Tag Archives: princess charlotte of wales

Charlotte And Leopold Receive Guests

In January 1817 the Regent’s carriage was stoned, as he drove to open Parliament. There was desperate poverty and distress in the country, as a result of the long wars followed by a disastrous harvest in 1816. The Regent led an attempt to encourage British manufacturers, which was taken up with enthusiasm by Charlotte and Leopold. They themselves ordered £ 1, 000 worth of Spitalfields silk, some of which they planned to hang on the walls of their great gallery. Charlotte began to collect English china, and Princess Elizabeth sent her a vase to add to her collection. In return she presented her aunt with a teapot, in the spout of which was a tiny roll of paper bearing a verse.

‘Your vase, dear aunt, I have just received,
For which receive a tea-pot;
Nor shall I be, in truth, deceived,
If both should go to pot.’

The Coburgs practised economy and charity, and tried as far as possible to live like private people. Leopold insisted that the greater part of their entourage should sleep away from Claremont and only be on call when wanted. Their household shopping, Charlotte decreed, was to be done at Esher, and all bills paid on the nail (she had experienced what it was to be in debt). In spite of having a Privy Purse and a Treasurer, they liked to supervise their own household expenses, bourgeois fashion, and Miss Knight, arriving on a visit, retreated when she found them seated at a desk covered with books and papers. ‘Come in, come in!’ Charlotte called, ”tis only Mr. and Mrs. Coburg settling their accounts.’

They began to entertain, pleased to show off their fine house. As yet, the imposing gallery, with its vast carpet, was not furnished, but the drawing-room, with its walls covered in yellow Spitalfields silk stripped with satin, and chairs and sofas to match, was a pleasant setting for parties, and early in 1817 Charlotte’s new pianoforte was installed there, a Broadwood with a case of satinwood and rosewood decorated with ormolu, which was the twin to one made in the same year for Beethoven.

At first they held family parties: ‘The Glosters have just this moment left us,’ Charlotte wrote in September 1816, and was thankful that the visit had gone off so well, for they were ‘not the most agreeable people in the world’. She seemed to have forgotten her strange predilection for the Cheese, whom she now described as ‘tiresome’, but she hoped that marriage with Princess Mary would improve him. He seemed, she said, ‘very fond of Mary & to be very happy; he is certainly all attention to her, but I cannot say she looks the picture of happiness …’

No sooner had the Gloucesters gone than the Prince Regent paid them a visit, arriving on horseback from Hampton Court, and still ready for a three-hour walk round the estate.

Charlotte and Leopold were evidently too occupied entertaining their relations to fulfil an engagement in London, for on September 14 the Foundation Stone of the Royal Coburg Theatre* was laid on their behalf by an Alderman with the charming and suitable name of Goodbehere.

It was a great pleasure having the Duchess of York so near, at Oatlands. ‘We like her so much.’ ‘We are excellent neighbours & very sociable.’ And at Christmas time they were able to join in the charitable Duchess’s party. ‘Xmas eve is a great day always at Oatlands: the Duchess has a sort of fête and fair for everybody … It was the gayest and prettiest sight I ever saw I think, the numbers of children, their parents, and all the happy merry faces, the noises they make with their toys and things.’

* The Royal Coburg Theatre became The Royal Victoria Hall, and is now known as the Old Vic.

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

Picture: portraits of Charlotte and Leopold from the cover of James Chambers’ book

Charlotte Suffers An Early Miscarriage

On 3 July Charlotte gave an important dinner party of her own, to which she invited the Duke of Wellington and his staff. When her father heard about it, he reverted to his old self. So far he had shown nothing but goodwill towards his daughter and her husband. Five weeks earlier he had invested Leopold with the Orders of the Garter and the Bath. But the thought of Charlotte playing hostess to the nation’s greatest living hero reduced him to childish jealousy.

The Regent instructed Lord Castlereagh to give a dinner for the Cabinet on the same evening and invite Wellington to attend. When he received the invitation, Wellington declined politely, saying that he was already engaged on that evening. When the day came, however, the Regent sent a messenger to Wellington ordering him to join him at Lord Castlereagh’s dinner. Wellington had no choice but to obey the royal command. So he sent his staff to dine with Charlotte and Leopold, and as soon as he could after dinner, without being rude to his host or disobedient to the Regent, he left Castlereagh’s house in St James’s Square and went up to Camelford House to join them. Charlotte was flattered. ‘I like him of all things’, she told Mercer. ‘His little short, blunt manner is not at all against him, I think, when once known.’

