I found her guest post particularly fascinating and deeply moving because Catherine talks about one of my favourite personages in Georgian history: young Princess Charlotte who, if fates had been kinder, might have followed her father to the throne and history as we know it might have been profoundly altered.
You can find Catherine's other delightful glimpses into the Long Eighteenth Century at A Covent Garden Gilflurt's Guide to Life.
But now let's gather round, pour the tea and listen to Catherine telling us the story:
Once upon a time there lived an unhappy princess; an only child, she was witty, bright and longed for a little excitement, perhaps even a little love. She was not quite kept prisoner in a tower on the edge of the forest but she was isolated from society and family alike at Cranbourne Lodge, where her resentment of her notorious father festered and grew. This fairytale, which I tell in Life in the Georgian Court, does not have a happy ending, but the unhappy princess and her Prince Charming gave it a very good shot!
Princess Charlotte of Wales was the only child born to the Prince of Wales, later to be George IV, and his loathed and estranged wife, Caroline of Brunswick. At the age of eighteen this most eligible young lady remained unmarried, dissatisfied and at odds with her father, who had set his sights on a match between his daughter and William, Prince of Orange. George was nothing if not tenacious and in 1814 in 1814, Charlotte reluctantly signed the marriage contract that promised her to William.
Betrothed she might be, but the people of Britain didn’t want to lose their princess and Charlotte didn’t want to leave her homeland either, let alone marry the prince. The princess developed an attachment to a mysterious, anonymous Prussian gentleman yet, ever the realist, she declared that she would be happy to take “the next best thing, which was a good tempered man with good sense”, should the Prussian in question not return her affections. Whoever the mystery figure was, he was forgotten when Charlotte set her eyes on Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and decided that the future king of Belgium was certainly “the next best thing”.
 Aspinall, Arthur (1949). Letters of the Princess Charlotte 1811–1817. London: Home and Van Thal, p.165.
Determined that she would not marry the Prince of Orange, Charlotte made repeated arguments in favour of Leopold to the disinterested George. Charlotte had one last trump card to play and demanded of her husband-to-be that her mother be allowed to visit the marital home, sure that he would abide by her father’s express wishes and refuse the condition. The gamble paid off and when William followed George’s example and refused to give permission for Caroline to visit following the marriage, he played right into Charlotte’s hands. She could not, Charlotte declared, be happy with a man who would not allow her to see her beloved mother and if he cared so little for her happiness, then how could they possibly be husband and wife?
All appeals to her to reconsider were to no avail and Charlotte decided that the engagement must be broken.
Faced with such entreaties, George caved in and ended the engagement.
Free once more, Charlotte upped her representations on behalf of Leopold, who was fighting on the continent. Although the Prince Regent was far from convinced, when he and Leopold finally met, they got on like the proverbial house on fire.
The party atmosphere continued through spring and on the appointed wedding day of 2nd May 1816, the streets of London were thronged with thousands of people who had turned out to mark the happy occasion. When the party filed into the Crimson Drawing Room at Carlton House that evening, there could be no doubt that Charlotte and Leopold had longed for this moment. Charlotte's gown, bought at a cost of more than £10,000, was utterly magnificent and her groom cut a dashing figure in the perfectly turned out uniform of a British General, mindful of the importance of making just the right impression.
As the couple set off for their honeymoon they no doubt looked forward to many happy years together yet fate had other, tragic plans and just a year later, Charlotte would die as she delivered a stillborn child. For now let us leave them happy ever after, starting out on the adventure of the married life they had petitioned so hard to achieve.
Aspinall, Arthur. Letters of the Princess Charlotte 1811–1817. London: Home and Van Thal, 1949.
Baker, Kenneth. George IV: A Life in Caricature. London: Thames & Hudson, 2005.
Black, Jeremy. The Hanoverians: The History of a Dynasty. London: Hambledon and London, 2007.
Hadlow, Janice. The Strangest Family: The Private Lives of George III, Queen Charlotte and the Hanoverians. London: William Collins, 2014.
Hetherington Fitzgerald, Percy. The Life of George the Fourth. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1881.
Huish, Robert. Memoirs of George the Fourth: Vol I. London: Thomas Kelly, 1830.
Smith, EA. George IV. Bury St Edmunds: St Edmundsbury Press, 1999.
About the Author
Catherine Curzon is a royal historian and blogs on all matters 18th century at A Covent Garden Gilflurt's Guide to Life.
Her work has featured by publications including BBC History Extra, All About History, History of Royals, Explore History and Jane Austen’s Regency World. She has also provided additional material for the sell-out theatrical show, An Evening with Jane Austen, will she will introduce at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, in September (tickets are available here).
Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, she lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.
Her book, Life in the Georgian Court, is available now from Amazon UK, Amazon US, Book Depository and all good bookshops!
About Life in the Georgian Court
As the glittering Hanoverian court gives birth to the British Georgian era, a golden age of royalty dawns in Europe. Houses rise and fall, births, marriages and scandals change the course of history and in France, Revolution stalks the land.
Peep behind the shutters of the opulent court of the doomed Bourbons, the absolutist powerhouse of Romanov Russia and the epoch-defining family whose kings gave their name to the era, the House of Hanover.
Behind the pomp and ceremony were men and women born into worlds of immense privilege, yet beneath the powdered wigs and robes of state were real people living lives of romance, tragedy, intrigue and eccentricity. Take a journey into the private lives of very public figures and learn of arranged marriages that turned to love or hate and scandals that rocked polite society.
Here the former wife of a king spends three decades in lonely captivity, Prinny makes scandalous eyes at the toast of the London stage and Marie Antoinette begins her last, terrible journey through Paris as her son sits alone in a forgotten prison cell.
Life in the Georgian Court is a privileged peek into the glamorous, tragic and iconic courts of the Georgian world, where even a king could take nothing for granted.