The Children of George III

© Cheryl Bolen

Unlike his hedonistic eldest son, England’s King George III (1738-1820) did not philander. He settled down with his German-born wife, Charlotte (1744-1818), at age 23, and she proceeded to bear him 15 children over the next 20 years. He did not take mistresses. He lived frugally. And he derived great pleasure from his large brood–until the boys became men, that is.

Eleven of the children would reach old age. Two boys would die before the age of 5, and his youngest daughter died while in her twenties. Of the 15, eight were boys and seven were girls. Two of the sons would rule England and another would rule Hanover.

The younger brothers are less famous and tend to blur, even though they each led distinctly different lives. The girls, too, all seem to run together. Perhaps that is because their lives were all rather the same–as bland as their parents.

The living conditions of King George’s daughters came to be known as The Nunnery. That is because none of them was allowed to marry at the age when most young ladies take husbands. Three of the daughters would eventually marry–but not until they were past the age of child bearing.

Starved for the male companionship that was so lacking in their lives, one of the sisters, Sophia (1777-1848), got pregnant by her father’s 56-year-old equerry and secretly gave birth without any member of her household being any the wiser. (The little boy was placed in a foster home.)

Augusta (1768-1840) married the Duke of Saxe-Coburg, and Elizabeth married the Prince of Hesse-Homburg when she was 48 years of age. The only other sister to marry was Mary, who married the Duke of Gloucester, whose father was her father’s brother. 

The boys were raised in pairs, sharing domiciles and tutors. For example, the Prince of Wales and his brother Freddie (later Duke of York) were exactly a year apart, and they were never separated from one another. Freddie was the king’s favorite son, and when it became clear his elder brother was a bad influence on him, the king sent Freddie to Germany.

The third son, William, later the Duke of Clarence and later still, King William IV, was sent to sea at an early age and, unlike his regent brother, was somewhat coarse. He lived as man and wife for more than 20 years with the actress Mrs. Jordan, who bore him 10 children. Their children took the FitzClarence surname.

The next son, Edward (1767-1820), later known as the Duke of Kent, lived for many years with a French widow. He was a stern military man. After the regent’s daughter, Princess Charlotte, died in childbirth in 1817, he would be one of the brothers scurrying to take a legitimate wife in order to father a child who would inherit the English throne. He married a young Saxe-Coburg widow who had already borne two children. She bore a daughter, Victoria, who would succeed her Uncle William as ruler of England in 1837.

Ernest (1771-1851), the fifth son, became King of Hanover. He was the only brother to never have a weight problem.

Another of the brothers to undergo an illegal marriage (as the Prince of Wales had done with Mrs. Fitzherbert in 1785) was Augustus (1773-1843). When he was 20 he secretly married Lady Augusta, who bore him two children, but the marriage was invalidated in 1801 because it violated the Royal Marriage Act.

The last brother to live past childhood, Adolphus (1774-1850) was known as the Duke of Cambridge.

Son Alfred, who was born in 1780, died at age 2. At his death, the king said, “I am very sorry for Alfred, but if it had been Octavius, I should have died too.” Months later, Octavius, who was born in 1779, became ill after being vaccinated for smallpox, and he never recovered. His father was almost inconsolable over the loss of his next-to-youngest son.

How curious that a monarch who fathered eight legitimate sons had not a single grandson to serve as king. More odd still was that when George III’s only legitimate grandchild, Princess Charlotte, died when he was 78, there was not a single legitimate grandchild of George III.— Cheryl Bolen’s 37th book, Ex-Spinster by Christmas, is her latest release. Watch for Miss Hasting’s Excellent London Adventure in May. 

England’s Treasure Houses: Castle Howard

Castle Howard – setting for the 1970s BBC miniseries Brideshead Revisited

© Cheryl Bolen

Author’s Note: The Treasure Houses of England are 10 spectacular estates. I’ll be doing a series here on each of these, seven of which I have been privileged to tour.

Charles Howard (1669-1738), the 3rd Earl of Carlisle began construction of his great baroque mansion near York in 1700. A descendent of the youngest son of Thomas Howard (4th Duke of Norfolk), the 3rd Lord Carlisle chose for his architect John Vanbrugh (who also built Blenheim Palace).