Three days later Charlotte was suddenly taken ill at the opera. She was well enough to go to church next day, but on the day after that Dr Baillie ordered complete rest. A week later, to universal relief, she was seen out taking the air in her carriage. But on 22 July she was not well enough to attend the wedding at which her former suitor the Duke of Gloucester was married to her aunt Princess Mary.

For a while Dr Baillie was not sure what was wrong. It was possible that the Princess was suffering from the irregular menstruation that sometimes happens in the first few weeks of marriage. But by the end of the month he was ready to announce ‘that H.R.H.’s indisposition arose from her having been in a state which gave hopes that she would, in a few months, have the happiness of giving birth to a Royal heir’.

The newspapers were sad about the miscarriage, but not despondent. The Princess was young and healthy. On 8 August they were glad to report that she had been seen out again in her carriage. Three days later they reported that she had held a musical evening, at which she had sung a German air in honour of her husband.

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

Charlotte And Leopold Are Very Happy Together

Among the gentlemen in attendance upon Prince Leopold was a young German doctor, Christian Friedrich Stockmar, a man of great ambition, who had directed, towards the end of the Napoleonic wars, a military hospital at Coburg, and had become acquainted with Prince Leopold during the final campaign. The Prince took a fancy to him, and Stockmar was now appointed his physician in ordinary. It was during the honeymoon that Princess Charlotte first met this man who was to play an important part in her life. The meeting was a significant one to both. They ran into each other, head on, as it were, in the breakfast room, and there was a pause while they summed each other up. The Princess, Stockmar noted in his diary, was handsomer than he expected, but his ‘his first impression was not favourable’. For her part, Charlotte had no doubt been given a glowing account of the doctor by Leopold, but she wished to form her own opinion. Stockmar apparently passed the test: she decided that she liked him. He remained critical, though her friendliness and lack of ceremony made up for what he considered her unladylike deportment, which he found a little shocking. She would stand, he said, with her hands clasped behind her, her body thrust forward, stamping her foot from time to time in emphasis, ‘laughing a great deal, and talking still more’.

But as time went by, and the critical doctor became accustomed to her mannerisms and her unpredictable moods, he liked and admired her. He approved of her way of dressing. ‘I have never yet seen her in any dress which was not both simple and in good taste,’ he declared, and in October, when the couple had been married for six months, he decided that Prince Leopold’s influence had had a marked effect. ‘She has gained surprisingly in calmness and self-control, so that one sees more and more how good and noble she really is.’

Leopold, gentle, patient, firm but, above all, loving, was undoubtedly having a good effect. ‘Doucement, chérie,’ he would murmur again and again when Charlotte displayed exuberant high spirits, or grew excited and stamped with rage. ‘Doucement, chérie.’ It must have been maddening, but she accepted his correction, and Doucement became her nickname for him.

They were always together, and took a pride in their simple domesticity; and the German Stockmar, observant but self-effacing, wrote approvingly, ‘In this house reign harmony, peace and love – in short, everything that can promote domestic happiness. My master is the best of all husbands in all the four quarters of the globe; and his wife bears him an amount of love, the greatness of which can only be compared with the English national debt.’

Perhaps he exaggerated, but both parties were resolved to make a go on the marriage, and ‘Our rule,’ said Leopold, ‘was never to permit one single day to pass over ein missverständniss, however trifling.’ No doubt this admirable rule was applied when Charlotte was seized with jealousy of the Duke of Wellington’s sister-in-law, Lady Maryborough. Leopold admired her, and reproved his wife, pointing out that the lady was some fifteen years older than himself; but this failed to convince Charlotte. ‘She is a very coquettish dissipated woman,’ she cried, and ‘doucement’ was murmured in vain. But scenes of this kind were rare, and even the cynical Princess Lieven could find no fault with the marriage. ‘I see a great deal of the Coburgs,’ she boasted, ‘and as a matter of fact I claim to be the most intimate friend of the Princess Charlotte … Her husband is behaving very well; she is greatly attached to him, and very submissive.’

To please Charlotte, Leopold grew a moustache, which was an unusual adornment at that time; she took delight in combing and arranging his silky dark hair, and folding his cravats, which she considered to be a wifely duty.

