The Carlton House Ball of March 1784

I have previously written about Georgian parties and let’s jut say, that no-one hosted more impressive parties than the ‘King of Bling’ himself, Prince George, later George IV.

Carlton House Plan in March 1784. RCT

During 1783 and early 1784 his London home, Carlton House was extensively renovated with a grand ball being held early March 1784. Looking at the royal accounts, just to give you an idea, he spent the equivalent of £123,000 on curtains alone!

The Gardens of Carlton House with Neapolitan Ballad Singers 1784. William Henry Bunbury. 10 May 1785. Gov’t Art Collection

A lengthy account by the Hampshire Chronicle 22 March 1784 reported that:

The elegant suite of apartments lately fitted up at Carlton House, were opened for the reception of a select party of the friends of the Prince of Wales.

The ball presented the most pleasing coup d’oeil of everything that was magnificent and delightful. The dresses of the ladies, with the charms of their persons, the sprightliness of the dances, and the excellence of the music, formed altogether a scene that was perfectly brilliant and enchanting. Among the beauties particularly distinguished on this occasion were the Misses Ingrams and Talbots, with Lady Beauchamp and sister, and many others of the first note for person and figure. The five above mentioned ladies all appeared in one uniform Spanish dress, composed on white crepe and gold, elegantly set off with precious tones.

The rooms were illuminated in the finest taste, and the supper was the most exquisite of whatever could be procured in the present season.

The Rebuilding of Carlton House c1783 RCT

The account continues:

The ballroom exhibits a pleasing contrast to the state room, and is, from the style in which it is laid out, admitted to be as nouvelle as it is beautiful. The panels are of a beautiful white, framed with a light moulding, which appears to be entwined with foliage and flowers after nature. On each side of the room are placed give large looking glasses, the framing of which is light and well in character for a ball room. A very magnificent glass is placed in one end of the room, of such dimensions, that it reflects almost every object in the room. On the other end is an orchestra, elevated about eleven feet from the ground. A painted railing, of blue upon a most beautiful crimson damask drapery appears, hung in a well-disposed style, and blended with festoons of artificial roses and leaves, that give the most beautiful relief. Plumes of artificial feathers, fixed in small coronets, are placed in proper distances around the room.

With great thanks to one of my lovely readers, I now know from the diary of Mary Hamilton more about the event, along with newspapers reports. Mary Hamilton described her preparations for the ball.

The ball commenced about 10pm, so Mary, along with some of the other ladies began to get themselves ready for the ball about 5pm with the help of a hairdressers and dresser, everything had to look ‘just so’ as this was an extremely important event  – after all, it was being hosted by the Prince, so only new dresses would suffice.

Mary explained that a little after 10pm Lady Stormont (the second wife of Lord Stormont, later to become 2nd Lord Mansfield) and her step daughter, Lady Elizabeth Mary Murray, came to collect her. Sadly, there was no mention in her correspondence that Dido Elizabeth Belle was with them, so we have to assume with no evidence to the contrary, that Dido was not  at this social gathering, otherwise, I feel sure she would have been specifically named, just as Lady Elizabeth was.

Mary described meeting the prince when they reached the second room and said of him:

his R. H was very gracious & expressed great pleasure in seeing me — had two long conversations with him

Later in the evening, the prince asked Lady Stormont to dance, but she had to decline as she was pregnant with their 4th child, Henry, who was born early August 1784.

Mary Hamilton also confirmed something I had read in the press, that there were between 500 and 600 people at the event, so it wasn’t exactly what most of us would think of as a small gathering.

Mary described not taking part in the dancing as the ballroom was too full, so instead she walked from room to room to chat with people. She had planned to dine under the protection of Lady Finch, but the prince sent for her to dine at his table. Later, the prince joined the others in the ballroom and according to Mary ‘he dances very finely. There were 4 or 5 minuets danced, but without ceremony or precision as to rank.’ Mary confirmed that she finally ate at 2.30am in one of the lower rooms, describing everything as handsome, proper and well attended. The pages were all dressed in uniform, which was a very dark coloured cloath, trimmed handsomely with gold lace, with the footmen who waited at the tables dressed in Royal livery.

Mary left the ball at quarter to four in the morning, but by all accounts, it went on until about 9am. That was quite some party, wasn’t it?

Watier’s Club

In Harriette Wilsons’ Memoirs, she described in great detail the ball that was held at Burlington House, in celebration of the English victory over Napoleon.

Watier’s 1 July 1814 on the reverse
Watier’s 1 July 1814 on the reverse

Harriette, along with her sisters, Amy and Fanny managed to obtain tickets, but their friend Julia was unable to obtain a lady’s ticket, so in order to attend she dressed as a boy.

The event was covered in minute detail in most of the newspapers of the day, such was the magnitude of the event, with about 1,700 guests attending the supper which was said to have been ‘the most magnificent thing of the kind ever seen’.

The event was organised by Mr Wattier (sic), after whom the famous Watiers Club was named, so rather than discussing the ball itself, as amazing as it appears to have been, today’s article is about Jean/John Baptiste Watier, after whom this club was said to have been named.

According to the author, Henry Benjamin Wheatley, Watier’s Club was

established in 1807, at 81 Piccadilly by Messrs, John Maddock and Calvert, and Lord Headfort.

Wheatley went on to say that:

The club was kept by Watier, the Prince of Wales cook, and Labourie was the cook who made the place celebrated for its dinners. Brummell was the supreme dictator… The club did not endure for years altogether, and died a natural death in 1819, when the house was taken by a set of blacklegs, who instituted a common bank for gambling.

These statements are rather confusing for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it has been widely acknowledged that from 1802 Sir Francis Burdett lived at No. 80, Piccadilly and according to the rates books, Mr Watier was living next door at 81 from 1804, therefore rather earlier than initially suggested above and there is no sign of the other gentlemen named. Was he living there as a private resident in 1804 or did he begin his club there at that time?

Here we have the rates return for 1804 with Watier (wrongly spelled as Walter initially) but it is clearly the same person as we can see his name written correctly by 1809.

1804 Rates
1804 Rates
1809 Rates
1809 Rates

The first name check I have come across for Watier’s Club, appeared in the Morning Post, 17 April 1805, which seems to confirm my thoughts that it began about 1804, not 1807 as suggested elsewhere:

The new amateur convert and assembly will be held this season at Willis’s Rooms, King Street, St James’s, under the direction of a Committee of twelve gentlemen, members of Watier’s Club, Piccadilly.

Watier’s Club was ‘the’ place for young men to be seen during the Regency period where gentlemen of the day would play cards and dice, often for high stakes.

According to Thomas Raikes, it was a place where it was easy for a young gentleman to be ruined through debt and cited a specific instance involving Beau Brummell:

One day, when he had lost considerably, he called to the waiter, with a tragic air, for a flat candlestick and a pistol, upon which one of the members (Bob Bligh, a madman) produced from his coat pocket two loaded pistols, and placing them on the table said ‘Mr Brummell, if you really wish to put a period to your existence, I am extremely happy to offer you the means without troubling the waiter’.

Here we see a relatively recent image portraying this event.

Illustrated London News 24 March 1923
Illustrated London News 24 March 1923

Virtually nothing is known of Jean Baptiste Watier’s early life, but we know that he became a Freemason, in the Ancient French Lodge from February 1789 when he was aged 25, therefore he would have been born about 1764. It also tells us that he was living on Broad Street, London at that time.

Freemasonry Membership Registers; Description: Register of Members, London, vol I, Fols 1-597

In 1796, he married Ann Crowther

Westminster Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: STJ/PR/6/8

Up to 1810 the Maitre D’hôtel to George, Prince of Wales was Charles Beckt, after which John Baptiste Watier took over the reins, as can be seen in the Household account book for George, Prince of Wales.  So, it would appear that for a number of years, Watier held down two jobs, club owner and Maitre D’hôtel.

Carlton House. Royal Collection Trust
Carlton House. Royal Collection Trust

By 1812 he was working at Carlton House as Clerk Comptroller, a position he held for several years according to the royal account books.

Royal Household Staff 1526-1924. GEO/MAIN/88983-89031

Between opening the club and then working for the Prince it seems difficult to know exactly how he earned a living. Having questioned all the reports of the club itself, I do wonder whether he ever was a chef, or was, more likely, a manager/ Maitre D’hôtel. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence to support him working for royalty as a chef.

Menu book for dinners held by the Prince Regent from 1811 onwards, principally at Carlton House and occasionally at Hampton Court, include includes a few dinners held by Princess Charlotte of Wales and one of the Ambassadors. Also included are details served to members of the Prince Regents Household, most notably Mr Watier (John Baptiste Watier, Clerk Comptroller of the Kitchen).

Above shows the royal accounts ledgers for Brighton for Thursday 7 January 1819 records Mr Watier and family dining at Brighton Pavilion numerous times and by this time Watier was working in a higher capacity for the Prince as, according to Brighton Pavilion

Jean Baptiste Watier, was a multi-talented figure who as well as acting as George’s furniture and decorative objects scout in Paris, was also at various times confectioner and a collector or rets in Brighton.

The Pavilion mention that he was a confectioner and whilst I’m not saying he wasn’t, we do know from the royal accounts that his nephew, Philip Watier was a royal confectioner, but I can’t find anything to confirm that Jean Baptiste Watier did. I do wonder whether the two names have become confused.

Bought in Paris for George IV by Jean-Baptiste Watier, entered in the Carlton House receipts’ ledger by Benjamin Jutsham on 30 November 1816: ‘Part of Mr Watier’s Purchases brought from Paris A Circular Seve Porcelaine Vase Blue Ground & Gold, with white Flutes, white & Gold Handles, Gilt Embossed wreaths on the Top, Gilt Metal Plynth on 4 Claws’. Royal Collection Trust
Bought in Paris for George IV by Jean-Baptiste Watier, entered in the Carlton House receipts’ ledger by Benjamin Jutsham on 30 November 1816: ‘Part of Mr Watier’s Purchases brought from Paris A Circular Seve Porcelaine Vase Blue Ground & Gold, with white Flutes, white & Gold Handles, Gilt Embossed wreaths on the Top, Gilt Metal Plynth on 4 Claws’. Royal Collection Trust

By 1816 Jean and his wife were no longer at the Club in Piccadilly, but had moved to Mall South, as can be seen here:

Their previous address had been taken over by a Thomas Maddison. It seems likely that he was the royal page named in various accounts about the club.

The Kettle calling the Pot ugly names. 23 September 1820. Royal Trust Collection RCT 1820
The Kettle calling the Pot ugly names. 23 September 1820. Royal Trust Collection

On 17 November 1820 an intriguing, anonymous letter was sent to John at Carlton House. Whilst I can’t be certain, it would appear, given the surrounding letters in the same folder at the National Archives, to have something to do with King George IV’s wife, Queen Caroline.

Was John passing on information about Caroline to her supporters or enemies? I really have no idea where John’s loyalties lay, to the King or Queen. Nationally, loyalties were definitely split at that time, as George IV was trying to divorce Caroline. Many of the public supported Caroline and were less impressed by their new king.


You are safe just at present so you may stop where you are a little longer – if it is possible. I will let you know of danger. Time enough to escape – you cannot know by any other means as we are wary who we trust, and our work will be sure so do not delay to escape when I give you notice which I will do if I am not watched.

I am your true friend.

We have no Edwards’s amongst us.

The next letter in the file was one threatening to set fire to the home of John Sympson Jessop, a lawyer. In his home at the time were his wife and 7 daughters. Jessop’s name appeared in the press as he publicly accused Caroline of adultery.

The News (London) 10 December 1820
The News (London) 10 December 1820

From there, John and his wife moved to Sloane Street, Chelsea, where they remained for the rest of their lives. In the case of John, this was on 22 September 1828. He was buried on 29 September 1828 at St James, Piccadilly at the age of 65.

As the couple had no children his estate went to his wife, Ann and other friends and relatives, but the key person being his nephew Philip, the royal confectioner, mentioned earlier.

In 1825, John’s nephew, Philip Watier, married Miss Anne Simes and rose through the ranks of the palace eventually becoming the Superintendent. The couple went on to have 5 daughters, none of whom married.

In 1835 John’s wife, Ann died and in her will she confirmed that as they had had no children that their nephew was to be her main beneficiary. She also left Philip a portrait of his uncle, painted by none other than Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Whether this portrait has survived over the centuries is unknown, perhaps it is in a private collection somewhere. Philip married and had 5 daughters, none of whom married, so assuming it was passed down through the family it must have been sold when Philip’s youngest daughter died in 1917 otherwise, we would have a likeness of John Baptiste Watier to view.


The Prince Regent’s Grand Fete, June 1811

In 1811, George, became the Prince Regent, taking over from his father who was incapacitated. One of the first things he did was organise a Grand Fete at his home, Carlton House, reputedly to celebrate his father’s birthday, but for a guess it was simply an excuse for a party, and this was no ordinary party.

There’s bling and then there is Royal bling – and as everyone knows, the Prince Regent loved his bling, preferring gold to silver, as it was said to be warmer and ‘showier’, and where better to show it off, than at his Grand Fete.

On 22 May 1811 preparations began for the Grand Fete. Upwards of 100 men were employed in the furnishing and arranging of the different ornamental decorations to be introduced. Every room of Carlton House was to be thrown open during the celebrations. Rooms were to be hung with crimson silk damask, all the Chinese, Etruscan, Grecian and Hindoostan cabinets in ebony and ivory were to be exhibited for the first time.

Not only the interior would be used but also the gardens which would covered in and formed into one immense tent, resembling a marquee. The Gothic conservatory was to be filled with all kinds of rare exotics and illuminated by crystal lamps ‘of uncommon beauty’.

There were to be seven spacious rooms to promenade in, and the supper was to be given under the awning in the garden. The Prince Regent ordered 1500 chairs for the use of the banquet alone. The trees were to be illuminated with variegated lamps next to the park entrance which would be opened, and an avenue was to be formed for sedan chairs only.

To allow easy access and exit to the grand tent, three temporary flights of steps extending from the principal state apartments were to be added.

Everything was set for this grand event, but … ‘hold you horses, Prinny, not so fast’ the newspapers duly reported on 1 June 1811 that ‘party time’ was to be postponed as the King was unwell.

It was then postponed again at short notice following a letter from his mother, Queen Charlotte, who wrote to him to let him know that for a variety of reasons it was best to briefly postpone it. You can read the letter to her son in full here.

By the 15 June all preparations were complete in the temporary ‘Chinese rooms’ which were located on the lawn of Carlton House, 13,214 square feet, with 45,824 square feet of canvas (oil cloth) was used to cover the roofs.

The aisle (north and south) was 186 feet by 22 feet; the end one, 159 feet by 22 feet. At the end of the aisle, opposite to the grand entrance from the conservatory, was to be placed a large mirror, the dimensions – 12 feet high by 9 feet, the aim being to reflect every object by well-disposed girandoles and candelabras.

A set of twenty-four silver-gilt four light candelabra, each with three scrolling branches cast with acanthus and lion masks, on a tapering stem cast as three Greco-Egyptian monopodiae, and a gadrooned base with three paw feet. Royal Collection Trust
A set of twenty-four silver-gilt four light candelabra, each with three scrolling branches cast with acanthus and lion masks, on a tapering stem cast as three Greco-Egyptian monopodiae, and a gadrooned base with three paw feet. Royal Collection Trust

The whole aisle was to resemble an allée vert, or green walk, with garlands and festoons of roses of every colour, honeysuckle, pinks carnations and tulips, both real and artificial. Also, dwarf fruit trees, consisting of oranges, cherries. All the chandeliers were to be suspended from chains covered with wreaths of artificial flowers stretching for 2,000 yards.

Four superb marquees were erected in the interior of the treble cross as it was known, with connecting rooms for the servants. There were to be two principle rooms for dancing, the other was the grand council chamber. In the centre was G.III.R with the Royal Crown. The whole area encircle in a highly emblazoned manner, by the rose, the thistle and the shamrock, emblematic of the arms of the United Kingdom.

The Prince Regent’s Attire

The Prince Regent wore a Field Marshall’s uniform (as did the Duke of York), and a superb, brilliant star, a large diamond loop and button in his hat and feather, and wore a sabre, the handle and scabbard of which were richly studded with jewellery.

His Royal Highness = the Prince Regent. June 1811. Royal Collection Trust
His Royal Highness = the Prince Regent. June 1811. Royal Collection Trust

The Supper

In the conservatory, was the Prince’s table, elevated on a platform, about 6 inches from the ground.  From this table there were a range of tables, extending in line over the further extremities of the Prince’s bed-chamber, occupying a space of around 600 feet. Every table was covered with gold or silver gilt plate. Covers were laid on tables for his 140 particular friends.

Conservatory at Carlton House. Royal Collection Trust.
Conservatory at Carlton House. Royal Collection Trust.

The Prince sat at the head of the table, seated on a superb state chair, covered with crimson Genoa Velvet, embroidered with gold. The masterpiece being a serpentine bubbling brook of water which occupied a central space down the Prince’s table, 170 feet in length and 14 inches in depth. It was a running stream, produced by a reservoir at one end and waste pipes at the others. The canal was filled with gold and silver fish which meandered over the artificially created weeds and soil. A space in each side was allocated for moss and flowers, to give the banks a natural appearance.

The supper was described as being ‘the most superb ever exhibited in this country’. The whole dinner service was in gold. The food consisted of everything that was in season, along with fruits, confectionery and copious amounts of wine.

The tables ran through to the lower suite of rooms were so arranged that the Prince Regent could distinctly see and be seen from one end to the other. Along those tables the royal family of England, and that of the Bourbons.


The Grand Fête eventually took place at nine o’clock, on Wednesday 19 June 1811 with over 2,000 of the nobility and gentry in attendance. This was said to have been the largest event known in Europe at the time, with 1,600 guests under canvas and a further 400 in the house itself.

The family of the house of Bourbon entered through the gardens at about 10 and were ushered into the Privy Council Chamber, where the Prince Regent was sitting.  Guests were attended by 60 servants, seven waited on the Prince, besides 6 of the King’s and 6 of the Queen’s footmen in their state liveries, with one man in a complete suit of ancient armour.

Musicians played throughout the event and during the night a brilliant discharge of fireworks too place. The company sat down to supper about one o’clock and after taking refreshments they resumed their dancing until daylight.

Companies were always keen to be associated with anything royal and Charlton, Ladies Boot and Shoe Makers of Silver Street, Hull were no exception, telling potential customers that read the Hull Packet, 11 June 1811, that Mr Charlton had just returned from London and Windsor, where he has procured a variety of new patterns such as are now being made for the Prince Regent’s Grand Fete, called the ‘Regent’s Slipper’.


The Ipswich Journal 25 May 1811

Northampton Mercury 1 June 1811

Hampshire Chronicle 24 June 1811

Featured Image

Te Grand Service. The Service was made by the Royal Goldsmiths, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, following an initial commission of £60,000 worth of plate. Royal Collection Trust

The Persistent Legend of Princess Elizabeth (1770-1840) and the mysterious George Ramus

Well, this certainly was not a proverbial rabbit hole I expected to find myself down when this beautiful portrait caught my eye. I simply wanted to know more about the young lady whose beauty had been captured by George Romney. The portrait is of ‘Elizabeth Ramus (1751-1848), the daughter of Nicholas Ramus and subsequently wife of Baron de Nougal’.

Portrait of Elizabeth Ramus (1751-1848), daughter of Nicholas Ramus and subsequently wife of Baron de Nougal, half-length, in a pink dress with gold trim and a green shawl, her hair tied with a gold-embroidered white muslin scarf by George Romney. Courtesy of Christie's auctioneers
Portrait of Elizabeth Ramus (1751-1848), daughter of Nicholas Ramus and subsequently wife of Baron de Nougal, half-length, in a pink dress with gold trim and a green shawl, her hair tied with a gold-embroidered white muslin scarf by George Romney. Courtesy of Christie’s auctioneers

Instead the research took something of a curious turn that I really could not have foreseen, and led to an ongoing piece of potentially ‘fake news’ regarding the young Princess Elizabeth (1770-1840), the third daughter of King George III.

Princess Elizabeth by Henry Edridge. Signed and dated 1804 Royal Collection Trust
Princess Elizabeth by Henry Edridge. Signed and dated 1804 Royal Collection Trust

This story has been around for well over a century, but no-one knows from quite  where it originated. The story goes like this – when in her teens, Princess Elizabeth had unlawfully married the mysterious George Ramus who worked in the royal household and in 1788 they had a child, Elizabeth Louisa, who was taken to India by her uncle, Henry Ramus of the East India Company where she was raised as his daughter.

The Royal Archives had checked their records and there was no sign of a George Ramus being employed in the Royal Household, so did George Ramus ever exist?  Arthur Crisp in his, Visitation of England and Wales in 1896 also referenced the marriage of the princess to George Ramus, but never cited his source for this snippet of this information and therefore history has continued to repeat it as fact.

The story may have been true, but where was the supporting evidence. Despite Crisp being renowned for his accuracy I noted an error in that specific entry which has never been picked up, which for me, throws doubt upon the rest of it, but more about that later.

The story has continued to be retold in books and online, right up to this day, with most people, dismissing it as fiction, but with little supporting evidence either way and if it were fiction then why bother retelling it, or does it simply provide a salacious piece of Georgian gossip, with no substance?

When young, Princess Elizabeth was known to have issues with her health and especially her weight and was, according to the newspapers frequently ‘indisposed’ and regularly suffered from ‘fainting fits’ and ‘corpulency’ as the press referred to her weight gain. Could someone simply have been making mischief by saying that she looked pregnant and from there the Chinese whispers began?

At first sight I wondered if there could be even a grain of truth in the story, after all the child did exist, and she was born in 1788 and lived until 1869, so let’s see how this works out.

Henry Charles Ramus (1752-1822) was one of the sons of Nicholas Ramus (c1709-1779), a native of Switzerland and his wife Benedict nee Covert (? -1796).

