Month: July 2013

What’s new at Kew

Kew

You might have guessed from the header of my blog that Kew is my favourite palace. It might not be the biggest or the fanciest (the big fancy stuff was knocked down by George IV) but it has the best atmosphere. It’s strange because, given the history, the remaining palace shouldn’t have the feel of gentle contentment that it carries. It oversaw some strict training regimes for young princes, the illness of George III and the tearful death of Queen Charlotte. Yet even in the very room Charlotte passed away, all I feel is peace. It is fitting, then, that this year’s displays show the young family at their most happy and intimate.

If you watched BBC’s Fit to Rule series, you may have caught a glimpse of the lovely baby items recently acquired by Historic Royal Palaces. With a royal infant just arrived, these are particularly apt! The many, many tokens of George III and Charlotte’s fifteen offspring were often passed to the nurses – keepsakes, if you will, of their foster children. It is touching to report that the items just purchased at auction have remained in the nurse’s family for years, passed down from generation to generation. Having said that, I’m glad they finally sold so I could see the wonderful little relics!

Palace gardens

The first thing to catch my attention was the bonnet of the baby Prince Edward – Queen Victoria’s father. This is truly exquisite, so tiny and delicately made. It’s hard to comprehend the soft-skulled infant whose miniscule head fitted inside that grew up to acquire a reputation for harshness amounting to cruelty among the troops he managed! Alongside the bonnet is a case containing some of the hair that once was tucked under it, along with hair from other members of the family. There’s something about seeing locks of hair from long dead people that gives me the shivers, in a good way. You read about them, you see portraits and you imagine them but then you suddenly have an actual part of them before your eyes. I try to imagine how it curled round an ear, or bounced delicately about their shoulders.  Similarly, I was fascinated by a pair mittens belonging to the young Princess Royal. Having spent so long with Royal in research and writing, it was breathtaking to have something tangible of hers that she wore there in front of me. There were also sweet leather gloves belonging to the future William IV – those chubby, childish hands were to see action in the navy before finally holding a scepter. But perhaps the most poignant item was the measuring tape with the little princes’ heights marked on it as they grew. Such treasures really highlight that these royals were, after all, a human family, who relished seeing their little ones grow like any other parents. The curator of Kew, Polly Putnam, informed the group of us that came in for tea and a tour after hours that the previous owner of the measuring tape had it tacked up beside one for her own children and compared their growth to that of the Georgian princes. What a wonderful thought!

Day to day family occupations

There are, of course, sad connections with some of the items. A beautiful silver sipping cup (imagine a modern-day Tommy-Tippy in silver with fine engraving) was made for the young royals, but may have also been used to feed George III when illness rendered him incapable. The delightful gold breakfast set, newly on display, was purchased as a get well present from the princesses to George. However, even in these more sombre items, you get a feel for the family life behind them. The golden breakfast set includes an ingenious little egg cooker, complete with timer, which would exactly appeal to George’s taste for gadgets and new inventions. You can see him fiddling with it and the family laughing as he tried to use it.

One of the things I love most about the Historic Royal Palaces is the way the walls whisper.  Some new “whispers” have been added to Kew, amongst them many dialogues between George III and his children. These were lovely to sit and listen to. I was pleased to hear they covered the “nursery revolt” staged by Princes George and Frederick in an attempt to oust their tutor – an important reminder that little Kew Palace – or the Dutch House, as it was then – was originally used as a schooling place for future monarchs. The whispers of Queen Charlotte and Elizabeth arguing over newspapers have disappeared from the Queen’s Boudoir, but who knows, they may return in future!

Another set of fabulous items on display consisted of jewellery either belonging to or commemorating the family. My favourite were a set of elaborate buttons, once belonging to George III and later made into a necklace, bracelet and earring set by Queen Adelaide. Two royal connections in one! Despite all the books I’ve read about George III, I never knew that he had a passion for button-making as a young man.  You never stop learning! The rest of the jewellery was gorgeous – so sparkly! I loved the brooch with a profile of Queen Charlotte picked out in diamonds. I came across more hair samples, too – this time in a bracelet belonging to Charlotte. She had a little see-through section for each link, housing locks from her, George and every one of their children. Charlotte often complained about being separated from her children and I like to think she wore this bracelet when she missed them.

