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And the Regent Takes a Wife--or Two
George Augustus Frederick, (1762--1830), better known as the Prince Regent during the illness of his father, King George III, was early on recognized as having a good deal of charm, wit, and no lack of intelligence; So why did he accept a bride that nearly made him ill just to look upon, when neither national emergency or political expediency demanded the marriage? The union was devoid of even the smallest natural sympathies that should exist between a husband and wife, almost from the first day. Furthermore, his dislike of the Princess Caroline--his bride-to-be--was in effect established before the wedding ceremony:
Which begs the question: Why did he do it?
The answer is no mystery in one sense: He was in enormous debt (some say to the tune of what would amount to nearly 1.7 million dollars in today's money) and the only way to cajole Parliament into--once again--bailing him out, was to agree to wed a politically correct bride. The King chose her: a royal niece of Brunswick, and the prince, grateful for his freedom from debt, accepted the choice sight unseen. And this is where the mystery begins. Why on earth would the fastidious prince, slightly spoiled from birth, chafing at the bit of of his father's rein (personally, if not politically*) agree to such an important decision without meeting his future would-be bride?
He knew himself to have extraordinary sensibilities concerning everything that surrounded him: He was a man with a great taste for the luxurious, the expensive, the sublime. He collected art, plate, furniture, clothing, military uniforms (though he was denied the right to serve in the military) and loved all things beautiful and elegant, from his drawers to his horses. His "illegal" marriage to Maria Fitzherbert was further evidence of his strong-willed nature when it came to getting what he wanted. (He would have Mrs. Fitz, you see, though he was forbidden to marry a Catholic by law; And Mrs. Fitz would not have him, unless he came as a husband. So he married her. It was a secretive, illegal ceremony which is why he was later "free" to marry the Protestant princess Caroline. But it showed his strong tendency to please himself--devil may care what the consequences.)
And yet, we have him later going as a lamb to the slaughter in the matter of his very real and legal marriage to his cousin. In the one instance when it would truly have behooved the prince to oppose his father--and only in his choice of Caroline--he is as silent as the grave, officially. He expressed private doubts and had to swallow a quick glass of some potent libation (brandy, I think) after meeting the future Princess of Wales--but yet he did it. He married her. He threw caution to the wind, betrayed his common-law wife and worse, his own nature--and went ahead with the wedding.
All this--just to escape debt?
If this were so, he would have no doubt been more careful in future to avoid the same predicament; Yet the truth is that he was hounded by unbridled spending throughout his lifetime. Parliament increased his income numerous times, but it made no difference: he always far outspent whatever they allowed him, which put him in a position of having to please the Peers to get his debts paid.
One might suggest that his relationship with Mrs. Fitz had paled by now, and so he didn't really care who he married. He was, after all, the heir to the throne and royalty was expected to sacrifice personal desire for the interests of the country. Further, his mistresses were already married themselves--nothing to save himself for, there. And yet he did precious little "sacrificing" of other pleasures or luxuries, and seldom put popular opinion above his own preferences. And he was not known to bemoan the fate that had cast him as prince, necessitating the marriage. No, it was not patriotism or duty, for these noble ends had been earlier cast aside by him, at least in the eyes of King and country.**
Was it to please the King?
Unlikely. The prince and his father (like the previous royal Georges) did not enjoy a good relationship. They were often at odds, and the King openly disliked his eldest son; Additionally, the prince made no remarks (that have been preserved) to support the supposition. In the final analysis, it eludes me why this charismatic, intelligent man allowed his wife--and in effect, his life--to be frivolously decided for him.
Notes: * There was a political departure from the King that the prince kept to only until his regency, as evidenced by his friendship with the Whigs--particularly the notorious Charles James Fox.
**A different discussion, which I will address in a future article.
About the Author: Linore Rose Burkard writes Inspirational Regency Romance as well as articles on Regency Life, Homeschooling, Parenting and Self-Improvement. She publishes a monthly eZine "Upon My Word!" which you can receive for FREE by signing up at her website at: http://www.LinoreRoseBurkard.com Ms. Burkard graduated from the City University of New York with a Magna Cum Laude degree in English Literature, and now lives in Ohio with her husband and five children.