Henry’s father, Nicholas, was employed in the Royal Household from 1748 as ‘page of the backstairs’ to King George III whilst he was still Prince of Wales, and then from 1756-1760, he became ‘page of the bedchamber’. On his death his obituary confirmed that he had worked for the royal family for nearly 40 years.

Apart from his father, several members of the Ramus family were also employed in a variety of positions within the royal household, his uncle Louis was the purveyor of cheese, butter, eggs, oatmeal and dried pease and his other uncle, Charles appears to have been employed in the household of Augusta, Princess (later Princess Dowager) of Wales 1736-1772 as Clerk to the Vice Chamberlain.

Henry’s cousin, Joseph (1747-1818), son of his uncle Charles, ultimately became Gentleman of the royal wine cellar and his brother William (1751-1792), was first page to his majesty until being dismissed in 1789 during the King’s illness for offensive curiosity about ‘His majesty’s looks and gestures’.

William, who apparently had no idea what he done wrong packed his bags and set off for the East Indies, but not  before taking with him a glowing reference from the Prince of Wales, of whom he was a favoured courtier.

Rather than joining the Royal Household, Henry left England having joined the East India Company. He left behind several siblings – George (1747-1808), who was, by 1785 one of the Chief Clerks to the Treasury and it was he that was reputedly the ‘husband’ of Princess Elizabeth; Benedette (c1752-1811) who we see below, (also painted by Romney, sadly the original of  her portrait was destroyed in a fire) who married Sir John Day in 1777, and Elizabeth, who was the original protagonist of this story until it was hijacked. Elizabeth married Baron Pierre Augustin De Nougal de la Loyne in 1797.

Miss Benedetta Ramus by George Romney from the book 'Romney' by Charles Lewis Hind
Miss Benedetta Ramus by George Romney from the book ‘Romney’ by Charles Lewis Hind

Once in India Henry Charles Ramus met and married, Miss Joanna Vernet daughter of the Honourable George Vernet, who ultimately became Governor and Director of Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, more commonly known as the Dutch East India Company.

Henry and Joanna spent much of their married life in India, where they had four legitimate daughters, Marian, Louisa, Harriot and their youngest daughter, born 1791, Isabella and one son, John Henry. In addition to these, Henry  also fathered an illegitimate daughter, Maria.

All of their children were born in India, so where did this other daughter, Elizabeth Louisa materialise from? If they spent all their lives in India, then how did they acquire her? I was beginning to think there was some truth in the story after all.

Did they really make the long journey to England after Princess Elizabeth had given birth and take the child to India with them or did someone take her out to India? Records tells us that Elizabeth Louisa was certainly raised in India and married her husband James Money in Bengal in 1804.

Drawing of The Seahorse, renamed in 1784, The Ravensworth
Drawing of The Seahorse, renamed in 1784, The Ravensworth

This really wasn’t adding up. However, trawling through the newspapers an interesting article came to light. No, they didn’t stay in India permanently, in fact in 1787 they made a trip to England. According to the Calcutta Gazette 15 November 1787:

At three o’clock yesterday morning, the Honourable Company’s Ship the Ravensworth, Captain Roddam, weighed anchor and left the roads for Europe. Henry Ramus Esq and Lady; Thomas Henchman Esq. and Messrs Dent and Yonge, are passengers.

The Derby Mercury 27 March 1788 also provided the route for the Ravensworth

Arrived in England on 23 March 1788. She left Bengal on 7 October 1787, then at Fort St George on 23 October 1787, sailing on to arrive in St Helena on 29 January 1788, then left on 3 February 1788. The ship eventually arrived in Dover 23 March 1788.

So how was Princess Elizabeth spending her time around this period? I’ve decided to try to trace her public engagements to see whether being pregnant she had been taken away to a secret location out of the public gaze.

Another newspaper article 5 June 1788 provides a glimpse of Prince Elizabeth attending a party for her father’s 51st birthday at which the whole family were in attendance along with other aristocrats. Princess Elizabeth was described as:

wearing body and train laylock and white, the petticoat richly embroidered, with a sash of crape fastened on one side with a plume of white feathers, green spangles and bunches of roses.

If the myth had any grain of truth in it, then by the King’s birthday, Elizabeth would have been about 6 months pregnant – I rather think this would have been highly visible for all to see.

Other later newspaper articles confirms that in between bouts of illness Princess Elizabeth was publicly visible during this reputed pregnancy, attending the theatre, meeting with members of the nobility, taking a trip along with most of the other royals to Cheltenham in July. She was also present in August to celebrate her brother, the Prince of Wales birthday.

Given that Elizabeth Louisa was born on 12 September 1788, she must, assuming she was carried full term, have been conceived around Christmas 1787. This would place Henry and Joanna at sea enroute from Fort St George and St Helena.

Baptism of Elizabeth Louisa daughter of Henry and Joana Ramus born 12 September baptised 17 Oct 1788 St George's Hanover Square
Baptism of Elizabeth Louisa daughter of Henry and Joana Ramus born 12 September baptised 17 Oct 1788 St George’s Hanover Square

Henry and Joanna presented the child, theirs or otherwise, for baptism at St George’s Hanover Square on 17 October 1788 before returning to India. Would they really have presented a child for baptism that wasn’t theirs? To me, that seems somewhat unlikely, unless the Ramus family would do anything to protect the royal family’s reputation.

Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth November 1788 by William James Ward Senior. Royal Collection Trust
Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth November 1788 by William James Ward Senior. Royal Collection Trust

With a little stretching of the imagination, it’s just about plausible that the child was Princess Elizabeth’s and that royal family and the entire household and employees including the likes of Frances Burney, Keeper of the Robes to Queen Charlotte and Mrs Papendiek, Queen Charlotte’s lady-in-waiting, were all aware of it and sworn to secrecy, and that the Ramus’s collected the child after she was born and that their being in England at the right time was simply extremely fortuitous, as they had set off from India prior to the child’s conception, but sorry, no, I simply don’t buy into the story. In my opinion the child was Henry and Joanna’s.

Mrs Burney & Mrs Papendiek
Mrs Burney & Mrs Papendiek

I would also question the likelihood of Princess Elizabeth having had any kind of relationship with a Treasury Clerk who was almost double her age as I’m struggling to see any way in which their paths could have crossed.

Hopefully, this has provided a little more padding on the bare bones of this story, but there still remains no conclusive answer either way, but perhaps a little more evidence for readers to make their own judgement.

Just one final observation, when Henry Charles Ramus died, he left a legacy for his wife Joanna, and his sister, Elizabeth who I began this story with.

Other beneficiaries included his illegitimate daughter, Maria, now married to William Bertram, Marian Helen who was married Edward Stopford and Isabella who had married Robert Keate and finally his son John Henry. We know that Elizabeth was still very much alive, why was she ignored in his will, because she wasn’t actually his daughter perhaps or perhaps there was some other unexplained reason that hasn’t come into view yet.

I did say I would come back to the entry by Crisp about Princess Elizabeth’s reputed daughter, the error was in the naming of Elizabeth Louisa’s daughter, he referenced her as Marian Martha Money, she was actually Marian Patty (1805-1869), and there was another daughter, Charlotte Eliza Money (1807-1886).


Kentish Gazette 28 September 1792

London Chronicle 9 February 1779

Morning Post 24 March 1789

The World 20 August 1788

Burney Fanny. The Court Journals and Letters of Frances Burney: Volume II

Burney, Fanny. The early diary of Frances Burney, 1768-1778

Childe-Pemberton, William. The Romance of Princess Amelia, daughter of George III (1783-1810) including extracts from private and unpublished papers

Papendiek, Charlotte. Court and Private Life in the Time of Queen Charlotte: Being the Journals of Mrs. Papendiek

Stuart, Dorothy Margaret. The Daughters of George III

Jackson, Joseph. Harris George William. Crisp, Frederick Arthur. Visitation of England and Wales Volume 5. 1897

Header Image

The Royal Family of England in the year 1787 Royal Collection Trust. Princess Elizabeth is on the right of the painting


George Bridgetower, violin virtuoso. Part Four

We have now reached the final part of the story and just in case you missed any, the previous parts can be found by clicking these links – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

In this final part we return again to George and his wife Mary. In 1817 and they went on to have a daughter, Julia in 1817, about whom nothing more is known, so it perhaps has to be assumed that she died in infancy, but two year later the couple had a second daughter, Felicia.

It appears though, that their marriage didn’t last very long, as Mary left England and went to Italy, taking Felicia with her. During this time Mary was said to have had an affair with the Marquis Busca, Visconti of Milan and a son was to follow from this liaison. In 1835 Mary died in suspicious circumstances, allegedly via poison, at which time the Marquis adopted the boy and raised him as his own. Upon the death of the Marquis the boy inherited the bulk of the estate.[1]

After the death of his adopted father, the child was due to marry the Countessa Della Porta, but in 1851 this was still on hold until his father’s estate had been sorted and his claim verified.

Felicia, however, returned to England at some stage and lived briefly with her father, George, but this was short lived as their relationship was described as being a somewhat volatile one and in 1839 she married an Italian widower, Louis Philippe Baldersar Mazzara at St George, Hanover Square, after which they returned to Italy, where they had two sons, Felix Alexander, who we will return to later, and Nicholas Charles.

Felicia’s marriage entry. Click to enlarge
Felicia’s marriage entry. Click to enlarge

The final part of this story concerns, the end of George’s life. He all but disappeared from public view in England and it has been note that he travelled abroad for much of his later life, returning to England just prior to his death, at which time when he was living at 8 Victory Cottages, in Peckham, Surrey, but no-one seems to know how he was living or what he was doing. To date, there is no sign of him on ether the 1841 or 1851 census returns, so it’s feasible that he travelled abroad for quite some time or was simply missed from the census returns.

The property at which he died didn’t seem to exist on the 1851 census so it must have been a recent build when George lived there. George died on 29 February 1806, his death being witnessed by an Ann Chapman, who simply made her mark, so unable to write her name.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

George was buried a few days later, at Kensal Green Cemetery and left a will in which his small remaining estate was bequeathed to his sister in law, Clara, nee Leech Leake.

Following George’s death Messrs. Puttick and Simpson, auctioneers sold some of his possessions including a Stradiuarious (now known as Stradivarius, the oldest were known by the former name) and an Amati, two of the finest and now rarest violins ever made.[2]

So, who initially purchased these items? Was George ever paid enough to purchase them himself, or were they courtesy of the Prince of Wales? Maybe the royal accounts could shed some light on this matter.

The complicated story of the family and its ancestors didn’t end at the end of George’s life, no, not at all.

The Newcastle Journal, 3 February 1868 noted that Frederick Joseph Bridgetower was making claims to the throne of Abyssinia. This Frederick Joseph was the grandson of George’s brother, Frederick, who was mentioned much earlier.

He claimed that he was descended on his father’s side from the original heir to this empire and that his great grandfather was an Abyssinian nobleman who had two sons born in England i.e. George and Frederick. He explained that his grandfather had married in 1808 and died in 1813, leaving a son and daughter, the former being the claimants’ son. The claimants’ father was born in 1812 and married Catherine Richardson in 1836 and died in 1859. He hoped to be recognised also as great nephew to the black prince, Sir George Bridgetower (of course, George was never knighted!).

He claimed that family misfortunes had deprived him the means of proving his antecedents until recently the claims of his second cousin, Felix Alexander,[3] recognised as the descendant of King Solomon the son of David, had revealed the fact of his right in claiming the empire of his forefathers by paternity.

So, that was two claims to this throne being made by both sides of the family. This sounds very much like one of those stories that get passed down through the family, but one which is to this day completely unprovable.

The Liverpool Mercury of 2 May 1868 weighed in on the debate and suggested that if he believed he had a claim to such a throne then he had better go there and take it.

We are sure that the British Government will never be so foolish as to support his pretensions.

This claim of royal connections rumbled on for a few more years and the Isle of Wight Observer, 7 May 1870 had an interesting article:

Frederick Bridgetower appeared before the Southampton Bench, describing himself as ‘The Emperor of Abyssinia’. He was described as a printer of Simnel Street, Southampton, was charged with being drunk and disorderly in the High Street. On being placed in the dock and questioned as to his name and address, he said he was King Frederick Joseph and the rightful heir to the throne of Abyssinia. The previous evening the defendant was discovered making a great deal of noise and appeared to be going through a theatrical performance. He was very drunk and wearing a crown, making claims about the throne. He was found to be carrying a card, on which it was printed H.R.H Frederick Joseph S Bridgetower, Emperor of Ethiopia and Abyssinia. Mr Palk the magistrate, told him that he would be sentenced to prison for seven days and advised him not to drink once freed.

How much truth there has been in this we may never know, but some of it seems highly unlikely and something of a very tall tale, passed down through the generations with much credibility by all who were told of the story.

What happened to Joseph Frederick after these claims, well there was one final sighting of him, leaving England and heading to America, what became of him from there, maybe someone will be able to shed some light on what became of him.

Another of Joseph’s siblings, John Henry spent much of his life in the lunatic asylum from the age of fifteen until his death at the age of forty-six and one of their siblings, Catherine, named after her mother, died aged about one, following an accident caused by her sitting down on a smoothing iron and burning to death, the inquest partially blamed her mother for neglecting the child.[4]

Given the number of descendants, it would seem highly likely that George and Frederick’s ancestors are still out there somewhere.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

[1] Fife Herald 16 January 1851

[2] Morning Post – Thursday 28 June 1860

[3] The Times, 22 November 1867

[4] North British Daily Mail 14 June 1856

George Bridgetower, violin virtuoso. Part Three

We begin the third part of George’s life in March 1794, but just in case you missed the earlier parts, click on the highlighted links to read part 1 and part two .

George had been busy studying and performing at the New Theatre Royal, still under the pupillage of Barthélemon. Over the subsequent weeks his name regularly appeared in the press, still working at the same theatre.

George listed on the royal payroll
George listed on the royal payroll

From the quarter ending October 1795 until 1809 George’s name appeared on the Royal Household payroll as a musician, along with a Mrs Bridgetower, could this possibly have been his mother, reputed to be Mary Ann nee Schmid, whose name appeared between 1802 and 1809, as a recipient of an annuity of  seven pounds, ten shillings?

Mrs Bridgetower on payroll
Mrs Bridgetower on payroll

On 19 October 1796 Lloyd’s Evening Post confirmed that George was still employed by the royal family, by this time, George was about sixteen and continued to be mentioned regularly by the press until the end of the century.

The Princess of Wales has music three or four times a week; last night the party consisted of Mazzinghi, Atwood, Cole Bridgetower (the black boy) who generally plays concertos on the violin, and Schram. Her Royal Highness also plays on the pianoforte and sings with Lady Willoughby.

Lawrence, Thomas; Caroline of Brunswick (1768-1821), Queen of George IV; Paintings Collection;

In 1802 George was granted leave to visit his mother and an unnamed brother, a cellist in Dresden. We know from earlier that there was a possible brother for George, Johannes, but could the cellist have been another sibling? We will find out later.

It was whilst in Dresden that young George gave at least two concerts and having gained success with these, he went on to Vienna. It was whilst there that he was introduced by Prince Lichnowsky to Beethoven who wrote for him Sonata No 9 in A Major Opus 47, which was originally named ‘Sonata Mulattica’, but was quickly renamed following an argument between Beethoven and Bridgetower over a woman becoming now known as ‘Kreutzer Sonata’. Despite the renaming, the Rodolphe Kreutzer never actually played the sonata.

Ludwig van Beethoven. Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820
Ludwig van Beethoven. Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

Towards the end of May 1805[1], according to the British Press, George advertised a forthcoming concert at the New Rooms, under the patronage of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, where he would play the violin and his brother Frederick, the violincello, on 23 May. Tickets being sold at half a guinea each could be obtained from his lodgings at 4 Great Ryder Street, St James, London.

Rates returns for that period show that the property was owned by a Richard Davies, but there are no clues as to who he was, but it was clearly a property in an affluent area, as his next-door neighbour was The Honourable Mrs Keppel.

Was this the mysterious brother, Frederick, who had travelled with him back to England? It would certainly appear to be and so, we will look at what became of him later, but he was certainly in England with George by 1805 if not before.

In September 1805, George’s father made a re-appearance in the newspaper, things were clearly not going well for him. This time he was in Exeter, alongside a woman who had been found to be an imposter. The article went on to describe the imposter as:

Rev. John Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower, otherwise Lieutenant General Mentor, lately serving under Touissaint L’Ouverture, otherwise the Black Prince. This person speaks fluently English, French, German, Italian and Polish languages.

Therefore, it would appear that George’s father was no longer in an asylum, but had instead, headed south for reasons unknown.

The last public sighting of George for some time was in the Morning Post, 30 March 1808, still performing at Hanover Square. He then vanished for a while once his payments from the Prince of Wales ceased in 1809, but where did he go? It is known that he attended Cambridge University, where he continued learning his craft and began composing music.  From the National Register, 30 June 1811 we learn that:

His Royal Highness will attend at St Mary’s in the afternoon, when the sermon will be preached by the Rev Dr. Butler’ after which a musical exercise will be performed, composed by Mr Bridgetower, as an exercise for his Bachelor’s degree.

It is now known that his brother, Frederick had moved to Ireland, presumably from London, as that was stated at the time of his marriage in January 1808 to Elizabeth Guy, the daughter of John Guy.

Frederick continued to perform as a cellist and to develop his skills as a composer [2] and on 13 April 1808 made his debut performance in Dublin, as a cellist, at the Rotunda on Upper O’Connell Street in the city.

Not only was Frederick a performer, but he was also a composer and teacher.

Saunders’s Newsletter 3 Jan 1810
Saunders’s Newsletter 3 Jan 1810

According to The Hibernia Magazine and Dublin Monthly Panorama volume 3, 1811, Frederick performed some ‘charming instrumental music’ for the Beefsteak Club, at Morrison’s Hotel on Dawson Street.[3]

Angelica Catalani by Elizabeth Vigee Le Brun
Angelica Catalani by Elizabeth Vigee Le Brun

It was around that time that Frederick composed ‘Six Pathetic Cantonets’ which were dedicated to the Italian Opera singer, Madame Catalani. Copies of his works, ‘A Pastoral Rondo for the pianoforte’, dedicated to a Miss Martha Collins, ‘Six Chromatic Waltzes’ and Multum in parvo’ are held by the National Library of Ireland, Dublin.

Life however was not kind to Frederick and his wife as around the time of the birth of their one son, Frederick Joseph, Frederick senior died on 18 August 1813, leaving Elizabeth alone to raise her child. We know that Elizabeth and her son remained in Ireland as Frederick junior was to find himself in trouble with the law in 1833.

According to The Pilot, 12 April 1833 young Frederick found himself involved in the Newry riots, between Catholics and Protestants, also known as Orange Men, during which he fired a pistol which resulted in him being sentenced to sixteen months in prison with hard labour.

After serving his sentence he left Ireland for Liverpool, where in 1836 he married a Catherine Richardson and they had eight known children. Frederick’s career was somewhat confusing as he was noted as a journeyman shoemaker, so didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps, however, on the marriage entry for one his daughters (Jane Guy), he was described as a professor of music, so quite which occupation he followed we may never know.

Frederick and Catherine’s eldest son, a Frederick Joseph, named after his father, born in 1840, we will return to later as his story is very relevant to George’s history.

We can only assume that Eliza remained in Ireland as her name appeared in the newspaper in the Newry Telegraph in 1849 when she developed cholera, whether she died from that remains unclear at present.

Returning back again to George, and in March 1816, at St George, Hanover Square he married Mary Leach Leake, the daughter of Edward Leech (rather than Leach) an affluent businessman (a cotton manufacturer according to his will) late of Kensington Square, London  and a Mary Leake.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

In the Times, 23 October 1832 there was a report of the death in 1807 of a woman who appears to have been George’s mother, so if that were the case, then money was being paid by the privy purse for some considerable time after her death:

Notice to Heirs and others – All persons who have any claim on or to Property, amounting to about 800 Saxon Dollars, left by the late Mary Ann Bridgetower, who died at Budissen on the 11th of September, 1807, are hereby directed to make known and prove the same by themselves, or their attornies, at the sittings of the magistrates of the said town, on or before the 12th of March, 1833, or they will forfeit all right and title to the said property – Dated at Budissen, in the kingdom of Saxony, 8th August, 1832. By order of the Sitting Magistrates.

At the time George married in 1816 a newspaper report came to light from the other side of the world, which raises some interesting questions about who exactly George’s father was.

This was a gentleman who went by the name of Augustus de Bundo who, on the face of it led an amazing life, but how much of his life story reported in the Royal Gazette, Jamaica, 26 October 1816 was true will forever remain questionable.

This elderly black man presented a petition before the Corporate Body of Jamaica requesting poor relief. In order to obtain this, he had to provide details of how he had come to find himself in such dire straits and with that, he set about providing them with a lengthy account of his ancestry, education and travel. He gave his full name as

Augustus Frederick Horatio, Prince de Bundo and stated that his mother was a Cherokee Indian Princess and his father was Almas Ali Achmet, a Turkish merchant, formerly of Mahometan and that his parents married in London.

He also claimed that his grandfather was the high priest of Bundo, Africa and it was through him that he claimed his title of Prince de Bundo. There appears no such place as Bundo, but there is a Bundu, so it is feasible that was where he meant.

He stated that he was born at Staines, Surrey and that at the age of seven was sent to Eton[4] to be educated, where he remained until the age of sixteen; from there he travelled to Besançon, France where he studied for five years at the College of St Paul. Then went to Strasbourg where he entered St Bartholomew’s College to study theology, then on to Gottingen, Hanover.

