The Long Lost Story of Prinny's Tailor by Guest Blogger Charles Bazalgette

Charles Bazalgette is at present writing the biography of his great-great-great-great-grandfather Louis Bazalgette (1750-1830), who was tailor to the Prince of Wales (later George IV) for 32 years, but who is quite unknown and has never been mentioned in any books. The only reason why he has been able to piece together his life story is because he researched him from the genealogical angle, a task that has so far taken him 15 years. As Charles told us:

This biography, which is planned to be ready to publish next year, had its origins in my genealogical research into the British branch of the Bazalgette family, of whom Louis (who was born in the Cevennes in southern France) was the patriarch. When researching Louis’ life, apart from the usual vital records, I hit the proverbial brick wall. He was an unknown man. He never got his name in the newspapers, apart from the odd modest donation to charity, and was never mentioned in contemporary accounts, diaries etc., of which I ploughed through a great number. He never advertised, probably because the Prince’s orders for clothes took up all of his manufacturing capacity. The fact that over many years I have been able to piece together his life story is due mainly to the ‘snapping up of unconsidered trifles’ and to painstaking detective work, plus those few measures of luck that lead the researcher up the right path, against the run of the play, which usually consists of Dame Fortune blithely pointing him down the garden variety.

The main point is that it’s very clear that Louis was a self-effacing, discreet and even secretive man. So, having become the Prince’s tailor when the latter was as young as eighteen, he was able to visit him to take and deliver orders almost clandestinely, which of course suited both of them very well, and though the quantity of clothes he supplied was colossal, he passed unobserved. His name did appear in the royal accounts as being owed far more than any other creditor, but otherwise, apart from amassing a large fortune, and then lending money to the Prince and his brothers, as well as to other prominent figures such as Richard Sheridan, unless, like me, you had followed him like a bloodhound, you would never have found this out.

So Louis was (until now) the Unknown Tailor, who made most of Prinny’s clothes from 1780 until at least 1795. By this time, the Prince had met the young Beau Brummell, and under his influence was beginning to look to English tailors for his clothes, and to dress in a more sober style. Another important reason why the Prince’s clothes orders to Louis diminished after 1795 was that he owed so much money to Louis, who had, by the good offices of Thomas Coutts, ensured that these loans were all in the form of debenture bonds, which Prinny (or rather Parliament) could not escape paying, that he needed to spread his debts elsewhere. Nevertheless, Louis continued to supply his fanciful uniforms, and livery for his household, until about 1812.

Louis was therefore the right man at the right time, providing an exclusive service of great quality and efficiency and almost imperceptibly making himself a millionaire, in modern terms, as a result. He was then able, in his unnoticed way, to become a propertied gentleman and to enjoy his dotage as Lord of the Manor of Great Bookham.

A few words about the research I did…I did a great deal of reading around the subject and the period, and fruitless searching for mentions of the tailor Prinny used. All accounts mention the later tailors, such as John Weston, Schweitzer & Davidson etc. I started a chronology of known events in the Louis’ life, which looked rather sparse until I discovered that Louis was a customer of Coutt’s Bank in the Strand. If you are researching a potential customer it is always worth checking with their archivist. I was allowed to examine and photograph the original ledgers, and therefore had all of Louis’ bank statements fron 1792 until 1830. This was before digital cameras so each page was on a 5×7 print. As you can imagine, reading the prints with a magnifiying glass and transcribing all of the entries into the chronology took a great deal of time, but it was worth it because I learned a great deal about his activities, and so was able to research the people mentioned.

Although I used to visit archives personally while we lived in England, we moved to western Canada twelve years ago. Fortunately the growth of the internet the digitization of records, and the arrival of online catalogues etc has done nothing to to harm my research at all. Quite the opposite. I had the first draft almost done, when by mere chance I discovered that all Louis’ accounts with the Prince between 1786 and 1795 were quietly rotting away in a box in the National Archives. I had all 300 pages photographed (digitally this time), and am about half-way through transribing these records. They have added immeasurably to the tailoring content of the book, which previously had been sadly lacking before. I’m quite glad to have discovered these records late in the day, when a lot of the more humdrum work has already been done. It’s like the Devonshire cream on the scone! I have had to learn a great deal about 18th century tailoring in a few months, and am still learning, but it has been quite fascinating.

