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.

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