In 1776/7 aged thirty-three, he returned to England, attended Oxford College, for four years, entered the university, and after a residence of sixteen months, took a Bachelor of Arts degree. Following this he was

Ordained a priest of the Church of England by the Bishop of Derry, who also promoted him to be a Deacon, that being a higher order in the church. He was then appointed as a Minister of a church in Pyrmont, Hanover and officiated there for four years until he was driven out by the French under General Junot in 1800. He travelled all over the continent and was well received at different courts.

Having carefully checked every fact in his account, the conclusion would have to be that, as fascinating a story as it is, it has more holes in it than a colander. His name does not appear in the registers of Eton, nor at Oxford, nor in the Church of England records, but that of course depends upon what name he would have been known by.  Also, I can find no such college as St Paul, nor St Bartholomew’s. If he were ordained into the Church of England[5] it would have been by Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol, also titled Bishop of Derry.

Zoffany, Johann; The Reverend and Honourable Frederick Augustus Hervey (1730-1803), Bishop of Derry, Later 4th Earl of Bristol; National Trust, Ickworth

His notion of being promoted to deacon could not be correct, as deacon was a lower position than a vicar/priest. It isn’t possible to provide any validity into his claim about General Jean-Andoche Junot, but date wise it doesn’t appear to make sense.

It does, however, appear that whoever he was, he was either someone who was extremely well-read or very well-travelled or both.

Now, here is the only part of his story which has some elements of familiarity, although again, it doesn’t quite add up. His testament continues –

He married a Polish Princess, the daughter of Prince Morowski and receive a dowry with her, in money, lands, castles etc which he enjoyed until the troubles in that country which obliged him to quit Poland. It was at Pyrmont where he first saw his wife, she went to a nunnery there for her education. After leaving Poland he returned to England and was well received by the Prince Regent, with whom he was on the most intimate and friendly footing, having received from him a general invitation to visit at all times, of which he availed himself, particularly at Brighton. The prince introduced him to the Queen and the rest of the Royal family, who were all kind and attentive to him.

In his testament he asserted that the Prince Regent had stood godfather for his son, who was the leader of the Princes private Chamber Music, his other son was also in royal service and that

The Prince Regent also asked that he be introduced at the British Court in the costume of a Mahometan on horseback.

This reference to him having a least two sons is extremely interesting and their connection with the Prince Regent, begins to make sense in terms of George and Frederick, in all likelihood is one of the few verifiable parts of his testament. How could this man have known the prince or have known about George and his brother?

He said that he frequently attended court balls, however, being a clergyman, he never danced. He was intimately acquainted with, and dined with, William Wilberforce.

He had a brig built, called The Isabella, which he jointly owned with his mother, which he registered at Lloyd’s,[6] (having trawled through the Lloyd’s register from 1800 – 1815 there is no obvious sign of such a ship). He claimed to have loaded The Isabella, sailed to Barbados where he sold the cargo and took on another of sugar and rum for Cape Henry on the coast of Virginia.

Disaster befell him on 25 June 1816, when the ship was wrecked, and he lost everything. The crew were dispersed, and he went to Havana, from where he obtained passage in his Majesty’s ship The Tay. The Tay was being captained from 24 January 1816, by a Captain Samuel Roberts who sail from Portsmouth to Havana then on to Jamaica, having apparently taken on board Augustus at Havana. Augustus made specific reference to Captain Roberts in his testament, saying that the captain would testify to the accuracy of his claim. So, it seems feasible that perhaps one or two elements of his account may have had a grain of truth in them.

He also stated that his mother, who was nearly 80 years old was living in Antigua along with her sister, and that she had many possessions which she inherited from her ancestors and that he had some £12,000 in funds, he believed, in the Stock Exchange and his wife, a Polish princess lived in Staines, at a farm that they owned.

However, the following day, he was called back for a further interview, and clearly overnight he must have realised that his story sounded too far-fetched and so provided a much shorter revised account. He no longer made claims about being a Prince, but instead, said he was a Knight of the Thimble i.e. a tailor.

According to this revised testament, Augustus said that he was a native of Barbados, where he was born a slave, but being very intelligent he was sent to England as a servant to one of his master’s sons, where he learnt to read and write. His young master completed his own studies and was to return to Barbados, along with his servant, but Augustus had other ideas, decamped and passed himself off as a free man.

Rachel Pringle-Polgreen (1753-1791) was the owner of a famous hotel in Bridgetown. Royal Collection Trust
Rachel Pringle-Polgreen (1753-1791) was the owner of a famous hotel in Bridgetown. Royal Collection Trust

Now this does have more credibility, especially in light of a woman who lived in Barbados by the name of Rachel. Now, bear with this apparent digression from the story, but it may have some relevance.

She was born about the same time as Augustus and was the daughter of a William Lauder and a slave woman. She developed a friendship with a Thomas Pringle and changed her surname to his. Rachel opened an hotel in Bridgetown, where she provided entertainment for sailors and royalty after a long sea voyage. When her relationship with Pringle finished, she met a man called Mr Polgreen and took his name too becoming known as Rachel Pringle Polgreen. There was a plantation in Barbados connected to the Polgreen family, so that may have been who she had a relationship with.

Rachel died in 1791 leaving some considerable assets. Now, could there have been some connection between Rachel’s gentleman Mr Polgreen and George’s family, hence George taking that as a middle name, combined with a reputed family connection with Barbados?  This may well remain pure speculation of course.

Returning to Augustus, this is the only documented part of his life story so far, but as you can imagine, the authorities were less than impressed and believed it to be pure fantasy. With that, he was dismissed with a caution to behave himself and in reply he said he would find the first opportunity to leave the country.

The testament took place in October 1816[7], and just four months later, an application was made to the court by Augustus, still sticking to his story that he was of princely origin, only this time he was requesting that the court procure for him a passage to England.

This was eventually agreed to and they gave him ten pounds to purchase provisions and a few days later he was sent packing on board the Queen transport ship, bound for Portsmouth. It would appear that the authorities were pleased to finally see the back of him and happy to send him on his way back to his alleged home – England.

Augustus returned to England and what became of him from then is still unknown. The only vague sighting of him was an entry in the Poor Records for St Martin-in-the-Fields in 1817. The entry simply references a man, named Frederick Bridgetower, aged 63 i.e. born c1754, seeking poor relief, which would make this gentleman about the right sort of age and given the unusual surname it does sound feasible that he did return to England, but penniless.

Could Augustus have been George’s father? We will probably never know, but if so, then it adds another dimension to his life. Do join me next week for the end of this tale.


[1] British Press 23 May 1805






[7] The Royal Gazette, Jamaica, 1st February 1817

George Bridgetower, violin virtuoso. Part Two

Today we continue with the story of George’s life, but if you missed last weeks and would like to catch up, just click on this highlighted link.

Charlotte Papendiek with her eldest son Frederick – a drawing by Thomas Lawrence, 1789, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Charlotte Papendiek with her eldest son Frederick – a drawing by Thomas Lawrence, 1789, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

We begin this part of George’s life with the assistant keeper of Queen Charlotte’s wardrobe was a Mrs Papendeik, who very helpfully kept a journal and clearly knew of George and his family and in her journal made the following notes of their meetings [1]

About this time an adventurer of the name of Bridgetower, a black, came to Windsor, with a view of introducing his son, a most prepossessing lad of ten or twelve years old, and a fine violin player. He was commanded by their Majesties to perform at the Lodge, when he played a concerto of Viotti’s and a quartet of Haydn’s, whose pupil he called himself. 

Both father and son pleased greatly. The one for his talent and modest bearing, the other for his fascinating manner, elegance, expertness in all languages, beauty of person, and taste in dress. He seemed to win the good opinion of everyone and was courted by all and entreated to join in society; but he held back with the intention of giving a benefit concert at the Town Hall.

 Mr. Jervois insisted upon the Bridgetowers coming to him after the boy had played at the Lodge, as he wished to hear him before he took tickets or interested himself in the business. Charles Griesbach and Neebour had promised to come to assist in the performance, but there was to be no audience beyond the regular set or squad — Papendieks, Stowes and Mingays. After supper, the music-room was ready, and then the father would not let his son play!

Johan Zoffany. Self portrait
Johan Zoffany. Self portrait

Also present at the gathering was the artist, Johan Zoffany who had recently returned from India. In her journal she continued to provide additional snippets of information about the Bridgetower’s, curiously naming George’s father as Ralph West Bridgetower, which is not a name that appears to have been noted anywhere else, was this another pseudonym or more likely a simple mistake on her part?

While I was playing the duet with Rodgers, he sat on the ground between us, after which that dear little soul kissed us and went off to bed. The duet, which we played without a fault, pleased greatly, and was followed by more singing, and Bridge tower’s two quartets and a symphony to finish made a long second act. Then we again had refreshments, and supper in the parlour for the performers. Over this meal we had a pleasant chat. Ralph West Bridgetower (as he was named) was most fascinating, young Lawrence elegant and handsome, and very attentive… Twenty- five guineas Mr. Papendiek put into Bridgetower’s hand, taking nothing from Mr. Jervois as he compelled him to come. The ladies being gone I went to bed, after making arrangements for Zoffany, but the gentlemen made a merry evening of it.

Abbott, Lemuel Francis; Sir William Herschel; National Portrait Gallery, London;

This circumstance occurred in the spring of this year, 1789. Madame de Lafitte educated the daughters, and many lent a helping hand. Indeed, through life did this family experience the same kind friendship on all sides.  I now went to town for a few days to see my mother and brother, and finding that the Herschels were also going to London, I took a seat in the afternoon post coach, contrary to my usual custom of travelling in the morning, in order to accompany them.  William Herschel I was much surprised, when taken up, to find Bridgetower in the coach. He said he was going to engage lodgings, preparatory to their settling in town for the winter. I knew the Herschels would not like being in his company, but it was a public coach, and nothing could be done, so we proceeded all together. At the White Horse Cellar, I urged the Herschels to take a hackney coach and see me safe to my mother’s; but no, they went on by the same conveyance to Paternoster Row, and I proceeded alone to St. James’s.  In the dark passages in the Palace, that black, Bridgetower, suddenly presented himself, under the desire of being introduced to my father and mother. I told him that my parents from age and ailments did not allow these freedoms to their children, and I entreated him not to trouble me, as the door on the staircase where we stood led to the public apartments of the Palace, and, as I was generally known, I should not like to be so seen. He then said he wanted to borrow a little money. I took my purse out quickly and gave him all I had, a guinea and a half, and begged he would not attempt to call, as he would not be admitted. I watched him safely away, and then ran quickly to my home.  I dared not tell my father, as he was angry enough about our exertions at the concert, observing that he knew from experience that no foreigner who asks anything from one, ever returns one’s aid either in gratitude or kind.  … On my return, Bridgetower called, having previously sent the money, so he was straightforward enough in this instance, but I told him in Mr. Papendeik’s presence never again to ask us to lend money, for we had already done what we could. I added that he must not conclude that the whole of the 25/. put into his hands after the concert had been received for tickets. He, of course, was not over well pleased with this speech, but I began, as did many others, not to be altogether satisfied with his conduct.  He shortly went to London with his son, and obtained an introduction to the Prince of Wales, who took a particular liking to the lad, and admired the father for his general elegance.

The Crescent at Bath
The Crescent at Bath. Victoria Art Gallery

The Morning Post of 25 November 1789, under the heading ‘Bath’ reported that,

Amongst those added to the Sunday promenade was the African Prince in Turkish Attire. The son of this African Prince has been celebrated as a very accomplished musician.

The local newspapers in Bath were constantly singing the praises of both father and son. Before and after the performance George’s father strolled along the promenade with George dressed in Turkish attire, attracting a great deal of attention.

The Morning Post of December 8, 1789 noted:


The young African prince, whose musical talents have been so much celebrated, had a more crowded and splendid concert on Saturday morning than has ever been known in this place. There were upwards of five hundred and fifty persons, and they were gratified by such skill on the violin as created general astonishment, as well as pleasure. Rauzzini was enraptured and declared that he had never heard such execution before, even from his friend, La Motte, who was, he thought, much inferior to the wonderful boy. The father was in the gallery, and so affected by the applause bestowed on his son, that tears of pleasure and gratitude flowed in profusion. The profits were estimated at two hundred guineas, many persons having given five guineas for each ticket.

A further insight into George’s father was provided by The Derby Mercury 10 December 1789, but with no mention being made of his mother, was she with them? It would later appear that George was only accompanied by his father.

The father is quite black, about the age of 35, tall, well made and remarkably agile. The son is of a mixed colour, his mother being a European, and one of the Polish nobility. They both speak most of the modern languages (particularly English) very fluently.

Just two days later, the Morning Post 12 December 1789, noted George’s performance.

The favourite concertante of Pleyel, a concerto on the bassoon by Holmes, another on the pianoforte, by Mrs Miles (Late Miss Guest) and one on the violin by Master Bridgetower, the little mulatto, who is not eleven years old, and yet a wonderful performer, were the instrumental excellences.

One of the most famous black musicians at the time was the Chevalier de Saint Georges, who, it appears was a good friend to the family.

ALEXANDRE-AUGUSTE ROBINEAU (1747-1828) The Chevalier de Saint-George (1745-99). Royal Collection Trust
ALEXANDRE-AUGUSTE ROBINEAU (1747-1828) The Chevalier de Saint-George (1745-99). Royal Collection Trust

The accomplished negro and his boy Bridgetower was born in Jamaica, and generously emancipated by his owner, on the score of wonderful talents. He has since visited Russia, Italy, Germany and France. It was his good fortune at Paris to acquire the friendship of the Chevalier St. George. He married a Polish lady of quality, from whom this miraculous child descended. The boy has been tutored by Haydn, the consequence is eminently honourable to the musician and his disciple.[2]

According to the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette (17 Dec 1789), George remained in Bath and on Christmas Eve entertained an audience with a violin concerto between the first and second Acts of Handel’s Messiah, at The Assembly Rooms.

The Oxford Journal 16 January 1790, excitedly reported that Oxford

Would have the pleasure of informing the public in general, and the cognoscenti in particular, they are likely soon to be gratified by hearing the wonderful abilities of Master Bridgetower on the violin, he being daily expected in this city.

It was rapidly becoming apparent from the media though, that George’s father was becoming more of a hindrance than a help in progressing his son’s career.  Was he simply a ‘pushy father’ or was there something more concerning about his behaviour?[3]  That will become clear later.

Miss Cantelo’s benefit concert at Bath was not equal to her friends’ expectations, notwithstanding Harrison and young Bridgetower both exhibited.

The Black Prince, father of the violinist, by being too officious, has lost the countenance of most of his benefactors, as his concert showed last Saturday morning at the Lower Rooms, – not fifty attended.

However, on 12 February 1790, The Public Advertiser announced that the following week[4], George would make his first performance in London at Drury Lane, when he was again to play a concerto between the first and second parts of Handel’s Messiah.

The day after the event, Woodfall’s Register, and The Public Advertiser provided their reviews of his performance and once again, this raises questions about George’s age, as in an earlier account he was said to be nearly eleven, this time, not yet ten!

Master Bridgetower, son of the African Prince, is a phaenomenon in the musical world. After the second part of the oratorio, he performed a concerto on the violin, which though not ten years of age, he executed with a degree of delicacy and skill that would have done credit to any professional man of the most established reputation.

By this time, George’s father was beginning to create major problems and appeared to be somewhat unstable, and there was an outburst in March 1790, which was alluded to in The Times, 15 March:

The Black Prince would do well, before he dare to disturb the peace of the English audiences – to study the old ballad – of “There’s a difference I sing, “Twix a Beggar and a King.”

Yet another snippet from Mrs Papendeik’s journal also appears to support this:

During this time, we were again annoyed by a visit from Bridgetower. He, one morning, going as he said to Salt Hill or somewhere in the neighbourhood, left his son with us, who took the opportunity to disclose to us his unhappy situation. He said that his mother was left in distress, and that the money he could earn by his music was wasted in crime even in his presence, and added that the brutal severity of his father must soon lead him to some desperate act. Mr. Papendiek could only pity and persuade the poor lad to be careful not to provoke or aggravate this man, now found out in his wickedness. When he returned, we had luncheon, and then they went off to London.

We heard in a short time that the son had taken refuge at Carlton House, and that the father had returned to Germany. Mr. Papendiek called to inquire into the business, when the Prince of Wales told him that one evening Bridgetower, having returned home with a companion, had desired his son to get under the sofa and to go to sleep. The first part of the command he obeyed, and, watching his opportunity, made his escape. He ran to Carlton House, where from having often been there to perform, he was well known and on supplicating protection, he was taken care of till the morning when the circumstance was related to the Prince.

His Royal Highness at once sent for the father and desired him to leave the kingdom immediately, saying that he would furnish him with a proper sum of money for the journey, and that hearing of his return to his wife and family, he would remit a trifle for present emergencies that he might have the opportunity of looking out for employment of a more honourable nature than he had pursued in this country. If he made arrangements for his immediate departure, the Prince said he would permit him to call for the money and to take leave of his son whom he and treated so cruelly. The prince from that time took the lad entirely under his protection and treated him from first to last with the utmost kindness.”

So, that was that, George’s father had disgraced himself in royal circles with his behaviour and treatment of his son and it appears that within a week, according to the Derby Mercury 8 April 1790, matters came to a head, with George’s father being placed in a lunatic asylum:

The father of the young performer on the violin, who styles himself the African Prince, is at present a resident in a receptacle for lunatics. The Prince of Wales, with his wonted goodness has humanely taken his son under his royal protection.

Just a few weeks later George was performing alongside another violinist, an Austrian, Franz Clement and performing at Hanover Square, under the patronage of His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales

For the benefit of Master Bridgetower, and Master Clement on Wednesday 2 June 1790, will be performed, a concert of vocal and instrumental music. The place of the performance will be advertised in a few days.[5]

On 26 May 1790, tickets for the concert were available from either, 9 Piccadilly where Clement resided or 20 Eaton Street, where George lived.

unknown artist; Thomas Attwood (1765-1838); Royal College of Music;

It becomes clear from the rates returns for Eaton Street, that George was by this time in fact residing at the home of Thomas and Mary Attwood, with George’s name later appearing  in A Musical Directory for 1794, showing that he remained with the Attwood family for a number of years.

So successful was George, that the Prince Regent took even more interest in the young man and appointed tutors for him, the likes of the French violinist, François Hippolyte Barthélemon, the leader of the Royal Opera, and Thomas Attwood who became the organist of St Paul’s Cathedral, composer of the Chapel Royal and musical instructor to the Duchess of York, and then the Princess of Wales, so it is clear that George, despite still being a child, was mixing at the highest level of British society.

King’s Theatre, Haymarket. Royal Collection Trust
King’s Theatre, Haymarket. Royal Collection Trust

George was certainly now gainfully employed as a musician as in February 1792 he performed at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket, according to the Public Advertiser. Then on 28 May he featured at Mr Barthélemon’s Concert at Hanover Square and later that year The Morning Post, confirmed that he played at The London Tavern, in a benefit concert, under the patronage of the Prince of Wales.


[2] Kent Gazette, 22 December 1789

[3] The Times, 26 Jan 1790

[4] Parke, William Thomas. Musical Memoirs: Comprising an Account of the General State of Music

[5] The World, 15 May 1790


The Funeral of King George III

King George III died on 29 January 1820 but it was to be a little over two weeks before his funeral took place on February 16, 1820, thus allowing time for everything to be put in place for such a grand event.  The funeral arrangements were made with France and Beckwith, who had also organised the funeral of Queen Charlotte, just less than two years earlier.

The Funeral of Queen Charlotte 1818. Royal Collection Trust
The Funeral of Queen Charlotte 1818. Royal Collection Trust

The newspapers reporting that the event was even bigger than the one which took place to celebrate his Golden Jubilee in 1809 and for the funeral for his late wife, Queen Charlotte in 1818.

George III (1738-1820) by Edward Bird, c.1810-1815
George III (1738-1820) by Edward Bird, c.1810-1815; Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives.

On all former occasions, lodging and horses were obtained on the day immediately preceding the occasion, but this time it was almost impossible to secure lodgings anywhere as everywhere was immediately booked as soon as the date was announced, with many people having to make do with a carpet to sleep on, rather than a bed.

At nine o’clock in the morning, several private friends of his late Majesty’s Household were admitted to see the body lying in state, shortly after which His Royal Highness the Duke of York, attended by Colonel Stephenson, inspected the preparations for the royal interment.

Windsor Castle - The Quire of St George’s Chapel 1818 by Charles Wild Royal Collection Trust
Windsor Castle – The Quire of St George’s Chapel 1818 by Charles Wild Royal Collection Trust

An hour later the gates were opened to the general public. Thousands of people wished to pay their respects and it became somewhat chaotic,  with men and women of all ages pressed against each other so closely that there was risk to life. The police who were stationed at the gates did their best to control the masses, but in vain. The shrieks of women and children could be heard in all directions, with several women fainting and having to be saved from being trodden underfoot.

A detachment of artillery, under the command of Colonel Cathcart, stationed in the Long Walk, began firing a salute at daylight, and continued five-minute guns up to eight in the evening, when they commenced firing one-minute guns (see link above for the original letter sent by Colonel Cathcart, late the night before, in the Royal Collection Trust, explaining how this would work.)

The Great Bell of the chapel, as well as the bells of Windsor and Eton, tolled the whole of the day. From the moment daylight appeared crowds of carriages were seen approaching the town from all directions.

During the course of the day, several thousand people were admitted into the apartments where the body lay in state, but the gates having been closed at 3pm, nearly an equal number were excluded from witnessing this truly song solemn and imposing scene.

At 7pm His Royal Highness, the Duke of York entered the chamber of mourning and took his seat of at the head of the coffin, where he was chief mourner until the body was removed.

St George's Hall, Windsor Castle c1816 by Charles Wild Royal Collection Trust
St George’s Hall, Windsor Castle c1816 by Charles Wild Royal Collection Trust

The following morning the different parties who had joined the procession, assembled in Saint George’s Hall, being marshalled by Sir G Naylor. There was some difficulty from the outset with the arrangements because far more people than anticipated wished to attend, but eventually, everything went to plan.

