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TRA.HST TO UST O ^^7 KC E R E 
LO^STE IIST A. 1ST U T S H E I, TL. 
THE FAOBULOlLrS I, E 1ST .A. R ID 



FITZHERBERT 




ANITA LESLIE 



York 



CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 



COPYRIGHT ANITA LESLIE I960 

COPYRIGHT UNDER THE BERNE CONVENTION 

A 6.60 [MH] 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO PART OF THIS BOOK 

MAY BE REPRODUCED IN ANY FORM WITHOUT THE 

PERMISSION OF CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS. 



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 60-12599 



ERRATUM 

The name of the Duchess of Devonshire 

referred to in this book should appear 

as Georgiana rather than Georgina. 



For- 



Acknowledgements 

The author desires to express her humble thanks 
to Her Majesty the Queen for a continuation 
of the privilege accorded by His late Majesty 
King George VI to Sir Shane Leslie to publish 
papers preserved at Windsor Castle. 

The author also begs to express thanks to 
the Marquis of Hertford for permission to use 
letters pertaining to the Seymour family; and to 
the Duke of Devonshire for permission to 
publish the statement signed by Georgina, 
Duchess of Devonshire, and Mrs. Fitzherbert 
concerning the Prince of "Wales* attempted 
suicide July 8th, 1784; and to Mr. Clifford 
Musgrave for guidance concerning life in the 
Royal Pavilion, Brighton. 

Above all., the author must acknowledge grati- 
tude to the late Earl of Portarlington, and to 
her father Sir Shane Leslie, great-grandsons of 
Minney Seymour, who have laid all the docu- 
ments they inherited at her disposal. Messrs. 
Burns, Oates & Washbourne have given leave 
to use any letters already published. 



Biographical Notes 



Beauchamp 

Viscount (1800-1870). Son of 3rd Marquis of Hertford. (Grand- 
son of 2nd Marquis and the Lady Hertford who turned the 
Prince against Mrs. Fitsherbert.) Minney's beau, and first cousin 
once removed. Died unmarried as 4th Marquis. 

Creevey 

Thomas (1768-1838). Diarist 

Damon-Darner 

Hon. George, Lieutenant-Colonel (1788-1856). M.P. for Tipper- 
ary. 3rd son of ist Earl of Portarlington and Lady Caroline 
Stuart. Married, 1825, Minney Seymour; three daughters, and 
one son who became 4th Earl of Portarlington. 

Devonshire 

Georgina, Duchess of (1757-1806). Famous Whig hostess* 

Emngton 

Henry (-1827). Uncle of Mrs. Fitzherbert, and witness at her 

marriage to the Prince of Wales. 

Fit^clarence 

George, Major-General (1794-1842). Created ist Earl of Munster, 
1831. Eldest natural son of William IV and Mrs. Jordan. A.D.C. 
to Queen Victoria; Governor of Windsor Castle. Married Mary 
Wyndham, natural daughter of the ist Earl of Egremont. 
Committed suicide, 1842. 

Fifyherbert 

Mrs. (1756-1837), born Maria Smythe, eldest daughter of Walter 
Smythe of Brambridge and Mary Errington. Married (i) 1775, 
Edward Weld of Lulworth Castle; (2) 1778, Thomas Fitzherbert 
of Norbury; (3) 1785, George, Prince of Wales. 



Fox 

Charles James (1749-1806). Whig leader, friend of the Prince of 

Wales. Married Mrs. Armistead. 

Grey 

Charles (1764-1845). Eldest son of ist Earl Grey. A rising young 
Whig politician in Devonshire House days, loved by the famous 
Duchess. Prime Minister in the reign of William IV, and carried 
through Reform Bill, 1832. 

Haggerston 

Lady (?-i836). Only sister of Mrs. Fitzherbert. 

Jerningham 

Hon. Edward (1804-1849). 2nd son of 8th Baron Stafford. 

Lieutenant Dragoon Guards. Married, 1828, Maryanne Smythe. 

Jersey 

Countess of (1753-1821). Wife of 4th Earl. Protestant mistress of 

the Prince of Wales. 

Hertford 

2nd Marquis (1743-1822). Uncle and guardian of Minney 

Seymour into whose custody she was given after the Seymour 

case. Married, 1776, Isabella, daughter of loth and last Viscount 

Irvine. 

Hertford 

3rd Marquis (1777-1 842). K.G. Only son of 2nd Marquis. Famous 

roue and art collector he began the collection of the pictures and 

furniture now forming the Wallace Collection in Hertford House. 

Married Maria Fagniani, illegitimate daughter of the Duke of 

Queensberry. 

Pitt 

William (the Younger) (1759-1806). Tory Prime Minister at the 
age of twenty-three. Favoured by George III and regarded as a 
personal enemy by the Prince of Wales. 

Seymour 

Minney (1798-1847). Youngest of the seven children of Lord 

Hugh Seymour and Lady Horatia Waldegrave. Adopted by Mrs. 

Fitzherbert. 

10 



Seymour 

Sir George, Admiral. Minney's eldest brother. 

Sheridan 

Richard Brinsley (1751-1816). Playwright and politician. Friend 

of the Prince of Wales. 

Smythe 

Jack. Brother of Mrs. Fitzherbert who died without legitimate 

children. 

Smythe 

Maryanne. Adopted daughter of Mrs. Fitzherbert, described by 

her as a 'niece*. Generally considered a daughter of Jack Smythe. 

Smythe 

Walter (Wat) (1757-1822). Mrs. Fitzherbert's eldest brother. 

Married Protestant Louisa Boycott, and had two daughters 

Lou and Cou in whom Mrs. Fitzherbert took a great interest. 

. . . . 

King George III (1738-1820) 

Queen Charlotte (1744-1815) 

Wife of George HI, and mother of fifteen children. 

BROTHERS OF GEORGE IH 

Duke of Gloucester (1743-1805) 

Married, 1766, Maria, Dowager Countess Waldegrave, 

illegitimate daughter of Sk Edward Walpole and Dorothy 

Clements. Mother of Countess Waldegrave, Countess Huston 

and Lady Horatia Seymour. The two children of her marriage to 

the Duke of Gloucester carried royal rank. The daughter died 

unmarried; the son, known as 'Silly Billy*, became 2nd Duke of 

Gloucester in 1805. Married, 1816, his first cousin, Princess 

Mary, daughter of George m. 

Duke of Cumberland (1745-1790) 

Followed the example of his elder brother by marrying 

in 1771 the Lady Anne Horton. No issue. 

SONS OF GEORGE IH 

Prince of Wales ^ George (1762-1830) 

Eldest son of George HE. Married, 1785, Mrs. Fitzherbert. 

Married, 1795, Princess Caroline of Brunswick. Prince Regent, 

ii 



i8u. Succeeded to the throne, 1820. One daughter. Princess 
Charlotte, died in childbirth, 1817. 

Duke of York, Frederick (1763-1827) 

Married the Princess Royal of Prussia; died without issue. 

Duke of Clarence [William IV] (1765-1837) 

Married Princess Adelaide of Saxe Meiningen, by whom he 
had no children. His ten illegitimate children by Mrs. Jordan 
carried the surname of Fitzclarence and the eldest son was 
created Earl of Munster, Baron Tewkesbury, 1831. 

Duke of Kent, Edward (1767-1820) 

Married, 1818, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg and had one 

daughter, born 1819, Princess Victoria; succeeded as Queen, 1837. 

Duke of Cumberland, Ernest (1771-1851) 
Later King of Hanover. 

Duke of Sussex, Augustus Frederick (1773-1843) 
Married, 1793, Lady Augusta Murray and had a son, Sir Augustus 
d'Este, and a daughter, Emma called Princess Emma in Ireland 
and Hanover who married Lord Truro. The marriage of the Duke 
of Sussex, having been deemed a violation of the Royal Marriage 
Act, was declared null and void and was dissolved accordingly. The 
children remained technically of the blood royal in Ireland and 
Hanover but were illegitimate in England. 

Duke of Cambridge, Adolphus (1774-1850) 
Married Princess Augusta of Hesse. 



Foreword 



Tour quest will lead from bonfire to bonfire/ said my father. 
With these words, he handed over all that he had himself collected 
in thirty years of browsing through the annotated books and 
bundles of family letters that pertained to Mrs. Fitzherbert, once 
the most discussed woman kb Europe. 

For many years after Mrs. Fitzherbert's death it had been 
considered unsafe to publish any documents or reminiscences 
which might reveal the fact of her marriage to the Prince of 
Wales. When she died in 1837 her few remaining papers had 
been consigned to Coutts Bank under the seals of the Duke of 
Wellington, Lord Albemarle and Lord Stourton. A long discreet 
silence ensued. 

Then in 1856 a volume appeared entitled Memoirs of Mrs. 
Fit^herbert with an account of her marriage to H.R.H. the Prince of 
Wales. It was written by the Hon. Charles Langdale, nephew of 
Lord Stourton, to whom she had dictated a narrative of her life. 
Lord Stourton had himself never published Mrs. Fitzherbert's 
story because his co-trustee, the Duke of Wellington, refused him 
permission to see the papers deposited in Coutts Bank. Langdale 
also failed to obtain access to these papers, but he felt compelled 
to write an outraged defence against Lord Holland when that 
gentleman published memoirs insinuating that Mrs. Fitzherbert 
had never taken the Prince's marriage vows seriously. Only 500 
copies of Langdale's book were printed, but they contained many 
stories in Mrs. Fitzherbert's own words. 

During the remainder of the century the lady's honour was 
rigorously upheld. Various contestants argued the legality of her 

13 



marriage, but none could dispute its religious validity or question 
the Pope's decision. Where Mrs. Fitzherbert's conscience was 
concerned, Rome had the final word. According to all the 
Churches of Christendom she was truly married to the King. And 
amidst the complexities and changeabilities of his own tortuous 
brain George always remained constant to this notion. Before, 
during, and after his marriage to Princess Caroline he firmly 
believed himself to be the husband of Maria Fitzherbert, miser- 
ably forced to commit bigamy in order to clear his debts and 
produce an heir to the throne. 

There may have been children of his marriage to Mrs. 
Fitzherbert. How well that secret has been kept, how equivocably 
she answered. Although there could not have been any real 
danger of a Catholic pretender to England the topic of possible 
children remained a dangerous one even after Mrs. Fitzherbert's 
death. Minney Seymour preserved the miniatures of two children 
sans nom who, she whispered, were Mrs. Fitzherbert's. A boy and 
a girl whose fate cannot definitely be proved. Many papers con- 
taining circumstantial evidence were, alas, destroyed by my great- 
grandmother, Lady Constance Leslie, in a fit of devotion to Queen 
Victoria who hated the Fitzherbert story, and called her papers, 
like the Duke of Buccleuch's concerning the marriage of the 
mother of the Duke of Monmouth, those 'which no loyal subject 
should wish to possess*. 

It seems very possible that Marianne Smythe, the quietly 
adopted niece of Mrs. Fitzherbert, was her own daughter, but this 
girl could also have been Jack Smythe's illegitimate daughter 
(his wife was barren). As for the nebulous son a yet more 
dangerous element what happened to him? Poor little fellow, 
he must have been hustled out of the way when very tiny. There 
are few clues just a miniature and a few whispers echoing on 
in two English families, while the Jesuits of Georgetown in 
America keep a picture and a legend. 

For seventy years a hush hung over the name of Mrs. 
Fitzherbert. Not till 1905 did an actual biography dare to appear. 
This work by W. M. Wilkins is dedicated thus: 'To Lady 
Constance Leslie, who was the youngest daughter of Mrs. 
Fitzherbert's adopted daughter Minney Seymour.' Lady 
Constance's personal copy of this book, filled with marginal 

14 



notes and comments, give an idea of the affection which Mrs. 
Fitzherbert evoked in all around her. My great-grandmother was 
inclined to use books as scrap albums. Wilkins' two volumes, as 
well as Langdale's heated vindication, are stuffed with Mrs. 
Fitzherbert's calling cards (the daughter's names added in her 
own handwriting), curiously worded invitations 'to cards* at the 
Pavilion and informal letters from the Duke of York. Her own 
beautifully penned letters are mostly addressed to 'Dearest 
Minney'. The touch of the old notepaper brings her curiously 
near, sometimes it is as if my fingers trailing over her ardent 
slanting writing released her own wistfulness. 

Minney Seymour left the Fitzherbert heirlooms divided 
between her son, Lord Portarlington, and her younger daughters 
Blanche, and Constance. Constance, my great-grandmother, lived 
until I was twelve years old. She was a witty old lady and our 
childish memories were filled with stories of her own Victorian 
youth that melted back into the Regency days. She could recollect 
the very words used by her mother to describe a childhood spent 
in Mrs. Fitzherbert's house in Brighton. To no one did the Prince 
remain as consistently kind as to this little girl who he insisted 
was his own daughter. He never tired of Minney's games. Mrs. 
Fitzherbert would sit smiling while the child scrambled on the 
royal knee and evoked a display of that charm which the Prince 
found as easy to switch on as off. Long after his final break with 
Mrs. Fitzherbert the Regent continued to write Minney affection- 
ate letters. These fatherly attentions contrasted strangely with his 
disregard of the Princess Charlotte. 

Minney's portrait by Lawrence looks down at me as I write. 
Her clock given her by George Fitzclarence 1 stands upon the 
mantelpiece, its wreath of enamel forget-me-nots held by a 
serpent symbolizing eternity, its face engraved with her name and 
birthday; a clock carefully devised to be sent her after he had died. 
Minney's lovely jewellery, given to Mrs. Fitzherbert by the 
Prince, lies locked below stairs. Minney's precious collection of 
her adopted mother's letters lie in the attic and she handed the 
legend of Mrs. Fitzherbert intact to her own children so they 
might pass it on. Some of us cared enough occasionally to pull 
out the letters. 

1 Eldest son of William IV by Mrs. Jordan. 



It is difficult to write about Mrs. Fitzherbert without becom- 
ing her champion. Because she never spoke up in her lifetime she 
rouses an emotional desire to defend her. Even now, a 150 years 
after when the insults have lost their sting, one's pen seems to 
rise of its own volition in indignation. The blemishment of her 
reputation meant so much to her, and yet she stood her ground 
and kept her promise never to show those all-important marriage 
lines until her husband was dead. To appreciate this fortitude one 
must remember that in those days a woman's reputation meant 
considerably more than it does now in any strata of society. One 
of Nelson's captains, intent on defending a brother officer, em- 
phasized his point by stating that an officer's honour 'like that 
of a woman might be considered ruined if even queried'. Those 
were the standards to which Mrs. Fitzherbert had been brought 
up. Nowadays the public shows more interest in high-coloured 
romance than in marital technicalities. The importance of being 
an honest woman diminishes in a world where ladies can make 
and unmake their names with frequency in the divorce courts. 

The marriage of the Prince of Wales to Mrs. Fitzherbert has 
been published in black and white, but the question of children 
has never been elucidated. My great-grandmother was, alas, a 
true Victorian; she ransacked her husband's letter-chests, censor- 
ing and mutilating with nail scissors improper eighteenth- 
century Leslie correspondence concerning their eternal bastards, 
and then, far worse, she got busy on the Fitzherbert papers. 
Although she carefully docketed and annotated her mother's 
records of what was an illegal but undoubtedly virtuous alliance 
she destroyed all reference to Mrs. Fitzherbert's issue. Lady 
Constance possessed, apart from her mother's papers, a 
mysterious locked box inscribed 'Duke of Cornwall' (the Prince's 
Duchy being such). This box had always been in Tilney Street, 
but it escaped the Duke of Wellington's raid. It contained veiled 
references to children of the marriage though without informa- 
tion as to their fate. My great-grandmother enjoyed snipping out 
whatever might have displeased her idol, the c poor dear Queen'. 
The Duke of Cornwall's box still resides in a cupboard, and inside 
it lie a mass of Maria Fitzherbert's letters and papers all tampered 
with. Scissors have cut out what one most wishes to know. 

In our Irish home where Minney Seymour's daughter spent 

16 



many a wet afternoon sorting out her inherited papers and 
trinkets, new generations from the nursery floor were occasion- 
ally shown the family treasures. These included the Prince's gifts 
to Mrs. Fitzherbert, her diamond tiara, ruby cross and the 
jewelled C G' for her locket. The inevitable day came when a 
child after staring at Cos way's picture of Mrs. F. and observing 
the plump bosom and cheerful, unvamplike countenance framed 
by a Medusa's wig of curls in turn surmounted by what appears 
to be a head-dress of cabbage leaves, asked in a puzzled treble 
voice, 'But why did the King love her so?' 

Tantalizing question. Why? Old Lady Constance answered: 
'When Mrs. Fitzherbert was young, people talked of her as a 
White Rose. And even when she was old my mother said that 
her cheeks felt as smooth as petals when you kissed her.* 

Suddenly we saw her as she must have been. The loving, 
shining eyes, the pale clear skin, the inability to dissimulate, the 
true innocence masking courage and the physical freshness that 
lasted all her years. Mr. Wilkins describes her with Victorian 
fervour: 'Her hair was of a pale gold, her eyes hazel-brown, her 
complexion of the wild rose and hawthorne.' But such might be 
the colouring of any bore. Maria could not have been the sole 
woman in England with the gleam of health. 

The description handed on by my great-grandmother gives a 
more exact clue to her lure. A White Rose. Alone among many 
eager blossoms the White Rose proved inaccessible. And this 
flower possesses qualities that elude the painter's brush. 

There seems to have been no one else like her. George had all 
England to hunt in, but only Maria cut his heart to the quick. For 
this one woman, Catholic and virtuous and forbidden, he writhed 
in torment. Mrs. Fitzherbert married him when they feared for 
his sanity if she would not give way. Indeed he had to threaten 
for over a year to open his veins before she consented! 

After Mr. Wilkins' book published the much discussed papers 
which Mrs. Fitzherbert had left in Courts Bank marked c Not to be 
opened for fifty years', little more could be said about the lady 
until H.M. King George VI, with royal chivalry, allowed my 
father access to the secret archives at Windsor where he was 
shown the wedding licence, and allowed to transcribe the 
immense thirty-five-page proposal letter as well as the Will which 



the Prince wrote cutting off the Princess of Wales with a shilling 
and bequeathing his entire possessions to Mrs. Fitzherbert. 

The fear of possible long-lost, illegal but not illegitimate, 
Catholic descendants of Mrs. Fitzherbert wrecking any sort of 
apple-cart is now as dead as the terror of a Jacobite revival. But 
for a century it had to be considered. 

The chief sources of any life of Mrs. Fitzherbert must always 
be: 

The Fitzherbert Papers at Windsor Castle (Secret Archives). 

The Portarlington Papers (left by Minney Seymour to her son the 
4th Earl of Portarlington). 

The Glaslough Papers (left by Minney Seymour to her youngest 
daughter Lady Constance Leslie). 

The Ragley Papers (Mrs. Fitzherbert's letters to Sir George 
Seymour her executor and the Prince's correspondence con- 
cerning Minney Seymour's adoption). 

The Fit^clarence Papers belonging to the present Earl of Munster. 

The Chatsworth Papers belonging to the present Duke of Devon- 
shire. (These contain the papers signed by Mrs. Fitzherbert 
and Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire, describing the mock 
ceremony of marriage which took place at Carlton House on 
July 8th, 1784). 

There are in all these collections constant references to letters 
that have been destroyed. The two most interesting corres- 
pondences were burnt in her lifetime. After the death of George 
IV she gave all her royal husband's letters to his executor, the 
Duke of Wellington, in return for her own. Alas, the Duke 
immediately set to burning them up in her house in Tilney 
Street. This was the occasion on which 'after several hours 
burning' the Duke said to Lord Albemarle, 'I think my Lord we 
had better hold our hand for a while or we shall set the old 
woman's chimney on fire.' 

'Oh dear, oh dear,' sighed Creevey when he heard, 'that I 
could not have seen them. They began in 1785 and lasted to 1 806, 
one and twenty years.' 

We sigh with him. 

An equally fascinating horde went to the flames when the 

18 



letters which Mrs. Fitzherbert had written to the Duke of York 
during the years 1812-27 were returned to her. These she herself 
spent two years perusing and burning. Then, to further torment 
posterity, she herself stated these letters gave 'the best private and 
public history of the country from the close of the American War 
down to the death of the Duke'. 

It was unkind of Mrs. Fitzherbert to leave us quite so little, 
for to Mrs. Creevey she once confided that she supposed her Life 
would one day be written, but that it would be full of lies, and, as 
she would be dead, it would not matter. 

Here I have chased the truth for her, using fragments that 
were considered too unimportant to burn or which chance 
lodged in the safety of royal archives or the tin boxes of country- 
house attics, and scraping up my own memories of what old Lady 
Constance related throughout many years in our Irish home. 

One cannot but admire Maria Fitzherbert. She suffered much 
in her time and her tears were so secret. I hope this book reveals, 
without being 'full of lies', that character which has been distilled 
for my family by the anecdotes and stories dropped down 
through a hundred years by Minney Seymour's children the 
character of a great lady, uncompromising and of superb integrity, 
who bore with loyalty the tribulations of a love quite out of the 
ordinary. 

ANITA LESLIE 

Castle "Leslie 
Glaslough 



One 



SEVERAL versions have appeared concerning Mrs. Fitzher- 
bert's first meeting with the Prince of Wales, for it is at 
this juncture that any Life of her should open. For years 
my father searched the Royal Archives and the papers of Chats- 
worth, Ragley Hall and Castle Leslie without finding a clue. Last 
year, looking through the chests in his own Irish home, he 
came on a letter written by his great-grandfather, George Dawson- 
Damer, who had the sense to record the words of a sweet old 
lady who sat all passion spent, the embers fading in her house 
in Tilney Street, Park Lane. 

'November 14, 1836. Mrs. Fitzherbert told us this evening 
that the first time she ever saw the Prince was when she was 
driving with her husband Mr. Fitzherbert They were in Park 
Lane when he turned round and said "Look. There is the 
Prince." The second time was a few days subsequently when 
she was going with her husband to a Breakfast given by Mrs. 
Townley at Corney House, Chiswick, As they were turning 
down the Lane she perceived that the Prince had followed her, 
and had stopped to look at her/ 

The impetuous behaviour of the heir to the throne caused 
no sensation, for at eighteen he ran after all the beauties, and 
was having a passionate affair with Mrs. Robinson the actress. 
Brought up to pray much, and to regard vanity as the harbinger 
of vexation, Mrs. Fitzherbert laughed off this incident with her 
husband. Yet perhaps she could not resist enjoying a reminder 
that at twenty-four years of age she had lost nothing of her looks. 

21 



The next meeting occurred on a spring night four years later in 
very different circumstances. Maria was now a widow in weeds, 
and in her own words e unwilling to go out and be seen'. Henry 
Errington, her uncle, and Lord Sefton, her half-uncle, had urged 
her to go to the Opera. According to my great-great-grandfather's 
1836 note she had agreed 

'on Lord Sefton consenting to her going in a Cap and Bonnet 
and a veil. She left the Opera leaning on Henry Errington's 
arm (the grandfather of the present one) and when at the door, 
with her veil down waiting for her carriage, the Prince came 
up to him and said, "Who the Devil is that pretty girl you 
have on your arm, Henry?" the latter told the prince who she 
was and then introduced him to Mrs. Fitzherbert.* 

As the young widow curtsied before him, the Prince's violent 
feelings transformed his handsome petulant face. He was un- 
accustomed to hide emotions before society. Wildly he stared 
through her veil, trying to make out the delineations of that 
curiously enchanting face. Their eyes met for the first time 
untroubled topaz and fevered grey. Then her carriage drew up 
and, glad to break the tension, she stepped into it and drove away. 

That night, in her house in Park Street, Mrs. Fitzherbert must 
have tried to quell her own fluster. Alone in her bedroom, when 
her maid had retired, she surely took a candle to the mirror and 
stared into it with curiosity, wondering what had so aroused the 
Prince. She was not actually beautiful although she gave the 
impression of great beauty. She much disliked the portrait that 
Gainsborough had painted when she had been married to Mr. 
Weld. It showed too plainly the strong aquiline nose and deter- 
mined chin inherited from her father. It could not show the 
extraordinary freshness, the sweetness which had caused many 
gentlemen to want to marry her. What could she see in the 
mirror but hazel eyes and golden hair and an English country 
complexion? 

Maria Smythe belonged to ancient rural England. In its green 
pastures and in its old unreformed religion she had been gently 
reared. The daughter of Walter Smythe, second son of Sir John 
Smythe, Baronet, she had been born in 175 6 into Catholic Royalist 

22 



stock. The Smythes, having sacrificed all for the house of Stuart, 
received a Baronetcy from Charles II in 1660. For the next 
hundred years they lived in retirement on their country estates 
suffering the restrictions imposed on all Roman Catholics, unable 
to stand for Parliament or to take any part in the government of 
their country, attending Mass secretly and hardly ever meeting 
Protestant neighbours. 

Maria had been the eldest of six children brought up in 
Hampshire. The 'Act for the further prevention of the growth of 
Popery' remained unrepealed throughout her childhood. She saw 
the doors of the manor chapel locked before Mass, and well she 
knew her religion must be practised by stealth. Roman Catholics 
lived Virtually outlaws in their own country, doomed to a life of 
secrecy and retirement'. They married among themselves and 
grew steadily fewer in number on account of the disadvantages 
attendant on those who clung to the old Faith. 

For a few years Maria attended an Ursuline Convent in Paris 
where many English Catholic girls polished their education. 
She loved the nuns, and knew happiness within the quiet walls. 
Once her parents took her out 'to watch Louis XV dine in public. 
Seeing the King pull a piece of chicken to pieces with his fingers 
she burst into laughter. The King turned round and "sent her a 
dish of sugar plums by one of his courtiers'. 

At sixteen, talking perfect French and with a veneer of Latin 
elegance, she returned to the country life of Bramwell. In the 
small secluded world of Catholic gentry she was much talked of 
and suitors began to call. As her features were always a little 
heavy for a girl, it must have been her colouring and her anima- 
tion which lured so many gentlemen to seek her hand. She never 
seemed to be without a suitor. How can we judge her charm 
except by the effect it had on the opposite sex? 

At the age of eighteen Maria Smythe married a rich childless 
widower. Mr. Edward Weld of Lulworth Castle, Dorset, was 
forty-four, head of an aristocratic Catholic family and a great 
landowner. Although her senior by twenty-six years he made 
Maria very happy. A contemporary described her at the time 
(Journal of Mary Framptori): 'She was then very beautiful. She 
dined at Moreton on the day when she was nineteen perfectly 
unaffected and unassuming in manner.' 



To Maria's distress Mr. Weld died after a fall from a horse 
before they had been married a year. Lulworth Castle and the 
family fortune then passed to his brother, and Maria moved away 
to live modestly on a widow's stipend. 

Meanwhile at home her four younger brothers began to be a 
worry to her parents. These boys had grown up in the country, 
handsome, strong, wild and possessed of an energy for which 
there was no outlet. Because they were Catholic the Penal Laws 
excluded them from the Bar, the Army and the Navy as well as 
from all Government appointments of trust. Not being rich, the 
Smythes wondered what to do with these exuberant colts, 
barred from proving their worth in their own land. One of them 
eventually obtained a commission in the Austrian Army. The 
others kicked their heels and became subject to challenges and 
duels. 

