A Regency Princess

It’s 1811 and George III is mad and his son, George has gone from the Prince of Wales to the Prince Regent. And George did as George loved to do—he decided to throw a grand fête at Carlton House. As the invites went out, Charlotte waited for her own to appear on her table. She waited in vain. Public favor and attention couldn’t be ripped off the Prince Regent and set upon his daughter or worse, her mother. Charlotte wasn’t his daughter and heir but his rival. Yet, the people expected her attendance at the June 5 occasion. The public favored the young princess and the Prince Regent believed a glimpse of Charlotte would increase the unpopularity even more than it was. According to one lady, the Prince Regent was “avoiding everything which could look like a recognition of her as the heir presumptive to the crown.”

If she had attended, society would have seen the young Princess changed. Now, fifteen-years-old, Charlotte was described as “…grown and improved in looks.” Charlotte was described as “very graceful” as well as “forward, dogmatic on all subjects, puckish about horses, and full of exclamations very like swearing.” Even in a letter, Charlotte wrote, she described her temperament as Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility. This young lady also was very aware of her political position. She was a Whig who was “sincere, committed, and above all radical.” 

Life As Before

Sadly, for the lively Charlotte, life continued much as it had before, being watched by her father’s household spies and hidden away from the outside but for few moments of freedom. In November when she visited Oatlands and experienced her first whirlwind of society. Two balls were given and even her father was in attendance. He welcomed her with great joy and warmth then, proceeded to ignore her until she was learning the dance entitled Highland Flurry, the Prince Regent forced himself into the instruction. 

The Princess’s social world was expanding beyond her rooms. At the end of the year, the Prince Regent opened Parliament and invited his daughter. The only reason he issued the offer was because otherwise her absence would reflect badly on him. On his return to Carlton House, the crowds chanted, “Down with the Regent” while Charlotte received cheers and shouts of her name. That must have riled the narcissistic Prinny.

In February 1812, she attended the opera and with youthful enthusiasm, she waved at everyone she knew. So, people that was improper but most loved her freshness. And her open demeanor endeared her even more to the people. 

Freedom Delayed

January 1813, the Princess turned seventeen and her gift was a new governess. At this age, the proper protocol was for her to have ladies-in-waiting. When she raised her objections, her father responded with “Depend upon it, as long as I live you shall never have an establishment, unless you marry.” Her only route to freedom started at a church’s aisle. 

At least, Charlotte began to have more of a social life even attending the February 5, 1813 ball at Carlton House. She had hoped to dance with the Duke of Devonshire. She had enjoyed his company when she met him before and even got the shy duke (who was deaf so isolated himself) to “talk a great deal.” Instead, she danced with her uncles and older men but she was free of her apartments. 

While all this was happening, the nation was at war—The Peninsula War—and she was still dealing with the war between her parents. Her mother’s letter to her father was published by the Morning Chronicle, which stated the curtailment of the visits with her daughter. This letter started The Delicate Investigation. This hoopla had Charlotte all but locked away since it wouldn’t be proper for her to be seen and her social life only included events that occurred in her father or uncle’s homes or strolls or drives in her carriage. The Prince Regent even prohibited Charlotte from  sitting for a painting. 

Meanwhile, the Prince Regent was seeking to arrange a marriage between Charlotte and the Hereditary Prince of Orange. 

But love would come for the Princess. 

Charlotte Augusta: The People’s Princess

The lone child of the Prince of Wales and his utterly unwanted wife resided above her parent’s apartments in the nursery of Carlton House. When Charlotte was a year old, her mother moved out of Carlton House and to a place five miles away in Blackheath.

Charlotte, Princess Of Wales

Not that either parent could be describe as tentative yet, she saw more of her father than her mother since she lived at Carlton House, the Prince’s residence though his attendance there was spotty at best. Charlotte’s staff raised her. When she was an eight-year-girl, Charlotte left behind that place and moved into Warwick House. With this move as well, the staff that had been with her since her first days were replaced. Warwick House was east of Carlton House and nothing more than a crumbling old brick building.

Her new governess was dowager Lady de Clifford. This fifty plus woman was in charge of the “…temperamental tomboy…” The good-natured woman couldn’t discipline her effectively since the princess who may not behave as a princess yet she knew her position and used it to her benefit. Like children everywhere still do.

Nevertheless, the two ladies grew fond of each other and Lady de Clifford did all to make Charlotte’s life less lonely. She had one of her grandsons, the Honorable George Keppe befriend her, a friendship that would last through her lifetime. These two kids got up to much trouble. Later in Keppe’s life when he became the Earl of Albemarle, he wrote a memoir of their childhood. In his memoir, he shared stories which include stories of “..fisticuffs, bolting horses and tears.” He even shared the time that when Charlotte and George visited his parents at their home named Earl’s Court. She slipped through a side gate and joined in the back of the crowd that had gathered outside the house to see the princess.

Yet, it was all fun. Children especially Princess’s must be educated. That task fell to Retired Reverend Dr. John Fisher, Bishop of Exeter. The man had tutored the Duke of Kent and had a long list of court positions. “He was sincerely pious and a connoisseur of painting and drawing. But he was pompous, homourless, dogmatic, willful and absurdly old-fashioned.” The man “…still wore a wig and spoke affectedly.” That man pronounced bishop as “bishup”. At nine, Charlotte graced him with the nickname “the Great UP.”

Charlotte, described as blue-eyed and with peculiarly blonde hair with beautifully shaped hands and feet, had a great talent for acting and mimicry. So, when Lady de Clifford and the “Great Up” argued about Charlotte’s lessons, the Princess would stand behind the bishop and mock him. Lady de Clifford struggled to hold back her laughter while trying to best the man. She would stand behind him, “…jutting out her lower lip, waving her arms and generally ridiculing his expressions and mannerisms in an exaggerated mime.”

This young Princess was educated in religious studies, English, Latin, ancient history, and religious instruction as well as reading, writing, French, German, modern history, and music, dancing, drawing, and writing. For her excellent education, the young princess was much like other children. If in trouble, she wasn’t about a little lie to get out of trouble or her studies.

In 1806, Charlotte saw one of her household writing and asked her what she was doing and was told that she was making her will. The Princess declared that she would too. She left many of her belonging to various staff and her birds to a Mrs. Gagrin and her dog or dogs to Mrs. Anna Hatton, her chambermaid.

In 1809, Charlotte’s tutor was replaced because Dr. Nott, tutor to the Princess had written to Princess Caroline. And no pleading save him, the man who was an “adoptive parent” and Charlotte wrote, “If we never meet again, keep for me your regard and affection.”

Yet, she met another who would love her–the Duke of Brunswick, her uncle William. He is describe as “bluff but dignified and patient.” The loving uncle listened to Charlotte’s “lisping chatter” and never tired of hearing it. The princess loved him so that she returned home and “painted a black moustache on her face and marched up and down in military manner barking guttural expletives, which she hoped very much sounded like German swear words.” Just like her uncle.

Also came the Honorable Margaret Mercer Elphinstone, a companion and confidante for the Princess.

As she grew older, Charlotte learned that she would have to be careful in deed and word, whether written or spoken. Now fifteen, her life would change. In January 1811, the government presented the Regency Bill. On February 6, the Prince of Wales was sworn in as Prince Regent.

The Regency began.