Tuesday 8 April 2014

The Marriage of George, Prince of Wales, and Princess Caroline of Brunswick

Today marks the anniversary anniversary of a far from happy royal marriage. Unlike the harmonious match of my rakish colonial gentleman and I, the relationship between George, Prince of Wales, and Princess Caroline of Brunswick, was tempestuous and unhappy. In fact, from the wedding night onwards, it was far from a match made in heaven.

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
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
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.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)


Mari Christian said...

Good grief, what a hellish marriage.These marriages of convenience are rarely harmonious.The man usually acts as he pleases, but the woman is usually a prisoner of the formal contract.Thank you Caroline. I'm glad to know that your relationship with the colonial gentleman is rather more harmonious.

Catherine Curzon said...

It won't surprise you to know that George and Caroline make more than one appearance in my forthcoming book!

Regan Walker said...

No wonder Jane Austen disliked the Prince Regent.

Unknown said...

Often hard to see the Prince Regent in favorable light. The only good thing to come of this horrible arrangement was Princess Charlotte. Which is again another terrible tragedy in the end.

Catherine Curzon said...

More on that anon, if you are in Brighton this September... ;-)

Catherine Curzon said...

How different things might have been!

ChrisGuerra said...

Nice one ;-)