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.

Museum of London – Galleries of Modern London Exhibition Opens Today

Drat, drat, drat! So much London, so little time. Just when I thought I had everything I wanted to see on the agenda, up pops something else I simply must make time for. Sigh. Like the Galleries of Modern London exhibition at the Museum of London. The £20m exhibition will aim to capture London’s tumultuous history from 1666 to the present day, using 7,000 objects and interactive displays and film transport visitors through London’s tumultuous history, rich with drama, triumph and near disaster. From the Great Fire of 1666 to wonders of invention at the Great Exhibition in 1851, the Suffragettes’ fight for voting rights to the fashions which made the sixties swing, the galleries are an experience of rebirth and renewal, of excess and struggle.

A few of the highlights of the exhibit that made me decide I just had to see it are the Lord Mayor’s State Coach built in 1757 and the Pleasure Gardens. Yes, the Pleasure Gardens. Visitors can stroll through recreated late 18th century pleasure garden full of period costumes and specially commissioned masks and hats. There’s a picture of Vauxhall Gardens (see above) beside the blurb in the brochure, so you know this is going to fabulous! Then there’s the Victorian Walk, where you can window shop along the recreated streets and even stop in at a pub. There’s also an original Wellclose Prison cell from the 18th century – complete with period graffiti. In addition, they have the Fanshawe dress on display (above). Made from Spitalfields silk, it was worn by Ann Fanshaw when her father was Lord Mayor 1752-53.

To prove that the Museum of London is moving along with the times, they’ll be installing a 3D exhibit in Trafalgar Square promoting the exhibiton and will be launching an iPhone app that will guide users to sites across London where they can explore some of the city’s hidden secrets that feature in the exhibition.

At left is a photo of the front of Selfridge’s Deptartment Store being installed at the Museum of London.

Vicky Lee, marketing manager at the Museum of London, said: “The launch of this new app brings London’s rich history to life for Londoners and tourists alike. iPhone users can create their own trails around the capital and view images of London past, while standing in the very locations they depict.”

Click here for a recent London Times article on the new exhibits.                                 

Save Hougoumont!

The following email was passed on from the Historical Novel Society and we in turn are now passing it on to you, as we feel it may be of interest.  During the Battle of Waterloo, Chateau Hougoumont was the scene of almost constant fighting, hour upon hour of artillery, fires, attacks from waves of soldiers. Hundreds of men died inside and out. It is certainly worth commemorating.


Dear All,

I am sending this e mail to a number of friends who I think might be interested in history, or may know someone who has such an interest. I am on the committee of Project Hougoumont, the official organization that plans to restore the Farm at Hougoumont, on the battlefield of Waterloo. In cooperation with the local and federal authorities in Belgium, we are hoping to raise approximately 40% of the cost of the renovation of this historic centre of the battle that changed the course of history on June 18th, 1815.

Project Hougoumont also has the agreement of the Belgian Authorities to commission a monument that will be placed inside the gates at Hougoumont in memory of the British Army that fought at Waterloo. You may be surprised to learn that whilst there are monuments to the French, Belgian, Hanoverian, Nassau and Prussian forces that fought in the great battle, there has never been a monument to the British officers and men who formed the greater part of Wellington’s army.

To accomplish the above, we wish to set up a network of interested people who may wish to take part in this historic event. You may wish to help sponsor this project or at least be kept informed of its progress. The project has developed a very novel idea for fund raising that will name sponsors on a Roll of Honour that will be kept at Waterloo for all time. Future generations will be able to see the Roll of Honour on a computer and in a series of volumns located in the farmhouse at Hougoumont.

Project Hougoumont would like to e-mail you on a regular basis to up date you on progress with the restoration of the farm and the commissioning of the monument. We have set up a secure network that ensures that your e-mail address is not circulated to anyone without your permission, and we will require your agreement to put your name on our networking list. All of us at Project Hougoumont welcome your interest in this exciting project. Read more on our website.

Best wishes, Steve Stanton

Closing the Gates at Hougoumont, an imaginative painting
by Scottish artist Robert Gibb (1845-1932)

Youthful Politicians

Much has been made of the youth of new British Prime Minister David Cameron, 43, and Nick Clegg, deputy PM, also age 43. Perhaps it is a time of young men in power. Here are their facebook pages: Cameron and Clegg.

 Clegg is on the left and Cameron on the right, in the picture that is, and probably in their politics.
To lots of observers this seems like a real wonder. In fact, I think some early stories on both sides of the Atlantic talked about the youngest PM ever. Nonsense!!

