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Charlotte’s First Ball

Despite the policy of ‘protracted childhood’, however, there was one sign that the Prince Regent might be relenting a little. Two days after the exchange in the Duke of York’s apartments, on 5 February, Charlotte was allowed to attend her first ball at Carlton House. The Duchess [of Leeds] and Miss Knight went with her. In accordance with fashion, they were ‘all in white’. The Duchess and Miss Knight wore white trimmed with gold. Charlotte wore white trimmed with silver, and for the first time, again in the height of fashion, she wore ostrich feathers in her hair.

For Charlotte, the ball was a bit of disappointment. She had been led to believe that it was being given for her, but when the time came it was Princess Mary and not Charlotte who was asked to lead off the dancing. She had hoped that she would be able to dance with the young Duke of Devonshire, but soon after she arrived she was told that he was indisposed.

The son of famously beautiful Duchess, Georgiana, the 23-year-old Duke of Devonshire was very deaf and consequently shy and silent. Charlotte had ‘liked him very much’ when she first met him. She was proud that she had put him at his ease and induced him to ‘talk a great deal’. But she was not attracted to him. As she told Mercer, ‘he is certainly very plain’.

Nevertheless, as with the Duke of Gloucester, Charlotte’s father was worried by his apparent interest in her, and particularly so in this case because the Duke of Devonshire was a leading Whig. ‘Really the Prince Regent is so excessively tiresome & absurd about everything of that sort’, she wrote to Mercer, ‘…& he is so suspicious always about my politics’. It may be therefore that the Duke was not present because the Prince had told him to stay away.

Without the young Duke, Charlotte could only dance with her uncles and other, much older, partners. As one of the other guests, Miss Mary Berry, put it, ‘all very magnificent, but such a lack of dancing young men and, indeed, women, I quite pitied the Princess Charlotte from the bottom of my heart for the dulness of the ball’.

But this, at least, was not due to any exaggerated caution on the part of the Prince Regent. There was a dearth of good dancing partners in London in 1813. Like George FitzClarence and Charles Hesse, most of the young men worth dancing with were serving with Wellington in Spain.

Cornelia Knight enjoyed the ball even less than the Princess. In the course of the evening the Prince Regent took her aside and subjected her to a long, detailed and embarrassing diatribe against his wife. At the end of it he ‘even accused her of threatening to declare that Princess Charlotte was not his daughter’.

Miss Knight was ‘horrified’. ‘I really knew not what to answer.’

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

alfred-edward-chalon

Picture: Princess Charlotte of Wales (1796-1817), Princess of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld by Alfred Edward Chalon, c.1817-19, Royal Collection Trust

https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/405449/princess-charlotte-of-wales-1796-1817-princess-of-saxe-coburg-saalfeld

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Prince Regent Doesn’t Care About His Legally Wedded Wife Either

‘His other wife, Princess Caroline, sat in Kensington Palace, trying to pass the time during the Regent’s fête, with her friend Miss Berry. All her ladies had gone to Carlton House, and Miss Berry was hard to put to it to keep the Princess amused while they were away. With perambulatings through the gardens, some punishing work by the Princess on the pianoforte, a long-drawn-out meal, and a great deal of reminiscent talk the hours slowly passed, and at last Lady Glenbervie returned, ready to describe in detail the doings at Carlton House. Gold and silver fish, she said, swam in a stream which ran through mossy banks down the centre of the lengthy table with the Prince at its head, presumably just out of range of the splashing fountain that fed the stream. Some of the fish were dead, but that did not deflect from the artistry of the scene, backed by massed flowers and framed by gorgeous hangings of crimson and gold. huge candelabra hung overhead, lighting up the glitter of the Prince’s diamond aigrette and the Garter star on his breast. He was dressed in the scarlet uniform of a Field-Marshal (one of his first acts, on becoming Regent, had been to promote himself to this rank).

caroline and george1

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