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.

London and Waterloo Tour – Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace has been home to the royal court, on and off, since William and Mary took up residence at Kensington House, as it was then known, shortly before Christmas 1689. The accession of George I was celebrated at Kensington with a bonfire in the gardens, where the household servants and courtiers toasted their new king with six barrels of strong beer and over three hundred bottles of claret. It was George I who set about making extensive renovations to the property, though he didn’t spend much time at the Palace. George II, on the other hand, loved the Palace, but didn’t entertain lavishly. After his sudden death at Kensington on 25 October 1760, the Palace would never again serve as the seat of a reigning monarch.
Now the story heats up – George III’s fourth son, Edward, Duke of Kent, was given two floors of rooms in the south-east corner of the Palace in 1798, below the State Apartments. The Duke undertook extensive renovations of the main rooms of the Palace with Wyatt as his architect before hastily moving to Brussels to escape his debts. In 1817, Princess Charlotte, who was the only legitimate heir to the throne, died in childbirth. The Duke of Kent (and all of the other unmarried royals) realized that it would behoove him to find himself a bride and set about the business of begetting a legitimate heir. In 1818 the Duke married Victoire, Dowager Princess of Leiningen, the sister of Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg – the late Princess Charlotte’s husband. Kent was cleverer than most of his brothers when he chose a wife. Victoire of Leiningen was a widow and already had proved her fertility by having had two healthy children.
Victoire, Duchess of Kent
The Duke of Kent and his bride moved into Kensington Palace and Princess Victoria was born there on 24 May 1819 and christened the following month in a private ceremony in the Cupola Room. Unfortunately, the Duke lived only nine months after the birth of his daughter but the Duchess of Kent and her daughter continued to live at Kensington until the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837. On 20 June 1837, very early in the morning, Princess Victoria was awakened and told that her uncle William IV had died and that she was queen.  Throughout the 19th century, the Palace was slightly neglected, its rooms doled out as grace and favour homes for minor royals or loyal retainers. A bit of glamour was restored to the Palace when Princess Margaret took up residence there, and of course the Palace will forever more be linked to its most glamorous resident, Diana, Princess of Wales.
An installation called “Enchanted Palace” is on now and running through January 2011. It’s a combination of fashion, performance, storytelling and film that runs throughout the palace and tells the story of its former residents. Installations in the state apartments are by designers including Vivienne Westwood, William Tempest and Stephen Jones and illustrator/set designer Echo Morgan who, working alongside Wildworks Theatre Company, take inspiration from the palace and the royals who have lived there. Contemporary designs are displayed alongside historic items from the collection, including dresses worn by Princess Diana. Each room tells a story about a former resident.  A somewhat maudalin tone is set by the Room of Royal Sorrows, focused on the emotional torment of Queen Mary II as she tried in vain a produce an heir. It is set in her bedchamber, giving the display an unsettling authenticity. The focus of the room is a ‘dress of tears’ created by Aminaka Wilmont, while on the bed is a figure of the queen, dressed in blue, face hidden. “The first time you walk into the room, it has an aura of sadness, but also incredible beauty,” said designer Marcus Wilmont, part of the team that decorated the room and came up with the outfit worn by the mannequin representing Queen Mary. “She tried really hard, but she had many miscarriages. She was a very loved queen, and we wanted to try to capture her spirit.” There are dozens of antique glass bottles known as “tear catchers” in the room, once used during times of mourning. It was thought that bottling the tears would catch and contain sorrow. Visitors are encouraged to leave a handwritten note about the last time they cried.

Wildworks’ interactive ‘wishing throne’ is the centrepiece of the King’s Presence Chamber, while the theme of dance is reflected in the Council Chamber, where dresses belonging to Princess Margaret and Princess Diana are displayed within a silver birch forest installation. The Independent calls the installation “so
peculiar it is as if you’ve stepped into Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland.” Read the entire article here.

One can only wonder what Queen Victoria would have thought of these avant garde goings on in her childhood home. . . . . Would she be amused?

After touring the interior of the Palace and the gardens, Victoria and I will be taking tea in the Orangery. In addition to the Royal Champagne Tea, the Orangery is featuring an Enchanted Palace Tea featuring chocolate ganache and raspberry shortbread. To see all of the Orangery’s menues, click here.

Kristine

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.                             