The Drawing Room

Perhaps the most exciting new acquisition at Kew is a flamboyant red suit, probably belonging to the young King George. I say probably . . . Polly Putnam explained it was picked up from a costume collection that had always referred to it as “George III’s suit”. Polly has been researching tirelessly to see if the claim is accurate. It seems highly likely – the velvet is the finest possible for that era.  The suit is lined with silk, unlike its contemporaries, and has leather pockets. The height and measurements are a good fit with the young George and it is well known that he liked to wear red suits for his birthday. Although the colour has faded, the restoration team at Historic Royal Palaces have done a wonderful job with the material. You can picture the young King, dapper, slim and handsome, striding around the drawing-room at St. James’s Palace, hands folded behind his back, nodding and talking to his courtiers. Definitely worth going for a look! I was thrilled to hear Polly say she wants to focus on the young George and his father, Prince Frederick, next year. Frederick spent time at Kew Palace and was famously painted in front of it with his three eldest sisters. His engraving is also on some of the locks. “Poor Fred”, as he was dubbed by the Georgians, is a sadly neglected figure in history. It will be wonderful to bring the spotlight onto him, and no doubt it will provide me with further inspiration for my book about his wife, Augusta!

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Aside from the displays in the actual palace, I must mention the kitchens. Although they opened last year, I haven’t had the chance to get down to Kew and see them until now. It’s always wonderful to glimpse any remnant of the sprawling complex that was once The White House and its attendant buildings. The kitchens add another layer of intrigue, hidden away through a twisting path behind a little kitchen garden – a real taste of the “downstairs”, servant aspect of the palace. Historic Royal Palaces have kept the kitchens in line with palace – restoring some rooms, while leaving others relatively untouched to show the original architecture. It’s an effective combination.

The clerk's office

The kitchens are focused around a particular date – 6 February 1789 – when George III was sufficiently recovered to eat with a knife and fork once more. You can see the preparation rooms for the ingredients before progressing to the Great Kitchen, where projecting figures on the walls give you taste for the hustle and stress that was going on behind the scenes! Upstairs, you will find the clerk’s office complete with ledgers, keys and prices for all the food purchased. In fact, you will find out so much about the meal the family ate on 6 February 1789, that when you go back to the palace you may well recognise it . . . In a particularly nice touch, they have replicated the dishes and laid them on the table in the King’s Dining Room.

The meal of 6 February 1789

I must just mention one more thing about the kitchens – George III’s bath tub. He chose to take his baths near the Great Kitchen, rather in the comfort of his own palace, so the servants wouldn’t be put to the trouble of bringing the hot water too far. “Oh yes,” I found myself saying about this man I have never met, “that’s just like him”. Funny, how well you feel you get to know a person from studying their reign.

George's bath tub

Vauxhall Gardens – A Georgian Elysium

Today we are lucky enough to have a guest post by author Grace Elliot! Vauxhall Gardens has to be one of the most splendid destinations of the Georgian/Regency era and one we all wish we could go to. Let’s allow Grace to take us on a journey back in time . . .

Vauxhall Gardens

Vauxhall Gardens – that marvel of Georgian design and creativity, a place to enjoy art, dancing, music and theatre, where the Georgian man or woman could forget the drudgery of daily routine and pretend themselves in an earthly paradise. Such was Vauxhall’s attraction that the gardens were linked to two of the 18th centuries creative geniuses- the artist William Hogarth and composer George Frederick Handel.

The force behind the creation of Vauxhall Gardens was Jonathan Tyers, who started out as a simple tradesman from Bermondsey in London. Tyers realised that the ordinary people who lived and worked in the crowded, dirty, smelly city of London, would pay to escape that environment, if even for an evening, in order to visit an ‘Elysium’ or paradise on earth.

