Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Dazzling Display of the Outstanding Orator

               On October 3rd 1820, Henry Brougham began his defence, in a display of oratory that instantly made him the most famous politician in Britain. Some orators use persuasion to win over an audience, others favour absolute sincerity, whilst others yet opt for an almost innate sense of tact, or studied eloquence. Brougham’s talents lay elsewhere. 

Queen Caroline

At the heart lay Brougham’s rock-solid belief in himself, in his unshakeable sense of self-worth, an adamantine self-confidence that surpassed mere egotism. He used sarcasm, he used invective, but most of all he used a merciless, logical, blood-chillingly precise, analysis of the facts. And now, with a great speech expected of him, Brougham set about delivering just that. He began by outlining the duties of an advocate, not as a definition but as a threat; that he would expose every fact of the case in defence of his client. If that meant exposing every sin, every fault and every foible of those accusing his client, then so be it. He was simply doing what was expected of the most inexperienced counsel. 

A Going - Caricature of Caroline as 'a brazen statue'

The assembled Lords murmured, some in anger, some in apprehension, all in full awareness of the menace. The Queen, he admitted, had sought the company of foreigners, but whose fault was that? Why, the very same nobles assembled here to judge her now, those who had sought her company when she arrived in this country, attended her court, sought preferment when it was hers to offer, then abandoned her when there was a change, leaving instead for other places where their ambitions might be satisfied. 

George IV

Of course she had consorted with foreigners, when the English nobility had closed their doors to her. He sketched lightly her situation abroad, how she had been excluded from her own daughter’s marriage, how news of that daughter’s death had reached her by accident and how that death had been immediately followed by the Milan Commission, with its spies, its bribes and its intrigues. 

Mother Red Cap in opposition to the King's Head

Brougham then turned his attention to the details of the witnesses, and with forensic precision, he pointed out the inconsistencies, the differences between what they had said to the Milan Commission and what the very same witnesses had said when they were examined by their Lordships. Times and dates did not match, one witness contradicted another, details about what happened when varied, depending on whose testimony you believed. He poured contempt on the words of servants, poor menials offered money to concoct whatever stories these English milords wanted to hear, brought over from Italy to live now in luxury and idleness. There was no conspiracy against the Queen, he said, but instead it was 
a grave and serious design accidentally formed.’ 

Caroline and Pergami

The Milan Commission was dismissed as 
that great receipt of perjury - that store house of false swearing and all iniquity,’ 
and parallels were drawn with another royal divorce case, that of Henry VIII, who had consulted Italian universities to verify the legality of his claim, which had their unanimity in favour of the King rewarded with more than adequate recompense. 

Villa d'Este

Majocchi’s conveniently unreliable memory was the next item to be ridiculed by Brougham’s acid tongue, a man who said ‘Non mi recordo’ when asked if he had tried to regain his position after being dismissed, but when asked at another time, ‘Did you apply to Count Schiavini to be taken back?’ had replied, ‘I did.’ 

Theodore Majocchi

This was a man who could recall where every member of the Queen’s suite had slept in the Villa d’Este, but could not recall whether a new wing had been added to that building or not. The other witnesses were subjected to Brougham’s thunderbolts, their characters destroyed, their evidence torn to remnants, in an unrelenting tirade of scorn and derision. He summed up and concluded by urging the Lords to save the country, save the people, save themselves, but most of all to save the honour of the Queen of England. 
I pray heaven for her! And here I pour forth my fervent supplication at the throne of mercy, that mercies may descend on the people of this country richer than its rulers have deserved; and that your hearts may be turned to justice.” 

Henry Brougham (in later life)

Exhausted, he took his seat, and for several minutes the House of Lords sat in stunned silence.

Tomorrow - The Defence defends itself

Monday, 29 April 2013

The Abominable Accusations of the Perjurous Personnel

                            From the outset, Caroline made it plain that she intended to be present in Parliament during the trial. Crowds of supporters cheered her journey there, extra troops were drafted in to keep public order and wooden barriers were placed in the streets around the Houses of Parliament, guarded by armed soldiers. 