Three years after Mr. Weld's death Maria married again. She 
chose the same type as before. Thomas Fitzherbert of Swynnerton 
in Staffordshire, ten years her senior, was another aged, but 
wealthy, Catholic squire. His family belonged to the untitled 
nobility of England which had lived on their estates for seven 
centuries. He offered the same gracious life she had known when 
chatelaine of Lulworth Castle, but he enjoyed a wider circle of 
acquaintances than shy Mr. Weld. He even possessed a few 
Protestant friends. At Swynnerton, their magnificent country 
house built in a wooded park, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Fitzherbert 
entertained grandly, yet a neighbour, Miss Jervis, daughter of the 
great Admiral Lord St. Vincent, wrote: 'Mrs. Fitzherbert used to 
like to come to Meaford, as it was more gay than Swynnerton.' 
They could sit in the drawing-room at Meaford watching the 
coaches cross the ford for London, and the ruthless Admiral, who 
was creating those magnificent fleets which Nelson would some- 
day handle, became a friend of the young married woman. 

Thomas Fitzherbert, twenty-fifth Lord of the Manor which 
had been granted to his family in 1125 was among the first 
Catholic gentlemen to shelve the bitter memories of the Stuart 
rising of 1745 and openly avow loyalty to England's Hanoverian 
Kings. In his London house in Park Street Mr. Fitzherbert 
headed a new generation of Roman Catholics who were ready to 
take heart at the kindness shown them by George III. Soon the 



Fitzherbert town house formed a centre for intelligent discussion 
which led to pressure being exerted on Parliament until the 
Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1778 repealed the most obnoxious 
laws. Maria blossomed forth in this new company, and much 
enjoyed driving out through the lanes and meadows that lay just 
beyond Park Street. Her husband gave her contentment, security 
and companionship. They worried about nothing but growing 
too fat: 

*Mr. Thomas Fitzherbert was a tall and powerful man with 
a tendency to corpulancy, which he endeavoured to counter- 
act by great abstemiousness in diet and by the most astonish- 
ing efforts of bodily activity and violent exercise to which he 
unfortunately fell a victim. After one of his customary 
amazing pedestrian feats he was affected with pulmonary 
disease which became chronic.' 

With distress Maria heard her husband coughing his lungs 
away. She closed Swynnerton and drove off with him to try a 
winter in the south of France. From the coach window Thomas 
turned for a last look at his ancestral home. The huge classical 
house stood high above the park trees how nearly they had 
known happiness there. 

Maria cosseted her husband across France and took a villa at 
Nice, but his health seemed broken and in the spring, just as the 
mimosa began to gild their garden, he died. 

For the second time in her twenty-four years Maria found 
herself a childless widow. Mr. Fitzherbert's brother inherited 
Swynnerton but Maria received a jointure of 1,000 a year and 
the house in Park Street with all its furniture and appointments 
and the horses and carriages; c also the ponies or Galloways she 
usually drives in the phaeton'. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert did not care to return immediately to 
England. She remained in Nice for nearly a year, and then visited 
friends in Paris where she interested herself in English Catholic 
destitutes. 

In 1781 she returned to spend the summer at Brighton. 
Friends urged her to go back to her London house which lay 
pleasantly in a garden at the end of Park Street. The young widow 



had a gregarious nature, but she did not venture back to the 
capital until 1784 when Lord Sefton (her father's Protestant half- 
brother and a well-known Whig) begged her to come out with 
him and Lady Sefton into society which at that time consisted of 
fifty great families. 

At length Maria acquiesed. She had previously enjoyed three 
London seasons spent with her husband, and even a widow of 
twenty-seven need not regard life as completely over. In March 
1784 the Morning Herald announced: 'Mrs. Fitzherbert is arrived 
in London for the season/ 

Lord Sefton begged her to spend as much time as she could in 
his household, and Lady Sefton introduced her to the important 
figures in Whig society. Maria revealed a wit that was not 
unkind and a vivacity that did not tire. Within a fortnight most of 
the great houses lay open to her. She began to entertain quietly 
but thought it would be hardly respectful to Thomas's memory 
to go out much. During the month of May the extraordinary 
turbulent elections entertained her. Mr. Fox was backed by his 
friend, the Prince of Wales, who won notoriety by making a 
personal incursion into the hustings, while the famous sisters, the 
Duchess of Devonshire and Lady Bessborough, canvassed from 
their phaetons. For those who liked good talk and Mrs. 
Fitzherbert did there were plenty of happenings to talk about. 

Gradually she started to visit private houses with the Seftons 
and to enjoy meeting the famous. But she had not wanted to go 
to the Opera. Uncle Sefton had pressed her unduly. How could 
she have guessed that the evening would terminate as it did? 

The Prince's sudden infatuation could easily make her look 
ridiculous. Perhaps she would be forced to terminate her London 
season just when she had begun to enjoy herself. Really it was too 
bad. 

And those burning grey eyes! A more frivolous woman 
might have taken their expression as a compliment, but Maria 
felt only disconcerted. Not so had Mr. Fitzherbert looked when 
he came to woo. Nor Mr. Weld before him. 

Late on that fateful night after the Opera she turned from the 
mirror which told so little, only that her hair was gold and her 
throat white, and taking up the candle walked towards her 
curtained bed where hung a crucifix. 

26 



The mirror must be forgotten. She knew well it was more 
important to be good than to be beautiful. If she had succumbed 
to a moment's foolish vanity she asked forgiveness. Retribution 
must fall uncommon quick, but to her crucifix she would always 
turn in trouble. Thinking over the prayers the nuns had taught 
her, she took her rosary of large heavy beads and knelt by her 
bedside as she had each night since she was a little girl. 



F E W Princes of Wales have spoken of a happy childhood. 
This George, born in 1762, was certainly not among them. 
Brought up with singular strictness, he took an early aversion 
to a father who offered neither understanding nor sympathy* 
George HI, obsessed by a sense of duty, had married the ugliest 
of all German princesses instead of his infatuation, the Duke of 
Richmond's lovely daughter and, more rigorous still, he had 
remained faithful to her. The boys were all educated according to 
his own precepts. While their sole recreation consisted of working 
as gardeners under the stern royal eye, a heavy classical curriculum, 
kept them eight hours a day at their books. The princesses later 
described their brothers being held by the arms and flogged 
unmercifully for faults in Latin grammar. The Duke of Sussex 
was even flogged for developing asthma attacks! 

In such an atmosphere the heir to the throne fretted petu- 
lantly, and early turned Cowards those glittering consolers who 
are always .waiting for a prince to grow up. The Duchess of 
Devonshire recorded in 1782: 

c As he only went out in secret, or with the King and 
Queen, he form'd very few connections with any other 
woman than women of the town. He rode constantly in the 
Park of a morning, where from the ladies in their carriages 
and on horseback he was considerably ogled. He appear'd 
sometimes at the opera and the play where the same manege 
continued from the boxes, and where much speculation 
occasioned by the bent of his R.H.'s lorgnette' 

28 



Within three years of ignominous whippings in front of his 
sisters, the Prince of Wales was slinking out at night to meet 
girls in the bushes around Kew Palace. The first scandal concern- 
ing one of his mother's pretty Maids of Honour, Harriet Vernon, 
has been handed to us by Huish, George's 1831 biographer, in 
language impossible to emulate. 

'On entering on that part of the life of the Prince of Wales, 
when the passions were first excited, and he may be said to 
have entered the vestibule of the Temple of Venus, we are 
fully aware that we are treading on most delicate ground, and 
that the task is one of difficulty to view from the actual truth, 
and on the other, not to overstep the bounds prescribed by 
modesty and decorum. . . / 

On the night when the Prince, disguised in Lord Maiden's 
great coat, first met Harriet, the Duke of York hurried out with 
the information that the King requested him for a game of chess, 
'never perhaps did the Prince of Wales regret his knowledge of 
* the game as at this moment; one second more, and as sweet a rose- 
bud as ever bloomed on its parent stem would have lain defoli- 
aged at his feet; but the barrier had been broken down, although 
the citadel was not yet gained'. The citadel was topply, however, 
and soon poor Harriet had sacrificed to him e all that was most dear 
to her on earth'. When 'he had enjoyed the kernel the shell was 
not worth the keeping'. 

The biographer then 'throws a veil'; but he hands us an 
interview between the Queen and her unsuspecting son on the 
following day that rings very true. Her Majesty started a lengthy 
discussion on the monotony of the life of a Maid of Honour. 'I 
don't know/ murmured the Prince, 'she goes to plays, concerts, 
etc., gratis; she has physicians without fees.' The Queen snapped, 
'But you forgot to add that she also flirts with young Princes and 
goes to meet them by moonlight; and is that also gratis? 

The Prince was completely dumbfounded. 'His Majesty 
requires your presence in the library/ said the Queen. The Prince 
took the hint and retired. 

Needless to add that after a few such hints the Prince of Wales 
grew anxious for an establishment of his own. 

29 



'With every fresh amour his appetite appeared to be sharpened 
like the bee he roamed from flower to flower, sipped the honey 
but never visited that flower again,' sighs the eighteen-thirtyish 
Mr. Huish. But the seventeen-hundreds took debauchery lightly. 
A contemporary exclaims, 'By what analogy was it to be 
expected that the generous blood of the heir-apparent was to be 
ice-bound, while that of every noble youth in the kingdom might 
run riot and flow without reproach/ 

Mr. Huish concedes that 'a great number of the bloom- 
ing women, who by their beauty adorned the court of his 
mother, required little or no persuasion to concede to his 
wishes'. 

The Prince was spoiled on the one hand, scolded on the other. 
He maddened his father and enchanted his mistresses. His tutor, 
Archbishop Hurd, when asked for an opinion on the fifteen-year- 
old boy, had replied: *I can hardly tell. He will be either the most 
polished gentleman or the most accomplished blackguard in 
Europe. Possibly both.' Although carefully training himself for 
this double role the Prince kept his amours as quiet as possible. 
According to Mr. Huish, even if the Prince had been 'sipping the 
sweets from many an opening flower yet it was only some of the 
air spirits who hovered about the dark recesses of the gardens of 
Kew, or inhabited the sylvan haunts of Richmond's groves, who 
could tell of how the lovely rosebuds fell defoliaged, to wither 
and die neglected'. 

The Prince of Wales was eighteen when he abandoned the 
hedges for the footlights and conducted his celebrated love affair 
with the actress Mrs. Robinson. All England watched the 
romance of Florizel and Perdita. Beautiful Mrs. Robinson 
described ardently 'the irresistible sweetness of his smile, the 
tenderness of his melodious yet manly voice, the polish and 
fascinating ingeniousness of his manners*. But a stern German 
monarch demands other traits from an eldest son. 'Irresistible 
sweetness and fascinating ingeniousness' cut no ice with King 
George m. 

His Majesty grew puzzled and angry when .he saw the results 
of that careful education he had personally superintended. 
Instead of showing a noble docility his two elder sons were 
already in league against him. They both drank, they both 

30 



wenched, they both deceived him. Never, in fact, were there 
worse advertisements for the system he had devised of intensive 
study, merciless beatings and dull wholesome recreation. 

Poor George III; he meant well and on the whole did so badly. 
He lost the American colonies and reared a brood of sons guaran- 
teed to plague him and scandalize the nation. Now, just because 
His Majesty favoured the Tories, his heir clung to the Whigs, and 
the King's most hated personal enemy brilliant Charles James 
Fox became the Prince of Wales's dearest friend. 

Fox, fearless instigator of the new concept that Kings should 
reign but not actually rule, knew how to enrage the father while 
delighting the son. He could twist the Prince round his little 
finger, make him laugh, open his mind, teach him to think 
liberally and live licentiously in the same lesson. 

Roistering, high-gambling, hard-drinking sporting Whigs 
made great playmates for an. over-spanked Prince. Gambling and 
drinking proved as amusing as seducing maids of honour. Fox 
knew just how to play his cards. He successfully set his own 
mistress, Mrs. Armistead, to lure the Prince away from Mrs. 
Robinson. At twenty His Royal Highness was securely pinioned; 
physically by Fox's mistress and mentally by Fox's wit. 

When the Prince came of age in August 1783, good friend 
Fox, intent on embarrassing the old Kong to the utmost, pleaded 
that George HI should give his heir 100,000 a year from 
the Civil List. The King accused his Ministers of being ready 
e to sacrifice the public interests to the wishes of an ill-advised 
young man'. The Ministers threatened to resign. Eventually His 
Majesty granted an allowance of 50,000 out of the Civil List, and 
Parliament granted 30,000 to pay off the Prince's debts and a 
like sum for a separate establishment. 

Luckily the Prince possessed taste to equal his extravagance. 
The improvement of Carlton House, that lovely little private 
palace, gave him much joy, but he could not resist the meaner 
pleasure of further enraging his father by deliberately making an 
intimate friend of his uncle, the Duke of Cumberland. George 
in had in the past been deeply injured when his two brothers 
defied him by marrying commoners. The Duke of Gloucester and 
the Duke of Cumberland both chose beautiful widows of ordinary 
blood. To prevent recurrence of such happenings the incensed 



had induced the Tories in 1772 to pass the Royal Marriage 
Act, making it a felony for members of the royal house to marry 
under the age of twenty-five without the King's consent. 

One evening soon after he came of age the Prince of Wales, 
sunk in vinous gloom at the end of a long dinner party, turned to 
the Master of the Rolls and asked what he should do if forced to 
marry *some ugly frau'. Taith, Sir/ answered Rigby, C I am not 
yet drunk enough to give advice to the Prince of Wales about 
marrying/ 

Evidently the matter preyed on the young Prince's mind. He 
dreaded marriage. Although fond of his own mother who that 
very summer was producing her fifteenth child he could not 
bear to envisage settling down with a person like her. On the 
contrary, the Prince admired elegance above all else in women. 
It was the enchanting Duchess of Devonshire, never his mistress 
but his best friend, who had taught him to appreciate art and wit 
and the fleeter joys of life. Georgina, with her red hair and wide 
mouth and curiously tantalizing smile, was a great lady as well 
as a great stimulant. She made German royalty seem slightly 
common as well as appallingly dull. She knew how to live and 
how to gamble. Devonshire House was the Whigs' base and 
there she enjoyed pulling strings in the political element. The 
Prince had cheered her enterprise in canvassing for Charles James 
Fox that spring. She had even purchased one vote with a kiss 
fearlessly bestowed on a sulky butcher. 

Meanwhile His Royal Highness fought the election as no 
member of the royal family ever had before. He turned Carlton 
House into a committee room for the Whigs. Although they 
sustained a major defeat, Fox won his hotly contested West- 
minster seat and was then carried in procession to the Prince of 
Wales's establishment. That night the Prince, clad in blue and 
buff, the Whig colours, attended a supper party given by the 
great Whig hostess Mrs. Crewe. When the Prince gave the toast 
'True blue and Mrs. Crewe,' the lady nimbly answered, 'True 
blue and all of you.' 

Their Majesties disliked the glittering volatile Duchess of 
Devonshire but they dared not show it. When Georgina attended 
their dull drawing-rooms the King and Queen had to remain 
polite while she, the cynosure of all eyes, filled the dark palace 

32 



rooms with 'the graces of her deportment, her irresistible 
manners and the seduction of her society. . . .' 

The young Prince called her 'the best-bred woman in England', 
and avidly consulted her on all matters of taste from Carlton 
House furniture to the reviving of masquerades. At Devonshire 
House the headiest talk of a brilliant century shot across 
Georgina's dinner-table and the young Prince laughed and 
relaxed and knew ease of spirit among her friends. 

When King George finally appealed to his Lord Chancellor 
for advice on how to break the Heir's friendship with Fox, now 
aged thirty-four, the best brain and wittiest companion in 
Europe, the realist reply came, c Sir, you will never have peace 
until you clap 'em both into the Tower.' 

Such was the scene when Mrs. Fitzherbert ventured into 
London society. 

It was fashionable to be in love with the handsome Prince. 
He was tall, healthy and active, a graceful horseman and a good 
shot. Half the ladies of London professed a weakness for him and 
he responded only too arduously. His new infatuation with a 
lady of high virtue naturally became a leading topic of conversa- 
tion. Within a week of the meeting His Royal Highness was send- 
ing daily, almost hourly, invitations and intercessions. It was hope- 
less for Maria Fitzherbert to stay in her c cap and bonnet'. She must 
either step into the limelight or fly the country. She sighed at the 
complications. One night at the Opera had resulted in an emotional 
eruption which looked as if it must end her venture into society. 

To entertain her the Prince, who was among the best dancers 
in England and had a 'well-shaped leg', devised a series of 
festivities at Carlton House which she accepted, but she parried 
all efforts to make her conspicuous. He gave a supper and planned 
to lead her down on his arm; she saw him advancing and hastily 
took the arm of Lord Chesterfield. 

'The Prince then determined on giving a Ball at which 
she was to be the Queen but she declined going to it 
and the Prince was so annoyed at this determination that, 
when he found out that she did not intend to be present, he 
called his carriage and drove to Park Street in search of her. 
She did not let him in being gone to bed.' 

33 



The pace proved unbearable. As soon as she went home he 
would be hammering at her door. The servants, delighted at first, 
became bewildered and then frightened. 

From the evening on which the Prince of Wales secured that 
introduction on the Opera steps, Maria Fitsherbert knew no 
peace. If she attended any function His Royal Highness followed 
like a shadow, forcing opportunities to speak to her, creating 
jealous interest and arid comment in the small world of London 
society. He sent word to the Whig hostesses that he would not 
attend any function unless Mrs. Fitzherbert sat with him. They 
grimaced but complied. Soon she did not know what to say to her 
own retainers when the Prince besieged her house in Park Street 
babbling of a love "celestial and eternal'. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert herself described these weeks: 'The Prince 
exerted himself to his utmost to please her, and his utmost was 
very good indeed.' But by July she had become alarmed. She had 
let him know that there never could be question of her becoming 
his mistress so to what then could this fren2y lead? The Prince 
then shouted from the housetops he wanted to marry her. So 
violent were these protestations that she felt it imperative to 
break off the friendship to save her sanity as well as his. 

Of course she was flattered as well as embarrassed. She liked 
him. Indeed she did. Despite the dangers which she sensed when 
he swore to abjure his crown, Maria Fitzherbert wished she could 
make him happy. 

The twenty-one-year-old Prince was physically attractive, 
overflowing with vitality and charm. And he played every card he 
knew, his loneliness, his misunderstoodness, his piteous royal 
plight, his moral reformation. Few women can resist the intoxi- 
cation of reforming a rather delightful rake, and in truth the 
Prince now wished neither to drink or seduce. All he desired, all 
he talked of, was tranquillity with this one dangerously virtuous 
woman. 

With Maria at his side the Prince believed he could turn into a 
different person. Her natural tenderness, the absolute sweetness of 
her look were balm to all the buffetings he had received in child- 
hood. He hungered, he thirsted, he cried to heaven, he was the 
most infernal bore. Soon the friends who had encouraged him to 
debauchery found their shoulders wet with tears. They did not 

34 



like the situation. Only too eager to arrange liaisons for the 
Prince, none of them wished to be. involved in felony over a 
marriage. 

The Duchess of Devonshire returned anxiously from Bath 

* upon coming to town many circumstances had thrown me 

into an unfortunate intimacy with him and he would not rest till 
he told me his passion for Mrs. F. and his design to marry her; 
any remonstrance from me was always followed by threats of kill- 
ing himself.' 

The Duchess eventually agreed to see Mrs. Fitzherbert in her 
own house; 'she agreed with me in the impossibility of his ideas; 
and her good sense and resolution seemed to strong that I own I 
felt secure of her never giving way. . . .* 

The climax occurred on the night of July 8th, 1784. Mrs. 
Fitzherbert was preparing for bed when the surgeon, Keate, 
Lord Onslow, Lord Southampton and Mr. Edward Bouverie 
arrived at her house e in the utmost consternation' to tell her that 
the Prince had attempted suicide and was in mortal danger. He 
had stabbed himself with his sword in the breast and was tearing 
off his bandages. c Only her immediate presence would save him.' 

Mistrusting this story she stated in the most peremptory 
manner e that nothing should induce her to enter Carlton House 
at this hour'. 

The distraught faces of the supplicants finally reduced her 
guard and she agreed to go to the Prince on condition that some 
lady of high character accompanied her. Both parties agreed to 
ask the Duchess of Devonshire who could be trusted for both 
brains and integrity. Mrs. Fitzherbert's servants wrapped her in a 
long cloak and called her coach. The party then drove through 
the dark streets to Devonshire House and Maria waited nervously 
while the men went inside to find the Duchess who left a band of 
guests c supping and playing'. She listened breathlessly to the 
story. According to her own account (written January 1797, and 
now at Chatsworth) Georgina was informed by the four men: 

c with frighten'd countenances that the Prince had stab'd him- 
self with his sword; that nothing could be of any use but her 
going to him, that she was waiting without and would and 
indeed cd not go unless I wd accompany her; having no- 

35 



body to consult I consented & traversed the Court where 
found her in her Chariot, and we went to Carlton house whej 
we found the prince in bed, his wound still bleeding. K 
extorted from her some promise of marriage & we left hin 
we found Ld Southampton very much frightened, and wh 
declar'd his intention of going to the King. Mrs. F. own'd t 
me her having given this extorted consent which she looke 
upon as nul, and in consequence we drew up & signed th 
inclos'd paper, and she went abroad immediately/ 

Terrified, Maria Fitzherbert permitted the Prince to slip 
borrowed ring on her finger. 

The Duchess supported her as they left the room an 
together the ladies departed from the Prince's ground floor apan 
ment and drove back to Devonshire House where they signed 
statement ending 'promises obtained in such a manner are entirel 
void. G. Devonshire, M. Fitzherbert.' 

Confident that he must have created a very pretty effect th 
Prince ceased to daw to his bloodstained bandages and slep 
happily through what remained of the night. Meanwhile Mrs 
Fitzherbert returned to her little home in Park Street and calle< 
up the wondering servants. Now there was only one thing fo 
her to do. Tremblingly Maria gave orders to pack her clothes 
and spread no word she had gone abroad. Trunks were hastil 1 
filled and new horses got ready. 

Soon after dawn she was rattling out of London on her 
to the coast. 



Three 



WHEN the Prince learnt that his lady had fled England 
he threw the pillows and bedclothes about. But within 
five days he had sufficiently recovered to send a servant 
to Brighton to rent a house where he could retire to restore his 
health and devise new stratagems. 

The sea air proved anything but settling. As the blunt facts 
seeped into the Prince's consciousness he felt mounting fury and 
self-pity. His histrionics in Carlton House had not obtained the 
desired result. His beloved had flown into exile, and now it was 
impossible for him to continue the pursuit, for without the 
King's permission the Heir might not leave England. According 
to Lord Holland c he did not conceal his passion or his despair at 
her leaving England for the Continent'. 

By July iyth the Prince had recovered sufficiently to hold a 
pen for the time it takes to write an eighteen-page letter threaten- 
ing to end his life in earnest and sending bracelets not as a lover 
to his mistress, but such as a husband has a right to send and a 
right to expect his wife to receive. 'You know I never presumed 
to make you any offer with a view of purchasing your Virtue. I 
know you too well,' scribbled His Royal Highness. Then tact- 
fully he assured her he had long broken with Lady M. (the fas- 
cinating Lady Melbourne, mother of the future Prime Minister) . He 
signed this epistle as 'not only the most affectionate of Lovers but 
the tenderest of Husbands'. 

Accompanied by Lady Anne Barnard an active friend of the 
Prince who conveniently kept him posted with news Mrs. 
Fitfcherbert was taking a rest in Paris. Letter after letter reached 
her by special courier. The messengers were followed and bribed 

37 



but the French officials, who at first thought Mrs. Fitzherbert 
must be an English spy, soon realized what was happening, and 
the Duke of Orleans, briefed by the Prince and naturally amused, 
insisted that her correspondence must be treated with respect. 

In London the faithful Fitzherbert retainers certainly held 
their peace for on July zyth, 1784, over a month after she had 
fled, the Morning Herald wrote with innocent inaccuracy: 

*A new Constellation has lately made an appearance in the 
fashionable hemisphere, that engages the attention of those hearts 
which are susceptible to the power of beauty. Thewidowof the 
late Mr. Fitzherbert has in her train half our young Nobility; 
as the lady has not, as yet, discovered a partiality for any of 
her admirers, they are all animated with hopes of success/ 

On the contrary, the first admirer she had met now writhed in 
the depth of despak. For ten long weeks he remained at Brighton 
splashing in the sea, planning, scribbling, expostulating. In 
August King George, aloof at Windsor, tried to insult his son by 
ignoring his twenty-second birthday. The slight passed unnoticed 
by a prince otherwise obsessed. But there were no more fetes at 
Carlton House, no plans for masquerades or gaming parties, in 
fact no fun for anyone. Would that death could take him, he 
wailed to his friends, and the aristocratic, riotous-living radical- 
minded Whig party with which he had allied himself shook with 
dismay. Their princely champion might be the end of them. 

Charles James Fox, who had so amusingly taught the Heir 
Apparent advanced political opinions as well as the joys of 
gambling beyond one's means, suffered acutely. Fox had now 
married his clever mistress, Mrs. Armistead, and this couple were 
the Prince's most intimate friends. According to Lord Holland: 

'Mrs. Fox, who was living at St. Annes, has repeatedly 
assured me that he came down thither more than once to con- 
verse with her and Mr. Fox on the subject, that he cried by 
the hour, that he testified to the sincerity and violence of his 
passion and his despak by the most extravagant expression 
and actions, rolling on the floor, striking his forehead, tearing 
his hak, falling into hysterics, and swearing that he would 
abandon the country, forfeit the crown, sell his jewels and 

3* 



plate, and scrape together a competence to fly with the object 
of his affections to America/ 

The faces of sycophantic courtiers now fell when the Prince's 
carriage drew up for a visit. China would get broken and the best 
rugs torn. Besides they were frightened of the King. 

Meanwhile the cause of all this emotion went sightseeing in 
Aix-la-Chapelle. Rather than brood over the mess into which she 
had fallen Mrs. Fitzherbert decided to enjoy Europe. If the Prince 
did not see her for a few months he would find a new passion. 
Innocently she thought it would then be possible to resume a 
pleasant life in England. Mrs. Fitzherbert carried letters of intro- 
duction to the Court of Orange where no one knew of her drama, 
and so, despite the fact that civil war appeared imminent, she 
travelled to The Hague. 

Tn Holland she met with the greatest civilities from the 
Stadtholder and his family and lived upon terms of intimacy 
with them, and was received into die friendship of the 
Princess of Orange, who, at that very time, was the object of 
negotiation with the Royal Family of England for the Heir 
Apparent. Frequent inquiries were made about the Prince and 
the English Court in confidential communication between her 
and the Princess, it being wholly unknown to the Princess that 
she was her most dangerous rival/ 1 

Mrs. Fitzherbert, amused and embarrassed, found herself the 
recipient of questions on what sort of a husband the Prince of 
Wales would make. Protesting she knew little of the Court life, 
she replied he should make a very handsome husband indeed. 
The young Princess of Orange beamed at this news and so started 
a friendship which was to last through many strange vicissitudes. 

As her written statement had attested, Maria attached no 
importance to that promise extracted under duress in the middle 
of the night amidst surgeons and bloodstains. 

