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Heir to the British Throne
Not all Fairy Tales End Happily Ever After
When we mention a royal marriage that turned into a disaster, we generally tend to think of Prince Charles and Princess Diana or maybe Prince Andrew and Fergie Anderson. Those marriages didn’t turn out well but there were several other royal marriages that also didn’t end well. King Henry VII was one such example. Several of his marriages ended in divorce and at least two of his six wives lost their heads. That is really a tragic end to a royal marriage. But then we also have the story of the Prince of Wales and Princess Caroline of Brunswick. Their story is less known but it is the story of another royal marriage that turned into a disaster.
Prince George Frederick Augustus
Prince of Wales George Frederick Augustus was born at St. James Palace in London on August 12, 1762. His parents were King George III and Charlotte Mecklenburg Strelitz. He was their first son of fifteen children although one of those children died at a young age. George, being the oldest, was given the title of Prince of Wales and heir to the throne. George could be a charming young man, when he wanted to be. He was also rather a handsome sort and well educated to fit his status as the future King of England. George was very well dressed and took great pride in being fashionable. George also indulged in heavy drinking, gambling and womanizing. He had at least two relationships with women who were older than he was. One of these women was named Mary Robinson. The other woman was Maria Fitzherbert. He was deeply in love and deeply in debt due to his excessive spending.
The Secret Not so Legal Marriage
George had fallen in love with Maria Fertzherbert, a woman who had been married twice to two older men who had left her widowed. George was totally captivated by the young beautiful woman with the light blonde hair and flawless complexion. Maria was a Roman Catholic and a widow, making her an unacceptable wife for a future king. But George was a determined young man and finally persuaded Maria into a secret marriage which was performed at her house with family members as witnesses.
Neither King George III nor parliament had given the approval for this marriage and it was not recognized as a legal marriage under English law. Shortly thereafter, Maria was delivered a letter stating that her relationship with the prince was finished. Sometime later the pair did reunite after he had married and separated from Princess Caroline. Maria was rumored to have given birth to several illegitimate children fathered by Prince George over the years of their relationship.
Princess Caroline of Brunswick
Princess Caroline of Brunswick was George’s cousin although the two had never met. She was the daughter of his Aunt Princess Augusta of England and the Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel. She was said to be rather bold, coarse, loud and rude in her manner of speaking. Her sense of fashion was almost non existence. Her clothing was out of fashion and was often worn without proper washing. Her own personal hygiene was also lacking. She failed to wash properly most of the time or change and wash her undergarments. As a result she often had an offensive odor. This is rather strange that a young woman with servants to tend to all of her needs would fail to have clean suitable clothing available. Of course, Caroline had her good points as well. She could be kind, generous and did charity work as well as loved and fostered several homeless children later in her lifetime.
Princess Caroline of Brunswick
The Prince and Princess Meet
The first meeting of the Prince of Wales and his soon to be bride Princess Caroline got off to a very rocky beginning. He did not find her attractive at all and he had no wish to marry anyone at that point in his life. Princess Caroline was also twenty six which at that time was considered to being unmarriageable. He already had his mistresses to keep him happy. Truthfully, he was repulsed by his future bride. The only reason that Prinny (his nickname) had agreed to marry at all was that he was heavily in debt. Parliament had agreed to cover his debts if he married and Princess Caroline was chosen as his bride. Princess Caroline was also disappointed and she was humiliated by the way the Prince had treated her at their first meeting. At a later supper, Caroline was rude, talked and laughed loudly about subjects that should not have been discussed at the supper table. Perhaps she was just very nervous and insecure at the time. In any event, neither of them made a good impression on the other one.
The Wedding Day
Prince George and Princess Caroline were married at St. James Palace on April 8th, 1795. While his father was delighted to see his son get married, it was not a day of happiness for the future king of England. It is said that he was drunk during the ceremony and continued to drink the rest of the day. When the couple retired to their bedchambers, George was so drunk that he fell on the floor and spent his wedding night passed out on the floor. At some time, George did manage to do his duty and have relations with Princess Caroline who became pregnant almost immediately. With an heir on the way, the prince ignored Caroline completely. Their daughter Princess Charlotte was born and the couple separated soon after. Princess Caroline was forced to leave her infant daughter with her father.
Princess Caroline the Lonely Princess
Not much more than a year after they were married, Princess Caroline moved out of her husband’s residence and took up residence at Blackheath, London. How lonely the new Princess of Wales must have felt in a foreign country with few friends of her own. Blackheath was located to the south east of London and was a wealthy area. Here the estranged wife of the Prince of Wales was able to live with less restrictions and her behavior and activities sometimes caused scandals. One of those scandals was when she took in an infant and some people whispered that she was the mother. This incident caused King George to form an inquiry into her activities and although it was proved she was not the mother of the infant, it caused the king to no longer welcome her in his household.
After losing the king’s support, Princess Caroline left England and traveled throughout Europe. She created more scandals with a handsome young Italian servant that she had employed. They traveled together and this may well have been the happiest time of Caroline’s life. Sometime during Caroline’s years abroad several things changed. Her only daughter, Princess Charlotte married Leopold George Christian Frederick, became pregnant and died in childbirth. Her husband Prince George had also taken over as Regent for his father, who was mentally unstable.
King George IV
Princess Returns to be Queen But is put on Trial
In 1820, King George III died, officially making the prince, King George IV and Caroline the Queen of England. She returned to England and expected to be crowned queen alongside her estranged husband. Now king, George refused to have Caroline crowned as his queen. Instead he wanted to be rid of her and needed grounds for a divorce. So at his insistence parliament put her on trial claiming she had committed adultery with her Italian man servant Bartolmeo Pergami as well as other indiscretions. Much like Princess Diana and Prince Charles public divorce, this one also had everyone in England engaged. The princess had her supported publicly supporting her cause and the prince had his own supporters. Unlike modern day royal dramas, the only thing missing was television and social media.
Eventually, parliament ruled in favor of Princess Caroline and King George was denied his divorce, which would have allowed him to remarry and produce another heir to the throne.
The Final Insult to the Queen
By rights, Princess Caroline, still legally married to King George III was now queen even if the marriage was a total disaster. She expected to attend the king’s coronation be crowned queen alongside her husband. But the king would not allow her to be crowned with him. He left orders that she would not be allowed to enter Westminster Abbey where the coronation was taking place. Caroline showed up to the coronation anyway but was refused entrance into Westminster Abbey. Basically the door was shut in her face. Therefore she was never officially crowned as Queen of England. Princess Caroline of Brunswick, later the Princess of Wales, and the uncrowned queen of King George III, died within a few short weeks after being delivered the final insult from a disastrous royal marriage.
Queen Caroline is Refused Entry to Westminster Abbey
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 L.M. Hosler
L.M. Hosler (author) on August 29, 2019:
Ms. Dora I agree that being single would have been better for Princess Caroline but I am guessing she was thrilled with the idea of being queen one day.
Thanks for the comment.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on August 29, 2019:
I'm disappointed that the princess went ahead with the marriage even after she knew that the prince did not like her. She must have thought that marriage would change something. What a sad story! Remaining single had more benefits.
Thanks for the research and the presentation!