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. 

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London’s Caricaturists: Sex and Satire

Robert Cruikshank, 1819, Going to a Fight

Robert Cruikshank, 1819, Going to a Fight

© Cheryl Bolen

Cheryl wrote a variation of this article for the Quizzing Glass in 2011.

Between 1770 and 1830 some 20,000 satirical or humorous engravings were published in London’s print shops. The three most prominent artists (whom we think of as caricaturists) were, chronologically, James Gillray (1756-1815), Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827), and George Cruikshank (1792-1878).

Because these dealt with politics, international affairs, and scandals and satire of London’s social elite, those who figured in the graphic satire and those who flocked to the print shops to purchase them for a shilling or more came from the middle and upper class.

The Caricature Shop, 1801, Anon. Most of these were located on The Strand. Rowland's shop was at 52 Strand; Ackermann's print shop was at 101 Strand.

The Caricature Shop, 1801, Anon. Most of these were located on The Strand. Rowland’s shop was at 52 Strand; Ackermann’s print shop was at 101 Strand.

British historican Vic Gatrell uses his study of the 60-year era of graphic satire to show that before the Victorian era, London was a city of sex and laughter. The result of his interest is the stunning City of Laughter: Sex and Satire in Eighteenth-Century London, a nearly 700-page tome featuring 289 of these “cartoons” published (in the U.S) in 2006.

Man, how these illustrations demonstrate sex and satire! Many of these illustrations have never before been reprinted, partly because of the bawdy subject matter.

Since many of the social situations which inspired these satirical illustrations are unknown to most of us, Gatrell has kindly provided text to explain the background. His research and knowledge of Georgian London are astonishing.

These 700 pages are crammed with interesting tidbits. Some examples:

  • Bachelor Prime Minister Pitt (the younger) “was stiff to everyone except a woman.”
  • Public hangings were moved from Tyburn to the gate of Newgate prison in 1783.
  • Piccadilly was the first street to be lit by gas—in 1809.
  • Sedan chairs did not go out of fashion until 1820.
  • Women wearing powdered wigs washed their heads every three months.
  • Bagnios (public baths/brothels) were located in the Charing Cross area near Charles I’s statue.
  • Doors to Haymarket opened at five.
  • Drury Lane boxes cost 5 shillings, and upper gallery seats could be had for a shilling.

Because the artists slightly changed the actual names or omitted letters, the artists and printers did not get sued.

One print, for example, shows Lady Worsley washing her naked body in the bathhouse at Maidstone while her husband, Sir Richard Worsley,  stands outside, hoisting a man up to the small window near the roof to get a peek. The story goes that Sir Richard tapped on the bathhouse door to notify his wife he was going to give Bissett a peek. Apparently, Sir Richard was an accomplice in his wife’s many adulteries. The text on the drawing reads:

Sir Richard Worse-than-Sly, Exposing his Wife’s Bottom – O Fye!

cartoon 7

Gillray, 1796. Fashionable Jockeyship. This caricature depicts Lord Jersey carrying the Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent) to his wife's bed. The horns the prince is depicting are the sign of cuckold.

Gillray, 1796. Fashionable Jockeyship. This caricature depicts Lord Jersey carrying the Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent) to his wife’s bed. The horns the prince is depicting are the sign of cuckold.

Cuckolds were popular scandals for the caricaturists. Here’s one on the notorious affair between Lady Emma Hamilton and Lord Nelson while her husband, Sir William Hamilton turns a blind eye.

cartoon 6

Isaac Cruikshank. A Mansion House Treat – or Smoking Attitudes! Lady Emma Hamilton, dressed in one of her attitudes costumes, smokes with her lover Lord Nelson as her husband, Sir William, has his pipe lighted by a sailor as he sits between Lord Mayor of London, at left, and Prime Minister Pitt. Their conversations are full of double entendres. The sailor tells Sir William his pipe is too short. Emma says, “Pho, the old man’s pipe is always out, but yours burns with full vigor.” Nelson replies, “I’ll give you such a smoke. I’ll pour a whole broadside into you.”

Many of the illustrators accepted bribes. George Cruikshank (whose father, Isaac, was also a noted caricaturist) accepted £100 from the regent to strop satirizing him. Gillray earned a £200 annual pension from George Canning in 1797 to produce propaganda against the Foxite Whigs.            

“Bums, Farts, and Other Transgressions” is the title of one of the chapters. If you ever wondered how to illustrate a fart, this is the book for you. Part of another chapter on libertines deals with the erotica Rowland illustrated from 1790 until 1810. Some of the erotica is truly graphic, even pornographic, except Gatrell explains that because they are humorous they do not meet the criteria for pornography. (Warning: Keep book out of reach of young children.)

George Cruikshank, 1819. Loyal Address's Radical Petitions, or the R---t's most Gracious Answer to Both Sides of the Question at Once.

George Cruikshank, 1819. Loyal Address’s Radical Petitions, or the R—t’s most Gracious Answer to Both Sides of the Question at Once.

Some of Rowlandson’s erotica was costly to purchase and was prized by wealthier Londoners. These prints were also shared with women.London in Regency times was the richest and most economically dynamic city in the world, and its residents were undoubtedly the most debauched.

Rolandson, 1800. Gratification of the Senses a la Mode Francois (Ackermann, 1800)

Rolandson, 1800. Gratification of the Senses a la Mode Francois (Ackermann, 1800)

Of the couple of hundred Regency research books in my library, this volume has risen to the top five in breadth of knowledge imparted. –Cheryl’s newest House of Haverstock book, Countess by Coincidence, releases on July 7 and can be purchased for half price during the preorder period.