William IV & the FitzClarences

Bookplate-Lord_Frederick_Fitzclarence.jpg
The coat of arms of the FitzClarence family

In 1791 an actress by the name of “Mrs. Jordan” became acquainted with William, Duke of Clarence, third son of King George III. She was 30-years-old and the mother of four illegitimate children via two different men. Three of them were fathered by Sir Richard Ford, who she moved in with after he promised to marry her. He didn’t and once she met William she promptly jumped ship.

The great love of her life was George Inchbald, another actor, who left her brokenhearted when he failed to propose, and before him came an army lieutenant, Charles Doyne, who did propose and was roundly refused. Her first illegitimate child was fathered by Richard Daly, the manger of an Irish theatre company in Cork. Their child, a daughter named Frances, would eventually follow her mother on the stage.

Mrs. Jordan was born Dorothy Bland, a name by which she was known until she left Doyne for Inchbald and reinvented herself, taking the name from the River Jordan which she claimed to have metaphorically crossed when she left Ireland for England.

Continue reading “William IV & the FitzClarences”

The Worst Couple in Royal History: George IV & Caroline of Brunswick

1024px-Trial_of_Queen_Caroline_by_Sir_George_Hayter.jpg

One theory abounds that the Royal Family is at its most effective when it’s considered dull. If that’s the case then George IV was pretty much a disaster from start to finish, a fact that was solidified by his marriage to his cousin, Princess Caroline of Brunswick at the end of the 18th century. Their union was so scandalous, petty and embarrassing that, honestly, they make the domestic wars of the 1990s seems downright quaint.

Continue reading “The Worst Couple in Royal History: George IV & Caroline of Brunswick”

The Madness of George III & the Regency

cornwallis_2628227b.jpg
The surrender of the British at the close of the American Revolution

George III is one of the more famous British monarchs in history, but not for reasons he would have liked. He is known, first and foremost, for being the king that lost America. He is also known for being “mad.” If you are somewhat more familiar with his reign or the time period, then perhaps you also associate his many children with him – he and his wife, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, would have 15 in all between the years 1762 and 1783.

It’s unfortunate, too, because George had all the makings of a great king. He ascended the throne in 1760 at the age of 22 when his grandfather, George II, died after a 23-year reign. He was the third monarch in the House of Hanover, a house that existed in England because the Stuarts died out (not counting, of course, its Catholic members) and the country was forced to reach far up the family tree to find this German offshoot, descended from James I through his daughter, Elizabeth. Reviews of the Hanoverians were mixed and so, too, were the Hanoverians’ opinions of the English.

But George was well-positioned to change that: The first generation to be born in England and not Hanover, he was young, healthy, conscientious and followed a strict moral code. Had the ball bounced another way, his reign could very well have unfolded as a success. For while popular culture might remember him first for his mental illness, the general consensus among scholars has been that, whether his fault or not, the monarchy steadily lost power over the course of his reign, and its close relationship with national morality and values became even more intertwined – a fact his descendants could likely have done without.

Continue reading “The Madness of George III & the Regency”

England’s Most Awkward Dinner Party

fortbelv

On July 9, 1936 King Edward VIII hosted his second official dinner at his residence, Fort Belvedere. In attendance were his brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of York, Winston Churchill, and his long-time “companion,” Mrs. Wallis Simpson sans her husband, Mr. Ernest Simpson. The event was published in the Court Circular, which caused a bit of a stir because it made it appear as though, by socializing with them, the Yorks were condoning Edward’s relationship with Wallis.

Continue reading “England’s Most Awkward Dinner Party”

The Royal Marriage Race of 1818

The series of royal weddings that took place in 1818 illustrates one of the more undignified showings of family duty the House of Hanover ever put forth – which is really saying something. The year was precipitated by the death of Princess Charlotte of Wales in childbirth on November 6, 1817. She left behind a widower, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, no children, and a plethora of middle-aged uncles.

download (10)
Princess Charlotte of Wales

Charlotte was the only offspring to result from the disastrous union of her parents, George, Prince of Wales and his first cousin, Caroline of Brunswick. The couple famously despised each other, living together only long enough to secure the succession through the birth of one child and separating when Charlotte was an infant. Her father, the eldest son of George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, had been first in line for the throne since birth and by 1817 was ruling as Prince Regent due the King’s mental health issues.

6118587664_b85498c496_b.jpg
The tomb of Princess Charlotte at Windsor Castle

However, with the Prince Regent at 55 and his only child dead, the 11 other children of George III and Queen Charlotte still living found themselves of renewed dynastic importance. The royal couple’s attitudes towards the personal lives of their children was abnormal at best. Their sons were largely left to their own devices once they reached maturity, which saw most of them join the military, take up mistresses and embroil themselves in society scandals. With the exception of the Prince of Wales who, for obvious reasons, was expected to marry and beget legitimate heirs, the other royal Hanoverian brothers showed little interest in marrying until their pocket books dictated a need for a dowry or an increased Parliamentary allowance.

Continue reading “The Royal Marriage Race of 1818”