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Saturday, 30 June 2012

Two Little Princes: Prince Alfred (1780-1782)

Prince Alfred
by Mirabelle Knowles (2012)
 after Thomas Gainsborough (1782)
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Prince Alfred (22 September 1780 - 20 August 1782) was the fourteenth child of George III and Queen Charlotte who died in infancy.

The youngest son

Prince Alfred was born at Windsor Castle on 22 September 1780, the ninth and youngest son of George III and Queen Charlotte. He was christened on 21 October (1) in the great council chamber at St James’ Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

A sickly child

Alfred had a wet nurse, Mrs Williams, who was the wife of an East India captain. Sadly, he was not a healthy baby. On 13 May 1782, Alfred’s health was so poor that he was sent to Deal Castle with Lady Charlotte Finch to make use of the salt waters, attended by Dr Hunter.
  
Death at Windsor Castle 

Windsor Castle
From Memoirs of Her Late MajestyQueen Charlotte
by WC Oulton (1819)
In August, Alfred returned to Windsor Castle, but he was no better, and he died on 20 August 1782. He was buried privately at Westminster Abbey on the 27 August, with a funeral service taken by the Dean of Westminster. The coffin was later transferred to the Royal Vault at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, on 11 February 1820.

Death by smallpox?

I have been unable to verify the cause of Alfred’s death to my satisfaction. Some sources suggest that he died from smallpox after inoculation, but if that is so, I question why he was inoculated as an already sickly child of eighteen months whilst his brother Octavius was not inoculated until he was four.

A family in mourning

There was no official mourning because Alfred was an infant, but it was said of the Queen that “her Majesty was exceedingly affected”.

Note
(1) Oulton’s memoirs give the date of christening as the 31st.

Sources used include:
Bissett, Robert, The History of the Reign of George III (Edward Parker, 1822, Philadelphia)
Chedzoy, Alan, Seaside Sovereign - King George III at Weymouth (Dovecote Press, 2003, Dorset)
Hibbert, Christopher, George IV (Longmans,1972, Allen Lane, 1973, London)
Oulton, Walley Chamberlain, Authentic and Impartial Memoirs of Her Late Majesty Charlotte, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland (1819, London)

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)

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Prince Regent’s Fête


Carlton Palace  from Memoirs of George IV by Robert Huish (1831)
Carlton Palace
from Memoirs of George IV by Robert Huish (1831)
A celebration of the Regency

On 19 June 1811, the Prince Regent held a magnificent fête at Carlton House. Ostensibly, it was held in honour of the King’s birthday and to show support for the exiled French royalty; in reality it was a celebration of the Regency period. George had wanted to revel in his advent to power ever since he had become Regent but he had feared that his father might recover and the party had twice been put off.

Notable absentees

More than two thousand invitations were sent out for the most prestigious event of the year. Those fortunate enough to be invited started arriving well before the stated time of nine o’clock. By eight, Pall Mall, St James’ Street and the Haymarket were all blocked with carriages.

But not everyone accepted. The Queen refused to be present, angry with her son for holding a party when his father was so ill, and she would not let her daughters go. Much to her disappointment, Princess Charlotte was not allowed to attend and was sent to Windsor to stay with her grandmother.

Mrs Fitzherbert  from Memoirs of George IV  by Robert Huish (1831)
Mrs Fitzherbert
from Memoirs of George IV 
by Robert Huish (1831)
A notable absentee was Mrs Fitzherbert. Her relationship with the Regent was by this time very strained, owing to the ascendancy of Lady Hertford. When she discovered that Lady Hertford had been granted a seat at the Prince’s table and she had not, she refused to attend.
Marchioness of Hertford  from Ladies' Monthly Museum (1816)
Marchioness of Hertford
from Ladies' Monthly Museum (1816)
Princess Caroline, George’s estranged wife, was, unsurprisingly, not invited, but the Duchess of York was there, wearing a patent net dress richly embroidered in silver and covered in diamonds.

A royal reception

The Regent sat in the Council Chamber under a crimson canopy to receive the French royal family: the Comte de Lisle, the Duc de Bourbon, the Duc de Berri, the Prince of Condé and the Duchess of Angouleme.

The Regent wore a Field Marshal’s uniform, as did his brother, the Duke of York, “with his hair in a queue, the cordon blue, and a superb brilliant star, a diamond loop and button in his hat and feather”. He was 48 years of age, but years of dissipated living had taken their toll and he looked older.

The “Palace of Enchantment”

Carlton House was decorated elaborately for the entertainment. The conservatory “presented, at one glance, the fine effect of a lofty aisle in an ancient cathedral. Between the pillars, candelabras were suspended twelve feet above the ground, each presented four brilliant patent burners, which spread a breadth of light not easy to describe. The interior struck the beholder with astonishment. The grand table extended the whole length of the Conservatory, and across Carlton House, to the length of two hundred feet”.

The ballroom

The Grand Council Chamber was set aside for dancing which began around 12 o’clock with a dance called the “Miss Johnstone” led by Earl Percy and Lady Jane Montague. The ballroom floor was chalked in elaborate arabesque designs, with the initials of the King in the centre.

Around the edge of the ballroom, a number of “conversation stools” were placed for those who chose to watch rather than dance. The huge number of guests and the heat of the evening made the demand for these intense.

