Princess Charlotte of Wales’ account books

Amongst the wonderful resource of the ‘George III Papers’ which are now in the public domain, we came across some early account books for the teenager, Princess Charlotte of Wales, which make fascinating reading. Perhaps it’s just us, but don’t you just love rifling through old account books and diaries? It’s amazing what you can learn about people’s lives, that they’d never expect to be divulged.

Lady de Clifford by Joshua Reynolds (Wiki commons)
Lady de Clifford by Joshua Reynolds (Wiki commons)

We thought we would share with you just a few of the purchases made with her £10 a month ‘pocket-money’, given to her via Lady de Clifford, who replaced Lady Elgin as her governess. We did, however, notice that Charlotte managed to boost her monthly allowance, not by doing odd jobs, but from winnings made from playing card games – yes, she did make some loses too, in fact one week in particular she lost fourteen shillings each day, but overall it looks as if she this pastime was quite lucrative and she was clearly an accomplished card player, but not so good at chess, the only entries denote losses made and never any wins.

Much of her pocket-money was spent on charitable donations mainly to the poor, entries show a wide variety of such payments made most months, such as

Gave to a poor woman 10 shillings and six pence

Gave to a little girl one pound one shilling

A poor man five shillings

To a sailor two shillings and three pence

To a fisherman two shillings

She also clearly enjoyed reading as she paid twelve shillings for a German book, plus a further four shillings and sixpence to have it bound, then a few days later she spent five shillings on a book of maps. There were also regular payments for bibles and ten shillings and six pence for a copy of The Pilgrims Progress.

Charlotte clearly took an interest in art, as there were regular payments made to Paul Colnaghi, the appointed print seller to the Prince Regent who employed him to arrange the Royal Collection.

Miniature of Princess Charlotte by Charlotte Jones. c 1815. Royal Collection Trust
Miniature of Princess Charlotte by Charlotte Jones. c 1815. Royal Collection Trust

For some unknown reason she on 15th July 1808 she paid two pounds two shillings for 4 blackbirds – we have absolutely no idea what that was about!

As you would expect for a teenager she was becoming aware of fashion and jewellery. Eye jewellery was very popular and to keep up with the trends of the day Charlotte purchased ‘an eye with garnets’ at two pounds twelves shillings and sixpence. A coral necklace, perhaps the one worn in this miniature.

 Eye of Princess Charlotte (1796-1817) c. 1816-17. Royal Collection Trust
Eye of Princess Charlotte (1796-1817) c. 1816-17. Royal Collection Trust

Two red leather purses at a cost of fifteen shillings and six pence. A silver snuff-box at two pounds, eleven shilling and six pence and a slightly cheaper tortoiseshell snuff-box. Quite regular payments were made to a Mr Duncan, a tailor.

Miniature of Princess Charlotte by Charlotte Jones. Inscribed 1812. Royal Collection Trust
Miniature of Princess Charlotte by Charlotte Jones. Inscribed 1812. Royal Collection Trust

An umbrella, a parasol and a bonnet were bought for the autumn of 1808 and a pair of spectacles early 1809 along with a frock, a gown and some handkerchiefs.

Princess Charlotte of Wales (1796-1817) by Mrs Anne Mee (before 1814).
Princess Charlotte of Wales (1796-1817) by Mrs Anne Mee (before 1814).

Charlotte appear to have been taken an interest in music as she paid four pounds, eight shillings and six pence for a flageolet and nineteen shillings for a flute.

Less likely purchases for a Regency teenager included two swords, one of which she had engraved, a knife, and a medal of Lord Nelson.  Quite who all of her purchases were for we will never know, but it’s a fascinating read.

In our latest book, All Things Georgian, one of our stories relates one of the two sub-governesses to Princess Charlotte of Wales, a Mrs Martha Udny and coincidentally we have come across various references to payments made to her, simply referred to as Mrs U, in the account books.

Take a romp through the long eighteenth-century in this collection of 25 short tales. Meet actresses, whores and high-born ladies, politicians, inventors, royalty and criminals as we travel through the Georgian era in all its glorious and gruesome glory. In roughly chronological order, covering the reign of the four Georges, 1714-1830, set within the framework of the main events of the era and accompanied by over 100 stunning colour images. Available in hardback, April 2019.

Source Used

Account book of Princess Charlotte of Wales  – GEO/ADD/17/82

Featured Image

Princess Charlotte. Inscribed 1807 by Charlotte Jones. Royal Collection Trust. Princess Charlotte gave this portrait to her sub-governess, Martha Udny, in 1807 when she was 10 years old.

15 thoughts on “Princess Charlotte of Wales’ account books

  1. pennyhampson2

    Another fascinating article. With regard to her purchase of snuff boxes, do you think these were meant for gifts or for personal use? Was it acceptable for women to take snuff? Whenever I read about this period, it always seems to be men who are mentioned as taking snuff. Thanks!

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    1. Sarah Murden

      Delighted you enjoyed it. No idea whether the snuff boxes were gifts or not, it doesn’t say, but it seems more likely that they were gifts. Snuff was mainly used by men, but certainly Queen Charlotte used it, so snuff was used by women 🙂

      Like

      1. pennyhampson2

        Thank you! It’s something I’ve wondered about – I suppose if the Queen used it, it must have been acceptable.

        Like

      2. pennyhampson2

        Eeurgh! As it is derived from tobacco (I understand), did it have the effect of staining the fingers, teeth, etc? Not pleasant!

        Like

  2. I have used medicated snuff before I had my nose job to correct the mess two breaks had made to it; I have small sinuses and am prone to sinusitis. Black pepper works as well to clear the head, though. A nose job is even better, but of course not available then, though I doubt Princess Charlotte managed to break her nose … though the sports involved would have been available to her, swimming and rounders, known at the time as base ball. And if you were wondering about the swimming, deck level pool, butterfly race and miscalculation of where the end was and without specs unable to see it.
    this is absolutely fascinating, I take it you have to go and see the records, no online transcription?

    Liked by 1 person

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