My Own Heart – The London coach arrived today, bringing with it your gift of a partridge and a pear tree. You are too clever by half! Yours For Eternity
My Love – Two turtle doves! How simply smashing. I cannot wait to see you again that I might thank you personally. You are too droll. For Ever and Ever
Darling – There we were, my footman and I, dispensing bird seed when what should arrive at Blicking Hall but three French hens. You cannot imagine the look they brought to the footman’s face. Truly, you shouldn’t have. Always
Sweetheart – Four calling birds. How quaint. You should know that my lady’s maid is making noises about leaving the Hall. The footman is none too happy, either, although the local carpenter is quite over the moon to have been hired to construct the aviary. Typically, work is scarce for him at this time of year. Love
Dearest – How could you do this to me? I do not mean to be short with you, but none of us here has gotten much sleep of late, what with all the billing, cooing, chirping and calling the birds are wont to do. Yours P.S. Thank you for the five golden rings.
Dear – Now you’ve done it. Cook is quite put out by the six geese laying in her kitchen, and no wonder. You must end this. Accomplished cooks are difficult to come by in the country. As Ever
Dear Sir – I am most heartily sick of the sight of feathers. Your seven swans arrived today and are swimming in the ornamental fountain in the conservatory. Oldham has been snorting at me disdainfully all morning. Have you ever been snorted at by your butler? It’s off putting, to say the least. Happy New Year
Sir – Is there a market for spare goose eggs? The eight maids you sent today are a welcome sight, what with all the seeds and feathers we have to sweep up hourly here. Once they have finished with that, the maids intend to walk to the village, where they are determined to help with the milking. Wherever shall they all sleep? Please Cease and Desist
To Whom It May Concern – This daily gift giving business is no longer amusing. The entire village have followed the nine drummers drumming to our door. The staff are up in arms, save for the footman, who has not been seen since shortly after the eight maids arrived. Stop it!
You black hearted scoundrel – the magistrate appeared at Blicking Hall today. It transpires that the villagers are being driven to distraction by the ten pipers and their constant piping. Perhaps you should have sent mimes.
Could you not have sent the eleven ladies dancing to Almack’s instead of to me? Do these outrageous gifts have anything to do with the betting book at White’s? Is that idiot Brummell somehow involved? Have you a good receipt for fowl fricassee?
My entire staff have deserted me, taking with them the maids, pipers, dancing ladies and, blessedly, the drummers. There is the tiniest bit of good news – I have been given to understand that some of them have made successful matches and are currently bound for Gretna Green. I was headed to my rooms with a bottle of port when who should arrive but twelve lords a leaping. And what lords they are – so handsome, so gallant, so utterly divine! How could I have doubted your intentions? Please give my regards to all in London, as I fear I shall be much too occupied here at Blicking Hall to partake of the Season. Your Most Grateful Friend
What would Christmas be without our trimming the tree? Some believe that it was Prince Albert who introduced the custom of the Christmas tree to England, while others maintain that they were introduced to England by King George III’s German wife, Queen Charlotte. However, it was only circa 1848, after the London Illustrated News ran the engraving depicting showing Queen Victoria and Prince Albert celebrating around the Christmas tree with their children (above) that this tradition caught on with the public.
The painting above, Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree at Windsor in 1850 as painted by James Roberts (1824 – 1867), depicts presents around the tree from Prince Albert. We thought it might prove amusing to see what others had written about the Christmas tree in centuries past.
From Recollections from 1803 to 1837 by Amelia Murray:
“Christmas-trees are now common. In the early part of this century they were seldom seen, but Queen Charlotte always had one dressed up in the room of Madame Berkendorff, her German attendant; it was hung with presents for the children, who were invited to see it, and I well remember the pleasure it was to hunt for one’s own name, which was sure to be attached to one or more of the pretty gifts.”
From 20 Years at Court
The Hon. Eleanor Stanley (maid of honour to Queen Victoria, 1842-1862) to her Mother, Lady Mary Stanley, Windsor Castle, Saturday, Dec. 25th, 1847.