The 4th and 5th earls traveled extensively on the Continent and were great collectors, the 5th Earl having taken the Grand Tour with his lifelong friend Charles James Fox, the great Whig statesman. In addition to holding high public offices, the 5th Earl (1748-1825) added extensively to the castle’s art collection.

After the death of the 9th Earl of Carlisle in 1911 and his countess 10 years later, the estates were divided among their children. His middle-aged heir received Naworth Castle (where he had been raising his family), and the eldest daughter received Castle Howard, but she passed it to her younger brother Geoffrey Howard, Liberal MP. On his death in 1935, Castle Howard went into a family-administered trust.

The Earls of Carlisle now own Naworth Castle, and Geoffrey Howard’s grandson, Simon Howard (born 1956), now lives at Castle Howard with his wife and young twins. He and his brother Nicholas serve as directors of the private company which owns the property.

Castle Howard is one of the most familiar of England’s great country houses because it is the setting of Brideshead Revisited , Britain’s most popular TV miniseries ever–until Downton Abby.

HOUSE

The magnificence of the house, its furnishings and art, and the lavish landscaping have earned Castle Howard status as one of England’s 10 Treasure Houses.

Architect Sir JohnVanbrugh, who also designed Blenheim Palace, was untrained in architecture but was a well-known Restoration playwright and fellow Kit-Cat Club member with Lord Carlise. “Vanbrugh had a genius for bold architectural composition,” according to architectural historian Geoffrey Tyack.  Nowhere is Vanbrough’s splendid baroque boldness more apparent than in the soaring, 70-foot domed great hall of Castle Howard, which centers the house’s main block. The dome rests on pendentives that were painted by Antonio Pellegrini and supported by towering, squared Corinthian columns.

Corinthian columns also facade the south front, with the plainer Doric columns fronting the north. The juxtaposition of columns is just one of the clashes of classical architecture seen at Castle Howard. Because construction of the house (far too modest a word to convey its grandeur) took 117 years to complete and employed several architects, baroque and Palladian architecture blend together in Castle Howard’s exterior.

Visitors begin the tour in the west wing, which features guest rooms and state rooms with impeccably restored furnishings and museum-quality art by the Reynolds, Ruebens, Gainsborough, Holbein, and 17th and 18th century Italian masters. Some of the more memorable rooms on display are the 6th Countess’s bedchamber furnished with the bed given her by her parents, the 5th Duke of Devonshire and his wife Georgiana, and pictures of her 12 children; the turquoise drawing room; the museum room; the music room; the crimson dining room; the long gallery; the collonaded antique passage; and the China landing with its 18th century English and German porcelain.

GROUNDS

Nestled in the Howardian Hill, Castle Howard’s 1,000-acre grounds feature gardens and parkland that are only part of the 6,000-acre agriculture estate surrounding Castle Howard.

Entry points to Castle Howard’s grounds feature tree-lined allees.  During the warmer months, visitors can take free guided tours of Ray Wood, or they can also take a self-guided tour with a trail booklet. Ray Wood is a lusciously planted woodland with a variety of trees and flowering shrubs that can be explored along serpentine paths.

The guided garden tour ends at Vanbrough’s Temple of the Four Winds, a grand summer house that affords sweeping views of the South Lake, Cascade, New River, the ornamental New River Bridge, and the grandest Mausoleum in the Western Hemisphere. The Mausoleum, while built by committee, was originally inspired by Nicholas Hawksmoor, the Wren-trained architect who assisted Vanbrugh and took over as Castle Howard architect after Vanbrugh’s death in 1826.

Built for the 3rd Earl who created Castle Howard, the 90-foot tall, domed mausoleum supported on 20 pillars was not completed until six years after the earl’s 1758 death. To this day, family members are buried in the mausoleum, which is not open to the public. Their bodies are carried along New River to their final resting place.

All the waterways at Castle Howard, including the great lake, are manmade. The property’s massive walled garden features three rose gardens planted with over 2,000 varieties. The South Parterre Garden of grass terraces replaces an earlier formal garden, but the parterre’s center Atlas Fountain is original.