Now with annoyance she read a letter from the Duchess of 
Devonshire. The Prince had begged Georgina to persuade his 
beloved to return to England. Mrs. Fitzherbert replied thus: 

1 Dictated to Lord Stourton by Mrs. Fitzherbert. 

39 



'My dear Madam, 

You may much more easily conceive than my penis capable 
of expressing the very unpleasant and cruel situation I feel 
myself in at this moment, I am a good deal surpris'd at your 
desiring me to finish this affair one way or the other, you 
cannot be ignorant, my dear Duchess that from the first 
moment it was proposed my sentiments have never varied. 
Does not the same reasons now subsist and must they not 
always be the same? I should think I us'd him very ill had I 
ever endeavoured to deceive him. I have always spoke and 
acted very openly with him, but still more strongly in my last 
than I ever did before and I believe that no one can say but 
that my reasons are just and painted in their true colors that 
I have neither exaggerated or diminished anything. In regard 
to my coming to England I must beg leave to differ with you 
in opinion as I cannot see the least good effect it could 
possibly have. I am perfectly well acquainted with every 
circumstance and why should I appear to give in to measures 
I can never consent to. Whatever Mr. F[ox] or his friends say 
to him they know in their own breasts they cannot approve of 
and I am confident there is not one of them that will take it 
upon themselves to say it is a legal proceeding. They may 
wish to please him and to appear to forward his views which 
they know can never essentially hurt him, at least that can 
never bind him to anything. I don't speak with any want of 
regard or respect of his friends, but they are certainly not my 
friends. It is very natural for them to say such and such are the 
proposals it is not our affair etc. she is of an age to take care of 

herself. I must write a line to the and as I do not wish to 

detain your servant I must beg leave to conclude once more 
imploring your interest with him as no one is so likely to 
succeed as y'self. I remain, Dr Madam, truly and sincerely 
your very affectionate & obliged humble servant. 

M. Fitzherbert.' 

Evidently Fox was hinting at some kind of marriage which 
would calm the Prince but not be a legal proceeding. Maria had 
no intention of being lassooed. 

Having enjoyed the hospitality of the Stadtholder and done 

40 



her utmost to encourage the Princess to marry the Heir of 
England, Mrs. Fitzherbert left Holland in the Royal Barge and 
spent a year travelling through the most picturesque towns of 
Europe. In her own words she was endeavouring to 'fight off a 
situation which threatened to ruin my peace and happiness'. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert loved the sun, the mountains, the old 
churches and villages. Not daring to confide in letters or diaries 
she amused herself with a Commonplace Book which has sur- 
vived. Among the phrases she wrote out were: 

'Advice is like a jest which every fool is offering another 
and yet won't take himself/ 

'No Law is made for Love, 

Love is not in our choice but in our Fate/ 

'What's Royalty but power to please oneself? 
How wretchedly he rules 
That's served by cowards and advised by fools/ 

While she wandered through the Alps stopping in inns or 
renting houses the winter passed into spring, but there was no 
abatement in the frenzied messages from England. Her discreet 
behaviour merely whetted the Prince's appetite. 

'Courier after courier passed through France carrying the 
letters of the Prince to her in France and Switzerland. The 
Duke of Orleans was medium of this correspondence. The 
speed of the couriers exciting the suspicion of the French 
Government, three of them were at different times put into 
prison. They were of course suspected of being concerned in 
some political plot with the English Lady. But the Duke of 
Orleans extricated them from these difficulties.' 

The King's brother, the Duke of Gloucester, who had married 
Lady Waldegrave, was travelling on the continent and with his 
wife called on Mrs. Fitzherbert. After this meeting he wrote to 
his nephew the Prince: 6 I am rejoiced at having had it in my 
power to show her any attention, especially Sir, as it has met with 
your approbation.' 



As Mrs. Fitzherbert entertained the Duke and Duchess of 
Gloucester she probably looked at the older woman, once known 
as England's greatest beauty, and recalled her famous statement 
to the infatuated Prince that although too inconsiderable a 
person to become his wife she was too considerable to become his 
mistress. The widowed Lady Waldegrave had, in fact, been born 
illegitimate, but grandly so. Her mother, a beautiful milliner, 
had never married Sir Edward Walpole only because his 
father the Prime Minister forbade it. Five exquisite Walpole 
bastards were brought up like little aristocrats and all the girls 
married well. In fact this one had married rather too well for 
comfort, first a rich earl and then a royal duke. Mrs. Fitzherbert 
knew that the Duchess suffered acutely because the King refused 
to receive her at Court, but nevertheless she was firmly placed in 
legal wedlock and her children were royal. Her romance had 
certainly ended safely, but the Royal Marriage Act of 1772 had 
not then turned such insubordination into felony. Gloucester was 
not Heir to the Throne and the Dowager Lady Waldegrave had 
not been a Roman Catholic. 

The Gloucesters might treat Mrs. Fitzherbert with sympathy 
but they could hardly offer advice. They had sailed in less 
difficult waters. They could but 'show attention' and soothe and 
dither. 

During the spring Mrs. Fitzherbert tried long carriage drives 
through Lorraine, but she could not shake off the truth. She had 
to face facts. The Prince was not becoming more reasonable; he 
was getting worse. Although his friends were terrified at his talk 
of marriage they also grew very much afraid he might, in hysteria, 
harm himself. Everyone in England, who knew about the affair, 
wanted Maria to become his mistress. And this she simply could 
not do. Perhaps she might have subdued her conventional belief 
in the importance of womanly virtue; society never raised an 
eyebrow at royal liaisons. But to submit to the Prince meant 
deliberately disobeying her religion and this Maria Fitzherbert 
could not bring herself to do. Indeed, she would not have been 
the first King's mistress who bowed to the altar, but her particular 
clear-cut English character could not have accepted the compro- 
mise. Either she belonged to a man by the laws of her Church or 
she did not belong at all. 

42 



Ruefully the Whig Party realized the impossibility of inveigl- 
ing her into the position of royal mistress, but certainly great 
pressure was used. Emissaries hinted that* she must hold herself 
responsible if the Prince did mischief to himself, and at length she 
was induced to send a written promise 'that she would never 
marry any other person*. 

This promise calmed the Prince for a time, but during April 
1785 he again wound himself into a delirium. The King now 
knew. He and Pitt, the new Prime Minister, conferred in secret 
over the Prince's determination to marry an English lady abroad. 
1 forget her name/ fumed King George, but he would not be 
allowed to forget it in the future. 

The Queen still maintained an affectionate correspondence 
with her recalcitrant son but she could not improve his relation- 
ship with a father who taunted him about Mrs. Fitzherbert. The 
angry King dared George to leave England without royal per- 
mission. When the Prince, with effrontery superb or pathetic, 
suggested he might lessen heavy debts by 'travelling on the 
continent', His Majesty slyly seized the opportunity of asking 
him for a full statement of the debts hinting, but not promising, 
that they might be liquidated. His son saw that England had 
become a cage. Wildly he battered at the bars. 

It was April zyth when the Prince of Wales sent for Sir James 
Harris, Minister at The Hague, and asked if it were possible for 
him to go there e in a private character'. 

Harris replied uncomfortably: 

e l should be very sorry, Sir, to see you in Holland other- 
wise than in a character which would allow me to receive you 
in a manner conformable with the respect and affection I bear 
your Royal Highness; but your coming abroad without your 
having obtained the King's consent implies that you will come 
after it has been refused you, and, you may rest assured, in 
that case I shall receive orders how to act towards you before 
your arrival; and those orders, let them be ever so much in 
contradiction to my feelings, I must obey.' 

In The Diaries and Correspondence of James Harris, First Earl of 
Malmesbury this long, unsatisfactory conversation is recorded: 

43 



'Prince: But what am I to do? Am I to be refused the right 
of every individual? Cannot I travel legally, as a private man, 
without the King's consent? 9 

Harris: I think it very immaterial for Your Royal Highness 
to know whether you can or cannot travel legally without His 
Majesty's consent; since it is evident that you cannot with 
any propriety to the public, or satisfaction to yourself, cross 
the seas without it. 

Prince: Why not: I wish to travel on a plan of economy; to 
be unknown; to live in retirement. 

Harris: Without entering into the almost impossibility of 
Your Royal Highness making so rapid a transition in your 
ways of life, I confess I see no event would give me so much 
pain, as an Englishman, as to see a Prince of Wales abroad 
under such a description. . . . 

Prince: I feel what you say; but what can I do? The King 
proposed to me to lay by 10,000 a year to pay my debts 
when with the strictest economy, my expenses are twice my 
income. I am ruined if I stay in England. I disgrace myself as 
a man. 

Harris: Your Royal Highness, give me leave to say, will 
find no relief in travelling the way you propose. You will be 
either slighted, or, what is worse, become the object of 
political intrigue in every coast you pass through. . . . 

Prince: But if I avoid all great courts? If I keep to the 
smaller ones of Germany, can this happen? I may live, 
unnoticed and unknown. 

Harris: Impossible, Sir. The title of the Earl of Chester 
will be only a mask which covers the Prince of Wales, and, as 
such, your actions will ever be judged. . . . 

Prince: But what can I do, my dear Harris? The King hates 
me. He wants to set me at variance with my brother. I have no 
hope from him. He won't let even Parliament assist me till I 
marry. 

Harris: But there exists so cordial an affection between 
Your Royal Highness and the Duke of York, that I should 
think he might be employed most usefully to reconcile the 
King to Your Royal Highness. It cannot be a difficult task 
when undertaken by a brother. 

44 



Prince: If he thought it possible, he would come over 
immediately. He has often expressed his concern at our dis- 
union, and declares he will leave the continent till he can see a 
prospect of bringing the King to enter into my situation. 

Harris: Surely, Sir, the King could not object to any 
increase of income thought proper to allow Your Royal 
Highness? 

Prince: I believe he would. He hates me; he always did, from 
seven years old. 9 

Harris, a wily diplomat, coolly smashed the Prince's pipe- 
dream, but he did try to persuade the angry King to settle a few 
debts. No pleadings, however, could over-ride the 'cross currents 
of personal hatred and political intrigue'. The King resented his 
eldest son, and Prime Minister Pitt refused to help the Prince of 
Wales in any way unless he would first break with Fox and the 
Opposition. Perhaps, with reason, Pitt feared that if aided the 
Prince might spend money on undermining the Tory Party. 

The outlook seemed gloomy enough but before a month 
elapsed a curious change overcame the Prince. When Harris saw 
him again on May 23rd, the Prince greeted him lightheartedly: 
'If you are come, my dear Harris, to dissuade me from travelling, 
let me anticipate your kind intentions by telling you I have 
dismissed that idea from my mind. I see all my other friends, as 
well as yourself, are against it, and I subscribe to their opinion.' 

What in heaven's name had come over him now? While full 
of misgiving at this change of face, Sir James tactfully proceeded 
to propound plans to ease the financial dilemma. 

C I thank you, but it will not do. I tell you the King hates me. 
He would turn out Pitt for entertaining such an idea; besides, I 
cannot abandon Charles Fox and my friends.' 

Harris replied that Fox and the Duke of Portland had often 
told him it was a mistake for His Royal Highness to plunge into 
party problems on their account. 'They have repeatedly declared 
that a Prince of Wales ought to be of no party.' 

The Prince continued to harp bitterly on his father's harshness, 
and then suddenly produced from his escritoire a bundle of letters 
which Harris had to admit were Void of every expression of 
parental kindness or affection'. 

45 



The diplomat ventured a final word: 'May I suggest, Sir, the 
idea of your marrying? It would, I think, be most agreeable to 
the King, and, I am certain, most grateful to the nation.' 

The Prince then truly exploded. C I never will marry. My 
resolution is taken on that subject. I have settled it with Frederick. 
No. I never will marry/ 

'Give me leave to say, Sir, most respectfully, that you cannot 
have really come to such a resolution; and you must marry, Sir. 
You owe it to the country, to the King; to yourself/ 

'I owe nothing to the King. Frederick will marry, and the 
crown will descend to his children; and as for myself, I do not 
see how it affects me.* 

"Till you are married, Sir, and have children, you have no 
solid hold on the affections of the people, even while you are 
Prince of Wales, but if you come to the throne a bachelor, and 
His Royal Highness the Duke of York is married and has sons to 
succeed you, your situation, when King, will be more painful 
than it is at this moment. . . .' 

Sir James was puzzled at the time by the Prince's vehemence. 
He could not know that Mrs. Fitzherbert (who, the Prince's spies 
informed him, had been plagued of late by marriage proposals 
from a handsome scoundrel, the Marquis de Bellois) had at last 
written to say she might come home. 

All these months the Prince had been seeking consolation 
and advice from the highly embarrassed Smythe family. Maria's 
invalid father threw heart attacks at each royal visit. Her 
brothers, tough youths in their way, were shocked and avoided 
the tearful Prince, especially Wat Smythe, who deplored the whole 
entanglement. But His Royal Highness chased after them, 
determined to plead his case. Most frequently he appealed to 
Maria's uncle, the sedate, evasive Mr. Henry Errington, that well- 
bred Catholic gentleman who had, unwitting of all the trouble to 
follow, introduced his dear niece on the Opera steps. Mr. 
Errington could not stand the Prince's tearful outbursts and kept 
retreating to the country. On June zist, 1785, His Royal High- 
ness wrote to him: 

C I yesterday sent a note to your home requesting you 
would have the goodness to call upon me for a few moments at 



Carlton House. But your servants sent me word that you were 
out of Town and that it was not known when you were 
expected again in Town but certainly not for a week or ten 
days to come. The object of the conversation I wish to have 
with you was this to request you would carry a message from 
me to Mrs. Fitzherbert which is just to mention to her, that 
as it cannot be less painful and awkward to her than is, I 
confess to you the footing we are upon in the world and as no 
one can feel more for her than I, I dare to hope she will not be 
surprised or offended with me, if when we meet I bow to 
her and shake hands with her which will put an end to the 
difficulty we have both of us so long felt at meeting at a third 
house . . . etc. I will not trespass longer upon you except to 
say that I hope to see you when you return to Town and am at 
all times, dear Errington, very sincerely yours, 

G.P.' 

The Prince took pleasure in deliberately informing Mrs. 
Fitzherbert's mother as well as her uncle that he intended to 
marry her, that in fact he regarded it as a fait accompli. In the 
month of October, after a new outburst of threats to commit 
suicide, Maria sent a message saying she might consent to matri- 
mony. What had changed her mind? The Prince's violence of 
feeling? The boredom of exile? The flattery of being chased by the 
manwhomall the ladies of London were most bent on chasing? Or 
something more subtle? Had Maria Fitzherbert, who had only 
known two elderly husbands, gradually fallen in love? 

Naturally her mention of a secret but true marriage sent the 
Prince into transports of delight. He had now only to arrange 
where the ceremony should take place. 

For eighteen months Mrs. Fitzherbert had been incessantly 
bombarded. The Prince's most faithful courtier Hunter was for 
ever turning up with some long dramatic missive. Only one of 
these survives, but one is enough. Forty-two pages long, it reveals 
how many quills the Prince could wear out in a single effusion, 
and the handwriting grows tremulous at each point where 
emotion overcame him. 

After Maria received this she knew she was trapped, and if she 
loved him perhaps it was joy rather than fear that filled her heart. 

47 



Four 



*I hardly know, my dearest and only beloved Maria, how I am 
to begin this letter to you. Such a train of extraordinary and 
wonderful events have happened lately, which at first created 
the greatest apprehensions and alarms in my bosom, and since 
have tended to the facilitating and entire arrangement of our 
plan, so that nothing now is wanting but the arrival of my 
adored Wife in this Country to make me the happiest of Men, 
that I can hardly persuade myself that I have not been in a 
dream for these ten days past. . . .' 

So BEGAN the Prince's letter to Mrs. Fitzherbert and forty- 
two pages later it ended: 

' 1 shall not add another syllable, but leave the decision 

of this affair to what you may think my merits are respecting 
you, to the sincerity of my attachment, and to my not having a 
wish nor a desire in life that does not centre in you, in short I 
trust the whole of your generosity. Come then, oh come, 
dearest of Wives, best and most sacred of women, come and 
for ever crown with bliss, him who will through Life 
endeavour to convince you by his love and attention of his 
wishes to be the best of husbands and who will ever remain 
unto the latest moments of his existence 

unalterably Thine 
November 3d 1785' 

Within six weeks of receiving this letter which swore that 
only the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland and perhaps the 



Devonshires would be present at what the Prince called *oi 
happy though secret union' Mrs. Fitzherbert returned to Englar 
to face her destiny. The Prince had eagerly anticipated the 
meeting: 

'I then shall either meet you in a Hackney Chaise t 
myself between Rochester and London, or wait till I hear c 
your arrival in Park Street, to which place I shall fly upon th 
Wings of Love the moment I know you are come. I think 
had better come into the House the backway through th 
stables and the Garden, you know the way I mean. Howeve 
you shall not be arrived ten Minutes before I am with you. 
will not trust even to your sending. Whichever of these tw< 
plans you approve of most either of meeting you on the Road 
or waiting till you are arrived, I will follow, as I must see yoi 
the moment you arrive, in order to settle where you choose t< 
be married, as we must be married the night you come, befor< 
anything is known of your being in England. . . .' 

We shall never know which meeting-place she bade him prepar< 
for. 

Having asked his amenable brother, Frederick of York, tc 
make things easy by marrying one of those ugly Germar 
princesses necessary to Hanoverian succession, the Prince now 
trembled with excitement over the difficulties of arranging the 
forbidden ceremony for himself. The first chaplain applied to 
refused, c he dare not betray the duty he owes to the Prince by 
assisting in an affair which might bring such serious consequences 
to him'. The Prince then sent for Parson Johnes Knight, who 
arrived at Carlton House without knowing why he had been 
summoned. The Prince 

"began by apologizing for bringing him from Bushey Park, 
and then in his own persuasive language detailed his long love 
for Mrs. Fitzherbert, the misery he had endured, the taunts he 
had received from the King in consequence of its having been 
suspected that he had in the preceding Summer gone from 
Brighton to the French Coast to visit her, and he then drew 

49 



up his shirt and shewed a scar on his side caused as he, the 
Prince, said by his falling on his sword that he might end his 
life with his hopeless love the Prince then spoke of his 
determination to repeal the Royal Marriage Act the instant 
he came to the Throne etc/ 

The Rev. Knight feared that if he 'refused the Prince might 
bribe some clergyman who would later betray all to the Tory 
Prime Minister Pitt. Also, as Mr. Knight candidly states, 'his tact 
was so nice that he never failed in the most minute circumstance 
which he supposed might captivate those whom he for the 
present hour chose to associate*. The unhappy chaplain acquiesced 
reluctantly. 

Hardly had he walked home, however, than Knight remem- 
bered a previous conversation with his friend Lord Luke, in 
which that gentleman had mentioned the Prince's desire to marry 
a commoner and 'trusted no clergyman would be found to per- 
form the ceremony*. Shamed, he wrote excusing himself to the 
Prince who released him from the engagement but never forgave 
him. In desperation the Prince now turned to Fleet Street Prison, 
where he found a clergyman named Burt, paid his debts of 500, 
promised him a Bishopric and obtained his promise to perform 
the marriage service. It was not necessary to have a Catholic 
priest for an Anglican ceremony stood valid in the eyes of Rome 
and all Christendom. According to the old Canon Law the 
ministers to a marriage were the parties concerned who made the 
contract, not the officiating clergy. 

So all was arranged in deathly secret, except when the Prince 
forgot and blurted out unwisely. Mrs. Fitzherberf s arrival in 
London 'was fixed for a particular Tuesday'. H.R.H. had been 
invited by Sir Ralph Payne to a ball at his house for that day, but 
the Prince took him by the hand, squeezed it, and said that nothing 
on earth could induce him to accept any invitation on the day he 
expected Mrs. Fitzherbert. 

What a homecoming she had! The servants in her Park Street 
house had swept and polished and garnished for their lady. 
Hardly could they understand the comings and goings and 
whispers of various members of her family. Nor could they have 
understood the fears which now kept Charles James Fox and the 



Whigs tossing sleepless on their pillows. Using his lucid mind 
and superb command of language Mr. Fox enumerated the salient 
points in a letter which it must have been exceedingly difficult for 
the Prince to ignore. 

December 10 1785 
'Sir, 

I hope your Royal Highness does me the justice to believe, 
that it is with the utmost reluctance I trouble you with my 
opinion unasked at any time, much more so upon a sub j ect where 
it may not be agreeable to your wishes. I am sure that nothing 
could ever make me take this liberty, but the condescension 
which you have honoured me with upon so many occasions, 
and the zealous and grateful attachment that I feel for your 
Royal Highness, and which makes me run the risk even of 
displeasing you, for the purpose of doing you a real service. 

I was told just before I left town yesterday, that Mrs. 
Fitzherbert was arrived; and if I had heard only this, I should 
have felt the most unfeigned joy at an event which I knew 
would contribute so much to your Royal Highness's satis- 
faction; but I was told at the same time, that, from a variety of 
circumstances which had been observed and put together, 
there was reason to suppose that you were going to take the 
very desperate step (pardon the expression) of marrying her 
at this moment. If such an idea be really in your mind, and it 
be not now too late, for God's sake let me call your attention 
to some considerations which my attachment to your Royal 
Highness, and the real concern which I take in whatever 
relates to your interest, have suggested to me, and which may 
possibly have the more weight with you, when you perceive 
that Mrs. Fitzherbert is equally interested in most of them 
with yourself. In the first place, you are aware that a marriage 
with a Catholic throws the Prince contracting such Marriage 
out of the succession of the Crown. Now, what change may 
have happened in Mrs. Fitzherbert's sentiments upon religious 
matters I know not; but I do not understand that any public 
profession of change has been made. Surely, Sir, this is not a 
matter to be trifled with; and your Royal Highness must 
excuse the extreme freedom with which I write. If there 



should be a doubt about her previous conversion., consider 
the circumstances in which you stand. The King not feeling 
for you as a father ought, the Duke of York professedly his 
favourite, and likely to be married agreeably to the King's 
wishes; the nation full of its old prejudices against Catholics; 
and justly dreading all disputes about succession; in all these 
circumstances your enemies might take such advantage as I 
shudder to think of; and though your generosity might think 
no sacrifice too great to be made to a person whom you love 
so entirely, consider what her reflections must be in such an 
event, and how impossible it would be for her ever to forgive 
herself. 

I have stated this danger upon the supposition that the 
Marriage would be a real one; but your Royal Highness knows 
as well as I, that according to the present law of the country 
it cannot\ and I need not point out to your good sense, what a 
source of uneasiness it must be to you, to her, and above all 
to the nation, to have it a matter of dispute and discussion, 
whether the Prince of Wales is or is not married. All specu- 
lations on the feelings of the public are uncertain, but I doubt 
much whether an uncertainty of this kind, by keeping men's 
minds in perpetual agitation upon a matter of this moment, 
might not cause a greater ferment than any other possible 
situation. 

If there should be children from the Marriage, I need not 
say how much the uneasiness as well of yourselves as of the 
nation must be aggravated. If anything could add to the 
weight of these considerations, it is the impossibility of 
remedying the mischiefs I have alluded to; for if your Royal 
Highness should think proper, when you are twenty-five 
years old, to notify to Parliament your intention to marry (by 
which means alone a legal Marriage can be contracted), in 
what manner can it be notified? If the previous Marriage is 
notified or owned will it not be said that you have set at 
defiance the laws of your country, and that you now come to 
Parliament for a sanction for what you have already done in 
contempt of it? If there are children, will it not be said that 
we must look for future applications to legitimate them, and 
consequently be liable to disputes for the succession between 

52 



the eldest son, and the eldest son after the legal Marriage: And 
will not the entire annulling the whole Marriage be suggested 
as the most secure way of preventing all such disputes? 

If the Marriage is not mentioned to Parliament, but yet is 
known to have been solemnized, as it certainly will be known 
if it takes place, these are the consequences : First, that at all 
events any child born in the interim is immediately illegiti- 
mated; and next, that arguments will be drawn from the 
circumstances of the concealed Marriage against the public 
one. It will be said, that a woman who had lived with you as 
your wife, without being so, is not fit to be Queen of England; 
and thus the very thing that is done for the sake of her 
reputation will be used against it; and what would make this 
worse would be, the Marriage being known (though not 
officially communicated to Parliament), it would be impossible 
to deny the assertion; whereas, if there was no Marriage, I 
conclude your intercourse would be carried on, as it ought, 
in so private a way as to make it wholly inconsistent with 
decency or propriety for anyone in public to hazard such a 
suggestion. 

If, in consequence of your notification, steps should be 
taken in Parliament, and an act be passed (which, considering 
the present state of the power of the King and Ministry, is 
more than probable) to prevent your Marriage, you will be 
reduced to the most difficult of all dilemmas with respect to 
the footing upon which your Marriage is to stand for the 
future; and your children will be born to pretensions which 
must make their situation unhappy, if not dangerous. These 
situations appear to me of all the others the most to be pitied; 
and the more so because the more indications persons born in 
such circumstances give of spirit, talents, or anything that is 
good, the more will they be suspected and oppressed, and the 
more will they regret the being deprived of what they must 
naturally think themselves entitled to. 

I could mention many other considerations upon this 
business, if I did not think those I have stated of so much 
importance, that smaller ones would divert your attention 
from them rather than add to their weight. That I have 
written with a freedom which on any other occasion would be 

53 



unbecoming, I readily confess; and nothing would have 
induced me to do it, but a deep sense of my duty to a Prince 
who has honoured me with so much of his confidence, and 
who would have but an ill return for all his favours and 
goodness to me, if I were to avoid speaking truth to him, 
however disagreeable, at so critical a juncture. The sum of my 
humble advice, nay, of my most earnest entreaty, is this 
that your Royal Highness would not think of marrying until 
you can marry legally. When that time comes, you must judge 
for yourself; and no doubt you will take into consideration, 
both what is due to private honour and your public station. 
In the meanwhile, a mock Marriage (for it can be no other) is 
neither honourable for any of the parties, nor, with respect to 
your Royal Highness, even safe. This appears so clear to me, 
that, if I were Mrs. Fitzherbert's father or brother, I would 
advise her not by any means to agree to it, and to prefer any 
species of connection with you to one leading to so much 
misery and mischief. 

It is high time I should finish this very long and, perhaps 
your Royal Highness will think, ill-timed letter; but such as it 
is, it is dictated by pure zeal and attachment to your Royal 
Highness. With respect to Mrs. Fitzherbert, she is a person 
with whom I have scarcely the honour of being acquainted, 
but I hear from everybody that her character is irreproachable 
and her manner most amiable. Your Royal Highness knows 
too, that I have not in my mind the same objection to inter- 
marriages with Princes and subjects which many have. But 
under the present circumstances a Marriage at present appears 
to me to be the most desperate measure for all parties con- 
cerned, that their worst enemies could have suggested/ 

The Prince glanced through this appreciation of the situation 
with slight pain. He hated facts, especially such facts as these 
presented in black and white. It was rather selfish of Fox to 
become quite so ruffled on future possibilities. Bothered, of 
course, about his Whig Party, and wondering who would make 
him Premier. He was a good friend, however, and good friends 
must be soothed. 

The Prince deliberated a careful reply. It was long after 

54 



midnight when he finished the letter, blithely re-read each para- 
graph and without compunction sent it off: 

c My dear Charles, 

Your letter of last night afforded me more true satisfaction 
than I can find words to express; as it is an additional proof to 
me (which I assure you that I did not want) of your having 
that true regard and affection for me, which it is not only the 
wish but the ambition of my life to merit. Make yourself easy, 
my dear friend. Believe me, the world will now soon be con- 
vinced, that there not only is, but never was, any grounds for 
these reports, which of late have been so malevolently circu- 
lated. I have not seen you since the apostacy of Eden. I think 
it ought to have the same effect upon all our friends that it 
has upon me I mean the linking us closer to each other; and 
I believe you will easily believe these to be my sentiments; for 
you are perfectly well acquainted with my ways of thinking 
upon these sort of subjects. When I say my ways of thinking, 
I think I had better say my old maxim, which I ever intend to 
adhere to I mean that of swimming or sinking with my 
friends. I have not time to add much more, except just to say, 
that I believe I shall meet you at dinner at Bushey on Tuesday; 
and to desire you to believe me at all times, .my dear Charles, 
most affectionately yours, 

George P. 
Carlton House 
Sunday morning 2 o'clock 
December 1 1 th, 1785. 

e Make yourself easy/ wrote the Prince, but could any friend of 
his ever do so again? And the simile of swimming or sinking was a 
little too vivid when it looked as if he was dragging the Whig 
Party down. On the Thursday he married Mrs. Fitzherbert. 

