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The Hope Diamond-The most famous diamond in the world

The Hope Diamond, also known as “Le Bijou du Roi” (“the King’s Jewel”), “Le bleu de France” (“the Blue of France”), and the Tavernier Blue, is a large, 45.52-carat (9.104 g), deep-blue diamond, and now housed in the National Gem and Mineral collection at the Smithsonian Institution’s Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. It is blue to the naked eye because of trace amounts of boron within its crystal structure, and exhibits red phosphorescence after exposure to ultraviolet light. It is classified as a Type IIb diamond, and is notorious for supposedly being cursed. It has a long recorded history, with few gaps, in which it changed hands numerous times on its way from India to France to Britain and eventually to the United States, where it has been regularly on public display since. It has been described as the “most famous diamond in the world”.

The_Hope_Diamond_-_SIA
The Hope Diamond in 1974

Several accounts, based on remarks written by the gem’s first known owner, French gem merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, suggest that the gemstone originated in India, in the Kollur mine in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh (which at the time was part of the Golconda kingdom), in the seventeenth century. It is unclear who had initially owned the gemstone, where it had been found, by whom, and in what condition. But the first historical records suggest that a French merchant-traveler named Jean-Baptiste Tavernier obtained the stone in the mid-1600s, possibly by purchase or by theft. Tavernier brought to Paris a large uncut stone which was the first known precursor to the Hope Diamond. This large stone became known as the Tavernier Blue diamond. It was a crudely cut triangular shaped stone of 115 carats (23.0 g). Another estimate is that it weighed 112.23 carats (22.446 g) before it was cut. Tavernier’s book, the Six Voyages (French: Les Six Voyages de J. B. Tavernier), contains sketches of several large diamonds that he sold to Louis XIV in possibly 1668 or 1669; while the blue diamond is shown among these, Tavernier mentions the mines at “Gani” Kollur as a source of colored diamonds, but made no direct mention of the stone. Historian Richard Kurin builds a highly speculative case for 1653 as the year of acquisition, but the most that can be said with certainty is that Tavernier obtained the blue diamond during one of his five voyages to India between the years 1640 and 1667. One report suggests he took 25 diamonds to Paris, including the large rock which became the Hope, and sold all of them to King Louis XIV. Another report suggested that in 1669, Tavernier sold this large blue diamond along with approximately one thousand other diamonds to King Louis XIV of France for 220,000 livres, the equivalent of 147 kilograms of pure gold. In a newly published historical novel, The French Blue, gemologist and historian Richard W. Wise proposed that the patent of nobility granted Tavernier by Louis XIV was a part of the payment for the Tavernier Blue. According to the theory, during that period Colbert, the King’s Finance Minister, regularly sold offices and noble titles for cash, and an outright patent of nobility, according to Wise, was worth approximately 500,000 livres making a total of 720,000 livres, a price about half Tavernier’s estimate of the gem’s true value. There has been some controversy regarding the actual weight of the stone; Morel believed that the 112316 carats stated in Tavernier’s invoice would be in old French carats, thus 115.28 metric carats.

Tavernier's original sketch of the Tavernier Blue
Tavernier’s original sketch of the Tavernier Blue

 

In 1678, Louis XIV commissioned the court jeweller, Sieur Pitau, to recut the Tavernier Blue, resulting in a 67.125-carat (13.4250 g) stone which royal inventories thereafter listed as the Blue Diamond of the Crown of France (French: diamant bleu de la Couronne de France). Later English-speaking historians have simply called it the French Blue. The king had the stone set on a cravat-pin. According to one report, Louis ordered Pitau to “make him a piece to remember”, and Pitau took two years on the piece, resulting in a “triangular-shaped 69-carat gem the size of a pigeon’s egg that took the breath away as it snared the light, reflecting it back in bluish-grey rays.” It was set in gold and was supported by a ribbon for the neck which was worn by the king during ceremonies.

At the diamond’s dazzling heart was a sun with seven facets – the sun being Louis’ emblem, and seven being a number rich in meaning in biblical cosmology, indicating divinity and spirituality.
—report in Agence France-Presse, 2008

Louis XV wearing the
Louis XV wearing the “Order of the Golden Fleece”

In 1749, Louis’ descendant, King Louis XV, had the French Blue set into a more elaborate jewelled pendant for the Order of the Golden Fleece by court jeweler André Jacquemin. The assembled piece included a red spinel of 107 carats shaped as a dragon breathing “covetous flames”, as well as 83 red-painted diamonds and 112 yellow-painted diamonds to suggest a fleece shape. The piece fell into disuse after the death of Louis XV. The diamond became the property of his grandson King Louis XVI. During the reign of her husband, Marie Antoinette used many of the French Crown Jewels for personal adornment by having the individual gems placed in new settings and combinations, but the French Blue remained in this pendant except for a brief time in 1787, when the stone was removed for scientific study by Mathurin Jacques Brisson, and returned to its setting soon thereafter. On September 11, 1792, while Louis XVI and his family were confined in the Palais des Tuileries near the Place de la Concorde during the early stages of the French Revolution, a group of thieves broke into the Garde-Meuble (Royal Storehouse) and stole most of the Crown Jewels during a five-day looting spree. While many jewels were later recovered, including other pieces of the Order of the Golden Fleece, the French Blue was not among them and it disappeared temporarily from history. In 1793, Louis was guillotined in January and Marie was guillotined in October, and these beheadings are commonly cited as a result of the diamond’s “curse”, but the historical record suggests that Marie Antoinette had never worn the Golden Fleece pendant because it had been reserved for the exclusive use of the king.

Marie Antoinette before her public execution by guillotine in 1793.
Marie Antoinette before her public execution by guillotine in 1793.

A likely scenario is that the French Blue or sometimes also known as the Blue Diamond was “swiftly smuggled to London” after being seized in 1792 in Paris. But the exact rock known as the French Blue was never seen again, since it almost certainly was recut during this decades-long period of anonymity, probably into two pieces, and the larger one became the Hope Diamond. One report suggested that the cut was a “butchered job” because it sheared off 23.5 carats from the larger rock as well as hurting its “extraordinary lustre.” It had long been believed that the Hope Diamond had been cut from the French Blue until confirmation finally happened when a three-dimensional leaden model of the latter was rediscovered in the archives of the French Natural History Museum in Paris in 2005.

Historians suggested that one robber, Cadet Guillot, took several jewels, including the French Blue and the Côte-de-Bretagne spinel, to Le Havre and then to London, where the French Blue was cut in two pieces. Morel adds that in 1796, Guillot attempted to resell the Côte-de-Bretagne in France but was forced to relinquish it to fellow thief Lancry de la Loyelle, who put Guillot into debtors’ prison.

There is speculation that George's wife, Caroline of Brunswick, may have helped procure the diamond for the British monarch, but records are lacking.
There is speculation that George’s wife, Caroline of Brunswick, may have helped procure the diamond for the British monarch, but records are lacking.

In a contrasting report, historian Richard Kurin speculated that the “theft” of the French Crown Jewels was in fact engineered by the revolutionary leader Georges Danton as part of a plan to bribe an opposing military commander, Duke Karl Wilhelm of Brunswick. When under attack by Napoleon in 1805, Karl Wilhelm may have had the French Blue recut to disguise its identity; in this form, the stone could have come to Britain in 1806, when his family fled there to join his daughter Caroline of Brunswick. Although Caroline was the wife of the Prince Regent George (later George IV of the United Kingdom), she lived apart from her husband, and financial straits sometimes forced her to quietly sell her own jewels to support her household. Caroline’s nephew, Duke Karl Friedrich, was later known to possess a 13.75-carat (2.750 g) blue diamond which was widely thought to be another piece of the French Blue. This smaller diamond’s present whereabouts are unknown, and the recent CAD reconstruction of the French Blue fits too tightly around the Hope Diamond to allow for the existence of a sister stone of that size.

A blue diamond with the same shape, size, and color as the Hope Diamond was recorded by John Francillon in the possession of the London diamond merchant Daniel Eliason in September 1812, the earliest point when the history of the Hope Diamond can be definitively fixed, although a second less definitive report claims that the Hope Diamond’s “authentic history” can only be traced back to 1830. The jewel was a “massive blue stone of 45.54 carats” and weighed 177 grains (4 grains = 1 carat). It is often pointed out that the 1812 date was almost exactly twenty years after the theft of the French Blue, just as the statute of limitations for the crime had taken effect. While the diamond had disappeared for two decades, there were questions whether this diamond now in Great Britain was exactly the same one as had belonged to the French kings, but scientific investigation in 2008 confirmed “beyond reasonable doubt” that the Hope Diamond and that owned by the kings of France were, indeed, the same gemstone, in the sense that the Hope Diamond had been cut from the French Blue.

