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.

Sources:

Norfolk Chronicle, 23 May 1795

The Times, 25 May 1795