George III on on of Windsor Castle's terraces; Peter Edward Stroehling, c.1807
George III on of Windsor Castle’s terraces; Peter Edward Stroehling; Royal Collection Trust

The peers entered through Elizabeth Gate and on to the King’s Lodge, then passing across to Kitchen Gate, and entered the Castle at the eastern end of the state apartments. Tickets of admission to the Chapel were distributed, followed by tickets for admission to the lower yard through one part of which the procession was to pass. At a quarter to nine, the coffin was brought through the different rooms, upon the bier used at the funeral of her late majesty.

The Chapel was magnificently decorated in a style more splendid than had ever been seen before, with a raised platform, which extended through the South aisle, up the nave to the choir. It was covered with black cloth, upon each side were soldiers of the foot guards, every 2nd man holding a wax light, behind these were stationed around  500, Eton scholars, all of whom were admitted by special order of the now King George IV.

George III in his coronation robes, by Allan Ramsay.
George III in his coronation robes, by Allan Ramsay.

In the North aisle, seats, elevated above each other were arranged for the accommodation of those persons who had received tickets of admission, those tickets were inadmissible after 7pm. The choir was also prepared to receive persons of distinction and was calculated to hold 94 people. The Chapel was hung in black as well as the Knights’ stalls. The altar was also hung with black and near it erected temporary seats for foreign ministers and other strangers of distinction who attended the procession including the Duke of San Carlo, Count Lieven and Baron Linsingen. The communion table was covered with gold plate, from the Chapel Royal, London, as well as from the Chapel Royal at Windsor.

Funeral Procession of George III. British Museum
Funeral Procession of George III. British Museum

Over the royal mausoleum was a canopy of rich blue velvet. On the top was a gold crown upon a cushion; upon the border was a Gothic scroll with festoons beneath, upon each of which the royal arms were emblazoned. The chapel remained like this for several days, for the benefit of the public. The appearance of the procession, with the banners etc on descending the great staircase of the castle, was said to be incredibly striking.

Those who were admitted to the lower courtyard had a full view of the processions. Upon the procession reaching the Great Gate of St George’s Chapel on the South aisle, the King’s body was received by the Dean of Windsor and the organ immediately played ‘I am the resurrection and the life saith the Lord’. The funeral service composed by Dr Croft and Mr Purcell and the procession entered in order. The Royal body was placed on a platform, and the crowns and cushions laid thereon.

His Royal Highness the Duke of York, as chief mourner, was seated at the head of the corpse, with supporters on either side. The royal princes were seated near the chief mourner, with the Lord Chamberlain of his majesty’s household taking his place at the feet of the corpse.

It was about 9am when the first part of the procession entered the south aisle, and everyone had not taken their seats within the chapel until a little after 10am, the ceremony itself lasted about an hour.

King George III was buried in the chamber beneath St. George’s Chapel, along with other members of his family, Princess Amelia, his wife Queen Charlotte, Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV, (Prince Regent as he was when she died in 1817).

Featured Image

British (English) School; View of Windsor Castle from the River Thames; National Trust, Anglesey Abbey

Christmas 1819

Today I thought I’d take brief look back at what was making the news in December in 1819, so here we go.

Christmas Shopping

Very much as it is today, advertising for Christmas was in full swing, with retailers mainly recommending books as gifts, but if you wanted to buy someone a gift with real possibilities then you could do as one gentleman did for his daughter at Blackheath, London when he presented her with a Lottery Share from Piddings of No.1 Cornhill. She won a quarter share of twenty thousand guineas. What a lovely Christmas gift that must have been.

Of course they too had their Boxing Day sales as we discover at Mr A. Shears, Bedford House, 11 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden


Bombazines in all colours cheaper and better than ever. Rich figures and plain poplins at little more than half price. Beautiful velvets 9 shillings and 6 pence per yard. Fine merino and ladies’ clothes warranted never to wear rough.

As it is today, it was also Pantomime Season for those Georgians too,  ‘Oh no it isn’t, Oh yes, it is’!

Joseph Grimaldi, The Clown. The Garrick Club
Joseph Grimaldi, The Clown. The Garrick Club

Yes, those Georgians loved the pantomime and of course if you were in London you had several choices as to which to. All went well at the Adelphi, according to The Globe, December 28th, 1819 and Drury Lane theatre hosted the premiere of a brand new pantomime – Jack and The Beanstalk:

The entertainment at this small but attractive theatre brought a very numerous audience last night. The pit, at an early hour, was crowed to excess and the boxes, before the rising of the curtain, exhibited the same appearance. The entertainments commenced with the principal dancers with much elegance and effect. A pantomime called The Fairy of the North Star, or Harlequin at Labrador, was produced for the first time this season. Though it has no incidents particularly new or striking, it is not however, without merit, and did not fail in affording pleasure and amusement to the Christmas visitors.

The new pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk; or Harlequin and the Ogre was first performed at Drury Lane theatre on the same day. Jack, performed by Miss Povey, who sang, is in poverty, and the little money which he had gained by a sale, is, by the Genie of the Harp, turned into beans, which the mother indignantly throws away. A fine ‘scarlet runner’ soon sprouts forth and threatens to wind round the moon. Jack ascends and reaches the fierce Ogres’ Castle.

The various hair-breadth escapes in endeavouring to rescue the damsel, Junetta found there, is the ground work of the subsequent changes and Harlequinading. Their approach was most acceptable, as the early scenes were heavy, there being too much narrative and too little action.

In Royal News

The Prince of Wales accompanied by Sir B Bloomfield visited the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester in Marlborough Row on Christmas Eve of 1819. The Bells of the parish church immediately rung a merry peal on the occasion.

Lawrence, Thomas; George IV (1762-1830), Reigned as Regent (1811-1820), and as King (1820-1830); National Galleries of Scotland
Lawrence, Thomas; George IV (1762-1830), Reigned as Regent (1811-1820), and as King (1820-1830); National Galleries of Scotland

His Royal Highness had the happiness to find the Duchess of Gloucester (who has been indisposed for a few day), much recovered.  On Christmas Day, at noon, divine service was performed in the presence of the Regent, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and the royal suite, by the Rev. J.R Carr. The Regent and the Duchess received the sacrament. The royal dinner party was small and select. At nine o’clock a few of the nobility joined the assemblage, and a charming selection of music was performed for the entertainment of the guests. The workmen an artists of the Pavilion, anxious to get everything ready for the reception of his Royal Highness, had assembled on Christmas Day, but a mandate from the Regent quickly occasioned their dismissal, his Royal Highness positively ordering that the day should be observed as one of rest and sacred devotion.

The Irish Free School

An appeal to the public was made a few days ago by Mr Finnegan, the Master of The Irish Free School, in George Street. St Giles on behalf of 240 of the destitute children of his fellow natives. On Christmas Day we visited these schools and were highly gratified at seeing the greater part of those suffering innocents (boys and girls) provided with new clothing, which we understand has been procured for them through the liberal aid of a generous public. At two o’clock all the children sat down to a plentiful dinner of plum pudding, beef and potatoes, at the expense of a gentleman, a long benefactor to the institution. Our pleasure, we confess was greatly increased at seeing ladies of the highest respectability become servants of these poor children.

Newgate Prison

On Saturday, as usual on Christmas Day, the Lord Mayor ordered the prisoners in Newgate to receive each one pound of beef, a pint of porter and a two-penny loaf of bread, in addition to the increased allowance of bread, meat and coals, given by the City of London.

And finally …

Christmas Food Fight

On Christmas morning a ludicrous event occurred in Union Street, Holborn. As two women, residing in George Alley were carrying dishes to the oven to be baked, they ran into two drunken labourers. The dishes which contained in one, a piece of beef and the other a loin of mutton, each with a batter pudding, both were thrown out of their hands. Here the fun began. The women, on finding their Christmas dinner was spoiled were so enraged that they grabbed the two men by their hair and beat them around their heads with the beef and mutton until they were covered with grease, milk and flour much to the amusement of the large crowd which had now gathered.

Eventually after some intervention peace was restored, and the two women left the scene and headed to the nearest public house, where they drowned their sorrows with copious amounts of rum, gin and beer.

I would like to wish you all a very happy festive season.

If you’re still searching for that last minute Christmas present, then perhaps take a look at the Bookshelf, you might just find what you’re looking for.

Sources Used

Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser 28 December 1819

Morning Advertiser 27 December 1819

Bell’s Weekly Messenger 26 December 1819

Statesman 27 December 1819

Prinny’s Brighton, Piccadilly by the Sea-side By Regan Walker

We are thrilled as always, to welcome back Regan Walker, whose latest book in the Agents of the Crown series, ‘Rogue’s Holiday‘ has just been released and for which there are further details of how to obtain a copy at the end of her article.  Today Regan is going to tell us more about Prinny’s Brighton, so, over to Regan:

When George, the Prince of Wales, reigned as the Prince Regent, beginning in 1811, and even after he became king in 1820, Brighton on the south coast of England was his favourite destination. It was fifty-four miles from London as the road winds, close enough to travel to in one day. The seaside resort provided all the pleasures of the Beau Monde without the discomforts of town. William Wilberforce, after a visit in 1815, dubbed the town “Piccadilly by the sea-side.”

Brighton loved the Prince Regent. Whatever criticisms he may have faced for his lifestyle, the Brighton newspapers celebrated his frequent visits and looked forward to welcoming all those who flocked the seaside town to enjoy what became “the Brighton Season”.

In 1822, the Brighton Gazette reported:

Gay and fashionable equipages are daily pouring into the town, and every thing gives promise of a brilliant and prosperous winter season. Many large houses on the Cliffs, Marine Parade, etc. have been engaged for Noblemen within the last fortnight… Who indeed would not fly the dirt and smoke of the crowded metropolis for a place like Brighton, where he may at once enjoy the pure and healthful breezes of the ocean, and a salubrious climate, without being subject to the dreary ennui of a country life?

Nash’s ‘Views of the Royal Pavilion’, 1826. Brighton Museums
Nash’s ‘Views of the Royal Pavilion’, 1826. Brighton Museums

For the Prince, Brighton became a fantasy escape from his narrow-minded and staid parents who failed to appreciate their son and heir. More than anyone, they were responsible for making Prinny the Grand Corinthian. Thus, it should have come as no surprise that the Prince would build a palace that would be a mogul’s dream where he could entertain his eclectic bevy of friends in grand fashion, including of course, the characters in my story.

The Marine Parade that ran along the shore and the Old Steyne that fronted the Pavilion were wide paths available for a morning or afternoon stroll. But one could certainly keep busy in Brighton. Visitors were offered an endless array of balls, concerts, soirees, private dinners, theatrical events, interspersed with riding, card games and other entertainments.

Nash’s ‘Views of the Royal Pavilion’, 1826. Brighton Museums
Nash’s ‘Views of the Royal Pavilion’, 1826. Brighton Museums

The Pavilion’s designer was architect John Nash who built it in three stages until it became the palace we think of today with its many domes and minarets. There, Prinny reigned as the beneficent patron of the foremost artists and literary men of his age and entertained his diverse friends in the rooms decorated in chinoiserie style to look like the home of a Chinese emperor who lived in a kingdom of flowers and perpetual spring. Rooms, such as the Music Room, pictured above, which Prinny kept overheated with candles and gas lamps.

As the town grew, entertainments were added to rival those of London. Hotels, shops, theatres and a racecourse stood at ready. Castle Square next to the Pavilion and half of North Street were the Bond Street of Brighton where one could buy cloth, shoes, cigars, porcelain and many other things. North Street was home to sixty shops by 1820, the year of my story. By 1808, Brighton also had a department store, Hanningtons, on North Street. Added to that, there were dozens of taverns and hotels, that featured balls and card games. All of the taverns, shops, shopkeepers and hotels mentioned in Rogue’s Holiday existed at the time.

The Castle Inn adjacent to the Pavilion had an assembly room and a smaller room used as a tearoom. The Old Ship Inn, the oldest hotel in Brighton, also had a tearoom. And there was yet another tearoom erected in 1805 in the gardens of a public house a mile away in Preston.

Brighton Museums
Brighton Museums

Among Brighton’s many attractions was sea bathing, where one could be towed to the water in small boxes on wheels to swim, as my heroine does, in the altogether or, if you prefer, in one of the gowns provided. The men’s and women’s bathing areas were separated, of course. Dippers (for women) and bathers (for men) were employed to make sure the person’s head was dipped into the water. Dipping took place year round since the cold water was considered to be good for the health.

Brighton Fishing Boats on the Beach. Drawn and etched by E.W. Cooke, 1829. Pavilion archive
Brighton Fishing Boats on the Beach. Drawn and etched by E.W. Cooke, 1829. Pavilion archive

A wholesale fish market was held on the beach, supplied by 100 ships that sailed in the afternoon or evening and returned in the morning. Mackerel were in season from May to the end of July. Also, Sole, Brill, Turbot (common at all seasons) and Dories were in plentiful supply. As you will see in Rogue’s Holiday, while the fish market proceeded on shore, the boats hoisted their nets to dry.

Among Brighton’s most famous residents was Prinny’s Catholic wife, Maria Fitzherbert,  a virtuous woman who took her marriage to Prince George seriously even if he did not. All of Brighton respected her. The king must have had her on his mind when he died in 1830, for he was buried wearing a locket containing her miniature.

Mrs. Maria Anne Fitzherbert Thomas Gainsborough - 1784. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco - Legion of Honor (United States - San Francisco, California)
Mrs. Maria Anne Fitzherbert Thomas Gainsborough – 1784. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco – Legion of Honor (United States – San Francisco, California)

A curious feature in the category of equipages was the fly carriage, a small covered carriage you might see around Brighton drawn by a man and an assistant. They were very convenient for navigating the narrow streets and had room for two. The ones that Prinny and his noble friends used for midnight excursions were dubbed “fly-by-nights”.

Fly by Night c1823 Brighton Museums
Fly by Night c1823 Brighton Museums

Prinny’s yacht, the HMY the Royal George, was commissioned in 1817 and could often be seen anchored off shore of Brighton when he was in residence. In my story, set in 1820, the king invites my characters to dine onboard. Among Prinny’s friends invited that evening were Lord Alvanley, Sir Bellingham and his wife Harriot, Sir John Lade and his wife Letty, and Elizabeth Conyngham, Marchioness Conyngham, the king’s mistress.

I have described the Royal George, in detail as my research provided. The great cabin really did have windows of plate glass, a skylight, gilded dark wood panelling, a Brussels carpet beneath a mahogany table and a pianoforte, among other accoutrements. As my hero, Sir Robert, said, the king liked to travel in style.

The Royal Yacht 'The Royal George', at Portsmouth Signed and dated 1820. Royal Collection Trust
The Royal Yacht ‘The Royal George’, at Portsmouth Signed and dated 1820. Royal Collection Trust

Even a spy needs a holiday…

​Robert Powell’s work as a spy saves the Cabinet ministers from a gruesome death and wins him accolades from George IV. As a reward, the king grants him a baronetcy and a much-deserved holiday at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton where he thinks to indulge in brandy, cards, good horseflesh and women.

But when Muriel, Dowager Countess of Claremont, learns of Sir Robert’s intended destination, she begs a favour…to watch over an “errant child” who is the grandniece of her good friend living in the resort town. Little does Robbie know that Miss Chastity Reynolds is no child but a beautiful hoyden who is seemingly immune to his charms.

Chastity lives in the shadow of her mother and sisters, dark-haired beauties men admire. Her first Season was a failure but, as she will soon come into a family legacy, she has no need to wed. When she first encounters Sir Robert, she dubs him The Rogue, certain he indulges in a profligate lifestyle she wants no part in.

In Brighton, Robbie discovers he is being followed by friends of the conspirators who had planned to murder the Cabinet. Worse, they know the location of Chastity’s residence.

Below are all the ways you can find out about and purchase Regan’s books, so feel free to click on the highlighted links.

Amazon US


The Pinterest board for Rogue’s Holiday:

Regan’s website:

Amazon Author Page:



Selected sources for post:

A Prince’s Passion: The Life of the Royal Pavilion by Jessica Rutherford

The Royal Pavilion Brighton, edited by David Beevers

Brighton and Hove by Nicholas Antram and Richard Morrice

Prinny and His Pals by Tom Ambrose

The Brighton Road by Charles Harper

The Brighton and Lewes Guide, by J.V. Button, 1805

The Brighton Gleaner, 1822

The New Brighton Guide, 1796

The Royal Diets of George III and George IV

Unlike George IV, known for his excesses in all matters, his father was the complete opposite and abstained from any form of excess in the food department, so much so that even the newspapers felt obliged to write about it. George III was a creature of habit and had a routine that was only ever to be disturbed by special events or meetings that he had to attend.

George III on on of Windsor Castle's terraces; Peter Edward Stroehling, c.1807
George III on on of Windsor Castle’s terraces; Peter Edward Stroehling; Royal Collection Trust

His day typically began at 7am and after washing and being dressed, his majesty would then take a walk before breakfast. If they were are Windsor he would spend time at the stables checking over his horses, but when at Kew he would inspect his workmen and suggest ideas for improvement – clearly he did his best thinking first thing in the morning.

He used to take breakfast alone, but as he got older he would dine with the rest of the family. It was a frugal affair but with the added luxury of a cup of cocoa (my kind of breakfast!)

The Chocolate Maiden; M. Beaune; Museums Sheffield
The Chocolate Maiden; M. Beaune; Museums Sheffield

The Queen and Princesses would enter the breakfast parlour at nine o’clock precisely and about 10 o’clock they would retire to do their own thing. The King would take a ride or deal with paperwork in his study. The Queen and the princesses would take a ride in the royal carriages.

Dinner would be served at exactly 1 o’clock, early by Georgian standards, at which time he ate the plainest food, usually beef or mutton and very occasionally fish.  As a special treat the King would eat boiled chicken, followed by a pudding.

Frogmore House: The Dining Room c. 1819. Royal Collection Trust
Frogmore House: The Dining Room c. 1819. Royal Collection Trust

His favourite drink was orange juice, but he also enjoyed a simple beverage called a ‘cup’, which was distilled from the herb, borage, which was then mixed with white wine – perhaps to make it more palatable. Borage was traditionally used to treat a whole host of conditions – the digestive system, asthma, the heart, urinary system – so basically a good all round tonic. It was also believed to have a calming effect for different types of mania – so possibly prescribed by the King’s doctors to keep him calm (today it’s often used to treat menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes).

Temperance enjoying a frugal meal. British Museum
Temperance enjoying a frugal meal. British Museum

At four o’clock the Queen and Princesses dined separately, but even before the table was cleared the King would arrive for a chat about the favourite topic of the day taking tea or coffee with them.

This passed the time until about 6 o’clock when they separated and got ready for the evening parties.  The day typically ended with either cards or music. Sometimes Princess Amelia would play the piano accompanied by her sister Princess Mary who apparently was an excellent singer.

Now we know that the Prince Regent, later George IV, had quite an appetite, but when taking a closer look at a book which gave a full breakdown of what everyone ate, from the Prince down to the lowliest of the royal kitchen maids, overall, the sheer volume of food consumed almost defies belief.

A Voluptuary Under the Horrors of Digestion. Lewis Walpole Library.
A Voluptuary Under the Horrors of Digestion. Lewis Walpole Library.

George’s favourite breakfast consisted of two pigeons, three beefsteaks, three parts of a bottle of white wine, a glass of dry champagne, two glasses of port and a glass of brandy. It should come as no surprise then that George was indeed rather rotund in stature.

From household accounts though, it would appear that George himself made an occasional attempt at dieting, probably following advice from his doctors. Sober meals of plain boiled salmon and rice soup appeared on dinner menus, but one can only assume that these half-hearted attempts at dieting failed; especially considering that alongside these dishes were the somewhat less slimming sweetbreads and lobster-au-gratin.

Thomas Coutts (1735-1822) by William Beechey. City of Edinburgh Council
Thomas Coutts (1735-1822) by William Beechey. City of Edinburgh Council

I came across this amusing little anecdote about the extremely wealthy banker Thomas Coutts who was staying as a guest of the Prince of Wales in Brighton. The story goes that, the morning after the night before, Thomas Coutts, nursing something of a hangover, decided to take a breath of air and was sitting outside the pavilion when an eccentric elderly lady approached him, assuming he was a beggar due to his attire (it had clearly been quite a party), she handed him a token for five shillings issued by Coutts bank to buy himself breakfast. She also said she would speak to her friends as she felt sure that between them they could raise enough money to buy him a dinner. Coutts thanks her profusely and said he would wait for her on the same bench that evening.

Sure enough, in the middle of the Prince’s banquet, Coutts slipped out unnoticed and returned to the same bench. The elderly lady and her friends soon appeared and she cried out, ‘there’s my distressed old friend for whom I ask your charity’That’, exclaimed one of the ladies, ‘ why that’s Mr …’ but before she could utter the great banker’s name, the Prince of Wales appeared from behind, and to the amazement of the benevolent lady, slapped the poor old man on the back and shouted loudly ‘ Tom Coutts, we have  fined you a bottle for leaving your glass’, Thus leaving the elderly lady speechless and embarrassed. We never did find out whether he returned her initial five shillings or not – presumably not, that’s why he remained so wealthy!

He Stoops to Conquer or Royal George Sunk. Brighton Museums
He Stoops to Conquer or Royal George Sunk. Brighton Museums

All in all, George was destined for greatness, quite literally and it was a fact that didn’t go unnoticed. His wife Caroline, on first meeting him, commented “he is very fat, and he is nothing like as handsome as his portrait”; perhaps why the famously unhappy marriage didn’t work.

The Duchess of Gloucester drew the comparison between George and “a great feather bed”.

