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Charlotte’s Pregnancy Makes Headlines

Charlotte left Claremont at least once during the summer. On 12 August she went over briefly with Leopold to Richmond to attend the party given to celebrate her father’s birthday by the grandmother of another famous cavalry commander, the Dowager Countess of Cardigan. For most of the time, however, she was content to live as she had always lived at Claremont, receiving occasional visits from friends and giving dinner parties for her neighbours.

Yet despite her seclusion, Charlotte’s name was seldom out of the newspapers. Every rumour about her condition, every anecdote, however unlikely, was seized upon gratefully and elaborated in print by every editor and commentator. It was all part of a happy, hopeful story – the only member of the royal family that anybody cared about was soon to give birth – and in 1817 it was almost the only happy story.

The rest of the news was always bad. Britain was in the middle of a post-war recession. Manufactures had reduced production and laid off some of their workers. A very bad harvest had had the same effect in the country. The Corn Law, which was passed to keep the price of corn at a profitable level for farmers and landowners, had put the price of bread beyond the pockets of even those labourers who were still employed.

Charlotte and Leopold had been doing what they could, distributing food and employing as many men as they could afford to make aesthetic ‘improvements’ to their park. But there were not too many who did the same. Bitter indignation and resentment were widespread. Riots were frequent. The Habeas Corpus Act had been suspended so that the government, which had no effective coordinated policies, could lock up suspected rabble-rousers without trial.

At the end of August, Stockmar recorded that Charlotte’s condition was even influencing the Stock Market. ‘Bets for enormous sums have been made on the sex of the expected child, and it has been already calculated on the Stock Exchange that a Princess would only raise the funds 2 1/2 per cent, whilst a Prince would send them up 6 per cent.’

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

‘The Princess is uncommonly well, and I hope will do well,’ wrote her dresser, Mrs. Louis, at the beginning of September. She was beginning now to take her daily outings in a small pony chaise, or walking slowly, leaning on her husband’s arm. ‘The Prince is so very kind to her,’ Mrs. Louis wrote; but some people considered that Charlotte should have a female friend or relation with her at this time. Her old friend Lady Ashbrook, who had kept her company at Weymouth, wrote offering to be with her at the birth, but Charlotte declined, explaining that the Queen suggested being with her, and she had refused. After this, she could not invite anyone else. But perhaps in moments of depression she wished that her mother were not so far away. ‘I have not heard from my mother for a long time,’ she wrote to Lady Charlotte Bury. ‘If you can give me any intelligence of her, I should be much obliged.’ And she added that she was ‘daily expecting to be confined’.

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

Household For Charlotte and Leopold Is Being Prepared

As soon as Leopold was naturalised as a British subject, the Prince Regent commissioned him a general in the British army and offered to raise him to the peerage as Duke of Kendal. Leopold refused the dukedom, but this was his only modest defiance. He acquiesced in everything when the marriage contract was drawn up, and he took no part in the financial discussions. That was left to the Regent and his government.

After much debate and indecision, Parliament agreed to provide the royal couple with two houses. Their London residence was to be Camelford House, a meagre brick building on the corner of Park Lane and Oxford Street, which had dark, little rooms, a narrow hall and only one staircase. The house has been the home of the second Lord Camelford, a cousin of William Pitt and a notorious duellist, who had died of a wound there twelve years earlier, after an encounter with Captain Best in Holland Park. Charlotte thought it was much too small. ‘It will do for this season’, she told Mercer, ‘but really for the next we must look out for another’.

By contrast, their home was to be Claremont near Esher in Surrey, which Charlotte thought was ‘the most beautiful house and place possible’. She had visited it twice when she first went to stay with the Duke and Duchess of York at Oatlands, and by what looked like good luck, the most recent of its many unhappy owners, Charles Rose Ellis, had put it up for sale because his beautiful wife had just died there in childbirth.

For furniture, silver, linen, china and all the other household equipment, Parliament voted a generous single payment of £ 60,000, which was almost as much as it paid for Claremont. For living expenses and the cost of their household, Leopold was to be given £ 50,000a year, and in addition Charlotte was to have £ 10,000 a year ‘pin money’ to cover the cost of her clothes and the payment of her ladies and her personal maids.