It was December I5th, 1785. The Cumberlands and the 
Devonshires evidently got cold feet and were all 'out of town', 
but Maria found two witnesses of her own religion who were 
willing to run the risk of committing a felony. Wat Smythe 
remained 'much against his sister's marriage with the Prince of 
Wales', but another brother, Jack, and her uncle, Henry Errington, 

55 



bravely accepted to stand by and witness the certificate of 
marriage. 

It was a cold winter's afternoon. The curtains of her Park 
Street house were pulled. The candles lit. Outside the wheels of 
an occasional carriage sounded on the frosted cobbles. In her own 
small drawing-room, dressed in plain travelling clothes, Mrs. 
Fitzherbert gave her hand to the heir of England. 

Mr. Burt, the clergyman, read out the ceremony. To the time- 
honoured questions which in the Christian religion alone bind 
man and wife, their two distinct voices answered 'I will'. 

When the service ended the Prince took a quill, penned a 
marriage certificate in his famous flowery handwriting and 
handed it to the two witnesses to sign. Jack Smythe and Henry 
Errington, putting themselves in jeopardy, inscribed their names. 
Then, having added his own signature, the Prince handed the 
paper to his wife to sign and keep. He was very pleased with 
himself. He had battled for a Christian marriage with this lady 
and had obtained it by threats of suicide. What did it matter to 
him if this day's work infringed the Royal Marriage Act? No 
matter either if it defied the Act of Settlement which specified 
that a Sovereign who married a Roman Catholic forfeited the 
throne. 

What cared George Prince of Wales when Maria Fitzherbert, 
the woman he wanted, could at last lie in his arms? 



Five 



THE Royal Marriage Act declared that any marriages 
without the Royal leave were null and void from the point 
of view of English law. It did not declare they were not 
marriages at all and it could not declare they were invalid in the 
eyes of the Christian Church. Children born of such unions 
would be illegal but not illegitimate. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert and the Prince of Wales spent their honey- 
moon at her own small villa at Richmond. 1 Their carriage broke 
down on the way at Twickenham and the Prince never forgot his 
delirious happiness on that late winter evening when they stood 
by the roadside watching repairs by lamplight. Waiting beside 
Maria he looked up at the clear vault of the sky. Never again for 
him were the stars to shine quite so brightly. 

At the villa candles flickered welcome in the windows and 
servants stood respectfully waiting to serve a supper laid for two. 
They stepped across the threshold together the large young 
man of twenty-three and the widow of twenty-eight and stood 
warming their hands in front of the fire. Whatever the future 
meted out at least they would have this a few days' honeymoon 
like ordinary people. 

By Christmas they had returned to London where society 
talked of nothing save the rumour of "certain illegal nuptials*. 
Before New Year Sir Gilbert Elliott wrote to his wife c the report 
is that Mrs. Fitzherbert is to be at Carlton House; that she was 
married by a Roman Catholic priest, is to have 6,000 a year, and 
is to be created a Duchess'. Naturally the gossips got it wrong. 

1 Probably Ormeley Lodge, an elegant little villa with the Prince of Wales's 
feathers carved in the brick above the entrance. 

57 



No one dared ask Mrs. Fitzherbert outright how she had married 
the heir to the throne, but the royal dukes, the uncles and brothers 
of the Prince seemed to wish to treat her as a member of the 
family. Uncles Cumberland and Gloucester, who had sailed in 
the same boat, took pains to be pleasant, but they had not 
married Catholics nor were they in the dangerous position of 
Heir Apparent. 

Gloucester wrote to the Prince concerning his impressions on 
the continent: 

*I felt myself particularly called on some unfortunate 
occasions to give her every public mark of attention, also 
trying to make her long exile as bearable as I could. I cannot 
express how much she made our little society comfortable by 
her friendly and constant good-humoured behaviour/ 

And later: 

*I have seen so much of her that I think I can with truth 
say she has few like her. I am convinced she loves you far 
beyond herself I only allow myself to rejoice that thje two 
people I have every reason to love the most, seem to be so 
happy in each other, and must last because there is so much 
good temper and good judgement.' 

The royal dukes might treat her with regard but Georgina 
Devonshire, who had been so willing to partake in the early 
excitements, evinced no wish to accompany the 'Prince's wife' in 
public. 

On February 6th, 1786, her mother, Countess Spencer, wrote 
feelingly: 'What will you do about going to the Opera with Mrs. 
Fitzherbert? I wish it could be avoided, for it is certainly very plain 
that both he and she mean to shew that they are not upon the 
same footing as they were.' 

Indeed not! The Prince's carriage could be seen early every 
morning at Mrs. Fitzherbert's door waiting to carry him home, 
and he insisted that she should have place of honour at all 
functions. If precedence could not be waived in her favour he 
refused to attend. Lady Charlotte Bury wrote in her diary: 'The 

58 



Prince never forgot to go through the form of saying to Mrs. 
Fitzherbert, with the most respectful bow, "Madam, may I be 
allowed the honour of seeing you home in my carriage?" ', and 
Catholic Lady Jerningham noted in a letter of March 1786: 

"The Prince is very assiduous in attending her on all public 
places but she lives at her own house and he at his Mrs. 
Fitzherbert has I believe, been married to the Prince. But it is 
a very hazardous undertaking as there are two Acts of 
Parliament against the validity of such an alliance: Concerning 
her being a subject and her being a Catholic. God knows how 
it will turn out it may be to the glory of our Belief or it may 
be to the great dismay and destruction of it.' 

While the tongues were wagging and the pens scratching, 
Maria and George appeared to be living blandly and contentedly 
together like any respectable man and wife except that they 
kept separate establishments. But Carlton House now seemed to 
the Prince merely the place where he worked and entertained. 
His home was the house where his spouse awaited him. 

Their agreement was that the Prince should accord her the 
honours of his table and escort her publicly while she spoke not a 
word and never showed the marriage licence. The promise of 
Maria Smythe would hold fast 'till death us do part'. He knew her 
word could be trusted just as he knew and hated the knowledge 
that his own could not. 

Now, through the spring of 1786, the Prince appeared to be 
calm and reasonable. Mrs. Fitzherbert showed no ostentatious 
tastes so he dropped ostentation. For the first time in his life he 
was happy and his charm increased with happiness. 

On March I7th Mrs. Talbot wrote: c Mrs. Fitzherbert makes 
a good deal of talk. I make no doubt she is married to the Prince 
of Wales. He goes by my door every day at the same hour and 
seems very constant to her at present. It is said she is with child. 
After a while, she will be a most unhappy woman.' The Duke of 
Gloucester wrote: *I think, Sir, by a certain paragraph you do not 
think it impossible that a son & heir may be upon the stocks 
already.' But that dangerous fact, if fact it was, has not to this 
day been divulged. 

59 



London found itself puzzled and alarmed but unable to be 
outraged. Mrs. Fitzherbert seemed to be so respectable and her 
influence on the Prince most sedative. Nevertheless they lived 
under the harsh glare of publicity afforded by the caricaturists. 
Newspapers had just started and cheap coloured prints could be 
issued by the thousand. For the first time in history the private 
lives of the English royal family were portrayed by a gutter press 
to a nation hilarious or indignant in turn. The cruel brilliancy 
of the eighteenth-century satirists gave appalling publicity to 
George Ill's seven riotous sons, and probably no woman in 
history has been caricatured as often as Mrs. Fitzherbert. 

The famous Gillray caricatures which began on March i3th 
showed first 'The Marriage of Figaro' in which the Prince placed 
a ring on Mrs. Fitzherbert's finger while over her head floated 
his three feathers. Burke appeared as the clergyman reading the 
service from Hoyle's Games. A week later came 'The Royal 
Toast: Fat, fair and forty' (though she was under thirty). In 
"Twas Nobody saw the Lovers Leap' Fox was represented as the 
Nobody encouraging the Prince to leap with Mrs. Fitzherbert. 
On April ist came 'The April Fool or Follies of a Night', depict- 
ing the Prince dancing with his lady while Burke played the 
tune with firearms. These and others far less tender were circu- 
lated throughout the kingdom, doing great harm to the Prince 
and arousing anti-Catholic people to switch allegiance to the 
Tories. 

The Prince insisted that Mrs. Fitzherbert sell her house in 
Park Street which perhaps she was glad to do for it had grown 
almost too full of memories and take up residence in a large 
house in Pall Mall nearer to Carlton House. Alas, the Prince's 
passion for building included the more expensive forms of tearing 
down and doing up. He spent 50,000 on Mrs. Fitzherbert's 
establishment and was to be severely rapped on the knuckles by 
the King when this came out as a 'detail' in his quarter of a 
million of debts. 

In July the Prince and Mrs. Fitzherbert went to Brighton to 
'economize'. Here they lived modestly enough in two rented 
houses, she in a small villa and he in a 'respectable farmhouse' 
with a view of the sea, rented from his cook, the famous Weltye. 
In his present state of content the Prince thought it fun to play 

60 



poor. What a pity that this domestic idyll with picnics and drives 
across the downs should rock a dynasty! 

Even at Versailles Marie-Antoinette was sending for the 
British Ambassador to ask his advice about allowing the Princesse 
de Lamballe to go to Brighton. c l cannot judge the propriety or 
impropriety of her being in a place with the P. of Wales and 
Mrs. F * wrote the Ambassador to Georgina Devonshire. 

'Meanwhile the Prince entertained little and kept no state. 
The wilder spirits among his friends were absent/ 

The wilder spirits were Sir John Lade, an illiterate eccentric, 
who by brilliant horsemanship and handling of his own coach- 
and-four won a unique place in Brighton society where many 
dashing spirits lived only for driving and the Barry brothers 
headed by Lord Barrymore, a cra2y talented Irish absentee land- 
lord. These fellows were deemed a bit too rough to be introduced 
to Mrs. Fitzherbert as yet. 

The newly married couple gave carefully chosen parties for 
each other in their two small houses. For a time the Prince only 
wished for the company of a few intimates but what intimates 
they were! 

Yet, of all the scintillating Whigs, Sheridan remained the 
Prince's dearest friend, perhaps because he never showed dis- 
approval of whatever unutterable steps the Prince might take. In 
this happy summer of 1785 he was the 'intimate' to travel down 
the Brighton road to that 'respectable farmhouse', where they 
sat down at seven to the superb food and wines over which so 
much personal trouble had invariably been taken. After sunset the 
candles would be carried in and the three might sit late, glad of no 
other visitors. One can see them now, Maria with her flawless 
skin and tranquil ways, always allowing the men to show off, the 
Prince at his most delightful, and Sheridan who if searching 
for a dinner partner would be the best choice in history. 
The decanters went slowly round, conversation sparkled, the 
moon might come out over the sea and the fresh breezes blew; 
and in their cottages along the shore the fisherfolk, who yet 
remained, wondered what new junketings might shake Bright- 
helmstone that their grandfathers had known as a simple village. 



61 



Six 



ON JULY i8th, 1786, the Earl of Mornington wrote to 
the Duke of Rutland from Brighton: 'People talk much 
of the Prince of Wales' reform, particularly in this spot, 
which he has chosen as the place of his retreat. . . . Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert is here, and they say with child.' 

This rumour was bound soon to arise. To this day it remains 
but a rumour. If Mrs. Fitzherbert did in truth bear two children 
to the Prince as Minney Seymour hinted then tremendous 
precautions of secrecy were taken. She must have retired to her 
own family and allowed the tiny babies to be taken from her at 
birth. This would have been a great sorrow to her, for, as later 
events show, she dearly loved children. 

During the year 1786 the Prince and his bride divided their 
time between London and Brighton where they enjoyed the 
bracing air and comparative peace. The beaux and dandies of 
London society soon followed them. The bathing chariot had 
been invented and the thickly apparelled bodies of Britain's 
aristocracy could be submerged in the salty sea when too much 
food led to too much pain. 

On the Prince's twenty-fourth birthday (August izth) the 
Queen wrote to him wistfully: 

*A kte instance must have convinced you that as personal 
dislike is or can be lodged in the breast of the best of Kings 
and Fathers and it would have made every sincere friend of 
yours happy if, after the proper day of coming to Windsor 
you could have been persuaded to add that of seeing the 
King, particularly as he expressed himself to be ready to 
receive you. Nobody can more anxiously wish than I do the 

62 



return of the days when all the family were united and when I 
am sure you were more happy than you are now.' 

This letter, like all those he received from his anxious parents, 
the Prince merely passed on to Mrs. Fitzherbert who slipped them 
in her papers. 

Meanwhile Brighton transformed itself; shops and libraries 
carried the Three Feathers over their doorways; Rowlandson 
travelled down to caricature the bathing and horse-racing, and 
everywhere the people saw the Prince and 'Mrs. Wales' enjoying 
themselves. 

Mary Frampton's diary for 1786 describes Mrs. Fitzherbert 
calling on her mother in London: 

c lf ever the Prince loved any woman it was she: and half 
London, had he thrown his handkerchief, would have flown 
to pick it up. ... Mrs. Fitzherbert's very uncomfortable life 
since her connection with the Prince affords as strong a lesson 
as was ever given in favour of virtue, for she never desired 
any benefit from it. ... Her chariot was without any armorial 
bearings nor has she ever worn any, since her liveries by 
accident resembled the Royal ones, the Fitzherberts* livery 
being red turned up with green and she had gold ornaments/ 

The discomfort mentioned must have been mental rather 
than physical, for Mary Frampton later recollected: 

'When Mrs. Fitzherbert was living in Pall Mall within a 
few doors of Carlton House, we were at one of the Assemblies 
she gave which was altogether the most splendid I was ever 
at. Attendants in green and gold, besides the usual livery 
servants, were stationed in the rooms and up the staircase to 
announce the company and carry about refreshments. The 
house was new and beautifully furnished. One room was 
hung with puckered blue satin from which hangings the now 
common imitations in paper were taken. A whole-length 
portrait of the Prince of Wales was conspicuous in one of the 
drawing-rooms and his bust and that of the Duke of York 
ornamented the dining-rooms. Her own manners ever 
remained quiet, civil and unperturbed and in the days of 

63 



her greatest influence she was never accused of using it 
improperly/ 

Mrs. Fitzherbert's most intimate friends were Lord Hugh 
and Lady Horatia Seymour, a newly married couple of high stand- 
ing to whom the Prince had revealed his own secret wedding. 
Lord Hugh, brother of the powerful Marquis of Hertford, was a 
naval officer and spent much of his time at sea, although he 
later entered the Prince's household. His wife, one of the three 
beautiful Waldegrave sisters painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 
had been bred in an atmosphere of tension over royal marriages 
for she was a daughter of the Duchess of Gloucester who started 
the monarch's aversion to non-royal brides. George III simply 
could not get over the shock of discovering he had an illegitimate 
beauty as sister-in-law even if she were the Countess Waldegrave. 
The Royal Marriage Act ensued. Lady Horatia and her sisters 
found suitable and interesting husbands among the nobility, but 
their mother, the Duchess, who had been kind to Mrs. Fitzherbert 
during her exile, could not stop fretting at the King's snubs. 

In Hugh Seymour the Prince found a friend of stout integrity. 
He made him Master of the Robes and Keeper of the Privy 
Purse, and confided all his troubles. Before going off to battle, 
Lord Hugh left his sword to the Prince. It was the highest token 
of affection he could bestow. 

Having no children of her own on view at any rate it was 
natural that Mrs. Fitzherbert should show great interest in the 
children which arrived for Lord Hugh and Lady Horatia. She 
congratulated them on managing their infants while they con- 
gratulated her on keeping the Prince out of trouble. 

In her quiet way Maria Fitzherbert proved a clever hostess. 
Every entertaining figure of the Whig oligarchy graced her table, 
and although she was not quick in conversation she possessed that 
lure irresistible to men she was a good listener. Her serenity and 
sympathy proved exactly what the fiery, ribald, hard-punching 
wits of that or any era most desire. Over and again contemporaries 
remarked on her unaffected manners and amiability. C A very mild, 
benignant countenance without much animation', 'certainly very 
handsome, though too fat', remarked the women. But 'best and 
most sacred of women', wrote the Prince who could pick and 

64 



choose throughout Europe. Not really enjoying rivalry in 
intellectual flights but always ready for understanding, it was the 
men who preferred her society to that of stormier beauties whose 
tongues could lash like their own. 

On Beau Brummel alone did Mrs. Fitzherbert turn a withering 
eye. 'Brummel had never taken pains to please Mrs. Fitzherbert, 
who persuaded the Prince that his young associate spoke dis- 
respectfully of him behind his back. . . .' 

Brummel once called on Mrs. Fitzherbert in London and found 
the Prince on her sofa. Annoyed by his arrival the Prince remarked 
icily when the Beau set down his snuff-box, 'Mr. Brummel, the 
place for your box is in your pocket and not on the table/ 

This snub led a short time later to Brummel calling for 
'Mistress Fitzherbert's carriage'. Later came the Brummel's 
famous remark, 'Who's your fat friend?' at a masked ball. Later, 
inevitably, Beau Brummel faced penniless exile and no kind 
word from the Prince ever reached him in Calais. 

Of the Prince's six younger brothers, brought up as German 
princelings rather than as English gentlemen, the Dukes of York 
and Clarence became Mrs. Fitzherbert's devoted friends. The others 
held her in deep respect. She was the sort of wife they all wanted. 
But taking note of the discomforts attendant on marriages 
that contravened their father's special Act, only one dared 
imitate his elder brother. The Duke of York married obediently 
and then took up with Mary Anne Clarke, who got him into such 
trouble through selling Army commissions; the sailor Duke of 
Clarence lived with his actress Mrs. Jordan and fathered ten 
illegitimate Fitzclarences, and the Duke of Kent spent twenty- 
seven years in the arms of his French Canadian Mme St. 
Laurent. Unwisely, the younger Duke of Sussex placed himself 
in the same predicament as the Prince of Wales by marrying Lady 
Augusta Murray. 

He suffered far more because he openly avowed the marriage, 
thus giving King George the monstrous right to cause the 
union to be legally annulled and his two children deckred 
illegitimate. The Duke of Cumberland became entangled in 
various unsavoury scandals. Only Cambridge, avoiding both 
mistresses and debts, stuck to that dull respectability approved by 
the British public in their royal dukes. 

65 



Seven 



IHE first fifteen months of Mrs. Fitzherbert's marriage 

L passed happily enough. The old King had entered an 
easier political era, he no longer cared so bitterly about 
Whig affronts to his royal powers, and he had recovered from the 
shock of losing the American colonies. 

Until the spring of 1787 His Majesty did not approach his son 
on the subject of Mrs. Fitzherbert. The whole nation had heard by 
now that the Prince of Wales was married to the Roman Catholic 
lady who entertained for him at the Marine Pavilion, and comic 
scurrilous lampoons obtained a great sale. At this embarrassing 
moment the Prince realized that the size of his debts must force 
him to appeal to Parliament. He had been taught how to spend 
joyously and with taste. No one ever gave him a lesson in finance. 
The closing of Carlton House to 'economize' at Brighton made 
no difference to the large sum he owed. In April 1787 his loyal 
friends Fox and Sheridan brought the matter of the Prince's debts 
before the House of Commons. They asked that he should be 
granted 100,000 per annum and that his standing debts of 
29,000 should be paid. Mr. Pitt the enemy, and Chancellor of 
the Exchequer, rose grimly and referred the matter to the King. 
George HI then asked for c an explanation of past expenses' an 
explanation that never sounds as well as one might wish. The 
Prince fumbled through his accounts and found it exceedingly 
difficult to explain away 50,000 spent on an establishment in 
Pall Mall whose pale blue ruched-silk hangings had been copied 
by the entire fashionable world as a wall-paper. 

The Prince and Mrs. Fitzherbert waited nervously for the 
outcome of this debate. Although her name would not be 
mentioned, the fact of a marriage was, for the first time, to be 



discussed in the House of Commons. Pitt hesitatingly asked for 
the form in which a motion which involved Circumstances of such 
peculiar delicacy could be brought forward. 

It is doubtful if the Prince ever confessed to Maria Fitzfterbert 
exactly what he said to his defender Fox before this fray. But 
without doubt he led them both up the garden path. He certainly 
told Fox to say he had not married. And he certainly assured his 
spouse that he had said no such thing. Both Fox and Maria were 
to be outraged. Presumably Mrs. Fitzherbert could not expect 
the Prince to forfeit the throne by admitting his marriage. But she 
thought he would abide by their mutual promise to say nothing. 

According to the Dictionary of National biography \ 

'The rumour of this union seriously endangered his chance 
of obtaining parliamentary assistance in 1787. The leading 
Whigs headed by the Duke of Portland had declined to injure 
their Party by espousing his cause. At the meeting at Pelham's 
the Prince denied that he was married to Mrs. Fitzherbert but 
Fox alone was eager to support him.' 

How often were the Prince's friends to be left floundering in a 
quagmire when they rallied to help him. 

On April 27th the motion to pay the debts was raised, Mr. 
Rolle, a stout Protestant squire, stood up bluntly asking for 
assurances concerning c a question which went immediately to 
affect our Constitution in Church and State*. 

Whigs and Tories slashed in the dark. No one had proof of a 
marriage, and when SheridanleaptintothefrayPitttried to stop the 
motion. He stated that should it be passed // 'would force a discussion 
of the most painful and unpleasant sort and he should be driven with pain 
and reluctance to state plainly and distinctly matters of the utmost delicacy. 

This meant the Chancellor of the Exchequer threatened dis- 
closures. They were all skating on thin ice. The Whigs knew that 
a revelation of their Prince's marriage to a Roman Catholic must 
cost him the throne. And the Tories did not want to light the 
bonfire. Better to catch the Prince some other way. 

Sheridan entreated the House to consider in what predicament 
the Prince must stand after these discussions, and he protested 
that 'innuendoes had been thrown out'. 

67 



Mr. Pitt continued to wish that no more might be heard of 
'a motion so pregnant with mischief, while Sheridan assured the 
House that c to every question which should be proposed respect- 
ing any part of his Royal Highness' conduct an explicit and satis- 
factory answer would be given'. These flowery words deceived 
no one. Nothing concerning the Prince could ever be explicit or 
satisfactory. But the House was afraid. 

The Prince was given three days in which to deliberate. 
Flustered and fussed he summoned Fox to Carlton House. 
^Whatever words he may have used, Fox was given to understand 
that he had the Prince's solemn word that no marriage had taken 
place and that he might state this in the Commons'. 

Then His Royal Highness hurried to Mrs. Fitzherbert and 
promised that he had not given Fox leave to say anything at all. 

Mr. Sheridan waited on Mrs. Fitzherbert and informed her 
that some explanation would probably be required by Parliament 
on the subject of her connection with the Heir Apparent. She 
stated coldly 'they knew she was like a dog with a log around its 
neck and they must protect her'. She meant they must say nothing 
just as she said nothing. 

On April 3oth the 'delicate subject' was resumed. Alderman 
Newham, who had first asked for payment of the Prince's debts, 
rose and the House listened in tense silence. 

TSTewham stated that a great deal had been said of the 
tenderness of the ground upon which he trod: and several 
Honourable Gentlemen on both sides of the House had, no 
doubt with the best intentions, entreated him to drop his 
design. He declared himself totally exempt from those appre- 
hensions with which others were so unaccountably filled. If 
there was danger in the measure, let those who gave occasion 
to it tremble at the consequences. As a member of that House 
he saw no danger, and he would assure them from authority 
that the Prince saw none; and in proof of the latter assertion, 
he was authorized to declare that it was by the express desire 
of His Royal Highness the motion was introduced and that 
the Prince was ready to meet the assassin-like attacks which had 
been made upon his character and would shrink from no inquiry 
however minute into every part of his conduct; from a con- 

68 



sciousness that his actions had been uniformly regulated by 
a due regard to the dignity of his high rank and to those 
principles of honour which characterize the gentleman. Mr. 
Pitt's explanation on Friday had given him great satisfaction; 
but something had fallen from Mr. Rolle which he hoped that 
gentleman would explain. That he should apprehend his 
intended motion would involve both Church and State in confusion ', 
excited his surprise in no small degree: nor could he account 
for the Honourable Gentleman's apprehensions in any other 
way than by supposing that a report as unfounded as It was 
insidious, which prevailed among the vulgar, had operated upon his 
mind, a report which he had authority to contradict in the most 
positive and unequivocal terms? 

Mr. Rolle insisted that he had not been alone in his fears and 
that many other gentlemen had been equally alarmed. He was 
happy to hear from authority that their and his apprehensions 
were groundless, at least so far as regarded the report which had 
circulated so rapidly and was so generally believed. Mr. Rolle then 
continued to deprecate the motion to pay the Prince's debts 
because he felt persuaded that it would be the means of opening a 
breach between the Sovereign and Heir Apparent. His Royal 
Highness's necessities had been represented as immediate and 
pressing, but he had not heard where they originated nor to what 
cause they were imputed. His royal grandfather never possessed 
the revenue of the Duchy of Cornwall which alone amounted to 
10,000 a year. 

As an independent member of the House he was not to be 
deterred from making every inquiry, etc., etc. 

Mr. Fox then rose his blackbeetle-brows at their most 
caustic angle, his face rather red. He stated clearly that the 
insinuations which had been thrown out against His Royal Highness, 
whatever quarter they came from, were in the extreme illiberal, unjust and 
rancorous. 

'Expose to the public eye the whole correspondence 
relative to the augmentation and I will pledge my life and 
honour that nothing will appear which is not perfectly con- 
sistent with the respective relations of a subject and son. 



Thro' the whole, the obedience of the former and the duty and 
affection of the latter, are eminently distinguishable.' 

As to the suggestion of danger to the Church // was a report 
that went far beyond the limits of probability and he had authority to 
pronounce it an infamous falsehood. 

He accused Pitt of hinting at calumnies 'which never had and 
common sense could see, never could have happened*. Pitt 
evasively replied that as he did not understand the observations of 
the last Right Honourable Speaker he could not possibly answer 
them. 

They were sparring. Every member of the House understood 
exactly what Fox referred to. So did the English public, when it 
read the account of this debate next day. 

Mr. Rolle, backed by the blunt country gentlemen, the 
squires of England, stood up and asked to be answered explicitly 
as to whether the circumstance to which he had alluded was true or not. 

The vital question had been put at last and fearlessly. The 
House held its breath. 

Then Fox, whose integrity none doubted, rose to deny the 
marriage, saying be bad the first authority to give it the most positive 
contradiction. It not only 'never could have happened legally, but 
never did happen in any way what-so-ever'. 

Sheridan, eager to defend his Prince at all costs, then mocked 
Mr. Rolle for having been taken in by a report calculated 'to 
injure a most amiable character and wound the honour and 
feelings of the Prince'. 

'Amiable character' was as near as any gentleman would go to 
naming Maria Fitzherbert. 

Mr. Rolle excused himself coolly. 'As the report was in 
general circulation' he thought it just as well that he had been the 
means of drawing forth a flat contradiction to it. 