King George IV
King George IV

There are conflicting reports about what happened to the diamond during these years. Eliason’s diamond may have been acquired by King George IV of the United Kingdom, possibly through Caroline of Brunswick; however, there is no record of the ownership in the Royal Archives at Windsor, although some secondary evidence exists in the form of contemporary writings and artwork, and George IV tended to mix up the Crown property of the Crown Jewels with family heirlooms and his own personal property. A source at the Smithsonian suggested there were “several references” suggesting that King George had, indeed, owned the diamond. After his death in 1830, it has been alleged that some of this mixed collection was stolen by George’s last mistress, Lady Conyngham, and some of his personal effects were discreetly liquidated to cover the many debts he had left behind him. Another report states that the king’s debts were “so enormous” that the diamond was probably sold through “private channels”. In either case, the blue diamond was not retained by the British royal family.

Hope in oriental dress; colour print after the portrait of 1798 by William Beechey.
Thomas Hope in oriental dress; colour print after the portrait of 1798 by William Beechey.

The stone was later reported to have been acquired by a rich London banker named Thomas Hope, for either $65,000 or $90,000. It has been suggested that Eliason may have been a “front” for Hope, acting not as a diamond merchant venturing money on his own account, but rather as an agent to acquire the diamond for the banker. In 1839, the Hope Diamond appeared in a published catalog of the gem collection of Henry Philip Hope, who was a member of the same Anglo-Dutch banking family. The stone was set in a fairly simple medallion surrounded by many smaller white diamonds, which he sometimes lent to Louisa de la Poer Beresford, the widow of his brother, Thomas Hope, for society balls. After falling into the ownership of the Hope family, the stone came to be known as the “Hope Diamond”.

Henry Philip Hope died in 1839, the same year as the publication of his collection catalog. His three nephews, the sons of Thomas and Louisa, fought in court for ten years over his inheritance, and ultimately the collection was split up. The oldest nephew, Henry Thomas Hope, received eight of the most valuable gems, including the Hope Diamond. It was displayed in the Great Exhibition of London in 1851 and at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1855, but was usually kept in a bank vault. In 1861, Henry Thomas Hope’s only child, Henrietta, married Henry Pelham-Clinton, Earl of Lincoln (and later Duke of Newcastle). When Hope died on December 4, 1862, his wife Anne Adele inherited the gem, but she feared that the profligate lifestyle of her son-in-law might cause him to sell the Hope properties. Upon Adele’s death in 1884, the entire Hope estate, including the Hope Diamond, was entrusted to Henrietta’s younger son, Henry Francis Pelham-Clinton, on the condition that he add the name of “Hope” to his own surnames when he reached the age of legal majority. As Lord Francis Hope, this grandson received his legacy in 1887. However, he had only a life interest in his inheritance, meaning that he could not sell any part of it without court permission.

Yohé in The Era Almanack, 1894.
Yohé in The Era Almanack, 1894.

In 1894, Lord Francis Hope met the American concert hall singer May Yohé, who has been described as “the sensation of two continents”, and they were married the same year; one account suggests that Yohé wore the Hope Diamond on at least one occasion. She later claimed that she had worn it at social gatherings and had an exact replica made for her performances, but her husband claimed otherwise. Lord Francis lived beyond his means, and this eventually caught up with him, leading to marriage troubles and financial reverses, and he found that he had to sell the diamond. In 1896, his bankruptcy was discharged, but, as he could not sell the Hope Diamond without the court’s permission, he was supported financially by his wife during these intervening years. In 1901, the financial situation had changed, and after a “long legal fight,” he was given permission to sell the Hope Diamond by an order of the Master in Chancery to “pay off debts”. But May Yohé ran off with a gentleman friend named Putnam Strong, who was a son of the former New York City mayor William L. Strong. Francis Hope and May Yohé were divorced in 1902.

Lord Francis sold the diamond for £29,000 (£2,641,880 as of 2015), to Adolph Weil, a London jewel merchant. Weil later sold the stone to the diamond dealer Simon Frankel, based in New York and/or London who took it to New York. One report stated that he had paid $250,000.[27] However, in New York it was evaluated to be worth $141,032 (equal to £28,206 at the time).

Accounts vary about what happened to the diamond during the years 1902–1907; one account suggested that it lay in the William & Theodore safe during these years while the jewelers took it out periodically to show it to wealthy Americans; a rival account, probably invented to help add “mystery” to the Hope Diamond story, suggested that some persons had bought it but apparently sold it back to Frankel. There were reports in one story in The New York Times of several owners of the gem, perhaps who had bought it from Frankel and owned it temporarily who met with ill-fortune, but this report conflicts with the more likely possibility that the gem remained in the hands of the Frankel jewelry firm during these years. Like many jewelry firms, the Frankel business ran into financial difficulties during the depression of 1907 and referred to the gem as the “hoodoo diamond.”

In 1908, Frankel sold the diamond for $400,000 to a Salomon or Selim Habib, a wealthy Turkish diamond collector, reportedly in behalf of Sultan Abdulhamid of Ottoman Empire; however, on June 24, 1909, the stone was included in an auction of Habib’s assets to settle his own debts, and the auction catalog explicitly stated that the Hope Diamond was one of only two gems in the collection which had never been owned by the Sultan. A contrary report, however, suggested that Sultan Abdul Hamid did own the gem but ordered Habib to sell it when his throne “began to totter.” Habib reportedly sold the stone in Paris in 1909 for $80,000. The Parisian jewel merchant Simon Rosenau bought the Hope Diamond for 400,000 francs and resold it in 1910 to Pierre Cartier for 550,000 francs. In 1910, it was offered for $150,000, according to one report.

Washington Post scion Edward Beale McLean and his wife, mining heiress Evalyn Walsh McLean, in 1912. The couple owned the diamond for many years.
Washington Post scion Edward Beale McLean and his wife, mining heiress Evalyn Walsh McLean, in 1912. The couple owned the diamond for many years.

Pierre Cartier tried to sell the Hope Diamond to Washington D.C. socialite Evalyn Walsh McLean and her husband in 1910. Cartier was a consummate salesman who used an understated presentation to entice Mrs. McLean. He described the gem’s illustrious history to her while keeping it concealed underneath special wrapping paper. The suspense worked: McLean became impatient to the point where she suddenly requested to see the stone. She recalled later that Cartier “held before our eyes the Hope Diamond.” Nevertheless, she initially rejected the offer. Cartier had it reset. She found the stone much more appealing in this new modern style. There were conflicting reports about the sale in the New York Times; one account suggested that the young McLean couple had agreed to purchase the diamond, but after having learned about its unfortunate supposed history, the couple had wanted to back out of the deal since they knew nothing of the “history of misfortunes that have beset its various owners.”

Both Ned McLean and his pretty wife are quite young, and in a way unsophisticated, although they were born and reared in an atmosphere of wealth and luxury. All their lives they have known more of jewelry, finery, banquets, automobiles, horses, and other articles of pleasure than they have of books, with their wealth of knowledge.
—report in The New York Times, March 1911

The brouhaha over the diamond’s supposed “ill luck” prompted a worried editor of The Jewelers’ Circular-Weekly to write:

No mention of any ill luck having befalled Eliason, Hope, or any of their descendants was ever made. The Frankels surely were very prosperous while the stone was in their possession, as were the dealers who held it in Europe. Habib’s misfortune referred to in the newspaper accounts occurred long after he had sold the stone… As Francis Hope never had the stone and May Yohe probably never saw it … the newspaper accounts at the time mentioned were laughed at, but since then it has been the custom not only to revive these stories every time mention of the stone appears in the public press, but to add to them fictitious incidents of misfortune as to alleged possessors of the stone at various times.
—T. Edgar Willson, in an editorial in The New York Times, 1911

The tenuous deal involved wrangling among attorneys for both Cartier and the McLeans, but finally, in 1911, the couple bought the gem for over $300,000, although there are differing estimates of the sales price at $150,000 and $180,000. An alternative scenario is that the McLeans may have fabricated concern about the supposed “curse” to generate publicity to increase the value of their investment.

Evalyn Walsh McClean wears a reset version of the Hope Diamond in this photograph “with the diamond mounted as a headpiece on a three-tiered circlet of large white diamonds” -Smithsonian (Photo: Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress)
Evalyn Walsh McClean wears a reset version of the Hope Diamond in this photograph  (Photo: Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress)

A description was that the gemstone “lay on a bed of white silk and surrounded by many small white diamonds cut pear shaped”. The new setting was the current platinum framework surrounded by a row of sixteen diamonds which alternated between Old Mine Cut and pear-shaped variants. Mrs. McLean wore it to a “brilliant reception” in February 1912 when it was reported that it was the first time it had been worn in public since it had “changed owners.” She would “sport the diamond at social events” and wore it numerous social occasions that she had organized.