It supposedly took three hours to lace him into his girdle and whale bone corset due to all the “bulging”. Once girdled his waist measured 55 inches, however, this feat of engineering was such, that the tightness of the girdle almost caused George to faint during his own coronation and contemporaries are recorded as saying that his natural stomach hung between his knees. Someone else, rather unkindly likened him to a “great sausage stuffed into the covering”.

It was most definitely not a case of ‘like father, like son‘!


Brighton Museums

The Ipswich Journal 11 October 1788

Morning Advertiser 19 February 1827

London Courier and Evening Gazette 1 November 1805

Manchester Mercury 14 January 1812

George III's Procession to the Houses of Parliament in his new State Coach, attributed to John Wootton.

The Gold State Coach

LONDON, January 8.

Yesterday the old State Coach, built for King George I and the Carriages of his late Majesty, given by the late Master of the Horse to the Servants, were sold at Bever’s Repository; it is remarkable the Gold Lace of the State Coach, which was taken off before the sale and burnt, amounted to 53l. 19s.

A new superb State Coach is building for his Majesty, which, when finished, will be the most magnificent ever seen in this Kingdom.

(Derby Mercury, 9 January 1761)

George III had taken the throne on 25 October 1760, upon the death of his grandfather, George II (George III’s father, the old king’s eldest son, had died in 1751). His coronation took place almost a year later, on 22 September 1761, but if he was hoping that his new State Coach would be ready for the occasion, then he was going to be sorely disappointed. It took almost two years for the coach to be completed, for it was no ordinary coach. It would be, the new king decided, the most elegant and magnificent coach that had ever been seen in his kingdom.

George III in his coronation robes, by Allan Ramsay.
George III in his coronation robes, by Allan Ramsay.

It is said a new State-Coach is going to be built (from a design already made by a celebrated English Artist) which for elegance, taste, and grandeur, will, it is thought, excel any thing of the kind ever yet doe in Europe; and we have the pleasure to add, that the construction, painting, and every other part of the same, is to be the work of our own countrymen.

(Leeds Intelligencer, 20 January 1761)

Sir William Chambers, a Scottish/Swedish architect was responsible for the original design, while the contract for building the vehicle was given to the coachmaker, Samuel Butler. Then came the ornamentation, carved sculpture by Joseph Wilton which was then gilded by Henry Pujolas and decorated by the metal chaser, George Coyte.

Sir William Chamber's design for the new State Coach, 1760.
Sir William Chamber’s design for the new State Coach, 1760. © Royal Collection Trust

The whole concept was for the coach to be the most wonderful – and therefore the most expensive – ever to have been built in England, and the decoration was full of symbolism. It was intended that ‘when riding in the coach, the King would appear as Neptune, monarch of the seas, and also Apollo, leader of the muses of artistic innovation’.

There are four Triton, mythical sea-gods placed on the body of the coach and, at the front, almost appear to be pulling the coach. Whether it was intended or not, in motion the coach rocked about as if it was rolling on the high seas, to the distress of those inside! When George III’s younger son, William IV used the coach during his reign in the 1830s, he complained that it was just like being on board a ship ‘tossing in a rough sea’, and as he’d served in navy for many years, he ought to have known.

The Gold State Coach, built in 1762.
The Gold State Coach, built in 1762. © Royal Collection Trust

The first outing of this magnificent new state coach was on 25 November 1762 when the king travelled in it to the State Opening of Parliament. So great was the public interest, that anyone with rooms in and around Parliament Street were able to rent them out at exorbitant rates for the day, and those ladies and gentlemen lucky enough to get one leaned out of the windows to watch the king pass by in his state coach, drawn by eight horses. As it turned out, watching from above was by far the safest vantage point.

London, November 25

This Day, about two o’clock, his Majesty went to the House of Lords from St James’s in his new State Coach, drawn by eight fine cream coloured horses, ornamented with blue ribbands and Morocco trappings. His Majesty went through the Park, and was attended by the Lords Oxford and Cadogan, the Master of the Horse and other principal Officers of State. The crowd was so great on this occasion, and carriages so numerous, that they extended quite from St James’s to the Parliament House, and it was with great difficulty that foot passengers could pass along the streets. In Parliament Street, one of the horses which drew his Majesty’s Coach fell down, and occasioned some little confusion, but we do not hear of any damage.

(Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 2 December 1762)

George III's Procession to the Houses of Parliament in his new State Coach, attributed to John Wootton.
George III’s Procession to the Houses of Parliament in his new State Coach, attributed to John Wootton. © Royal Collection Trust

The crowds were so great that they led to injuries and even – reportedly – to death. The first accident occurred just as the coach left the gates of the Royal Mews on Charing Cross when a young woman fell beneath the hooves of one of the Life Guards horses. We haven’t found any further report on her, but it reads as if she survived her accident. The deaths were due to the immense press of people in confined spaces.

In the narrow passage leading from Spring Gardens into the park, a woman and child were crushed to death, and their bodies were laid on the grass in the park; another woman and a lad are said also to have been crushed to death near the Horse Guards, and several were beat down and trampled on, and had their arms broke, and otherwise much bruised; and divers women lost their hats, capuchins, gowns, shoes, &c. I the crowd.

(Derby Mercury, 26 November 1762)

The Gold State Coach is still used for ceremonial occasions, but has been modernised over the years to give a (slightly!) more comfortable ride.

Sources not mentioned above:

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 2 September 1762

Derby Mercury, 26 November 1762

Leeds Intelligencer, 20 January 1761

Royal Collection Trust: notes against object RCIN 917942, Design for the State Coach by Sir William Chambers and object RCIN 5000048, the Gold State Coach.

Victoria, Duchess of Kent with Princess Victoria (holding a miniature of her late father, Edward, Duke of Kent) by Sir William Beechey, 1821.

The scramble for a royal heir

Although George III had 15 children, and all but two of them survived to adulthood, grandchildren – at least legitimate ones – were thin on the ground. In 1817, when the Prince Regent’s daughter, Princess Charlotte of Wales died in childbirth (her son was stillborn), there was something of a constitutional crisis.

Princess Charlotte of Wales, after George Dawe, 1817.
Princess Charlotte of Wales, after George Dawe, 1817. Royal Collection Trust.

Three of the king’s daughters had married, but none of them had any surviving issue.  The two eldest sons, George, the Prince Regent (and future George IV) and Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany had both separated from their wives long before; both were now childless, and weren’t in a position to provide an heir.

The Soldier's Return: Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albay and his wife, Princess Frederica.The Soldier's Return.
The Soldier’s Return: Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albay and his wife, Princess Frederica. The Soldier’s Return. © British Museum

Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex was married and had children, but as he had married secretly and in contravention of the 1772 Royal Marriages Act, his union was deemed invalid and his children barred from the line of succession.

Prince Augustus, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843). Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Prince Augustus, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843). Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Prince Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland was also married, to his first cousin, Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, but the couple – at that time – had no children (a daughter had been stillborn in 1817).

And so, an unseemly scramble to a) marry and/or b) beget an heir to the throne broke out. In 1818, there were three royal marriages.

Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, the king’s youngest surviving son (he was 44), was first off the starting block; he married Augusta of Hesse-Kassel in her homeland on 7 May 1818, and again in London (at Buckingham Palace) on 1 June. In a recurrent theme for the family, this marriage would, however, prove childless. Prince Edward, Duke of Kent was only a few weeks behind his younger brother; he settled on Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and married in Coburg on 29 May, and again at Kew Palace on 11 July. The royal family tree is a tangled one and this marriage is a perfect example. The new Duchess of Kent had been the sister-in-law of the duke’s deceased niece, Princess Charlotte of Wales.

Victoria, Duchess of Kent (Queen Victoria's mother)
Victoria, Duchess of Kent. © Royal Collection Trust

Rounding up the year’s royal weddings was the king’s third son, Prince William, Duke of Clarence who already had a brood of ten children by his long-term mistress, the actress Dorothea Jordan, all born illegitimately and given the surname FitzClarence. He married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen at Kew on 11 July in a double ceremony with his brother, Prince Edward.

La promenade en famille: a sketch from life. The Duke of Clarence (later William IV), Dorothea Jordan and some of their brood of children.
La promenade en famille: a sketch from life. The Duke of Clarence, Dorothea Jordan and some of their children.

The race to produce an heir was well and truly on. So, how did it play out?

After three weddings in 1818, several royal children were born the following year. The Duke and Duchess of Cumberland had a daughter, but she lived only a few hours and the Cambridge’s had a son. On 24 May 1819, Princess Alexandrina Victoria, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Kent was born and, three days later, the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland had a boy, Prince George. The little princess took priority over the princes in the succession because her father, the Duke of Kent, was older than the Dukes of Cumberland and Cambridge.

Edward, Duke of Kent, 1818.
Edward, Duke of Kent, 1818. © Royal Collection Trust

George III died in 1820, and the Prince Regent took the throne as King George IV. At his death, ten years later, the Duke of Clarence was next in line and he ruled as William IV (the second son, Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany had died in 1827, still estranged from his wife). William IV’s wife and queen, Adelaide, suffered a succession of miscarriages and stillbirths, and the couple had no living children.

George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1821. © Royal Collection Trust
George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1821. © Royal Collection Trust

Princess Alexandrina Victoria, born because of that mad scramble for an heir, was next in the line of succession. Her father, the Duke of York, had died of pneumonia before she was a year old. In the portrait of her as a child with her mother (below), the young princess holds a miniature of her father.

Victoria, Duchess of Kent with Princess Victoria (holding a miniature of her late father, Edward, Duke of Kent) by Sir William Beechey, 1821.
Victoria, Duchess of Kent with Princess Victoria (holding a miniature of her late father, Edward, Duke of Kent) by Sir William Beechey, 1821. © Royal Collection Trust

Princess Alexandrina – known to her close family as Drina – is obviously much better known as Queen Victoria. She came to the throne on 20 June 1837 upon the death of her uncle, William IV, but as a woman was unable to also inherit Hanover which since George I had been held dually with the British crown. That went to the next male heir, her uncle Prince Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland who became King of Hanover. Victoria’s cousin, Prince George, who was born just three days after her own birth, would in time become the last King of Hanover.

Hanoverian Family Tree. (Image sourced via the National Archives, © Royal Family History)
Hanoverian Family Tree. (Image sourced via the National Archives, © Royal Family History)
Frederick and Augusta, Prince and Princess of Wales by Gaetano Manini, 1758. © Royal Collection Trust

The First Duke of Edinburgh

In 1726, a new title was created in the peerage, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the recipient was Prince Frederick Louis, George I’s grandson.

The new duke was second in the line of succession to the throne behind his father, George Augustus who was, in 1726, the Prince of Wales.

Prince Frederick Louis, c.1720-1725. © Royal Collection Trust
Prince Frederick Louis, c.1720-1725. © Royal Collection Trust

News of his new title had to be carried to Hanover, for that was where Frederick lived. In 1714, when Queen Anne had died and his grandfather had taken the British throne as George I, Frederick’s parents, George, Prince of Wales and Caroline of Ansbach, the new Princess of Wales, had been forced to travel to England and leave their eldest son behind to represent the dynasty in Hanover (despite the fact that he was only seven years old).

Delighted with the news from England, celebrations were prepared at the Hanoverians’ summer residence, Herrenhausen Palace.

Hanover, Sept. 20. One the 12th inst. there was a great Entertainment at Herrenhausen, on Prince Frederick’s being created Duke of Edinburgh. There was a numerous Court, and at Night a fine Firework at the End of the Garden.

(Caledonian Mercury, 27 September 1726)

Herrenhausen Palace, Hanover, c.1708
Herrenhausen Palace, Hanover, c.1708 (via Wikimedia)

At the same time as Frederick had been created Duke of Edinburgh, his younger brother, William (who had been born in England) was made Duke of Cumberland, a title which had first been held by his 2x great-uncle, Prince Rupert of the Rhine. Prince William was only five years old, while Frederick was nineteen; the former was the focus and the favourite of the British royal court while Frederick, overseas and out-of-sight, was overlooked and becoming ostracized.

Frederick did not use his new title for long; on 11 June 1727 George I died, and Frederick’s father took the throne as George II. Frederick was – finally – brought to Britain, but father and son rarely saw eye-to-eye. On 8 January 1729, Frederick was invested as the Prince of Wales and his eldest son, George, was given the Edinburgh dukedom.

Frederick and Augusta, Prince and Princess of Wales by Gaetano Manini, 1758. © Royal Collection Trust
Frederick and Augusta, Prince and Princess of Wales by Gaetano Manini, 1758. © Royal Collection Trust

Frederick never became king; he predeceased his father, George II and instead his son, George, the 2nd Duke of Edinburgh (and Prince of Wales after Frederick’s death) succeeded as George III, and so we have the unbroken reigns of the four Georges which give the period it’s moniker, the Georgian era.

Hanoverian Family Tree. (Image sourced via the National Archives, © Royal Family History)
Hanoverian Family Tree. (Image sourced via the National Archives, © Royal Family History)

The title of Duke of Edinburgh fell into abeyance in 1760 with George III’s accession to the throne, but was resurrected by Queen Victoria for her second son, Prince Alfred (although the monarch’s second son is traditionally created Duke of York). And, in 1947, in its third creation, the title was bestowed on Prince Philip.

A drawing room at St James's Palace from the Microcosm of London (1808-1810)

King George III’s 70th birthday

King George III celebrated his 70th birthday on 4 June 1808.

George III on on of Windsor Castle's terraces; Peter Edward Stroehling, c.1807
George III on on of Windsor Castle’s terraces; Peter Edward Stroehling; Royal Collection Trust

The king was losing his eyesight and, because of this, wasn’t present at his birthday court at St James’s Palace, but did receive several members of the nobility at Buckingham House (as Buckingham Palace was then known).

The morning was, as usual, ushered in with the ringing of bells, at noon the Park and Tower guns were fired, the ships in the Thames displayed their colours, and the flags and standards of the United Kingdom were hoisted on the different churches and public buildings. The streets in the neighbourhood of the Palace were crowded to an excess, and the windows in St James’s Street in particular, exhibited a display of beauty and splendour rarely to be witnessed in any country.

The royal family – minus the king – all began to arrive throughout the day, and assembled for ‘Her Majesty’s drawing-room’. The Prince of Wales, predictably, made sure everyone noticed his entrance.

At two o’clock the Prince of Wales and his Suite, in three carriages, and servants in state liveries, dress hats and feathers, proceeded from Carlton House to the Drawing Room, and entered by the private door in the Park. His Royal Highness was attended by the Duke of Clarence, Lords Keith and Dundas, Generals Lee and Hulse, and Colonels McMahon, Lee and Bloomfield.

The music playing had been specified by the king, but it was the queen who received the company, and all the nobility were present. Everyone had to wear full court dress and the queen continued to stipulate that ladies had to wear full hoops under their skirts, in an echo of the fashions of several decades earlier. Coupled with the trend for gowns with a slim silhouette in the early years of the nineteenth-century, the full skirts of the dresses which had to be worn at court looked ridiculously cumbersome. They certainly weren’t the most flattering of dresses to wear!

A drawing room at St James's Palace from the Microcosm of London (1808-1810)
A drawing room at St James’s Palace from the Microcosm of London (1808-1810)

A sketch of one of the dresses worn has survived at this particular Drawing Room, and it was worn by the Countess, later Marchioness of Cholomondeley, someone we’ve written about at length. The Earl of Cholmondeley had, a few years prior to his marriage, been the lover of that ‘infamous courtesan’, Grace Dalrymple Elliott. And Grace had also, for just a few weeks in 1781, been the mistress of Cholmondeley’s boon friend, the Prince of Wales, and had subsequently given birth to the prince’s daughter. That girl, Georgiana Seymour (no, we don’t know why she had the surname Seymour either!) was brought up by the Cholmondeleys, treated as their own daughter. Georgiana, 26-years-of-age, couldn’t attend the court, however. The queen had agreed with her son that she should not be presented until she was married, lest the king realise exactly who she was. (Georgiana married in September 1808, and she was present at King George’s 1809 birthday court, as you can discover in our first book, An Infamous Mistress.)

The newspapers described the Countess of Cholmondeley’s dress as follows:

A yellow satin petticoat, covered with a rich Brussels point lace, with a rich border; the train of yellow satin; the sleeves ornamented with rich lace.

La Belle Assemblée magazine went into more detail.

Explanation of Lady Cholmondeley’s Court-Dress: A bright primrose-coloured sarsnet petticoat trimmed full round the bottom with point lace, and a rich drapery of the same, most tastefully festooned with diamond chains, and ostrich feathers in the form of the Prince’s plume reversed. Body and train of primrose sarsnet; the latter trimmed with lace, and the former ornamented with the most splendid diamond wreath to represent the oak leaf and fruit, placed obliquely across the front of the bust; the sleeves finished to match, and the bottom of the waist confined with a diamond cestus. Head-dress court lappets of point; a diamond bandeau and rich coronet, with four ostrich feathers of unequal lengths, most tastefully disposed. Splendid earrings of the oval form; necklace and bracelets also of brilliants. Gloves of French kid, considerably above the elbow. Shoes of white satin with silver trimming.

And, here is the dress:

Georgiana Charlotte (née Bertie), Countess (later Marchioness) of Cholmondeley's Court Dress as worn on his Majesty's Birthday, June 1808. La Belle Assemblée.
Georgiana Charlotte (née Bertie), Countess (later Marchioness) of Cholmondeley’s Court Dress as worn on his Majesty’s Birthday, June 1808. La Belle Assemblée. © National Portrait Gallery, London


Sources not mentioned above:

Morning Post, 6 June 1808

Princess Charlotte (1796-1817) by Charlotte Jones, 1807.

Princess Charlotte of Wales’ account books

Amongst the wonderful resource of the ‘George III Papers’ which are now in the public domain, I came across some early account books for the teenager, Princess Charlotte of Wales, which make fascinating reading. Perhaps it’s just me, 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)

I thought I 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. I 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 – I 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.

The birth of the future Queen Victoria, 24th May 1819

To mark the birth 200 years ago today of the future Queen Victoria we thought you might like to know a little more about the event itself.

Interestingly, she was born on the same date as her paternal grandfather, King George III, whose birthday was later changed to 4th June when the calendars were altered to the new Gregorian style from the Julian style.

We came across quite a detailed hour by hour account in a newspaper of the day to share with you.

The Duchess of Kent continued her airings in Kensington Garden to last Thursday. On Friday her Royal Highness was slightly indisposed, in which state she continued on Saturday and Sunday, when the symptoms of her Royal Highness giving birth to a Prince or Princess increased.

Victoria, Duchess of Kent (1786-1861) 1818. George Dawe. Royal Collection Trust
Victoria, Duchess of Kent (1786-1861) 1818. George Dawe. Royal Collection Trust
Edward, Duke of Kent (1767-1820) Signed and dated 1818 by George Dawe. Royal Collection Trust
Edward, Duke of Kent (1767-1820) Signed and dated 1818 by George Dawe. Royal Collection Trust

In the morning the Duke of Kent left Kensington Palace for Carlton House, to inform the Prince Regent of the state of his Royal Duchess. The room appointed for the confinement of the Duchess is on the east side of the palace, close to which is a public path from Kensington Gardens, which, as it would subject her Royal Highness to be disturbed by various noises, the gate leading to it was closed by command of the Prince Regent.

Princess Victoria, later Queen. 1819 signed 1819. Johann Georg Paul Fischer. Royal Collection Trust
Princess Victoria, later Queen. 1819 signed 1819. Johann Georg Paul Fischer. Royal Collection Trust

Dr Davis, the physician to the Duke and Duchess, having had the honour of being appointed accoucher to the Duchess, frequently visited her Royal Highness. On Sunday the doctor visited the Duchess three times, the last visit was at seven o’clock in the evening, when he returned to town.

At twelve o’clock the Duchess, and those in attendance upon her, being of the opinion that the time of her delivery was approaching fast, the Duke of Sussex’s carriage was sent off for Dr Davis at his residence in George Street, Hanover Square and the doctor returned in the carriage with all possible speed. At the same time messengers were sent off to the Members of the Privy Council appointed to attend upon this occasion, with summonses commanding their attendance agreeably to the laws of England for Royal births.

Victoria, Duchess of Kent with Princess Victoria (holding a miniature of her late father, Edward, Duke of Kent) by Sir William Beechey, 1821.
Victoria, Duchess of Kent with Princess Victoria (holding a miniature of her late father, Edward, Duke of Kent) by Sir William Beechey, 1821. © Royal Collection Trust

The Marquis of Lansdowne was the first Privy Counsellor who arrived, and he reached the Palace at a quarter before two o’clock Mr Canning arrived next at two o’clock, The Duke of Wellington came about a quarter of an hour after. The Duke of Sussex entered from his apartment in the Palace about the same time. Earl Bathurst, the Bishop of London and the Chancellor of the Exchequer followed. The Chancellor did not arrive until about three o’clock, owing to his being at Blackheath on a visit to his mother.

Lansdowne, Canning, Wellington & Bathurst
Lansdowne, Canning, Wellington & Bathurst

The Members of the Privy Council sat in the saloon adjoining the Duchess’s chamber, where, at a quarter past four o’clock they were satisfied of the delivery of the Duchess of a female child, which was testified by the following certificate:

The undersigned hereby certify, that her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent was safely delivered of a female child, living, at a quarter past four o’clock in the morning of the 24th day of May 1819.

Signed David Davis, J Wilson – Domestic Physicians to their Royal Highnesses.

The room appointed for the nursery in the palace is that which was the North drawing room.

Expresses were sent off to the Prince Regent, the Duke and Duchess of York, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Princess Sophia of Gloucester, the Princesses Augusta and Sophia at Windsor.

Queen Victoria (1819-1901) when Princess Victoria c.1821-2. Emanuel Thomas Peter. Royal Collection Trust
Queen Victoria (1819-1901) when Princess Victoria c.1821-2. Emanuel Thomas Peter. Royal Collection Trust

The Duke of Kent has shown the most marked affectionate attention towards his amiable Duchess and did not retire to rest till nine o’clock, although His Royal Highness had been up the whole of the night and had very little rest on the preceding night.

