Tag Archives: montague house

The Duchess of Brunswick Returns To England

‘On October 14, 1806, the Duke of Brunswick, Princess Charlotte’s grandfather, was mortally wounded at Auerstadt and his Dukedom seized by Napoleon. The Prince of Wales showed little regret at the loss of his father-in-law. “I cannot help thinking,” he wrote, “that had he survived, & had taken a review of his past political conduct, & of the very disgraceful proposals which he is supposed to have sent to the French tyrant after the complete rout of the Prussian forces under his command, he would & must have suffer’d most grieviously indeed. I cannot therefore say that his death has occasioned me either surprise or much regret.” But there was some anxiety as to the future of the widowed Duchess, Caroline’s mother, who had managed with difficulty to escape from Brunswick to Sweden. Most people thought that she would make for England, and the Duke of Clarence wrote to the Prince of Wales, “If I know the Duchess at all, she will be the least welcome visitor to her wise and virtuous daughter…”

On July 1, 1807, the Duchess of Brunswick landed in England, her native country which she had not seen for forty-three years. Her daughter, Princess Caroline, who now spent much of her time at Kensington Palace, handed over Montague House as a temporary residence for the Duchess, who was received with affection by her brother, King George. Although the Queen and her sister-in-law had always heartily detested each other, a meeting at Buckingham House, at which the Princess of Wales was present, went off successfully, and Princess Elizabeth reported to the Prince that “her reception was most cordial of my mother and they appeared mutually pleased with each other”. “She certainly is a fine old woman,” added Princess Elizabeth… ” but you see when she walks or tries to get into her carriage she is very infirm.”

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

220px-Augusta_of_Great_Britain,_duchess_of_Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel

Portrait: Augusta of Great Britain, duchess of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel by Johann Georg Ziesenis, third quarter of 18th century

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Sir John and Lady Douglas Talk To The Prince of Wales

‘Sir John Douglas, after distinguished service in the Marines, had been appointed Equerry to the Duke of Sussex. (…) His wife was handsome in a flashy, gipsy way, and was the last person who should have been favoured with Princess Caroline’s confidences. She lapped up every word that was poured out so lavishly and indiscreetly by her friend, observing her with her hard black eyes all that went on at Montague House, where numerous gentlemen dined and spent the evening (and sometimes, it was rumoured, the night), and where, in the day-time, babies were allowed to take possession of the downstairs rooms.’
[an extract from ‘Prinny’s Daughter: A Biography of Princess Charlotte of Wales’ by Thea Home]

 

For a few years Sir John and Lady Douglas had been the closest of friends with the Princess of Wales. But she had rejected them so completely and cruelly that they were determined to have their revenge. They were now prepared to reveal everything they knew, or claimed to know, about her, and in the course of several long sessions with the Prince and his advisers, they told it all in great detail.

All the stories of lovers were true, they said. The Princess was insatiable. She had even embarrassed the beautiful but vulgar Lady Douglas by regularly making intimate advances to her. Worst of all, they claimed, they could confirm that she had indeed given birth to a child.

Among the seven or eight poor children whom the eccentric Princess had adopted informally and then farmed out to live with friends, there was one favourite, William Austin, whom she kept in her household. According to the Douglases, the Princess had told them that the boy was her own son. Furthermore she had told both of them and others that the father was none other than the Prince of Wales. The child had been conceived, she said, during an attempted reconciliation on her last visit to Carlton House.

If the last part of that story had been true, it would have had devastating implications. It would have meant that little “Willikin” and not Charlotte was second in line to the throne of England. But the Prince of Wales knew better than anyone that it was not true, although, to his delight, he could not be so sure about the rest of the story, or indeed about any of the others.