The Queen arrives at the House of Lords

The Lords, on their way to the Upper House were booed and hissed at in the street – even the Duke of Wellington was heckled. Unless they had a very good excuse, the Lords were compelled to attend or face a substantial daily fine. 

Sir Robert Gifford

Sir Robert Gifford, the Attorney-General, presented what appeared to be damning accounts of Caroline’s indiscretions with Pergami, how they were frequently seen to walk arm-in-arm, to kiss, and had often slept together. 

Theodore Majocchi

After two days of evidence, the first witness was called. When Theodore Majocchi, an Italian servant, entered the House, Caroline cried out ‘Teodore! Oh no, no!’ and in great agitation left the chamber (She did not, as some accounts claim, cry ‘Traditore’ [‘Traitor’]). An interpreter was provided as Majocchi did not speak English, but Brougham insisted that a second interpreter, of his choosing, also be present. 

Henry Brougham

The examination of the witness by the prosecution was disgraceful, consisting in the main of leading questions, putting words directly into the servant’s mouth and merely requiring him to confirm the statements. However, the picture painted made it quite clear that Caroline and Pergami had been lovers. 

Installation of a Knight Companion of the Bath

There were lurid descriptions of shared meals, of shared bathing and of shared beds. There was tell of Mahomet, a Turk, who regularly performed a particularly lewd dance in the Princess’s villa, with ‘certain gestures’. There were things that had gone on behind locked doors, in desert tents, in the cabins of ships. Then Brougham began his cross-examination. 

Sir George Hayter - The Trial of Queen Caroline 1820 - (Depicts Majocchi giving Evidence to the House of Lords)

Majocchi faltered under the initial onslaught, and piece by piece, Brougham tore him apart. Majocchi resorted to saying ‘Non mi ricordo’ [I do not recall] to almost every question put to him (in all, he said it over two hundred times during the cross-examination), and the expression was taken up by the public, remaining in long usage for when a person did not want to commit themselves to something they knew to be untrue. There were even rhymes and songs written.
Theodore Majocci is my name,
And every one's aware.
From Italy I came
Against the Queen to swear,
I was sent to C[olonel] B[rowne']s,
When I was abroad O,
Who gave me many Crowns,
To say ‘Non mi ricordo.’
Brougham’s unrelenting disassembly of Majocchi’s credibility was a tour de force, and it was said that if he had done the same in a normal divorce proceeding, the case would have been laughed out of court before any other witnesses were called. 
The Italian Witnesses arrive in England
Further Italian servants took the stand, and it became positively unhealthy for the Italian population of England to admit to their nationality, such was the reputation for duplicity, avariciousness and cupidity that their countrymen and women formed in the minds of the English public. Indeed, three Swiss witnesses who were en route to give evidence, on hearing of the reception of the Italians who landed at Dover, turned around and returned for home. 
Sir John Copley
When those witnesses that did attend had been heard, the Solicitor-General, Sir John Copley, summed up the case for the Crown. There was no sure way to prove adultery, he opined, but circumstance had to be admitted. Majocchi, of course, had contradicted himself, but had been grilled for seven hours by Brougham and Denman (Caroline’s solicitor), and of course he would nor recall every detail of every incident in the years he had been in the Princess’s employ, and thus had little recourse other than admit the truth, that he did not remember. 
Bat, Cat and Mat - Caroline on Pergami's Arm
No one had sought to deny that the Princess had promenaded on Pergami’s arm, who was of no rank higher than a courier, 
To me it appears, according to my way of thinking, that that circumstance is quite sufficient proof of her guilt.” 
Brougham was then asked if he intended to begin the defence immediately, or did he seek a postponement. There were risks involved in both – a delay might see a decline in Caroline’s popular support, whereas haste may provide insufficient time to mount a proper case. Brougham opted to begin immediately but the House thought better and ordered a three-week adjournment.
Tomorrow - The Defence of the Queen

Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Rancorous Return of the Vengeful Virago

                   I dare say that you barely noticed what, to us, seems like an inconsequential detail. It was that wee thing about having her name removed from the Liturgy that tipped the balance for Caroline. In the bidding prayers included in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, said before the reading of the Collect, specific mention was (and still is) made of the members of the Royal family, for whose health and well-being prayers were offered. By removing Caroline’s name from the Liturgy, her position as the Queen of England was publicly denied, both before God and Man. She had been tried, found guilty, and sentenced; justice had been served without hearing her case. A tiny thing mayhap, yet a straw that broke the camel’s back. Caroline resolved to return to England. 

Lord Castlereagh

Letters were written, to the leader of the House of Commons, Lord Castlereagh, to the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, demanding to know why her name had been omitted from the Liturgy, detailing insults to Her Majesty’s dignity suffered in foreign courts, and announcing her intention to come to England forthwith. Replies were sent, pointing out that if she set foot on English soil, proceedings against her would be inevitable. Liverpool offered terms, a satisfactory financial accommodation (£50,000 per year!) could be made if only she remained abroad and did not assume the title or style of Queen Consort. Acceptance of which, of course, would be an admission of guilt. 

Lord Liverpool

Caroline was met by Brougham, who was acting as her representative, and Lord Hutchinson, representative of the government, at St Omer, and the options were laid before her. Another slight, in her eyes. She left for Calais in the very highest dudgeon, very much against the advice of Brougham, and not finding the expected Royal Navy yacht waiting for her, she boarded the insignificant Prince Leopold and, on June 5th 1820, she landed at Dover. 

Pergami and Caroline - The Long and the Short

The populace turned out to greet her, cannon thundered a royal salute, banners were unfurled, cries and cheers sounded out, church bells rang continuously in every town and village. As she progressed to London, labourers stopped work in the fields and cheered ‘God Save the Queen’ as she passed. One chap, obvious overcome by the emotion of the moment and not altogether au fait with the ins and outs of Her Majesty’s private life, even called for cheers for ‘Mr Austin, Her Majesty’s son.’ 

Alderman Wood

When Caroline arrived in London, she took lodgings with Alderman Wood, in South Audley Street, and waited for the King to make a move. She did not have to wait for long; on the next afternoon, an announcement was read simultaneously before the Lords and the Commons. 
The King, in consequence of the Queen's arrival, feels it necessary to communicate to this House certain documents relating to Her Majesty's conduct after her departure from this country. These documents he entrusts to the serious and immediate consideration of the House.” 
These ‘certain documents’ were contained in two green bags, and were identical copies of the evidence collected by the preposterous Milan Commission. The House of Lords immediately appointed a secret committee of fifteen members to examine the evidence. The Commons, on the other hand, allowed their green bag to sit, unopened, on the table for two weeks. 

The Como-Cal Hobby - Set a Courier on Goat back and he'll ride to the Devil - Caricature of Pergami and Caroline

A Bill of Pains and Penalties was then brought before the ministers; these bills were a legal hangover, even in 1820. They were intended to punish offenders who had committed crimes against the State not covered under ordinary law, and were legally dubious, to say the very least, as a person could be tried for an act that was not illegal when that act was committed, and punishment could be enacted in excess of what was applicable under law. Furthermore, these bills were brought against a specific individual by name, rather than a class of offenders, all of which runs against the very heart of English jurisprudence. 

How to Get Un-Married

The preamble to the 1820 Bill stated that Caroline, then Princess of Wales, had left Great Britain and travelled abroad, where she engaged in licentious intimacy with Bartolomeo Pergami, and by reason of this disgraceful behaviour it was necessary to dissolve her marriage to the King of England (the enacting part of the bill simply dissolved the marriage). After two days of legal niceties, the trial proper of the Queen began on August 19th 1820, with Henry Brougham (a member of the Commons) given the unusual dispensation to speak before the Lords. 