Queen Victoria (1819-1901) when Princess Victoria 1823. Anthony Stewart. Royal Collection Trust
Queen Victoria (1819-1901) when Princess Victoria 1823. Anthony Stewart. Royal Collection Trust

Dr Davis remained in attendance till ten o’clock. The following statement of the event was issued from the Palace:

24th May 1819

The following Noblemen and Gentlemen, of his Majesty’s Privy Council attended at the accouchement of her royal Highness the Duchess of Kent – His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, his Grace the Duke of Wellington, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Noble the Marquis of Lansdowne, the Right Hon. Earl Bathurst, The Right Hon. George Canning, the Bishop of London and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

At a quarter past four o’clock, a.m. her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent was safely delivered of a Princess.


Lieut. General and Comptroller

In addition to the above, General Weatherall, General More and Captain Conroyd, were in attendance. The Earl of Liverpool called at the Palace about eleven o’clock to make his respectful enquiries.

Dr Davis visited the Duchess again between two and three o’clock, after which the following bulletin was issued –

Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent and her infant continue in a favourable state.

J Wilson

David D Davis

Monday, three o’clock

A few days later the Morning Post reported

Considering the high destiny of the Royal infant, there is nothing which is more calculated to enhance the satisfaction of its parents in particular, and the nation at large, next indeed to that of its having been born in Old England, than this event. Should she be ever elevated to the throne of this mighty Empire, it must be the wish of every sincere lover of this country, that she may reign like her venerable grandsire, in the hearts of its inhabitants. The nation already begins to indulge the hope that the infant may be baptised by the much loved and cherished name of Charlotte.

The press didn’t get their wish when she was christened on June 24th 1819 as Princess Alexandrina Victoria, in the Grand saloon of Kensington Palace using the Royal gold font which had been moved from The Tower of London and the crimson velvet coverings from The Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace.

To find out a little more about Queen Victoria you might enjoy a couple of articles we wrote a while ago:

Princess Victoria and the gypsies, Part 1 and Part 2


Oxford University and City Herald 29 May 1819

Morning Post 31 May 1819

Morning Chronicle 25 June 1819

Featured Image

Princess ( 1819-1901), later Queen Victoria Signed & dated 1819, Johann Georg Paul Fischer. Royal Collection Trust

Princess Charlotte of Wales, after George Dawe, 1817.

Princess Charlotte of Wales’ Russian dress, 1817

With the end of the Napoleonic Wars two years earlier, anything Russian was eminently fashionable in 1817, when the portrait was painted. Princess Charlotte of Wales, only legitimate child of the Prince Regent (later George IV) was desperate to have the Russian Order of St Catherine bestowed on her. She’d been trying for the honour since at least 1813, with little success. (The order was only given to women, primarily those of the Russian royal family but also occasionally granted to foreign queens and high-ranking princesses.)

Princess Charlotte of Wales, after George Dawe, 1817.
Princess Charlotte of Wales, after George Dawe, 1817. Royal Collection Trust.

The well-known portrait of her, by George Dawe and dated to 1817 (shown above), depicts the princess in a Russian style dress, known as a sarafan, and – supposedly – wearing the Star of the Order of St Catherine’s. The notes on the Royal Collection Trust website say of the portrait:

At her left breast she wears the star of the Order of St Catherine, which she received on 1 July 1817, from Maria Feodorovna, wife of Paul I, in gratitude for hospitality shown to her son Nicholas during his visit to London. (Princess Charlotte’s husband, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, also served under the Russian Emperor during the Napoleonic Wars.)

Now, we don’t want to contradict the RCT who surely know better than us, but we can find no corroborating evidence that Charlotte ever received this honour, and upon zooming in to the portrait, the Star insignia which she is wearing looks incorrect. It almost appears to have the Prince of Wales feathers atop it and is not studded with diamonds, as it should be. Maybe, however, Dawe chose to paint it this way? Although we have our suspicions, we really can give no confirmation one way or another and will have to rely on the royal collection’s assertion that this is the Star of the Order of St Catherine.

Detail from the portrait of Princess Charlotte of Wales
Detail from the portrait of Princess Charlotte of Wales by George Dawe.

The dress Charlotte wears could almost have been copied from a portrait of Sophia Petrovna Svechina, a Russian exile in Paris. She was painted by François Joseph Kinson in 1816, just a year before Charlotte sat for her portrait, wearing a remarkably similar dress.

Portrait of Sophia Petrovna Svechina (1782—1857) by François Joseph Kinson. An outstanding Russian woman of her time, a daughter of state secretary of the Empress Catherine II, a lady-in-waiting, writer, mistress of the famous literary salon in Paris, took a special place among Russian Catholics.
Sophia Petrovna Svechina (1782—1857) by François Joseph Kinson. An outstanding Russian woman of her time, a daughter of state secretary of the Empress Catherine II, a lady-in-waiting, writer and mistress of the famous literary salon in Paris. Via Wikimedia.

A Sarafan is a Russian trapezoidal jumper (or pinafore) dress, and a traditional folk costume. These two Russian portraits show the subjects wearing dresses that are also very like that worn by Charlotte.

Russian woman and child
Russian woman and child – image sourced via Pinterest.
Portrait of a girl in Russian dress by an unknown artist.
Portrait of a girl in Russian dress by an unknown artist. State Russian Museum, St Petersburg.

No doubt Charlotte had her dress especially made (it was produced in England) for the portrait and to set off her Russian order, whether being worn legitimately or not. Charlotte’s version of this Russian dress is made from blue silk, trimmed with gold lace which has red highlights, and edged with gold fringe. Amazingly, it has survived and is also in the royal collection. As you can see from the images below, it has either faded slightly, or Dawe used a little artistic licence to darken it in his portrait of the princess.

Princess Charlotte of Wales' Russian style dress.
Princess Charlotte of Wales’ Russian style dress. Royal Collection Trust.
Back view of Princess Charlotte of Wales' Russian style dress. Royal Collection Trust.
Back view of Princess Charlotte of Wales’ Russian style dress. Royal Collection Trust.

When she sat for her portrait, the princess was pregnant. Her child – a son – was stillborn, and Charlotte died from complications following the birth the next day, 6 November 1817. She was just twenty-one years of age. Had she or her son lived, they would have been heir to the British throne.

Copies of the painting were made, many with slight variations. One shows the dress in white instead of blue, another leaves off the gold trimming. This version below shows the dress in a darker hue, and with a much more extravagant ‘blouse’ beneath, with lace sleeves.

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales by George Dawe. © National Portrait Gallery, London.
Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales by George Dawe. © National Portrait Gallery, London.

Interestingly, when George Dawe’s brother, Henry Edward Dawe, made a mezzotint copy of the portrait after the princess’ death, which was published in January 1818 and an amalgamation of two of the portraits already given above, the Order of St Catherine pinned to Princess Charlotte’s breast was totally omitted.

Hand coloured mezzotint of Princess Charlotte by Henry Edward Dawe, after the painting by George Dawe.
Hand coloured mezzotint of Princess Charlotte by Henry Edward Dawe, after the painting by George Dawe. Royal Collection Trust.

George Dawe subsequently spent many years at the Russian court where he painted many of the nobility there. It is thought that he used the portrait of Princess Charlotte as inspiration for his later one of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Certainly, the rich colour of the dress and the pose are reminiscent of the princess’ portrait. It increases the pathos of poor Princess Charlotte’s picture however; how she would have loved to be painted with her arms around her children. Sadly, that was not to be.

Charlotte (Alexandra Feodorovna), Empress of Russia, with her eldest children, Alexander and Maria c. 1821
Charlotte (Alexandra Feodorovna), Empress of Russia, with her eldest children, Alexander and Maria c. 1821. Via Wikimedia



Letters of the Princess Charlotte, 1811-1817 (1949)

Autobiography of Cornelia Knight, Lady Companion to the Princess Charlotte of Wales: With Extracts from Her Journals and Anecdote Books, Volume 1 (1861)

The fête at Frogmore, 1795.

The fête at Frogmore House, 19 May 1795

On Tuesday 19 May 1795, King George III held a grand fête at Frogmore House in the grounds of Home Park, Windsor (around half a mile from Windsor Castle), celebrating both Queen Charlotte’s 51st birthday and the recent arrival and marriage of his new daughter-in-law, Caroline, Princess of Wales (she’d married the Prince of Wales, later George IV, just weeks earlier, on 8 April).

Oil sketch of the Marriage of George, Prince of Wales, and Princess Caroline of Brunswick c. 1795-7 by William Hamilton
Oil sketch of the Marriage of George, Prince of Wales, and Princess Caroline of Brunswick c. 1795-7 by William Hamilton; Royal Collection Trust

The fête was in the style of a Dutch Fair. This was in honour of some recent guests: William V, the Prince of Orange and Nassau-Dietz and his family had fled their Netherlands home after the French army had invaded, and headed for exile in England. (The Prince of Orange’s wife, Wilhelmina of Prussia, was the aunt of Princess Frederica Charlotte, the wife of George III’s second son, Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany.)

William V, Prince of Orange c.1800, after John Hoppner.
William V, Prince of Orange c.1800, after John Hoppner. Royal Collection Trust

Their Majesties and the Orange Family, &c. &c. dined at half past three in a grand saloon, superbly ornamented, in Fête Champêtre. Four tents were fitted up in front of the saloon for the reception of their noble guests.

Wilhelmina, Princess of Orange, c.1800, after John Hoppner.
Wilhelmina, Princess of Orange, c.1800, after John Hoppner. Royal Collection Trust

The presence of one guest was extremely contentious. Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey was there, the Prince of Wales’ mistress despite his recent marriage. The prince famously hated Caroline, his wife, disliking her at first sight while Lady Jersey reigned supreme in his affections for some time. It was reported – wrongly, as it turned out – that Lady Jersey was pregnant with the prince’s child, and was ‘particularly distinguished’ at the fête held at Frogmore House. In fact, it was not Lady Jersey who was with child, but Caroline, Princess of Wales.

Frogmore by Samuel Howitt, 1801.
Frogmore by Samuel Howitt, 1801. Royal Collection Trust

Dancers and singers from Windsor and Covent Garden, dressed in rustic character formed part of the day’s entertainment. The pastoral idyll was thrown into chaos and gales of laughter though, when the pretend haymakers were interrupted by ‘a set of ass-racers, whose obstinate steeds, in the confusion, threw some of the blushing maids on the very haycocks they had just been raising’.

George III’s eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth had been the brains behind the Dutch fair, organising the day with the assistance of the Orange family.

The booths, which were numerous, displayed a collection of articles for sale, from the dairy to a lady’s toilet; the purchase money, which was voluntary, was dropt by the purchase into boxes appropriated for the charity schools of Windsor.

The fête at Frogmore, 1795.
The fête at Frogmore, 1795. Royal Collection Trust.

While the fair continued into the evening, the royal family and their especial guests gracefully retired from the gardens of Frogmore House and made their way to Windsor Castle where a ball and supper was held.

Queen Charlotte in the grounds of Frogmore House by William Beechey, 1796
Queen Charlotte in the grounds of Frogmore House by William Beechey, 1796; The Courtauld Gallery

The Frogmore Estate has been owned by the royal family from the 1500s, although Frogmore House dates from the late seventeenth-century. Various tenants lived there (including one of Charles II’s illegitimate sons) until Queen Charlotte bought the house in 1792, as an idyllic and peaceful country mansion to which she and her unmarried daughters could retreat from court life.

After the 1795 fair, a nine-year programme of alterations was embarked on; the house was enlarged and extended, and pavilions added at the wings.

Her Majesty's Lodge at Frogmore, near Windsor, 1793, after Richard Cooper the younger.
Her Majesty’s Lodge at Frogmore, near Windsor, 1793, after Richard Cooper the younger. Royal Collection Trust

Of course, the Frogmore Estate is back in the news right now as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (and their new baby, Archie), have made Frogmore Cottage their new home.


Norfolk Chronicle, 23 May 1795

The Times, 25 May 1795

View of Bath by Edmund Garvey

How George III’s 1809 Golden Jubilee was celebrated in Bath

On the 25th October 1809, the Golden Jubilee of King George III was celebrated across the nation. Opinion was divided as to whether the Jubilee had been celebrated a year too early; 25th October 1809 was the first day of the 50th year of George III’s reign, so he had not actually reigned yet for a full fifty years.

It was a grand project instigated – and to a large degree planned – by a middle-aged, middle-class lady living in the Welsh borders, a truly amazing woman who is the subject of our book, A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs.

George III (1738-1820) by Edward Bird, c.1810-1815
George III (1738-1820) by Edward Bird, c.1810-1815; Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives.

The Jubilee was celebrated not only in Great Britain, but also on board ships and in foreign territories under British rule.

Today, we are going to look at the celebrations that took place in Bath.

Bath Abbey by an unknown artist
Bath Abbey; Victoria Art Gallery

The Jubilee was this day celebrated here with every demonstration of loyalty. The festival was ushered in by the ringing of bells, and display of flags on the different churches. At eleven o’clock the Mayor and Corporation, accompanied by the Bath Volunteer reg. of Infantry, the Young Gentleman of the Grammar School, the children of the Charity Schools, and the Friendly Societies, (33 in number, containing 2,487 members, each Society distinguished by its particular banner and colours,) went in grand procession to the Abbey Church where an admirable sermon was preached by the Rev Mr Marshall. Part of the Societies went to Walcot Church, where an equally excellent discourse was delivered by the Rev Mr Barry. Collections were made at the doors of both churches for the benevolent purpose of releasing the debtors in the County Gaol.

Looking down Grove Street to Walcot Church.
Looking down Grove Street to Walcot Church. Victoria Art Gallery

On returning to the Hall, cakes and wine were given to the juvenile part of the procession. The Volunteers marched to the Crescent Field, where they fired a feu de joie; and the members of the Friendly Societies departed to their respective club-rooms, in which they dined together in much harmony; each man received towards his expenses 1s. 6d. from the public subscription for that purpose.

The Children of the Blue Coat Charity School, about 120 in number, sat down in their school-room to a plentiful dinner of roast beef and plumb pudding, provided at the expense of a highly-respected and loyal gentleman, a resident of this city.

The Crescent at Bath
The Crescent at Bath. Victoria Art Gallery

The Mayor and Corporation, the clergy, with a select party, dined at the White Hart. In the evening there was a ball at the Town Hall. Jubilee medals, with ribbons having suitable mottos in gold letters, were generally worn.

The 'White Hart' Inn, Bath by John Charles Maggs
A slightly later view of the ‘White Hart’ Inn, Bath by John Charles Maggs; Victoria Art Gallery

John Jones, Esq., of Woolley, near Bradford, gave to 800 poor persons of that neighbourhood, a sufficient quantity of bread, strong beer, and mutton, in the presence of a large concourse of loyal subjects.

Messrs Divett, Price, Jackson, and Co. regaled nearly 500 persons employed in their manufactory at Bradford by giving them three fine fat sheep roasted whole, plenty of bread, and a large potion of good Wiltshire strong beer.

Bradford, Wiltshire, c.1805.
Bradford, Wiltshire, c.1805. Victoria Art Gallery

The debtors in our city gaol, five in number, were this morning liberated from confinement by the munificence of the sheriffs, Geo. Crook, and Geo. Lye, Esqrs, who, from their private purse, settled the creditors’ claims, amounting to 80l.

Mrs Biggs was no radical in her political views, and she initially fought against the Jubilee being used for charitable aims; she wanted to see grand and joyous celebrations, with people feasting well and toasting their king with a mug of ale or a glass of wine. Her plans were hijacked to a certain degree and she had to accept that money was put to other uses than celebrating on the day, but she lobbied – anonymously and successfully – for the continuation of her original aims.

As some long-term readers will know, there is a ‘sister-blog’, The Diaries of Fanny Chapman. Fanny was a middle-class spinster who lived in Bath through the late Georgian and into the Victorian eras, often in company with her aunts. Her diaries from 1807-1812 and 1837-1841 have survived and we were given permission to publish them; they are a wonderful first-hand resource.

Unfortunately, while Fanny heard the Jubilee celebrations in Bath, and no doubt was told all about them by the family servants who took advantage of the impromptu holiday, she herself largely stayed indoors, only venturing out for a quick errand. Still, I thought it might be interesting to read her diary entries for the relevant days.

An Account of the Celebration of the Jubilee on the 25th October 1809

Tuesday, 24 October, 1809

A most beautiful day.  My Aunt was so unwell she did not get up till near dinner time.  Admiral and Mrs Phillip calld and sat some time.  He came up stairs.  They were both very friendly and kind.  I went to Mrs Vassall’s to ask if she intended to fulfill her engagement of dinner with us today.  She said she did.  Saw Mrs Horne with her.  I went and ordered a couple of chicken and then calld at my mother’s, but they were not at home.  Only Mrs Vassall and Betsey dined here.  Mr Wiltshire came in while we were at dinner, but did not stay long.  It raind fast in the evening and Mrs Vassall and Betsey went home in a Chair between eight and nine o’clock.  We went to bed early, but were disturbed after twelve o’clock by the ringing of bells and firing of guns to usher in the Jubilee, which is to take place tomorrow on the King’s entering the 50th year of his Reign.  My Aunt heard from Cooper!!!

View of Bath by Edmund Garvey
View of Bath by Edmund Garvey; Number 1 Royal Crescent

Wednesday, 25 October, 1809

A beautiful day.  The whole town was in motion early to see the Processions of the Corporate Volunteers and different Clubs to Church.  All the servants, except Kitty, went out before breakfast and did not return till after two o’clock.  Mrs Gibson calld (for the first time) and sat an hour here.  Miss Workman came in the morning, before we were up, to say she had got a room in the square to see the Procession, where she wishd us to come.  My Aunt P was not well enough to go, but tried to persuade me.  However, I had not the least inclination and was not sorry to be able to stay at home.  I was obliged to go to the Sidney Hotel before dinner to enquire if Mr Gale had heard any thing about the house he mentiond to my Aunt. He told me the proprietor of it was come to Bath and would call on my Aunt today or tomorrow. There was a constant noise of ringing of bells and firing guns the whole day and the bouncing of squibs and crackers in the evening.  I heard from my Uncle James to say all our shares, except one, were blanks and that one was only fifteen pounds.  It began to rain about ten o’clock and continued, I believe, most part of the night.

The Sydney Hotel, Bath
The Sydney Hotel, Bath. Victoria Art Gallery

Sources not mentioned above:

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 26th October 1809

Review in Hyde Park attended by the Allied Sovereigns. 20 June 1814.

The review in Hyde Park attended by the Allied Sovereigns, 20 June 1814

The Tsar of Russia, the King of Prussia and other European sovereigns landed at Dover on the 6th of June 1814 for a visit lasting just over two weeks to celebrate the Peace of Paris and the abdication of Napoléon Bonaparte, who had been exiled to Elba.

The pursuits of the illustrious strangers while in London, consisted of visiting our public institutions; and their total indifference to pomp and parade, with the consequent facility afforded to exhibit the national good feeling and respect, elicited the admiration of the entire population, manifested by the loud shouts of welcome with which they were universally greeted.

The Allied Sovereigns at Petworth, June 1814
The Allied Sovereigns at Petworth, June 1814 by Thomas Phillips (George, 3rd Earl of Egremont is presented by George, Prince Regent, to Tsar Alexander I of Russia in the Marble Hall at Petworth with the King of Prussia, Frederick William III); National Trust, Petworth House

In the painting above, you can see the young Prince Augustus of Prussia (on the left-hand side of the portrait) turning his head to speak to Lord Charles Bentinck who is standing directly behind him. Lord Charles was the Prince Regent’s friend, equerry and putative former son-in-law and was a constant presence throughout the festivities, often found at the prince’s side. He is also the direct ancestor of the royal family and one of the subjects of our second book, A Right Royal Scandal. No doubt, Lord Charles Bentinck was present at the review which took place in Hyde Park, attended by the Allied Sovereigns, on 20th June 1814. But, before that, the dignitaries had been seen out riding.

The Emperor Alexander, in the dress of a private gentleman, and accompanied by the Duchess of Oldenburgh, his sister, frequently promenaded in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, at an early hour in the morning; and their Majesties, accompanied by the officers of the household, took an airing on horse-back in Hyde Park on the 12th of June, remaining nearly three hours, much to the gratification of the company there assembled.

Grand Duchess Ekaterina Pavlovna (1788-1819), the wife of Duke George of Oldenburg (1784-1812).
Grand Duchess Ekaterina Pavlovna (1788-1819), the wife of Duke George of Oldenburg (1784-1812). The State Hermitage Museum

All was pomp and ceremony on the day of the review, however.

But the review of the household cavalry, and volunteer and regular infantry of the metropolis ordered for the 20th of June, was probably the most interesting exhibition that occurred during their stay in London; the novelty of the assemblage of two foreign crowned heads, accompanied by veteran leaders of their armies, to witness a military spectacle in the suburbs of our metropolis, and in the presence of the Prince Regent: with the singular coincidence of the proclamation of peace on the same day, at the usual places, and at which ceremony also, a portion of those troops were afterwards called upon to assist, combined to produce a general feeling of pride and satisfaction, as shewn in the faces of the countless multitudes who were seen hurrying at an early hour towards the scene of action.

This Print Representing His Majesty Reviewing the Volunteer Corps assembled in Hyde Park, in honor of his Birthday, June 4 1799
This depiction of George III reviewing troops at Hyde Park in 1799 gives an idea of how the scene would have looked at the Allied Sovereigns’ visit in 1814. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The various regiments took up their position by 9 o’clock in the morning, and the arrangements being completed soon after ten, a scene then presented itself which was never surpassed on a similar occasion, being greatly enhanced by the serenity of the weather, the sun beaming in all his glory, shedding his bright refulgence on the scene. At half-past eleven a royal salute of twenty-one guns announced the arrival of the royal party at the park gate, at the same moment the deafening cheers of the populace were heard at all parts of the park.