‘Except when I went out to shoot, we were together always,’ said Leopold, ‘and we could be together, we did not tire.’ They drove together, walked together, played and sang together. On Sundays they went to church together, driving to St. George’s, Esher, and sitting in the chamber-pew built by Vanbrugh for the Duke of Newcastle, which had its own fireplace and was hidden from the altar by four Corinthian pillars. Unfortunately, their presence began to attract crowds of sight-seers, and people drove down from London to get a sight of the Prince and Princess. ‘The ladies,’ a resident complained, ‘were dressed so fine, you would have thought you were going to a ball rather than to hear a sermon … ‘ The Reverend Wadham Diggle was growing old, and his sermons were both inaudible and interminable, s o this, as well as the crowds, may have influenced the decision of Charlotte and Leopold to worship in a private chapel at Claremont, under their own chaplain, Dr. Short.

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

Moving Into Claremont

At this point Leopold was attacked once again by the violent pain in his face which had afflicted him before. Once again, he was obliged to part with a tooth, but a few days later he and Charlotte took the air together in an open barouche, along the Harrow Road. By this time they were determined to move out of the uncomfortable and depressing Camelford House at the earliest opportunity. The purchase of Claremont had by now gone through Parliament and had received the Royal Assent. The move was arranged for August 23: the furniture and household goods to go in military waggons, while stage coaches were hired to take the servants and the luggage, followed by Sir Robert Gardiner and the household in carriages. Finally the Prince and Princess took leave, without regret, of Camelford House, and set out in their travelling carriage, arriving at Claremont in time for dinner. They were welcomed by the bells ringing from Esher Church, and Charlotte, climbing the wide steps up to the front door, exclaimed as she looked back over the peaceful countryside, ‘Thank Heaven I am here at last!’

(…)

For Charlotte, who, as she grew up, had been bundled into one or other of the less attractive royal houses, Claremont must have seemed a veritable paradise. After Warwick House and Lower Lodge, Windsor (‘this infernal dwelling’), she must have revelled in the spaciousness and beauty of the grounds, and the dignity of the house with its well-proportioned rooms, and great gallery at the back, which had been built to fit a magnificent carpet carpet presented to Lord Clive [one of the previous owners] when he left India.

‘To Claremont’s terraced heights and Esher’s groves,
Where in the sweetest solitude embraced
By the soft winding of the silent Mole,
From courts and cities Charlotte finds repose …’

The Princess adapted some lines by the poet Thomson to for an inscription upon a snuff-box for her husband, epitomizing her happiness in Claremont and Leopold. She had indeed, after the twenty-one turbulent years of her life, ‘found repose’. She was happy; and the marriage which she had envisaged so coolly as an escape from something worse had turned out to be a source of deep contentment, a fulfilment of all that she could ever have hoped.

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

Picture: Claremont House, ca. 1860 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Claremont.JPG

The Anniversary of Princess Charlotte’s Death

It has been 202 years since Princess Charlotte’s death and on this sad anniversary I would like to remind you the guest post by Susan Abernethy (thank you again Susan!). You will find it in the link below

https://princesscharlotteofwales.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/the-personality-of-princess-charlotte-augusta-of-wales-guest-post-by-susan-abernethy/

 

Charlotte And Leopold Take Up The Official Engagements

After little more than a week, Charlotte and Leopold went up to London, to Camelford House, where they began to receive a tedious series of ‘loyal addresses’ from various city councils and guilds. The first was from the Lord Mayor of London, who was received incongruously by the new bride in black because the court was in mourning for the Empress of Austria. But now that Charlotte was mistress of her own house she was in a position to receive anyone she pleased, and in the mornings, before the official engagements began, there were frequent visits from Cornelia Knight.

On 16 May they drove through huge crowds to Buckingham House, where the Queen gave a reception in their honour for over two thousand guests. Next day they received visits at Camelford House from Charlotte’s uncles the Dukes of York, Clarence and Gloucester, and then they went round to call on the Duchess of York and thank her for lending them Oatlands.

Yet, despite their inevitably crowded social calendar, Charlotte and Leopold found time to indulge their shared interests in music and, above all, theatre.

After leaving the Duchess of York, they went on to Drury Lane to see the great Edmund Kean in his latest tragedy, Bertram. The visit to the Duchess had delayed them so much that they arrived well after the performance had started. As they sat down in their box, the audience interrupted the play with hisses and shouts of ‘Stage Box!’. Leopold was taken aback: he thought they were being criticised for coming late. But Charlotte explained that this was what the audience did when they wanted a royal party to move their chairs forward so that they could see them better. So Leopold and Charlotte did as they were asked. That night and for ever afterwards, they sat well forward in their box, and the audiences were soon noticing how often the uninhibited Princess sat with her hand resting on her husband’s arm.

