Friday, October 12, 2012

Royals of the Regency

by David William Wilkin

The Regency Royals and some little anecdotes

These few little insights we have to them help to give color and background not only to our knowledge, but to our tales as well.

George III & Charlotte (1760-1820)

The longest lived monarch and the longest reigning king. (Though the last years he was mad and his son was Regent) He came to the throne at the age of 22. He was rather a play boy before settling down with Charlotte. First he was in love with Lady Sarah Lennox, and then Duchess Sophie Caroline Marie.

Extremely well educated and rounded, he was very well prepared to become King. He started his reign on a roll, with victory in the Seven Years War. He is also responsible for losing the American Colonies.  Then before his madness took over completely, things were not going well in the wars against Napoleon. France had grown to a giant Empire under his last years of sanity, and only once he was mad did Britain turn the tide and emerge victorious.

A closer look at his reign no longer faults him for the loss of America, and now that the disease tied to his madness has been diagnosed and understood, he is not looked at so harshly.

* *

Horace Walpole tells how George III went riding in the fields near Holland House everyday before he finally did wed Charlotte. Even during the time he was infatuated with Lady Sarah. And whilst doing so, a 'Fair Quaker' named Hannah Lightfoot was in the field.

'She appeared every morning at Holland House, in a field close to the great road (where the King passed on horseback) in a fancy habit making hay.

Thackery wrote that she was

'Making hay at him.'

* *

After the revolutionary war was all done, George said to John Adams as President

'I wish you, Sir, to believe, that it may be understood in America, that I have done nothing in the late contest but what I thought myself indispensably bound to do by the duty which I owed my people. I will be very frank with you. I was the last to consent to the separation; but the separation having been made, and having become inevitable, I have always said, as I say now, that I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power.'

(DWW-My thoughts. Long winded, perhaps, but this is the true start of our special relationship.)

Geroge IV & Caroline (1820-1830)

Our Prinny. A short synopsis can't really do justice. He spent money like water. He married Maria Fitzherbert in a marriage that was illegal, and he knew it. But he loved her. He had built the Royal Pavillion in Brighton. Ostentatious and an Architectural Marvel.

To get out of debt he married Caroline, and left her promptly after the birth of Charlotte. With his father mad, a Regency was finally established in 1811 and though he was the ruler, Lord Liverpool pretty much ran England and the Empire for him during this time. He was titled 'the first gentleman of England.' One would say as his days of Prince that he cut a figure amongst the people, and then as Regent and later King, that earlier love dissipated. 

A revisionist look at this later period sees that Prinny was neither all bad as Regent and King nor all good as the Crown Prince. He was however, a figure much larger than life.

* *
We all think that Prinny spent a great deal on his luxuries. From Christopher Hibbert we have Prinny a compulsive spender.

'He spent over £ 20 a week on cold cream and almond paste, perfumed almond powder and scented bags, lavender water, rose water, elder flower water, jasmine pomatum and orange pomatum, eau de cologne, eau romaine, Arquebusade, essence of bergamot, vanilla, eau de miel d'Angleterre, milk of roses, huile antique and oil of jasmine. He bought them all in huge quantities--perfumed powder was delivered in amounts of up to £ 33 at a time; toothbrushes came by the three dozen. But then he bought almost everything in huge quantities: in need of a few walking sticks, he bought thirty-two in one day.'

(DWW-remember a man could live in London, by himself with minimal servants on the very edge of the TON, on £100 a year)

* *

Of Caroline, we have from Lady Hester Stanhope, Pitt's niece and recorded by Henry Colburn from her memoirs:

'She (Caroline) did not know how to put on her own clothes, ... putting on her stockings with the seam before, or one of them wrong side outwards.'

William IV & Adelaide (1830-1837)

William, George III's third son, served in the Royal Navy in his youth and was nicknamed the "Sailor King". He served in North America and the Carribean, but saw little actual fighting. Since his two older brothers died without leaving legitimate issue, he came to the throne when he was 64 years old. His reign saw several reforms: child labour addressed, the poor laws were updated, slavery was abolished in nearly all the Empire, and the the electoral process reconfigured in the Reform Act of 1832. Though William did not engage in politics as much as his brother or his father, he was the last monarch to appoint a Prime Minister contrary to the will of Parliament. 