It was through Tyers foresight and idealism that the woods around a former tavern were transformed into a veritable cornucopia of verdant delight. [On a different note, it seems likely Tyers suffered from bipolar disorder. Accounts suggest he oscillated between a state of euphoric exhilaration when he drove forward his designs, and deep melancholy when he withdrew from the world, including his family.]

“That delicious sweetness of the place; the enchanting charms of music, and the satisfaction which appears in every one’s countenance, carried my soul almost to heaven.” Henry Fielding’s ‘Amelia’ (1752)

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Part of the genius of Tyers design was that he made the gardens appeal to the senses. Take as an example, sound. The average visitor to Vauxhall lived in a city of constant noise;  clattering hooves, grinding cart wheels, shouting street vendors, coal tipped into cellars – day and night there was noise and bustle. But at Vauxhall there was peace sufficient to hear the birds, specifically nightingales, singing.

Added to that there were pleasant sounds; an orchestra played in the middle of a grove.  Such was Vauxhall’s association with music that Handel composed new pieces to debut there. Later in the day, strolling singers serenaded the ladies – although after dark the songs became more daring and bawdy! In my latest release, Verity’s Lie, the heroine of the title has been told by her father that Vauxhall is a place of debauchery and best avoided. However, the hero, Lord Ryevale, is keen that Verity’s forms her own opinion:

They [Verity and Ryevale] moved on, subconsciously drawn to the sound of music.  Verity tried not to stare at the passers-by but it was difficult.  The gowns were so daring: transparent muslins and tissue-thin silks.  But Verity found she was no longer shocked, in fact, to see strangers laughing and smiling lifted her spirits.  Is this what her father sought to protect her from?  Did she have the same weakness for pleasure that her mother did? Suddenly, Verity needed to know.  She didn’t want to be protected, but to face the truth.  If Ryevale was her test, then so be it.

            Deep in thought, Verity drifted, letting Ryevale steer her along avenues, passing groves and grottos.  He seemed content to wander, assuming her lost in the wonders of the gardens.  The orchestra grew louder.  The chirp of violas and violins comfortingly familiar, and Verity rallied.  Surely there was a middle path where one could enjoy oneself but not be a slave to lust?  She lifted her chin, proud to be strolling on the arm of a handsome man and, for the first time, feeling the joy of being alive seeped into her consciousness.  Was this so very wrong?

            “This is the bandstand.”

            For the umpteenth time that evening, Verity caught her breath.  The bandstand put Verity in mind of a giant’s crown, rising out of a fairy tale grotto.  A tall, round building topped with spires where red, yellow and blue lanterns hung from the balconies, glittering like jewels.  The musicians played on the first floor, jolly in cockaded hats and red jackets, whilst below people danced amidst trees ringed by lamps.

            The swish of skirts and the thud of boots made Verity pause.

            “Would you like to dance?” Ryevale asked.

            She considered being held against his hard body, and suddenly the sounds of the gardens melted away, making her conscious only of her own breathing.  Dangerous.  Ryevale was far too dangerous to dance with.  Mustering a prim smile, she shook her head.  “No, thank you.”

            He hesitated, as if wanting to press her but changing his mind.  “Then, come.  I have something to show you.”

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Verity’s Lie

Charles Huntley, Lord Ryevale, infamous rogue…and government agent.

In unsettled times, with England at war with France, Ryevale is assigned to covertly protect a politician’s daughter, Miss Verity Verrinder. To keep Verity under his watchful eye, Ryevale plots a campaign of seduction that no woman can resist– except it seems, Miss Verrinder. In order to gain her trust Ryevale enters Verity’s world of charity meetings and bookshops…where the unexpected happens and he falls in love with his charge.

When Lord Ryevale turns his bone-melting charms on her, Verity questions his lordship’s motivation. But with her controlling father abroad, Verity wishes to explore London and reluctantly accepts Ryevale’s companionship. As the compelling attraction between them strengthens, Verity is shattered to learn her instincts are correct after all – and Ryevale is not what he seems. So if Lord Ryevale can lie, so can she… with disastrous consequences.