The Hope Diamond in its original pendant must have looked fantastic at parties circa the 1920s, when it hung around the neck of owner Evalyn Walsh McLean’s Great Dane, Mike.
—report in The Wall Street Journal, 2010

There were reports that she misplaced it at parties, deliberately and frequently, and then make a children’s game out of “finding the Hope”, and times when she hid the diamond somewhere on her estate during the “lavish parties she threw and invite guests to find it.” The stone prompted elaborate security precautions:

William Schindele, a former Secret Service man, has been engaged to guard the stone. He in turn will be guarded by Leo Costello and Simeon Blake, private detectives. The stone will be kept at the McLean mansion during the day and each night will be deposited in a safe deposit vault. When Mrs. McLean wears the gem at balls and receptions arrangements have been made to keep the safe deposit building open until after the function that the stone may be safely stored away. A special automobile has been purchased to convey the guards to and from the house to the trust company’s building.
—report in The New York Times, 1911

But the stone was not stolen during their ownership. When Mrs. McLean died in 1947, she bequeathed the diamond to her grandchildren through a will which insisted that her former property would remain in the custody of trustees until the eldest child had reached 25 years of age. This requirement would have prevented any sale for the next two decades. However, the trustees gained permission to sell her jewels to settle her debts, and in 1949 sold them to New York diamond merchant Harry Winston. He purchased McLean’s “entire jewelry collection”. Over the next decade, Winston exhibited McLean’s necklace in his “Court of Jewels,” a tour of jewels around the United States, as well as various promotional events and charity balls. The diamond appeared on the television quiz show The Name’s the Same, in an episode which first aired on August 16, 1955, when a teenaged contestant with the actual name Hope Diamond was one of the mystery guests, as well as at the August 1958 Canadian National Exhibition. At some point, Winston also had the Hope Diamond’s bottom facet slightly recut to increase its brilliance.

Hope Diamond in the National Museum of Natural History.
Hope Diamond in the National Museum of Natural History.

Smithsonian mineralogist George Switzer is credited with persuading jeweler Harry Winston to donate the Hope Diamond Institution for a proposed national gem collection to be housed at the National Museum of Natural History. On November 10, 1958, Winston acquiesced, sending it through U.S. Mail in a box wrapped in brown paper as simple registered mail insured for $1 million at a cost of $145.29, of which $2.44 was for postage and the balance insurance. Upon its arrival it became Specimen #217868.

Hope_Diamond_US_Mail_parcel-1958
Registered Mail package used to deliver the Hope Diamond to the National Museum of Natural History.

Winston had never believed in any of the tales about the curse; he donated the diamond with the hope that it would help the United States “establish a gem collection.” Winston died many years later, in 1978, of a heart attack. Winston’s gift, according to Smithsonian curator Dr. Jeffrey Post, indeed helped spur additional gifts to the museum.

For its first four decades in the National Museum of Natural History, the Hope Diamond lay in its necklace inside a glass-fronted safe as part of the gems and jewelry gallery, except for a few brief excursions: a 1962 exhibition to the Louvre; the 1965 Rand Easter Show in Johannesburg, South Africa; and two visits back to Harry Winston’s premises in New York City, once in 1984, and once for a 50th anniversary celebration in 1996. To guard against theft during the diamond’s trip to the 1962 Louvre exhibition, Switzer traveled to Paris with the Hope Diamond tucked inside a velvet pouch sewn by his wife. The Hope Diamond was placed into the pouch, which was pinned inside Switzer’s pants pocket for the flight.

When the Smithsonian’s gallery was renovated in 1997, the necklace was moved onto a rotating pedestal inside a cylinder made of 3-inch (76 mm) thick bulletproof glass in its own display room, adjacent to the main exhibit of the National Gem Collection, in the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals. The Hope Diamond is the most popular jewel on display and the collection’s centerpiece.

There is evidence of several newspaper accounts which helped spread the curse story. A New Zealand newspaper article in 1888 described the supposedly lurid history of the Hope Diamond, including a claim that it was “said once to have formed the single eye of a great idol”, as part of a confused description that also claimed that its namesake owner had personally “brought it from India”, and that the diamond’s true color was “white, [although] when held to the light, it emits the most superb and dazzling blue rays.” An article entitled “Hope Diamond Has Brought Trouble To All Who Have Owned It” appeared in the Washington Post in 1908. An additional account of the Hope Diamond’s “cursed origins” was a fanciful and anonymously written newspaper article in 1909. It was followed by another article in 1911 which detailed a rather lengthy list of supposed cases of ill-fortune but with few confirmations from other sources:

  • Jacques Colet bought the Hope Diamond from Simon Frankel and committed suicide.
  • Prince Ivan Kanitovski bought it from Colet but was killed by Russian revolutionists.
  • Kanitovski loaned it to Mlle Ladue who was “murdered by her sweetheart.”
  • Simon Mencharides, who had once sold it to the Turkish sultan, was thrown from a precipice along with his wife and young child.
  • Sultan Hamid gave it to Abu Sabir to “polish” but later Sabir was imprisoned and tortured.
  • Stone guardian Kulub Bey was hanged by a mob in Turkey.
  • A Turkish attendant named Hehver Agha was hanged for having it in his possession.
  • Tavernier, who brought the stone from India to Paris was “torn to pieces by wild dogs in Constantinople.”
  • King Louis gave it to Madame de Montespan whom later he abandoned.
  • Nicholas Fouquet, an “Intendant of France”, borrowed it temporarily to wear it but was “disgraced and died in prison.”
  • A temporary wearer, Princess de Lamballe, was “torn to pieces by a French mob.”
  • Jeweler William Fals who recut the stone “died a ruined man.”
  • William Fals’ son Hendrik stole the jewel from his father and later “committed suicide.”
  • Some years (after Hendrik) “it was sold to Francis Deaulieu, who died in misery and want.”
Source: The New York Times, January 29, 1911

The mainstream academic view is that these accounts are specious and speculative since there are few, if any, independent confirmations or historical scholarship to back them up. A few months later, perhaps compounded by inaccurate reports in The New York Times on November 17, 1909, it was incorrectly reported that the diamond’s former owner, Selim Habib, had drowned in a shipwreck of the steamer Seyne near Singapore; in fact, it was a different person with the same name, not the owner of the diamond. There was also speculation that jeweler Pierre Cartier further embroidered the lurid tales to intrigue Evalyn Walsh McLean into buying the Hope Diamond in 1911.

The theme of greedy robbers stealing a valuable metal from the tomb or shrine of an ancient god or ruler, and then being punished by it, is one which repeats in many different forms of literature. A likely source of inspiration for the fabrications was the Wilkie Collins’ 1868 novel The Moonstone, which created a coherent narrative from vague and largely disregarded legends which had been attached to other diamonds such as the Koh-i-Noor and the Orloff diamond. The theme can be seen in the stories about the curse of Egyptian king Tutankhamun and in more recent films such as the Indiana Jones films. In keeping with these scripts, according to the legend, Tavernier did not buy the Hope diamond but stole it from a Hindu temple where it had been set as one of two matching eyes of an idol, and the temple priests then laid a curse on whoever might possess the missing stone. Largely because the other blue diamond “eye” never surfaced, historians dismissed the fantastical story. The stories generally do not bear up to more pointed examination; for example, the legend that Tavernier’s body was “torn apart by wolves” is inconsistent with historical evidence which shows that he lived to 84 and died of natural causes.

It is possible that the overblown story of the curse, possibly fueled by Cartier and others, may have caused some hesitation on the part of the prospective buyers, the McLeans, around 1911. When a lawsuit between buyer and seller erupted about the terms of the deal, newspapers kept alive reports of the diamond’s “malevolent influence” with reports like this one, which blamed the stone’s “curse” on having caused, of all things, the lawsuit itself:

The malevolent influence that has for centuries dogged with discord and disaster the owners of the famous Hope diamond has started again and without waste of time, despite special precautions against ill-luck taken at the time of its last sale, according to John S. Wise, Jr., of 20 Broad Street, attorney for Cartiers, the Fifth Avenue jewelers, who are suing Mr. and Mrs. Edward B. McLean for $180,000, its alleged purchase price.—report in The New York Times, March 1911

The Hope Diamond was also blamed for the unhappy fates of other historical figures vaguely linked to its ownership, such as the falls of Madame Athenais de Montespan and French finance minister Nicolas Fouquet during the reign of Louis XIV of France; the beheadings of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and the rape and mutilation of the Princesse de Lamballe during the French Revolution; and the forced abdication of Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid who had supposedly killed various members of his court for the stone (despite the annotation in Habib’s auction catalog). Even jewelers who may have handled the Hope Diamond were not spared from its reputed malice: the insanity and suicide of Jacques Colot, who supposedly bought it from Eliason, and the financial ruin of the jeweler Simon Frankel, who bought it from the Hope family, were linked to the stone. But although he is documented as a French diamond dealer of the correct era, Colot has no recorded connection with the stone, and Frankel’s misfortunes were in the midst of economic straits that also ruined many of his peers. The legend includes deaths of numerous other characters who had been previously unknown: Diamond cutter Wilhelm Fals, killed by his son Hendrik, who stole it and later committed suicide; Francois Beaulieu, who received the stone from Hendrik but starved to death after selling it to Daniel Eliason; a Russian prince named Kanitowski, who lent it to French actress Lorens Ladue and promptly shot her dead on the stage, and was himself stabbed to death by revolutionaries; Simon Montharides, hurled over a precipice with his family. However, the existence of only a few of these characters has been verified historically, leading researchers to conclude that most of these persons are fictitious.

