Tag Archives: maria fitzherbert

Prince Regent Doesn’t Care About ‘His True Wife’ Anymore

‘The Carlton House fête marked the end of Mrs. Fitzherbert’s reign. While Charlotte played Cinderella at Windsor, with no Fairy Godmother to send her to the ball, Maria Fitzherbert tore up her invitation and remained at home. On receiving her card she had written to the Prince to ask at which table she was to sit. He replied that she might sit wherever she chose except at his table, where rank alone regulated the ceremonial. Maria replied hotly that their relationship entitled her to the first place at his table; but she did not press her claim: rather than see her successor, the handsome, elegant Lady Hertford, seated in a place of honour at the Prince’s table, she preferred to stay away. And so the woman whom he had once called ‘my only true and real wife’ withdrew herself from his life for ever.’

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

Mrs. Fitzherbert by Thomas Gaisborough

Picture: Mrs. Fitzherbert by Thomas Gaisborough, 1784, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, California, USA

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

Embarrassing Marriage Ceremony

‘But there was no going back. Three days later Princess Caroline waited for her groom at the altar of the Royal Chapel, swaying precariously in an enormous, old – fashioned wedding dress with huge hoops inside it and broad ribbons with preposterously big bows wrapped around the outside – it had been chosen for her by the Queen. Earlier this morning, the Prince had sent one of his brothers, the Duke of Clarence, to tell Mrs Fitzherbert that she was the only woman he would ever love. By the time he reached the chapel, it was obvious to everyone that this time no one kept him from his brandy. He tottered reluctantly up the aisle, supported in every sense of the word by the Dukes of Bedford and Roxburghe.The day ended in a manner that might have been expected. According to the new Princess of Wales, her husband “passed the greatest part of his bridal night under the grate, where he fell, and where I left him”.'[an extract from ‘Charlotte&Leopold’ by James Chambers]

‘The ceremony was conducted by Dr. Moore, Archbishop of Cantenbury, who succeeded in adding to the Prince’s misery by making a lengthy pause after “if either of you know of any cause or impediment”, laying down his prayer book and fixing first the King and then the Prince with a piercing eye. The Prince, already in a highly emotional state, shed tears. One onlooker, Lady Maria Stuart, observed that he looked like death. Another, Lord Malmesbury, noticed that after the ceremony, the bridegroom, though civil and gracious, was “certainly unhappy; and as a proof of it, he manifestly had recourse to wine or spirits”. This was borne out later by the bride, who declared that the Prince spent their wedding night on the floor, with his head in the grate. It was not till morning that sobriety returned sufficiently for him to perform the actions expected of him as a bridegroom.’

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


Picture comes from the site http://hibiscus-sinensis.com/regency/weddingdress.htm

Shock On The Brunswick Court

‘So a heartbroken but dignified Mrs Fitzherbert retired to a beautiful villa by the Thames at Twickenham, Marble Hill, and the greatest British diplomat of the age, James Harris, who had been created Baron Malmesbury six years earlier, was instructed to go to Brunswick and escort Princess Caroline to England.

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Two Scheming Ladies

‘According to other sources, any of his brothers, or anyone else who had been in Germany recently, could have told the Prince of Wales that the Brunswick Princess had the reputation of being “very loose”; but although he must surely have heard the gossip he appears to have paid no attention. He did not even make any of the usual discreet enquiries regarding the lady’s personal appearance, character, and habits. In fact, he seems to have spent considerably less time and trouble over his choice of a wife than he would have done over a pair of boots or a new waistcoat. Nor is it clear why Caroline should have been so immediately and obstinately preferred to every other possible candidate. It later occurred to Lord Malmesbury that she may have been put into the Prince’shead by the Duke of Clarence out of spite, “with a view to plague the Duke and Duchess of York whom he hates…well knowing that the Princess Caroline and the Duchess of York dislike each other, and that this match would be particularly unpleasant to her and the Duke”. But if this was so, then the Duke of York gave no hint of any displeasure in his congratulatory note to his elder brother. The Princess, he wrote, was “a very fine girl and in every respct in my opinion a very proper match for you. That you may be completely happy with her, is my most hearty wish.”‘

