We follow on from our last post and have a look at the wedding itself. So, just over two weeks after leaving her parents in Brunswick, Princess Caroline was to marry Prince George with her assumption that she would eventually become Queen of England. Despite reservations on the part of the ‘happy couple’ and the likes of Lord Malmesbury, this marriage was going ahead ‘come hell or high water’.
Prince George was not impressed by his future bride and amongst other things questioned her personal hygiene and for her part, she thought him fat! This all sounds like a recipe for complete disaster and history confirms for 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.
Planning a wedding isn’t easy at the best of times and when you’re new to a country and its customs it’s perhaps even more stressful. Today, choosing the wedding dress is something that most brides looks forward to, in some instances turning into ‘bridezilla’ in the process. For Princess Caroline, however, no such worries as her future mother-in-law took responsibility for deciding how the bridesmaids and even her future daughter-in-law should look for the big day as can be seen in this letter from the Royal Archives.
19 November 1794
My dearest son I received yesterday the pattern of the Princesses night dress, which is very elegant and pritty [sic], but nothing else, not even an answer to my letter which is rather singular. Pray be so good as to enquire of Princess Sophia of Gloucester if she has a pattern glove and if so to send it me. What to do about shoes I do not know and feel very sorry about it particularly as I thought to have expressed myself circumstantially enough upon every subject to the Duchess as you will see by the copy of any letter which I send for my justification.
I also spoke to the King about the robe. He says that the Princess may be married in a gown and petticoat if you like it, also that he had no objection to a robe. I beg therefore a determination upon that subject. The sooner it is settled the better both for me and the bride’s maids who must be dressed the same. Apropos you must speak as soon as you can to the King for I understand that it is the right of the Kings’ Lord Chamberlain to do them and not yourself. But pray do not name me but I believe there are but four instead of six.
The Queen went on to say that it all needed to be sorted as quickly as possible to allow tradespeople enough time to prepare everything. It’s not clear from the letter sent by Queen Charlotte to her son whether she was taking responsibility for the dress itself, however, the newspaper reports state that:
The Bride-Maids to the Princess have got elegant dresses to correspond with each other, made up for the Royal Marriage, at the Queen’s expense. The wedding dress and jewellery are superb beyond description. The Queen has furnished the whole of the Princess’s wardrobe.
So, if that were the case, then some of the derogatory comments made about Caroline’s appearance would have to rest at her door. People described Caroline as ‘an overdressed, bare bosomed, painted-eye-browed figure’.
It’s interesting that there were two paintings showing the wedding dress; the first by Henry Singleton, showing what appears to be a soft, flowing gown.
The second one commissioned by King George III was painted by Gainsborough Dupont, nephew and student of Thomas Gainsborough which looks altogether different, much heavier, more detailed and with her wearing the robe as per Queen Charlotte’s letter. She is also wearing her wedding ring and different jewellery.
According to the newspaper reports of the marriage,
The Royal Bride was dressed in silver tissue with a crimson velvet robe. She wore a coronet of diamonds valued at twenty thousand pounds. The Prince had on a chocolate coloured coat richly embroidered with silver and rich epaulets.
The report described the scene.
Her Royal Highness the Princess seemed a little flustered upon her first entering the chapel but perfectly regained her composure before the commencement of the ceremony. Her manner was easy, affable and engaging in the highest degree. The Prince displayed the most amiable sensibility and seemed so much affected at one time as to be unable to repeat the necessary part of the ceremony after the Archbishop. The whole scene was affecting and sublime.
What the press was unaware of was that the Prince had needed more than a few drinks to steady his nerves and had to be supported throughout the wedding – he was ‘affected’ not by the emotion of the occasion but by drink!
The ceremony took place on Wednesday 8th April 1795 with the prince somewhat intoxicated throughout and only just being capable of consummating the union afterwards!
For more on the wedding and Caroline of Brunswick, please see a guest blog we wrote for Julia Herdman.
Hereford Journal 15 April 1795
Caledonian Mercury 11 April 1795