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Caroline of Brunswick: Injured Queen of England

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 to Martha Lloyd
February 16th, 1813

Princess Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel was born on May 17, 1768 at Brunswick (German:Braunschweig) in Germany, daughter of Karl William, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and Princess Augusta Charlotte of Wales, eldest sister of King George III.

She married the British king’s eldest son, her first cousin, in an arranged marriage on April 8, 1795 at St. James’s Palace in London. Her new husband, the future George IV then Prince of Wales, regarded Caroline as unattractive and unhygienic.

Even as Presumptive Monarch, the Prince of Wales, known as Prinny, had no choice. Despite a previous marriage, he was deeply in debt and only by marrying an approved Royal Princess and furnishing the country with an heir, would parliament agree to settle accounts.

The Prince was introduced to his potential bride only days before their planned wedding. Caroline was short, fat, never changed her undergarments, and rarely washed. According to Court insiders, her body odour was overwhelming.

After embracing her, Prinny retired to the far end of the room and said to the Earl of Malmesbury – “Harris, I am not very well, pray get me a glass of brandy”.

He continued to drink brandy for three days until the morning of the wedding.

Dressed in extremely rich and heavy clothing including a dress of silver tissue and lace and a robe of ermine-lined velvet, the bride found standing and walking difficult. She was attended by Lady Mary Osborne the daughter of the fifth Duke of Leeds, Lady Charlotte Spencer the daughter of the third Duke of Marlborough, Lady Charlotte Legge the daughter of the second Earl of Dartmouth, and Lady Caroline Villiers the daughter of the fourth Earl of Jersey. The Prince of Wales was attended by the unmarried 5th Duke of Bedford and 3rd Duke of Roxburghe. The Prince was also attended by the 17 year old Coronet George Brummell. The ceremony was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, John Moore. Guests included the Prince of Wales’s parents King George III and Queen Charlotte and his sisters. The Princes Ernest, Adolphus, and William were not in attendance as the King thought it best for them to remain with their military regiments.*

The Prince of Wales arrived for the wedding very drunk and obviously reluctant to proceed with the ceremony. The King actually urged him to finish the ceremony at one point. The Prince looked not at all at his bride but frequently at his favorite the 42-year-old Lady Jersey, the wife of the 60 year old fourth Earl of Jersey, George Bussey Villiers.

After the ceremony, the King and Queen held a drawing-room for the couple in the Queen’s apartments. Caroline seemed pleased and chatty. The Prince was silent and morose until near the end of the evening when he recovered his composure enough to become “very civil and gracious”. The couple honeymooned in the Marine Pavilion at Brighton. The Prince of Wales was so drunk when he came to bed that he passed out on the floor in front of the fireplace and spent the night there. He finally awakened early the next morning. Princess Charlotte Augusta, George’s only legitimate child, was born nine months later, on January 7, 1796.

Prinny found Caroline so disgusting that he refused to live with her. For her part, she found him equally unattractive. A year after their wedding he sent her a note tactfully informing her that she could do as she liked. Caroline took this to mean that she could do as she wished and so she did. The Prince and Princess of Wales never lived together afterwards, and appeared separately in public, both becoming involved in numerous extramarital affairs.

Caroline was prevented from seeing her daughter on a day-to-day basis, and was eventually banished in 1799 to a private residence (‘The Pagoda’) in Blackheath, where she allegedly had affairs with the politician George Canning and the admiral Sir Sidney Smith.

In 1806 rumours began to circulate that a four year-old child in her entourage William Austin was her son. His father was said to be a footman.

A Royal Commission was set-up, called the ‘Delicate Investigation’ but nothing could be proved against her.

Following this investigation into her personal affairs by her husband, she left the country and went to live abroad, running up large debts throughout Europe and taking other lovers. During this period, the couple’s daughter, who had married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, died after giving birth to her only child, a stillborn son.

Her estranged husband’s accession to the Throne in 1820 brought Caroline back to Britain. The government in England offered Caroline £50,000 if she would stay out of the country, but she refused and came back where she settled in Hammersmith to the intense embarrassment of all concerned.