Poster of the movie The Hope Diamond Mystery
Poster of the movie The Hope Diamond Mystery

The actress May Yohe made repeated attempts to capitalize on her identity as the former wife of the last Hope to own the diamond, and sometimes blamed the gemstone for her misfortunes. In July 1902, months after Lord Francis divorced her, she told police in Australia that her lover, Putnam Strong, had abandoned her and taken her jewels. In fact, the couple reconciled, married later that year, but divorced in 1910. On her third marriage in 1920, she persuaded film producer George Kleine to back a 15-episode serial The Hope Diamond Mystery, which added fictitious characters to the tale, but the project was not successful. In 1921, she hired Henry Leyford Gates to help her write The Mystery of the Hope Diamond, in which she starred as Lady Francis Hope. The film added more characters, including a fictionalized Tavernier, and added Marat among the diamond’s “victims”. She also wore her copy of the Hope, trying to generate more publicity to further her career.

Evalyn Walsh McLean added her own narrative to the story behind the blue jewel, including that one of the owners had been Catherine the Great, although there are no confirmations that the Russian ruler ever owned the diamond. McLean would bring the Diamond out for friends to try on, including Warren G. Harding and Florence Harding.

Since the Smithsonian acquired the gemstone, the “curse appears to have gone dormant.” Owning the diamond has brought “nothing but good luck” for the nonprofit national museum, according to a Smithsonian curator, and has helped it build a “world-class gem collection” with rising attendance levels.

Hope Diamond in the "Embracing Hope" setting.
The Hope Diamond displayed at the Smithsonian in the “Embracing Hope” setting, a temporary design created by jewelers at Harry Winston.

In 2007, an important discovery was made which enabled a slew of activity to help scientists, historians and gemologists further explore the history of the Hope Diamond, as well as create replicas of the larger pieces, from which it had been cut, believed to have been owned by eighteenth-century French monarchs. A lead cast of the French Blue diamond was discovered in the gemmological collections of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, reported in a bilingual French–English press release, and the unique finding triggered an investigation by an international team of researchers into the stone’s history.

The lead cast of the French Blue, itself, has a history. It had been catalogued at the French museum in 1850 and was provided by a prominent Parisian jeweler named Charles Archard who lived during the same generation as René Just Haüy, who died in 1822. Most likely, the lead cast was made near 1815, since that was the year that similar entries from the 1850 catalogue had been made. The model was accompanied by a label stating that the French Blue was in the possession of a person known as “Mr. Hope of London”. Other archives at the Muséum suggests that Achard had Mr. Hope as a good customer for many long years, particularly for blue gems.

Gouache of the great Golden Fleece of king Louis XV of France, version 1 of 2008, painted by Pascal Monney
Gouache of the great Golden Fleece of king Louis XV of France, version 1 of 2008, painted by Pascal Monney

These findings have helped investigators piece together what may have happened during the rock’s anonymous years during the several decades following 1792. According to one line of reasoning, the first “Hope” to have the “Hope Diamond”—Henry Phillip Hope—might have possessed the French Blue that he had acquired some time after the 1792 robbery in Paris, perhaps around 1794-1795, when the Hopes were believed to have left Holland for London to escape Napoleon’s armies. At about the same time, Cadet Guillot, who may have been one of the thieves to have stolen the Golden Fleece, arrived in London.This places Mr. Hope and Mr. Guillot in London at the same time. According to a late nineteenth century historian named Bapts, a contract was made between Cadet Guillot and a French aristocrat named Lancry de la Loyelle, in 1796, to sell the 107-carat (21.4 g) spinel-dragon of the Golden Fleece. According to this line of reasoning, in 1802 Hope sold his assets, and the continental blockade by Napoleon led the Hope’s bank into a serious financial crisis by 1808, and the crisis peaked during the winter of 1811–1812. This put Mr. Hope in a financial bind. There is a possibility that, given his financial predicament, Hope pawned the French Blue to jewel merchant Daniel Eliason to get much-needed cash when the British currency, sterling, was highly depreciated. This is consistent with the entry in Eliason’s records about having the stone in 1812. However, the diamond’s owners may have felt pressure to recut the stone quickly to disguise its identity, since if the French government had learned of its existence, it may have sued the owners for repossession. Regardless of whether Mr. Hope had lost possession or kept it during these years, by 1824 it was again in his possession. It was around this time that Eliason died; Hope’s financial situation has been restored thanks to efforts by the Barings, who saved the Hope bank in the difficult financial years of 1812-1820. Accordingly, if this is correct, then the lead cast of the French Blue and the “Hope” diamond are likely to have been created in the same workshop, possibly in London, and probably a little before 1812.

Detailed view of the recreated great Golden Fleece of king Louis XV of France. Below the 107 carats (21.4 g) spinel Côte de Bretagne hangs the French Blue diamond and the fleece itself, set with hundreds of yellow diamond replicas.
Detailed view of the recreated great Golden Fleece of king Louis XV of France. Below the 107 carats (21.4 g) spinel Côte de Bretagne hangs the French Blue diamond and the fleece itself, set with hundreds of yellow diamond replicas.

The lead cast had important ramifications since it gave enough information to curators at the French museum to commission the first exact replicas of both the Tavernier and French Blue diamonds using a material which simulates diamonds called cubic zirconia, with the help of artisans who work with gems known as lapidaries, led by Scott Sucher. These replicas have been completed and displayed with the French Crown Jewels and the Great Sapphire of Louis XIV, a Moghul-cut sapphire of 135.7 carats (27.14 g). Artisans recreated the elaborate parure of different-colored gems known as the Golden Fleece of King Louis XV of France, which is arguably the most fabulous work in the history of French jewelry; this happened from 2007–2010. The original parure, created in 1749 by royal jeweler Pierre-André Jacqumin, was stolen and broken in 1792. The reassembled jewel contained the French Blue and the Bazu diamonds, as well as the Côte de Bretagne spinel and hundreds of smaller diamonds. Three years of work were needed to recreate this jewel, and it required exacting and precise skill which revealed not only the skill of today’s lapidaries, but the skill of its original eighteenth-century designers. The reconstructed jewel was presented by Herbert Horovitz, with François Farges of the French museum in attendance, at the former Royal Storehouse in Paris on June 30, 2010, which was the same site where the original had been stolen 218 years before.

Information and images from Wikipedia.com

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George III: King of Great Britain and Ireland

I had just left off writing and put on my things for walking to Alton, when Anna and her friend Harriot called in their way thither, so we went together. Their business was to provide mourning against the King’s death, and my mother has had a bombasin bought for her. I am not sorry to be back again, for the young ladies had a great deal to do, and without much method in doing it.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
June 6, 1811

George III was king of England for Jane Austen’s entire life. When incapacitated by illness in 1811 (with his death predicted at every turn) power was transferred from the King to the Prince of Wales, thereby making the future George IV Regent and giving the era the name “The Regency”. In reality, George III would linger on for another nine years, outliving Jane Austen, herself, who died in 1817.

George III (George William Frederick; 4 June 1738 – 29 January 1820) (New Style dates) was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until 1 January 1801, and thereafter of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death. He was concurrently Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and thus Elector (and later King) of Hanover. The Electorate became the Kingdom of Hanover on 12 October 1814. He was the third British monarch of the House of Hanover, and the first of Hanover to be born in Britain and speak English as his first language. In fact, he never visited Germany.

It was during George III’s reign that Great Britain lost many of its colonies in North America in the wake of the American Revolution. These colonies would eventually become the United States. Also during his reign the realms of Great Britain and Ireland were joined together to form the United Kingdom.

Later in his reign George III suffered from recurrent and, eventually, permanent mental illness. This baffled medical science at the time, although it is now generally thought that he suffered from the blood disease porphyria. Recently, owing to studies showing high levels of the poison arsenic in King George’s hair, arsenic is also thought to be a possible cause of King George’s insanity and health problems. After a final relapse in 1810, George’s eldest son, George, Prince of Wales ruled as Prince Regent. Upon George’s death, the Prince of Wales succeeded his father as George IV.

 

Early Life

His Royal Highness Prince George of Wales was born in London at Norfolk House and was the son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and the grandson of George II. Prince George’s mother was Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. As Prince George was born two months premature and was thought unlikely to survive, he was baptised the same day by the Rector of St James’s. He was publicly baptised by the Bishop of Oxford, Thomas Secker, at Norfolk House on 4 July 1738 (New Style). His godparents were the King of Sweden (for whom Lord Baltimore stood proxy), the Duke of Saxe-Gotha (for whom the Duke of Chandos stood proxy) and the Queen of Prussia (for whom Lady Charlotte Edwin, a daughter of the Duke of Hamilton, stood proxy).

