This journey was one which would lead to a short and unhappy marriage for Princess Caroline to Prince George, later King George IV… with hindsight would she have made the arduous journey? Hindsight is a wonderful thing!
On Tuesday, 24th March 1795, at seven o’clock in the morning, her Serene Highness, accompanied by her mother, the Duchess of Brunswick (sister to King George III) and the Honourable Mrs Harcourt, left Hanover to begin the long journey to England. She was escorted out of Hanover by a large troop of Hanoverian guards, the drums beating and colours flying and under a salute of guns from the garrison. This must have been quite something to behold and would be a major event, and so the princess off to England to marry her prince.
The Duchess of Brunswick accompanied her daughter for the first stage of the journey, to a place called Muhlendorf where the Duke of Brunswick was to meet his daughter to say his farewells to her; the Duke and Duchess returned to Hanover after their farewell. The parting scene was described as very emotional, the Duke and Duchess being so close to their daughter.
About twelve o’clock, her Serene Highness continued her journey and proceeded on two more stages and slept that night at a place called Weltzrode. On Saturday morning at nine o’clock, she embarked on board his Majesty’s cutter, The Princess Royal, under a salute of guns from the batteries and was received by Commodore John Willet Payne, a close friend and adviser of Prince George.
On Sunday morning at eight o’clock, the ship weighed anchor from Cuxhaven, in lower Saxony, with a fair wind which continued until the Wednesday, when a thick fog came down. This fog lasted for the next two days, so they were forced to drop anchor and wait for it to clear. Until now the Princess had been extremely well, very cheerful and had walked the quarter-deck every day, but once the fog came down the motion of the vessel caused her to suffer from motion sickness.
The party resumed their journey on Friday, arriving near Harwich about noon, from where they travelled on to enter the Thames. Some two hours later, another very thick fog descended, once again forcing them to drop anchor. After only a couple of hours, the fog dispersed and they set off again, saluted by the Sandwich, a guard ship which was stationed close by. At nine o’clock Saturday morning, the ships set off and finally anchored at Gravesend. The princess slept on board that night.
On Sunday, 5th April 1795, as soon as the tide was right, the princess, accompanied by Mrs Harcourt, Lord Malmesbury and Commodore Payne disembarked and went on board one of the royal yachts where she was taken to their landing-place of Greenwich hospital. The princess was received there by Sir Hugh Palliser, the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor and other naval officers, who conducted her to the Governor’s House, where she took refreshments. About an hour later, Lady Jersey arrived, she and the princess retired to allow the princess to change outfits. On arrival, Caroline was described as wearing a muslin gown and blue satin petticoat with a black beaver hat with blue and black feathers; Lady Jersey had brought her a new outfit from town consisting of a white satin dress, trimmed with crepe and ornamented with white feathers.
Once ready, the princess left the Governor’s house in one of the King’s coaches, drawn by six horses accompanied by Mrs Harcourt and Lady Jersey. The princess’s carriage was escorted on each side by a party of the Prince of Wales Regiment of Light Dragoons and the road was lined at regular intervals by troops from the heavy dragoons, who were stationed at Greenwich, all the way to the horse guards. The princess finally arrived at St James’s where she was escorted to her apartments to prepare for her reception.
A little before five o’clock, the prince and princess sat down to dine. Three hours later the King, Queen and the princesses, with the Duke and Duchess of York, the Duke of Clarence, the Duke of Gloucester and Prince William and Princess Sophia arrived at the prince’s apartments to be introduced to the princess.
The day of the marriage had not already been agreed but, once consulted, the princess was agreeable to the wedding taking place on the following Tuesday evening. The first physical description of the princess we have is that she was:
rather below the middling statue, a pleasing figure has a look of great good nature and affability; expressive eyes, flaxen hair, teeth as white as ivory, a good complexion, a beautiful hand and arm and may certainly be deemed a very pretty woman.
So, just over two weeks after leaving her parents in Brunswick, Princess Caroline was to marry Prince George with the assumption that she would eventually become Queen of England. History tells us that this was to be a very short-lived and disastrous marriage especially as Prince George had already illegally married the love of his life, Maria Fitzherbert. Despite the wedding being due to take place on Tuesday 7th April 1795, it did, in fact, take place on Wednesday 8th April 1795 with Prince George being somewhat intoxicated and only just capable of consummating the union.
For more on the wedding and Caroline of Brunswick, please see a guest blog we wrote for Julia Herdman.
Caroline of Brunswick (1768–1821), Consort of George IV, by James Lonsdale (1777–1839), Guildhall Art Gallery