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About Grace

Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. Grace lives near London and is passionate about history, romance and cats! She is housekeeping staff to five cats, two sons, one husband and a bearded dragon (not necessarily listed in order of importance). “Verity’s Lie” is Grace’s fourth novel.

Author photo

 

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Dress like a Georgian Day

Georgian Laura

Here’s me in my back garden, playing at being a Georgian. Why? Well, thanks to the wonderful people at Huzzar, 6th of July is now dress like a Georgian day!

It’s significantly harder to find early Georgian clothing than Regency. What’s more, the outfits themselves require more effort. No simple muslin dress and spencer jacket will do – you need panniers! The hair is also tricky. Rather than a simple bonnet and curls, you want powdered hair – the bigger, the better. As you can see, I’m cheating by wearing a wig. However, I would LOVE to try the real thing. Check out this amazing post which shows Poppy Baker getting the full treatment. Poppy manages well on her own too, with all varieties of backcombing and powdering. I wish I had her talent.

If you’re not going for a towering hair-do, you also have the option of lace caps and beregres. I’m wearing a beregre in this photo – customised with yellow roses – which I purchased from Marion May. Marion has some amazing designs for the Regency and is starting a Georgian clothing line, so keep an eye on her website. My hat is suitable for promenading in the park, but for indoor wear I will really want a lace cap. I’m purchasing one by Duchess Trading on Etsy. You can view an example here –  you will see how closely the designs echo the caps worn by George II’s daughters.

Frederick with Anne, Caroline and Amelia

While I’m on the subject of Etsy, I have to say it’s been the most useful marketplace for Georgian supplies! Ebay is nowhere near as good. I bought my charming lemon and sea blue gown from Araby Designs and my panniers from Corsets and Costume. For those of you that don’t know, panniers were huge cage-like contraptions, sort of like a sideways crinoline, that held the gown out from the body and made it difficult for women to pass through doors. They were often made of whalebone. Again, I’m cheating and not going for the authentic outfit. My panniers are half-length, pocket panniers. This means rather than having a full length pannier and a separate set of linen pockets tied around my hips, I have panniers that have a secure bottom and a slot in them for me to keep my belongings. But pockets and panniers weren’t the only things Georgian ladies would conceal beneath their dresses. Queen Caroline donned a shift of Holland linen, a quilted dimity petticoat and stays with silver hooks before she even thought of putting on her crimson whalebone hoops. No wonder the court was described as a place of “sweating and stinking”.

What I haven’t attempted in my little garden party is cosmetics. However, I’ve made some purchases and will be perfecting my craft in time for my appearance in full costume at the Festival of Romance. LittleBits – again, on Etsy – does a great range of powder, pomade, rogue, scent and velvet patches, all made to authentic period recipies. What more could a lady ask for? The main smells are citrus, lavender and clove. Georgians also favoured ambergris and musk. I’m attending a workshop at Hampton Court about Georgian scents this month, so I’ll report back and tell you more about the things your nose would encounter at the Georgian Court.

A pair of silk or woollen stockings, complete with garters, is another essential item for any respectable lady. I was particularly excited to find these clocked stockings. In contemporary sources, you come across lace clocked stockings again and again, but these are the first I’ve found to purchase. And of course, when your foot is clad in fine silk, you need a shoe to slip it into. Sarah Juniper’s designs are pricey, but also the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Ever. Another accessory you need is a nice pair of gloves. I have a sweet white crocheted pair made by my great-grandmother. I thought I was wearing them in the photo but it seems I forgot them! Whoops. Never mind, I will take more photos in future and show you the pretty little things.

I hope I’ve given you a little taste for the Georgian outfit and maybe even inspired some of you to join us in dressing up like a Georgian! Of course, I’ve focused on women’s wear, but if my male readers are feeling left out, they might like to visit Pimpernel Clothing. Stunning tailored waistcoats and jackets, along with an authentic cologne! Oh, it’s good to be a Georgian.

