On 8th April 1795, George, Prince of Wales, and Princess Caroline of Brunswick gathered in the Chapel Royal of St James's Palace. The couple were first cousins and though neither was particularly keen on the prospect of the marriage. Certainly there was no question of love between the participants, yet both agreed to the ceremony, though for very different reasons.
|George, Prince of Wales by Richard Cosway, 1792|
For George, the wedding was a matter of necessity. If he did not agree to the marriage then his father, George III, left his son in no doubt that he would not settle his constantly mounting gambling debts. His heart was with another though, and he had already illegally married Maria Fitzherbert though she was far from his only entanglement. For Caroline's part, the marriage was a matter of dynastic necessity and a chance to unite her small land of Brunswick with the powerful British nation. Although she had no great affection for the Prince she hoped that their relationship might at least be a companionate one that could, with time, grow into something more.
It was not to be. From their first meeting it was obvious that the couple were ill-suited; George ungallantly complained that Caroline made him feel unwell and the lady lamented that her husband-to-be was "not at all like his portrait". Still, the deal was done and the match made. To add further insult to injury, George established Frances, Countess of Jersey, as his fiancé's Lady of the Bedchamber; she was also the Prince's mistress and she would not make Caroline's life in England easy.
|Caroline of Brunswick by James Tookey, after Friedrich Schroeder, 1795|
At the wedding Caroline was resplendent in silver and ermine whilst George was in his cups. Drunk to the point of confusion, he tottered before the officiating Archbishop of Canterbury and had to be held up by his groomsmen. Things did not improve as the newlyweds retired to their wedding night bedchamber, where George passed out in a drunken stupor and spent the night on the floor.
It was an inauspicious start to a disastrous marriage. Just months after the birth of their only child, Princess Charlotte, the following year, George cut his wife out of his life and from that day, the couple would never reconcile.
Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.