Charlotte’s governess, Lady Elgin, has been asked to resign just before the move. Her only known offence had been to take Charlotte to visit her grandfather, the interfering old King. But she had done so without first obtaining permission from her father, and that had been more than enough to infuriate him (…)
In place of Lady Elgin, Charlotte’s father appointed the Dowager Lady de Clifford, a dignified but barely graceful Irish woman, who was well past fifty years old. She had lived for some time at the Palace of Versailles before the French Revolution; and the Prince, who, despite his many faults, was justifiably renowned for his deportment, hoped in vain that she might be able to imbue his daughter with some of the qualities of that most elegant of courts.
Charlotte was a temperamental tomboy, and Lady de Clifford was too good natured to discipline her effectively. Every time she tried to be strict, the Princess was more than a match for her. Charlotte might not have wanted to behave like a princess, but she was all too well aware that she was one, and she used the fact whenever it suited her.
On one occasion, when she burst merrily into a room, Lady de Clifford attempted to scold. “My dear Princess”, she said, “that is not civil; you should always shut the door after you when you come into a room”.
“Not I indeed”, said Charlotte. “If you want the door shut, ring the bell.”
Neither took their battles at heart, however. The antagonists were soon fond of each other, and Lady de Clifford did everything she could to make Charlotte’s life less lonely.
[an extract from ‘Charlotte&Leopold’ by James Chambers]
Picture: Sophia, mrs Edward Southwell, later Lady de Clifford (1743-1828) by Joshua Reynolds, 1766, Sotheby’s