Henry Brougham

He, cleverly, offered speculations rather than recriminations; why had the King not filed for common divorce, well, because no petition would be heard from a husband who had driven his wife from the marital home, and had frequently violated the matrimonial vows. He pointed out that George, in marrying Mrs Fitzherbert, a Roman Catholic, had forfeited his right of accession to the Crown. Why was a Bill of Pains and Penalties being enforced when, surely, there was a case of treason to be heard? Knowing that support and sympathy in the country lay virtually unanimously with Caroline, he also called for the evidence to be made public, a move that would almost certainly have led to the fall of the Tory administration. 

In the end, Brougham’s objections were overruled and the very soiled linen of Caroline began to be scrutinised by the members of both Houses. 

Tomorrow - A Queen on Trial

Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Fallacious Findings of the Crooked Commission

                Although she passed four months in Sicily, and a similar amount of time touring Greece and the Holy Land, for six years (between 1814 to 1820), Caroline lived in Italy, taking a variety of villas. Pergami and his family were her principal attendants, and the rumours that she lived with the Italian as man and wife were believed by all. In April 1817, she resolved to sell the Villa d’Este, which was proving too expensive to maintain and moved, in August, to Pesaro. 

The Marriage of Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Sallfeld

Here she received a letter from her daughter, Princess Charlotte, with an engraving of her and her husband, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Sallfeld. Charlotte had married in May 1816, and was declared pregnant in the spring of 1817 (Caroline was not consulted regarding the marriage, and there was no representative of her present at the wedding ceremony). England was jubilant, the Princess was loved by all, and hopes of a male heir raised the price of stock by six per cent. 

Princess Charlotte

And then tragedy struck, and at only twenty-one years of age, Princess Charlotte died, after delivering a stillborn son. The country plunged into deep mourning, the Prince Regent was so profoundly shocked that he was unable to attend his daughter’s funeral and could not bring himself to write to Caroline with the news. He passed the responsibility to Prince Leopold, who was too grief-stricken to write, and news of her daughter’s death only reached Caroline by accident. A messenger, on his way to deliver the news to the Pope, passed through Pesaro and so Caroline only discovered the truth at second hand. She fainted immediately, and never really recovered from the shock. 

The Sorrows of Britain - A Sermon on the Occasion of the Great National Calamity - 1817

The Prince Regent, left without legitimate children or grandchildren, then formally appointed a royal commission to examine the reports of Caroline’s infidelity that were received from Ompteda and his spies. Mr Leach and Mr Cooke, both barristers, Mr Powell, a gentleman with connections at court, Colonel Brown and Lord Stewart departed for Italy, where they met with a Milanese agent, Vimercati, and established a bureau for the collection of evidence against the Princess. 

Caroline, Princess of Wales

The so-called Milan Commission was just as disgraceful, corrupt and ham-fisted as you’d expect any government-funded muck-raking mission to Italy to be. They had £30,000 to spend on expenses, which they did, and if they had spent twice as much, they would have undoubtedly bought twice as much evidence, and all of it would have been worth exactly the same, which was nothing. Retired servants offered salacious tales in return for money. Sacked former employees were interviewed and, unsurprisingly, were only too happy to revenge themselves by telling whatever tales the Commission wanted to hear. Sacchi, a groom sacked by Pergami (against whom he vowed reprisals), perhaps summed it up best, 
What would you have me do? I am desperate; I have no work; I will say what they told me to say.” 
It was such a botched job, so obviously riddled with lies and inconsistencies, that when the Commission delivered its report, on July 10th 1819, no further action was taken. Nevertheless, Caroline wasn’t to know that at the time and resolved to move somewhere nearer to England, just in case she needed easier, speedier access to her lawyers. 

King George III

Uncertain of how she would be received by the French, she started out for Rome, but was intercepted at Leghorn with news that, on January 29th 1820, King George III had died. As a consequence, she was now the Queen of England. 