Spending an entire day in York at Castle Howard is one of the most memorable days imaginable. In my opinion.–Cheryl Bolen’s most recent book is the latest installment in her popular House of Haverstock series. It’s a novella titled  Ex-Spinster by Christmas. Look for her next release in her Brazen Brides series in May.

The Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth

journals-of-dorothy-wordsworth-grey-pony

The cover of my copy of Dorothy Wordsworth’s Journals

The spinster sister of the immortal poet William Wordsworth was present at the creation of his and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1799 Lyrical Ballads, which gave birth to the Romantic movement in English literature. She was also present throughout her famous brother’s adult life. Brother and sister, among the five Wordsworth siblings orphaned and separated at an early age, would rejoin when Dorothy Wordsworth was 24 and William 25, and they would live under the same roof until William’s death 55 years later.

Theirs was an extraordinarily loving relationship, and Dorothy’s prose is credited with influencing her brother’s poetry by the keen observations on nature she recorded in the journals William encouraged her to keep. An example from Dorothy’s journal:

One leaf on the top of a tree—the sole remaining leaf—danced round and round like a rag blowing in the wind. 

From her brother’s poem Cristabel:

The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
That dances as often as dance it can,
Hanging so light and hanging so high,
On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.

The first of her journals, The Alfoxden Journal 1798, takes up less than ten percent of my volume from Oxford University Press. Of more importance are The Grasmere Journals 1800-1803 because they record Dorothy Wordsworth’s observations of the Lake District which her brother and Coleridge made famous.  Dorothy and William moved to Dove Cottage in Grasmere the last month of the eighteenth century. Two years later William married Mary Hutchinsons who, along with her orphaned siblings, had been close to the Wordsworth orphans for many years. There is no jealousy on Dorothy’s part toward the woman with whom she would share the brother she had lived alone with for the previous seven years.

Perhaps that is because as Mary busied herself with mothering the five children she bore William, Dorothy remained William’s companion on their legendary walks throughout the Lake District.

These journals, which are copyrighted by the Dove Cottage Trust, give those of us reading them two centuries later a feel for the minutia of their everyday life: the ringing of distant sheep bells, haystacks in the fields, baking day. Surprisingly, to Dorothy, plodding through the frost of a cold January day was pleasant, but summer heat could send her to bed for days.

For the author of  English-set historicals, these journals are an invaluable source for descriptions of the English countryside—its plants, birds, and other creatures—in every season of the year. This little volume is a keeper.—By Cheryl Bolen, whose latest release is Ex-Spinster by Christmas, a House of Haverstock books.

The Six Daughters of George III

© Cheryl Bolen

In the century and half since the last princess died, no one has ever before had the fortitude to chronicle the lives of the six daughters of George III (1738-1820) and his wife Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818). Until Flora Fraser.

In 2006, she published Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III. One of England’s premier biographers of the late Georgian era, Fraser (Beloved Emma) first became acquainted with the princesses when doing archival research for her biography (Unruly Queen) of their sister-in-law, the Prince Regent’s wife.princesses

“Given other circumstances, the letters of these six royal sisters might have been filled only with Court gossip, pomp and fashion,” Fraser writes. “Instead their correspondence makes harrowing reading, revealing the humility with which they met pain and horror, the tenacity with which they pursued their individual dreams, and the stratagems they devised to endure years of submission and indignity.”

The circumstances which catapulted their lives onto a sorrowful trajectory, of course, were the intermittent bouts of the king’s insanity which terminated in a nine-year regency after he was declared incompetent to rule.

His first occurrence of the illness was in 1788; it was another 23 years before the regency became official. Sadly, it was during those years the princesses came of age, only to be denied the opportunities for gaiety and marriage. The king’s illness turned a concerned mother into a domineering tyrant who deprived the princesses of any hopes for happiness.

During those years, the princesses were forced to forgo personal pleasures or aspirations for matrimony for fear it would incite another relapse in the father who was so excessively fond of his daughters.

To a one, all the princesses wished to marry, to have their own homes, to have children. Most of them would be denied these simple pleasures.