Those of us who love history remember learning about several young PMs, not to mention U.S. Presidents. For example, William Pitt (1759-1809), usually characterized as ‘the Younger’ became Prime Minister at age 24. Yes, 24!!!

The portrait at right is attributed to Gainsborough. Pitt served two terms, separated by a few years. He died short of age 50, probably of stress and the effects of overimbibing his Port.

Some of the recent news stories about PM Cameron referenced Robert Jenkinson, Lord Liverpool (1770-1828), who took office as Prime Minister in 1812 at age 42. He occupied the office for fifteen eventful years, through the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Congress of Vienna, the disruptions of the postwar period and most of the rule of George IV as the Prince Regent and King after 1820. After a stroke in 1827, he resigned office and lived on just a short time, dying at 58, relatively young when one considers the age of Sir Winston Churchill who was PM for the second time until he was 81 and died at age 90.

Tony Blair, just a few years ago, became PM at age 43, though he was practically on the eve of the more respectable 44. Born in 1953, he retired as PM in 1997 at age 54.

U.S. President Barack Obama was 47 at his election. The youngest U.S. President was Teddy Roosevelt, at age 42.  John Fitzgerald Kennedy was 43, Bill Clinton, 46, and Grover Cleveland at 47 matched the current president.

Take a virtual tour of No. 10 Downing Street here.

The London and Waterloo Tour – Book and Print Sellers

Books, glorious books! What better reason to go to London than to browse the second hand and antiquarian book shops? Oh, the musty smell of the stacks, the light coating of dust atop the books, the heart stopping finds one occasionally makes! I once came home from England with, quite literally, a huge suitcase full of books. I crammed my personal items into a duffel and used the suticase for the books. The customs agent couldn’t believe it. Nor could either of us lift it.

On our London/Waterloo tour, Victoria and I have set aside a day to do the book shops on Charing Cross Road and the adjacent Cecil Court, to be followed by print buying at Grosvenor Prints.
Charing Cross Road runs immediately north of St Martin-in-the-Fields to St Giles’ Circus (the intersection with Oxford Street) and then becomes Tottenham Court Road.

Charing Cross Road is renowned for its specialist and second-hand bookshops and more general second-hand and antiquarian shops such as Quinto Bookshop, Henry Pordes and Any Amount of Books. Oh, the books I’ve found at Pordes! This trip out, I’ll be looking for letters, diaries and journals of the day(s), as per usual, and anything Regency, as per usual, and whatever else I may fall over that strikes my fancy, as per usual. And I must make a list of all the authors I want to search for – British authors whose books are hard to find here. I know that Victoria will be looking for books by Angela Thirkell.

Smaller second-hand and specialist antiquarian bookshops can be found in the adjoining Cecil Court, where shops selling specialist books (children’s, theatre, travel, etc) stand side by side and where both Victoria, Diane Gaston and myself have picked up prints and maps in the past. The shopfronts have not been altered in more than a century and the traditional hanging signs announce specialists in rare and antiquarian books, maps and prints and all manner of related printed material including stamps and banknotes. It was at David Drummond’s shop, Pleasures of Past Times, that I picked up a favorite Regency find – a ticket of admission to view the trappings installed at Westminster Abbey for the Coronation of George IV.

Victoria and I will be ending our day at Grosvenor Prints. You’ll find in a previous post that I’ve already been to this printseller’s shop and bought a number of prints related to the Duke of Wellington. While they have a searchable online catalogue, the bulk of their stock is kept in folders in the basement and when you arrive, you can tell the salesperson what you’re interested in. Then you sit down to wait for a few minutes and they return from the depth with treasures untold. This time, Victoria and I are going to email ahead in order to let them know what we’re looking for and when we’ll be in. While I’ll be seeking prints related to the Duke of Wellington (surprise!), Victoria is looking to add to her collection of fashion prints from 1800 to 1820 and for engravings of Margaret Mercer Elphinstone, Princess Charlotte, Lady Melbourne, Lady Cowper, Lady Palmerston and other ladies of the period. We promise to let you know what we find.

Continued below . . . .

As a side note, I wanted to let you know about another Charing Cross Road. A long-standing correspondence between New York based author Helene Hanff and the staff of a now defunct bookstore on the street, Marks and Co., was the inspiration for the book 84 Charing Cross Road (1970). The book was made into a 1986 film with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins and also into a play and a BBC radio drama. Any bibliophile, especially an American bibliophile, will be enchanted by the letters that pass from Ms. Hanff to the staff and vice versa during her years of placing orders with them. Friendships develop, news is exchanged and family events shared. Both the book and movie are both charming and touching and highly recommended.