In vain Sheridan pressed Rolle for an apology, but the debate 
ended on a less vicious note with Sir Edward Astley pleading for 
some financial help to the Prince. 'It was a humiliating as well as 
an affecting sight in passing Pall Mall to see his Palace literally in 
ruins.' 

Meanwhile in the scintillating 'ruins' of Carlton House the 
Prince waited and fidgeted and mopped his brow. How tiresome 



this all was how insufferable that he should be forced to make a 
bald statement. All he desired was elegance and banquets and the 
company of delicious witty friends and the loving arms of one 
sweet lady. Why were these questions these hateful disclosures 
necessary? How badly he was being treated. 

Then he stiffened with worry. Fox and Sheridan had carried 
the House cleverly, but whatever happened his dear Maria must 
not be ruffled. He decided he must break the news of Fox's state- 
ment himself. How did he do it? According to Mr. Bodenham: 

'Mrs. Fitzherbert was on a visit with the Honourable Mrs. 
Butler, her friend and relative, and at whose house the Prince 
frequently met Mrs. Fitzherbert. The Prince called the morn- 
ing after the denial of the Marriage in the House of Commons 
by Mr. Fox. He went up to Mrs. Fitzherbert and taking hold 
of both her hands and caressing her, said: "Only conceive, 
Maria, what Fox did yesterday. He went down to the House 
and denied that you aiid I were man and wife. Did you ever 
hear of such a thing?" Mrs. Fitzherbert made no reply, but 
changed countenance and turned pale/ 

In vain the Prince tried to explain away his own responsi- 
bility. Maria said she would have nothing more to do with him. 

'The Prince sent for Mr. Grey, and after much preamble 
and pacing in a harassed manner about the room exclaimed: 
"Charles certainly went too far last night. You, my dear Grey, 
shall explain it"; and then in distinct terms though with 
prodigious agitation, owned that a ceremony bad taken place. 
Mr. Grey observed that Mr. Fox must unquestionably 
suppose that he had authority for all he said, and that, if there 
had been any mistake, it could only be rectified by His Royal 
Highness speaking to Mr. Fox himself, and setting him 
right. . . . This answer chagrined, disappointed and agitated 
the Prince exceedingly, and after some exclamations of 
annoyance he threw himself on a sofa muttering. "Well then, 
Sheridan must say something".' 1 

1 Lord Stourton's narrative of the account given him personally by Charles 
Grey, then a young Whig politician frequenting Devonshire House. Later Prime 
Minister. 

71 



An uncomfortable week followed. While Pitt sent verbal 
apologies to Carlton House which were turned away His 
Royal Highness deluged Maria with protestations of his own 
innocence. Heaven knows what Mrs. Fitzherbert could have 
expected when any subject as desperate as her marriage arose in 
the House, but she evidently regarded Fox's words as plain 
treachery and thought she had been publicly degraded. 

Lord Stourton says: 

'She determined to break off all connection with the 
Prince, and she was only induced to receive him again into 
her confidence by repeated assurances that Mr. Fox had never 
been authorized to make the declaration; and the friends of 
Mrs. Fitzherbert assured her, that, in this discrepancy as to 
the assertion of Mr. Fox and the Prince, she was bound to 
accept the word of her husband. She assured me that the public 
supported her by their conduct on this occasion, for at no 
period of her life were their visits so numerous at her house 
as on the day which followed Mr. Fox's memorable speech; 
and to use her own expression, the knocker of her door was 
never still during the whole day.* 

The great Whig hostesses and the old Catholic families rallied 
round her. The Archbishop of Canterbury considered this Very 
odd. The lady is more received than ever she was and stands 
more forward/ 

Meanwhile Mr. Fox had the misfortune to meet Henry 
Errington coming out of Brooks* Club. That Catholic gentleman 
spoke curdy: c Mr. Fox, I hear you have denied in the House the 
Prince's marriage to Mrs. Fitzherbert. You have been misin- 
formed. I was present at the marriage.' 

Fox froze. He had defended the Prince to the best of his 
ability and tried to get the debts paid off. He had never intended 
to lie. 

Perhaps he had misunderstood the Prince's vague instructions 
as to what might be said, perhaps he had half-believed that no 
marriage had taken place. 

Whichever motive had propelled him in the debate he felt 
bitterly injured now. And from henceforth Mrs. Fitzherbert 



would be his enemy. Their views had always conflicted. Fox 
had once written the Prince not to marry her. If I were Mrs. 
Fitzherbert's father or brother, I would advise her not by any 
means to agree to it, and to prefer any other species of connection with 
you to one leading to so much misery and mischief.' He frankly 
thought her duty lay in becoming the Prince's mistress prefer- 
ably a Protestant mistress. If only her conversion to the Church 
of England could be proclaimed the Whig Party might consider 
its own danger lessened. 

On May ist Sir Gilbert Elliot wrote: 

C I think yesterday was a very good day for the Prince as 
the story of Mrs. Fitzherbert was what staggered great 
numbers and he offers such unreserved satisfaction on every 
point which has been started against him that the natural 
desire of every man to relieve him from so unbecoming a 
situation seems now to have nothing to contradict or restrain 
it. This conversion leaves Mrs. Fitzherbert in an awkward 
way: but for my part I feel much better satisfied with her 
conduct than I did before. 9 

She had proved herself steadfast. The country could but 
wonder what her silence concealed. 

On May 4th Sheridan again re-entered the lists. According to 
Hansard: 

*He concluded with paying a delicate and judicious 
compliment to the lady to whom it was supposed some later 
parliamentary allusions had been pointed, affirming that 
ignorance and vulgar folly alone could have persevered in 
attempting to detract from a character, upon which truth 
could fix no just reproach and which was in reality entitled to 
the truest and most general respect/ 

These words actually had no meaning, but in its present 
temper the House dreaded meaning. 

Pulteney wrote on the same day: 'Sheridan attempted very 
foolishly to repair his statement respecting the marriage by saying 

73 



that Mrs. Fitzherbert's situation was truly respectable at which 
everyone smiled/ 1 

But it was not a malicious smile. Sympathy was slipping 
towards her. 

On May yth Sheridan's wife wrote in a letter: 

'In short we are all in high spirits about it. Poor Mrs. 
Fitzherbert is very much to be pitied and I am glad for the 
honour of the fine world that they have shewn more good 
nature and attention to her than perhaps the outrageously 
virtuous would approve. Everybody has been to visit her 
since the Debate in the House of Commons and all people 
seem anxious to countenance and support her. Her behaviour 
has been perfectly amiable throughout.* 

Hardly an apt judgement when it was Mrs. Fitzherbert's 
virtue which had caused all the trouble. The constant reference to 
her 'amiability' is to twentieth-century ears unintelligible. If a 
Prince breaks the law and risks his throne what matter if the lady 
prove amiable or otherwise? But England in the seventeen- 
eighties considered this trait as of paramount importance. To be 
a great lady one had to be amiable. 

After the notorious debate Fox met the Prince once. His 
words were recorded by a witness 'I always thought your father 
was the greatest liar in England; but now I see that you are.* After 
which Fox avoided royal company. His Royal Highness, hating 
dispute and feeling slightly guilty, continued to toast Fox as 'the 
best man in England* when Mrs. Fitzherbert was not present. 
Still handsome, though inches were spoiling his waistline, the 
twenty-five-year-old Prince soon persuaded Maria to take him 
back. Once they were alone together they found it impossible to 
quarrel. She knew he had no sense of honour but she loved him. 

Within three weeks May 25th, 1787 Sir Gilbert Elliott 
wrote: 'I met the Prince of Wales as I went past the Queen's 
House in his phaeton, in which I understood he took Mrs. 
Fitzherbert to the Epsom Races, and on his return, after a cold 
dinner,hewas at the Duchess of Gordon's ball, where my daughter 
saw him dance. Mrs. Fitzherbert danced a good deal.* This sounds 

1 Rutland Papers. 

74 



pleasanter than worrying nervously whilst Parliament wrangled 
over one's private life. And on the same day General Cunningham 
wrote of a supper at Sir Sampson Gideon's: 'The Prince sat at 
table with Mrs. Fitzherbert and all her particular friends near him. 
His attention to her has been more marked than usual.' 

Mrs. Fitzherbert' s reticence won the day. She had no ne^d to 
prove she was an honest woman. The uncomfortable fact was 
now accepted. The Prince's uncles stood bravely by her, and his 
brothers, York and Clarence, treated her exactly as if she were the 
Princess of Wales. 

Old Gloucester now wrote her from Florence where he was 
visiting with his wife (May 24th, 1787) : 

'Dear Madam, 

I take the opportunity of a private hand to desire your 
acceptance of a Cestus done in oyster-shell. I hope you will 
think it pretty. Your little friend will enclose a note if she has 
time, but she has a good many people to visit here and we are 
just setting out for Geneva. Pray send us by the safest oppor- 
tunity some account to trust to of the present negotiation. I 
hope the Prince will be made easy in his affairs. I sincerely 
hope you are well and happy, for I know you desire it. I 
remain, dear Madam, your humble servant, 

William Henry.' 

The royal family realized that a person of integrity had married 
into their circle. This was the first of many tokens of affection 
she was to receive. She particularly valued this one perhaps 
because of the time at which it arrived. 

The next summer passed happily enough. The Prince pro- 
nounced himself eager to cut London expenses and let Carlton 
House fall into ruins. His creative urge was finding a new outlet. 
He was tired of his Town palace. Might it not be much more fun 
to rebuild the Marine PaviHon at Brighton? 

That summer the Sussex Weekly Advertiser opened a social 
column: 

'July 25 1787. His Royal Highness accompanied by the 
Duke and Duchess of Cumberland and Mrs. Fitzherbert 
visited the Theatre at Brighton. 

75 



August 6. His Royal Highness attended the races with 
Mrs. Fitzherbert and dined with her at the house of Colonel 
Pelham.' Etc. 

A few people still looked askance at the affair. The Duke of 
Rutland, Viceroy of Ireland, wrote his Duchess in July: c lf you go 
to bathe in the sea do not go to Brighton, because you will be 
under a difficulty about Mrs. Fitzherbert/ But disobediently the 
Duchess went and the first thing a visiting doctor described in 
early August was: 

'The Duchess of Rutland was by far the fairest of the fair. 
Mrs. Fitzherbert did not dance the first set but the second she 
danced with Isaac Corry and after dancing she sat down with 
her partner and in a few minutes the Prince and the Duke of 
Cumberland came and sat beside her. The Prince expressed 
affection in his looks and the Duke esteem. She discovers 
strong sensibility and considerable dignity in her countenance 
and deportment.' 

On August 9th the Morning Post remarked: 'Mrs. Fitzherbert 
looks more elegant than ever. One could hardly help exclaiming 
with the Army of Mahomet II, when he showed them Irene : "Such 
a woman is worth a Kingdom." ' 

Meanwhile Fox retired abroad. He had reason enough to sulk; 
he had been scumlously misled. Eventually the Prince sent for 
him, but Mrs. Fitzherbert reiterated her refusal ever to speak to 
him again. c She was, however, obliged sometimes to see him, and 
was much urged by the Prince to a reconciliation. But though of 
a forgiving disposition upon other occasions, she was inflexible 
on this point, as it was the only means left her to protect her 
reputation.' 1 

At this time Fox sent a message that he would make her a 
Duchess if he got into power. She refused and it was then he 
pkyed his last card. Within earshot of Mrs. Fitzherbert, Fox 
introduced a brilliant unscrupulous actress, Mrs. Crouch, to the 
Prince of Wales. His Royal Highness was easier to capture for a 
night than hold for a week. On this occasion he appeared to be 
much taken by the lady. 

1 She related this to George Dawsoa-Damer. 

76 



Mrs. Fitzherbert found herself in an emotional dilemma. She 
could neither remonstrate as a wife nor upbraid as a mistress. 

But Fox had not chosen cleverly enough. Mrs. Crouch made a 
gallant try but her influence did not last three days. Fox's strategy 
only served to annoy Mrs. Fitzherbert. Poor Mrs. Crouch died in 
Brighton, where in the Church of St. Nicholas a tactful memorial 
states she could 'gladden Life by the Charms of her Conversation 
and refine it by her Manners'. 



77 



Eight 



THE Prince's debts were paid and his income augmented. 
Throughout 1788 he appeared to be quite happy playing 
house with Mrs. Fitzherbert. This proved rather an ex- 
pensive game decorating her reception-rooms in Pall Mall and 
re-designing the new residence at Brighton but what fun it 
was I Apart from his building mania the Prince had started to 
collect seriously. He trained his taste, starting with horses, silver, 
food and wine; later he became a connoisseur of pictures and 
furniture. His clothes were always magnificent and, like his 
personality, quite different to those worn by anyone else. 

At this moment his architectural bent remained conventional. 
His new Marine Pavilion built by Henry Holland, the architect of 
Drury Lane Theatre, was of classical design. The Prince had not 
yet acquired exotic taste. 

Both in Brighton and London Mrs. Fitzherbert accompanied 
her husband on official occasions. There was, however, a stir 
when, in February 1788, she appeared at the trial of Warren 
Hastings. When the Prince led her into Westminster Hall, Queen 
Charlotte rose and withdrew. Macaulay has described the throng 
which sat listening to Burke's and Sheridan's bitter orations 
against the man who had saved India for the British Empire: 

'There appeared the voluptuous charms of her to whom 
the heir of the throne had in secret plighted his faith. There 
too was she, the beautiful mother of a beautiful race, the Saint 
Cecilia whose delicate features lighted up by love and music, 
art has rescued from the common decay [a reference to Mrs. 
Sheridan as painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds], and there the 

78 



ladies whose lips more persuasive than those of Fox himself, 
had carried the Westminster election against palace and 
treasury, shone around Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire.* 

Of course cartoons and caricatures of the 'Wales household* 
continued to pour forth. Gillray's pencil produced his famous 
skit 'Wife or No Wife or a Trip to the Continent', which depicted 
the Prince placing a ring on his bride's finger while Burke read 
the service and Fox gave her away; then came The Morning after 
Marriage or a Scene on the Continent'; and the Tall of Phaeton* 
in which the Prince upset Mrs. Fitzherbert from a phaeton under 
the eyes of the King and Queen, an incident which, to England's 
huge delight, had actually occurred when the Prince was showing 
off his high-spirited horses in the Park. 

Meanwhile the demented Lord George Gordon, who had 
ignited the anti-Catholic riots some eight years before, took the 
liberty of calling on Mrs. Fitzherbert to demand her proper title. 
Her brother, Mr. Wat Smythe, returned the visit, demanding a 
duel if he called again. (The Smythe brothers previously bored or 
disapproving found themselves much occupied these days.) 

Lord George then wrote to Pitt: 'I think it my duty to inform 
you as Prime Minister with this circumstance, that you may be 
apprised of, and communicate to the House of Commons the 
overbearing disposition of the Papists.' 

This fell flat so he tried to produce an affidavit he could force 
upon the lady but was disallowed by the Attorney-General. 'After 
Lord George had equally attacked the moral character of the 
French Queen and the Empress of Russia, the Court was com- 
pelled to interfere and the Attorney-General observed, 'You are a 
disgrace to the name of Briton.' 1 

While the Smythe brothers coped with these skirmishes and 
threatened wholesale horse-whippings, the Prince and Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert retreated to Brighton where she now met some of the 
wilder characters. 

'September 15. The Prince of Wales, the Duke of 
Gloucester and Mrs. Fitzherbert were present at the theatre 
on three occasions to see Lord Barrymore perform.' 

1 Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. 57. 

79 



Then suddenly King George went off his head. The immediate 
cause of this attack was furious disappointment at the Duke of 
York for abandoning him for the Prince of Wales. Unable to 
bear the pain of this 'betrayal' he lay crying out while madness 
rushed into his mind 'Frederick is my favourite, my friend. Yes, 
Frederick is my friend.' But the heartless second son remained 
drinking at the Pavilion or gambling at Brooks' Club. Soon it 
would all be over. No scandal leaked into the papers however. 

'October 27. The Prince was so alarmed by the accounts 
he received of the King's indisposition that he immediately 
set off from Brighton for Kew. The King being on Wednesday 
much better, the Prince returned on Thursday morning to 
Brighton. Last Friday a deer was turned out on the Steine for 
the diversion of the Prince and Mrs. Fitzherbert who were 
present in their respective carriages.' 

TSIovember 10. His Majesty's alarming indisposition 
occasioned the Prince and Mrs. Fitzherbert with their suite to 
leave Brighton at least a fortnight earlier than they otherwise 
intend to have gone from that place of pleasure and gaiety!' 

So wrote the social columns. Behind the scenes turmoil pre- 
vailed. The old King had always tried hard to do the right, not 
the amusing, thing. Long, long ago in his clumsy emotional 
youth he had himself fallen in love terribly, painfully in love 
with the fifteen-year-old daughter of the Duke of Richmond, but 
he accepted the advice of his elders and promised Lord Bute he 
would 'keep my thoughts even from the dear object of my love, 
grieve in silence and never trouble you more with this unhappy 
tale', if Bute said No. And No had been the answer. 

After the torture of this adolescent romance George in 
appeared to take a masochistic pride in fidelity to the ugly 
German princess selected for him. The strain of so many years of 
high-minded morality and sense of kingly responsibility in a 
world which tended to mock both had in the end unhinged his 
mind. In truth George III had faced worries of large dimensions. 
The Declaration of Independence of the American Colonies had 
not infuriated him so much as his defeat by John Wilkes who 
cleverly played the derision of the London mob against their 

80 



unsubtle, slow-witted, well-meaning monarch. Curtailment of 
the Power of the Crown seemed more dreadful to him than loss 
of a continent. Then Rockingham and Burke had brought in 
their dangerous the King thought treasonable radical ideas 
and their Economical Reform Bill (1783) which pruned the royal 
household of its more extravagant sinecures. Fox had become the 
real power in a coalition government and devoted his energies to 
curbing the royal power. George HE believed it the end of king- 
ship if he could not appoint his own ministers without advice. 
He wrote to the Prince of Wales on the possibility of abdication, 
e the resigning of my Crown, my dear Son to you, quitting this 
my native country for ever and returning to the dominions of my 
forefathers'. But he had not done so. Instead he reigned on, 
watching his heir bait him with Mr. Fox. His six other sons 
turned strangely against him, too, and his daughters miserably 
called their apartments a 'nunnery'. At least none of his brood 
could marry unless he consented he had curtailed their activities 
there. But why did they not love him? Could his family not under- 
stand that he also had known anguish? But he had let his heart die. 
Why would they not do the same? He had tried so hard so 
hard. Now the burden wore him down too heavily. And into the 
clouds he fled, away from painful thoughts, away from duty 
nobly borne, away from reality. 

The doctors thought he would die and the Prince waited up 
for two nights, wearing full decorations. The King's death would 
have been wonderfully convenient. He could then make Mrs. 
Fitzherbert a duchess with special precedence and push the Whigs 
to repeal the Royal Marriage Act, or simpler still give himself legal 
permission to marry his own wife. What a pity her Catholicism 
must prevent him setting her on the throne as Queen. However, 
one might make some sort of arrangement. Sheridan would 
explain to the Commons. Not Fox this time no. Fox had 
muffed it somehow and been very rude. Fox would be Prime 
Minister of course, but Sheridan would do the explaining, 

In December the Prince posted to Windsor with Admiral Jack 
Payne who, with Lord Hugh Seymour, was his closest confidant. 
Mrs. Fitzherbert herself left Brighton with the Sheridans and 
drove back to her London house to await events. 

The King's illness precipitated a political crisis. Fox was 

81 



recalled from exile to take a violent part in the battle which 
immediately arose between the Whigs and Tories concerning the 
appointment of a Regent. Pitt and the Queen fought adamantly 
to impose as many restrictions as possible on the Prince of Wales 
who was loyally supported by his six brothers. The Tories were 
particularly anxious the Regent should *not be given the power to 
create peers they were terrified of the titles he might bestow on 
Mrs. Fitzherbert. Once more her status was hotly debated in the 
House of Commons ; withouther name actually beingmentioned, ex- 
cept by Lord Belgrave as c a very amiable and respectable character*. 

Fox, refusing to be embroiled a second time, left London. As 
Lady Eleanor Butler noted (February 5th, 1789): c Mr. Fox is at 
Bath in order to avoid the disputes which Mr. Rolle's impertinent 
question will occasion. It is said Mrs. Fitzherbert is determined 
to assert her claim.' 

Mr. Rolle stood up in the House to declare that he only 'gave 
his consent to appointing the Prince of Wales as Regent upon the 
ground that he was not married to Mrs. Fitzherbert either in law 
or equity' and when a clause in the Regency Bill was introduced 
annulling the powers of the Regent, if he either ceased to live in 
England or married a Catholic, Rolle moved an amendment 
excluding from the Regency e any person proved to be married 
either in law or in fact to a Papist'. 

Pitt declared the amendment unnecessary, but he praised Mr. 
Rolle. Then Dundas stood up and said that Fox's denial of a 
marriage two sessions before was enough for him. He regretted 
Fox's absence on this occasion, but was so sure of his sincerity 
that he was confident he would have come to the House even at 
the risk of his life if anything had occurred to alter his opinion. 

Fox may have writhed when he heard these words, which 
put him into an unbearable situation. But Grey, who did know 
about the marriage, felt able to stand up and denounce the 
marriage rumour as 'false, libellous and calumnious'. 

Everyone was getting tired of the matter. The Attorney- 
General assured the House that 'rumours could not be made a 
ground for that House to legislate upon' and that he 'knew not 
how to agitate a subject of such delicacy. He therefore wished at 
all times to close the door upon such discussions.' 

That was that. 



8z 



No sooner were the arrangements made for a Regent than 
the King recovered. It was small comfort to His Royal High- 
ness that Ireland had voted him Regent without restrictions. In 
England it was 'partly the fear of the Prince's Papist wife, who 
had so great an ascendancy over him, that inspired the great 
towns and country districts to pour addresses in upon Pitt at this 
juncture, assuring him of their support'. 

If George III had died the Tories would, however, have been 
ousted. Then some genius among the Whigs could surely have 
devised a method of turning Maria Fitzherbert from a millstone 
into an asset. 

In February of 1789 The Times published several scurrilous 
notices concerning Maria Fitzherbert. Her brothers, ever glad 
for an excuse to fight duels, hurried to the editor with challenges. 
Two days late the paper announced : 

'Whether this kind of bravado conduct in Mr. Smythe will 
have any influence upon the spirited truths sent to The limes for 
publication either respecting Mrs. Fitzherbert or any other public 
character, its future conduct will show.' Whether influenced or 
not by threats of horse-whips and pistols The Times grew more 
respectful henceforth. George Selwyn noted 'The Duke of 
Portland now sups every night with His Royal Highness and his 
brother at Mrs. Fitzherbert's.' In May the.Duke of York fought 
a duel with Colonel Lennox, whereof Edmund Burke wrote at 
length to Mrs. Fitzherbert: 

'This affair has occupied the public attention for a fortnight 
or three weeks past. It has filled the Newspapers: and yet the 
King has, either known nothing or seemed to care nothing, 
about a business, which, as a father, a Supreme Magistrate, or 
a commander of an Army or as a person of a Character com- 
pounded of all three, ought to have been an object of his 
vigilant attention.' 

But George HE, though partially recovered, could not bear to 
apply his worn-out mind to the painful subject of his sons. 

The exasperated Prince again began to drink heavily, especi- 
ally if his wife was not present, and Lady Eleanor Butler noted 
(June 1 8th, 1789): 'The Prince was drunk at the Birthday. 

83 



(June 4th). He could not behave decently at either of the Ambassa- 
dors* galas because Mrs. Fitzherbert was not invited.* 

Maria tried to temper his excesses and withstood his insuffer- 
able practical jokes with good humour. While the French King 
and Queen slipped from their thrones the Heir of England 
sported with Lord Barrymore. He induced this gentleman to ride 
his horse to the top floor of Mrs. Fitzherbert's house. The horse 
'could not be induced to make the return journey and two black- 
smiths were at last called in to get it down by main force, their 
reward being a bowl of punch at the Castle*. 

These larks doubled up the Prince with laughter, but he was not 
amused when Barrymore, dressed in the cook-maid's clothes, 
sang 'Ma Chere Amie' under Maria's bedroom window at three 
in the morning. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert must have spent many bored evenings 
waiting for his return. 'He was young and impetuous and 
boisterous in his character and very much addicted to the 
pleasures of the table. It was the fashion in those days to drink 
very hard, and Mrs. Fitzherbert never retired to rest until her royal 
spouse came home.' When she heard him and his staggering com- 
panions on the stairway she would, according to the Duke of York 
who usually accompanied his brother, hide behind the furniture. 
On finding the drawing-room empty the Prince usually indulged 
in another ghastly repetitive joke. He would draw his sword and 
search the room as if looking for thieves until he found her. 

But she stood it as many another English wife had to stand 
it and according to Lady Hester Stanhope: 

'Mrs. Fitzherbert had a great deal of tact in concealing the 
Prince's faults. She would say : Don't send your letter to such a 
person: he is careless and will lose it. Or when he was talking 
foolish things she would tell him: You are drunk tonight, do 
hold your tongue.' 

Sir Osbert Sitwell comments: 'If this was constituted tact 
perhaps it was as well that she never indulged in plain speaking.' 
But somehow she controlled him. It could not have been easy, for 
nothing maddens a man more than to be scolded for drunkenness 
by the woman whose couch he shares. At least he drank less with 
her than with anyone else the attraction of opposites held good. 

84 



Nine 



THE French Revolution with its disruptive violence and 
shattering of tradition caused more chatter than fear in 
English drawing-rooms. French and English parliamentary 
procedure could not be compared, and the strata of society had 
assumed entirely different forms. The English Revolution was 
over and had left the people with a well-founded horror of civil 
war. However hard the lives of the poor might be they did not 
reckon that cutting off a king's head would bring more meat to 
their tables. The French Revolution was considered in very poor 
taste and fleeing aristocracts received much sympathy in England. 
Several parties of refugees arrived on the Brighton beaches. 
Mrs. Fitzherbert opened her house to them, and her tiny oratory 
was packed for daily Mass. When a flock of exhausted Benedictine 
nuns landed at Shoreham nearby Mrs. Fitzherbert collected 
money and drove out to meet them. She found among the sisters 
a former school friend, Catherine Dillon, whom she had not seen 
since her Paris Convent. How widely had their paths diverged. 
Under Mrs. Fitzherbert's protection the sisters were driven to 
Brighton and lodged in the Ship Inn where the Prince was waiting 
to show how endearing he could be. He bowed the ladies into the 
parlour and indicated that they should sit while he stood by the 
fire discussing their future plans. He thought Holland might 
provide refuge, but meanwhile they must proceed to London to 
open a school under his patronage. The poor sisters sat bewitched 
by this magnanimous and handsome protector. Whatever the 
Prince of Wales did in the future, to them he would remain 
Europe's First Gentleman. Eventually the sisters settled near 
Rugby where to this day the convent sings the Domim Salvumfac 



in gratitude to the English royal family. How the Prince enjoyed 
c doing good' and how kind he could be when the reward was 
Maria's approving smile 1 

An even more dramatic arrival on Brighton beach was that of 
the beautiful young Duchesse de Noailles disguised as a cabin- 
boy. The local Press got busy (August 29th, 1792): 

'The Duchess was received on coming on shore by His 
Highness the Prince of Wales with Mrs. Fitzherbert and Miss 
Isabella Pigot. The Prince with his usual affability escorted 
the Fair Fugitive to Earl Clermont's, where tea was provided 
for the Prince and twenty of his friends. . . . The Prince with 
that humanity and gallantry which so invariably distinguished 
him, paid every attention to this amiable stranger. She this 
day rode out with Mrs. Fitzherbert.' 

