Caroline of Brunswick (Caroline Amelia Elizabeth 17 May 1768 – 7 August 1821) She was Queen of the United Kingdom by marriage to King George IV from 29 January 1820 until her death in 1821. She was the Princess of Wales from 1795 to 1820.
Caroline Amalie Elisabeth
.Her Highness Princess Caroline of Brunswick
.Duchess of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
.Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales
.Her Majesty The Queen
17 May 1768 – 7 August 1821
17 May 1768
7 August 1821 (aged 53)
25 August 1821
George IV of the United Kingdom
1 Princess Charlotte of Wales
7 January 1796-6 November 1817
married 1816, Prince Leopold
George Frederick of Saxe-
no surviving children
2 William Austin
House of Brunswick-Bevern
Charles William Ferdinand
Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
Princess Augusta of Great Britain
A marriage was discussed between Augusta of Great Britain and the Hereditary Prince of Brunswick but the negotiations were delayed because her mother disliked the House of Brunswick.
Augusta never fully adapted to life in Brunswick due to her British patriotism and disregard of all things “east of the Rhine”. “wholly English in her tastes, her principles and her manners, to the point that her almost cynical independence makes, with the etiquette of the German courts, the most singular contrast I know”. Caroline was born a princess of Brunswick, with the courtesy title of Duchess of Brunswick Wolfenbüttel, on 17 May 1768 at Braunschweig (known in English as Brunswick) in Germany. She was the daughter of Charles William, Duke of Brunswick Wolfenbüttel, and his wife Princess Augusta of Great Britain, eldest sister of George III.
Caroline was brought up in a difficult family situation. Her mother resented her father’s open adultery with Louise Hertefeld, whom he had installed as his official mistress in 1777. Caroline saidshe was often tired of becoming “shuttlecock” between her parents, as whenever she was civil to one of them, she was scolded by the other.
From 1783 until 1791 Countess Eleonore
von Münster was her governess and won her
affection, but never managed to teach her
to spell correctly, as Caroline preferred
to dictate to a secretary. Caroline could
understand English and French, but her
father admitted that she was
lacking in education.
It was noted that she was an attractive girl with curly, fair hair. She was described as a beauty, and as “most amiable, lively, playful, witty and handsome.” Caroline was brought up with an extreme degree of seclusion from contact with the opposite sex even for her own time. She was constantly supervised by her governess and elder ladies, restricted to her room when the family was entertaining guests and ordered to keep away from the windows. She was normally refused permission to attend balls and court functions, and when allowed, she was forbidden to dance.
She simulated an illness so severe that her parents left a ball to see her. When they arrived, she claimed to be in labor and forced them to send for a midwife. When the midwife arrived, she stopped her simulation and asked her mother: “Now, Madam, will you keep me another time from a ball?” Her mother early favored a match between one of her children and a member of her English family, and when her nephew Prince Frederick visited Brunswick in June 1781, she lamented the fact that Caroline because of her age could not be present very often. Caroline was given a number of proposals from 1782 onward. Marriage with the Prince of Orange, Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt, Charles, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and the second son of the Margrave of Baden were all suggested but none came to fruition.
Caroline was later to state that her father had forbidden her to marry an officer she had fallen in love with because of his low status. There is a rumor, that Caroline had given birth at the age of fifteen. Though she was not allowed to socialize with men, she was allowed to ride, and during riding, she visited the cottages of the peasantry. one of these visits allegedly led to a pregnancy. There is no confirmation of this but it was well-known during her life, and referred to as a reason for why she married at an older age, despite being regarded as good-looking and having been given so many proposals.
