‘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]
Picture: Mrs. Martha Udney by John Masey Wright, 1801, Yale Center For British Art