On the 17th August the House of Lords took the offensive by demanding that Caroline appear before them. The Pains and Penalties Bill 1820 was introduced in Parliament in order to strip Caroline of the title of Queen and dissolve her marriage to the King.

The aim of the House of Lords was to dissolve the marriage on the grounds that Caroline had been involved with a man called Bartolomeo Bergami, (“a foreigner of low station“) in a most degrading intimacy.

Caroline was very popular with the London ‘mob’, King George was not, and each day they surrounded the House of Lords, her coach escorted by the cheering mob whenever she had to appear there. The evidence against her was plentiful. After 52 days the divorce clause was carried but after the brilliant oratory of Lord Brougham in her defense, the Lords decided to drop it.

George IV’s Coronation was to be the 29th of April, 1821. Caroline asked the Prime Minister what dress to wear for the ceremony and was told that she would not be taking part in it.

Nevertheless Caroline arrived at the Abbey door on the day demanding to be admitted. She shouted “The Queen…Open” and the pages opened the door. “I am the Queen of England,” she shouted, when an official roared at the pages “Do your duty…shut the door”, whereupon the door was slammed in her face.

Undaunted, Caroline drove back to her house and sent a note to the King asking for a Coronation ‘next Monday’!

She died 19 days after her frustrated attempt to get into the Abbey. The exact cause of her death has never been ascertained, not least because Caroline herself, knowing she would die, had decreed that no autopsy was to be carried out.

She was buried in Brunswick, and on her coffin was inscribed… ‘CAROLINE THE INJURED QUEEN OF ENGLAND’.

Historical information gleaned from: Historic-uk.com and Wikipedia. A Description of the Royal Wedding courtesy of The Georgian Index.

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Dressing the Part: Children’s Clothing in Regency

Children’s Clothing in Regency and how it evolved

For the first time in History, around 1770, children began to have clothes that were designed just for them; they were no longer dressed as miniature adults. This is very noticeable in portraits of the time, the adults still wearing stiff formal costumes, while the children appear relaxed and free; the boys in shirts which are open at the neck, the girls in simple gowns with a sash at the waist.

Many experts attribute this, at least in part, to the influence of Rousseau. In ‘Emile’, published in 1762, translated into English the following year, he dealt not only with methods of raising children, but also with their clothing. “The limbs of a growing child should be free to move easily in his clothes: nothing should cramp their grown or movement; there should be nothing tight, nothing fitting closely to the body, no belt of any kind. The plainest and most comfortable clothes, those which leave him the most liberty, are what he likes best.” How different from the boned and panniered dresses for girls and the satin suits for little boys of previous times. Naturally, this process was not an instant change, but by 1800 it had permeated all levels of society. The most significant fact is that what the children wore gradually became the model for adult clothes. Thus, a young girl born about 1770 would wear almost the same style until she was 50! The “trousers” which were part of the boys costume were almost universal by 1830 for adult males and are still their most important garment today.

princess Charlotte Later in the period, when skirts became shorter, girl’s nether garments began to be shown. In 1811, there is a description of Princess Charlotte, then 15 years old, talking to Lady de Clifford and “sitting with her legs stretched out after dinner and show[ing] her drawers which it seems she had and most young women now wear.” It was considered that the Princess was now too old for such a display, but she countered that the Duchess of Bedfort showed even more of her drawers.

In winter, dresses may have been made of wool, and flannel petticoats worn. The neck and chest were very much exposed in this style and spencers and tippets worn for warmth. Cloaks would be worn for traveling and shawls and stoles made their appearance for the fashionable child.

Dress your own Regency fashion girl, click here for our range of children’s dress patterns and paper dolls!

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And the Bride Wore…

The wedding was very much like other weddings, where the parties have no taste for finery or parade; and Mrs Elton, from the particulars detailed by her husband, thought it all extremely shabby, and very inferior to her own. —

“Very little white satin, very few lace veils; a most pitiful business! — Selina would stare when she heard of it.” — But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union.
Emma

Wedding dresses weren’t always white. Until Queen Victoria wore a white gown for her wedding in 1840, brides chose gowns with a variety of colors.