Review in Hyde Park attended by the Allied Sovereigns. 20 June 1814.
Review in Hyde Park attended by the Allied Sovereigns. 20 June 1814. Royal Collection Trust

The Prince Regent entered the park with his hat off, bowing to the vast assembly, the Emperor Alexander riding on his right hand, and the king of Prussia on his left, the magnificent Staff which followed, comprised nearly three hundred persons, of all nations, among whom the veteran Field-Marshal Blucher, and the Hetman Platoff shone conspicuous.

Count Platoff, Hetman of the Cossacks by Peter Edward Stroehling, signed and dated 1814.
Count Platoff, Hetman of the Cossacks by Peter Edward Stroehling, signed and dated 1814. Royal Collection Trust

After their Majesties had inspected the line, a general feu de joie was discharged, and the regiments afterwards passed in review order. The illustrious visitors having expressed the greatest satisfaction at the discipline and general appearance of the troops to the officer in command, the corps marched off the ground, highly gratified by the flattering encomiums passed upon them by some of the greatest warriors of the age.

His Majesty George III Reviewing the Armed Associations on the Fourth of June 1799 in Hyde Park
No doubt the scene in 1814 would have looked similar to this print of George III reviewing troops in Hyde Park 15 years earlier. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The public anxiety was so great on this occasion, to witness the proceedings, that every tree was filled with people, and in consequence several melancholy accidents happened, by limbs of the trees breaking and falling on the heads of those standing beneath, the pressure of the crowd rendering it impossible to escape.

Number of Corps reviewed at Hyde Park on the 20th June 1814

We have also written about the visit of the Allied Sovereigns for our great friend and fellow author, Laurie Benson. You can find our guest blog in her Cozy Drawing Room.

Source: Historical Recollections of Hyde Park by Thomas Smith (of Mary-le-bone), 1836

Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843) c.1792-3. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

The First Duke of Sussex

In light of the news that His Royal Highness, Prince Harry, will become the Duke of Sussex upon his marriage to Meghan Markle, we thought we should take a brief look at the previous holder of the title.

Prince Augustus, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843). Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Prince Augustus, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843). Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Prince Augustus Frederick was the sixth son of King George III and had this title conferred upon him in November 1801. Even then there was fake news, as we quickly found out. The media were frantically reporting that Prince Augustus Frederick was to become the Duke of Cambridge and that his brother Adolphus was to be the Duke of Sussex. Quite how the media managed to get it back to front we’re really not sure, but it took them almost a month to get the titles correct. Either way, we have two brothers granted the titles Duke of Cambridge and Duke of Sussex.

Finally, on 30th November 1801, this statement appeared naming the correct holders of the titles

The King has been pleased to grant his most dearly beloved son Prince Augustus Frederick and to the heirs male of his Royal Highness’s body lawfully begotten, the dignities of Baron of Arklow, Earl of Inverness and Duke of Sussex, of the United Kingdom and Great Britain and Ireland.

The King has also been pleased to grant to his most dearly beloved son Prince Adolphus Frederick and to the heirs male of his Royal Highness’s body lawfully begotten, the dignities of Baron of Culloden, Earl of Tipperary and Duke of Cambridge, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

The conferring of the title upon Prince Augustus Frederick meant that his heirs would also automatically be granted the title, but this was not to be the case as the prince married Lady Augusta Murray. Their marriage contravened the Royal Marriages Act as they were first married abroad, then married in England but without fully identifying themselves, nor did they seek permission from the monarch.

Lady Augusta Murray by Richard Cosway. Gregory Allicar Museum of Art at Colorado State University
Lady Augusta Murray by Richard Cosway. Gregory Allicar Museum of Art at Colorado State University

The couple did, it was reported, attend church three times to have their banns read, but the clergyman who married them assumed that Frederick was the prince’s surname as no title was given. They married, on the 5th December 1793, at St George’s, Hanover Square, as Augustus Frederick and Augusta Murray.

It’s interesting to note that Dido Elizabeth married John Davinière,  married at the same church on the same date.

This married was annulled but the couple remained together and had two children, both of whom would of course now be illegitimate. However, the union was not to last and in 1801, the couple went their separate ways.

Prince Augustus was married a second time in 1831, to Lady Cecilia Gore, but managed a second marriage that contravened the Royal Marriage Act as once again he did not seek royal approval also and possibly, more importantly, the marriage was morganatic, i.e. she was not a royal princess. Despite this, they remained together until his death in April 1843.

Cecilia, Duchess of Inverness, miniature by Jane North. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Cecilia, Duchess of Inverness, miniature by Jane North.
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

It has been announced that Apartment 1 at Kensington Palace is being renovated ready for the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex to move into. Interestingly, this apartment was the former home of the first Duke of Sussex and his second wife, Cecilia, too.

His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex left town yesterday morning for Windsor, on a visit to Their MAJESTIES. His Royal Highness will reside for the future at Kensington Palace

London Courier and Evening Gazette, 7 January 1805

When they occupied it the apartment was much larger and encompassed the one now known as 1A, which is currently the home of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and his family.

A Front View of the Royal Palace of Kensington, 1751. At the far left, at right angles, stands what is now Apartment 1 which is being renovated for the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Linking that to the main palace is the apartment now occupied by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Apartment 1A.
A Front View of the Royal Palace of Kensington, 1751. At the far left, at right angles, stands what is now Apartment 1 which is being renovated for the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Linking that to the main palace is the apartment now occupied by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Apartment 1A. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

We have written about other royal marriages too. Did you know that a Romany girl married one of Prince Harry’s direct ancestors? Which scandalous elopement is one of the skeletons in the royal family’s closet? Click here to find out more.

Sources Used 

Kentish Gazette 31 January 1794 

Chester Chronicle 31 January 1794

Featured Image

Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843)  c.1792-3, Watercolour on ivory | RCIN 420975 by Edward Miles (1752-1828). Courtesy of the Royal Collection.


Windsor Castle in the Georgian Era

Having looked at the landau and royal weddings, how could we not report on Windsor Castle. So, we have some news for you from the Georgian Era.

The Norman Gate and Deputy Governor's House, Windsor Castle; Paul Sandby
The Norman Gate and Deputy Governor’s House, Windsor Castle; Paul Sandby; Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Breaking News

In October 1804 his Majesty, King George III was determined to no longer reside at the Queen’s House, in the Park, but to remain altogether at Windsor, those who have apartments in Windsor Castle, including the George, Prince of Wales and other Princes, have been desired to remove, as their apartments will in future be required for the accommodation of his Majesty’s family. Orders have been given, it is said, to remove the Royal Library, one of the finest in the country, and everything else connected with the convenience or pleasure of his Majesty’s residence at Windsor, from the Queen’s house, in the Park. The Duke of Gloucester will also quit Cranford Lodge, and the Honourable George Villiers, brother to Lord Clarendon, will in future reside there, and have a very confidential place in the superintendence of his Majesty’s private concerns. He will now come to town only on specific occasions.

View of Windsor Castle from the River Thames; British (English) School
View of Windsor Castle from the River Thames; British (English) School; National Trust, Anglesey Abbey.

In Traffic News

In our next piece of news, we hear of something which many of us living in the UK today will be familiar with – the high volumes of traffic. Clearly, it was no different in 1789!

Part of Windsor from Datchet Lane c. 1780 by Paul Sandby. The viewpoint is taken from Datchet Lane to the east of Isherwood's Brewery.
Part of Windsor from Datchet Lane c. 1780 by Paul Sandby. The viewpoint is taken from Datchet Lane to the east of Isherwood’s Brewery. © Royal Collection Trust

The King’s most Excellent Majesty has been graciously pleased to make a road from Windsor over Cranbourn Chance thro’ Windsor Forest, leading to the rural villages of Winkfield, Warfield and Binfield to Reading, which is allowed to be the most delightful ride of any in this kingdom, from the many beautiful and picturesque views of seats and parks of several noblemen and gentleman the whole way.

The great annoyance generally complained of by persons travelling the other road, are the frequent obstruction by droves of oxen, sheep and cattle, stage-coaches, road-waggons and carriages, is such a to render if very disagreeable.

The pleasant and elevated situation of Windsor and its castle, dignified by royalty, has ever been the just admiration of foreigners and natives alike.

Windsor Castle from the Old Bridge; Augustus Wall Callcott
Windsor Castle from the Old Bridge; Augustus Wall Callcott; Laing Art Gallery.

Improvements to Windsor Castle

Also, from 1801 we hear the King finds much amusement in inspecting the improvements at Windsor Castle and the building of the Royal Palace at Kew. His Majesty, George III, rises regularly at seven o’clock, breakfasts at eight with the Royal family; from nine till eleven views the progress of the workmen. Every window in the castle is to be replaced with stained glass.

George III on on of Windsor Castle's terraces; Peter Edward Stroehling, c.1807
George III on one of Windsor Castle’s terraces; Peter Edward Stroehling; Royal Collection Trust

Visitors to Windsor

On 27th October 1804, the Kentish Gazette reported that:

Sunday morning the royal family attended divine service at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. As their majesties passed through the courtyard, the 10th Regiment of Light Dragoons and the Staffordshire militia were drawn up, the bands of each playing. A number of spectators were assembled to see their sovereign.

The Staffordshire Militia on Parade at Windsor Castle; Arthur William Devis
The Staffordshire Militia on Parade at Windsor Castle; Arthur William Devis; National Army Museum

We have some sad news to bring you from 18th May 1800.

William Dick Esquire, Governor of the Poor Knights and for nearly 40 years King’s Clerk, and Clerk of the papers at the Mint and the oldest messenger in his Majesty’s service has died at Windsor Castle, aged 91.

And finally, …

New for the 9th February 1801 was the production of:

Transparent Spring Blinds

Amongst the many ingenious and useful inventions which characterise the present age, the above new idea may be said to have a more than common share of attraction. Transparencies on a small scale drawn on silk, have been much admired; but the taste of the artist has been hitherto confined within very narrow bounds. The invention, above named, gives ample scope for the exercise of talents, and from a happy combination of art and nature, the glowing tints are preserved, and the perspective being kept up by a minute attention to trifling objects in the foreground, the general landscape appears with the happiest effects.

The elegance and utility of this article promise to render it of the first estimation in the eyes of the fashionable world. The Queen has already patronised the idea and a set being made already for Buckingham House and Windsor Castle, from drawings taken of different parts of the country to which her Majesty is most attached.

Windsor Castle; David Cox the elder
Windsor Castle; David Cox the elder; Lady Lever Art Gallery

Featured Image

British (English) School; View of Windsor Castle from the River Thames; National Trust, Anglesey Abbey.

The Marriage of George IV when Prince of Wales by Henry Singleton, 1795.

Royal weddings in the Georgian era

On Tuesday 8th September 1761, in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace, the new King George III (he had ascended the throne a little less than a year earlier) married Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The wedding took place only a few hours after their initial meeting.

The marriage ceremony began at 9 o’clock in the evening; beforehand the princess, attended by ten bridesmaids, sat under a white and silver canopy until the Duke of Cumberland conducted her to the side of the king and gave the bride’s hand to the bridegroom. Charlotte was nervous, and uncomfortably dressed on a hot evening in a heavy, sumptuous gown with a purple mantle laced with gold and lined with ermine, a diamond studded cap and small crown on her head. She spoke no English but was only required to say two words during the wedding; at the appropriate time and at the king’s prompting, she declared, ‘Ich will‘.

Unfinished portrait depicting the marriage of George III to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz on 8 September 1761 by Sir Joshua Reynolds
Unfinished portrait depicting the marriage of George III to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz on 8 September 1761 by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Royal Collection Trust

The new queen was just seventeen years old. Horace Walpole said of her that:

She is not tall nor a beauty. Pale and very thin; but looks sensible and genteel. Her hair is darkish and fine. Her forehead low, her nose very well except the nostrils spreading too wide. The mouth has the same fault, but her teeth are good. She talks a great deal, and French tolerably.

A kinder report, by the daughter of Charlotte’s German page, described Charlotte as having an ‘expressive and intelligent countenance… not tall, but of slight, pretty figure; her eyes bright and sparkling with good humour and vivacity’. Still, this same girl also claimed that George III was initially disappointed in his choice and by the bride’s appearance. In the end, however, none of this nor Walpole’s catty comments mattered: despite it being an arranged marriage, the royal couple quickly fell deeply in love with one another.

Queen Charlotte, when Princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz c.1760. This portrait may be the one sent from Mecklenburg to George III before Charlotte's arrival in England for her marriage.
Queen Charlotte, when Princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz c.1760. Royal Collection Trust. This portrait may be the one sent from Mecklenburg to George III before Charlotte’s arrival in England for her marriage.

George III and Queen Charlotte’s long marriage produced a large family. In 1795, their eldest son, George, Prince of Wales (later the Prince Regent and George IV) married Caroline of Brunswick. There has always been intense interest in a royal bride’s wedding dress and in 1795 it was no different. This is how the media of the day reported on it.

The Princess of Wales was very superb indeed, and the dress was the most costly that could be made. The body and train were of silver tissue festooned on each side, and tied up with rich cord and tassels. The sleeves, and round the bottom of the robe, were covered with rows of the finest point lace. The petticoat was likewise of silver tissue, covered all over with silver Venetian net, and tassels hanging down the sides. The waist was not more than six inches in length. In the procession to the chapel, and during the ceremony, her Royal Highness wore a crimson velvet mantling, trimmed with ermine, and over the shoulders hung a rich silver cord and tassels. The hoop was very small, such as is used for morning dresses; and so were the hoops of the Bride-maids, that they might be as unencumbered as possible in the procession. Her Royal Highness wore a superb coronet of diamonds. She had on a very rich ornament of brilliants, resembling a knight’s collar, fastened upon the right shoulder by a brilliant bow, and long brilliant tassels; and on the left shoulder by a rich epaulette of brilliants; and in the centre, in the place of a stomacher, was the Prince’s picture richly set in brilliants.

Caroline of Brunswick when Princess of Wales, depicted in her wedding dress by Gainsborough Dupont, 1795-96. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Caroline of Brunswick when Princess of Wales, depicted in her wedding dress by Gainsborough Dupont, 1795-96. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

The marriage took place on the evening of Wednesday, 8th April 1795, again in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace. Crowds lined the streets on the approach to the palace, and it was standing room only in the two ante-chambers leading to the drawing room where those lucky enough to have been issued with tickets to the event were congregating.

The king and queen, the Prince of Wales, Caroline and the rest of the royal family had dined at the Queen’s House (now Buckingham Palace), and around 6pm they left there in a procession of coaches for St James’s (or Carlton House in the case of the prince) where they dressed for the wedding.

The Prince, on leaving the Queen’s House, had a hearty shake of the hand from the King, which brought tears into his eyes. His Majesty saluted the Princess in the Hall, and then got into his carriage, The Prince, after seeing the Princess home, went to Carlton House.

George IV when Prince of Wales, miniature by Richard Cosway, 1792.
George IV when Prince of Wales, miniature by Richard Cosway, 1792. National Portrait Gallery

The Prince of Wales wore a blue Genoa velvet coat and breeches, with a silver tissue waistcoat, and coat cuffs richly embroidered with silver and spangles. His Royal Highness wore a diamond star, with an embroidered garter at the knee; diamond shoe and knee-buckles and rich diamond hilted sword, and button and loop. His Royal Highness looked uncommonly well.

It was gone 9 o’clock before everyone was ready and the procession left the drawing room for the Chapel, the Duke of Clarence (later William IV) leading the bride. There was only one mishap. During the marriage ceremony, while kneeling in front of the Archbishop, the prince tried to stand up too soon and the service was stopped; the king noticed the dilemma, rose from his seat and whispered in his son’s ear. George kneeled once more and the service was concluded… was the Prince of Wales in a hurry to get the ceremony over and done with?

Oil sketch of the marriage of George, Prince of Wales, and Princess Caroline of Brunswick c. 1795-7 by William Hamilton
Oil sketch of the marriage of George, Prince of Wales, and Princess Caroline of Brunswick c. 1795-7 by William Hamilton; Royal Collection Trust

The wedding had been highly anticipated by everyone but the Prince of Wales! The following passage is from our latest book, A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, which gives a different view of the wedding from that reported by the newspapers.

George IV, when the Prince of Wales, had married his first cousin, Caroline of Brunswick, under duress and because his father promised to sort out his debts and increase his allowance once he was wed. The marriage, as may have been predicted, was a total disaster. The exuberant Caroline was tactless and had a poor grasp of personal hygiene (she boasted that her personal toilette was but a ‘short’ one). The prince was rolling drunk during the wedding ceremony, recovering enough to consummate his marriage on the wedding night before falling drunk into the grate of the fireplace where Caroline left him. Later he was to claim that he had been intimate with his wife on only three occasions, twice on their wedding night and once on the following night but it proved enough and nine months later Caroline gave birth to a daughter, Princess Charlotte of Wales.

The Marriage of George IV (1762-1830) when Prince of Wales by Henry Singleton, 1795.
The Marriage of George IV (1762-1830) when Prince of Wales by Henry Singleton, 1795. Royal Collection Trust

To end this blog, we’ll also share with you an extract from the pages of our second book, A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History, an anecdote relating to the marriage of George IV’s only legitimate child, his heir, Princess Charlotte of Wales. (George had several reputed illegitimate children; one that he acknowledged privately, if not publicly, was his daughter Georgiana Seymour whose mother was ‘the celebrated’ Grace Dalrymple Elliott.)

Back in London preparations were under way for the wedding of the Prince Regent’s daughter, Princess Charlotte, to the impoverished but handsome Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (later known as Saxe-Coburg and Gotha); they married at the beginning of May 1816 in the Crimson Drawing Room at the regent’s London residence, Carlton House. The young bride was heard to giggle during the marriage ceremony, which took place on 2 May 1816, when Prince Leopold promised to endow her with all his worldly goods.

The Marriage of Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold in the Crimson State Room, Carlton House, 1816
The Marriage of Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold in the Crimson State Room, Carlton House, 1816; British School; National Trust, Croft Castle


An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, Joanne Major & Sarah Murden, Pen & Sword, 2016

A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History, Joanne Major & Sarah Murden, Pen & Sword, 2016

A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, Joanne Major & Sarah Murden, Pen & Sword, 2017

Scot’s Magazine, September 1761 and April 1795

George III: A Personal History, Christopher Hibbert, Viking, 1998

Landscape with Carriage and Horses by William Ashford (1746-1824).

The Georgian Landau

It has been announced that HRH Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have chosen to use the Ascot Landau carriage at their wedding, assuming the weather stays fine, so we thought we would take a very quick look at the Landau, as it was first used in Britain in the 18th-century, but  was named after the German city of Landau in the Rhenish Palatinate where it was first produced. Today, the royal family presently have five Landau’s, all of which are post-Georgian.

Miseries of human life, 1808.
Isaac Cruikshank c1808. Lewis Walpole Library

A Landau is a coachbuilding term for a four-wheeled luxury convertible carriage. Its main feature was that it had a low body which gave maximum visibility of the occupants and their clothing, so ideal for processions and for the gentry in all their finery to be seen by onlookers.

1827-1828 Landau. British Museum
1827-1828 Landau. British Museum

The earliest reference to a Landau being used in England that we have found dates to July 1738 in the London Evening Post.

Last night his Grace the Duke of Marlborough, accompanied by Lord Hervey, Henry Fox Esq and another person of distinction, arrived in town in a landau and six, from Sir Robert Walpole’s seat at Houghton Hall in Norfolk.

Princess Amelia (1711-1786) by Christian Friedrich Zincke, c.1729-30.
Princess Amelia (1711-1786) by Christian Friedrich Zincke, c.1729-30. Royal Collection Trust

Clearly even in the 1750s the public enjoyed catching a glimpse of members of the royal family as this report from Bath in August 1752 describes.

Princess Amelia, (daughter of George II) arrived here in an open Landau, attended by a large retinue, and escorted by some of the Oxford Blues. Her Royal Highness passed through the city and went on to the seat of Ralph Allen Esq. The bells rang, the cannon were fired, and the flag was displayed on the Tower. Her Royal Highness walked publicly about on Saturday and yesterday, and numbers of people flocked from all parts of the country to see her.

1809 - Patent Landau - Ackermann's Repository
1809 – Patent Landau – Ackermann’s Repository

Ascot, was, as it is today, the place to see and to be seen. Amongst others was have a report from June 1786 in the London Chronicle that ‘their majesties were yesterday on the Ascot race ground, in an open Landau, with the younger branches of the Royal family. They partook of a cold repast in their carriage, consisting of ham and chicken’. It seems highly unlikely that Prince Harry and his new bride will be dining in theirs, to be honest!

One clearly had to be looking at one’s best when on display as the comment about the Prince of Wales showed in this report from the Whitehall Evening Post of May 1800 ‘The Prince of Wales, on Friday, took an airing in his open landau and looked considerably better than his Royal Highness has been for some months past.’

The Vis-a-Vis Bisected

It was quite common for the newspapers to report when a member of the aristocracy had a new landau built as can be seen here in this advertisement in the Morning Post, 4th November 1818.It was quite common for the newspapers to report when a member of the aristocracy had a new landau built as can be seen here in this advertisement in the Morning Post, 4th November 1818.

This one gives you an idea of how much they cost from The Suffolk Chronicle; or Weekly General Advertiser & County Express. 13 April 1816


A very handsome Landau Barouche, town-built, nearly new, the property of a gentleman going abroad. Price 80 Guineas.

1816 Landau, wind-up side windows and fore-runner to the convertible car
1816 Landau, wind-up side windows and fore-runner to the convertible car

That was a cheap one in comparison to this one in the Hampshire Chronicle of July 1816 for a Landaulet, which was a cutdown or coupe version of the Landau


A handsome Landaulet, nearly as good as new on its first wheels; cost 320 guineas – lowest price 200 guineas.