Queen Caroline

No attempt was made by the Royal court to inform her of her change of circumstance, indeed, it was intimated to the courts of Europe that it was the desire of the new King that his consort should not be recognised as Queen. As far as the courts of Europe were concerned, this was fine by them. George III had been mad for so long, and his son had acted as Regent for so long that, politically, nothing had really changed. So when Caroline reached Rome, travelling incognito under the name of the Countess Oldi, she was received as a private citizen and was told, in no uncertain terms, that until Rome received an official statement from the King of England and Hanover informing it of her change of status, Rome would not recognise her as the Queen of England and Hanover. 

King George IV

In a letter to Lord Montagu, Sir Walter Scott (the author), made a grave predication that whichever of the King or the Queen struck the first blow, that one would inevitably lose the battle. Her guilt was assumed in England, and it was also assumed that she would not dare to return. The King was now determined to divorce his wife, albeit that the evidence was circumstantial and rested, for the most part, on the word of foreign menials, foreign hotel-keepers, former foreign servants dismissed from the Princess’s household, and, without putting too fine a point on it, foreigners. And we all know what they are like. It had also to be said, quietly and with due reverence, that his Majesty had hardly conducted himself like a monk, before, during or after the Princess’s residence in the country. 

Contemporary Caricature of Caroline

Something of a compromise was reached when the Queen’s name was removed from the Liturgy, and the government undertook to pass a Bill of Pains and Penalties, to take effect if her Majesty returned to England, while the King consented that no such requirement would be forced upon them whilst she remained abroad. Thus, the battle lines were drawn in a war that had already waged for years.

Tomorrow – bad behaviour galore.

Friday, 26 April 2013

The Chivalric Charms of the Irresistible Italian

                 Bartolomeo Pergami of Crema. Handsome, tall, manly Bartolomeo swells his dashing Hussars uniform; spur rattling, sabre clattering, mustachio-twirling Bartolomeo attends the Royal Hotel, Milan, with a letter of introduction to hand. He finds no one at reception. He advances deeper, looking for a flunkey, and in a side-saloon he finds a lady, her skirts entangled about a chair-leg. He swoops, he stoops, deftly frees the lady from her snare; he rises, towering, inclines an amply curly head, enquires where he may find the Princess. He is informed. She is the Princess. Striking, strapping, swarthy Bartolomeo is engaged on the spot. He will be the courier to the Princess. 

Bartolomeo Pergami

Pergami came from a good family, rather than a great family, but the French Revolution had ruined them. He had served, with honour, fighting the Corsican, and although he still wore his Hussars uniform, he was not really entitled to do so – he had killed a man of superior rank who had slighted him, in a duel, and the army had seen fit to relieve him of further service. 

He was able, he was spirited, he got things done. Campaigns had hardened him, service had equipped him to cope, action had built him. He was noticed, his competence rewarded, his rise assured. First, he became an equerry, then a chamberlain, Caroline acquired a military order for him, Knight of Malta, then another, the Sicilian title of Baron della Francia, later she had him raised to Knight of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, and made him Grand Master of her own order of St Caroline. 

Countess Oldi, sister of Bartolomeo

His family was brought in, employed, given positions in the Royal household; his brother, Luigi, presided over it, Valotti Pergami became controller, their sister Angela, married to the Count Oldi of Crema, replaced Lady Charlotte Campbell as the Queen’s Lady in Waiting. Caroline bought the Villa d’Este, on the shore of Lake Como, in July 1815, although she could not afford to do so, and eyebrows were raised when Bartolomeo began to dine at her table there. Indeed, tongues were set wagging across Europe, (Byron, in a letter of January 1816, wrote to John Murray concerning the morality of Venice, 
… a woman is virtuous (according to the code) who limits herself to her husband and one lover; those who have two, three, or more, are a little wild; but it is only those who are indiscriminately diffuse, and form a low connection, such as the Princess of Wales with her courier, (who, by the way, is made a knight of Malta) who are considered as overstepping the modesty of marriage.” 

Lord George 'No Stranger to Scandal' Byron

I’d offer that you were rather more than over-stepping the bounds of modesty if the libidinous Lord Byron was so sufficiently outraged that he cast a disapproving glare on your behaviour! 