“Dearest Mama,—A merry Xmas, and many happy returns of the day to you and all the family at the dear old Castle. Yesterday evening we were desired, at a quarter to seven, to come down to the Corridor, to get our Gifts; we found all the gentlemen and Mrs. Anson already assembled, and presently the page desired us to go to the Oak-room, where the Queen and Prince already were, standing by a large table covered with a white cloth, in the middle of which was a little fir-tree, in the German fashion, covered with bonbons, gilt walnuts, and little coloured tapers. I send a bonbon as a Christmas box to little Blanche, which I took off the tree. . . . The children had each a little table with their new toys, and were running about in great glee showing them off; Prince Alfred, in a glorious tinsel helmet that almost covered his face, was shooting us all with a new gun, and Princess Alice was making us admire her dolls, etc. They had one Christmas tree among them, like us, but the Queen, Prince, and Duchess had each one, and altogether I never saw anything prettier than the whole arrangement.”
From The Memoirs of Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck
Cambridge Cottage, January 1, 1848.
“My Dearest Draperchen, (her former governess, Miss Draper, whom she addressed as ‘Ma chere Draperchen), . . . Our Christmas went off very well. The room was beautifully decorated ; there were four fine trees, and these were connected by wreaths of laurel evergreens and holly.”
by the same author
Cambridge Cottage, January 9, 1849
“The Christmas holidays have been very happily spent by the inmates of Cambridge Cottage, and I have received a number of cadeaux! Our Trees were arranged in the Conservatory, which was hung with festoons of evergreens, from which transparent lamps were suspended. The whole was well lighted up, and looked remarkably pretty, and the three trees were quite covered with bon-bons and fruit.”
From My Reminiscences By Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower
“At Trentham, Christmas 1854, I find, on turning the pages of that record of my early years, much detail regarding our Christmas gifts and of the Christmas tree; now so general in English homes at Yuletide, but then hardly seen but in a few English houses. Our German tutor claimed to have introduced this pretty custom in this country in our family, the first implanted out of Germany having been erected by him in the hall at Stafford House. Until recently there was always one of these Christmas trees, richly decked, placed in one of the drawing-rooms at Trentham on Christmas Eve; and the household attended to see the illuminations and receive the gifts that were one by one cut off from the lighted boughs. No one was forgotten, from the most honored of the guests down to the kitchen-maids and stable-men. Christmas was worthily maintained in those days at Trentham. Generally after the tree there came a ball for the servants, given in a long gallery overlooking the stable-yard. All took part in the dances, which, with itscountry dances and Highland flings and reels, when the Scotch piper was in great demand, were always most successful festivities.”
From Letters by Lady Harcourt, December 17, 1885
“Yesterday I made an excursion to the city with Hilda Deichmann and her husband to buy things for our Christmas trees. It was most amusing ransacking in all the big wholesale houses, and reminded me of my childish days and similar expeditions to Maiden Lane . . . . . . . . Our shopping was most successful. All the prettiest things come from the German shops. The ginger-bread animals were wonderful,—some horses and dogs with gilt tails and ears most effective. The decorations were really very pretty—the stars and angels quite charming.”
by the same author
To G. K. S., Albert Gate, London, December 24, 1885.
“The sisters and I have been shopping all day getting the last things for the tree, which is to be on the 26th. The streets are most animated, full of people, all carrying parcels, and all with smiling faces. . . We wound up at the Army and Navy Stores, and really had some difficulty in getting in. They had quantities of Christmas trees already decorated, which were being sold as fast as they were brought in.”
Not since Hibbert and Weintraub edited The London Encyclopedia has there been a book that has taken London history and served it up in so enjoyable, usable and entertaining a package. Taking entries from letters, diaries and journals written by over 200 people, from Tudor times to nearly the present, editors Elborough and Rennison break them down by date and offer them up in daily entries covering the 365 days of the year. Often, days have more than one entry and it’s amusing to hear the different voices of diarists who have lived in the same place across the centuries.
By turns chatty, introspective, informative, superfluous, descriptive, evocative and nonsensical, A London Year is a big, doorstop of a book that should be kept at the bed or fireside and dipped into at intervals as a treat. You’ll want to devour it at one sitting, but I urge you to instead savour it’s contents a bit at a time – and then go back to the beginning and start again. Otherwise, the book may prove addictive. This is truly a Christmas present of a book for everyone who loves London, even if that person should happen to be yourself.
Here are just a few entries from A London Year to whet your appetite:
William Bray, Diary, 1757
To Drury Lane Theatre: King Lear by Garrick. Agreed with the barber for shaving me at 6s. a quarter.