In 1794, Caroline and the Prince of
Wales were engaged. They had never met
George had agreed to marry her because
he was heavily in debt, and if he
contracted a marriage with an eligible
princess, Parliament would increase
Caroline seemed eminently suitable she was a Protestant of royal birth and the marriage would ally Brunswick and Britain. Although Brunswick was only a small country, Britain was at war with revolutionary France so eager to obtain allies on the European mainland. On 20 November 1794, Lord Malmesbury arrived at Brunswick to escort Caroline to her new life in Britain. Malmesbury recorded his reservations about Caroline’s suitability as a bride for the prince she lacked judgement, decorum and tact, spoke her mind too readily, acted indiscreetly, and often neglected to wash, or change her dirty clothes.
On 28 March 1795, Caroline and Malmesbury left Cuxhaven in the Jupiter. Delayed by poor weather, they landed a week later, on Easter Sunday, 5 April, at Greenwich. There, she met Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey, George’s mistress, who had been appointed Caroline’s Lady of the Bedchamber and set out to make Caroline’s life difficult.
On meeting his future wife for the first time, George called for a glass of brandy. He was evidently disappointed. Similarly, Caroline told Malmesbury, “[the Prince is] very fat and he’s nothing like as handsome as his portrait.” The Prince was appalled by Caroline’s garrulous nature and her jibes at the expense of Lady Jersey. She was upset and disappointed by George’s obvious partiality for Lady Jersey over her. Caroline and George were married on 8 April 1795 at the Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace, in London. he was 32 she 26. Princess Caroline’s wedding clothes were so extremely rich and heavy that she had trouble walking and even found it difficult to stand through the wedding ceremony. Her clothing included a dress of silver tissue and lace and a lengthy robe of ermine-lined velvet. George was drunk and needed help to stand. He regarded Caroline as unattractive and unhygienic, and said he suspected that she was not a virgin when they married.
He, of course, was not a virgin. He had himself already secretly married Maria Fitzherbert however his marriage to Fitzherbert violated the Royal Marriages Act 1772 and thus was not legally valid. In a letter to a friend, the prince claimed that the couple only had sexual intercourse three times, twice the first night of the marriage, and once the second night. He wrote, “It required no smalleffort to conquer my aversion and overcome the disgust of her person.” Caroline claimed George was so drunk that he “passed the greatest part of his bridal night under the grate where he fell, and where I left him” On 7 January 1796, one day short of nine months after the wedding, Caroline gave birth to Princess Charlotte, George’s only legitimate child. While George was unhappy that she was not a boy, the King, who preferred girl babies, was delighted at the birth of his first legitimate grandchild and hoped that the birth would serve to reconcile George and Caroline
Just three days after Charlotte’s birth, George made out a new will. He left all his property to “Maria Fitzherbert, my wife”, while to Caroline he left one shilling. Gossip about Caroline and George’s troubled marriage was already circulating. The newspapers claimed that Lady Jersey opened, read and distributed the contents of Caroline’s private letters.
She despised Lady Jersey and could not visit or travel anywhere without George’s permission. The press vilified George for his extravagance and luxury at a time of war and portrayed Caroline as a wronged wife
She was cheered in public and gained plaudits for her “winning familiarity” and easy, open nature. George was dismayed at her popularity and his own unpopularity, and felt trapped in a loveless marriage with a woman he loathed. He wanted a separation. In April 1796, George wrote to Caroline… George and Caroline were now living separately, and in August 1797 Caroline moved to a private residence: The Vicarage or Old Rectory in Charlton, London. Later, she moved to Montagu House in Blackheath.
No longer constrained by her
husband, or, according to rumour
her marital vows, she entertained
whomever she pleased. She flirted
with Admiral Sir Sidney Smith and
Captain Thomas Manby, and may have
had a brief relationship with the
politician George Canning
Despite Caroline’s demands for better treatment now that she had given birth to the second-in-line to the throne, George restricted her contact with the child, forbidding her to see their daughter except in the presence of a nurse and governess.
It seems that a single daughter was not sufficient to sate Caroline’s maternal instincts, and she adopted eight or nine poor children who were fostered out to people in the district In 1802, she adopted a new born boy, William Austin, and took him into her home. By 1805, Caroline had fallen out with her near neighbours, Sir John and Lady Douglas who claimed that Caroline had sent them obscene and harassing letters. Lady Douglas accused Caroline of infidelity, and alleged that William Austin was Caroline’s illegitimate son.
