash away her latest ailment. Worst of all, in Charlotte’s eyes, she was ‘a violent Tory‘.

The daughter of the Accountant-General to the Court of Chancery, the Duchess had won her Duke’s heart on the basis of her beauty alone, and her exalted new rank had gone to her head. To Charlotte’s embarrassment, she often ‘overacted’ her part and was patronising with people whom she regarded as inferiors.

Even so, the Duchess’s ‘disagreeable’ company might have been worth suffering if her easy-going nature had allowed Charlotte to meet and correspond with anyone she pleased. But protecting the Princess from undesirable influences was the one duty that she tried to take seriously. She was always, as Charlotte put it, ‘keeping close’ to her in public, and, with an air of innocence, the Duchess introduced her fifteen-year-old daughter, Lady Catherine Osborne, into Charlotte’s household.

To everyone outside that household, it seemed ideal that the Princess should have a companion closer to her own age. It does not seem to have occurred to any of them that a fifteen-year-old girl who danced well had nothing in common with a sophisticated seventeen-year-old Princess who looked and behaved as though she were at least twenty. But the people who were actually members of that household were very soon suspicious of Lady Catherine. She asked too many questions, and she was all too often found alone in Charlotte’s room without a good reason for being there. As Charlotte wrote to Mercer, ‘That odious Lady Catherine is a convenient spie upon everybody in the house, with her long nose of bad omen, & her flippant way of walking so lightly that one never hears her.’

Things were not as bad as they could have been, however. The tedious Duchess and her prying daughter were effectively thwarted by the conspiratorial loyalty of Miss Cornelia Knight.

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

KATHARINE, FIFTH DUCHESS OF LEEDS

The Duchess of Leeds, picture from

http://www.hellenicaworld.com/Art/Literature/JJFoster/en/ChatsOnOldMiniatures.html

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

Friendship With George Keppel (2)

‘At twelve years old, Charlotte was in danger of becoming something of an oddity. She had, when she chose, a dazzling charm, but she often indulged in wild and hoydenish behaviour. The clearest picture of her at this time comes from a contemporary, George Keppel, who was Lady de Clifford’s grandson, and a Westminster schoolboy. “Her complexion was rather pale,” he says, and this is borne out in a later description by Lady Charlotte Bury. “Her skin,” she says, “is white, but not a transparent white; there is little or no shade in her face.” “She had blue eyes,” Keppel tells us, “and that peculiarly blonde hair which was characteristic rather of her German than of her English descent.” With her blue eyes and curly golden hair, and her pale, opaque skin her appearance must have been charming, like a fairy-tale heroine. But did not see herself in that role. “She was an excellent actress,” said George Keppel; “one of her fancies was to ape the manner of a man.” She did an excellent imitation of the Bishop – his mannerisms and gestures. Evidently she liked to think of herself as a tough masculine character, and in certain moods, to pretend that she was one. “She would double her fists,” said Keppel, “and assume an attitude of defence that would have done credit to a professed pugilist.” But defence soon turned into attack, and the unfortunate George, unable as a gentleman to hit back, was obliged to receive a series of hard punches from the boxing Princess.
[an extract from ‘Prinny’s Daughter: A Biography of Princess Charlotte of Wales’ by Thea Home]
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Charlotte Meets Horatia Nelson

‘These seaside visits started in August 1807, when Charlotte went to Worthing, accompanied by Lady de Clifford and Mrs. Udney. The Bishop, in a very obsequious letter to the Prince of Wales, expressed his regrets that he was not invited to join the party.
Without Dr. Fisher, and in the freedom and informality of a holiday by the sea, Charlotte enjoyed herself. She went to dine with her father at Brighton, and he sent her in his carriage to watch a review of the 10th Hussars. At Worthing there were splendid sands, and donkey carts to drive over them, as we learn from Emma Hamilton, who was staying there that summer, with Horatia, her daughter by Nelson. It was nearly two years since her lover had lost his life at Trafalgar, but he remained the nation’s idol, and his little girl, now six, was an object of curiosity, creating, as Emma puts it, “Universal Interest, alltho’ Princess Charlotte is here. SHE is left and all come to look at Nelson’s angel”. Charlotte does not seem to have resented this, for Emma adds kindly that the Princess “is a charming girl and very kind and civil to Horatia and me”.’[an extract from ‘Prinny’s Daughter: A Biography of Princess Charlotte of Wales’ by Thea Home]

Picture: Portrait of Emma, Lady Hamilton by George Romney, before 1802, National Portrait Gallery

Emma,_Lady_Hamilton_by_George_Romney

 

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