Lord Byron, Journal, 1813
Two nights ago I saw the tigers sup at Exeter Change. Such a conversazion! – There was a ‘hippopotamus,’ like Lord Liverpool in the face; and the ‘Ursine Sloth’ hath the very voice and manner of my valet – but the tiger talked too much. The elephant took and gave me my money again – took off my hat – opened a door – trunked a whip – and behaved so well that I wish he was my butler . . . .
Frank Hurley, Diary, 1916
All London is excitement on account of a Zeppelin raid which took place in the small hours of this morning. Four Zeppelins participated and two were brought down. Late at noon, a German seaplane dropped a bomb just in front of Harrods.
Noel Coward, Diaries, 1951
Went to the Tower Pier at six to go on a yacht party up the river. Very grand and enjoyable, particularly coming back and looking at the South Bank, which looks like a dog’s dinner, and the North Bank – floodlit – which with St. Paul’s, Somerset House, The Houses of Parliament, etc., was breathtakingly lovely. Felt tears spring to my eyes when one of the ship’s crew nudged me and said, “How’s this for `London Pride’, eh?'”
Charles Greville, Diary, 1830
I went yesterday to the sale of the late King’s wardrobe, which was numerous enough to fill Monmouth Street, and sufficiently various and splendid for the wardrobe of Drury Lane. He hardly ever gave away anything except his linen, which was distributed every year Theses clothes are the perquisite of his pages, and will fetch a pretty sum. There are all the coats he has ever had for fifty years, 500 whips, canes without number, every sort of uniform, the costumes of all the orders in Europe, splendid furs, pelisses, hunting coats and breeches, and among other things a dozen pair of corduroy breeches he had made to hunt in when Don Miguel was here. His profusion in these articles was unbounded, because he never paid for them, and his memory was so accurate that one of his pages told me he recollected every article of dress, no matter how old, and that they were always liable to be called on to produce some particular coat or other article of apparel of years gone by. It is difficult to say whether in great or little things that man was most odious and contemptible.
Sir Roy Strong, Diary, 1969
I arrived early at 115 Ebury Street . . . . in a flat painted all over in a particularly awful shade of 1940s green. But he did have good pictures by Mathew Smith and Graham Sutherland. It had never crossed my mind what kind of party this was to be but that began rapidly to dawn on me as not a woman appeared and twenty men gradually filled the room. I left as soon as I could decently extricate myself, appalled at the sight, amongst other things, of all those bottles of cosmetics ranked above his dressing table.
Nathaniel Bryceson, Diary, 1846
Old Walker, proprietor of the hotel, 33 Dean Street, Soho, corner of Queen Street, has had his house lately pointed down and painted, and has this day had a square lamp fixed, lit with gas which till now has been a round one with tin top and lit with oil, and which was no doubt the original one put up when the house was built, which is about 160 years. This is an alteration which I am both surprised and displeased at as the house preserved its ancient look so like hotel and tavern of the 17th century. The proprietor thereof is very old both in years and fashion, wearing at all times a black suit with breeches and black stockings, and as I have heard saw Margaret Nicholson attempt to stab George III.
Evelyn Waugh, Letter to Nancy Mitford, 1955
I knew a woman who could not bear to say `W.C.’ for the London postal district because of its indelicate associations and always said `West Central.’
R.D. Blumenfeld, R.D.B.’s Diary, 1900
Yerkes, the projector of the new Charing Cross, Euston, and Hampstead electric underground, said to me that in spite of the opposition which he meets at every turn he proposes to go ahead with it. He has secured the backing of some large American financiers to the extent of $30,000,000, and he predicted to me that a generation hence London will be completely transformed; that people will think nothing of living twenty or more miles from town, owing to electrified trains. He also thinks that the horse omnibus is doomed. Twenty years hence, he says, there will be no horse omnibus in London. Although he is a very shrewd man, I think he is a good deal of a dreamer.
Sydney Smith, Letter to the Countess Grey, 1834
I am better in health, avoiding all fermented liquors, and drinking nothing but London water, with a million insects in every drop. He who drinks a tumbler of London water has literally in his stomach more animated beings than there are men, women and children on the face of the globe.