In 1806, a secret commission was set up
known as the “Delicate Investigation”, to
examine Lady Douglas’s claims. The
commission comprised four of the most
eminent men in the country: Prime Minister
Lord Grenville, the Lord Chancellor Lord
Erskine, the Lord Chief Justice of England
and Wales Lord Ellenborough and the Home
Secretary Lord Spencer.
Lady Douglas testified that Caroline herself admitted to her in 1802 that she was pregnant, and that Austin was her son. She further alleged that Caroline had been rude about the royal family, She touched her in an inappropriately sexual way, and had admitted that any woman friendly with a man was sure to become his lover. Caroline’s servants could or would not confirm that she had lovers, nor that she had been pregnant and said that the child had been brought to Caroline’s house by his true mother, Sophia Austin. Sophia was summoned before the commissioners, and testified that the child was hers. Satirical cartoon showing Sir John and Lady Douglas being led to the pillory outside Montagu House, Blackheath, after being discredited in giving evidence against Queen Caroline
The commissioners decided that there was “no foundation” for the allegations but despite being a supposedly secret investigation, it proved impossible to prevent gossip from spreading, and news of the investigation leaked to the press. Caroline’s conduct with her gentlemen friends was considered improper, but there was no direct proof that she had been guilty of anything more than flirtation. Perhaps Caroline had told Lady Douglas that she was pregnant out of frustrated maternal desire, or as part of a foolish prank that, unfortunately for her, backfired.
Later in the year, Caroline received further bad news as Brunswick was overrun by the French, and her father was killed in the battle of Jena-Auerstadt. The duke’s body was provisionally laid to rest in Christianskirche in 1806. It was later transferred for reburial in Brunswick Cathedral on 6 November 1819. Her mother and brother, Frederick William, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, fled to England. Caroline had wanted to return to Brunswick and leave Britain behind her, but with much of Europe controlled by the French she had no safe haven to run to. During the Delicate Investigation, Caroline was not permitted to see her daughter, and afterwards her visits were essentially restricted to once a week and only in the presence of Caroline’s own mother, the Dowager Duchess of Brunswick.
By the end of 1811, King George III
had become permanently insane, and the
Prince of Wales was appointed as Regent.
He restricted Caroline’s access to
Princess Charlotte further, and Caroline became more socially isolated as members of high society chose to patronise George’s extravagant parties rather than hers.
Caroline needed a powerful ally to help her oppose George’s increasing ability to prevent her from seeing her daughter.
In league with Henry Brougham, an ambitious Whig politician who favoured reform, she began a propaganda campaign against George. George countered by leaking Lady Douglas’s testimony from the “Delicate Investigation”, which Brougham repudiated by leaking the testimonies of the servants and Mrs Austin.
Jane Austen wrote of Caroline…
In 1814, after Napoleon’s defeat,
nobility from throughout Europe
attended celebrations in London,
but Caroline was excluded.
George’s relationship with his now
18 year old daughter was also
deteriorating, as Charlotte sought
greater freedom from her
On 12 July, he informed Charlotte that
she would henceforth be confined at
Cranbourne Lodge, Windsor that her
household would be replaced, and
that she could have no visitors
except her grandmother, Queen
Charlotte, once a week.
Horrified, Charlotte ran away to her mother’s house in Bayswater. After an anxious night, Charlotte was eventually persuaded to return to her father by Brougham, since legally she could be placed in her father’s care and there was a danger of public disorder against George, which might prejudice Charlotte’s position if she continued to disobey him.
Caroline, unhappy at her situation and
treatment in Britain, negotiated a deal
with the Foreign Secretary, Lord
Castlereagh. She agreed to leave the
country in exchange for an annual
allowance of £35,000.
