One hundred and ninety-five years ago, Caroline of Brunswick, beleaguered and unpopular wife of the equally unpopular George IV, decamped from her carriage and attempted to enter Westminster Abbey for his coronation and summarily found herself barred from entering.
This was one of the last acts of this unpopular, mismatched royal “love story.”
In fact, to refer to the union as a “royal love story” would be a serious disservice to the word ‘love’ as the pair could not stand each other.
They had never met before their betrothal in 1794, and George only agreed to marry the princess because of his serious debt (the astronomical sum of £630,000) and a promise from Parliament that his allowance would be increased upon his marriage to an eligible princess.
Lord Malmesbury, who escorted Princess Caroline to Britain ahead of her marriage recorded in his diary his reservations about the princess. She lacked judgement, he felt, as well as tact and decorum. She spoke her mind and was indiscreet. Her personal hygiene was lacking.
When the Brunswick princess finally reached the British shores and met her future husband for the first time, he reportedly took one look at her and requested a glass of brandy. Their wedding was no more successful. The prince was drunk during the ceremony, and later wrote to a friend that they’d only had intercourse three times: twice on their wedding night and once the following night.
Luckily for the pair, nine months later Princess Charlotte of Wales was born. She was her father’s only legitimate child and second in line to the throne, and in adulthood was one of the most popular members of the royal family. She countered the deep unpopularity of her father and the madness of her grandfather.
Her premature death, in childbirth, has been called a precursor to the public mourning surrounding Diana, Princess of Wales’ death 180 years later.
Princess Charlotte’s death created the succession crisis. As she had been the only legitimate grandchild of George III, the king’s unmarried sons quickly found wives and attempted to produce an heir.
The eventual heir to the throne was born on 24 May 1819 to George III’s fourth son, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn: Princess Victoria, later Queen Victoria.
The pair fought through various scandals. Prince George was unafraid of parading his mistresses around in public, or of flaunting his spending habits and opulent taste. Princess Caroline was deemed to be uncouth, and rumours spread of her infidelity – despite nothing ever being proven.
In 1802 she adopted a three-month-old son, and she was later accused of covering up the birth of an illegitimate son.
The “Delicate Commission” was arranged in 1806, in secret, to investigate the allegations, but no evidence was ever found to prove them.
In 1811, Prince George was declared Prince Regent after his father’s madness was too far gone. He successfully shut Princess Caroline out of high society and even further restricted her access to their daughter.
Eventually Caroline left the country, negotiating an annual allowance from the Foreign Secretary. Whilst abroad her estranged husband – although he petitioned several times for divorce but was never granted it – succeeded to the throne as King in his own right.
Caroline, now Queen consort, returned to England but was barred entry into her husband’s coronation. She was told not to attempt entering Westminster Abbey for her husband’s coronation – which cost about £243,000; his father’s cost about £10,000 – but she ignored the advice and attempted entry anyways, where the Deputy Lord Chamberlain slammed the door in her face.
She then retreated to her carriage after attempting entry via another door, and the crowds reportedly jeered at her.
Later that night she fell ill and passed away three weeks later on 7 August 1821.