Dickon Edwards, Diary, 2005
After viewing Mr. Nicholson Senior’s art at the RA, I sit in Borders Books Café, Charing Cross Road. The café is now a Starbucks, so I only use it if the one in Foyles (still an independent family business) is full up. And then, as I do in all Starbucks, I only ever order tea. Tea drinking as a revolutionary act, I like to think. The joke’s on me, as their tea is revolting. Clever, very clever . . . . .
From Christmas Cards & Their Chief Designers By Gleeson White (1894)
The origin of the Christmas card is, fortunately for its future historians, not lost in the mists of antiquity, that popular hiding place for all sorts of origins; but as clearly fixed as Archbishop Usher’s date of Creation – B.C. 4004 – with more trustworthy evidence to support it. In 1846, Sir Henry Cole (then plain Mr) suggested the idea of a specially designed form of greeting to send to friends at Christmas. Mr J. C. Horley, R.A., acting on the hint, produced a design of a trellis of rustic-work, in the Germanesque style, divided into a centre and two side panels. In the panels are figures representing two of the acts of charity, “feeding the hungry” and “clothing the naked;” in the centre is a picture of a merry family party, including three generations, grandparents to grandchildren, quaffing draughts of wine.
It was evident that some such individual, whether called buyer or commercial traveller, comes between the manufacturer and the retailer in almost every instance. Not only has this personage to reckon with the taste of shop-keepers, which varies from the best to the worst, with a tendency to the latter, but he has also his own standard to defend. Hence he sells most readily not only those goods the average retail trader is most likely to choose for himself, but a great many others which, since they approve themselves to the vendor, he can recommend with sincerity. It is strange that this needle’s eye, through which so much Applied Art has to pass ere it reaches the public, is not more often recognised as the chief obstacle to its progress. The public should not be held responsible for declining to purchase goods which never came under its eyes; the manufacturer should not be held blameworthy for the poor level of the Art he offers, when, possibly, he has tried and tried in vain to induce his travellers and the trade buyers to support his efforts to produce good designs.
Although 1846 has been so far accepted as the undisputed date of the first card, just before going to press, Mr Jonathan King, the owner of the largest collection, has called my attention to a paragraph in a journal of some standing, where a Mr Thomas Shorrock, of Leith, is said to be the real inventor of the Christmas card, seeing that a year or two before the above date he issued one, with a laughing face, and the motto “A Gude New Year to Ye.” Whether this be the card which is elsewhere said to have been engraved on a copper- plate by a workman, Daniel Aikman, in 1840 or 1841 and published with a Scotch motto, I am unable to prove. Should either of these statements be accurate, although one might, without special pleading, claim that a New Year secular greeting is not quite the same as one marking a religious festival, it would be best to give later inventors equal credit, and assume, what would be probably correct, that neither knew of the doings of the others.
So, too, the statement that engravers’ apprentices of Northumberland or Yorkshire (the stories differ, and one questions if such a class of artists exists in either place in sufficient numbers to found a custom), are in the habit of sending specimens of their own work to friends at Christmas, and have done so for a long period, may or may not be true, but is hardly likely to have been the source whence the card was derived. Equally difficult is it to obtain any details of Messrs Goodall’s cards in 1862 (or 1864, authorities vary,) which were probably the first issued to the ordinary trade. Despite a former sentence crediting Messrs Goodall with the honour of being the first publishers of Christmas cards, (always excepting the Sir Henry Cole card of 1846,) and, notwithstanding the fact that several of their cards, issued in 1864 and 1865, from designs by C. H. Bennett, are reproduced here, it is possible that other candidates might put forward reasonable claims.
It seems probable that ornamented note paper and envelopes appeared just before the cards, that the designs in relief, identical with those on the stationery named, were either simultaneously or very shortly after stamped in the centre of a card, which had its edges coloured or embossed. Certain it is that T. Sulman was very early in the field with relief-decorated paper and cards, and with lithographed designs. Leighton, of Fleet Street, and Mansell, of Red Lion Square, are also amongst the first, while R. Canton, (who started Valentine and Birthday card production in 1840,) and Dean & Sons issued many of their publications with special Christmas mottoes. The innovation of stamping reliefs in two ormore colours is dated to 1858. The introduction of foreign “chromo-lithograph pictures,” to replace those hitherto coloured by hand, or by stencil, is traced to Elliott, of Bucklesbury, in 1850, and to Scheffer and Scheiper, (I have but the phonetic spelling of these names,) in 1851. This item in the preparation of “made-up” Birthday Cards and Valentines had hitherto been very rudely prepared by colouring plain embossed relief with a brush, or stencilling lithographs, afterwards embossed and cut out.