The young Duchesse stayed in Mrs. Fitzherbert's house, 
borrowing her embroidered brocade gowns. In the small oratory 
she gave thanks for survival and wept for France. Within a week 
she appeared to have forgotten her dire adventures (September 
loth, 1792): 

'Mrs. Fitzherbert, the Duchesse de Noailles and many 
other ladies of distinction were present at the cricket match, 
and dined in a marquee. The Prince's band of music attended 
and played during the whole time the ladies were at dinner. 
In the evening Mrs. Fitzherbert, the Duchesse, Lady Clermont 
and Miss Pigot walked round the ground, seemingly the better 
to gratify the spectators with the sight of a French lady.' 

Which was the civilized nation now'? Guillotine on one side of 
the Channel. Cricket on the other. 

Miss Isabella Pigot, an admiral's unmarried daughter, had 
procured one of the few jobs open to gentlewomen. Settling 
down in the house of kind Mrs. Fitzherbert she busied herself 
writing notes to the Prince, of which many survive : 

'If you will have the goodness to hint to me what hour 
you would like to have Mrs. Fitzherbert return home, as I am 

86 



persuaded from her manner and conversation she will with 
the greatest pleasure be punctual/ 

'Mrs. Fitzherbert is just gone to Lady Harrington's and is 
to call me again. Therefore pray don't attempt to come here 
but rely on it I will meet you at home by one o'clock.' 

Mrs. Fitzherbert is dressing and begs you will have the 
goodness to allow me to say for her that she shall be very 
happy to attend you to Brighton tomorrow.' 

Miss Pigot revelled in her own importance when the Prince 
went to her for advice: 

'I have told her what I have done and showed her your 
answer which from a mind so harrassed as yours nothing can 
be objected to on it. For God's sake calm your spirits and feel 
more happy. Have a little confidence in her and rely on it she 
will do everything that is right by you, but she says her spirits 
are so damped and her nerves so bad, she must go out to 
endeavour to soothe her mind by change of scene and country 
but begs me to say she shall be at home again by a little after 
twelve and very happy to see you. Pray dear Prince come, be 
kind and good-humoured which your own good heart and 
disposition will ever incline you I am sure to, and believe me 
you have much joy and happiness still in store for you. Don't 
ever exact too much but be assured you will in a very short 
time carry your point in every desire and wish of your heart, 
and mutual allowances and little indulgences must be expected 
and good will granted from two people in whatever situation 
they are destined to live together.' 

During the winter months Miss Pigot paid country visits and 
lived on stories of her career as a go-between. 

'Belle Pigot,' says Lady Forester, c was a most singular 
person. She was very intimate with George IV and knew all 
the court gossip. She made regular rounds of visits in the 
Autumn and Winter to the great Houses in Staffordshire and 

8? 



Shropshire and remained in each House long enough to pay 
all her expenses. Everyone was delighted to have her. She 
was so amusing with her royal gossip. One day not being 
able to get post-horses, seeing a return Hearse drive up to the 
Inn, she went on by it/ 

She would. Royal tittle-tattle must not grow stale. The urge 
to divulge hot gossip drove her relentlessly over the winter 
roads, and when she sat bolt upright on a chair in front of the 
fireplace, all the guests of the mansion, bored with local tales of 
fox-hunting and polling-booths remained riveted around her 
fans ceased to flutter, snuff-boxes lay forgotten. To be in on the 
secrets of the Prince and Mrs. Fitzherbert? What fortune for an 
indefatigable spinster. 

But, according to the diary of Lord Robert Seymour, the 
actual gathering of this material may not have been as amusing as 
the subsequent recital: 

c The Prince of Wales, Mrs. Fitzherbert, the Duke and 
Duchess of Cumberland and Miss Pigot went on a party 
to Windsor during the absence of the Royal Family from 
Windsor and going to see a cold bath Miss Pigot expressed a 
great wish to bathe in this hot weather. The Duke of Cumber- 
land very imprudently pushed her in and the Duchess of 
Cumberland having the presence of mind to throw out the 
rope saved her. Mrs. Fitzherbert went into convulsive fits and 
the Duchess fainted away. They afterwards pushed in one of 
the Prince's attendants/ 

Hanoverian high jinks. 

The Prince had enjoyed racing, but an unfortunate scandal 
concerning the Prince's jockey served at this time to drive His 
Royal Highness from the Turf. The charges of pulling a horse in 
one race and letting him win next day were never proved, but the 
Prince angrily refused to give any explanation or try to exonerate 
his jockey. He simply closed the subject by pensioning the man 
and selling off his racehorses. The royal colours were never again 
seen at Newmarket, and the Jockey Club argues the case to this 
day. 

88 



Hundreds of contemporary letters mention the Prince and 
Mrs. Fitzherbert together, usually with the Dukes of Clarence 
and York, at various balls and dinners. The Sussex weekly news- 
papers chronicled their doings with cheeky comment: 

'April 16. 1792. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, 
Mrs. Fitzherbert and many of the nobility graced the Steine. 
How much better this than to waste property and reputation 
with the Jockey Club at Newmarket/ 

'May 28. On Saturday last the Prince of Wales and Mrs. 
Fitzherbert were present at a grand field-day given in honour 
of the Duke and Duchess of York.* 

'September 3. The Prince's fete took place last Monday. 
The Prince and Mrs. Fitzherbert looked on for a considerable 
time with great good humour.* Etc. etc. 

They visited the theatre together, patronized sports and 
entertained publicly as man and wife. Meanwhile, not only the 
royal dukes, but the King and Queen had to realize how discern- 
ing and unavaricious a person had entered their orbit. By nature 
a peace-maker, Mrs. Fitzherbert tried to soothe the tension 
between father and son. Accustomed to affectionate family 
relationships she was shocked at the Prince's hatred of his father. 
Although the Queen feared her son's entanglement and was even 
ready to use the notorious Lady Jersey to detach her son from a 
Catholic, she did send a message of gratitude to Mrs. Fitzherbert 
concerning her good influence on the Prince. Once she received 
her secretly. 

So the years went by; nine years of domestic bliss marred 
only by bewilderment at increasing debts. His Royal Highness's 
building mania outpaced his purse. As he grew older, stouter, 
more liverish and self-indulged, the Prince tired of conventional 
forms of architecture and yearned to rebuild every house he 
owned. His artistic senses, as often occurs when a man becomes 
physically unhealthy, grew sharpened and more original. Now the 
classical tranquillity of the Marine Pavilion bored him. He had 
encased the original farmhouse in a Greek temple. Now why not 

89 



encase the temple in a Russian cathedral or Indian palace? Turkish 
minarets and Chinese pagodas might be added. The Prince toyed 
happily with thoughts of pinnacles, spires, and domes. And 
within, instead of the plain marble halls and stately pillars of the 
waning eighteenth century, why not ^dazzle and shock? Walls 
coloured like peacocks 7 tails and eastern sunsets. . . . 

But even very small domes cost money and the Prince's 
creditors were already clamouring for 375,000. The wily old 
King proved adamant. His son's debts would be paid the day he 
married a German princess. And the Queen, with a mother's 
frantic intuition, saw that another woman might at this juncture 
be used as the thin end of the wedge. Lady Jersey brilliant, 
hard and heartless, an experienced grandmother-vamp might 
well succeed in evoking that atmosphere of coddling and debauch 
needed by a faded stallion. Her Ladyship was despatched to 
Brighton to discuss with the Prince the enlargement of his 
establishment and her own position in it. 

Guessing at the intrigues afoot and determined not to be 
caught in any humiliating imbroglio with another woman, Mrs. 
Fitzherbert for the summer of 1794 rented the beautiful and 
already historic house called Marble Hill at Richmond. Here she 
could entertain the royal dukes and nobility who spent much of 
their time along the banks of the Thames. Marble Hill, a most 
perfect little Palladian mansion, had been built and superbly 
decorated for Lady Suffolk, mistress of George II, a hundred 
years before. When she sat alone in the ornate and perfectly 
proportioned rooms, when she stepped up the carved mahogany 
staircase by candlelight or perhaps when she leaned from her 
bedroom window at night to look over to the river, Maria 
Fitzherbert may have thought of the building's creator, sweet 
Henrietta, who knew how to manage things so cleverly. She 
persuaded George II to spend 12,000 on Marble Hill, and then 
made Pope and Swift help her lay out the garden and choose 
wines for her cellar. George II had reached deep into his pocket 
to construct this gem. He never dreamed that some day his great- 
great-grandson would instal a dangerously virtuous lady there. 

^ During the month of June, while the Prince remained at 
Brighton savouring the news of Howe's great Atlantic battle 
against the French, Mrs. Fitzherbert passed warm days in the 

90 



shade of the huge old trees, supervising the garden or boating 
gently on the wide river. Each evening, if not giving a dinner 
party herself, she drove out in her carriage to the houses of the 
Dukes of York or Clarence. Meanwhile the Prince's ijsual go- 
between, Miss Pigot, was kept busy scribbling her informative 
little notes to the Pavilion. 

Lady Jersey launched her attack very suddenly indeed. 
Exactly what her tactics were we cannot know, but her seductively 
maternal approach produced surprising results with the fattening 
Prince. 

One morning Mrs. Fitzherbert came in from a morning 
beneath the humming lime-trees of Marble Hill, and was giving 
instructions for her evening drive to Bushey to dine with the 
Duke of Clarence, when a letter arrived from Brighton written in 
the usual vein: 

'June 23 1794 

My dearest Love. I have just received a letter from my 
Sister by the coach this evening, desiring me to come to 
Windsor, which though exceptionally inconvenient to me at 
this moment, in particular, owing to my being to give my 
annual Regimental dinner on Wednesday, I mean to comply 
with and to set out tomorrow morning early, having put off 
my dinner with all my Company to Friday. I therefore mean 
to pass Wednesday in London and return home here on 
Thursday. I have just been dining at the General's, where we 
have had a very pleasant and very jolly party. Adieu, my dear 
love, excuse haste. 

Ever thine, G. P.* 

She left the letter on her dressing-table and that evening drove 
to the Duke of Clarence's where the company expected the Prince 
might join them at dinner. Maria was actually sitting down at the 
Duke's table when a note was handed to her. In it the Prince 
stated he never intended to see her again. 

The c dearest love' of that morning turned white. The Duke of 
Clarence himself shaking at this sudden turn of events escorted 
her to the front door, but she preferred to travel home alone in 
her carriage. 



She had never trusted her Prince; indeed that was not possible 
when he could not trust himself, but she had loved him, and their 
marriage had lasted happily for nearly nine years. 

Slowly and stiffly she climbed the famed mahogany staircase 
of Marble Hill. The servants wondered what illness affected their 
lady. On her table the morning's letter lay where she had left it. 
She lit candles to re-read the familiar writing and then endorsed 
it thus: e This letter I received the morning of the day the Prince 
sent me word he would never enter my house. Lady Jersey.* Her 
brief bitter comment lies still among the Fitsherbert papers. 



Ten 



HAVING behaved in this odious fashion, the Prince soon 
wished he hadn't. But for a time Lady Jersey manipu- 
lated the strings cleverly. While seeking to oust Mrs. 
Fitzherbert from the Prince's affections she dropped frequent 
hints that if he married a German princess under her guidance, 
his 375,000 of debts would be paid and life would become a bed 
of roses. His Royal Highness listened for a week, but the ultimate 
realization that he had lost his Maria proved too painful to bear. 
Within a month Lady Stafford was writing to Lord Granville: 

'July 1 8th 

I understand that the misunderstanding between the Prince 
and Mrs. Fitzherbert is made up. The story is too long to 
write, but after he had been persuaded by a certain lady to 
give up and to write according to that idea to Mrs. Fitzherbert, 
he found he could not live without her and sent messengers 
of Peace in numbers.' 1 

Lord Hugh Seymour and Admiral Jack Payne returned from 
sea after fighting 'the Glorious First of June' to learn of the 
Prince's desertion. Lord Hugh, who had won renown while 
commanding the Leviathan, protested bluntly to the Prince. He 
refused to conceal his disgust that any man should 'forfeit his 
honour' by dismissing a woman 'whose only means of defence 
was to break her word'. Admiral Payne, a more pliable character, 
listened to the Prince's excuses and tried to improve bitter 
feelings. As usual the Prince thought he could evoke Maria's 

1 Gtanvillc Papers. 



sympathy by pretending to be ill. Soon Payne was sent buzzing 
to Marble Hill. Some of his high-strung notes to the Prince 
survive: 

'July 29 1794 

I feel the strongest necessity of remaining here as long 
as I can get Mrs. Fitzherbert to stay, who would have left 
this place for Margate this morning, but has now consented 
to stay till tomorrow evening and to go to London. Her 
mind is very much disturbed at the thought of your being ill, 
but be assured, my dear Prince, that her dread of writing 
herself to you again, in my mind seems to arise more from the 
persuasion of the impossibility of your being happy in future 
than any resentment of what is past and the more violence 
you betray will more strongly confirm this opinion. I have 
got her to promise to write to you but more at present is 
impossible to do and that has been avoiding all past causes of 
complaint and considering only that which in future comfort 
and tranquillity might arise and I am persuaded that if I had 
revived all past transactions and attempted to talk over again 
what has so often embittered the peace of you both, Mrs. 
Fitzherbert would not have remained here an hour.' 

e july 30 1794 

I am not sorry I stayed till Mrs. Fitzherbert's departure 
as I did not get her into a state of mind tranquil enough to 
write a letter till 2 o'clock in the morning of her leaving this 
and which I put in the post here to avoid any changes that 
might prevent its being sent. . . .' Etc. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert stolidly refused to write the Prince any 
letters because she feared the likelihood of their falling into the 
hands of Lady Jersey. Her Prince was so weak so tragically 
weak and forgetful. 

Meanwhile the King's advisers were busy. On July i5th Lord 
Mornington, elder brother of the future Duke of Wellington, 
wrote from Brighton: 

C I heard last night that the Treaty of Separation and 
94 



Provision is on foot (if not already concluded) between His 
Royal Highness and the late Princess Fitz. I think you ought 
to marry His Royal Highness to somefrau immediately; I am 
told he is very well disposed to take such a wife, as it may be 
His Majesty's pleasure to provide for him.' 

Throughout August Lady Jersey continued her intrigue, and 
even while sending Admiral Payne to beg for Mrs. Fitzherbert's 
forgiveness, the Prince let himself reel towards another marriage. 
On August zist he veered again and wrote Payne: 

C I have at last taken my resolution and all I can say is that I 
shall ever be happy to contribute anything that lays in my 
power to render Mrs. Fitzherbert's situation as comfortable 
as possible and to testify every sort of attention and kindness 
to her and that too in the manner that can be most pleasing to 
her feelings mais tout estfini' 

Three days later King George III had the pleasure of inform- 
ing Pitt (August 24th, 1794): 

C I have this morning seen the Prince of Wales who has 
acquainted me with his having broken off all connection with 
Mrs. Fitzherbert and his desire of entering into a more credit- 
able line of life by marrying; expressing at the same time the 
wish that my niece, the Princess of Brunswick, may be the 
person/ 

There had in fact been two German Princesses to choose 
from, both first cousins. The Queen's niece Louise of Mecklen- 
burg, an attractive, cultured young lady much desired by Her 
Majesty as daughter-in-law, and the King's niece, the hearty, 
simple, jolly, tactless Caroline of Brunswick favoured by His 
Majesty and Lady Jersey whose scouts assured her that no rival 
need be feared in this inelegant Princess. 

In November 1794 the diplomatic James Harris, now Earl of 
Malmesbury, who had manfully shouldered the responsibility of 
persuading the Prince not to abscond to the Continent in the 
wake of Mrs. Fitzherbert ten years before, was ordered to 

95 



Brunswick to ask the Duke for the hand of his eldest daughter. 
In early December the marriage by proxy took place. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert retired quietly. After nine years of moods 
and lies and hysterics perhaps she found it a relief to live as a 
widow again. If she had borne children this peaceful interlude 
may have given her the chance to see them and to discover a 
more human existence with her own family. 

Uncle Henry Errington insisted that she continue to accept 
her usual 3,000 a year. This was 'honourable alimony'. Indeed 
the Prince's faults did not include meanness and he never ceased 
to fuss over her financial arrangements. He minded not being 
able to pay her the 10,000 a year promised as a marriage settle- 
ment. In late December before Princess Caroline started for 
England, the Prince asked the Lord Chancellor to obtain the 
King's promise to continue Mrs. Fitzherbert's pension if he 
should die before his father. The answer came in the affirmative: 

'His Majesty was pleased to receive this communication 
in the most gracious manner, observing at the same time that 
in the natural order of things the occasion was not likely to 
present itself, but that Your Royal Highness had no reason to 
entertain any uneasiness on this account.' 

At the same time the Prince wrote to Henry Dundas asking 
him to request the King to continue her pension in case of c any 
happenings which might terminate my life'. To this letter he 
added a P.S. 1 hope you will excuse this scrawl as I really know 
hardly what I write.' 

The Prince's friends worried over his state of mind. They 
already had a King who lapsed into occasional madness, and it 
would be the final blow if the Prince of Wales followed suit. 
Several of his entourage deliberately showed they would not 
tolerate his behaviour to Mrs. Fitzherbert and this hurt him 
mightily. 

He could bear to be cast aside by his former lady-love Lady 
Melbourne, but when his own dearest friends Lord Hugh and 
Lady Horatia Seymour showed cold disapproval, the Prince 
raged with ill-feeling. So they cared more for Maria than for poor 
lonely him. The Seymours were both strong characters and while 



Lord Hugh commanded his ship, Horatia had spent much time 
with Mrs. Fitzherbert. Their stand was natural if courageous. The 
first Seymour children, four little boys known as 'the Jolly Boats', 
had become dear to Maria, and the Seymour letters are full of 
references to 'Mrs. Fits'. In a way Maria must have been fascin- 
ated by the career of Horatia's mother, the 'beautiful Waldegrave', 
who had been the last English commoner to manage a royal 
marriage. When Lord Hugh was sent back from the Fleet with 
news that the French Royalists in Toulon had joined the English 
he wrote excitedly to his wife : C I am tired to death having travelled 
thirteen days and nights, without having been more than fourteen 

hours in bed I will desire the two beds at Mrs. KeppePs to be 

ready tomorrow for yourself and Mrs. Fitzherbert in case of her 
coming to town.' 

After the 'Glorious First of June*, in which Lord Hugh's 
ship the Leviathan had engaged a more powerful enemy ship La 
'Revolutionnaire single-handed, Lord Howe spoke warmly of his 
'good judgement and determined courage in the battle'. Lord 
Hugh received a medal and the thanks of the House of Parlia- 
ment. 

The pleasure of receiving these honours was somewhat spoilt 
by his breach with the Prince. It seemed, however, that the 
Seymours were well able to live without royal favour not so 
easy in those days when only patronage could procure jobs for a 
large family yet it was the Prince who minded the breach. He 
had relied on Lord Hugh's clean-cut friendship. Now in pique he 
decided to demote him from the Privy Purse to mere Lord of the 
Bedchamber a post of unfortunate name in the circumstances. 

Lord Darnley, writing to inform Lord Hugh of the change, 
hoped he would not quit the Prince's service, as His Royal 
Highness so needed sincere friends 'to prevent him committing 
fresh follies'. 

Admiral Payne continued to trot to Mrs. Fitzherbert with 
messages but for the next year she hid away, preferring solitude 
to solicitude. She could not bring herself to believe the Prince's 
betrothal arrangements would materialize, and several months 
passed. It was not considered necessary for the Heir actually to 
meet his prospective bride. The Duke of York, who had seen 

~ 97 



Caroline eight years before, spoke well of her and that sufficed. 
Rumour had it that even the King grew uneasy as the marriage 
day approached and told the Queen he would himself be ready 
to accept the responsibility of breaking off what might prove a 
disastrous match. But official preparations continued. 

However she used her newly granted freedom this winter 
must have been a bitter one for Mrs. Fitzherbert in her lovely, 
lonely house. Now regrets became inevitable. No mind could be 
strong enough to withstand the intrusion of the past. If nine 
years before she had accepted exile; {/"she had entered a convent, 
as many Catholics complained she should have done; if she had 
replied roughly to the Prince, jeered at his threats to take his life, 
broken his love by breaking his conceit: should she have done 
any of these things and at what point? But whatever now appeared 
to be right and wise, nothing could erase the last nine years. 
Pacing by the bleak river, Maria forced herself to realize that the 
future can only be forged out of past actions. 



Eleven 



ROM DECEMBER 29th, 1794, the day on which Caroline of 
|H Brunswick set out from her father's palace, until April 2nd, 
JL 1795, when the Princess reached Gravesend, James Harris, 
the Earl of Malmesbury, endeavoured to tutor her in the manners 
becoming to a future English Queen. He found it hard going. 

The suave diplomat who had handled the Prince during those 
frenzied days when His Royal Highness clamoured to follow 
Mrs. Fitzherbert to the continent, regarded Caroline's easy- 
going ways and light-hearted banter with grave misgiving. 
During the months the Princess spent at the Court of Hanover, 
waiting for France's wars to allow her safe passage to the North 
Sea, Lord Malmesbury reiterated advice and hints. No ambassador 
relishes the task of telling a headstrong princess how to behave. 
Not that she took his rebukes unkindly. Hearty, twenty-seven- 
year-old Caroline listened with good nature and often tried to 
follow his counsel. But she could not change herself into an 
entirely different person. 

With horror, Malmesbury observed that the Princess could 
seldom be bothered to wash or change her clothes, and the Prince 
of Wales, despite his own gross appetites, was as fastidious over 
women as over furniture. He liked pale honey-coloured mahogany 
of delicate design, exquisitely ornamented, perfect in detail; and 
he liked ladies to match. 

Lord Malmesbury had the embarrassing task of telling Caro- 
line's lady-in-waiting that the Prince would expect a cleaner wife. 
His diary records 'Madame Busche executes her commission well, 
and the Princess comes out the next day well washed all over/ 

Caroline was warm-hearted, robust, free in her talk and 

99 



accustomed to intimate badinage with Court ladies. She had 
never been schooled in decorum, and her instinct did not guide 
her to the correct tone. Now, with a pathetically happy lack of 
modesty, she looked forward to sharing the bed of this Prince so 
handsomely depicted in miniatures. She expected affection and 
intended to make a good show of her marriage even if the Queen 
were set against her. But even her courage was not always 
becoming. When Lord Malmesbury thought proper to inform 
Her Highness that infidelity on the part of a Queen Consort was 
high treason in England and punishable with death she gave a 
guffaw of laughter. 

Ominous fears crept into Malmesbury's experienced breast. 
But would it have mattered greatly if she had been different? The 
role of Princess of Wales was at this juncture one in which no 
ordinary mortal could hope to forge success. 

Poor Caroline she had heard about Mrs. Fitzherbert but not 
the true story was met at Greenwich by Lady Jersey whom she 
recognized as the Prince's mistress. Her heart must have sunk a 
little for, owing to a deliberate error on Lady Jersey's part, she 
had to wait an hour for her carriage. Then to her amazement the 
bride-to-be was criticized on her dress by that hard-hearted 
whore whom a Prince, who preened himself on taste, had thrust 
into his future wife's household. 

Caroline brought out the worst in the Prince even before she 
met him. Lady Jersey found her match in Lord Malmesbury, how- 
ever. When she asked to be allowed to sit forward in the coach to 
London he answered, 'that as she must have known that riding 
backward in a coach disagreed with her, she ought never to have 
accepted the situation of a Lady of the Bedchamber who never 
ought to sit forward; and that if she really was likely to be sick, I 

would put Mrs. Ashton into the coach with the Princess This, 

of course, settled the business.' 

The Prince saw his betrothed for the first time that afternoon 
at St. James's. Smelling strongly of liquor he walked up to the 
lady, a stranger in his land, and stared coldly. She attempted to 
kneel at his feet as etiquette decreed, he caught and raised her, 
looked again and without speaking, turned round and retired to 
a distant corner of the room where he called out to Lord Malmes- 
bury, 'Harris, I am not well; pray get me a glass of brandy.' 

100 



'Sir ,' replied the Earl, who never lost his head, 'had you not 
better have a glass of water?' 

'No,* answered the Prince with an angry oath, 'I will go 
directly to the Queen/ The bridegroom strode away. 

Caroline had been warned she would be unpopular with Queen 
Charlotte, who wished her own niece in her place, but the insult of 
this welcome stung her martial Brunswick spirit. The Princess's 
eyes did not fill with tears. On the contrary her chin went high. 

When Malmesbury walked back to her side no diplomatic 
oiling could soothe her. c My God/ the Princess said in French. 
'Is the Prince always like that? I find him very fat and not nearly 
so handsome as his portrait.' 

Malmesbury, having ineffectually excused the Prince as being 
flurried at this first interview, sighed with relief when a messenger 
summoned him away to the King who wished to hear all about 
the bride. With hums and haws and many omissions the ambassa- 
dor attempted a description. 

That night Caroline dined with the royal family, and throwing 
Malmesbury's advice to the winds let herself go in 'flippant, 
rattling, affecting raillery and wit' with not a few shafts directed 
at the furious Lady Jersey and the stony-faced Prince. She could 
hardly have created a worse impression. But the Queen still refused 
to take the responsibility of advising her son to break off the engage- 
ment. She merely took him aside and said, 'You know, George, it 
is for you to say whether you can marry the Princess or not.' 

During the next few days George could not goad himself 
into action. He merely sought solace in the bottle and in listen- 
ing to Lady Jersey who began to wonder if maybe she had not 
picked too unattractive a rival. Uneasily the old King entrusted 
the bridegroom to his favourite brother Clarence who watched 
anxiously, wondering what dear George might do in the brief 
freedom remaining to him. 

Meanwhile in all the London clubs money was being wagered 
that the Prince's marriage would not come off. If Caroline could 
have heard the jokes of the town she might have set a precedent 
for outraged princesses by returning nose in air to Brunswick. 
But she thought of her soldier father, and how proud he had been 
when his daughter was chosen as suitable consort for an English 
king. She made up her mind to see it through. 

101 



Twelve 




PRIL 8th, 1795. The Prince of Wales' wedding day. His 
debts were being paid but out of income, he remarked 
Lsourly. His bride had been embraced and detested. West- 
minster Abbey stood ready and the city of London was decorated 
for the occasion. According to that nosy little Sussex Weekly 
Advertiser: The House of Mrs. Fitzherbert in Pall Mall was 
among those illuminated in honour of the Prince's nuptials. The 
lady herself was at her villa * 

How was Maria taking it? Rude caricatures depicted her and 
Caroline boxing for the three feathers of Wales. More curiosity 
simmered around the cast-off wife than around the new Princess. 
During this entire week she tried to shut herself away, except 
from the adoring royal dukes who still called daily bringing little 
bits of news, determined not to lose her friendship. 

There was nothing for Mrs. Fitzherbert to do. Absolutely 
nothing. So she did it with dignity. 'Mrs. Fitzherbert uttered no 
cry and made no complaint. She closed her doors to her friends 
and went into retirement as though she were widowed, thus 
escaping the sympathy of those who wished her well and the 
curious gaze of the vulgar.' 