Charlotte was restrained in the composition of her new household. She settled for six footmen, not eight as her father suggested, and their state livery was to be simple green, not gaudy crimson and green like his. She was also loyal. She kept on many of the people who had been closest to her at Windsor and Warwick House. Among them, Mrs Campbell was to be lady-in-waiting, despite 279 applications for the job; Mercer’s uncle the Rev. Dr Short was to be chaplain; and Mrs Louis, of course, was to stay on as dresser.

Mrs Louis was kept busy as the wedding day approached. Charlotte’s dress, ordered by the Queen and made by Mrs Triand of Bolton Street, did not quite fit; a few subtle alterations were required. But the dress was ready in plenty of time. The ceremony was postponed more than once because of the Prince Regent’s gout.

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

Picture: Camelford and Somerset Houses (demolished), ground-floor plans in c. 1820, source https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol40/pt2/pp264-289

A State Prisoner

Two days after her capture, Charlotte, with the aid of her drawing master Mr. Starkey, succeeded in smuggling a pencilled letter to Mercer out of Carlton House. She was allowed neither pen, ink nor paper, but she had stolen ‘these few sheets’, and intended, she said, to pass the letter through milk, to preserve the pencil. She was writing to her uncle Sussex in the same way.

‘You have no idea of my situation,’ she wrote to Mercer. ‘Oh, God, it ought to be remedied indeed, for it is wretched, and enough to send anyone wild … I am complete prisoner, not a letter or thing could get to me except by some merciful private hand.’ Even the Bishop was a welcome visitor in her desolation: he had promised to try and see Mercer, to beg her to get permission to visit Charlotte.

‘Shall you venture,’ she enquires of her friend, ‘upon asking leave to come and see me? … Oh, I wish you would … pray, pray do it.’ She is filled with self-reproach: ‘It is I who by my mad conduct brought all this upon you’ – and she reminds herself yet again of their heartbroken parting when ‘I could not utter one single word because you could not’. The following Monday she is to be moved to Cranbourne Lodge, in Windsor Forest, where she will be even more isolated. Her new ladies, she says, ‘are stupider and duller than anything’. She did not even attempt to talk, and meals were a misery – ‘so forlorn and prisonish’ – and she thinks of the cheerful dinners at Warwick House when Mercer was with her.

She was never alone, even at night, and the atmosphere of watching and suspicion was intolerable. ‘Louis went to Warwick House for some things for me, but … Lady Ilchester went over with her and followed her everywhere she went … and told her there must be no talking or messages with the servants.’

In spite of inflicting this heavy punishment upon his daughter, the Regent was all charm when they met. ‘I heartily begged his pardon for my rash act,’ she said, and he told her that he had forgiven her.”He cried a vast deal,’ she said, ‘did not know what to do for me, but would try & not make my life miserable.’ But the mention of Mercer, she said, drew from her ‘a violent shower of tears’. Altogether, it was a tearful scene, but hardly a constructive one for Charlotte’s future.

On July 18 the Princess moved from Carlton House to Cranbourne Lodge. To her surprise she found the house ‘very cheerful & very good, the view lovely’. She felt it was ‘an honourable retreat … and very far superior to Lower Lodge’. But there was no lessening of restrictions, and she could not shake off her wardresses. ‘Lady Ilchester is best,’ she wrote, ‘I don’t like Campbell at all.’ A week later she changed her mind: Mrs. Campbell was trying to please her and displayed ‘diffidence and delicacy’. But Lady Rosslyn she could never abide: she nicknamed her ‘Famine’ and ‘Vixen’, and her two dim nieces, the Misses Coates, were dubbed ‘the Consequences’. ‘The old one’ (Lady Rosslyn), she wrote, ‘is as detestable an old lump of bones as ever was, never seems good-humoured or pleased, & is always listening to what is going on … ‘

On receiving Charlotte’s pencilled note from Carlton House, the Duke of Sussex composed a letter to the Prime Minister. Princess Charlotte, he said, was being treated as a State Prisoner. Her health was suffering, and her doctors had prescribed sea bathing as vitally important to her recovery. He demanded permission to visit her.

Two days later, on July 19, having received no reply, he got up in the House of Lords, and put five questions, devised by Brougham, to Lord Liverpool. He wished to know, he said, if the Princess is allowed to receive her friends as usual; if she is able to write and receive letters. Is she actually under the restraint of imprisonment? Did not her doctors, a year ago, prescribe a yearly visit to the seaside as necessary to her health? And lastly, now that she passed the age when by Law she is fit to govern, what steps have been taken towards providing her with an Establishment suitable to her rank, and to the part she will soon have to perform?