An improvement in these devices is traced to a man whose professional occupation was to colour designs upon linen bands for the Irish trade. These cut out devices were prepared at a cost of 4d. per 1,000, the hands earning about 15s. a week, until Germany sent over more cheaply produced imitations at one-sixteenth of the cost. Thierry, of Fleet Street, known as the father of the Christmas card trade, was, doubtless, the first to introduce the elaborately embossed reliefs which afterwards came over in cart loads. Then they cost 8os. per 100 sheets, now their price has fallen to 10s. the 100 for large quantities. When one remembers that at first—and for many years after- a large majority of the cards, (which, however little they interest us here, helped to spread the fashion), were made up from foreign chromo-lithographs, even by firms of the high standing of Marcus Ward, we find that this importation of foreign embossed relief takes its place as an important commercial factor in the rise of the industry.
With Messrs Marcus Ward & Co., who started the production of Christmas cards as early as 1867, coincidentally with the opening of their London house, however, we come to a very different class of manufacturers. Here is a house, one of the earliest in production, with a record that reaches the highest level of decorative excellence ever touched by the Christmas card. This firm for awhile monopolised the whole of the better-class trade. Beginning with the use of German ” chromos,” usually mounted on card with lithographed borders in gold and colours, of home manufacture, they soon issued reproductions of original designs by artists of repute, and gained a position where they stood without rivals. It was, I believe, owing to the acute perception of one of the partners of this firm, Mr. William H. Ward, that Miss Kate Greenaway was “discovered” as a designer. At the earliest “Black and White” Exhibition at the Dudley Gallery Mr. Ward’s attention was drawn to Miss Greenaway’s work; and recognising that her special talent was in the direction of costume figures and dainty colours, he induced her to design for the firm.
It is this characteristic which must be reckoned to the honour of Marcus Ward’s cards; not because they employed celebrated artists more freely than other firms—capable designers indeed were commissioned, but their list of well-known painters will not compare in mere numbers for a moment with those of several of their near rivals—but because they saw that an architectural, not a pictorial, aim was the correct one. To talk of architecture in connection with so ephemeral an object as a Christmas card may sound absurd, but, nevertheless, I think all students of decoration must admit that its treatment should be more nearly allied to the surface decoration of buildings than to transcripts of nature, which are, in theory, attempts to imitate the out-look from a window of the building. This latter, usually held to be the aim of the pictorial artist, cannot be employed without degradation upon mechanically-produced reproductions in colour; but the artificial convention — the idea of decorative as distinguished from pictorial art— wherever you find it for stained glass, mosaic, enamel, inlay or colour printing, has another purpose to fulfil, which is more admirably achieved when the limitations of the material are duly observed.
Note: Alternately, the Hyperallergic site has published an article on Creepy Christmas Cards, which you’ll find here.
Had she lived, Charlotte would have been Queen of the United Kingdom. Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales was the only daughter of George IV, then Prince of Wales, and his wife and first cousin, Caroline of Brunswick, who loathed one another and who separated soon after Charlotte’s birth, never to live together, nor indeed be civil to one another, again.
A protracted battle of wills went on for years concerning Princess Charlotte. The Prince was willing to accede to the wishes of his father, King George III, but wanted Caroline to have no influence in her daughter’s education, while the king wanted Queen Caroline to be party to decisions about her daughter. In the end, Charlotte remained in the care of her father and the the Princess of Wales was forbidden to see her daughter and in 1799 she went abroad, inviting scandal by taking lovers and running up vast debts.
When Charlotte reached a marriageable age in 1813, the Regent engaged her to the Prince of Orange, whom she loathed, in December. Having served under Wellington (whose set referred to the Prince as “Silly Billy”), and been educated in England, he was eligible as a husband but his residence in Holland, owing to his father’s return from exile to the throne, became a necessity. Princess Charlotte was not happy. Not only did she not want to leave England, but she saw this as a means for her father to get her out of his hair. Things had not been going smoothly for some time, as mentioned in a prior post on this blog. Charlotte asked that the marriage treaty contain a clause to the effect that she should never be obliged to leave England against her will and told Prince William that her duty to England was ‘such as to make even a short absence inconvenient and painful.’