George grew into a healthy child but his grandfather George II disliked the Prince of Wales and took little interest in his grandchildren. However, in 1751 the Prince of Wales died unexpectedly from a lung injury, and Prince George became heir apparent to the throne. He inherited one of his father’s titles and became the Duke of Edinburgh. Now more interested in his grandson, three weeks later the King created George Prince of Wales. In the spring of 1756, as George approached his eighteenth birthday, the King offered him a grand establishment at St James’s Palace, but George refused the offer, guided by his mother and her confidante, Lord Bute, who would later serve as Prime Minister. George’s mother, now the Dowager Princess of Wales, mistrusted her father-in-law and preferred to keep George separate from his company.

Marriage

In 1759 George was smitten with Lady Sarah Lennox, daughter of the Duke of Richmond, but Lord Bute advised against the match and George abandoned his thoughts of marriage. “I am born for the happiness and misery of a great nation,” he wrote, “and consequently must often act contrary to my passion.” Nevertheless, attempts by the King to marry George to Princess Sophia Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel were resisted by him and his mother.

The following year, George inherited the Crown when his grandfather, George II, died suddenly on 25 October 1760. The search for a suitable wife intensified. On 8 September 1761, the King married in the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, Duchess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, whom he met on their wedding day. A fortnight later, both were crowned at Westminster Abbey. George remarkably never took a mistress (in contrast with both his Hanoverian predecessors and his sons), and the couple enjoyed a genuinely happy marriage. They had 15 children — nine sons and six daughters.

Early Reign

The first few years of George’s reign were marked by political instability, largely generated as a result of disagreements over the Seven Years’ War. The favouritism which George initially showed towards Tory ministers led to his denunciation by the Whigs as an autocrat in the manner of Charles I. In May 1762, George replaced the incumbent Whig ministry of the Duke of Newcastle with one led by the Tory Lord Bute. The following year, after concluding the Peace of Paris ending the war, Lord Bute resigned, allowing the Whigs under George Grenville to return to power. Later that year, the British government under George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 that placed a boundary upon the westward expansion of the American colonies. The Proclamation’s goal was to force colonists to negotiate with the Native Americans for the lawful purchase of the land and, therefore, to reduce the costly frontier warfare that had erupted over land conflicts. The Proclamation Line, as it came to be known, was extremely unpopular with the Americans and ultimately became another wedge between the colonists and the British government that would eventually lead to war. With the American colonists generally unburdened by British taxes, the government found it increasingly difficult to pay for the defence of the colonies against native uprisings and the possibility of French incursions. In 1765, Grenville introduced the Stamp Act, which levied a stamp duty on all documents in the British colonies in North America. Meanwhile, the King had become exasperated at Grenville’s attempts to reduce the King’s prerogatives, and tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade William Pitt the Elder to accept the office of Prime Minister. After a brief illness, which may have presaged his illnesses to come, George settled on Lord Rockingham to form a ministry, and dismissed Grenville.

Lord Rockingham, with the support of Pitt, repealed Grenville’s unpopular Stamp Act, but his government was weak and he was replaced in 1766 by Pitt, whom George created Earl of Chatham. The actions of Lord Chatham and George III in repealing the Act were so popular in America that statues of them both were erected in New York City. Lord Chatham fell ill in 1767, allowing the Duke of Grafton to take over government, although he did not formally become Prime Minister until 1768. His government disintegrated in 1770, allowing the Tories to return to power.

The government of the new Prime Minister, Lord North, was chiefly concerned with discontent in America. To assuage American opinion most of the custom duties were withdrawn, with the exception of the tea duty, which in George’s words was “one tax to keep up the right [to levy taxes]”. In 1773, a Boston mob threw 342 crates of tea, costing approximately £10,000, into Boston Harbour as a political protest, an event that became known as the Boston tea party. In Britain, opinion hardened against the colonists, with Chatham now agreeing with North that the destruction of the tea was “certainly criminal”. Lord North introduced the Punitive Acts, known as the Coercive Acts or the Intolerable Acts by the colonists: the Port of Boston was shut down and legislative elections in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay were suspended. Up to this point, in the words of Professor Peter Thomas, George’s “hopes were centred on a political solution, and he always bowed to his cabinet’s opinions even when sceptical of their success. The detailed evidence of the years from 1763 to 1775 tends to exonerate George III from any real responsibility for the American Revolution.”

American Revolutionary War

The American Revolutionary War began when armed conflict between British regulars and colonial militiamen broke out in New England in April 1775. A month later, delegates of the thirteen British colonies drafted a peace proposal known as the Olive Branch Petition. The proposal was quickly rejected in London because fighting had already erupted. A year later, on July 4, 1776 (American Independence Day), the colonies declared their independence from the Crown and became a new nation, the “United States of America”. The Declaration was a long list of grievances against the British King, legislature, and populace. Amongst George’s other offences, the Declaration charged, “He has abdicated Government here… He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.” George was indignant when he learned of the opinions of the colonists. In the war the British captured New York City in 1776, but the grand strategic plan of invading from Canada failed with the surrender of the British Lieutenant-General John Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga. In 1778, France (Great Britain’s chief rival) signed a treaty of friendship with the new United States. Lord North asked to transfer power to Lord Chatham, whom he thought more capable. George, however, would hear nothing of such suggestions; he suggested that Chatham serve as a subordinate minister in Lord North’s administration. Chatham refused to cooperate, and died later in the same year. Great Britain was then at war with France, and in 1779 it was also at war with Spain.

George III obstinately tried to keep Great Britain at war with the rebels in America, despite the opinions of his own ministers. Lord Gower and Lord Weymouth both resigned rather than suffer the indignity of being associated with the war. Lord North advised George III that his (North’s) opinion matched that of his ministerial colleagues, but stayed in office. Eventually, George gave up hope of subduing America by more armies. “It was a joke,” he said, “to think of keeping Pennsylvania”. There was no hope of ever recovering New England. But the King was determined “never to acknowledge the independence of the Americans, and to punish their contumacy by the indefinite prolongation of a war which promised to be eternal.” His plan was to keep the 30,000 men garrisoned in New York, Rhode Island, in Canada, and in Florida; other forces would attack the French and Spanish in the West Indies. To punish the Americans the King planned to destroy their coasting-trade, bombard their ports, sack and burn towns along the coast (like New London, Connecticut), and turn loose the Indians to attack civilians in frontier settlements. These operations, the King felt, would inspire the Loyalists; would splinter the Congress; and “would keep the rebels harassed, anxious, and poor, until the day when, by a natural and inevitable process, discontent and disappointment were converted into penitence and remorse” and they would beg to return to his authority. The plan meant destruction for the Loyalists and loyal Indians, and indefinite prolongation of a costly war, as well as the risk of disaster as the French and Spanish were assembling an armada to invade the British isles and seize London.

The surrender of British Major General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown, 1781

In 1781, the news of Lord Cornwallis’s surrender at the Siege of Yorktown reached London; Lord North’s parliamentary support ebbed away and he subsequently resigned in 1782. After Lord North persuaded the king against abdicating, George III finally accepted the defeat in North America, and authorised the negotiation of a peace. The Treaty of Paris and the associated Treaty of Versailles were ratified in 1783. The former treaty provided for the recognition of the United States by Great Britain. The latter required Great Britain to give up Florida to Spain and to grant access to the waters of Newfoundland to France. When John Adams was appointed American Minister to Britain in 1785, George had become resigned to the new relationship between his country and the United States, “I was the last to consent to the separation; but” he told Adams, “I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power.”

With the collapse of Lord North’s ministry in 1782, the Whig Lord Rockingham became Prime Minister for the second time, but died within months. The King then appointed Lord Shelburne to replace him. Charles James Fox, however, refused to serve under Shelburne, and demanded the appointment of the Duke of Portland. In 1783, the House of Commons forced Lord Shelburne from office and his government was replaced by the Fox-North Coalition. The Duke of Portland became Prime Minister; Fox and Lord North, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary respectively, really held power, with Portland acting as a figurehead.

George III was distressed by the attempts to force him to appoint ministers not of his liking, but the Portland ministry quickly built up a majority in the House of Commons, and could not easily be displaced. He was, however, extremely dissatisfied when the government introduced the India Bill, which proposed to reform the government of India by transferring political power from the Honourable East India Company to Parliamentary commissioners. Immediately after the House of Commons passed it, George authorised Lord Temple to inform the House of Lords that he would regard any peer who voted for the bill as his enemy. The bill was rejected by the Lords; three days later, the Portland ministry was dismissed, and William Pitt the Younger was appointed Prime Minister, with Temple as his Secretary of State. On 17 December 1783, Parliament voted in favour of a motion condemning the influence of the monarch in parliamentary voting as a “high crime” and Temple was forced to resign. Temple’s departure destabilised the government, and three months later the government lost its majority and Parliament was dissolved; the subsequent election gave Pitt a firm mandate.