Some excerpts from the book, and other information on 18th century tailoring, can be found on Charles’ blog.

Happy Birthday, George IV

On 12 August 1762, England rejoiced in the birth of a son to King George III and his Queen.  Later known as George IV, he was the King of Hanover and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death on 26 June, 1830.

Volumes have been written on the life of George, The Prince of Wales, known as Prinny.

Above, how the caricaturist George Cruikshank (1792-1878) celebrated the Prince Regent’s 50th Birthday in 1812; The Prince dances while outside the people suffer.
George Augustus Frederick was the eldest child of George III and Sophie Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, usually referred to as Queen Charlotte.
In this family portrait by Johann Zoffany (1733-1810) from about 1765, Prince George is on the right, his brother Frederick (Duke of York, 1763-1827) on the other side of their mother. They were the first of 15 children.

By 1770 when Johann Zoffany painted the family again, George (in red) and Frederick (in gold) had been joined by four more siblings: left, William (with parrot), Edward (center with dog), Charlotte and baby Augusta.
According to his biographers, young George was a good student, fluent in several languages and “very promising.” However, in the tradition of the Hanoverian kings, his father was disappointed in him, worried about his lack of obedience to the scriptures and his loose ways with the truth.

The miniature of George, right, was painted by the famed Richard Cosway about 1780 when George was nearing his majority.

John Hoppner (1758 – 1810) painted the Prince of Wales in 1792. The portrait hangs in the Wallace Collection in London.

 The portrait below also hangs in the Wallace Collection.

By the time he turned 21 in 1783, the Prince had already experienced several passionate love affairs, most notoriously with the beautiful actress Mary Robinson* who performed at the Drury Lane Theatre as Perdita in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. The Prince was smitten and wrote to her, signing his name as Florizel, and the affair was soon known to the general public. The King was very angry and their relationship never improved vastly.  But we shall leave the story of the Prince of Wales —  “First Gentleman of Europe,” collector of houses, furniture, paintings et. al., bigamist and serial adulterer, gambler and spendthrift, and father least likely to succeed — until a later blog.

For now we offer our felicitations on the 248th birthday of George IV, Prince, Regent and King.
* Mary Robinson’s life (1757-1800) was short and sad.  She retired from the stage after various afflictions and became a well-known poetess and novelist. For more details on the life of Mary Robinson, we recommend Hester Davenport’s biography published in 2006: The Prince’s Mistress Perdita: A Life of Mary Robinson.

The Forgotten Queen

This is the birthday of Caroline of Brunswick (17 May 1768 – 7 August 1821), Princess of Wales, Queen Consort of King George IV, one of the saddest characters in the last 200 years of British royal history.  Many have pointed out the parallels between Caroline’s life and the more recent sad Princess of Wales, Diana.

 Both married men who loved another woman (or women, in the case of George), both were loved by the public, both engaged in questionable romantic relationships outside of their royal marriages, and both died well before their husbands.

 George, Prince of Wales, later Prince Regent and then King George IV, already had a wife when he found himself out of funds again, and had to appeal to his father, George III, and governmental leaders in Parliament for an increase in his allowance.

Some probably knew of the marriage ceremony in which Prince George had illegally wed Mrs. Maria Fitzherbert. But since the wedding of a royal heir required the permission of the king, the marriage did not exist officially.  So in return for an increase in his allowance, Prince George agreed to wed Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, his cousin from a German principality. The wedding took place April 8,1795.

The marriage was a disaster from the beginning. Prince George did not care for the appearance or the hygiene of his bride.  She thought he was much fatter than his pictures and a drunkard. Worse, he flaunted one of his mistresses, Lady Jersey, by making her Caroline’s lady-of-the-bedchamber, which Caroline did not appreciate. (See Kristine’s post on the Two Lady Jerseys posted April 2, 2010). George and Caroline separated almost immediately and lived in distant households for the rest of their lives.