The following is from a book called The Beloved Princess: Princess Charlotte of Wales by Charles E. Pearce –
The Regent was bent upon hurrying the courtship. He came to see Charlotte the next day, bringing with him the Prince of Orange, whom Miss Knight further describes as “particularly plain and sickly in his look, his figure very slender, and manner rather hearty and boyish.” A more unsuitable mate for the robust, impulsive, and warm-blooded Charlotte could hardly be imagined, and if there was any love-making on this occasion it must have been of the most vapid and uninteresting kind. At all events, the young man had the opportunity, for the Regent turned aside, leaving the two together, and sat by the fire chatting to Miss Knight in an adjoining room. The object of the chat was to make it known to the lady companion that the Princess Charlotte was engaged to the young Prince, but that Miss Knight was to tell no one until he gave her leave. The Regent evidently had his doubts as to Charlotte’s real sentiments, for he desired Miss Knight to give her good advice, particularly “against flirtation.”
These doubts were soon confirmed, for while he was talking the conversation was interrupted in rather an embarrassing fashion. The Princess was suddenly heard sobbing hysterically. The Regent started to his feet, and Miss Knight followed him to the door of the other room, where they found the Prince of Orange looking very frightened and Princess Charlotte in great distress. ” What, is he going away ? ” exclaimed the Regent.
The question could only have been put in a bantering spirit. He saw something was amiss, but he did did not trouble to inquire further, and soon after took the Prince away, as they had an engagement to dine in the City.
When they were gone Charlotte explained what had caused her outburst of emotion. The Prince had told her it was expected she should reside every year two or three months in Holland, and even when necessary follow him into the army; that the Regent and his Ministers had not thought it advisable to tell her this, but that, as he always wished they should be open and fair to each other, he was resolved to tell her.
The announcement descended upon her like a thunderbolt. Apart from the humiliating thought that the father and the Ministers were plotting to keep her in the dark, there was also the suspicion that they wanted to banish her from England.
It can hardly be doubted that Charlotte had secret ambitions to fulfil the high station which fate had apparently designed for her. If at any moment the Regent died, she would be Queen of England. She could then marry any one she pleased.
Charlotte certainly never pretended to have any affection for the Prince of Orange, and did not hesitate to ridicule him even after their betrothal. She told her mother that his being approved of by the Royal Family was quite sufficient to make him disapproved of by her; for that she would marry a man who would be at her devotion, not theirs. “Marry I will,” said she to the Princess of Wales, “and that directly in order to enjoy my liberty, but not the Prince of Orange. I think him so ugly that I am almost obliged to turn my head away in disgust when he is speaking to me.” The engagment, for various reasons, ended in 1814.
In the end, Charlotte was married to Leopold George Christian Frederick of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield, (above) her own choice as a husband. Leopold was the youngest child of Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Augusta of Reuss-Ebersdorf. The couple were married on 2 May, 1816, at Carlton House. After spending their honeymoon at Oatlands in Surrey, the country seat of her uncle, the Duke of York, the couple set up home at Claremont. The cool and collected Leopold was to prove a calming influence on his tempestuous and headstrong wife and life was idyllic for the couple.
However, in 1817, after two miscarriages, Charlotte became pregnant with what was hoped would be a grandson and the heir in the next generation to the British throne.
Once again we turn to The Beloved Princess: Princess Charlotte of Wales –
Princess Charlotte’s persistent ill-luck mysteriously pursued her to the last. When she was expecting to crown her hopes and those of her husband, and the question of her medical attendant became of importance, her intimate friend Lady Ashworth urged her to have Sir William Knighton, an accoucheur of some eminence. The matter was apparently settled, and Lady Ashworth went away to Rome. When she returned she found, to her dismay, that the Princess had, upon the advice of a lady, decided to appoint Sir Richard Croft. It was too late to alter the arrangement, and Croft, a pompous, vain, and selfopinionated man, entered upon his duties. Stockmar, who was part of the household at Claremont, describes him as ” a long, thin man, no longer very young, fidgety and good-natured, seems to have more experience than learning or understanding.” Croft had a craze for lowering the physical strength of his patients, and this suicidal course was pursued with the Princess Charlotte. Miss Murray tells that the Princess was accustomed to have a mutton-chop and a glass of port for lunch. Croft did away with this, and substituted tea and bread and butter. She became weak and depressed, and one day a friend found her in tears. This mistaken treatment was continued for weeks. The calibre of Croft’s mind can be guessed from his foolish remark in reference to his suggestion that the Princess should wear no stays : ” A cow does not wear stays, why should the Princess Charlotte?”