An outraged Prince Regent

Back in England, the whiff of scandal causes the Prince Regent to prick up his ears. He still wants evidence, still wants a divorce, for all that Caroline has removed herself to the Continent. He employs spies, agents to watch, to note and report back, to collect and catalogue every rumour, every indiscretion, every folly. He uses his connections, of which there are many, in the German Courts; he is, after all, heir apparent to the dignity of Elector of Hanover. Count Munster, Hanoverian prime minister, is too happy to comply and through him Baron Ompteda, with characteristic Germanic diligence, establishes a bureau in Milan, whereby Caroline’s servants are bribed, her movements surveyed, her comings and goings logged. Keys to drawers were duplicated, letters were read, and conversations were eavesdropped upon. 

Caroline, Princess of Wales

Some Italians, for certain sums and considerations, were persuaded to submit whatever statements about the Princess, her movements and her behaviour, as were required, in satisfactory amounts. Caroline realised what was going on in Milan; she arranged for Ompteda to be sent on wild-goose chases and when he was dining at the Villa d’Este, she dropped unequivocal hints that she knew about the counterfeit keys. In a private letter, which Caroline knew full well would be opened and read, she wrote, 
Le porteur de cette lettre est une personne qui ne dit jamais la vérité: il est un espion de la Câbal” 
[The carrier of this letter is a person who never told the truth: he is a spy of the Cabal]. 

Bartolomeo Pergami

The Prince Regent sent one Mr Quentin to Naples, with the intention of spying on Caroline when she visited there, under the pretext on buying thoroughbred horses. The suspicions of Count Macirone were aroused when this supposed horse-buyer didn’t actually buy any horses, even when the finest animals in the Royal stud were offered to him, and Macirone informed the King of Naples know what he thought of this odd behaviour. The King sent news to Caroline, keeping her abreast of his intelligence, and offering to escort Quentin, and any other spies sent by the English, to the borders of his kingdom. Caroline, characteristically guileless, declined with the reply, 
When he has looked about him and satisfied himself, he'll take his departure.” 

Villa d'Este, Lake Como

Ompteda bribed one of Caroline’s servants, Maurice Crede, to allow access to her bedchamber in the Villa d'Este, where a search for evidence of adultery was carried out (nothing was found). Crede was fired, ostensibly for an affair with a female servant, and so, in an attempt to regain his position, he wrote a letter confessing his treachery and undoubtedly causing quite a kerfuffle in Hanover when he named Ompteda as the person behind the intrusion. Hardly the sort of thing a secret spy-master needs to be thrown out into the open. 

George Cruickshank - Pergami and Caroline

Ompteda also had problems with a young British naval lieutenant, called Hownam, who was so outraged at the behaviour of the spy, that he called him out, demanding that he fight a duel for daring to cast aspersions on the Princess’s reputation. Ompteda’s masters back in Hanover immediately recalled him home, but the reason given for him not providing Hownam with satisfaction was that the Baron could not be expected to fight so plebeian an opponent (which, to me, is reason enough for another gauntlet across the chops Herr Baron).

Tomorrow – Terrible scandals and awful behaviour

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The Resolute Refusal of the Plucky Princess

                Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, the only child of George and Caroline, had been born on January 7 1796, and, in 1813, it was decided that she was old enough to be formally presented at Court. The day was decided, January 18, and Charlotte waited in the drawing room with her mother. However, it had been planned that the Duchess of York, or another female member of the royal household would present the Princess to the Regent, but Charlotte was adamant – ‘Either my Mother, or no one.’ 

Princess Charlotte

Entreaties were made but she would not be moved, and so, in the end, the presentation did not take place. She continued to show her wilfulness. George decided that she should be married, and William, the heir to the House of Orange was selected as the prospective groom. Charlotte was not overly impressed with William when they met, and when she learned that she would be required to go and live in the Netherlands following the marriage, she stipulated that her mother must be allowed to live there with her, knowing full well that her father would not agree to this condition. 