The Regent’s table
George IV  from La Belle Assemblée (1830)
George IV
from La Belle Assemblée (1830)
Supper was served around three o’clock. The Prince Regent sat at the head of the state table at which 200 favoured guests were seated. Behind him, stands were draped with crimson silk and piled with silver plate. From this position, the Regent was able to see, and be seen by, everyone.

An astonishing table decoration

La Belle Assemblée described the Prince’s table: “Along the centre of the table, about six inches above the surface, a canal of pure water continued flowing from a silver fountain, beautifully constructed at the head of the table. Its faintly waving, artificial banks were covered with green moss and aquatic flowers; gold and silver-coloured fish, were, by a mechanical invention, made to swim and sport through the bubbling current, which produced a pleasing murmur, where it fell, and formed a cascade at the outlet.”

Supper fit for a Prince

One of the guests described the supper: “Tureens, dishes, plates, even soup plates, were everywhere of silver with as many changes as were wanted. There were hot soups and roasts, all besides cold, but of excellent and fresh cookery. Peaches, grapes, pine apples, and every other minor fruit in and out of season were in profusion. Iced champagne at every three or four persons, all the other wines also excellent. There was no crowding, hurry or bustle in waiting; everything was done as in a private house.”

There were sixty attendants, dressed in blue liveries trimmed with gold lace, and reportedly one “in a complete suit of ancient armour”.

The gardens

Outside, covered walks had been specially constructed to act as promenades and supper galleries. The aisle opposite the Conservatory was furnished with large looking glasses, girandoles (ornamental branched candlesticks) and candelabras, and the walkways were decorated with garlands of flowers. The guests were entertained by music from the bands playing in the four marquees erected on the lawn and by a brilliant fireworks display.

Fireworks
Public opinion

According to Thomas Moore, the whole entertainment was “worthy of a Prince”. Another guest was equally impressed: “The extraordinary part of it was that so large a number should have been served in such a style.”

But the fête gave plenty of fuel to the Regent’s critics. “What think you of the bubbling brooks and mossy banks at Carlton House?” asked Shelley. “It is said that this entertainment will cost £120,000. Nor will it be the last bauble which the nation must buy to amuse this overgrown bantling of Regency.”

Read about the chaos that followed when Carlton House was opened to the public.

Sources used include:
Bell, John, La Belle Assemblée (Various, London)
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)

Friday, 15 June 2012

Two Little Princes: Prince Octavius (1779-1783)

Prince Octavius  by Mirabelle Knowles (2012)   after Thomas Gainsborough (1782)
Prince Octavius
by Mirabelle Knowles (2012)
 after Thomas Gainsborough (1782)

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Prince Octavius (23 February 1779 - 3 May 1783) was the beloved thirteenth child and eighth son of George III and Queen Charlotte who died in infancy.

“The finest boy of the royal offspring”

Octavius was born at Buckingham House on 23 February 1779 and was christened on 23 March in the great council chamber at St James’ Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

George III was extremely fond of Octavius who was a very docile and good-natured child – “the finest boy of the royal offspring”. He was a very pretty child with long golden curls and bright blue eyes, and was particularly close to the sister nearest to him in age, Princess Sophia, who called him “her son”.

Princess Sophia  from A Biographical Memoir of Frederick,   Duke of York and Albany by John Watkins (1827)
Princess Sophia
from A Biographical Memoir of Frederick,
 Duke of York and Albany by John Watkins (1827)
The dangers of inoculation

When he was four years old, Octavius was inoculated against the smallpox. Queen Charlotte was an advocate of inoculation, where people were deliberately brought into contact with the virus in order to give them lasting protection against the highly contagious disease. Inoculation carried the risk of the person contracting a serious case of smallpox, but the risk of death from the disease itself was much greater. The much safer preventative measure of cowpox vaccination was not discovered by Edward Jenner until 1796.

Octavius’ death

Sadly, Octavius became ill after being inoculated and died of smallpox at Kew Palace on 3 May 1783. At about 3am on 10 May, Octavius’ body was taken to Westminster Abbey, accompanied by the Earl of Hertford, where the body was deposited in the royal vault. On 11 February 1820, his coffin was transferred to the Royal Vault in St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

A King in mourning

George III  from Memoirs of HM Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg Strelitz,   Queen of Great Britain by William Marshall Craig (1818)
George III
from Memoirs of HM Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg Strelitz, 
Queen of Great Britain by William Marshall Craig (1818)
There was no formal mourning for his death because of his age. One source suggests that this was because he was under seven; another suggests that it was because he was under the age of fourteen.

The King was devastated, declaring:
“There will be no heaven for me if Octavius is not there.”
Octavius’ likeness was taken by Gainsborough in 1782; it was completed after his death and drew much public attention when it was exhibited.

Sources used include:
Bissett, Robert, The History of the Reign of George III (1822)
Chedzoy, Alan, Seaside Sovereign - King George III at Weymouth (2003)
Craig, William Marshall, Memoirs of HM Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg Strelitz, Queen of Great Britain (1818)
Hibbert, Christopher, George IV (1972, 1973 )
Oulton, Walley Chamberlain, Authentic and Impartial Memoirs of Her Late Majesty Charlotte, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland (1819)