Her life was thrown away, for when the supreme moment was at hand, weak as she was, she was unsustained for fifty hours by any kind of nourishment in the way of food ; the obstinate and self-deluded accoucheur thinking it much better that she should not eat. The baby—a boy of unusual beauty—was born. It was dead, and Croft tried to bring back life, but in vain. Meanwhile the mother was left to herself, for the accoucheur refused to have any other doctor present. Not even any of Charlotte’s ladies were with her, only the nurse.
The child was born at nine o’clock, and apparently the mother was going on fairly well, but towards midnight Croft became alarmed and went for Stockmar, telling him the Princess was dangerously ill and that the Prince must be informed. Leopold knew that the child was dead, but he did not realise the nature of the impending calamity. It was all over when he set out for her room, and on his way he sank on a chair overwhelmed. Recovering himself, he staggered on, reached the bedside, and kneeling down kissed the cold hands—” those beautiful hands which at the last while she was talking to others seemed always to be looking out for mine,” were his pathetic words—and amid the stillness of death the falling curtain closed upon the tragedy.
Though the mother seemed at first to be recovering well from her horrendous ordeal, she complained that evening of severe stomach pains and began to vomit. She later developed a pain in her chest, before going into convulsions. Soon after the Regent was awoken by his brother, the Duke of York and informed that his only daughter was dead.
The following details of the Princess’s death are taken from a letter, addressed by Mr. H. F. Cooke to Mr. Thomas Raikes (under date November 6, 1817), and published in the interesting volume entitled The Correspondence of Thomas Raikes with the Duke of Wellington and other Distinguished Contemporaries.
” The Princess Charlotte’s death has caused a general gloom throughout the country. The particulars of this truly melancholy event will be made known to you through the papers, with all the accuracy of official report.
There are some few circumstances as attending the death of this interesting woman that may not find their way abroad; for example, the courage with which she suffered, and the resignation which she displayed in death. The faculty of mind never abandoned her. She asked, about an hour previous to death, whether there was any danger: the difficulty of breathing from about that time prevented her speaking much. When Baillie and Croft administered brandy, hot wine, sal-volatile, &c, she said, ‘ You make me drunk. Pray leave me quiet. I find it affects my head.’ And shortly after this, raising herself in the bed, she heaved a deep sigh, fell back, and expired.
“The act of dying was not painful. There certainly must have been spasm, but I have not heard that it was at the heart. Neither do I believe the family conceived that she was in danger, even an hour before she died. It is a blow which the nation really appears to feel acutely, as much as it is possible to suppose the fate of any one not materially connected with one could be felt.
“The Regent is terribly shook by this blow; so unexpected that he was completely overset when he was told of it. He had left Sudboum upon hearing of the protracted labour, but was in London informed that the child was dead and she remarkably well.”
Indeed, a deep and black mourning was proclaimed as soon as the Prince Regent and the country learned of the death of Princess Charlotte. No one was more bereft than Prince Leopold.
In her letters, Lady Shelly wrote, “To-day the Duchess of York goes into the country to receive the unhappy Prince Leopold of SaxeCoburg, whose grief is as deep as during the first. He spends some hours every day in the bedchamber of Princess Charlotte. That apartment is still as it was when the Princess left it the day before she died! Her pelisse, her boots, and even her hat, which she had carelessly thrown aside on the sofa, are left just as they were, for no one but the heart-broken Prince has entered that room. It is a case of real grief, and absolutely without parade.”
An austopsy was conducted upon the Princess and, at the time, it was believed that her death was due to a post-partum hemorrhage after giving birth to a stillborn son. Modern day doctors who have examined the autopsy findings now tend to believe that the Princess died from a pulmonary embolism.