It seems that no expense was spared when a new landau was required.

It seems that no expense was spared when a new landau was required.

Our final image is a sketch of  Landau by the coachbuilders Hooper & Co. Unfortunately, this sketch is not dated, but the company was founded in 1805. The seal says that by then they were ‘coachbuilders to her Majesty and the Prince of Wales’.

Carriage Design: A Square Landau undated Pen and black ink, watercolor and collage Sheet: 5 1/2 × 10 1/4 inches (14 × 26 cm) Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Carriage Design: A Square Landau undated Pen and black ink, watercolor and collage Sheet: 5 1/2 × 10 1/4 inches (14 × 26 cm) Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Sources used

London Evening Post (London, England), July 20, 1738 – July 22, 1738

General Advertiser (1744) (London, England), Thursday, August 13, 1752

Featured Image

Landscape with Carriage and Horses – William Ashford – Ulster Museum

The Death of Princess Charlotte 1796-1817

Prince George (later King George IV) and Princess Caroline’s daughter, Princess Charlotte, tragically died shortly after the birth of her still-born son on 6 November 1817.

As the original ‘people’s princess’, I thought I would take a look at how the media of the day reported this sad news.

Princess Charlotte Memorial Ring, Black enamel mourning band, dated 1817, commemorating the death of Princess Charlotte.
Princess Charlotte Memorial Ring, Black enamel mourning band, dated 1817, commemorating the death of Princess Charlotte.

On Wednesday, 5 November 1817 Claremont House, at 10pm, issued the following bulletin.

At nine o’clock this evening, her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte was delivered of a still-born male child. Her Royal Highness is doing extremely well.

Caroline, Princess of Wales, and Princess Charlotte by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1801. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Caroline, Princess of Wales, and Princess Charlotte by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1801. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017.

The London Gazette gave a more detailed account of the events leading up to her death.

Her Royal Highness, the Princess Charlotte Augusta, daughter of his Royal Highness the Prince Regent and consort of his Serene Highness Prince Leopold of Saxe-Cobourg was delivered of a stillborn son at 9 o’clock last night, and about half past twelve her Royal Highness was seized with great difficulty of breathing, restlessness and exhaustion, which alarming symptoms increased till half past 2 o’clock this morning, when her Royal Highness expired, to the inexpressible grief of his Royal Highness the Prince regent, of her illustrious consort, the Prince Leopold and of all the Royal family.

Princess Charlotte c1816 by Charlotte Jones. Courtesy of the Royal Collection
Princess Charlotte c1816 by Charlotte Jones. Courtesy of the Royal Collection

At 6 o’clock on 6 November, Claremont House issued this statement.

I had hoped to have sent you very, very different tidings; and yesterday, when I despatched my last letter to you, I felt confident that my next would have announced the commutation of our wishes, in the birth of a future heir or heiress. However, I will endeavour to write all I have heard, as well as the general grief and consternation will allow me. Monday in the night, or about 3 on Tuesday morning, her Royal Highness was taken ill, and expresses were sent off to the great Officers of State, the Archbishop of Canterbury immediate attendance, Earl Bathurst, Lord Sidmouth, the Lord Chancellor, Mr Vansittart, together with the Archbishop and Bishop immediately attended.

Dr Baillie and Dr Croft were the medical attendants. During the whole of Monday, the labour advanced slowly, but without the least appearance of danger. Princess Charlotte showed uncommon firmness and the utmost resignation. Towards evening, as the labour lingered, it was deemed advisable to send for Dr Sims, who arrived in the middle of the night. Nothing could be going better, though too slowly and the excellent constitution of the Princess gave every assurance that she would not be too much exhausted by the delay. No language, no panegyric can be too warm for the manner in which Prince Leopold conducted himself. He was incessant in his attendance and no countenance could more deeply express the anxiety he felt. Once or twice he exclaimed to the medical attendant that the unrepining patient endurance also a deep affliction at her sufferings being so lengthened.

About six o’clock yesterday, the labour advanced more rapidly, and no apprehensions were entertained of any fatal results; and the child was ascertained to be still living. At nine o’clock her Royal Highness was delivered of a male child, but still-born. Throughout the whole of this long and painful labour, her Royal Highness evinced the greatest firmness, and received the communication of the child being dead borne with much resignation and saying that it was the will of God.

Prince Leopold exclaimed to the medical attendants as soon as the intelligence was communicated to him ‘Thank God, thank God, the Princess is safe’. The child was perfect, and one of the finest infants brought into the world.

The Princess was composed after her delivery, and though of course much exhausted, every hope was entertained of her doing well. This pleasing intelligence being communicated to the great officers of State who left Claremont about 11 o’clock.  

It was reported that although exhausted the Princess took some gruel, but expressed difficulty in swallowing it, she also complained of feeling very chilly and a pain in her stomach. The nurse, Mrs Griffiths was concerned and summoned the doctors to return.

A little after 12, a change was observed in her Royal Highness, her quiet left her, she became restless and uneasy and the medical attendants were alarmed. Expresses were sent off, I believe to the Officers of State stating the change that had taken place. From half past 12 restlessness and convulsions increased till nature and life were quite exhausted, and her Royal Highness expired at half past 2 this morning. Prince Leopold was with her Royal Highness at this agonizing moment.

Princess Charlotte of Wales c.1817, by Joseph Lee. Courtesy of the Royal Collection
c.1817, by Joseph Lee. Courtesy of the Royal Collection

Featured Image

The Funeral Ceremony of Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Wales and Saxe Coburg in St. Georges Chapel, Windsor, 19 of November 1817.  Published 1 Feb 1818. Courtesy of the Royal Collection RCIN 750746

Hay Harvest at Stamford, Lincolnshire Nathan Fielding (1747–c.1814)

How George III’s Golden Jubilee, 1809, was celebrated in Lincolnshire

Following on from our previous post, the heroine of our new book, A Georgian Heroine, was a Mrs Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, and one of the many fascinating things she achieved in her life was that she virtually single-handedly and anonymously instigated the national celebrations for the Golden Jubilee of King George III which took place on 25th October 1809, the beginning of his 50th year on the throne. This was something which she was immensely proud of, but for which until now, she has remained largely unknown for. To find out more about this achievement you will need to read our book. The event was celebrated across the country and with this in mind, we thought we would take a look at how some parts of just one county celebrated –  Lincolnshire.

These examples are just a few that were typical of events held throughout Lincolnshire, with the exception of one town; according to a local newspaper

the good people of Gainsboro’, owing to the pressure of business forgot’!

Boston Church c.1821. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Boston Church c.1821. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

In Boston, the bells were rung in the morning of the Jubilee itself and the vessels in the harbour displayed their colours and throughout the day fired their guns in succession. Twenty pounds worth of flour was given by a gentleman to the poor; a handsome subscription was also raised and distributed in ale. All ranks of people partook of the festivities throughout the day. A sumptuous dinner at the Town Hall was numerously attended, and the evening concluded with the largest bonfire ever witnessed in the town.

Folkingham held a ball and supper at the Greyhound Inn with dancing commencing at seven o’clock; Gentleman – ten shillings and 6 pence, Ladies – ten shillings.

Mr Booth regaled a few small tenants and his poor neighbours with beef and ale and their children with cake and tea at Hull bridge.

In the village of Little Ponton, near Grantham, Mrs Dorothy Pennyman regaled the whole of her tenantry with a handsome dinner in the true style of English hospitality; she also sent a plentiful supply of meat and beer to all the poor of the parish.

Louth by William Radclyffe. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Louth by William Radclyffe. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

According to the Stamford Mercury of October 27th, 1809:

In Louth, an elegant transparency was exhibited at West-gate house, the seat of John Simpson Esq to commemorate the jubilee. In the centre of the piece is the figure of Justice, most correctly and classically painted: she seems to be pronouncing the words of the wise man, “by Justice King’s reign” – a fiery sword extended, denotes the entire destruction of his Majesty’s naval enemies; whilst where rich and poor at under the protection of wise and equal laws. The regalia in front of the transparency are evidently guarded by the sword of the Goddess, and the whole has a majestic and appropriate effect.

Market Deeping raised enough funds from the more opulent inhabitants in order that a donation of a pound of meat and a shilling loaf was delivered to every man in the parish who chose to accept it; and the like quantity of meat and bread and a pint of ale to every woman and child; and such a quantity of ale was allotted for free distribution in the evening, that two barrels remained over and above what could be consumed. A very pleasant and respectable ball took place at the New Inn, about 60 persons present; and the lodge of Odd Fellows in the town and the Post-office were illuminated.

The villagers of Pinchbeck, near Spalding, dined together at the Bull Inn owned by Mr Richard Sharman and regaled 50 poor people at the Bell, with roast beef and plum-pudding. The very musical peal of bells also gladdened the whole village throughout the day.

George III (1738-1820) by Edward Bird, c.1810-1815
George III (1738-1820) by Edward Bird, c.1810-1815; Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives.

The Jubilee was observed at Spalding with the demonstrations of loyalty for which that town was on all occasion truly conspicuous – a liberal contribution, amounting to £120 having been made two or three days before, the jubilee commenced with the early distribution of meat, a twelve-penny loaf, and a shilling, to every poor family in the town; by which upwards of 700 families were richly enabled to partake of the festivities of the day. At eleven o’clock the Yeomanry Cavalry, the principal inhabitants and the benefit societies of the town, preceded by bands of music, marched to the church where a sermon was preached by the Rev. Dr Johnson. God Save the King, with additions for the occasion, was sung by the congregation. After the service at church, the troop of cavalry fired a feu de joie in the marketplace. The cavalry then dined at the George Inn, where every delicacy of the season was provided. In the evening, there was a bonfire in the marketplace, with the firing of cannons, squibs and crackers. One gentleman (Mr Dawson, surgeon) prepared a small balloon for the occasion which went off in very good style.

Stamford c1819. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
Stamford c1819. Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

A subscription of £130 was raised in the six parishes of Stamford which enabled the committee appointed for its distribution to give one shilling to every poor person (man, woman or child) who chose to accept it.

Featured Image:

Hay Harvest at Stamford by Nathan Fielding (Peterborough Museums)

Bude Haven by Joseph Stannard.

The Ringers of Launcells Tower

The Ringers of Launcells Tower; Frederick Smallfield. This painting was inspired by a poem called 'The Ringers of Launcells Tower' by Reverend Hawker of Morwenstow. The bell ringers who had rung the bells at the accession of George III in 1760, were still alive and able to ring the bells on his Golden Jubilee in 1810. The church of Launcells is midway between Stratton and Bude. As the painting was done 77 years after George III's Golden Jubilee, it is a reconstruction.
The Ringers of Launcells Tower; Frederick Smallfield; Royal Institution of Cornwall

We came across this piece of art whilst researching the heroine of our latest book, Mrs Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs. The painting was inspired by a poem called ‘The Ringers of Launcells Tower’ that was written, some decades after the event, by Reverend Hawker of Morwenstow and which we thought we would share with you.

Reverend Hawker of Morwenstow in 1864, who wrote a poem called ‘The Ringers of Launcells Tower’.

The Ringers of Launcells

They rang at the Accession of George the Third and lived to ring again at the fiftieth anniversary of his reign.

They meet once more! That ancient band –

With furrowed cheek and failing hand, –

One peal today they fain must ring

The Jubilee of England’s King!


They meet once more – but changed are now

The sinewy arm and laughing brow:

The strength that hail’d in former times

King George the third with lusty chimes!


Yet proudly gaze on that lone tower!

No goodlier sight hath hall or bower, –

Meekly they strive – and closing day

Gilds with soft light their locks of gray!


Hark! Proudly hark! With that true tone

They welcomed Him to Land and Throne,

So ere they die they fain would ring

The Jubilee of England’s King!


Hearts of old Cornwall! Fare ye well,

Fast fade such scenes from field and dell,

How wilt thou lack, my own dear land,

Those trusty arms, that faithful band!


Launcells is a rural hamlet between Stratton and Bude in Cornwall where, during the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, there lived six bell ringers. The six men are identified as John Lyle (1736-1832), Richard Hayman (1739-1816), John Ham (1742-1825), Richard Venning (1744-?), Henry Cade and John Allen.

Stratton by Charles Henry Branscombe
Stratton by Charles Henry Branscombe; Bude-Stratton Town Council

John Lyle was the longest living member of the group and was born and bred in Launcells and remained there his entire life. He was reputed to have rung a merry peal for King George III’s coronation in 1760, then again for his golden Jubilee in 1810, then for the coronation of King George IV in 1821 and, as unlikely as it seems, also for the coronation of King William IV in 1831, just one year before he died at the ripe old age of 96. That was quite some achievement. Two others also lived long enough to join John Lyle in ringing the peals for George IV’s coronation, Richard Hayman and John Ham.

George III in his coronation robes, by Allan Ramsay.
George III in his coronation robes, by Allan Ramsay.

The only other member we managed to find out anything about was John Ham who began his working life as an apprentice cooper to the Lyle family in 1754 and who married Anna Maria Lisle in 1761 at the parish church in Launcells.

The painting was a reconstruction of the scene as Frederick Smallfield imagined it would have looked, depicting the six bell ringers ringing the bells as part of the celebrations for the golden jubilee of King George III. It was clearly important to Smallfield that he captured everything correctly so he studied bell ringers at his local church as well as visiting the church tower in Launcells.

Bude Haven by Joseph Stannard.
Bude Haven, Cornwall by Joseph Stannard; Newport Museum and Art Gallery

We know that great celebrations were held across the country to celebrate the jubilee of King George III in 1809 as it was our very own heroine who instigated them. References to this painting seem to confirm though that the bell ringing took place in 1810, i.e. at the end of King George III’s 50th year on the throne.

Singleton, Henry; The Pastor's Fireside: The family of Sir Thomas Acland, 10th Bt, Being Read to by the Vicar of Silverton; National Trust, Killerton

Curl up with our two biographies: 30% off RRP for a limited time when bought together

As the nights start to draw in, it’s a perfect time to curl up in the warmth by your fireside with a book or two and so we’re delighted that our publisher, Pen & Sword, have chosen to offer both our current biographies as a discounted bundle deal. Even more so as they are perfect companion books to each other, together telling the full story of the infamous eighteenth-century courtesan, Grace Dalrymple Elliott and her extended Scottish family as well as documenting the life of her daughter and granddaughter, continuing into the Regency and Victorian eras and culminating in a marriage into the British royal family.

30% off RRP of An Infamous Mistress and A Right Royal Scandal for a limited time at Pen and Sword when bought together.

And, is it yet too early to mention Christmas and Christmas shopping? These two books would make the perfect festive present for anyone who is interested in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century history, the French Revolution or indeed anyone who has an interest in the royal family or has enjoyed watching period dramas such as Victoria on ITV.

Queen Victoria at the Drury Lane Theatre, November 1837 by Edmund Thomas Parris (1793-1873). Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016
Queen Victoria at the Drury Lane Theatre, November 1837 by Edmund Thomas Parris.
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

You can buy both An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott and A Right Royal Scandal: Two Marriages That Changed History, in hardback, with a saving of 30% off RRP when bought together for a limited time by clicking here and selecting the ‘get this product as part of a bundle’ offer at the top of the page.

Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

If you have enjoyed An Infamous Mistress and A Right Royal Scandal, watch out for our third biography, A Georgian Heroine: The Intriguing Life of Rachel Charlotte Williams Biggs, coming soon.

Featured Image

The Pastor’s Fireside: The family of Sir Thomas Acland, 10th Bt, Being Read to by the Vicar of Silverton by Henry Singleton (1766–1839); National Trust, Killerton.

La promenade en famille: a sketch from life. The Duke of Clarence (later William IV), Dorothea Jordan and some of their brood of children.

The Duke of Clarence’s Views on Marriage

For those familiar with this period of history, you will no doubt be well aware of the relationship the Duke of Clarence had with the actress Dorothea Jordan and that she had 10 illegitimate children with him.

Romney, George; Dorothea Bland (1762-1816), 'Mrs Jordan', as 'Peggy' in 'The Country Girl'; National Trust, Waddesdon Manor
Romney, George; Dorothea Bland (1762-1816), ‘Mrs Jordan’, as ‘Peggy’ in ‘The Country Girl’; National Trust, Waddesdon Manor

To ensure the continuity of the family line though, William, Duke of Clarence was persuaded/coerced/cajoled/bullied into marrying, take it as you will.

Johann Georg Paul Fischer (1786-1875)William IV (1765-1837) when Duke of Clarence  Engraved 1818. Watercolour on ivory laid on card | RCIN 420217
Johann Georg Paul Fischer (1786-1875)William IV (1765-1837) when Duke of Clarence  Engraved 1818. Watercolour on ivory laid on card | RCIN 420217

We came across this extract from a letter in The Georgian Papers written by his mother Queen Charlotte to Prinny (George, Prince Regent) in 1817 which we thought would be of interest and quite clearly shows Queen Charlotte’s view of the Duke of Clarence’s illegitimate offspring.

I doubt he will think it advisable to marry by that I mean his pecuniary affairs which lay heavy at his heart as to what relates to his children I should think that is a point which if he marries must be settled amongst themselves, for as they are not to live under the same roof I cannot see why if the princess is reasonable she should object to see those children. I enclose the copy and make no further comments upon it as it will explain the whole.

Next, we have Williams extremely heartfelt view about any possible marriage. The underlined words are of his doing, not ours.

Bath December 18th, 1817

Dear Madam

Your Majesty having requested me to put my thoughts in writing on the subject of the letter from the Prince Regent I take up my pen to state as clearly as I can my sentiments and real situation.

I acknowledge a private and public duty and only wish to reconcile the two together: if the cabinet consider the measure of my marrying one of consequence they ought to state to me what they can and will propose for my establishment for without previously being acquainted with their intentions as to money matters I cannot and will not make any positive offer to any Princess: I have ten children totally and entirely dependent on myself. I owe forty thousand pounds of funded debt for which of course I pay interest, and I have a floating debt of sixteen thousand pounds: in addition to all which if I marry I must have a town house and my house at Bushy completely repaired and entirely new furnished: thus situated and turned fifty it would be madness in me to marry without previously knowing what my income would be: If that settlement is made which I can consider adequate I shall only have to explain my real situation as the fond and attached father of ten children to the Princess whom I am to marry: for without a complete understanding of my full determination to see when and where I please my daughters I cannot and will not marry. As for the Princess, I think under all consideration the Princess of Dannemark (sic) is probably the most proper provided her character is that which I should trust will bear investigation.

I hope I have expressed myself to your Majesty’s satisfaction: one comfort at least I have that I have opened my heart most fully and entirely and shall therefore leave in your Majesty’s hands these lines as the complete sentiment that must ever dictate my line of conduct on a measure in which both my public and private duty is concerned.

I remain

Dearest Madam

Your Majesty’s most affectionate and dutiful son


Clearly, the suggestion of him marrying the Princess of Dannemark fell on deaf ears, but marry he did, for in July 1818 a suitable match was found for him – Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen who was half his age.

Queen Adelaide (1792-1849) C. 1833. Watercolour on ivory laid on card | RCIN 420661.Courtesy of the Royal Collection
Queen Adelaide (1792-1849) C. 1833. Watercolour on ivory laid on card | RCIN 420661.Courtesy of the Royal Collection
Hereford Journal July 8th, 1818 announcing the arrival of Princess Adelaide
Hereford Journal July 8th, 1818 announcing the arrival of Princess Adelaide

The couple married only a week or so after having met. Was it a happy marriage? Well, apparently so as it lasted until his death in 1837.

Featured Image

La promenade en famille: a sketch from life by James Gillray. The Duke of Clarence, Mrs Jordan and some of their children.


The Apotheosis of Prince Octavius (1779-83) by Benjamin west, 1783. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

The Death of Princes Alfred & Octavius and Queen Charlotte’s mysterious pregnancies

Our present Queen was not the only one to have an ‘Annus horribilis’, for King George III and Queen Charlotte theirs, however, lasted somewhat longer than one year. For them, the years between 1781-1783 could, without a doubt be described as being some of the worst years of their lives with the loss of their two youngest sons. Both parents were devastated by such tragic events.

We begin at the end of March 1781 when the newspapers reported that the queen was once again pregnant with what would be her fifteenth child and that a public announcement would be made at court after the Easter holidays. No announcement came – did the queen miscarry or was it merely ‘fake news’?

Her Majesty is said to be certainly pregnant of her fifteenth child a piece of intelligence that will be publickly communicated at Court after the Easter holidays.

Kentish Gazette, 28 March 1781

Early autumn of 1781 it was reported that young Prince Alfred (born 1780) was dangerously ill and that the queen was constantly attending to her youngest children in the nursery. By October Alfred was deemed to be much better and out of danger. All fourteen children were now doing well, even if the Prince of Wales (later George IV) was giving concern to his parents over his scandalous relationship with Grace Dalrymple Elliott who, at the end of March 1782, produced her one and only daughter reputedly as a result of her liaison with the Prince.

Prince Alfred (1780-1782). Miniature painted c.1782, British School. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Prince Alfred (1780-1782). Miniature painted c.1782, British School. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Prince Alfred’s health remained something of a cause for concern and in May 1782, it was agreed that he should be taken to Deal Castle to make use of the salt water there for the benefit of his health. Mid-August his health again deteriorated and on August 20th, 1782, despite Dr Heberden attending to him throughout the night, young Prince Alfred, aged one year and eleven months died of ‘a consumption’; other reports stated that whilst perfectly healthy when he was born, he became weak and died from ‘an atrophy’. A report given in the Reading Mercury amongst several other newspapers stated that:

The queen is much affected at this calamity, probably more so on account of its being the only one she has experienced after a marriage of 20 years, and have been the mother of fourteen children. There will be no general mourning for the death of Prince Alfred, it being an established etiquette never to go into mourning for any of the royal blood of