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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

After the Prince Regent’s Fête

Carlton Palace
From Memoirs of George IV
by Robert Huish (1831)
Public days

On 19 June 1811, the Prince Regent held a lavish fête at Carlton House. His critics may have balked at the cost, but it was generally deemed to have been a great success and seen as an entertainment “worthy of a Prince”.

After the fête, the Regent graciously opened his palace to the public so that they could share in the magnificence of his home and the superb decorations specially built for the fête. The Gentleman’s Magazine reported that “many thousands were delighted by the sight, which however, we are sorry to say, did not close without some serious accidents.”

Garments torn off in the crowds 

The Edinburgh Annual Register reported that on 24 June, 20-30,000 respectable visitors were to have been admitted by ticket to Carlton House. Some ladies fainted and “at the entrance, several ladies lost their scarves and mantles; cloaks, tippets, and other garments were torn off; some lost their shoes, and a variety of other ornaments were torn off and trod upon.”

Lord Yarmouth to the rescue

The crowds were so great that Colonel Bloomfield ordered a party of life guards to attend in Pall Mall to regulate the carriages. The throng was so great that a system of timed entrance was instigated, letting a few hundred visitors in at a time and then closing the gates.

Unfortunately this caused great pressure on the steps and several elegantly dressed ladies were in danger of being crushed. According to the Register, “Lord Yarmouth very gallantly stood forward to their relief, and lifted them in at the windows of the great hall”.

The rush of the crowds

The following day, on 25 June, the crowds were even larger as this was the last day that the palace was to be open to the public. Horse guards paraded in front of the house and along Pall Mall. The gates were only opened periodically in an attempt to regulate the flow of visitors, but when this happened “the torrent was so rapid, that many people were taken off their feet, some with their backs towards the entrance, screaming to get out.” To avoid further incident, Lord Yarmouth and the Duke of Gloucester announced that no more visitors would be admitted.
The Duke of Gloucester
from A Biographical Memoir of Frederick,
Duke of York and Albany
by John Watkins (1827)
Chaos at Carlton House

The multitude, however, refused to disperse and the gates were necessarily opened again later to ease the congestion inside Carlton House. The masses pushed forwards relentlessly and “when at last the crowd got inside the Carlton House gates, four females were found in a lifeless state, lying on their backs on the ground, with their clothes almost completely torn off.” One lady was trodden on so badly that she was not expected to live, an elderly lady had her leg broken and two others were seriously hurt.

“They were to be seen all round the gardens, most of them without shoes or gowns; and many almost completely undressed, and their hair hanging about their shoulders.”

No more visitors

The Regent was very upset by the way that the public days had been managed, though blame could not be attributed anywhere. A notice was put up on the walls of Carlton House announcing that it would not again be open to visitors, by order of the Prince Regent.
George IV
from Memoirs of Her Late MajestyQueen Charlotte
by WC Oulton (1819)
Read about the Prince Regent's extravagant fête.

Sources used include:
Hibbert, Christopher, George IV (Longmans,1972, Allen Lane, 1973, London)
Huish, Robert, Memoirs of George IV (Thomas Kelly, 1830, 1831, London)
Stuart, Dorothy Margaret, Regency Roundabout (Macmillan & Co. Ltd, 1943, London)
The Edinburgh Annual Register (John Ballantyne & Co., 1813, Edinburgh)
The Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Chronicle (E Cave, 1811, London)

5 comments:

  1. Gosh, that's frightening! You expect people of that era to perhaps be more elegant in conducting themselves, not to be trodden on and ripped bare! Must have been quite awful to see :(

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    Replies
    1. Maybe the Regency wasn't such a civilised period after all!

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    2. Soccer matches. That is all.

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  2. Very interesting. Goes to show you that people haven't changed much throughout history.

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    Replies
    1. And that royal occasions drew in the crowds even back in the Regency!

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