The questions were pertinent, and embarrassing.

Lord Liverpool refused to answer, on the grounds that the points raised by the Duke ‘would bear by implication a disagreeable appearance as uninvited as it was unnecessary’.

‘Old Bags’, the Lord Chancellor, who was largely responsible for the Regent’s restrictions on Charlotte, ‘administered a rebuke.’ But Sussex, undeterred, said that he would raise the subject again. Before he finally sat down he begged to address the Woolsack, quoting Bacon – he believed it was Bacon – on the importance to man of reading, writing and conversation, and pointing out that ‘retirement, coercion and seclusion were not the means to instruct and give Princess Charlotte of Wales the most favorable idea of the beauty and advantages of the glorious constitution of this country, over which she was one day, please God, to rule’.

Perhaps it is not surprising that after this the Regent refused to meet his brother Sussex again.

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

A Freed Bird Is Forced To Come Back To Its Cage

In a flash of inspiration he [Brougham] made a sudden, dramatic move. It was now dawn, and he took her to the window, which looked eastwards, towards the City of Westminster. On the day which was now beginning an election was about to take place there. ‘In a few hours, all the streets and the park, now empty, will be crowded with tens of thousands,’ he said. ‘I have only to … show you to the multitude, and tell them your grievances, and they will all rise on your behalf.’ There would be violence and bloodshed. ‘Carlton House,’ he continued, ‘will be attacked – perhaps pulled down; the soldiers will be ordered out; and if your Royal Highness were to live a hundred years, it never would be forgotten that your running away from your father’s house was the cause of the mischief: and you may depend upon it, such is the English people’s horror of bloodshed, you never would get over it.’

Rhetoric won that day. Charlotte’s defences crumbled; and she gave in. She agreed to see her uncle York, and to return with him. She had only one stipulation to make: she would go back in a royal carriage.

With head high she walked downstairs to the dining-room, where the Duke of York – the Regent’s representative – was waiting, and told him she would go with him as soon as a carriage arrived from Carlton House. Then she turned to Brougham, and with astonishing firmness and assurance asked him to write down that she was determined never to marry the Prince of Orange: ‘that if ever there should be an announcement of such a match, it must be understood to be without her consent and against her will.’ Six copies were made and signed, wrote Brougham, ‘and one given to each person present’. The declaration was to be made public by the signatories in the event of the Dutch marriage being ever again on the cards. The knowledge of this astute move, probably inspired by Brougham, must have eased Charlotte’s mind as she prepared to to go into exile. Brougham himself was filled with admiration for the young Princess: ‘she showed much firmness, but the greatest sensibility and good feeling,’ he said. ‘I had no idea of her having so much good in her.’

It was only when Mercer came to say good-bye that Charlotte’s control broke down. The two girls clung to each other, unable to speak, believing in this moment of agony that they were being torn apart forever.

Poor Miss Knight was also facing the realization that her life with Charlotte was over – and over for good. Stricken as she was, she could not face going down to say good-bye: she was alone upstairs, she tells us, in hysterics.

The Duke of York handed Charlotte into the royal carriage, but made a fuss when Mrs. Louis, still carrying the Princess’s night things, attempted to follow her. It was only with great difficulty that the Princess of Wales persuaded him that Charlotte must have her maid with her, and Mrs. Louis was grudgingly permitted to perch on the edge of the seat facing the Princess. One wonders when she became dresser to the young Queen Victoria, if amongst her other reminiscences, Mrs. Louis told her about this grim early morning drive from Bayswater to Carlton House. The Princess sat, pale and silent, beside her uncle York, who still held in one hand the folded paper which he had brought to Connaught Place, the warrant to take Charlotte by force. Fortunately, he had not needed it.

At Carlton House the carriage was kept waiting in the courtyard for more than half an hour, because nobody had been told how the Princess Charlotte was to be received, and the new ladies had to be hastily assembled. Eventually, Lady Ilchester, Lady Rosslyn and Mrs. Campbell were ready, and, the bodyguard being formed, the Princess was permitted to enter her father’s house.

