Regency Reflections: Ashton on 1812, Part I

The following is an excerpt from John Ashton’s Social England Under the Regency, which can be found in digital formats at numerous sites.

Regency a la Mode, British Museum
from Chapter 6, 1812:
            Judging by the barometer of public opinion, the satirical prints, the topic of conversation in the commencement of this year, was the Prince Regent. Occupying the exalted position that he did, he naturally was the observed of all, and his foibles and peccadilloes were made the laughing stock or were censured of all. And the Caricaturists did not spare him. Take this illustration as a sample; it is called ‘1812, or Regency a la Mode,’ where we see our ‘fat friend,’ as Brummell called him, having his stays laced, and, during that operation, occupying himself by rouging his cheeks.
             He would allow very little of his doings to be known by the public, and the movements of Royalty, as we know it in the Court Circular, were recorded in the baldest manner possible, except on one occasion, when the Regent sprained his ancle, and there was a very long and elaborate report thereon.
Prince Regent, by Sir Thomas Lawrence
            Morning Chronicle, Saturday, November 16, 1811:–‘The Prince Regent.–His Royal Highness, we are concerned to state, was not well enough to come to town yesterday. At the Party given by the Duchess of York at Oatlands, on Wednesday evening, the Duchess made arrangements for a Ball. The Prince Regent agreed to lead off the dance with his daughter, the Princess Charlotte, for his partner. Whilst his Royal Highness was leading the Princess briskly along, his right foot came in contact with the leg of a chair or sofa, which gave his leg a twist, and sprained his ancle. His Royal Highness took but little notice of it that night, but in the morning he found it worse than he expected, etc., etc.

            Whatever was the matter with him, he did not leave Oatlands till the 9th of December, or nearly a month after the Ball. Nobody believed in the royal sprain, but the story that did gain credence, and was made the most of by the Caricaturist and Satirist, was that the Regent, at that Ball, grossly insulted Lady Yarmouth, for which he was most heartily, and soundly, thrashed by her husband, Lord Yarmouth, and hence the royal indisposition. Walcot, as ‘Peter Pindar, Esqre,’ wrote one of his most scathing odes, and that is saying something, entitled, ‘The R______l Sprain, or A Kick from Yar_____h to WA_______s, being particulars of an expedition to Oat______nds, and the Sprained Ancle.’
A Kick from Yarmouth to Wales
            There were several Caricatures, all with the same tendency. One was ‘A Kick from Yarmouth to Wales, December, 1811, which shows Lord Yarmouth holding the Regent by his coat collar and vigorously kicking him behind, the Regent yelling and trying to get away, Lady Yarmouth sitting on a sofa looking on. There is attached to this, a poetical effusion of fourteen verses, to be sung to the tune of ‘The Love-sick Frog.’ The first verse runs thus:
“A Prince he would a raking go.
Heigh ho! said Rowly.
Whether his people would have him or no;
With a rowly-powly, gammon and spinach,
Heigh Ho! said Anthony Rowly.”
            Then there was ‘The Royal Milling Match,” published December 1811, in which depicted Lord Yarmouth, who, by a paper sticking out of his coat po
cket, was ‘Late a pupil of the Champion of England,’ ‘fibbing merrily’ on the royal countenance; at the same time exclaiming, ‘There is plenty of fair game, but no poaching on my Mannor. My action is quick, and put in strait forward–so!’ The Regent calls out, ‘Help, help, I have made a false step, and sprained my Ancle.’ A servant coming in says to Lord Yarmouth ‘Lord, Sir, don’t be so harsh, you’ll sprain the gentleman’s ancle. By goles, this is what they call Milling indeed!’ Lady Yarmouth views the scene from behind a screen.
            The most amusing one I have seen, is given in the accompanying illustration (below), which is by Geo.Cruikshank, published January, 1812. It is called ‘Princely Agility: or the Sprained Ancle.’ The doctor at the foot of the bed (probably meant for Halford) is fomenting the foot, which seems its normal size, and says to the attendant, ‘Take the waistcoat away, or we shall make the town talk.’ The Princess Charlotte is examining the foot, and exclaims,’Bless me, how it swelled!’ Lady Jersey, who is administering to the invalid prince, is inattentive to her duties; whilse the Regent with ‘two lovely black eyes,’ is calling to Colonel McMahon, ‘Oh! my Ancle, Oh!–bring me my Wig–Oh! my Ancle! Take care of my Whiskers, Mac! Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, o-o-o-oh-o!’ Sir John Douglas is feeling his pulse saying, ‘Out a way, Mon, you are always exposing yourself.’ John Bull is coming in at the door, but is pushed back by Adams with ‘Indeed, Bull, ’tis only a sprained ancle.’ But John Bull says, ‘John Bull is not to be fobbed off so easily, Master Lawyer.’
           George Cruikshank was not very particular as to his likenesses, as we may see by his ideal Colonel McMahon, who was a servant worthy of his master, to whom he was most useful.
            Walcott ‘Pindarised’ him in an Ode, ‘Mac the First,’ in which he makes him say:
‘Once a boy, in ragged dress,
Who would little Mac caress?
When in the streets, starv’d and sad,
I was a common errand lad.’

More about the Prince Regent and Col. McMahon, soon at this site.

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