Full length Georgian Laura

 

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Hanoverian Mothers 3.2 – Caroline and Frederick in the later years

Frederick as Prince of Wales

Hello and welcome back! You may remember we left Caroline and Frederick still estranged and living in separate countries. I’d like to pick up a few years forward, when George I died, leaving his son George II to inherit the throne. After years of separation, the gate-keeper forcing Frederick to stay away from his parents was finally gone.

George I died in the summer of 1727 and yet Frederick didn’t arrive in England until December 1728. What caused the delay? I’m sure there were affairs he had to settle in Hanover and several difficulties attendant on relocating a royal household. But should it really take that long? The sad truth was probably that George II no longer foresaw the reunion with his son as a happy event. George II and his own father had been constantly at odds with one another. He suspected Frederick was just a new rival waiting to replace the old. Caroline initially wanted Frederick to have his own household and started to search London for a suitable place. She came across a house she liked in George Street, Hanover Square, but her husband refused to supply her with funds to purchase it. He wanted to keep Frederick in his place and firmly under his control.

King George II

George started this regime of snubbing by pretty much ignoring Frederick’s arrival in London. No fanfare greeted his landing; he alighted at the Friary and walked down the Queen’s back stairs. It is perhaps noteworthy that Frederick went first to his mother, not his father. It was hardly the way for a Prince of Wales to enter London, but I must point out that Frederick was not unique in being treated like this. George II responded exactly the same way to foreign princes and princesses who came to wed his sons and daughters. It seems this was his method of putting himself in the dominant role at the beginning of any relationship.

At first, things seemed to be going well. George II declared that the young man was “not a son I need be much afraid of”. The young Frederick had lively grey eyes, an obliging address and his mother’s fine fair hair. His legs were still skinny from his childhood rickets and he was slightly myopic, but it seems his manners made up for these short-comings. However, he was entering hostile territory. Caroline seemed inclined to give him a chance, and must have been pleased that he shared her interests in art and poetry, but she was still resentful that he would be supplanting her favourite, William. Frederick’s sister Anne had enjoyed the role of senior child up until this point and did not take kindly to being supplanted by him. Anne’s implacable hatred of Frederick took a very public form when the two set up rival opera houses and fought for control of the paying audiences. It appeared that another sister, Amelia, was getting on well with Frederick when she got him to confide in her about the debts he had incurred. However, the catty Amelia had other motives – she promptly ran and told tales to the King and Queen.

Frederick with Anne, Caroline and Amelia

Frederick was naive and impressionable, and sadly his behaviour soon began to confirm his parents’ bad opinion of him. He joined the wild Harry the Fifth Club, who went around the streets incognito, smashing windows and beating up the night watch. Lord and Lady Berkshire had their window broken and suspected it was the Prince who had attacked their property. They demanded an apology from the palace and would not return to court until they got one. If this wasn’t embarrassing enough,  Frederick started frequenting St. James’s Park at night, a notorious place to find prostitutes. He ended up having his wallet, seals and a gold medal stolen by a light-fingered doxy.

Frederick’s reckless actions, coupled with the fact that George II was being stingy with his allowance, meant he soon ran up huge debts. He was prepared to do anything to reduce these – even if it meant siding with politicians from the Opposition. MPs promised to speak up for the Prince and move to increase his allowance in exchange for promises of a place in power when he finally came to the throne. It was this flirtation with the enemy that really damaged Frederick’s relationship with his parents. Caroline loved to be in control and prided herself on “managing” the King and country through her great ally, Robert Walpole. As far as she was concerned, an attack on Walpole and his politics was an attack on her. Moreover, one of the Opposition MPs Frederick took up with was no other than Bolingbroke – a man who had formerly been exiled from Britain for trying to put the great Hanoverian rival, The Old Pretender, on the throne in place of George I. It was this that led Caroline to believe her son was avaricious and would do anything for money. She once said Frederick would sell the crown to The Pretender for £50,000.