For George III, Pitt’s appointment was a great victory. The King felt that the scenario proved that he still had the power to appoint Prime Ministers without having to rely on any parliamentary group. Throughout Pitt’s ministry, George eagerly supported many of his political aims. To aid Pitt, George created new peers at an unprecedented rate. The new peers flooded the House of Lords and allowed Pitt to maintain a firm majority. During Pitt’s ministry, George III was extremely popular. The public supported the exploratory voyages to the Pacific Ocean that he sanctioned. George also aided the Royal Academy with large grants from his private funds. The British people admired their King for remaining faithful to his wife, unlike the two previous Hanoverian monarchs. Great advances were made in fields such as in science and industry.

However, by this time George III’s health was deteriorating. He suffered from a mental illness, now widely believed to be a symptom of porphyria. A study of the King’s hair samples reveal high levels of arsenic, a possible trigger for the disease. The King may have previously suffered a brief episode of the disease in 1765, but a longer episode began in the summer of 1788. George was sufficiently sane to prorogue Parliament on 25 September 1788, but his condition worsened and in November he became seriously deranged, sometimes speaking for many hours without pause. With his doctors largely at a loss to explain his illness, spurious stories about his condition spread, such as the claim that he shook hands with a tree in the mistaken belief that it was the King of Prussia. When Parliament reconvened in November, the King could not, as was customary, communicate to them the agenda for the upcoming legislative session. According to long-established practice, Parliament could not begin the transaction of business until the King had made the Speech from the Throne. Parliament, however, ignored the custom and began to debate provisions for a regency.

Charles James Fox and William Pitt wrangled over the terms of which individual was entitled to take over government during the illness of the Sovereign. Although both parties agreed that it would be most reasonable for George III’s eldest son and heir-apparent, the Prince of Wales, to act as Regent, they disagreed over the basis of a regency. Fox suggested that it was the Prince of Wales’s absolute right to act on his ill father’s behalf; Pitt argued that it was for Parliament to nominate a Regent. Proceedings were further delayed as the authority for Parliament to merely meet was questioned, as the session had not been formally opened by the Sovereign. Pitt proposed a remedy based on an obscure legal fiction. As was well-established at the time, the Sovereign could delegate many of his functions to Lords Commissioners by letters patent, which were validated by the attachment of the Great Seal. It was proposed that the custodian of the Great Seal, the Lord Chancellor, affix the Seal without the consent of the Sovereign. Although such an action would be unlawful, it would not be possible to question the validity of the letters patent, as the presence of the Great Seal would be deemed conclusive in court. George III’s second son, the Prince Frederick, Duke of York, denounced Pitt’s proposal as “unconstitutional and illegal”. Nonetheless, the Lords Commissioners were appointed and then opened Parliament. In February 1789, the Regency Bill, authorising the Prince of Wales to act as Prince Regent, was introduced and passed in the House of Commons. But before the House of Lords could pass the bill, George III recovered from his illness under the treatment of Dr Francis Willis. He confirmed the actions of the Lords Commissioners as valid, but resumed full control of government.

French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars

After George recovered from his illness, his popularity, and that of Pitt, greatly increased at the expense of Fox and the Prince of Wales. The French Revolution, in which the French monarchy had been overthrown, worried many British landowners. France subsequently declared war on Great Britain in 1793, and George soon represented the British resistance. George allowed Pitt to increase taxes, raise armies, and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the war attempt.

As well-prepared as Great Britain may have been, France was stronger. The First Coalition (which included Austria, Prussia, and Spain) was defeated in 1798. The Second Coalition (which included Austria, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire) was defeated in 1800. Only Great Britain was left fighting Napoleon Bonaparte, the First Consul of the French Republic. Perhaps surprisingly, a failed assassination attempt of May 15, 1800 was not political in origin but motivated by the religious delusions of his assailant, James Hadfield, who shot at the King in the Drury Lane Theatre during the playing of the national anthem.

Soon after 1800, a brief lull in hostilities allowed Pitt to concentrate on Ireland, where there had been an uprising in 1798. Parliament then passed the Act of Union 1800, which, on 1 January 1801, united Great Britain and Ireland into a single nation, known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. George used the opportunity to drop the claim to the Throne of France, which English and British Sovereigns had maintained since the reign of Edward III. It was suggested that George adopt the title “Emperor of the British and Hanoverian Dominions”, but he refused. A. G. Stapleton writes that George III “felt that his true dignity consisted in his being known to Europe and the world by the appropriated and undisputed style belonging to the British Crown.”

As part of his Irish policy, Pitt planned to remove certain legal disabilities that applied to Roman Catholics after the Union. George III claimed that to emancipate Catholics would be to violate his coronation oath, in which Sovereigns promise to maintain Protestantism. The King declared, “Where is the power on Earth to absolve me from the observance of every sentence of that oath, particularly the one requiring me to maintain the Protestant Reformed Religion? … No, no, I had rather beg my bread from door to door throughout Europe, than consent to any such measure. I can give up my crown and retire from power. I can quit my palace and live in a cottage. I can lay my head on a block and lose my life, but I cannot break my oath.” Faced with opposition to his religious reform policies from both the King and the British public, Pitt threatened to resign. At about the same time, the King suffered a relapse of his previous illness, which he blamed on worry over the Catholic question. On 14 March 1801, Pitt was formally replaced by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Henry Addington. As Addington was his close friend, Pitt remained as a private advisor. Addington’s ministry was particularly unremarkable, as almost no reforms were made or measures passed. In fact, the nation was strongly against the very idea of reform, having just witnessed the bloody French Revolution. Although they called for passive behaviour in the United Kingdom, the public wanted strong action in Europe, but Addington failed to deliver. In October 1801, he made peace with the French, and in 1802 signed the Treaty of Amiens.

George did not consider the peace with France as “real”; in his view it was an “experiment”. In 1803, the two nations once again declared war on each other. In 1804, George was again affected by his recurrent illness; on his recovery, he discovered that public opinion distrusted Addington to lead the nation in war, and instead favoured Pitt. Pitt sought to appoint Fox to his ministry, but George III refused as the King disliked Fox, who had encouraged the Prince of Wales to lead an extravagant and expensive life. Lord Grenville perceived an injustice to Fox, and refused to join the new ministry.

Pitt concentrated on forming a coalition with Austria, Russia, and Sweden. The Third Coalition, however, met the same fate as the First and Second Coalitions, collapsing in 1805. An invasion by Napoleon seemed imminent, but the possibility was extinguished after Admiral Lord Nelson’s famous victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.

The setbacks in Europe took a toll on William Pitt’s health. Pitt died in 1806, once again reopening the question of who should serve in the ministry. Lord Grenville became Prime Minister, and his “Ministry of All the Talents” included Charles James Fox. The King was conciliatory towards Fox, after being forced to capitulate over his appointment. After Fox’s death in September 1806, the King and ministry were in open conflict. The ministry had proposed a measure whereby Roman Catholics would be allowed to serve in all ranks of the Armed Forces. George not only instructed them to drop the measure, but also to make an agreement to never set up such a measure again. The ministers agreed to drop the measure then pending, but refused to bind themselves in the future. In 1807, they were dismissed and replaced by the Duke of Portland as the nominal Prime Minister, with actual power being held by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Spencer Perceval. Parliament was dissolved; the subsequent election gave the ministry a strong majority in the House of Commons. George III made no further major political decisions during his reign; the replacement of the Duke of Portland by Perceval in 1809 was of little actual significance.

In 1810, already virtually blind with cataracts and in pain from rheumatism, George III became dangerously ill. In his view the malady had been triggered by the stress he suffered at the death of his youngest and favourite daughter, Princess Amelia. As the Princess’s nurse reported, “the scenes of distress and crying every day…were melancholy beyond description.” By 1811, George III had become permanently insane and lived in seclusion at Windsor Castle until his death. He accepted the need for the Regency Act 1811, to which the Royal Assent was granted by the Lords Commissioners, appointed under the same irregular procedure as was adopted in 1788. The Prince of Wales acted as Regent for the remainder of George III’s life.

Spencer Perceval was assassinated in 1812 (the only British Prime Minister to have suffered such a fate) and was replaced by Lord Liverpool. Liverpool oversaw British victory in the Napoleonic Wars. The subsequent Congress of Vienna led to significant territorial gains for Hanover, which was upgraded from an electorate to a kingdom.

Meanwhile, George’s health deteriorated, eventually he became completely blind and increasingly deaf. He never knew that he was declared King of Hanover in 1814, or of the death of his wife in 1818. Over Christmas 1819, he spoke nonsense for 58 hours, and for the last few weeks of his life was unable to walk. On 29 January 1820, he died at Windsor Castle. His favourite son, Frederick, Duke of York, was with him. His death came six days after that of his fourth son, the Duke of Kent. George III was buried on 15 February in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.

