Saturday, April 17, 2010

His Most Gracious Majesty, George-Augustus-Frederick, the Fourth.

At age 26 Princess Caroline became engaged to a man she had never met. She was plump, poorly educated and loved a good joke. She was an extrovert who bordered on exhibitionist. Her unreserved, unpredictable style lacked discretion, tact, and delicacy. To pair her with the fastidious future George IV of England was a disaster waiting to happen. At first sight of her, her future husband collapsed into a chair and called for a brandy.
George had chosen his future wife, Caroline, in a hurry; he needed a legal wife to ensure a substantial increase in his financial allotment from the State. He had been secretly married on December 15, 1785 to a Catholic widow, Mrs. Fitzherbert, but that union had been declared illegal and any children illegitimate. Caroline was Protestant and German (Britain was lining-up allies in the German States against France) and a first cousin. They were married in the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace on April 8, 1795. George appeared intoxicated at the ceremony.
Caroline delivered a baby girl, Charlotte Augusta, nine months later. Three days after the birth, George wrote a new will in which he left one shilling to his wife and all else to Maria Fitzherbert, “the wife of my heart and soul.” On April 30th, George wrote Caroline a letter clearing both parties of responsibility: “Our inclinations are not in our power, nor should either of us be held answerable to the other.” By May, the royal rift was in the newspapers. George, who was unpopular before the rift, was disliked even more for his heartless treatment of his wife. Caroline’s popularity soared. Finally, in 1797 Caroline moved to an address of her own. They were never to live together again.

Engraving by E. Scriven from the original plate by W. Finden after the painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence.
London: Fisher, Son & Co., 1831

LC27 1.1

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