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

Messengers Come And Go

The party was upstairs in the drawing room when Mercer arrived accompanied by ‘the Great UP’. After Charlotte’s flight, when the Prince Regent went off to join a card party at the Duke of York’s apartments, Mercer and the Bishop had agreed to go up to Connaught House and try to persuade Charlotte to come home, and Cornelia Knight had refused to come with them because she could no longer bring herself to set foot in a house that belonged to the Princess of Wales.

Mercer was invited up to the drawing room, while the Bishop was shown into the dining room. It was a pattern of precedence that was to be maintained throughout the night. Partisans of the Princess were brought straight upstairs: representatives of the Regent were at best shown into the dining room and in most cases not even admitted to the house.

The Bishop did not have to wait too long, however. He was soon sent back to find the Regent with a note from Charlotte, in which she promised to return to Warwick House provided she was allowed to see Mercer as often as she wished, and provided Miss Knight and Mrs Louis were allowed to remain members of her household.

He had not been long gone when a series of coaches and carriages arrived carrying the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice and the other law officers, advisers and privy councillors who had been summoned and sent out by the Regent. To Brougham’s much amused embarrassment, Charlotte merrily instructed the servants to tell them all to wait in their carriages.

Then Cornelia Knight arrived. As soon as Mercer and the Bishop had left the Warwick House she had become so anxious about Charlotte that she changed her mind. She would have come after them then and there if she could. She had sent a note to Lady Salisbury explaining the emergency and asking if she could borrow her carriage. But the carriage had not been available until after it had dropped Lady Salisbury at the opera house.

In her memoir, Cornelia Knight wrote that once she was in the drawing room she gave Charlotte her royal seal, a key and a letter that had arrived after her departure. But she did not say who it was from.

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

The Affair With Testament (Part 1)

‘In March 1806, while they were living at Windsor, ten – year – old Charlotte went into a room where Mrs Campbell was writing at a table. When Charlotte asked what she was doing, Mrs Campbell answered that she was making her will.

“Then I’ll make mine too”, said Charlotte. And so she did, in the same childish detail as she kept her accounts.

“I make my will. First I leave all my best books, and all my books, to the Rev. Mr. Nott.
Secondly, to Mrs. Campbell my three watches and half my jewels.
Thirdly, I beg Mr. Nott, whatever money he finds me inpossession of, to distribute to the poor, and all my money I leave to the poor to them. I leave with Mr. Nott all my papers which he knows of, and I beg him to burn those which he sealed up. I beg the Prayer Book which Lady Elgin gave to me may be given to the Bishop of Exeter, and the Bible Lady Elgin gave me may be given to him also. Also all my playthings the Miss Fishers are to have. And lastly, concerning Mrs. Gagarin and Mrs. Louis, I beg that they may be very handsomly paid, and that they may have a house. Lady de Clifford the rest of my jewels, except those that are most valuable, and those I beg my father and mother, the Prince and Princess of Wales, to take. Nothing to Mrs. Udney, for reasons. I have done my will, and trust that after I am dead a great deal may be done for Mr. Nott. I hope the King will make him a Bishop.

Charlotte.
March, 1806
My birds to Mrs. Gagarin and my dog or dogs to Mrs. Anna Hatton my chambermaid.”

When Dr Nott saw the will, he entered into the spirit of the game and suggested that Charlotte was being too unkind to Mrs Udney. Charlotte agreed and added a codicil making a bequest to Mrs Udney as well. But by then, somehow – and it is not difficult to guess how – the original will had found its way into the hands of the Prince of Wales, who allowed himself to be convinced that it had been written under the influence of Mrs Campbell.

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

testament

Picture: an eighteenth century testament http://www.scottishhandwriting.com/18cTIntro.asp

Charlotte’s Education

‘”His Majesty,” wrote the King at the end of his final list, “thinks that on this plan the Princess will be surrounded with persons who will cultivate her mind, furnish it with excellent principles, and render her an honour and comfort to her relations, and a blessing to the dominions over which she may hereafter preside.” But in the long run all these people made little impression upon Charlotte’s mind: she learned what she wanted to learn, and picked up a good deal of useful information in the company of her two maids Mrs. Gagarin and Mrs. Louis.’

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

43d5863731284acb5b0ce1a191fed03d

Picture: A miniature of Princess Charlotte by Richard Cosway