Of course the Prince had to stage a dramatic incident. Two 
days before the marriage, looking out from her window at 
Richmond, Maria saw a horse cantering back and forth through 
the trees. The well-known figure had come to show himself 
alone and pathetic once more. He had betrayed her but he could 
not drag himself away. Back and forth over the green fields that 
surrounded her house the Prince of Wales rode and hoped that 
she watched for him. But no hand waved from the windows of 



102 



Marble Hill. Dusk descended and then darkness. Slumped with 
self-pity the horseman rode away. 

Having brought the future Princess of Wales from Brunswick 
and been present at her nerve-freezing presentation, Lord 
Malmesbury begged to be excused further duties and had retired. 
Now the good-natured, worried Duke of Clarence had to face 
the unpleasant job of following his unpredictable brother. Years 
later Clarence confided that the only time his elder brother 

*had ever spoken to him on the nature of his union with 
Mrs. Fitzherbert was on the evening of his Marriage to 
Princess Caroline when George HI desired him not to quit 
the Prince and he drove with him to Carlton House to dress 
for the Ceremony. After dinner as they passed through the 
garden, the Prince of Wales said, "William, tell Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert she is the only woman I shall ever love".' 1 

The marriage of the Prince of Wales took place in the Chapel 
Royal. Two unmarried dukes supported him at the ceremony, 
and these avowed he- had full need of all the support they could 
give, for he arrived so drunk they could hardly keep him from 
falling to the ground. 

Caroline, gorgeously dressed in white satin sparkling with 
diamonds, waited by the altar. She chatted with the Duke of 
Clarence who, knowing all he did, must have watched her with 
pity. He had promised to call on Mrs. Fitzherbert next day and 
tell her all. How could he describe this eager unmannered girl? 

The ceremony continued without a hitch, although at one 
stage the Prince suddenly rose from his knees as if he were going 
to fly for his life. The King went over and commanded him to 
continue kneeling. He obeyed meekly so perhaps he was just 
feeling sick. Then the Archbishop of Canterbury, who ought to 
have previously satisfied his conscience concerning the Prince's 
right to be married in church, added to the atmosphere of tension 
by laying down the book and gazing long and earnestly at the 
King and Prince of Wales after the passage concerning c any 
person knowing of a lawful impediment'. During the silence that 
ensued, the embarrassed congregation hardly dared look at each 

1 MS. Note by Sir George Seymour. Ragley Papers. 

103 



other. The Prince had tears streaming down his cheeks, the King 
appeared wooden. Lord Hugh Seymour, by duty forced to attend 
the ceremony, stared coldly at his weeping master. But no protest- 
ing voice arose and the Archbishop continued the service, though 
reluctantly it seemed. 

After the wedding the Queen held a Drawing Room and then 
a family supper party took place at Buckingham House. In the 
evening, while bells rang joyously and England cheered the royal 
couple, George drove his bride to Carlton House into which he 
had piled so much beautiful furniture and where he had made 
such dramatic scenes. 

The illuminations had drawn out London's citizens. The 
streets were thronged with drunken crowds gaping, feasting and 
shouting. Their Prince, still blubbing with self-pity, took a final 
pull at the brandy bottle and made for Caroline's apartments. She 
told the story, probably accurately, to Lady Bury. For weeks it 
seemed unbelievable to her that a child could result from the 
drunken embraces of this husband who, in her own words, 
passed the night 'sleeping under the grate where he fell and 
where I left him'. 



104 



Thirteen 



\ yT RS - FITZHERBERT had given up her house in Pall 
\ /I Mall when the Prince wrote her dismissal. Now she 
L V JL bought a smaller house in Tilney Street overlooking 
lyde Park which was to remain her London home for nearly 
orty years. 

Two days after the marriage the Prince accompanied Caroline 
o Windsor for a short visit. Then he took her to Kempshott in 
lampshire, a hunting-box where he had often stayed with Mrs. 
: itzherbert who had laid out the garden and decorated the 
Irawing-rooms. He could remind himself of her at every turn. 
Phe peculiar taste of this arrangement was guaranteed to ruffle 
he sensibilities of both wives and had probably been instigated 
)y Lady Jersey, the only lady-in-waiting permitted to the Princess 
it this juncture. 

Caroline was no prude. Occasionally she tried to tease the 
5 rince about his mistresses, but he took this in very poor part, 
ler tentative jests fell flat, her attempts at cameraderie struck 
lim as odious. 

In June 1795 debates in Parliament over payment of the Heir's 
lebts were resumed and the Duke of Clarence openly stated that 
it was a matter of public notoriety that, when the Prince of 
bales' marriage was agreed upon, there was a stipulation that he 
should in the event of that union be exonerated from his debts'. 

Caroline reaped for the first time the bitter truth. The Prince 
lad married against his will, loathing first the idea of her and then 
:he sight of her. He had married because he needed money from 
:he nation. That night in the grate was the price he had to pay for 
solvency. 

105 



The crow-like habit of reviling the weakest member drew 
friends away from Caroline. No one wanted to risk being on the 
wrong side. The 1 Princess of Wales was easy to criticize, but no 
heart with a shred of kindness could dislike her. She was a decent 
German woman with ordinary feelings and lusty humour but no 
tact, and many small faults and eccentricities. She dressed badly, 
and could not manipulate the hysterical moods of her insulting 
spouse, and she did not know how to parry the dagger thrusts of 
Lady Jersey. She was outraged and unsubtle, but her courage and 
dignity in die abominable predicament in which she found herself 
aroused admiration in the English nation apart from the Court 
and must do so still. Historians have harped on Malmesbury's 
complaint that she did not wash, but that was before he told her 
Lady-in-Waiting. Presumably the next few months entailed daily 
scrubbing. Any prince who was a man would have regarded 
with tolerant amusement this high-spirited tomboy, ordered her 
to the bath-tub and taught her to curb her tongue. 

When, at the end of June, Caroline realised with amazement 
that she was pregnant, she demanded the dismissal of Lady 
Jersey and appealed directly to the King who remonstrated 
with his son. Lady Jersey retired to plan revenge, and the Prince 
drove his wife to Brighton where she pronounced herself 
delighted with the sea air. They attended a field day at the camp 
together. 

During August and September the Prince left his royal wife 
in the Pavilion and tried to see Mrs. Fitzherbert. He could not 
bear the suspicion that her silence might be due to contempt 
rather than grief. 

Eventually some kind friend divulged the whole Fitzherbert 
story to the Princess. She felt no enmity. It was not this she 
minded. If only she could have had an occasional kind word. . . . 

On January yth, 1796, a daughter was born to Caroline at 
Carlton House. The nation rejoiced for now the succession was 
secure even if no other child arrived. Like Mrs. Fitzherbert the 
Princess of Wales was extremely fond of children, and this baby 
gave her comfort, though she knew that by law of the land the 
upbringing would not be left in her hands and she told a friend, 
'This I shudder at very greatly.' 

106 



The Prince ought to have been grateful for the prompt 
arrival of an heir, but his little daughter only seemed to arouse 
more sadistic impulses. On January loth, 1796, three days after 
the baby's arrival, he wrote that unbelievable pompous Will, 
which lies now in the Windsor Archives, leaving all he possessed 
to Mrs. Fitzherbert. He did not show it to her for three years, so it 
must have been devised more to appease his feelings than to lure 
her back. As always when unhappy, he had been eating and 
drinking far too much and a bilious fever fell on him after 
Christmas. He thought he was going to die. 

The Will, which in its entirety would cover ten closely 
printed pages, arouses amazement and in its most pious passages 
absolute nausea. It begins thus : 

c To Thee O ever merciful and Almighty God do I in 
these my last moments with the truest fervour and devotion 
and with all humility address myself to unveil my whole soul, 
and before my eyes are for ever closed, to speak that truth 
and to render that justice to others as well as to myself before 
my Creator as well as before the whole World, without which 
when brought before Thy great Tribunal I could never expect 
that mercy and justice to which all Christians are taught to 
look forward and in which faith as a true professor of the 
Christian Religion I have lived and now die. 

By this, my last Will and Testament, I now bequeath, give 
and settle at my death all my worldly property of every 
description, determination and sort, personal and other, as 
shall be described, to my Maria Fit^berbert, my wife, the wife 
of my heart and soul. Although by the laws of this Country 
she could not avail herself publicly of that name y still such she is in the 
eyes of Heaven, was, is and ever mil be such in mine. And for the 
truth of which assertion I appeal to that Gracious God Who I have 
here invoked to witness this my last disposition of my 
property, together with such explanations and declaration as 
are necessary for me to make, to enable me to quit this Life 
with a clear conscience and even without a sigh, except at the 
thought of leaving tier (and perhaps too without first receiv- 
ing the blessing of her forgiveness) who is my True and real 
Wife, and who is dearer to me, even millions of times dearer to me than 

107 



life I am now going to resign. [The Prince often fancied himself on 
title verge of death.] 

As much has been said in the World relative to our separa- 
tion, I take it upon myself now to declare that She (My Maria 
Fit^herberf) has been most infamously traduced; that Her 
person, Her Heart and her mind are, and ever have been from the 
first moment I knew her down to the present moment \ as spotless , as 
unblemished, and as perfectly pure as anything can be that is human 
and mortal Had it not been for the most infamous and basest of 
Calumnies, my too credulous and susceptible Heart, and which knew 
no other feeling in Life but for Her, could never have been brought, 
even for a single instant, to harbour a thought of separating from such 
Worth: nor was such a separation (O my God, as thou well knowesf] 
voluntarily sought by me. 

But as entering further upon this point would involve 
others whom I pjray to Heaven to forgive, and to lead to more 
than I am now able to write, I shall bury this part in oblivion. 

As to Her (I must also injustice to myself, so far say), I am 
most confident that had not similar base vile and scandalous wretches 
calumniated Me to Her and represented me in lights and in a manner, 
I here ever in the presence of my Creator I have never deserved she 
never could, or would, have persevered with such apparent cruelty and 
obduracy so foreign to the generous feelings of her Soul, in rejecting so 
ff-eat a length of time, every explanation, every submission, every step 
my tortured Heart frequently tried, and was most ready and anxious, 
to make, and which finally drove me to despair. 

I now therefore George Augustus Frederick Prince of 
Wales, Duke of Cornwall etc. etc. etc. do by this my Last 
Will and Testament leave, all my property, all my personali- 
ties of whatever kind or sort to my Maria Fit^herbert, who is 
my Wife in the eyes of God, and who is, and ever will be, 
such in mine. . . . 

I likewise will and leave to Her the whole of the furniture 
of Carlton House, as it is all bought with my own Money 
together with all the Bronze ornamented chimney pieces, all 
the Hangings, Chairs, Tables ornamented and inlaid Tables, 
bronzed Tables, Cabinets and Consoles, girandoles, Clocks 
whether of Bronze or of other material. . . .' 

108 



In rambling language that appealed often to Heaven, the 
Prince went on to bequeath as well *an immense Sum of money 
due to me from the Crown and from the Nation on the Arrears 
of the Duchy of Cornwall' and to hope all this 'just tribute' 
would evoke Maria's blessing on him. Having called her in several 
paragraphs 'my only true and real Wife' he then turned to his 
parents, asking their forgiveness for unintentional errors and left 
the management of his newly born daughter to the King and 
after his death to the Queen and his sisters Augusta and Mary 
and to the Duke of Clarence : 

'This I have been so far induced to be explicit upon, 
meaning that the Mother of the Child, called the Princess of 
Wales, should in no way either be concerned to the education or care 
of the Child or have possession of her person for though I forgive 
the falsehood and treachery of her conduct towards me, still 
the convincing and repeated proofs of her entire want of 
judgement and of feeling, make me deem it incumbent etc. 
etc. to prevent the Child's falling into such improper and bad 
Hands as Hers,' 

The Prince was in forgiving mood, he scattered his forgive- 
ness like manna on all who had crossed his path. 

More amiable are his references to Miss Pigot on whom he 
settled five hundred pounds annually for life because she had 
been 'so uniformly kind and attentive in her conduct both to 
my Maria Fit^herbert as well as to me'. And he speaks kindly of 
his domestics whom he asks his brothers to look after, especially 
'my old and faithful Servant Santague, who from the time I was 
nine years of age has attended me with a Parent's care. . . .' 

In point of fact the Prince was adored by his servants and 
showed them consideration at a time when most menials were 
appallingly treated. 

The Will draws to its close with three pages of esoteric 
intentions concerning Mrs. Fitzherbert. Having stated his wish 
to be buried with as little pomp as possible, that the miniature of 
c my beloved wife* should be buried with him c and placed right 
upon my Heart' he further desires, that when she in turn dies, her 
coffin should be placed next to his 'and if she has no objection, 

109 



that the two inward sides of the two Coffins should be taken out 
and the two Coffins soldered together*. 

He then insists on her pension and promises grandly, as if 
with the Almighty's consent, Round thee, shall my soul forever 
hover, thy guardian angel, for as I never ceased to adore Thee 
whilst living, so shall I ever be watchful over Thee and protect 
Thee against every evil.' 

The Will ends: 

*Carlton House. January 12, 1796. 

The whole of this Paper is written, signed and sealed by 
my own hand, so help me God. 

George R.' 

What Lady Jersey was doing during the scribbling of this 
Will it is hard to imagine. She must have blotted her copybook 
badly somewhere. The Prince had conveniently forgotten her 
existence. 



no 



Fourteen 



THROUGHOUT the early spring of 1796 the Prince planned 
lures for Mrs. Fitzherbert. He wanted her back as his 
wedded, waiting wife to go home to every evening. He 
thought he could not live were her bedroom door not open to 
him. But this time Maria remained adamant. She saw the Prince 
in society occasionally but never alone. She was presented to 
the Princess. The eyes of the two wives met an occurrence 
frequent enough in modern Society but unique in the eighteenth 
century. She continued to accept her pension. That was all 

On April 3oth, when the Prince had been married just over a 
year, he wrote Caroline a letter of dismissal as churlish as that he 
had sent Maria when he thought he no longer wanted her. Coldly 
informing the Princess of Wales that he wished for a separation, 
he promised to refrain from claiming marital rights even in the 
event of his daughter's death. 

Probably he hoped this promise on his part would make it 
easier for a Catholic lady to regard him again as her husband. But 
Mrs. Fitzherbert could not return to his fold as if nothing had 
happened. She was shocked at his cruelty to Princess Caroline, 
and for three years she refused to meet him except as a polite, if 
not particularly grateful, subject. Miss Pigot and Admiral Payne 
bombarded her in vain with messages, notes, suggestions, ex- 
planations. She received them amicably but with resolve. The 
Princess of Wales's husband could not order her to bed. 

His Royal Highness then wound himself into a dramatic frenzy 
such as he had tormented her with before. Early in 1799, worn 
down by threats, all heard fifteen years previously, she gave, and 
then withdrew, a promise to one of the royal dukes that she 

in 



would be reconciled. Her momentary weakness elicited an hysteri- 
cal torrent from the Prince, who was staying at Windsor Castle. 
This time he used the dangerous threat that if she refused to 
return to him he would openly declare their marriage. For all he 
cared, her brother and uncle could be punished for felony. If he 
abandoned the throne she must consider it all her fault. 1 

One summer night the Prince, shaking from head to foot, 
woke his younger brother the Duke of Cumberland, who had 
recently returned to England and whose nerves were therefore 
fresh, and pressed a letter into his hand with the order to deliver 
it immediately to Mrs. Fitzherbert. (Throughout the years there 
does not seem to have been a week when one of the royal brothers 
was not hurrying off to Mrs. Fitzherbert.) The Prince was weep- 
ing with hope and remorse and he insisted this missive must be 
'delivered into her own hand only'. Cumberland obediently sent 
for horses and galloped off; Mrs. Fitzherbert was roused at dawn 
to receive him and read pages before she even had a cup of tea : 

c Save me, save me, on my knees I conjure you, from my- 
self. What. After a solemn promise given, pledged to my brother to 
be mine again, is there truth, is there honour in this world, 
and is it not inherent in you, Oh my friend, my friend Payne 
what will you say? Was it only to trifle with my feelings that my 
hopes were to be raised, that fortune, prospects the only ones of life and 
happiness to me were to be held out to me, because the agonies I had 
already suffered were not sufficient: if you wish my life you shall have 
it, tfjou break your sacred promise recollect I am freed from all ties 
of attachment to this World as there is no reliance no more faith 
existing^ I have then no fears left, nothing but honour in a world in 
which I have experienced nothing but misery and deceit . . . etc. reiter- 
ate your promise or recollect you sign yourself my doom. 

Wednesday morn. 4 o'clock. It is now two hours since I 
wrote the above, I have calmed myself and examined my 
heart, tis honest and pure, my tears are dried up. But my resolution 

x Already the Prince had spoken indiscreetly of this intention. The Glenbervie 
Diaries reveal, March 3ist, 1799, *Is it that there is a foundation for what is generally 
whispered viz. that the Prince of Wales is going to deckre his marriage with Mrs. 
Fitzherbert? But what will be proposed for the Princess and her child? Shall we have 
die old case of Henry VIII renewed and the tables turned on the Protestants?' 



112 




Painting of Mrs. fitzher- 
bert with horse recently 
discovered by the author's 
father, Sir Shane Leslie 

COURTESY OF 

SIR SHANE LESLIE. 



Mrs. Fitzherbert from the 
painting by Cos-way 





Mrs. Fitzberbertfrom a fainting by Hoppner 

COURTESY OF THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART; 
GIFT OF WILLIAM T. AND ELEANOR BLODGETI, 1906. 



George, Prince of Walesfrom a painting by Hoppner 

REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION OF THE TRUSTEES OF THE 
WALLACE COLLECTION, LONDON. 





venture of the Brighton social set was published in 1806. By James Gillray. 

( OF PRINTS DIVISION, THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY. 

the many caricatures of the time attacking Mrs. Fitzherbert. This one, published 
hows beetle-browed Charles James Fox holding Mrs, Fitzherbert's left hand, 
es Gillray. COURTESY OF PRINTS DIVISION, THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY. 





Exterior of Royal Pavilion at Brighton. From "Views of the Royal Pavilion" by John Nash. 



COURTESY ART DIVISION, THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY. 



The Music Room of the Royal Pavilion at Brighton, from "Views of the Royal Pavilion" 
by John Nash. COURTESY ART DIVISION, THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY. 





/*,, 



o/ /^^ Prince's 42-page love letter to Mrs. Fitzberbert written before she 
returned to marry him in 1785. REPRODUCED BY GRACIOUS PERMISSION OF HER 

MAJESTY THE QUEEN. WINDSOR ARCHIVES. 



Some oj the jewelry pre- 
sented to Mrs, Fitzherbert 
by the Prince. The locket 
containing the diamond 
"G" was almost her first 
present. 




UPPER RIGHT: SivyMierton Hall 





Minney Seymourfrom the painting George Daiuson Darner, husband to 

by Sir Thomas Lawrence Minney Seymour 




is fixed. This letter precedes me, and my brother will deliver 
it into jour own bands himself, he knows nothing of the contents/ 

The Prince went on to threaten that if she did not consent to 
returning to his arms he would disclose their marriage and put her 
brother and uncle into danger. 

c The wretched experience of the last five years have made 
life only desirable in one shape to me, and that is in you. I am 
wrapped up in you entirely; after seventeen years of a husband 
nothing can alter me, shake me or change me, alike yours in 
life or in death 

And now God bless you my Maria, my only life, my only 
love. 

Thine unalterably thine. George P. 
Windsor Castle. June 11-12, 1799.' 

'Think not that Payne or any advice whatever, will make 
me change my purpose, or forswear my oath, thank God my 
witnesses are living, your Uncle and your Brother besides Harris 
who I shall call upon, as having been informed by me of every 
minutest circumstance of our marriage. Oh my heart, my heart but I 
am composed and calm whatever your answer may be ... etc.* 

Despite his vaunted 'brilliant classical education', this Prince 
of Wales must, as a letter writer, be granted top marks as a 
soporific bore. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert was disturbed, however. Not by his hints of 
suicide and doom, which she had heard before, but by the 
trouble he might cause those humble 'living witnesses'. 

For some time past the royal family had been privately asking 
her to consider a reconciliation. The Queen had actually written 
Mrs. Fitzherbert in her own hand because she feared for her son's 
health. After his rupture with Lady Jersey the Prince had been, or 
pretended to be, extremely ill. He enjoyed a fever and bleated to 
his sisters that he was sure he would die if Mrs. Fitzherbert did 
not return to him. The Prince had well mastered the art of obtain- 
ing his own way by threat of nervous breakdowns. He could 
almost be said to have invented them. 

113 



Although calm and contented Mrs. Fitzherbert found the in- 
creasing strain intolerable. Must she go through it all over again? 
Happily for her mind's sake she had somewhere to turn for 
guidance. She appealed to her own Church to tell her what to do. 

In the summer of 1799 Mrs. Fitzherbert informed the Prince 
that she had dispatched a petition to the Pope asking where her 
duty lay. If His Holiness said she should return as his wife she 
would do so. If not she would leave England for ever. The re- 
sponsibility was off her shoulders. 

It was the sort of clean-cut decision to abide by the rules that 
the Prince admired and was himself incapable of. She allowed 
him to drive over from Kempshott for dinner while she stayed 
with Henry Errington. His Royal Highness seemed cowed, and 
agreed to attempt no further meeting until an answer had arrived 
from the Pope. 

Meanwhile Mr. Nassau, one of the chaplains of Warwick 
Street Chapel in London, had been selected to travel to Rome. 

c Mr. Nassau had his audience of the Pope on the eighth 
of July: His Holiness received him with great condescension 
and good-nature, bade him sit down and harkened to the 
narrative of his business with familiar attention. The conversa- 
tion held in Latin and closed with the Pope's directing him to 
state the case in writing. . . , n 

While awaiting the answer Maria retreated to Wales. The 
Prince remained as good as his word and did not pester her, 
though he sent a copy of the infamous Will. An undated letter 
from him reads: "As to the Paper I have put into your hands, it 
was with no view of distressing your feelings etc.' The Prince 
simply wished her to be acquainted with the contents. The relief 
he had felt in writing it four years before had, he said, restored 
him to life. 'Think not, my Angel, that there is one unkind ex- 
pression about you contained in the whole of it. . . . How I have 
ever loved and adored you etc.* 

Mrs. Fitzherbert made a quiet circuit. Few people knew where 
she travelled. Only the Seymours were kept informed. In the 
autumn a letter arrived from Lady Horatia Seymour to say 

1 Ragley Papers. 

114 



she was in some distress at having to leave five of her seven 
children and go to Madeira for her health. Mrs. Fitzherbert hurried 
from Bath to Portsmouth and asked if she might look after the 
youngest, a year-old baby called little Mary or Minney. Lady 
Horatia and her husband allowed her to take charge of the child, 
but with some misgivings when they realized Mrs. Fitzherbert 
might rejoin the Prince. The Seymours were Protestant wry 
Protestant! They thought that the Princess of Wales should be 
considered and that this was a matter for the conscience rather 
than the Pope. Horatia's sister, Lady Euston, wrote that the dis- 
tracted consumptive mother grew ill each time Mrs. Fitzherbert 
tried to discuss the possibility of resuming a marital state with the 
Prince. c And she once or twice said, I know, she would not have 
the courage to be reconciled to him if Hugh and I remained in 
England, but left to herself there is no answering for what she 
may do/ 

Lord Hugh, who had stood bravely by Maria and been dis- 
missed from the Prince's household because of his clear-cut 
opinions, deplored any idea of her resuming the connection. He 
thought the Prince had behaved appallingly to both wives, and 
that resumption of the marriage bond would create an impossible 
situation for poor Caroline. Lord Hugh loved Mrs. Fitzherbert 
and wished her well. He had given his youngest child to her 
charge. Firmly he hoped and prayed for her good sense now. 



Fifteen 



ON JANUARY ist, i8oo, to mark the turn of the century 
the Prince produced one of his more balanced epistles 
for 'Mine own own own', and before March they were 
once more united. The Brief from Rome declared that Mrs. 
Fitzherbert must regard herself as the only true wife of the Prince 
of Wales. For a time the Prince became exceedingly pro-Catholic. 
In fact he once said Catholicism was 'the only religion for a 
gentleman". This attitude was perhaps natural when the Pope's 
opinion happened to exactly coincide with his own. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert did not inform her friends of Rome's 
sanction. Many strait-laced Catholics were distressed when 
they observed her in the Prince's company. Lady Jerningham 
wrote (March jyth, 1800): 

'The affairs of Mrs. Fitzherbert and the Prince become 
very incomprehensible. It is a fact that he meets her whenever 
he can and a conversation ensues which takes them out of the 
company. On Saturday, Lady Kenmare tells me, that Mrs. 
Fitzherbert, Mrs. Butler and the Prince were in a high box all 
night in conversation, the Princess at the Opera and also Lady 
Jersey. I comprehend it no longer for I had thought Mrs. 
Fitzherbert a woman of principle. 5 

To quell surmise Mrs. Fitzherbert assented to giving a large 
breakfast for the Prince on June 1 6th. All London society trooped 
to this formal afternoon reception with dancing* Several of her 
guests have described Mrs. Fitzherbert sitting beside the Prince, 
watching the dancers, with an air of immovable virtue, but they 

116 



did not know her feelings. Years later she told Lord Stourton: 
'She hardly knew how she could summon resolution to pass that 
severe ordeal, but she thanked God she had the courage to do so. 
The next eight years were, she said, the happiest of her connec- 
tion with the Prince.' 

It had all been so long-drawn-out and complicated. After 
fifteen years people grew tired of debating the affair. Now if the 
baby Princess could remain incontestably the legal heir to England's 
throne what did it really matter if the Prince had gone back to his 
former wife? As long as the lady demanded nothing except re- 
spect and there was no danger of a Catholic pretender, might it 
not be better to agree with the Prince's wishes? Gossipy letter- 
writers kept busy. On July yth Lady Jerningham described a 
breakfast given by the Duchess of Devonshire: 



found the Duchess sitting with Mrs. Fitzherbert by 
an urn ____ The Prince was enpoltsson, a brown dress, round hat 
and a brown wig. He stood almost the whole time by his band 
with Dr. Burney ordering different pieces of music. Lady 
Jersey was casting round the spot where he stood with her 
daughters. The Prince was quite annoyed with her and eyed 
her askance, but she is resolved to pkgue him.' 

An odd little MS note by Sir George Seymour in the Ragley 
Papers says that Maria had received one other opinion apart from 
the Pope's: 

*On her saying that she wished to God she had a friend on 
whose judgement she could confide to advise her, Admiral 
Jack Payne encouraged his faithful servant Jephson to give 
his opinion, saying he knows the circumstances. Jephson 
said impassively, if Mrs. Fitzherbert consent to return, she 
will rue it all her life.' 

The old servant was mistaken. Mrs. Fitzherbert's youth had 
ended, she was now forty-four and the next decade would prove 
far happier for her than the kst. 

In March 1801 Lady Horatia Seymour returned to England, 
leaving her husband commanding the Fleet from Jamaica. She 

"7 



reached London in a very weak condition and took a house where 
her children could visit her. Mrs. Fitzherbert brought the three- 
year-old Minney over every day and the Prince several times called 
to condole with the invalid. At this time Lord Hugh wrote his 
wife a long letter forgiving the Prince for demoting him: 

C I have placed that circumstance to the score of his natural 
want of steadiness. I am however glad he shows you attention 
as it proves that he is sensible of having done wrong before. 
Mrs. F. only does me justice when she says that I was her true 
friend, and it is as true that she was driven to be glad when I 
was gone, but she can call me her comforter on that occasion, 
for she, poor soul, did not dare consult me, and I saw so clear- 
ly what was going on, that tho* I heartily wished her removed 
from the intrigues which were intended to effect what her 
character disapproved that I could not bring myself to 
entamer the subject which I then knew made her wretched 
loving her as I do and have long done, it is impossible that I 
should not enter into her feelings. ... I have open'd all the 
letters addressed to my Dearest, which have arrived since the 
28th March, that day of wretchedness for us both, but I have 
not discovered any from P [the Prince] whose handwriting 
I only recollect to ... seen as a P.S. to a letter of Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert which you received before you left Jamaica.* 

The Prince was angling to regain the respect of the Hugh 
Seymours through Maria, but the Admiral was never to speak to 
his royal master again. 