However, nine months later, Princess Charlotte was born on January 7, 1796, and became the heir to the throne after her father and grandfather. To the right, Caroline and Princess Charlotte of Wales by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1802.

We will tell Charlotte’s sad story another day, but it suffices to say that both Caroline and Charlotte led unhappy lives because Prince George tried to ignore their very existence. Eventually, Charlotte married and later died in childbirth in 1817.

By then, Princess Caroline, her mother, was living in Italy at the Villa d’Este on Lake Como. (Victoria will post about this the Villa, now a hotel, soon.)
Caroline was living the high life, it was said, and had a very close friendship with a certain Signor Bartolmeo Pergami, which was widely caricatured.

After George III died in 1820, George IV had Caroline tried for adultery in the House of Lords. Though many believed she was guilty, it was not proved, to the King’s great irritation. He refused to allow Caroline to enter Westminster Abbey for his coronation in July of 1821.  She died just a few weeks later on August 7, 1821.  To the left, a detail of the Trial of Queen Caroline by Sir George Hayter.

There were inquiries into the cause of Caroline’s death, but again, nothing could be proven. She was buried in Brunswick.

To the left, a portrait of Queen Caroline by James Lonsdale. Caroline always had a popularity with many of the people who despised her husband for his profligate ways, overspending and general excesses in everything.  Jane Austen famously wrote, “I will always support her as long as I can, because she is a woman, and because I hate her husband…I am resolved at least always to think that she would have been respectable, if the Prince had behaved only tolerably by her at first.” (From letter of 16 February 1813 to Martha Lloyd)

Flora Fraser published her excellent book The Unruly Queen: the Life of Queen Caroline in 1996. It tells most of the story in detail with many more pictures. But, of course, the questions remain, nearly 200 years later. Was her behavior as bad as George IV’s was? Probably not. He was the penultimate spoiled child, self indulgent to the extreme.  But no one probably will ever know the full story of Caroline, the forgotten queen.

The Anniversary of a Short Marriage

On 2 May, 1816, Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld in Carlton House, the home of her father, the Prince Regent.

The occasion was full of joy for the British public for the masses loved the Princess and they knew her life had not been easy.
The only legitimate grandchild of George III, Princess Charlotte was second in line to become the monarch of Great Britain. Her mother and father separated shortly after their marriage and never lived together. The Prince Regent was envious of the public interest in Charlotte and he restricted her movements and even her contact with her mother, Caroline, Princess of Wales.
Her wedding dress can be seen in the Royal Collection in various exhibitions. Here is the description of the gown from a regency era periodical, La Belle Assemblee, Vol. 12, no. 84 (May 1816), “Her dress was silver lama on net, over a silver tissue slip, embroidered at the bottom with silver lama in shells and flowers. Body and sleeves to correspond, elegantly trimmed with point Brussels lace. The manteau was of silver tissue lined with white satin, with a border of embroidery to answer that on the dress, and fastened in front with a splendid diamond ornament.”

Prince Leopold and Princess Charlotte lived at Claremont, an estate in Surrey. There, just over a year after the wedding, Charlotte died after giving birth to a stillborn son. The people mourned their Princess on an unprecedented level.

Many kinds of memorials were sold throughout the country:

Charlotte was buried in the Royal Chapel at Windsor. A large memorial to her shows her descending into heaven, her infant son held by an angel.
Prince Leopold remained involved in the British Royal Family. He helped the Duke of Kent marry his sister, Victoire, who eventually became the parents of Princess Victoria. He advised his niece before and after her accession to the throne.
And he also facilitated the marriage of his nephew Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg- Gotha to Queen Victoria. In 1831, Leopold became King of the Belgians. He married again and had three children. His daughter was named Charlotte after his first wife.

Right, Princess Charlotte of Wales 1796-1817.