* *
William had a few short words for Lord Grey, the Whig prime minister, when the reform of Parliament was under consideration. Lord Grey requested the king to dissolve parliament, as a preliminary to a general election and victory for Reform. For the only time in his life the agitated king responded with verse:

'I consider Dissoultion
Tantamount to Revolution.'

* *
The need for an heir was so important, that Adelaide who was barren was made scandalous.

'Jonathan Peel told me yesterday morning that L[ady] A[lice] Kennedy had sent word to his wife that the Queen is with child; if it be true, and a queer thing if it is, it will hardly come of anything at her age, and with her health; but what a difference it would make!'

this from The Greville Memoirs

Just a few anecdotes from these men and women who were the rulers of our Regency. It shows that they were capable of great things, even though they still were people.

* * *

Mr. Wilkin writes Regency Historicals and Romances, Ruritanian (A great sub-genre that is fun to explore) and Edwardian Romances, Science Fiction and Fantasy works. He is the author of the very successful Pride & Prejudice continuation; Colonel Fitzwilliam’s Correspondence. He has several other novels set in Regency England including The End of the World and The Shattered Mirror. His most recent work is the humorous spoof; Jane Austen and Ghostsstory of what would happen were we to make any of these Monsters and Austen stories into a movie.

And Two Peas in a Pod, a madcap tale of identical twin brothers in Regency London who find they must impersonate each other to pursue their loves.

The links for all locations selling Mr. Wilkin's work can be found at the webpage and will point you to your favorite internet bookstore: David’s Books, and at various Internet and realworld bookstores including the iBookstoreAmazonBarnes and NobleSmashwords.

He is published by Regency Assembly Press
And he maintains his own blog called The Things That Catch My Eye where the entire Regency Lexicon has been hosted these last months as well as the current work in progress of the full Regency Timeline is being presented.

You also may follow Mr. Wilkin on Twitter at @DWWilkin
Mr. Wilkin maintains a Pinterest page with pictures and links to all the Regency Research he uncovers at Pinterest Regency-Era


  1. King George III’s benign attitude to the successful Americans (after they were successful) contrasts sharply with his attitude towards some of his subjects much closer to home. Catholics made up by far the largest percentage of the population of the island of Ireland as well a substantial minority in Britain itself. Despite this, the King used his Coronation Oath as justification to block reforms which would allow Catholics to sit in Parliament. Prime Minister William Pitt had planned to introduce Catholic Emancipation as an essential component of the Act of Union of Great Britain and Ireland, which came into effect on Jan 1st 1801. On 31 January 1801, Pitt wrote to the King saying that he would feel obliged to resign if he would not allow some measure of emancipation to be passed. The King replied as follows.

    Queen’s House, February 1, 1801
    I should not do justice to the warm impulse of my heart if I entered on the subject most unpleasant to my mind without first expressing that the cordial affection I have for Mr Pitt, as well as high opinions of his talents and integrity, greatly add to my uneasiness on this occasion; but a sense of religious as well as political duty has made me, from the moment I mounted the throne, consider the Oath that the wisdom of our forefathers has enjoined the Kings of this realm to take at their Coronation, and enforced by the obligation of instantly following it in the course of the ceremony with taking the Sacrament, as so binding a religious obligation on me to maintain the fundamental maxims on which our Constitution is placed, namely the Church of England being the established one, and that those who hold employment in the State must be members of it, and consequently obliged not only to take oaths against Popery, but to receive the Holy Communion agreeably to the rites of the Church of England.
    This principle of duty must therefore prevent me from discussing any proposition tending to destroy this groundwork of our happy Constitution, and much more so that now mentioned by Mr Pitt, which is no less than the complete overthrow of the whole fabric.
(Public Records Office, Chatham Papers, C.IV)

    After receiving this Royal rebuff, Pitt duly resigned. The issue of Catholic Emancipation was not resolved until 1829 when Daniel O’Connell, having been elected by the voters of County Clare on two occasions, was finally allowed to take his seat in the House of Commons.

  2. I enjoyed your article, David, but I'd like to say a few words on behalf of George III! I know it's a popular conception that he was 'mad' but in modern terms he would have been diagnosed as suffering from porphyria. Confusion and anxiety are symptoms.

    If anyone's interested, I live a few miles from Prinny's Brighton Pavilion and have written a little about it on my website

  3. I intend to have more anecdotes as time goes by for all these characters


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