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

caroline lady douglas and george

The Princess Grows Fond Of Lady Douglas

‘The Princess was a constant visitor. Thrusting aside her attendant, she would rush straight upstairs for a long tête à tête with her beloved Lady Douglas, pouring out her admiration of her beauty, and her own complaints against her husband and other members of the Royal Family, and indulging in confidences about the babies with which she was beginning to surround herself at Montague House, while hinting that one, not yet born, was her own. She described in unattractive detail the symptoms of her pregnancy.This strange woman, who in adolescence, it may be remembered, successfully enacted the throes of childbirth in order to frighten her parents and get her own way, was now presenting a travesty of motherhood, which might seem pathetic had it not been performed, as ever with Caroline, so aggressively and with such preposterous bravado.’
caroline and lady douglas
[an extract from ‘Prinny’s Daughter: A Biography of Princess Charlotte of Wales’ by Thea Home]

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

The Princess Just Wanna Have Fun

‘Montague House stood on the south – west corner of the park, in its own grounds, a pleasant country property. Caroline lived there for sixteen years, decorating it to please her rather freakish taste: one room was furnished “in the Turkish style” under the direction of Sir Sidney Smith. The Princess enjoyed entertaining, and her guests were made free of the house and the grounds. The Hon. Amelia Murray describes how her brother went to a party at Montague House, and in the garden “saw the Princess, in a gorgeous dress, which was looped up to show her petticoat, covered with stars, with silver wings on her shoulders, sitting under a tree, with a pot of porter on her knee; and as a finale to the gaiety, she had the doors opened of every room in the house, and, selecting a partner, she galloped through them, desiring all the guests to follow her example.”‘

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

NPG 244; Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Picture: Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1804, National Portrait Gallery

So Much For The Marriage

‘In August 1797 the Princess of Wales left Carlton House and went to live at Charlton, near Blackheath. As a concession to her feelings as a mother, Lady Elgin and Charlotte were sent to Shrewsbury House, Blackheath, for the summer. The situation must have been difficult for Lady Elgin, who needed all her tact to keep on the right side of both parents-between whom at the end of the year there was yet another crossing of swords.

The Princess of Wales, finding herself freed from the restrictions of Carlton House, began to enjoy herself. She gave parties, and invited anyone who took her fancy: the parties were harmless enough, but the Prince decided that her guests were not, and wrote to the King. In due course King George, though generally on his daughter – in – law’s side, wrote to Lord Cholmondeley asking him to “acquaint the Princess that it was my opinion she could not receive any society but such as the Prince approved of.”

The Princess happened to be at Carlton House (where she still had a suite of rooms) when this letter was delivered to her, and immediately demanded to see the Prince. His Royal Highness was about to mount his horse when a page hurried out with the message. He agreed to meet his wife later that day, and decided to take Lord Cholmondeley with him, whether as witness or a bodyguard it is not certain.

According to his own account, as soon as they entered the Princess’s room she let fly. “Since I have been in this house,” she cried in French, “you have treated me neither as your wife, nor as the mother of your child, nor as the Princess of Wales: and I tell you that from this moment I shall have nothing more to say and that I regard myself as being no longer subject to your orders – or to your rules” – the last word in English.

As she seemed to have stopped, the Prince enquired if that was all that she had to say.

“Yes,” she replied. The Prince bowed and withdrew, and “thus,” he said, “ended the interview.” It also ended any hope of reconciliation.

But the King still set his face against a formal separation.

“You seem,” he said, “to look on your disunion with the Princess as merely of a private nature, and totally put out of sight that as heir apparent of the Crown your marriage is a public act wherein the kingdom is concerned…” The marriage must somehow be held together in the eyes of the world.’

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

caroline and george

Parents Living Separate Lives

‘The birth of a daughter did nothing to heal the royal relationship. At first the best that could be said was that the family was living under the same roof, the Prince and the Princess in their separate apartments and their daughter above them in the nursery. But when Charlotte was only just a year old, her miserable mother moved out and went to live in a villa five miles away near Blackheath.

The Princess of Wales still used her apartments in Carlton House when she came in to London to visit her daughter, and after a while Charlotte was sometimes taken out to visit her in Blackheath, although she was never allowed to stay with her.’

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

George Caroline and Charlotte