[an extract from ‘Caroline&Charlotte’ by Alison Plowden]

‘But the woman who had the most influence over the Prince of Wales, Lady Jersey, was equally enthusiastic in her support for Princess Caroline. Lady Jersey had managed to replace Mrs Fitzherbert in the Prince’s bed, but she had not succeeded in replacing her in his heart. Now that good fortune had come to her aid and removed Mrs Fitzherbert from the stage altogether, Lady Jersey was determined to ensure that the next wife should be the least formidable rival; if only half the stories were true, Princess Caroline was certainly that.

Naturally the Prince was persuaded by Lady Jersey. Yet even after he had plumped for Princess Caroline, his mother made no secret of her continuing disapproval. From all that she was saying, it was obvious that she was going to make her daughter-in-law’s life as difficult as she could – and she clearly realized what Lady Jersey was up to. Applying the old adage “my enemy ‘s enemy is my friend”, she invited Lady Jersey to visit her regularly at Windsor. She lobbied everyone at court on Lady Jersey’s behalf, recommending her for a position in the Prince’s new household. In the end she succeeded. At the insistence of the mischievous old Queen, her son’s mistress was appointed to serve as lady-in-waiting to his wife.’

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

Frances Lady Jersey

Picture: portrait of Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey (1753-1821) by Daniel Gardner

Enters Lady Jersey

‘In June 1794 the Prince wrote a letter breaking off his connection with Maria Fitzherbert. The difficulty and heart-searching with which he composed it suggest that he still loved her and was reluctant to leave her; but writing to the Duke of York he refers to “the various disagreements and misunderstandings” between Maria and himself; and the Duke in reply writes, “I have long been grieved to see how very miserable Mrs. Fitzherbert’s unfortunate temper made you.”This unfortunate temper may well have been roused by the Prince’s friendship with Lady Jersey. Exquisite, immaculate as a humming bird, Frances, Countess of Jersey, was a grandmother of forty-one, but looked years younger than the matronly Maria, who was only thirty – eight. We hear of Lady Jersey’s “irresistible seduction and fascination”, and from the Queen, whose Lady of the Bedchamber she was, that she was little and bewitching, which from that lady, was high praise. The Queen was inclined to encourage the Prince’s infatuation, in the hope of its bringing the Fitzherbert affair to an end, as, for the time being at least, it did. Mrs. Fitzherbert, stricken to the heart, wrote at the bottom of the Prince’s letter, “Lady Jersey’s influence” and withdrew without a word of protest. She was rewarded with a pension of £ 3, 000 a year for life.

The Prince’s decision to marry, while it came as a shattering blow to Mrs. Fitzherbert, was accepted calmly by Lady Jersey, who – though she indignantly denied that she was his mistress – considered that her own position was secure.’

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

Frances Villiers,Countess of Jersey (1753-1821) by Thomas Beach

Picture: Portrait of Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey (1753-1821) by Thomas Beach

Already Married?

There was still one small problem, however. By his own admission, His Royal Highness was already married. Nine years earlier, when he was only twenty – three, he had been secretly married to an older woman, a beautiful widow called Maria Fitzherbert. When the King and his Cabinet recovered from the initial shock of this news, they learned to their relief that it was not the impediment it might have been. In the opinion of the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney General, and with the reluctant concurrence of the Archbishop of Cantenbury, the marriage was undoubtedly null and void. Since Mrs Fitzherbert was a Roman Catholic it was forbidden by the Bill of Rights of 1689 and the Act of Settlement of 1700, and since the Prince had married without his father’s permission, it was also in breach of the Royal Marriages Act of 1772.
an extract from ‘Charlotte&Leopold’ by James Chambers
Portrait of Mrs Maria Fitzherbert, wife of George IV
Picture: Portrait of Maria Fitzherbert by an unknown artist