A week later they went to the theatre again, this time to Covent Garden to see The Jealous Wife. As they entered the Prince Regent’s box, several minutes before the performance was due to start, the curtain suddenly rose and the entire company sang the national anthem with a few additional verses which had been written hurriedly for the occasion and did not quite fit the cadence of the tune.

Long may the Noble Line,
Whence she descended, shine
In Charlotte the Bride!
Grant it perpetuate
And ever make it great;
On Leopold blessings wait
And Charlotte his Bride.

A fortnight after that, Charlotte and Leopold were due to attend a performance of Macbeth, in which the ageing Mrs Siddons had agreed to make one last appearance. But when the day came Charlotte was in bed suffering from what Dr Matthew Baillie, the King’s Physician Extraordinary, described as ‘a severe cold’, which had come on suddenly and forced her to leave in the middle of a charity concert a few days earlier.

Charlotte remained in bed for a week, although she was well enough to receive visits from the Queen and her aunts and uncles, and soon after that she was again going to the theatre and dinner parties.

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

Picture: Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold in their box at Covent Garden Theatre, 1816. The artist George Dawe was much patronised by the royal couple. This portrait was commissioned by Princess Charlotte, but Fry’s engraving was not issued until 6 April 1818 – after Princess Charlotte’s death in November 1817. Charlotte and Leopold are depicted seated in a classically ornamented box at the Covent Graden Theatre. He holds a libretto and looks at her. She is shown wearing a totally plain dress, but with a magnificent cashmere paisley shawl which is draped over one shoulder and falls over the box, showing off its exotic design; none of these costly shawls now survives. Charlotte has a wreath of roses in her hair and wears a low cut, high waisted dress of light weight material. The performance they are watching was of Henry VIII, performed for the benefit of the Theatrical Fund on Saturday 29 June 1817. The cast included Mrs Siddons as Queen Katherine. https://www.museumoflondonprints.com/image/143205/george-dawe-william-thomas-fry-princess-charlotte-and-prince-leopold-in-their-box-at-covent-garden-theatre-1816-1817

A Very Awkward Honeymoon

The honeymoon was not blissful. ‘We have none of us been well,’ said Charlotte, and blamed the weather. She found Leopold ‘the perfection of a lover’, and a very amiable companion, but she confessed that she felt shy of him, not at her ease or ‘quite comfortable yet in his society’.

They were probably suffering from reaction: they had both endured a long strain since Leopold’s arrival in England; moreover, they were still virtually strangers. Oatlands, with its spacious estate, was a pleasant, secluded place for a royal honeymoon, but unfortunately, although the Duke and Duchess of York had moved out, the Duchess’s animals had not. Charlotte considered that the air of the place was ‘quite unwholesome, as it is infected & impregnated with the smell & breath of dogs, birds and all sorts of animals’. (It is interesting to note that the Duchess of York, so sensitive to the bad breath of her cousin Prince August, must have been quite immune to the strong odours of her forty dogs and other creatures.)

But there were happy moments, and particularly a drive in the curricle to Claremont, their future home, ‘wh. is a real paradise’.

Two days after the wedding, the Prince Regent arrived on a visit – unexpected and not altogether welcome. Perhaps to ease any shyness on the part of his hosts, he settled down to entertain his son-in-law and bored daughter with a long discourse on the subject of uniforms, which interested him enormously. ‘For two hours and more I think,’ said Charlotte, ‘we had a most learned dissertation upon every regiment under the sun.’ But she was relieved by the good-humoured mood in which the lecture was delivered, and later heard from her Aunt Mary that the Regent had been ‘delighted with his visit & with both us’.

Since his arrival in England, Prince Leopold had been studying English, determined to master not only the language but the history of this country. He admired the English, but thought their manners ‘a little odd’ through their long separation from the Continent. He considered that, as husband to the Heiress Presumptive, he must educate himself for the high position he would one day occupy. Charlotte approved of these studies, and even on their honeymoon encouraged him to talk English, ‘wh. he really does surprisingly well considering how short a time and what little practice he has had’.

He was still suffering from neuralgia, which – temporarily relieved when the Regent’s dentist, Mr. Bew, pulled out one of his teeth – returned when he and Charlotte went to London: Miss Knight, on July 30, was unable to see the Princess, ‘as Prince Leopold was suffering from a pain in his face. But,’ Cornelia hastened to add, ‘she wrote me a very affectionate note afterwards to apologise.’

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

Picture: Oatlands Palace https://www.geni.com/projects/Oatlands-Palace-Surrey-England/25843