Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Feuding Hanoverians

Frederick, Prince of Wales
Arguments within the Royal Family have always existed, but the Hanoverian monarchs took their animosity into legend that scandalised even the tolerant English. With their reputation for uncontrollable rages, they all seemed to take pleasure in publicly humiliating their children. George I ejected his son, George Augustus and daughter-in-law Princess Caroline of Ansbach from St James Palace for a presumed slight to the Earl of Newcastle at their son's christening. They were literally ejected from the palace and their honour guard removed, banished for two years and their three daughters, Anne, Amelia and Caroline forbidden to live with them.

In his turn, George Augustus became George II, having not seen his own son, Frederick Prince of Wales for thirteen years. When he came to England with his father in 1715, George Augustus left his eight-year-old son in Hanover to keep a 'presence' there, the boy expected to preside over official occasions, despite Frederick's repeated requests to join his parents and siblings in London. Frederick had also continued to be known as Prince Frederich Ludwig of Hanover (with his British HRH style) even after his father had been created Prince of Wales.

It's not unreasonable to suppose this separation was insisted upon by Frederick's grandfather, George I - a man who imprisoned his own wife for the majority of her life for having an affair with a Swedish army officer - who incidentally disappeared on his way to his mistress' apartment - probably murdered on George I's orders -but that's another story.
King George II and Queen Caroline of Ansbach

Hardly happy families, exacerbated when King George II favoured child was Frederick's younger brother, Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, to the extent that the king looked into ways of splitting his domains so that Frederick would succeed only in Britain, while Hanover would go to William.

Augusta, Princess of Wales
Despite being a spendthrift and womaniser, Frederick settled down to married life with the seventeen-year-old Augusta of Saxe-Gotha in 1736. When Augusta fell pregnant, Frederick announced the child would be born in October, when in fact she was due to give birth earlier.

In July, the entire family were at Hampton Court for the summer, with Queen Caroline determined to be present at the birth of her grandchild. Traditionally, royal births were witnessed by members of the family and senior courtiers to ensure the parentage of the royals, but Caroline announced tactlessly, 'I will be sure it is her child'.

Perhaps feeling insulted that his mother questioned the baby's paternity, when Augusta went into labour, Frederick bundled his eighteen-year-old wife out of her bedchamber and down a flight of stairs to a coach. Deaf to the protests of his wife and her ladies, with two of her dressers, they rattled through the fifteen miles to St James' in seventy five minutes, while the ladies and the Prince had to hold down the screaming princess.

Frederick complained afterwards that the force he had to use gave him a terrible ache in his back!

When the party reached St James', Frederick ordered the lights extinguished so the servants would not see the gruesome evidence of 'his folly and her distress'. When Queen Caroline heard what had happened, she, Lord John Hervey, and two of her daughters, raced to St James's Palace where she found her newly born grandaughter wrapped in table linen due to the fact no preparations had been made for a birth.

Caroline was at first sympathetic to 'the poor little creature', but soon declared her relief that Augusta had given birth to an 'ugly little she-mouse' rather than a 'large, fat, healthy boy' which made a deception unlikely since the baby was so pitiful. The child was named Augusta after her mother, but not surprisingly,  this incident shocked the court, and deepened the estrangement between mother and son.

Frederick and Augusta were abruptly banished from St James Palace, their guard of honour removed, and with no time to pack, their clothes were thrown into laundry baskets. A rival court grew up at Leicester House, the same property his father had run to when George I had administered the same treatment to himself and Caroline years before.
Princess Augusta of Wales

Frederick hated being apart from his mother, but when Princess Caroline fell ill after an operation for an untreated hernia later that year, King George refused him permission to see her.

Surprisingly, after this treatment of his wife, Frederick became a devoted family man of eight children (his youngest daughter was born posthumously) They lived in the countryside at Cliveden, where he fished, shot and rowed. He died in 1751 at the age of 44, but did not outlive his father, thus it was Frederick's son, George, who succeeded the throne as George III in 1760.

The Prince of Wales' epigram -from William Makepeace Thackeray, "Four Georges"

        'Here lies poor Fred who was alive and is dead,
        Had it been his father I had much rather,
        Had it been his sister nobody would have missed her,
        Had it been his brother, still better than another,
        Had it been the whole generation, so much better for the nation,
        But since it is Fred who was alive and is dead,
        There is no more to be said!'

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4 comments:

  1. Geez, that's horrible. Good fodder for novels, though. :D

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  2. During the summer I read Lucy Worsley's book "Courtiers" - the above is a wonderful summary. The truth really is stranger than fiction on some occaisions.

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  3. Elizabeth Gayle FellowsNovember 6, 2012 at 7:51 PM

    My goodness, such a confused and controlling family. Very strange characters, and would absolutely make many great historical stories...

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