The London and Waterloo Tour – Victoria and Albert: Art in Love at the Queen's Gallery

Victoria and I are looking forward to the Victoria and Albert: Art in Love exhibit at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace. The Exhibition features 400 items from The Royal Collection including gifts exchanged by Victoria and Albert such as drawings, paintings, sculpture, furniture, musical scores and jewellery and encompasses their mutual love of music and art. The display also touches upon Prince Albert’s work on ‘The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations in 1851’ as well Queen Victoria in the years after Albert’s death in 1861.

Works by the couple’s favorite artist, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, are on display, as are photographs taken of the Royal couple. A German painter first recommended to Queen Victoria by Louise, Queen of the Belgians, Winterhalter came to England in 1842 and subsequently worked regularly for the queen and her family over the next two decades. Winterhalter was granted the largest number of royal commissions and produced numerous formal portraits, including the one pictured above, which Queen Victoria commissioned in 1843 as a surprise for her husband’s 24th birthday. The artist presents the Queen in an intimate pose, leaning against a red cushion with her hair half unravelled from its fashionable knot.

Winterhalter (at left) was born in the Grand Duchy of Baden in 1805. He excelled at painting and drawing as a teen and went to Munich where he studied at the Academy of Arts. By the late 1830’s he drew attention as a painter of royal subjects. He traveled and painted in almost every court of Europe until the last few years of his life. Though art critics were never very enthusiastic about his work, his portraits were well executed and conveniently flattering.

Costumes are also displayed in the exhibit, including Queen Victoria’s costume for the 1851 Stuart Ball  designed by French artist Eugène Lami. The French silk gown is rich in lace and brocade.
You can take a really in-depth video tour of the exhibition here and/or visit the Royal Collection website.

Winterhalter’s The First of May 1851, at right,  shows the Duke of Wellington presenting a casket to his one-year-old godson, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, who is supported by Queen Victoria. Behind these figures and forming the apex of a pyramidal composition is Prince Albert, half looking over his shoulder towards the Crystal Palace in the left background. Both the Duke of Wellington and Prince Albert are dressed in the uniform of Field Marshal and wear the Order of the Garter. The painting derives its title from the fact that both the Duke of Wellington and Prince Arthur were born on 1 May, which was also the date of the inauguration of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park.

 The painting was commissioned by Queen Victoria, but Winterhalter clearly encountered some difficulties in devising an appropriate composition. In the queen’s words, he ‘did not seem to know how to carry it out’ and it was Prince Albert ‘with his wonderful knowledge and taste’ who gave Winterhalter the idea of using a casket, instead of the gold cup the Duke had actually presented to the child. The painting hangs at the Duke’s country home, Stratfield Saye.

Above, Victoria and Albert with their children in 1846, Buckingham Palace

The Young Victoria

Victoria H. (as opposed to Victoria R) loved this film when she saw it in London in May 2009. And she will buy a copy as soon as it comes out on DVD. It’s still in Kristine’s Blockbuster queue.

We’d love to know what you think of it, so if you’ve already seen it, do tell us all. Wasn’t Emily Blunt wonderful? She even looked the part.

Victoria H. has this warning.  Do not expect the film to be entirely historically accurate. They played a little fast and loose with a couple of aspects.  For the benefit of the drama, of course.

 For example, Prime Minister Lord Melbourne was almost 60 when Victoria came to the throne. He might have had a long history of being a ladies’ man (and he had been married to Lady Caroline Lamb, remember), but  he was not the studly figure that Paul Bettany presented in the film, see left. Not that anyone could complain about Paul’s looks.  And Prince Albert did not take a bullet for his bride — he was as uninjured in the attack as she was.

Kristine tells an amusing bon mot regarding Patty Suchy of Novel Explorations . . One year we went to England to do a Queen Victoria tour and arrived a day or so early. The movie Mrs. Brown had just come out and we both wanted to see it, so we went to a cinema in Baker Street, where after buying our tickets we were presented with a floor plan and asked to reserve our seats. And what seats they were – plush red velvet, deep and supremely comfortable. Well, it also happened to have been the day we landed in Merry Old. And you know what air travel does to one. So, here we settled into our seats, the picture started and sometime later I turned to Patty in order to impart some witty aside or other, only to find her fast asleep! She missed the entire film. However, Patty embodies true friendship and after she’d awoken, she said, “Well, as long as you enjoyed it.”  Have you ever!?