Both Brougham and Charlotte were dismayed
by Caroline’s decision, as they both
realised that Caroline’s absence would
strengthen George’s power and weaken
theirs. On 8 August 1814, Caroline
After a two-week visit to Brunswick, Caroline headed for Italy through Switzerland. Along the way, possibly in Milan, she hired Bartolomeo Pergami as a servant. Pergami soon rose to the head of Caroline’s household, and managed to get his sister, Angelica, Countess of Oldi, appointed as Caroline’s lady-in-waiting. In mid-1815, Caroline bought a house, Villa d’Este, on the shores of Lake Como even though her finances were stretched.
On 2 May 1816 Princess Charlotte married
Leopold I of Belgium. Caroline was not
allowed to attend. Charlotte’s wedding
dress cost over £10,000. The only mishap
was during the ceremony, when Charlotte
was heard to giggle when the impoverished
Leopold promised to endow her with all his
worldly goods. Charlotte miscarried her
first child three months later.
From early 1816, she and Pergami went on a cruise around the Mediterranean, visiting Napoleon’s former palace on Elba, and Sicily, where Pergami obtained the Order of Malta and a barony. By this time, Caroline and Pergami were eating their meals together openly, and it was widely rumoured that they were lovers. Pergami was made a Knight of the Order of Jerusalem. Caroline instituted the Order of St Caroline, nominating Pergami its Grand Master. In August, they returned to Italy, stopping at Rome to visit the Pope.
By this time, gossip about Caroline was
everywhere. Lord Byron wrote to his
publisher that Caroline and Pergami were
lovers, and Baron Friedrich Ompteda a
Hanoverian spy, bribed one of Caroline’s
servants so that he could search her
bedroom for proof of adultery.
He found none.
The Prince Regent gave a huge ball
to celebrate Charlotte’s 21st birthday.
Caroline was not invited. Charlotte was
again pregnant, and that there was
every prospect of the Princess
carrying the baby to term.
By August 1817, Caroline’s debts
were growing, so she sold Villa
d’Este and moved to the smaller
Villa Caprile near Pesaro.
Pergami’s mother, brother
and daughter, but not his
wife, joined Caroline’s
Then tragedy struck in November 1817 At nine o’clock in the evening of 5 November Charlotte gave birth to a large stillborn boy. Soon after midnight, Charlotte began vomiting violently and complaining of pains in her stomach. Her last words were “They have made me tipsy” “Stocky! Stocky!” was buried, her son at her feet, in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.
George refused to write to Caroline to inform her. She heard the news from a passing courier, and fainted in shock. On recovering, she stated, “England, that great country, has lost everything in losing my ever beloved daughter.” George was determined to press ahead with a divorce and set up a commission chaired by the Vice-Chancellor John Leach to gather evidence of Caroline’s adultery. Leach sent three commissioners to Milan to interrogate Caroline’s former servants, including Theodore Majocchi and Caroline’s maid, Louise Demont. Brougham was still acting as Caroline’s agent. Concerned that the “Milan commission” might threaten Caroline, he sent his brother James to Caroline’s villa in the hope of establishing whether George had any grounds for divorce. James wrote back to his brother of Caroline and Pergami, “they are to all appearances man and wife, never was anything so obvious.” The Milan commission was assembling more and more evidence, and by 1819 Caroline was worried. She informed James Brougham that she would agree to a divorce in exchange for money.
However, at this time in England divorce by mutual consent was illegal it was only possible to divorce if one of the partners admitted or was found guilty of adultery. Caroline said it was “impossible” for her to admit that, so the Broughams advised that only formal separation was possible. Both keen to avoid publicity, the Broughams and the Government discussed a deal where Caroline would be called by a lesser title, such as “Duchess of Cornwall” rather than “Princess of Wales” As the negotiations continued at the end of 1819, Caroline travelled to France, which gave rise to speculation that she was on her way back to England. In January 1820, however, she made plans to return to Italy, but then on 29 January 1820 King George III died. Caroline’s husband became king and, at least nominally, she was queen of the United Kingdom.