During the British Regency era, it was the custom for most middle-class and lower-class brides to wear their best gowns to their weddings and to wear them frequently afterwards, either to church or on special occasions. Long before the early 19th century, brides traditionally wore gowns in a variety of colors. Jane Austen’s mother, Cassandra Leigh, wore her red riding habit when she married Rev. George Austen in Bath in 1764.

This practical decision allowed the young couple to leave immediately for the parsonage at Deane, their new home. Like so many brides, Leigh wore her gown on many subsequent occasions. Later she turned the outfit into a gardening gown, and eventually recycled the fabric, creating a hunting jacket for her nine-year-old son Francis. This tradition of wearing wedding gowns after the ceremony and recycling them continued well into the Regency era (1811-1820).

Popular Wedding Colors in the Late 18th and Early 19th Centuries

As it turned out, red was a popular color for a wedding dress at the time that the Austens were married in the 18th century. Preferences for colors changed with the fashion of the day. For a while, yellow was popular in the early 19th century. Colors that were popular during the Regency included blue, pink, and green. Darker colors like black, dark brown and burgundy were practical for a bride from the middle and lower classes, for these colors were useful in every day settings as a woman went about her duties. Like Mrs. Austen in a previous generation, these Regency brides would wear their wedding dresses for many years to come, and dark dresses did not show dirt at the hems as readily as lighter colored fabrics.

Fads for choosing a wedding dress color changed as industrial-made fabrics became cheaper, dyes became brighter, and laundering became less arduous. A Victorian poem, written some time after the Regency period, showed how color influenced the course of the marriage (or so people thought).

Married in white, you will have chosen right.

Married in grey, you will go far away.

Married in black, you will wish yourself back.

Married in red, you wish yourself dead.

Married in green, ashamed to be seen.

Married in blue, you will always be true.

Married in pearl, you will live in a whirl.

Married in yellow, ashamed of your fellow.

Married in brown, you will live out of town.

Married in pink, your fortune will sink.

Wedding Colors for Affluent Regency Brides

The very wealthy were different. They could afford expensive handmade lace veils that were beyond the budget of a lower class bride, and order seamstresses to add lush detailing to gowns that were custom made with rich fabrics. In the popular fashion magazines, such as Ackermann’s Repository, which was founded in 1809, fancy white wedding gowns were shown as a matter of course. One must keep in mind that white was the color of choice for most gowns at the time and the prevailing fashion.

Royal Brides in the British Regency Era

Princess Charlotte’s wedding gown was a lavish silver tissue creation as described in La Belle Assemblée, 1816:

“Her dress was silver lama [lamé] on net, over a silver tissue slip, embroidered at the bottom with silver lama in shells and flowers. Body and sleeves to correspond, elegantly trimmed with point Brussels lace. The manteau was of silver tissue lined with white satin, with a border of embroidery to answer that on the dress, and fastened in front with a splendid diamond ornament.” Royal brides tended to wear silver gowns, a custom that would soon change.

Queen Victoria’s Influence on Wedding Gowns

While white gowns were already frequently worn by the upper crust, Queen Victoria forever changed the course of wedding fashions with her choice of gown in 1840: She wanted it made out of white fabric because of a particular lace she had chosen as a trim. After her wedding to Prince Albert, her photographic image as a bride was widely circulated, and from that point on wedding dresses, regardless of class, began to be associated with the color white.

 



Vic Sanborn oversees two blogs: Jane Austen’s World and Jane Austen Today. Before 2006 she merely adored Jane Austen and read Pride and Prejudice faithfully every year. These days, she is immersed in reading and writing about the author’s life and the Regency era. Co-founder of her local (and very small) book group, Janeites on the James, she began her blogs as a way to share her research on the Regency era for her novel, which sits unpublished on a dusty shelf. In her working life, Vic provides resources and professional development for teachers and administrators of Virginia’s adult education and literacy programs.

Reprinted with permission from Suite 101: escape to the world of Jane Austen for costume, stationery and more for your own Regency wedding.