by Regina Jeffers
In the Fall of 1802, a three-month-old boy's arrival at Montague House added coal to the fire. Reportedly, Caroline had asked her staff to assist in locating a child for her to raise. A woman named Sophia Austin came to the Princess's home to ask for assistance in finding employment for her husband, Samuel, who had been dismissed from the Deptford Dockyard. Mrs. Austin was persuaded by the Princess's staff to place her newborn son in the Princess's care in exchange for Caroline's assistance.
At Christmastide 1802, Caroline took up an alliance with Captain Thomas Manby. The Douglases were away at Plymouth at the time, and by their return, Manby had replaced Sir Sidney in the Princess's regard. Yet, by the spring of 1803, Manby's frigate, H.M.S. Africaine, had been refitted, and he set sail. Reportedly, Caroline had paid for his cabin's remodeling and had given the captain £300. When his frigate was stationed at Dover Roads, Caroline took a house in Ramsgate and visited the ship often.
Having second thoughts about the Douglases' knowledge of her affairs, Caroline began a "smear campaign" against her former friends and Sir Sidney. Apparently the Princess was trying to discredit the threesome before they had the opportunity to do the same to her. When George III gave Caroline the Rangership of Greenwich Park, in an effort to reduce her debts, the Princess leased a house in Greenwich to the newly founded Royal Naval School. She followed that with the earmarking of various other houses in the Park for her Household and officials of the school. Among the tenants given notice to quit their house were Sir John and Lady Douglas.
The Douglases retaliated by given George IV evidence of his wife's affairs. Lady Douglas provided the Prince Regent with a charge that Willy Austin, the child Caroline had taken in, was Princess Caroline's child, and that the Princess planned to pass the boy off as the Prince's because Caroline had slept two nights at Carlton House during the dates of the boy's conception. If Lady Douglas's claims proved true, in addition to committing adultery (a crime punishable by death), the Princess planned to supersede the succession of her own daughter, Princess Charlotte.
The Prince turned the information over to Samuel Romilly, the Whig lawyer. The Douglases made a written statement, which was shown to several more of the "political brotherhood." Following the death of Pitt and the formation of the Ministry of All the Talents in early 1806, Prinny "took no steps whatever to make it [Caroline's possible crimes] the subject of public investigation; but manifested on the contrary the greatest desire to avoid it if possible." However, as Romilly had been appointed Solicitor-General, the prosecution of the Princess appeared imminent. If the Prince could prove the charges, he could pursue the dissolution of his marriage to a woman he despised.
In May 1806, the Dukes of York, Kent, and Sussex encouraged their brother to consent to laying the charges against the Princess before the Council. Despite the fact that some of the evidence against the Princess had been contradicted by her two physicians, George IV agreed to the request. The so-called "Delicate Investigation" began on June 1. Lady Douglas's testimony became the basis of the charges, but others gave statements. Among those who were questioned were William Cole and Robert Bidigood, the Princess's former pages and most of her Household staff.
Despite Prinny's hopes that the Commission would find against the Princess, on July 14, the Commission released its report. It concluded that the child was not of Caroline's issue. However, the Commission declared the Princess guilty of adultery until proved innocent. Having received a copy of the Secret Commission's report, the King was in a difficult position. While there was no actual proof of adultery, the circumstantial evidence was compelling. Therefore, George III severed "all future social intercourse" with Caroline except "outward marks of civility."