Instead of being treated like a queen, Caroline found that her estranged husband’s accession paradoxically made her position worse. On visiting Rome, the pope refused her an audience, and the pope’s minister Cardinal Consalvi insisted that she be greeted only as a duchess of Brunswick and not as a queen. In an attempt to assert her rights, she made plans to return to Britain. The King demanded that his ministers get rid of her. He successfully persuaded them to remove her name from the liturgy of the Church of England, but they would not agree to a divorce because they feared the effect of a public trial. The government was weak and unpopular, and a trial detailing salacious details of both Caroline’s and George’s separate love lives was certain to destabilise it further.
Rather than run the risk, the government entered into negotiations with Caroline, and offered her an increased annuity of £50,000 if she stayed abroad Caroline rejected the government’s offer. She bid farewell to Pergami, and embarked for England. When she arrived on 5 June, riots broke out in support of her. She was a figurehead for the growing Radical movement that demanded political reform and opposed the unpopular king. The King still adamantly desired a divorce, and the following day, he submitted the evidence gathered by the Milan commission to Parliament in two green bags.
The peers considered the contents scandalous, and a week late after their report to the House, the government introduced a bill in Parliament, the Pains and Penalties Bill 1820, to strip Caroline of the title of queen and dissolve her marriage. It was claimed that Caroline had committed adultery with a low-born man: Bartolomeo Pergami. Various witnesses were called during the reading of the bill, which was effectively a public trial of the Queen. The trial caused a sensation, as details of Caroline’s familiarity with Pergami were revealed. Witnesses said the couple had slept in the same room, kissed, and been seen together in a state of undress. The bill passed the House of Lords, but was not submitted to the House of Commons as there was little prospect that the Commons would pass it. To her friends, Caroline joked that she had indeed committed adultery once with the husband of Mrs. Fitzherbert, the King.
But with the end of the trial her alliance with the radicals came to an end. The government again extended the offer of £50,000 a year, this time without preconditions, and Caroline accepted Despite the King’s best attempts, Caroline retained a strong popularity amongst the masses, and pressed ahead with plans to attend the coronation service on 19 July 1821 as queen. Lord Liverpool told Caroline that she should not go to the service, but she turned up anyway.
George had Caroline turned away from the coronation at the doors of Westminster Abbey. Refused entry at both the doors to the East Cloister and the doors to the West Cloister, Caroline attempted to enter via Westminster Hall, where many guests were gathered before the service began. A witness described how the Queen stood at the door fuming as bayonets were held under her chin until the Deputy Lord Chamberlain had the doors slammed in her face. Caroline then proceeded back to an entrance near Poets’ Corner, where she was met by Sir Robert Inglis, who held the office of “Gold Staff”. Inglis persuaded the Queen to return to her carriage, and she left. Caroline lost support through her exhibition at the coronation the crowds jeered her as she rode away.
That night, Caroline fell ill and took a large dose of milk of magnesia and some drops of laudanum. Over the next three weeks she suffered more and more pain as her condition deteriorated. She realised she was nearing death and put her affairs in order. Her papers, letters, memoirs, and notebooks were burned. She wrote a new will, and settled her funeral arrangements. She died at Brandenburg House in Hammersmith at 10:25 p.m. on 7 August 1821 at the age of 53. Her physicians thought she had an intestinal obstruction, but she may have had cancer, and there were rumours at the time that she had been poisoned.
she was buried in her native Brunswick in a tomb bearing the inscription “Here lies Caroline the Injured Queen of England” The story of Caroline’s marriage to George and her battle to be recognised as queen served as the basis for the 1996 BBC docudrama A Royal Scandal with Susan Lynch as Caroline and Richard E. Grant as George IV
Caroline is the subject of
Richard Condon’s 1977 novel
The Abandoned Woman.
Caroline of Brunswick
17 May 1768 – 7 August 1821
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