George was succeeded by two of his sons George IV and William IV, who both died without surviving legitimate children, leaving the throne to their niece, Victoria, the last monarch of the House of Hanover and the only legitimate child of the Duke of Kent.

George lived for 81 years and 239 days and reigned for 59 years and 96 days — in each case, more than any other English or British monarch until that point. This record has been surpassed only twice, by George’s granddaughter Queen Victoria and by Elizabeth II, who was 81 years old as of 2007. George III’s reign was longer than the reigns of all three of his immediate predecessors (Queen Anne, King George I and King George II) combined.

While tremendously popular in Britain, George was hated by rebellious American colonists (approximately one-third of the population in the colonies). The grievances in the United States Declaration of Independence were presented as “repeated injuries and usurpations” that he had committed to establish “an absolute Tyranny” over the colonies. The Declaration’s wording has contributed to the American public’s perception of George as a tyrant. Another factor that exacerbated American resentment was the King’s failure to intercede personally on the colonists’ behalf after the Olive Branch Petition. George was hated in Ireland for the atrocities carried out in his name during the suppression of the 1798 rebellion. British historians of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as Trevelyan, promoted hostile interpretations of George III’s life, however, scholars of the later twentieth century, such as Butterfield and Pares, and Macalpine and Hunter, are more inclined to be sympathetic, seeing him as a victim of circumstance and illness. Today, the long reign of George III is perceived as a continuation of the reduction in the political power of monarchy, and its growth as the embodiment of national morality.

The British Agricultural Revolution reached its peak under George III. The period provided for unprecedented growth in the rural population, which in turn provided much of the workforce for the concurrent Industrial Revolution. George III has been nicknamed Farmer George, for “his plain, homely, thrifty manners and tastes” and because of his passionate interest in agriculture.

From Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.

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The Prince of Wales’ two Charlottes

Son, Brother, Husband, Lover, Father– the Prince of Wales held many titles throughout his life in regards to the women around him. A devoted brother of six sisters, he was especially fond of his mother, Queen Charlotte, who remained his constant cousellor and friend throughout his life, dispite her high disregard for his lifestyle. Of his wives, Maria Anne Fitzherbert and Princess Caroline of Brunswick, he only loved one. These women are discussed in our biography of the Prince. He maintained several mistresses throughout his life, but it is possible that the only other woman to win his true devotion and undying love, was his daughter, Princess Charlotte of Wales. Despite being the daughter of his hated wife, Princess Caroline, the Prince of Wales was a doting parent and devoted father…in his own way. Her death, in 1817, left him devastated.

Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (May 19, 1744 – November 17, 1818) was the queen consort of King George III.

The youngest daughter of Duke Charles Louis Frederick, and Elizabeth Albertin of Saxe-Hilburghausen, Duchess of Saxony, Charlotte was born in Mirow in her father’s duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Germany. When only seventeen years old, she was selected as the bride of the young king George (who had already flirted with several young women considered unsuitable by his mother, Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, and by his political advisors). Charlotte arrived in Britain in 1761 and the couple were married at the Chapel Royal in St James’s Palace, London, on September 8 of that year.

Despite not having been his first choice, and having been treated with a general lack of sympathy by his mother, Charlotte’s relationship with her husband soon blossomed, and he was apparently never unfaithful to her.

Charlotte has been described as dim and formidably ugly. While regretting her plainness, George III, a sensual man, but with a high moral sense, did his ‘duty’. In the course of their marriage, they had fifteen children, all but two — Octavius and Alfred —survived into adulthood. Charlotte was interested only in domestic matters and exercised no political influence.

After the onset of his illness, then misunderstood as madness, George III was placed in the care of his wife, who could not bring herself to visit him very often. However, Charlotte remained supportive of her husband as his mental illness, now believed to be porphyria, worsened in old age.

Charlotte had become the fond grandmother of Princess Charlotte of Wales, and it was a great blow to her when this granddaughter died in childbirth. A year after her granddaughter Charlotte’s death, the Queen died seated in a small armchair holding the hand of her eldest son. She died at Kew Palace, their family home in Surrey, and was buried at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales (January 7, 1796 – November 6, 1817) was the only child of the ill-fated marriage between George IV (at that time the Prince of Wales) and Caroline of Brunswick.

She was born at Carlton House in London, her birth being something of a miracle as George IV later claimed that he and his wife had relations no more than three times in the whole of their marriage. By the time she was a few months old, Charlotte’s parents were effectively separated, and her mother’s time with her was severely restricted by her father.

She grew into a headstrong and difficult teenager, and fell out with her mother when Caroline decided to go into continental exile. She was restricted to Cranbourne Lodge at Windsor, England from July 1814 to January 1816 while Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg lobbied the Prince Regent and the English Parliament for the right to court her.

Charlotte married Prince Leopold on May 2, 1816, at Carlton House. Contemporary accounts describe their marriage as happy and contented, and they lived at Claremont, a wedding gift from the nation. After two miscarriages in the early months of their marriage, she conceived a third time. Although healthy at the beginning of the pregnancy, medical staff took extra precautions; medical practice at the time was bloodletting and a strict diet, which only served to weaken Charlotte. After a 50-hour labour at Claremont, she delivered a stillborn son there on November 5, 1817, dying of post-partum haemorrhage and shock early the next morning.

“Two generations gone—gone in a moment! I have felt for myself, but I have also felt for the prince regent. My Charlotte is gone from the country—it has lost her. She was a good, she was an admirable woman. None could know my Charlotte as I did know her. It was my study, my duty, to know her character, but it was also my delight.”
Prince Leopold to Sir Thomas Lawrence

She was buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor with her son at her feet. Her death was mourned nationally, on a scale similar to that which followed the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, although in An Address to the People on The Death of the Princess Charlotte (1817), Percy Bysshe Shelley made the point that while her death was very sad, the execution the following day of three men incited to lead the Pentrich Rising was the greater tragedy.

Charlotte’s death left the Prince of Wales without any direct heirs, and resulted in a mad dash towards matrimony by most of her bachelor uncles (the marriage of her uncle Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent, produced an heir—Queen Victoria). Her father, even after the death of his wife, made no attempt to remarry or father any more children.

In 1815 the Royal Berkshire Regiment  was titled the Princess Charlotte of Wales’s Regiment when, on their return to England from service in Canada, the 49th (Hertfordshire) Regiment were assigned to guard the royal family in residence. Princess Charlotte, on seeing these polished men in their new uniforms, with scarlet coats and white breeches, pleaded that the regiment be made “hers”, and later the title was officially granted.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.

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The Prince of Wales: The Man who gave the Regency its Name

“I suppose all the World is sitting in Judgement upon the Princess of Wales’s Letter. Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman, & because I hate her Husband — but I can hardly forgive her for calling herself ‘attached & affectionate’ to a Man whom she must detest — & the intimacy said to subsist between her & Lady Oxford is bad — I do not know what to do about it; but if I must give up the Princess, I am resolved at least always to think that she would have been respectable, if the Prince had behaved only tolerably by her at first. –”
Jane Austen,
February 16, 1813

George, the eldest son of George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, was born in St James’s Palace. At his birth, he automatically became Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay; he was created Prince of Wales shortly thereafter. He was a talented student, quickly learning to speak not only English but also French, German and Italian.

The Prince of Wales turned twenty-one years old in 1783. He obtained a grant of £60,000 from Parliament, and an annual income of £50,000 from his father. The Prince of Wales established his residence in Carlton House, where he lived a profligate life. Animosity between him and his father, a monarch who desired more frugal behaviour on the part of the heir-apparent, developed. The King, a strong supporter of the Tory party, was also alienated by the Prince of Wales’s adherence to Charles James Fox and other Whigs.

Soon after he reached the age of twenty-one years, the Prince of Wales fell in love with a Roman Catholic, Maria Anne Fitzherbert. Mrs Fitzherbert was a widow; her first husband, Edward Weld died in 1775; her second husband, Thomas Fitzherbert, did the same in 1781. A marriage between the two was impeded by the Act of Settlement 1701, which declared those who married Roman Catholics ineligible to succeed to the Throne. An even more daunting barrier was the Royal Marriages Act 1772, under which the Prince of Wales could not marry without the consent of the King, which, unquestionably, would have never been granted. Nevertheless, the Prince of Wales and Mrs Fitzherbert contracted a “marriage” in 1785. Legally the union was void, for the King’s assent was never requested and received. Yet, Mrs Fitzherbert believed that she was the Prince of Wales’s canonical and true wife, holding the law of the Church to be superior to the law of the State. For political reasons, the union remained secret, and Mrs Fitzherbert promised not to publish any evidence relating to the same.