Blackwood’s Magazine offered the following account of the events in the days following Charlotte’s death –
Yesterday the mourning for the much lamented Princess Charlotte commenced in this city, and was very general. The pulpits and desks of all the churches were hung with black. . . In the fore preserved in a similar manner to that of its royal mother, (the child) by being secured in several wrappers round the whole of the body, with light bandages, and being secluded, by means of wax, from the air, it will remain in a perfect state of preservation for a number of years. The whole of the body is enclosed in blue velvet, tied with white ribbons.
Windsor, Nov. 19—This morning, a little before one o’clock, the funeral procession with the remains of the late universally-regretted Princess Charlotte, arrived here from Claremont. They were received at the lower Lodge, where she is to lie in state this day, previously to the interment at night. The mourning coach, in which were the infant and urn, proceeded to the chapel, where eight yeomen of the guard, in attendance, carried and deposited them in the vault. The procession of the hearse and five mourning coaches, preceded by a number of men on horseback, was escorted into the town from Egham by a party of the Royal Horse Guards. Although the hour at which it arrived was so very late, the road and streets through which it passed were lined with spectators.
Funeral of the late Princess Charlotte – The last sad and solemn rites have been paid to the mortal remains of the lamented Princess Charlotte of Wales. It was near two o’clock before the procession arrived at Windsor. The remains of the Princess were received at the lower Lodge by a party of the yeomen of the guard, who carried the coffin. A guard of honour from the 3d regiment of Foot Guards, who are quartered at Windsor, was stationed on the outside of the lodge. Prince Leopold, his attendants, and others, in the mourning-coaches, alighted at the lodge. The anti-room was hung with black cloth, and the interior chamber, in which the coffin reposed, was entirely lined with the same . . . The coffin was covered with a large black velvet pall, with a deep white border that fell on each side, and spread itself on the floor. On the coffin was the Princess’s crown, and at the head of the coffin, against the wall, was a large escutcheon of silk, similar to those placed on the fronts of houses when death has taken place in a family. Three large wax candles were on each side of the coffin; numerous small wax candles were burning on all sides of the room—The gentlemen of the College of Arms were busily employed during the morning in arranging the stalls in the chapel for the reception of the Knights of the Garter, and in other preparations for the funeral. The machinery for letting the corpse down into the vault was completed. —Windsor continued crowded to excess throughout the day. At dusk, it was thought necessary to clear the Castle Yard, and none were afterwards admitted without pass-tickets. The 1st, 2d, and 3d regiments of Guards took a principal part of the duty. The door opened a few minutes before seven, and those who had tickets were admitted into the grand entrance of that superb edifice. By half past eight all was ready, and the funeral cavalcade was put in motion. Proceeding at half-foot pace, it was nine o’clock when it reached St George’s Chapel. At eight o’clock each fourth man of the Royal Horse Guards lighted a torch. About half past eight the procession began to move from the lower lodge.
This memorial to Princess Charlotte and her son stands in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor
The moon shone with peculiar brightness during the whole time. The procession entered by the gate on the south aisle of the chapel, through which it proceeded, and moved up the nave into the chapel. The aisle on each side was lined by a detachment of the Foot Guards, three deep. It is but pure justice to the assembled soldiery to say, that they conducted themselves with the most exemplary conduct, and evinced their full participation in the anguish and distress of their fellow-citizens. Prince Leopold followed the coffin as chief mourner. He walked along with unsteady step, and took the seat provided for him at the head of the coffin, between the Dukes of York and Clarence. The coffin was placed with the feet towards the altar. The usual anthems were chanted with proper solemnity; but the reading part of the ceremony did not attract any particular observation; the Dean went through his portion of it with dignity and pathos. When it was over, Sir Isaac Heard read the titles of the Princess, in a voice much more broken by grief than age, and the mourners walked back, though without the state accompaniments. The Prince Leopold looked distressingly ill; and indeed his state of health and feeling might excite alarm, if it were not that he has latterly been able to procure some sleep. The melancholy business was over before eleven o’clock, but the chapel and the avenues were not completely cleared till twelve o’clock. The baronesses who bore the pall were Ladies Grenville, Ellenborough, Boston, and Arden.
Below are a few examples of the momento mori connected to Princess Charlotte.
Further reading: Royal Mourning and Regency Culture: Elegies and Memorials of Princess Charlotte by Stephen C. Behrendt, Palgrave Macmillan, 1997, ISBN 9780312210496, 282pp.