There is another scandal associated with Frederick’s early years in England: his relationship with Caroline’s favourite, Lord Hervey. The two got on well to start with and were certainly close friends. It is possible that Frederick and Hervey also shared a sexual relationship. Hervey was famously bisexual and it seems Frederick was jealous of his close relationship with Stephen Fox. Intriguingly,  the pages of Hervey’s memoir relating to this period of his friendship with the Prince have been cut out of the manuscript. Obviously something has been hidden. But if Frederick was bisexual, this would not be a major reason for his parents to dislike him. Caroline was extremely close to Hervey and treated him like another son, even though she knew of his sexuality. In fact, she might have been glad to think Frederick would never marry and have an heir to supplant William. At best, rumours of Frederick’s “sodomy” would be great fuel to help discredit their son’s political aspirations, but nothing that need affect them on a personal level. What Caroline may have blamed Frederick for, however, was the bitter end to the relationship between the two men. Whether it was platonic or sexual, it is clear that Frederick dropped Hervey rather brusquely. Not only would this make Caroline angry with her son, but it would fuel Hervey’s wrath and possibly lead to him putting his own words in the Queen’s mouth when he wrote his memoirs.

Anne Vane

Frederick and Hervey’s tussle came to a crescendo when they fought over a mistress, one of Caroline’s Maid’s of Honour, Anne Vane. Vane started off as Hervey’s and was seemingly planted around Fred to gather gossip about him. However, she knew how to play her men off against one another. By the time Vane fell pregnant, no one was sure who the father was. She insisted it was Frederick’s – after all, a royal child was worth more – and had her son Christened Cornwell FitzFrederick. Caroline firmly believed the baby was Hervey’s and thought Fred hopelessly naive for paying out so much money to house the mother and infant.

The years that followed were tough ones for Caroline. She faced political defeat over Walpole’s Excise Bill and her health was dire. She was suffering acutely from gout and a hernia but her pride, and a fear of her husband’s anger, prevented her from seeking medical help. Emotionally, she was drained too. Henrietta Howard, the King’s long-term mistress, had left court, forcing her to spend more time with her irate husband and fear the next woman he would take up with. Her daughter Anne had married William of Orange, leaving the English court behind. Caroline was particularly distressed by William’s physical deformities and wept to think of her daughter being left to “such a monster”. She was inconsolable for days after Anne left and sent her this touching note:

Dear heart, my sadness is indescribable. I never had any sorrows over you , Anne, and this first is a cruel one. Orange is a good man and will ever be a great favourite of mine.

Frederick’s good nature is shown in the fact he tried to comfort his mother. She found it hard to bear, knowing he had always hated Anne. One of the main things she criticised Frederick for was his insincerity – it seems she took this kind gesture from her son as just more lip-service. Still, Anne’s removal did signal a momentary softening in Frederick’s favour. Caroline was proud when he asked to join the armed forces against the French, even though he was not permitted. She also took time to talk to him and encourage him away from Opposition politics. “What concerns me most, my dear Fretz, is to see you can be so weak as to listen to people who are trying to make a fool of you, who think of nothing but distressing the King,” she told him. “They would sacrifice not only your interest but the interest of our whole family to … gratify their personal resentment.”

These words make a strong contrast to the violent language Hervey records later on. If we look at the evidence accumulating over the years, this gentle scolding is much more in character with Caroline than the alleged hell-fire outbursts. “I have scolded the Queen for taking the rascal’s [Frederick’s] part,” George said. “I have had more quarrels with her when she has been making silly excuses for his silly conduct than I ever had with her on all other subjects”. It was Caroline who objected to the idea of splitting the ruler-ship of England and Hanover, granting one to William and one to Fred. She thought it “unjust” to her eldest. It was George II’s decided opinion that Frederick was ungrateful to his mother for all the times she took his side. “I must say you have been an excellent mother to all your children, and if any of them behave ill to you they deserve to be hanged. I never loved the puppy [Frederick] well enough to have him ungrateful to me, but to you he is a monster and the greatest villain that ever was born.”