The king himself said in 1805 — when the Princess Royal was 39 and the youngest princess, Amelia, 22 — “I cannot deny that I have never wished to see any of them marry: I am happy in their company, and do not in the least want a separation.”

When he spoke those words, “Royal,” as the eldest sister was always called, was the only sister to have married. Her father had refused many offers for her hand, a fact that embittered her. She finally succeeded in marrying a widow, the Hereditary Prince of Wuttemberg, when she was thirty.

She was thrilled to escape “The Nunnery,” a title the princesses themselves dubbed their residences at Kew Palace and Windsor Castle. She never regretted the decision to marry. While she never bore a live child, she was an indulgent mother and grandmother to her step-children and may have been the happiest of the sisters.

None of the sisters would ever become a mother, though the fourth princess, Sophia (1777-1848), gave birth secretly to an illegitimate child sired by her father’s equerry, who was more than thirty years older than she. She never married.

Amelia died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-seven, which many think contributed to her father’s final fall into hopeless insanity. Even on her deathbed, her family would not allow Amelia to marry the young officer she had been in love with for eight years.

Her sister, Princess Augusta (1768-1840), also fell in love with a military man, Gen. Sir Brent Spencer. When she was 43 she wrote a letter to the regent that begged to be allowed to marry the man who had shared her “mutual affection” for twelve years. Request refused, she died a spinster.

Princess Mary had more luck. She demanded the regent allow her to wed her cousin, the Duke of Gloucester, whose father was her father’s brother. The regent reluctantly agreed. At age forty, she finally married. While it is doubtful she was in love with her husband, she relished the first liberty she had ever tasted.

The sister who had most wanted to marry and had dreamed of bearing a child, Princess Elizabeth, finally was granted one of her wishes. At age forty-eight and well past child-bearing years, she married the Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg and had a happy marriage for eleven years.

Fraser’s research is meticulous, right down to the names of the royal wet nurses and the salary paid to them. Almost all of the research is original, delving into letters in collections, archives, and libraries across the globe, a feat that had to have taken several years.

For the casual reader, there are a few problems. First, it is difficult to chronicle six lives at once chronologically. We get a snippet of one sister, but the narrative thread drops while there is an awkward transition to another sister because of chronological constraints. Therefore, the book makes for dry reading and lacks dramatic structure.

For the historian, this work is a gem.

ex-spinster-by-christmasCheryl’s newest release is Ex-Spinster by Christmas (House of Haverstock #4).

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The Life and Loves of Madame Recamier

© Cheryl Bolen

(Cheryl originally wrote this for A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life.)

Recamier by Jacques-Louis_David_016

Madame Recamier on the piece of furniture which came to bear her name

The Duke of Wellington and Napoleon opposed each other not only on the battlefield but also for the affections of a certain beautiful lady. That lady, Madame Recamier, spurned both of these powerful men. Napoleon was so outraged, he banished her from France and her famed Parisian salon where authors and intellectuals—most of whom despised Napoleon—gathered.

In an era when, as Lord Egremont said, “Women considered it a stain upon their reputation if they hadn’t taken a lover,” Juliette Recamier (1777-1849) went four decades without knowing a lover—not even the wealthy, much-older banker she had married at age 15.

Called a frigid coquette, Madame Recamier directed her sensuous flirtations on virtually every man who came to her salon on rue du Mont-Blanc—and most of them became captivated by her beauty and voluptuous charm. Author and political philosopher Benjamin Constant said, “Madame Recamier takes it into her head to make me fall in love with her . . . My life is completely upset.” For the next fourteen months, he was tortured by his unrequited love for her.

He was one of dozens over the years.

Lady Bessborough, who was among the English aristocrats who flocked to Paris in 1802 after the signing of the short-lived Treaty of Amiens, gives this interesting account of meeting the beautiful Madame Recamier.

I must tell you [Lady Bessborough wrote to her lover, Granville Leveson Gower] tho’, a nasty and an indelicate story, but how distress’d I was at Mad. Recamier’s. We went there and found her in bed—that beautiful bed you saw prints of—muslin and gold curtains, great looking glasses at the side, incense pots, &c., and muslin sheets trimm’d with lace, and beautiful white shoulders expos’d perfectly uncovered to view—in short, completely undress’d and in bed. The room was full of men.

