A Princess With Benefits
The Prince Regent had marriage on his mind. Not for himself but for his daughter and the man he had his eye on William VI—Slender Billy—the Prince of Orange. Slender Billy hated the British but there was a threat a bigger threat—Napoleon and Britain was his only hope to defeating the Corsican.
Napoleon had taken the throne of Holland and with it William’s seat so a marriage between the Hereditary Prince of Orange (who reigned over Holland) and Princess Charlotte sounded like a win.
In 1813, this possible marriage fit into England’s desire. Napoleon’s army was rushing back to France and the plan for peace was to create a “buffer state” between France and Prussia. That state was Holland. And to sweeten the deal, the plan was to increase the size of Holland but subsume part of Austrian Netherlands (Belgium to us) and give the Dutch a constitutional monarchy like merry ole England and make Slender Billy king. Naturally, he loved the idea.
The whispered rumors of the marriage negotiations reached Charlotte. Her mother, Caroline of Brunswick, hated Billy and his family but this was Charlotte’s chance to escape from her father’s thumb.
A Prince Will Do
Two days after the Prince Regent’s birthday party, the Prince of Orange arrived from Spain to deliver the news of the Duke of Wellington advancing into France. Charlotte knew his appearance was a ploy to have Billy and Charlotte meet. It didn’t happen.
The cautious Princess wished to learn more about Slender Billy. The Hereditary Prince was described in a way that would not make a woman’s heart race. He was “very gentlemanlike, well informed and pleasant” as well as the best waltzer. All this was encased in a body that was “excessively plain” and “thin as a needle”. A month later the Billy return to the theatre of war.
In October, the first mention of the political marriage was raised to Charlotte. Not by her father but a Sir Henry Halford. Charlotte wasn’t ready to accept the Prince so used a ploy of her own, stating that she preferred the Duke of Gloucester, an Englishman. She was believed.
Prinny was not pleased. And he knew what was wrong with his daughter. She was drunk because she couldn’t possibly fallen for Gloucester otherwise. This didn’t win over the Princess so the Prince Regent changed tactics by telling his daughter, “There were plenty of eligible princes to choose from and then assured her that he was not the sort of man who would force his daughter to marry anyone against her will.”
She knew the bull her father was serving her.
Dinner Then Decide
With Napoleon dealt with, Prince Orange was returning from France to Holland by way of England (the long way home) so the Prince Regent planned a dinner for him. Now, Charlotte had to meet him and consider marriage. Prinny’s new ploy to earn his daughter’s agreement was to be more respectful and loving with her than he had ever been in her life.
The stubborn young lady understood she had a duty to her nation and her people. The marriage played into the interests of both Holland and Great Britain. Charlotte had a demand. She refuses to accompany Slender Billy to Holland during his visits, saying, “As heiress presumptive to the Crown it is certain that I could not quit this country, as Queen of England still less. Therefore P of O must visit his frogs solo.”
Slender Billy’s boots hit British soil on December 10. The next day the Prince Regent visited his daughter to pressure her again. Charlotte put off giving an answer by promising to decide after the small and informal dinner.
Now, a Princess had to decide if Slender Billy will do for her.