Caroline in the last years of her life

If worry about her daughter Anne, who experienced some horrific stillbirths, and her own health problems weren’t enough, Caroline was to suffer even more as time passed by. Just as she feared, George found a new mistress and began to treat her with disdain. He went to Hanover to spend more time with his lover and left Caroline to act as Regent for him. Annoyed at being passed over for the Regency, Frederick showed his displeasure by turning up late to Council meetings and treating his mother with general disrespect. Caroline could tolerate this, but she finally broke when his behaviour became cruel.

During this Regency, Caroline dealt with corn riots in the West Country, Spitalfields weavers attacking and killing the Irish undercutters, the Porteous Riots, an explosion in Westminster Hall and outcry against the Gin Act. Fred used these opportunities to soak up popularity, even drinking gin to show his support of the common people. He was given the Freedom of  the City of London. Caroline declared his antics made her sick.

In the autumn,  further disaster struck. It appeared the King’s ship had been lost at sea. With a violent storm raging and no news from Hanover, Caroline feared the worst. The court was in uproar – except for Fred. He was excited at the prospect of becoming King himself. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he didn’t show grief or regret at the idea of his father’s death. This hardened Caroline towards him: “I heard that yesterday they talked of the King’s being cast away with the same sang-froid as you would talk of a coach being overturned, and that my good son strutted about as if he had been already King”. It was also at this time that Caroline’s long illness began to manifest itself in fevered imaginings. Her previous attitude to Fred was: “I believe he has no inveterate hatred of me, but for love I cannot say I see any great sign of it, though I must own he has a really good heart.” Now, she began to worry about him becoming King, even fearing for her life. She considered Fred would be quite capable of murdering her in her sleep, imprisoning and starving his sisters and flaying Whig politicians. Such ideas were utter nonsense – Fred was by no means this brutal – but Caroline’s fear was genuine. Long pain and stress had warped her mind and she was unlike her usual self. Indeed, she records that she was ready to weep with fatigue. But it is interesting to note Caroline was not the only one overcome with fear at the idea of Fred in power. Her daughters swore they would leave the palace at a gallop.

Fortunately for Caroline, George returned from Hanover alive – albeit with painful piles. But the quarrel with Frederick was far from over. He chose this sensitive moment to push his claims for a higher allowance. Considering the short-tempered George was both penny-pinching and suffering, his timing could not have been worse. Fred also alleged that he had spoken with Caroline while his father was out of the country and warned her of his money difficulties. She fiercely resented this implication. Bringing her name into an  argument between the King and his son was, to her mind, unpardonable. Whether or not Fred was telling the truth is unclear – could Caroline have simply forgotten, or was she angry with herself for making promises she couldn’t honour? Either way, the financial squabble put strain on the bond between both parent and child and husband and wife.

Frederick's wife Augusta

Worse was to come. Frederick’s wife Augusta fell pregnant with a child which, male or female, would oust Caroline’s beloved William from his position as second in line to the throne. Had the King and Queen  been given time to get used to the idea, things may have turned out differently. Unluckily Fred was afraid of their reaction and left it until very late in the pregnancy before informing them. Caroline smelled a rat. She knew her son was fond of  practical jokes and her fevered mind convinced itself that he was playing a trick to spite them. Given Fred’s weak health, she considered him incapable of fathering a child. She thought that perhaps he was planning to smuggle a baby into the room and get ultimate revenge on his parents by pushing William off the throne with a foundling child. Wild ideas, certainly, but we have to remember it was not many years ago that James II had fallen from grace over the famous bed-pan scandal. People believed – or said they believed – that James’s heir was not his true son, but a child brought into the room secretly in a bed-pan. Caroline could not bear the idea that her own royal house should be subject to such suspicions.