During her salons, Madame Recamier commonly reposed on a chaise longue—a piece of furniture which would later be named a recamier in her honor. A famed portrait by Jacques Louis David of her on her chaise longue hangs in the Louvre.

The only child of Marie Julie Matton and Jean Bernard, the king’s counsellor, Juliette was born in Lyon, but the family later moved to Paris. During the Reign of Terror, she married  Jacques-Rose Récamier, who was 27 years her senior. Mystery surrounds the marriage. There is some credence that Recamier married to pass on his fortune if he should fall to the Terror. It was said he was very close to Juliette’s mother. Some suggested Juliette remained a virgin because Recamier was her natural father, but this has been discounted.

As she neared the age of thirty, Madame Recamier finally fell victim to Cupid’s arrow when she fell in love with Prince Augustus of Prussia, a nephew of Frederick the Great. They met in the Swiss home of her friend, the famed Madame de Stael, who encouraged the romance. Juliette Recamier wrote to her husband to ask for a divorce, but at the time he was besieged with financial woes (he eventually went bankrupt). His response appealed to her sensibilities while telling her she could not have picked a worse time. He also expressed regret that he had respected her virginal susceptibilities.

Writing years later about her lover, Madame Recamier said, “We were convinced that we were going to be married, and our relationship was very intimate; even so, there was one thing he failed to obtain.”

Prince Augustus, many years later, in front of his portrait of the love of his life, Madame Recamier

Prince Augustus, many years later, in front of his portrait of the love of his life, Madame Recamier

Before the two lovers parted, they exchanged written promises. Prince Augustus wrote, “I swear by my honor and by love to preserve in all its purity the sentiment that attaches me to Juliette Recamier, to take all steps that duty allows to unite with her in the bonds of marriage, and to possess no woman as long as there is hope that I may join my destiny with hers. AUGUST, PRINCE OF PRUSSIA.”

Madame Recamier wrote, “I swear by the salvation of my soul to preserve in all its purity the sentiment that attaches me to Prince August of Prussia; to do everything that honor permits to dissolve my marriage, to have no love nor flirtation with any other man, to see him again as soon as possible, and, whatever the future may bring, to entrust my destiny entirely to his honor and his love. J. R.”

The Recamiers did not divorce, and Prince Augustus never married, though two of his long-time mistresses bore him eleven children. Ten years after he fell in love with Juliette Recamier, he had his portrait made standing in front of her portrait.

Back in Paris, the Recamiers were forceed to sell their house on the rue du Mont Blanc, their silver, and Juliette’s jewelry. She suffered the losses with the same languid serenity that governed her life. By 1809, Recamier was once again in business but on a much smaller scale.

Even though her circumstances were reduced, Madame Recamier’s salons were as popular as ever. Later she resided in apartments in a former convent, now demolished, at 16 rue de Sèvres in Paris.

It is believe she finally lost her virginity at age 40. Her lover was the 50-year-old author Chateaubriand.

Her husband died in 1830. She lived another nineteen years before cholera claimed her at age 71. She was buried in the Cimetiere de Montmarte.

Resources

Herold, J. Christopher. Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël. The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1958.

Lady Granville, The Private Correspondence of Lord Granville Leveson Gower, 2 vol., London, John Murray, 1917

Crossing the English Channel during the Regency

© Cheryl Bolen

For most of the Regency era, sailboats were the only way to cross the English Channel. These depended upon the kindness of the winds. An exceedingly swift crossing could breeze along in three hours. Reports of 18-hour crossings are not uncommon. It was said the journey from Dover to Calais was much speedier than the one from Calais to Dover because of the winds.

Factor in that crossings could be delayed for days because of unfavorable winds. Fanny Burney’s father once waited in Dover for nine days before the winds were obliging for his sailing to Calais. Sailing must commence during low tide, also.