The Prince of Wales was plunged into debt by his exorbitant lifestyle. His father refused to assist him, forcing him to quit Carlton House and live in Mrs Fitzherbert’s residence. In 1787, the Prince of Wales’s allies in the House of Commons introduced a proposal to relieve his debts with a parliamentary grant. At the time, many suspected the Prince of Wales’s personal relationship with Mrs Fitzherbert. The revalation of the illegal marriage would have scandalised the nation, and would have certainly doomed any parliamentary proposal to aid the Prince of Wales to failure. Acting on the Prince’s authority, the Whig leader Charles James Fox declared that the story was a calumniation. Mrs Fitzherbert was not pleased with the public denial of the marriage in such vehement terms, and contemplated severing her ties to the Prince. The Prince of Wales propitiated his companion by requesting another Whig, Richard Brinsley Sheridan (the famous playwright), to carefully restate Fox’s forceful declaration. Parliament, in the meantime, was sufficiently pleased to grant the Prince of Wales £161,000 for the payment of his debts, in addition to £20,000 for improvements to Carlton House. The King also agreed to increase the Prince of Wales’s annual allowance by £10,000.

Regency Crisis of 1788

George III suffered from an hereditary disease known as porphyria. In the summer of 1788, the King showed severe symptoms of insanity, but was nonetheless able to discharge some of his duties. Thus, he was able to declare Parliament prorogued from 25 September to 20 November 1788. During the prorogation, however, George III became deranged, posing a threat to his own life. Thus, when Parliament reconvened in November, the King could not deliver the customary Speech from the Throne during the State Opening. Parliament found itself in an untenable position: according to long-established law, it could not proceed to any business whatsoever until the delivery of the King’s Speech at a State Opening.

Although theoretically barred from doing so, Parliament began debating a Regency. In the House of Commons, Charles James Fox declared his opinion that the Prince of Wales was automatically entitled to exercise sovereignty during the King’s incapacity. A contrasting opinion was held by the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, who argued that, in the absence of a statute to the contrary, the right to choose a Regent belonged to Parliament alone. He even stated that, without parliamentary authority, “the Prince of Wales had no more right … to assume the government, than any other individual subject of the country.” Though disagreeing on the principle underlying a Regency, Pitt agreed with Fox that the Prince of Wales would be the most convenient choice for a Regent.

The Prince of Wales—though offended by Pitt’s boldness—did not lend his full support to Fox’s philosophy. HRH The Prince Frederick, Duke of York declared that his brother, the Prince of Wales, would not attempt to exercise any power without previously obtaining the consent of Parliament. Following the passage of a number of preliminary resolutions, William Pitt outlined a formal plan for the Regency, suggesting that the powers of the Prince of Wales be greatly limited. (Amongst other things, the Prince of Wales could neither sell the King’s property nor grant a peerage dignity to anyone other than a child of the King). The Prince of Wales denounced Pitt’s scheme, declaring it “project for producing weakness, disorder, and insecurity in every branch of the administration of affairs.” Nevertheless, in the interest of the nation, both factions agreed to compromise.

A significant technical impediment to any Regency Bill involved the lack of a Speech from the Throne, which was theoretically necessary before Parliament could proceed to any debates or votes. The Speech, it was noticed, was normally delivered by the King, but could also be delivered by royal representatives known as Lords Commissioners. But no document could empower the Lords Commissioners to act, unless the Great Seal of the Realm was affixed to it; and the said Seal could not be legally affixed without the prior authorisation of the Sovereign. Pitt and his fellow ministers ignored the last requirement, and instructed the Lord Chancellor to affix the Great Seal without the King’s consent. This course of action was denounced as a “phantom,” as a “fiction,” and even as a “forgery.” The Prince of Wales’s brother, the Duke of York, described the plan as “unconstitutional and illegal.” Nevertheless, others in Parliament felt that such a scheme was neccessary in order to preserve an effective government. Consequently, on 3 February 1789, over two months after it had convened, Parliament was formally opened by an “illegal” group of Lords Commissioners. The Regency Bill was introduced, but, before it could be passed, the King recovered. Retroactively, the King declared that the instrument authorising the Lords Commissioners to act was valid.

Marriage

In the meantime, the Prince of Wales’s debts continued to climb; his father refused to aid him unless he married his cousin, Caroline of Brunswick. In 1795, the Prince of Wales acquiesced. The marriage, however, was disastrous; each party was completely unsuited for the other. The two were formally separated after the birth of their only child—HRH Princess Augusta—in 1796. The Prince and Princess of Wales were separated for the remainder of their lives. The Prince of Wales remained attached to Mrs Fitzherbert for the remainder of his life, despite several periods of estrangement. In the meantime, the problem of the Prince of Wales’s debts (which then amounted to an extraordinary sum, £660,000, in 1796) was solved (at least temporarily) by Parliament. Parliament was unwilling to make an outright grant to relieve them; instead, it provided him an additional sum of £65,000 per annum. In 1803, a further £60,000 was added, and the Prince of Wales’s debts were finally paid.

Regency

From 1811, his father was permanently incapacitated, and he achieved a more definite status as Prince Regent. His extravagance continued, despite the involvement of Britain in the Napoleonic Wars, and during this period, much of the city of London was redesigned—hence Regent’s Park and Regent Street. The architect, John Nash, and the dandy, Beau Brummell, were among the Regent’s best-known associates.

As can be seen from the comment above, Jane Austen held no high opinion of the Prince of Wales, though he, on the other hand, kept specially bound editons of her works in all his houses. Imagine her surprise when, in 1815, she was waited upon by his Librarian, Mr. Clarke, and invited to visit Carlton House. This honor she declined, but was unable to refuse the other he offered– that of dedicating her next book (Emma, printed in March, 1816) to His Royal Highness. How it must have rankled to pen the words:

TO
HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS
THE PRINCE REGENT,
THIS WORK IS,
BY HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS’S PERMISSION,
MOST REPECTFULLY DEDICATED,
BY HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS’S
DUTIFUL
AND OBEDIENT
HUMBLE SERVANT,
THE AUTHOR

Reign

When the king died in 1820, the Prince Regent finally ascended the throne as King George IV. He had acted conservatively as Regent and with major achievements as a collector and patron of the arts not seen in a monarch since Charles I, but by the time of his coronation he was seriously overweight and possibly addicted to laudanum as well as showing some signs of the insanity that had affected his father. The Coronation, July 19, 1821, was mounted with unparalleled magnificence, a fancy-dress occasion with a somewhat Elizabethan theme. His gold-embroidered crimson velvet and ermine coronation robe, with a 27-foot train held by sons of peers, cost 24,000 pounds. The diamonds in the crown were hired for the occasion, but the King wore the Hope Diamond (as it was soon to be called), which he had purchased the previous year. Parliament had agreed on 243,000 pounds to be spent on the Coronation. The Queen found herself unable to gain access to Westminster Abbey or the banquet at Westminmster Hall. The event was extremely popular: Sir Thomas Lawrence’s coronation portrait was multiplied in the painter’s studio and many more modest souvenirs were issued; a panorama recording the event toured the cities of England afterwards. George IV enjoyed many weeks of popularity.

In 1822 the King visited Edinburgh for “one and twenty daft days” as the first reigning monarch to visit Scotland since 1650. The visit was organised by Sir Walter Scott, who seized the opportunity to invent another splendid pageant, wherein ancient Scotland would be reborn, and the King who had been parodied in cartoons as a fat debauché would be seen as “a portly handsome man looking and moving every inch a King”. George would be presented as a new Jacobite King, with the logic that he was by bloodline as much a Stuart as Bonnie Prince Charlie had been, and would win the affections of the Scots away from radical reform. Scott had persuaded George that he was not only a Stuart prince, but also a Jacobite Highlander, and could rightly and properly swathe himself in “the garb of old Gaul”, so in July 1822 the King placed his order with George Hunter & Co., outfitters of Tokenhouse Yard, London and Princes Street, Edinburgh for £1,354 18s worth of highland outfit in bright red Royal Tartan, later known as Royal Stuart, complete with pink tights, gold chains and assorted weaponry including dirk, sword and pistols. Dressed in this “our fat friend” was hoisted onto a horse and rode triumphantly into Edinburgh for an event that made tartans and kilts fashionable and turned them into the national icons they are today.

He spent the majority of his reign in seclusion at Windsor Castle, but continued to interfere unwisely in politics, opposing social reforms such as the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829. As a result of Princess Charlotte’s death, his younger brother, Frederick, Duke of York, became heir to the throne; however, Frederick died in 1827.

King George IV died on June 26, 1830 and is buried at Windsor Castle. He was succeeded by his younger brother, as William IV.
George’s official style whilst King was, “George the Fourth, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith.” His arms were: Quarterly, I and IV Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or (for England); II Or a lion rampant within a tressure flory-counter-flory Gules (for Scotland); III Azure a harp Or stringed Argent (for Ireland); overall an escutcheon tierced per pale and per chevron (for Hanover), I Gules two lions passant guardant Or (for Brunswick), II Or a semy of hearts Gules a lion rampant Azure (for Lüneburg), III Gules a horse courant Argent (for Westfalen), the whole inescutcheon surmounted by a crown.

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.