Consequently, she made arrangements for the birth to take place at Hampton Court, under her strict supervision. But when Augusta’s labour pains started, Fred thwarted her. Smuggling his wife out of the palace in the dead of night, he carried her across London in a bumpy carriage to St. James’s, where she gave birth on a table. Caroline and George’s were livid. However, it was Caroline who sped after them in her nightgown to check on Augusta’s health. She was kind to her daughter-in-law, sympathising with her sufferings. “My good Princess, is there anything you want, anything you wish, anything you would have me do?” she asked. “Here I am – you have but to speak and ask, and whatever is in my power … I promise you I will do”. Her conversation with Fred was more awkward. Since the child was a puny, premature girl, she no longer suspected that her son had put a false child on them – had it been a bouncing, strong boy, she would have thought otherwise. Frederick did not apologise for his actions, but made an attempt at reconciliation by asking her and the King to be godparents. He suggested returning to Hampton Court with her to make the request in person. “I fancy you had better not come today,” Caroline said wisely. “To be sure the King is not well pleased with the bustle you have made and should you attempt coming, nobody can answer what your reception may be”. This was an understatement. George was angered beyond the point of no return.

Although Fred later wrote letters of apology, and notes thanking his mother for her visit, her made some glaring errors. He omitted, in every case, to refer to his mother as Your/Her Majesty. This was no small slip up – it was an insult. However, Caroline did not stop visiting her new grandchild.

As the divide between Frederick and George widened, Caroline’s visits were received with less and less warmth. Eventually Frederick was silent and sullen, only seeing her to the door of the chamber and ignoring his sisters. Caroline expressed a hope she was not being troublesome – to which she received no answer. It angered her beyond expression when, after treating her so coldly inside the house, Frederick insisted on accompanying her outside and making a grand show of filial duty to the crowds. He knelt in the mud to kiss her hand. The hypocrisy made Caroline sick. Her husband was typically unsympathetic and told her it served her right for “sticking her nose where it had already been shit on”.

In a strange echo of history, George II expelled his son and family from the royal palaces. It was a cruel step, although less harsh than the exile Caroline and George faced. For starters, Frederick and Augusta were allowed to stay until she had fully recovered from childbirth. Secondly, and most importantly, George made no move to separate the newborn Princess from her parents. It strikes me that Caroline played a very minor role in this action and may have even tried to dissuade her husband from it. She seemed very concerned that sending the Prince and his family out into the world would give him the reputation of a martyr.

Frederick

The final chapter of Caroline and Frederick’s story revolves around her death in 1737. Caroline’s last illness was truly horrific and I intend to dedicate a separate post to it. She left detailed instructions and bequests to all her family – except Fred. Was she so embittered that she couldn’t forgive her scape-grace son even on her death-bed? I think there’s more to it. For a start, accounts differ. Some courtiers say she sent him a message of forgiveness; others that she was glad to die because she would never be forced to see his face again. The truth is probably somewhere in between this. Caroline’s sense of humour was dark, and she certainly made some desperate jokes to lighten the mood around the time of her death. For example, she asked the surgeon operating on her if he wouldn’t rather be cutting his wife. I can imagine her joking about never having to set eyes on Fred again, but I doubt she really meant it. What we can be sure of is that Caroline asked the King if Frederick had tried to see her. The answer was yes, but he had refused him entry. George II thought Frederick was being hypocritical, coming to his mother’s death-bed and trying to torment her in her last moments, scoring more popularity points with the general public. Such an idea is hardly fair, but Caroline accepted George’s decision. She lived her life bending to his will, trying to avoid irritating or embarrassing him at all. Her last moments were no exception. One account says although Caroline did not see Frederick, she desired George not to forget that he was her son. To me, this sounds like the truth and in keeping with Caroline’s character. It is even echoed in her last words to William: “You know I have always loved you tenderly and I place my chief hope in you. Show your gratitude to me in your behaviour to the King. Attempt nothing ever against your brother and endeavour to mortify him in no other way than by showing  superior merit.” These hardly seem like the words of a woman with an implacable grudge.

I hope this blog has given you a slightly better opinion of Caroline as a mother, and if not, at least a wider understanding of the pressures she was under. Personally, I like both Caroline and Frederick and think their relationship is one of tragedy. One can’t help but wonder how they would have got along had they never been separated. But did Caroline really say all those terrible words about her son? I remain sceptical. Yet it appears to me that  even if Caroline really was as cruel and angry and Hervey says she was during the year of 1737, we should not take this as a reflection of her true character. What I see is a sick, tired old woman pushed beyond her endurance.