Caroline, Princess of Wales

When George refused, Charlotte broke off the engagement, and her father, incandescent with rage, ordered her to be detained at Carlton House, before being moved to Cranbourne House, in Windsor forest, where her grandmother, Queen Charlotte, would be the only permitted visitor, and that limited to one visit per week. 

Princess Charlotte

After Charlotte was told about this, in an acrimonious meeting with George, in the evening of the same day, she slipped out of the house, in bonnet and shawl, was helped aboard a hackney-coach in Cockspur Street by a bystander, and was driven to Connaught House, where she hoped to find her mother. Caroline was actually in Blackheath, and a messenger was sent post-haste to bring her back to her daughter. She rushed back, where she was joined by Brougham, Charlotte’s uncle (the Duke of Sussex), and then a steady stream of emissaries from Carlton House, including the Lord Chancellor, Eldon, the Bishop of Salisbury, and Lord Ellenborough. 

The Duke of Sussex

It was not until the following morning that Brougham persuaded her to return to Carlton House, and only then by advising her that if news of her flight became known, the public would rise up on her behalf, they would riot and storm Carlton House, the army would be called out and bloodshed would be inevitable. 

Carlton House

She insisted that a royal coach was sent for her, and that Brougham draw up a declaration that she had no intention to marry the Hereditary Prince of Orange, that if any announcement of such a marriage was made, it was made without her consent, and that should a announcement be issued, it was to be made public immediately. This declaration was then signed by the Princess of Wales, the Duke of Sussex, Brougham, and Lady Charlotte Lindsay. 

Caroline, dressed for a masquerade, 1812

Realising the lengths to which the Prince Regent was prepared to go to separate her from her daughter, and appreciating that their meeting would be limited in the future, Caroline decided that she would leave England and, following the defeat of Napoleon, return to Brunswick, where she would visit her brother. With help from Lord Liverpool, Caroline received assurances that George would not intervene if she departed; he was probably delighted just to see the back of her, if the truth be known. 

Samuel Whitbread
Some counselled her not to quit the country, Samuel Whitbread being one of the most vociferous, with warnings of what might befall Charlotte if she was left alone, without her mother’s protection. But Caroline was not to be swayed. She insisted that she would visit her daughter at Connaught Lodge, where she would be admitted, and they would dine together, with no attempts at intervention by the Prince. 

William Austin

This was accomplished, to the satisfaction of all, and Caroline and her suite, including the adopted William Austin, then aged about thirteen, left for Worthing, and then on to South Lancing, where she boarded the Jason and sailed for the continent. She arrived in Brunswick to great acclaim, with loud public welcomes and parades, and she spent many happy weeks there, surrounded by friends and supporters. 

Caroline, Princess of Wales

Then she left for Switzerland, where she caused quite a stir amongst the sober local peasantry, but Switzerland had little interest for her and she took to the road again, destined for Italy. In October 1814, her party passed through Lombardy, and came to Milan, where Caroline asked for the services of an Italian courier. The Austrian General, Pino, recommended a man, and provided a letter of introduction for him to the Princess of Wales. 

Thus, Bartelomeo Pergami came into her life. And thereby hangs another tale.

Tomorrow, the German Princess and the Italian adventurer.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Further Finagling of the Petulant Prince

             There is one line of thought that George, Prince of Wales, was behind the whole thing. When he realised that Parliament had no intention of clearing his debts at a stroke, even though he had gone through with the marriage to his cousin, Caroline of Brunswick, and when he realised that they were an entirely unsuited couple, who could never make their marriage work, you can understand, if not condone, it that he resolved to be rid of her. 

George, Prince of Wales

She was tactless, headstrong, garrulous and, let’s be honest, not the brightest diamond in the tiara. If the rumours coming out of Blackheath were to be believed, the Princess was running wild, with far too many gentleman callers. So, let’s just say that her new neighbours, the Douglases, were ‘encouraged’ to move into the district and gain her confidence, and to relate their findings back to the Prince.
How convenient would it be if they conveyed lurid stories of the Princess’s liaisons with a steady stream of suitors, and what if the story of the illegitimate child was true? Messy, certainly, sordid, absolutely; grounds for divorce, definitely. 