Polish scholar Krystyn Lack-Szyrma, whose London Observed (from 1820-1824) was published in English in 2009, recorded comprehensive details about his stay in Calais and crossing the channel. His voyage, for which he paid one guinea, took six hours—most of which rendered him very seasick. (From another source, I found out the record during that era was two hours and forty minutes, set in 1802.)Layout 1

He gives us readers two centuries later a glimpse of the interior of these packet boats with his thorough word pictures. He tells us the spacious cabins are illuminated by a window which faces the deck. Each side of the cabin is fitted with rows of compartments, stacked two high. The bunks are furnished with clean, white bed linens, which Lack-Szyrma says is the only color linen the English will have. The bunks are curtained with either green or red. Men’s cabins are segregated from women’s.

Here is Lack-Szyrma’s account of seasickness.

The ship was rolling on the waves more and more, causing the unbearable suffering called seasickness and those who are used to sailing are spared. Even to describe the symptoms of the sickness in not pleasant. Sufferers have stomach cramps and are prone to vomiting. They suffer from vertigo and see coloured spots before their eyes, especially green ones. The most unpleasant feeling is when a huge breaker, having raised the ship high, brings it crashing down. Your whole body feels numb. The weakness is so tormenting, that it almost makes you lose interest in life. In case of a violent storm, it must make people insensitive to danger, thus mitigating the horror of a shipwreck.

He goes on to report that even after reaching land and standing on firm ground, the seasickness does not promptly go away. (Oh, dear, I got that wrong in more than one of my books.)

The first steamboat appeared on the English channel in 1818 but these weren’t widely used until nearly a decade later. Lack-Szyrma tells us that by 1827 England had almost 200 steamships, but in America, where they were built, the number was much greater. Not all these 200 were used for crossing the channel. Steamboats were a common means of transport to and from Edinburgh from points south, especially London.

Lack-Szyrma gives an account of a steamboat owner in Calais inviting a few members of the municipal council for a short sail in his steamer. “They agreed to his request, but when it was time to go on board, they got frightened and each of them looked for an excuse not to take part in this trip. Such an important invention aroused people’s anxiety in those days!”

If you’re interested in knowing things like how much it cost to sail from Dover to Calais or the price of gentlemen’s lodging in London, I highly recommend reading Lack-Szyrma’s journal. Of all the ones I’ve read from the era, this one is THE best. He spent several years studying British government, penal system, courts, history and almost every aspect of the country and explains them in clearly understood layman’s terms. Titled London Observed: A Polish Philosopher at Large, 1820-24, it’s annotated and edited by Mona Kesslie McLeod, a retired lecturer at Edinburgh University.—Cheryl Bolen’s newest release is Pride and Prejudice Sequels: 3 Novellas.

Divorce Regency Style

©By Cheryl Bolen

Divorces, while not unheard of in the Regency, were extremely rare. Only the wealthiest could afford the expensive process of filing a bill of divorce, which must be approved by the House of Lords before moving to the House of Commons. It sometimes took years for Parliament to grant a divorce.

 
As women had few legal rights, the divorce petition had to originate with the husband, and in almost all cases was initiated because of the wife’s adultery.

 
Because few men wished to own they had been cuckolded, only the most furious of husbands would set themselves up for such notoriety.

 
For the divorce hearings—where witnesses gave testimony to prove adulterous liaisons—generated tremendous notoriety. Printings of the transcripts made bestsellers.
Few woman wished to expose themselves to such scandal. A divorced woman was barred from court and from almost all aristocratic functions. She could not obtain custody of her children, either. And if she went on to remarry (some divorce decrees forbid the wife to marry her seducer) she would be prohibited from presenting legitimate daughters from the second marriage.

This happened to Lady Holland when her first husband (with her full support) divorced her so she could marry Lord Holland. (She also had to sign away her fortune to the first husband, Sir Godfrey Webster.)

 
Some men braved the notoriety the absorbed the expense of divorce in order to ensure they would not have to give their name to a child fathered by the wife’s lover. By English law, any child born during the marriage was the legitimate issue of the marriage and could claim titles, land, or other inheritances.

 
A much cheaper—and more common—option for a couple trapped in a miserable marriage was an ecclesiastical separation. The drawback to separation was the inability to remarry.—Cheryl Bolen’s latest novel, Oh What a (Wedding) Night, continues the Brazen Brides series of Regency romances.