Caroline, Princess of Wales

But, let’s just imagine that Caroline realised what was going on, and deliberately played up to the spies, giving them just what they wanted, and more, knowing that in the cold light of reason, how ridiculous the claims would seem. So, she let Lady Douglas believe that William Austin was her own child, dropping tasty hints at opportune moments, making the odd salty comment about the gentleman who just happened to be staying at Blackheath at the moment. 

Charlotte, Lady Douglas

Lady Douglas must have thought she had struck scandalous gold, and she mined it for all it was worth, eagerly scooping up the precious nuggets as they were revealed. And when it all went wrong, and the Delicate Investigation exonerated the Princess entirely, finding the charges brought against her to be without foundation, and revealed the true mother of William Austin to be a poor woman from Deptford, and that the Princess had charitably adopted the child, it must have seemed to the Prince of Wales that his best laid plans had come to naught. 

King George III

The King favoured his niece, brought her to court, gave her apartments at Kensington Palace and the public agreed that she deserved sympathy for the terrible persecution brought against her by the Prince and his faction. She became the most popular of all the royals (not a difficult feat, given the nature of the competition), cheered in the streets whenever she went out in public, and feted by fashionable society, with her salon being the place to be seen. 

Charles, Duke of Brunswick

It may have seemed to Caroline that it had all been worthwhile, after all, although her option of a retreat back to Brunswick were dashed when her father was fatally wounded during the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, the French victors consequently took control of the principality, and her mother sought asylum in England. The Duchess’s brother, King George III, provided lodgings for her at Blackheath, and for the next few years there were, in effect, two parallel courts; the Prince’s at Carlton House and the Princess’s at Kensington. 

Augusta, Duchess of Brunswick

And then, in 1811, fate tossed another twist into the mix, as King George III’s madness returned, and the Prince of Wales was made Regent, ruling in his father’s stead. Using his new powers, he began to realign the pieces on the chessboard, and many of the faithful former visitors to Kensington, sensing the shift, strategically moved their allegiances to Carlton House instead. 

Caroline, Princess of Wales

So, it will come as no surprise to learn that, before long, it all began to unravel. George obviously nurtured his grudge, biding his time, looking for evidence, waiting for the slip, the crack, the chance. With characteristic petulance, he withdrew Caroline’s access to their daughter, Princess Charlotte, forbidding any contact between mother and daughter, and even going so far as to issue orders to the coachmen not to stop for or even approach Caroline’s carriage if they happened to encounter it whilst out driving the Princess (in fact, a chance meeting in Hyde Park outraged the public, when they learned that this was the extent of the contact between the two). Caroline wrote to George, begging him to reconsider his action and asking for access to Charlotte, and George, entirely in character, returned the unopened letter. 

Henry Brougham

Caroline now found a new ally (following the assassination of Spencer Perceval), in a rapidly rising politician called Henry Brougham, who may well have drafted the letter for her, and who leaked it to the press, who happily printed the full text in the papers. George responded by leaking Lady Douglas’s deposition to the Delicate Investigation, in a bid to weaken the public perception of his wife, and Brougham retaliated by further leaking the letters to the Investigation that had refuted Douglas’s allegations. 

The Assassination of Spencer Perceval

Caroline’s social isolation was further ensured when George let it be known that anyone who was in contact with her would be unwelcome at the Royal court, and in 1814, following Napoleon’s defeat in Europe, this was made abundantly plain when she was excluded from the victory celebrations of the European nobility held in London (when George had been told of the Duke of Wellington’s victories in the west, he had responded with the outburst, 
Damn the west! And damn the east! And damn Wellington! The question is, how am I to get rid of this damned Princess of Wales?

Tomorrow - How, indeed?