When she grew weaker, Lady Horatia's sisters Lady Euston 
and Lady Waldegrave moved her to Clifton for better air. She 
died shortly afterwards on July izth, 1 801 . Her husband died two 
months later in Jamaica. Mercifully he never received the letter 
containing news of two deaths, that of his adored wife and that of 
an eight-year-old son cared for by his grandmother, the Duchess 
of Gloucester. 

Suddenly there were six Seymour orphans in the world. Of 
these, the eldest son George was a midshipman in the Navy, 
which he had entered at the age of ten. The youngest, three- 

118 



year-old Minney, had hardly seen her parents. Mrs. Fitzherbert, 
who had long dreaded the day she might have to return this 
adorable cherub, wept for Horatia and Hugh but tightened her 
hold on the child. She immediately pleaded with the Seymour 
uncles and Waldegrave aunts to leave Minney with her for an- 
other year, if not permanently. They consented, though reluc- 
tantly. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert now divided her time between Tilney Street, 
and her new house at Brighton. Unless the Prince was ill, in 
which case she remained to nurse him, she insisted on always 
occupying a separate residence. In 1801, while wings and facades 
were added to the Marine Pavilion, a residence in the Egyptian 
style was built on the Steyne for Maria. The local historian writes: 

c The improvement which His Royal Highness has made 
and is still projecting and the elegant house which Porden, 
an architect of uncommon merit, is raising for Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert will, I trust, check the listless torpor, and selfless 
apathy which has too long prevailed at Brighton, and reflect 
a certain taste and liberality on the sordid natives of this 
lawless waste.' 

The 'sordid natives' certainly remained agog at the minarets and 
domes, and the smart set of London drove their carriages down for 
sea air in increasing numbers. The curious could often see the 
Prince breakfasting with Mrs. Fitzherbert on the veranda of her 
house and the elite might receive invitations to dine in the 
Pavilion where she presided. 

Social scribblers voice a certain irritation against the Prince 
and his Lady, not on account of their puzzling marital state but 
because they had put on weight. The world likes thin lovers. A 
Brighton buck wrote cheekily to Miss Berry (February i8th, 
1803): 'My neighbours here go on most lovingly. The affection 
seems to grow with their growth and fatten with their fat.' 

Later on Lady Bessborough commented: 

C I do not know what to do with the Prince and Princess of 
Wales. Hetty [Lady Hester Stanhope] tells me the Princess is 
ready to do anything that can please him and if he dislikes her 

119 



interviews with his Father will go away to avoid them, if she 
could only have the satisfaction of knowing that it would 
please him. Just after hearing this I found the Prince's Fat 
Friend was aU anxiety to send a message to the Princess, if she 
could find anybody to take it. . . .' 

Mrs. Fitzherbert believed that if Caroline disclosed what she 
talked about when alone with the King it might alleviate the 
Prince's distrust and dislike. But no one knew how to convey 
these hints. As a peacemaker here Mrs. Fitzherbert certainly held 
a very delicate position. The Prince felt sure that Caroline was 
intriguing with his father against him. Only Mrs. Fitzherbert could 
see how to improve matters, but with so many critical eyes upon 
her she dared not try. 

Criticize her the Court always would, but their mockery grew 
flat with the years. She alone held the Prince's heart she who 
had never sought it. The Hon. Mrs. Calvert describes in her 
Journals a party she gave in May 1804. 

"The King being pronounced well, I invited His Royal 
Highness and he came. He and Mrs. Fitzherbert were the last 
people in the house and I was much surprised at their going 
away in the same carriage, but that, I found afterwards, they 
always did.* 

Mrs. Calvert attended the Pavilion where she becomes caustic 
at finding that Mrs. Fitzherbert did the honours of the house. 

*She is now I believe about fifty, very fat but with a charm- 
ing countenance, her features are beautiful, except her mouth 
which is ugly, having a set of not good false teeth but her 
person is too fat and she makes a great display of a very white 
but not prettily formed bosom, which I often long to throw a 
handkerchief over.' 

As this Irish beauty's cattiness was inaccurate regarding age 
and teeth^it probably exaggerated the bosom also. The proof of 
the pudding lies in the eating and Maria was surrounded by 

120 



adoring men all her life. Lady Hester Stanhope said that Mrs. 
Fitzherbert remained into old age 'physically delicious*. 

So there he was, the outrageous, amusing, detestable Prince, 
during the first decade of the new century. Mature and trium- 
phant, with all he had most wanted. If he had lost his own good 
looks and good heart he owned Maria, and the vision of a sultan's 
palace to entertain her in. The wits called his lady 'fair, fat and 
forty*, while Sir Sidney Smith dropped his unsurpassable remark 
on the Pavilion, 'Looks as if St. Paul's had gone down to Brighton 
and pupped.' 



121 



Sixteen 



DURING these years, while the Prince divested himself of 
the Princess of Wales and Lady Jersey and wooed Maria 
for the second time, England fought the greatest sea 
battles of all time. Mrs. Fitzherbert knew many of the captains and 
admirals who raised their country to world supremacy. It is our 
tragedy that her letters during the intermittent wars with France 
have not survived. Especially must we regret her twenty-year-long 
correspondence with the Duke of York. She herself said these 
letters would have made the best private history of England. Her 
old friend. Admiral Sir John Jervis, had become Earl St. Vincent 
after the victory of that name. When he returned home he talked 
to Mrs. Fitzherbert about the genius of that young Captain 
Nelson to whom he had allowed such freedom of action that 
Nelson had dared sail out of the line and, said Jervis generously, 
win the battle for him. All that there was to hear concerning the 
tremendous events of the times came fast to her ears, all the 
political secrets she knew, all the excitements were discussed at 
her dinners. The rise of the French revolutionary armies, Napo- 
leon's plan to invade England, the new broadside-guns, Pitt's 
resignation over Catholic emancipation, the seething destiny of 
Europe must have been the subject of general conversation. How- 
ever much disapproval the Prince then evoked, he remained 
surrounded by the most interesting and amusing of his subjects, 
and Sheridan often came to alleviate with his wit the dissolute 
humour of hard-driving, hard-drinking, joke-playing friends. 

The summer of 1803 must have been as stirring as 1940 and 
infinitely gayer. All through July and August England prepared 
to meet foreign invasion. Spies reported French ports crammed 

122 



with flat-bottomed barges designed to carry troops, but the peer- 
less British Fleet kept France's warships in harbour. While Sir 
John Moore trained his Light Brigade in new tactics the entire 
nation rose up to join the Volunteers, a vast guerilla force intended 
to harry Napoleon's troops after they had landed. Naturally the 
Prince of Wales clamoured to be given a command. 'Nervous and 
agitated* Georgina described him when dining at Devonshire 
House. While the faithful Duchess attempted consolation in vain, 
the Prince admitted inability to command an army but swore he 
could collect the right generals c to command and direct him*. 
Then, to the Prime Minister's intense anxiety, he rushed down to 
Brighton and presented himself as leader to the local Volunteers. 
Mrs. Fitzherbert did her utmost to calm him, but the Prince's 
vanity had been deeply stabbed. As a romantic with martial inclin- 
ations, he longed to lead armies. What better theatre for a Prince! 
He saw himself in the role too perfectly. It was torture to be 
frustrated by that monstrous father. 

The King grew still more insane at this period, but the 
Cabinet were reluctant to admit it, even when His Majesty took 
to locking himself up in a room with a favourite housemaid or 
haranguing imaginary generals. Madness in the old monarch 
seemed less dangerous than the whims of an Heir Apparent em- 
broiled with a Catholic, and His Majesty remained popular with 
the nation. People referred to him as Princess Caroline's father did, 
as 'that decent man'. 

In the October, when the invasion really appeared imminent, 
King George, lucid for a brief spell, reviewed the London 
Trained Bands in Hyde Park in front of two hundred thousand 
people. These Bands were entrusted with the defence of London. 
If the capital fell Englishmen intended to fight village by village, 
field by field across the entire country. But despite the expectation 
of enemy landing life continued gaily, perhaps more gaily than 
before. 

Eighteen-hundred-and-three passed. When the new spring 
came, the wrought-up watching nation realized that Boney wasn't 
going to try. Mothers and wives felt relief but most young men 
regretted it. Such a welcome had been prepared! With sadness the 
smart militia uniforms had to be laid away in cedar. 

Meanwhile the Prince still made his London political head- 

123 



quarters at Devonshire House. If crises became uncomfortable, 
or the King too aggravating, his fast horses galloped him away 
down the Brighton road. As Sir Osbert Sitwell says: 'In the years 
between 1788 and 1823 Brighton was, no doubt, the gayest, most 
fashionable place not only in England, but in all Europe.' 

Social activities began at dawn when frail ladies immersed in 
the icy sea by various famous 'dippers' could be watched through 
telescopes by enterprising rakes! The late morning was devoted 
to visits to the smart libraries or promenades on the grassy Steyne, 
where belles and dandies flaunted the latest fashions and the 
Prince's horsey friends showed-off 'tooling' their four- or six-in- 
hands. In the afternoon came tea-parties, card-playing and danc- 
ing, and then dinners lasting four or five hours. Balls were 
frequent both in private homes and by public subscription. 

In the centre of this glittering social whirl the Prince and Mrs. 
Fitzherbert lived exactly as they wished. Mrs. Fitzherbert never 
aspired to lead the fashion. She was interested in people and their 
doings, not in clothes. Her silken gowns with puff sleeves and her 
enormous feathered hats were merely the conventional turn-out of 
a gentlewoman. No arms whatsoever showed on her coach, those 
of Mr. Fitzherbert had been removed (in any case they bore an 
embarrassing likeness to those of His Royal Highness) and she 
avoided ostentation. When she strolled on the Steyne she would 
be escorted by her brother or uncle Errington, or by the Prince, 
who punctiliously insisted on conducting her in public as if she 
were Princess of Wales. The chimney-pot hats of the gallants were 
raised as she passed and the ladies watched covertly, wondering 
at her secret. By what art had she for so long enslaved the Heir to 
the Throne? How, when she had apparently lost him, did she get 
him back again? Why should this one guileless, middle-aged 
woman with her placid smile hold the most flamboyant prince of 
Europe? The truth was too simple. Maria had never tried. What- 
ever the feminine sneers at that 'over-plump white bosom', there 
alone did George of England find he could lay his head in peace. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert liked integrity, kindness and coziness. As 
friends she picked brave, honourable men and simple affectionate 
women. Her pretty, rather silly sister, Lady Haggerston, fre- 
quently came to stay and organized idiotic little pastoral parties for 
the Prince. Lord Berkeley's son described one of these when Lady 

124 



Haggerston hired some cows and dressed as a milkmaid. The 
Prince enjoyed a syllabub made with cream so Lady Haggerston 
tripped out 'silver pail in one hand and an ornamental stool in 
the other' to milk one of her cows in front of the Prince. With 
ribbons flying from her hat and 'the smallest little apron tied 
below her laced stomacher* she curtsied and then, 'her tucked-up 
gown showing her neat ankle as well as her coloured stockings, 
she placed her stool & pail conveniently for use'. It was not until 
she had sat down to start work that the embarrassing fact dawned 
on her this cow was a rather cross bullock. 'Covered with con- 
fusion' she hurried back to her sham dairy and the Prince with- 
out allowing a muscle in his face to flicker made a few tactful 
remarks about the weather and wandered off in search no doubt 
of less complicated refreshment. 

Although Mrs. Fitzherbert never spent a night in the Pavilion, 
except when the Prince was ill, she dined there and sat as his wife 
doing the honours of his table. The outer-world of ladies buzzed 
with envy. 

Mr. Creevey described his first invitation: 

'Mrs. Fitzherbert whom I had never been in a room with 
before, sat on one side of the Prince, and the Duke of Clarence 
on the other. In the course of the evening the Prince took me 
up to the card-table where Mrs. Fitzherbert was playing.' 

Later Mrs. Creevey became a close friend and often dined at 
the Pavilion where it was the Prince's custom to invite one other 
lady as companion for Mrs. Fitzherbert if not Mrs. Creevey this 
might be Lady Downshire or Lady Clare or Lady Berkeley. There 
were usually fourteen men or more; the habit of sitting down equal 
numbers had not yet arisen. 

The cooking was, of course, superb. Each of the nine courses 
had to be washed down by a special wine. And amusing conversa- 
tion must have been needed to wash down the meal, for it lasted 
four or five hours each night. Between ten and eleven a fresh 
batch of guests arrived for the musical part of the evening. The 
Prince expressed delight if anyone could sing or play, and he 
showed the utmost consideration to shy girls who had to be led 
blushing to the piano. He never showed any predilection towards 

125 



making his subjects feel foolish. Guests who detested music must 
have suffered sorely, however, for in summer the Prince's German 
band pkyed outside on the lawn and in winter the musicians sat in 
an adjoining room more or less drowning conversation. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert enjoyed whist, and would immediately make 
up a table and play happily against the noise, but the Prince never 
touched cards and spent these informal evenings talking casually 
to an occasional pet guest, or more often merely listening to his 
band, beating time and sending directions. That excellent tenor 
voice with which he had as a young man serenaded the fair sex 
had lasted true throughout periods of debauch. Sometimes still 
he sang a favourite melody with his violins. Then Maria Fitz- 
herbert lost intentness on her game and as she paused for a 
moment with cards forgotten in her hand, the other players would 
see a softness light her face. Thus he had sung to her as a young 
man. How could she not love him? 

Occasionally there would be dancing or even sports. Mrs. 
Creevey brought her daughters to the Pavilion after dinner on 
October zgth, 1805 . They waited until after eleven o'clock for the 
Prince to arrive from the dining-room. 

C I instantly saw that he had got more wine than usual,' 
wrote Mrs. Creevey, 'and it was still more evident that the 
German Baron [a kind of metteur en scene who devised Storms 
of Thunder, Lightning & Rain] was extremely drunk. The 
Prince came up and sat by me introduced Mr. Mahon to me 
& talked a great deal about Mrs. Fitzherbert. . . . Afterwards 
the Prince led all the party to see him shoot with an airgun at 
a target placed at the end of the room. He did it very skilfully, 
& wanted all the ladies to attempt it. The girls & I excused 
ourselves on account of our short sight; but Lady Downshire 
hit a fiddler in the dining-room, Miss Johnstone a door, and 
Bloomfield a ceiling. ... At last a waltz was played by the 
band and the Prince offered to waltz with Miss Johnstone, 
but very quietly, and once round the table made him giddy, 
so of course it was proper for his partner to be giddy too ; but 
he cruelly only thought of supporting himself. . . .* 

Mrs. Fitzherbert wisely stuck to her whist. 

126 



A few nights later the Baron launched his 'Phantasmagoria., and 
Mrs. Fitzherbert joked on the advantages he might take of Miss 
Johnstone in the dark but only Sheridan created an uproar, sitting 
on the lap of a hysterical Russian countess when the lights were 
extinguished. 

On another evening which must have been far from gay, the 
Prince tried to stage a reconciliation between Sheridan and 
Warren Hastings. Creevey professed himself horrified at this un- 
usual tactlessness. All knew that eighteen years before 'Sheridan's 
parliamentary fame had been built upon his celebrated speech 
against Hastings'. The meeting proved a fiasco. Sheridan attemp- 
ted cordiality but no words could make amends for such bitter 
injustice. An icy atmosphere blew through the Pavilion's hot- 
house rooms as Sheridan stretched out his hand, Attempting to 
cajole old Hastings, begging him to believe that any part he had 
ever taken against him was purely political and that no one had a 
greater respect for him than himself, etc. etc., upon which old 
Hastings said with gravity that it would be a great consolation to 
him in his declining days if Mr. Sheridan would make that 
sentence more public*. 

The Pfince quickly spotted the hopelessness of a reconcilia- 
tion. Perhaps when he became Regent he could make amends, 
for the moment it was better to concentrate on the musical pro- 
gramme and wine arrangements where he really did know what 
he was about. 

Through all their years together Mrs. Fitzherbert had tried to 
restrain the Prince from drinking himself ill, not an easy task when 
certain cronies paid a visit. The wild horseplay of Sir John Lade 
and the successive Lord Barrymores to a certain extent curbed the 
actual intake of alcohol. A more difficult visitor was the old Duke 
of Norfolk, who made it his custom to drive over from Arundel 
every year for two nights to pay his respects'. The Duke was 
famous even in that age for the amount he could drink. To every- 
one's admiration he always remained apparently sober until the 
moment he stiffened into unconsciousness, when four specially 
trained footmen carried him away. 

The Duke liked routine. The numerous mothers of his illegi- 
timate children all had to be paid at the same bank on the same day 
while he watched through a glass partition. Sir Osbert Sitwell 

127 



evokes the scene: 'Blue eyes, Jewish noses, gipsy skins and 
woolly black hair were seen to be gtafted on to the unmistakable 
Howard features of the infants borne along in their mothers' 
arms, or of stalwart children now obliged to wheel their mother 
in a chair/ 

The Prince could not emulate Norfolk's heroic capacity for 
port. When, after one dinner, surgeons had to be called from 
London, Mrs. Fitzherbert feared her prince might not survive 
another paying of respects. 

Creevey noted the Duke's following visit when "Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert who was always the Prince's best friend, was very much 
afraid of his being again made ill & she persuaded the Prince to 
adopt different stratagems to avoid drinking with the Duke. I 
dined there on both days & letters were brought in each day after 
dinner to the Prince, which he affected to consider of great im- 
portance and so went out to answer them while the Duke of 
Clarence went on drinking with the Duke of Norfolk ' 

Mrs. Creevey, in pages always amusing, occasionally inaccu- 
rate and generally indiscreet, sketches a winter scene: 

'My head is very bad, I suppose with the heat of the 
Pavilion last night. We were there before Mrs. Fitzherbert 
came & it almost made her faint, but she put on no airs to be 
interesting & soon recovered and I had a great deal of com- 
fortable prose with her 

The Prince only allowed two of the gentlemen who had 
dined with them to join her afterwards lest they disturb her. 
Before she came, he was talking of the fineness of the day and 
said, But I was not out, I went to Mrs. Fitzherbert's at one 
o'clock and stayed talking with her till past 6 which was 
certainly very unfashionable. Now was he not at that moment 
thinking of her as his lawful wife? For in no other sense could 
he call it unfashionable? 

Of course he was thinking of her as his lawful wife and this 
was a slip of the tongue. Full of curiosity and gossip, the Creeveys 
professed themselves appalled by the political intrigues of the 
Devonshires. Mrs. Creevey tried to ferret out Maria's views 
(November 8th, 1805): 



128 



c lt is quite impossible to keep clear of Devonshire House 
and there her opinions are all precisely mine & yours and 
what is better, she says they are now the Prince's : that he knows 
everything above all, how money is made by promises, un- 
authorized by him, in the event of his having power; that he 
knows how his character is involved in various transactions 
of that House & that he only goes to it from motives of com- 
passion and old friendship when he is persecuted to do so. 
In short, he tells Mrs. Fitzherbert all he sees and hears, shews 
her all the Duchess's letters & notes and she says she knows 
the Duchess hates her. . . .' 

Georgina had always resented the Prince's obsession with 
Mrs. Fitzherbert, but she had not much time left for hating. She 
was extremely ill from gallstones, while the knowledge that she 
must once more confess her colossal gambling debts to the Duke, 
lowered her extraordinary vitality. 

Poor Georgina, she had always tried to find the right moment 
to divulge her losses. Once she had waited for the birth of a son, 
but then somehow she had not confessed completely. Later in 
1792 came a less propitious moment for revelation. By then the 
warm-hearted Duchess was with child by young Charles Grey, the 
future Prime Minister. The Duke banished her for two years to 
Italy from where she wrote delightfully inconsequential letters to 
Mr. Coutts her banker. Now, as the sands of her ardent life were 
running out, the debts seemed, to her bewilderment, to exceed 
100,000 an odd little sum to explain away to even the most 
docile husband. 

Dying but ever game, she continued to write letters to Fox and 
Sheridan and the Prince who still sought her advice on many 
subjects, including that of a suitable governess for the Princess 
Charlotte. 

To the last, Georgina had to keep her finger on the political 
pulse. Her mind remained alive despite constant pain, and the 
Prince mourned for her sufferings. In a letter to her mother she 
describes his consideration for her and their mutual doctor when 
the Prince certainly had discomforts of his own. 

C I will not allow myself to dwell yet on my gratitude to 
129 



God for having spared me. The Prince was so kind that, tho' 
extremely ill with a diarrhoea he forbid Sir Walter's being told 
of it lest he should take him from me. He continues very ill, I 
hear, having had 10 motions after a stoppage of 4 days. . . .' 

Even a Hanoverian digestion must in time succumb to nightly 
nine-course dinners with C u6 dishes and a multitude of wines'. 

In January 1806 Pitt, the King's friend and the Prince's 
enemy, died. The Ministry of all the Talents was then formed with 
Lord Grenville as Prime Minister and Charles James Fox at the 
Foreign Office. How Devonshire House rejoiced! Georgina 
wrote to her son, c The more you know of Mr. Fox's character 
the more you will admire the great features of his mind, the vast 
comprehension that takes in any subject, united to a candour & 
benevolence that renders him as amiable as he is great.' 

In February she gave a brilliant assembly and supper for the 
new Ministers. It looked as if the Prince might be in for a particu- 
larly interesting time, with his friends on the crest of a new political 
wave. But a month later the phenomenal Duchess died and the 
Prince saluted her going, 'There we have lost the most amiable & 
best-loved woman in England', he said. Before the year elapsed 
Fox, who had waited so long to reach power, was also dead. 



130 



Seventeen 



WHILE political storms shook Tories and Whigs and the 
great sea battles with France were fought and the un- 
easy Peace of Amiens bloomed and broke, a new genera- 
tion was growing up. The two women whom the Prince of Wales 
had named wife were both by nature extremely fond of children. 
Caroline of Brunswick visited her little Charlotte, England's heir, 
as often as permitted. And in Mrs. Fitrfierbert's house lived the 
enchanting child, Minney Seymour. The Princess of Wales, as she 
saw steadily less of her own daughter, took to adopting a number 
of healthy little boys and girls, orphans or from homes of 
the very poor. Her home, Montague House, Greenwich Park, 
seems to have rather resembled a happy kennel for stray puppies. 
She obtained great consolation from these cheerful youngsters 
as observers remark, not minding their running noses or sore 
faces. The Prince, eager to believe gossip, then started that in- 
delicate proceeding in the House of Lords known as c the Delicate 
Investigation* which aimed at discovering if one of the boys was, 
in fact, her own. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert may or may not have borne children to the 
Prince, but however that matter stood she had now come to love 
little Minney Seymour as if she were her own child, and the 
Prince, who showed no affection for his legal daughter, focussed 
an inordinate adoration on this small miss. Every day, whether 
in London or at Brighton, His Royal Highness liked to enjoy his 
play hour. Mrs. Fitzherbert's drawing-room had to be trans- 
formed for these frolics bamboo furniture proving extraordi- 
narily topply and pert Minney, all dressed up, would scamper 
in to sit on Prinney's knee, to slide and play ride-a-cock-horse. 
Political frustration, his father's tantrums, Napoleon Bonaparte 



and Nelson's battles were then shelved in the back of the Prince's 
mind while he indulged in that careless rapture never permitted 
to himself as a little boy. No one romped in the nursery curriculum 
laid down by George HI. 

When in 1802, Minney then being four years old, her uncles 
Lord Hertford and Lord Huston began to worry over the pro- 
priety of allowing her to remain in charge of a Roman Catholic, 
the Prince hurled himself into the fray. His Royal Highness wrote 
excitedly to Lord Euston on his feelings towards c my favourite 
Minney, who I have the pleasure to tell you is in most perfect 
health, improves daily and is the most delightful Child in the 
World'. He then made a long and detailed Proposal which started: 

c The Prince of Wales being fully convinced that the welfare 
& happiness of the Child, are essentially dependent on her 
continuance under the care of Mrs. Fitzherbert; and it appear- 
ing by the evidence before the Master, that she cannot be re- 
moved without injury to her hurt and peril of her life; he feels 
it an indispensable part of the parental duty he so solemnly en- 
gaged to her dying mother to fulfil, to protect her to the ut- 
most of his power, in her present happy situation, and there- 
fore nothing short of a stipulation, that she shall remain there 
unmolested until she shall be of an age to choose for herself, 
will satisfy his mind.* 

In sentences of such and greater length he states his immedi- 
ate intention of adding 10,000 to the funds already in trust for 
Minney, his hope that she may be brought up as a 'bosom friend' 
of the Princess Charlotte, his firm intention of educating her under 
his own eye as a member of the Church of England, and his deter- 
mination to resist any efforts to take her away from him and Mrs. 
Fitzherbert. 

Lord Euston and Lord Henry Seymour, the executors, viewed 
coldly the Prince's pledge to supervise c the purity of her morals' and 
refused the proposal, 10,000 and all. So the Prince sent Admiral 
Payne off with a 'Second Proposal'. This also was brushed aside. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert, whose starved maternal instincts had blos- 
somed so late, lived in continual tears and terror. And the Prince 
of Wales having never seen her in such a state, and himself doting 

I 3 Z 



on this child, harangued his lawyers. They shivered slightly on 
hearing the Prince swear he would stop at nothing to win the child. 
Everyone knew he excelled at that game. 

Now a shadow fell over the gay existence which he and Mrs. 
Fitzherbert had evolved at Brighton. The fear of losing Minney 
spoiled everything. To celebrate Maria's return to his side the 
Prince had started to expand the Pavilion and to redecorate the 
interior in Chinese style. Hand-painted Chinese papers of blue, 
grey and yellow were chosen for the drawing-room while the 
Private Apartments blossomed white and green. Porcelain vases, 
lacquer or bamboo furniture accumulated. It had been such fun 
to plan it with her. And now this cruel threat ruined their peace 
of mind. All the dinners and suppers the Prince gave at the 
Pavilion could not divert them, when the person they wanted 
most might be snatched away. 

There was nothing for it but a lawsuit, a most unusual legal 
battle fought out finally in the House of Lords with the Prince of 
Wales and the Royal Dukes pleading on one side and the relatives 
of Lord Hugh and Lady Horatia on the other. It took three years 
to build up the case, which attracted tremendous publicity and 
eventually resulted in some very curious human reactions. 

While the Seymours were struggling to remove Minney from 
Mrs. Fitzherbert, the King and Queen were fighting against the 
Prince to obtain possession of Princess Charlotte. He did not care 
for his daughter, but hate for her mother drove him to claim her. 
Mrs. Calvert, the catty Irish beauty, gave her personal views on 
Mrs. Fitzherbert's dilemma: 

'She has a sweet little girl who lives with her. . . . She is 
about five years old. Lord Hugh's family and also Lady 
Horatia's have objected to her living with Mrs. Fitzherbert 
for many reasons. They very naturally consider the Prince's 
mistress (for what else can one call her, he having a wife?) not 
the most respectable protectress besides she is a Roman 
Catholic. But she has carried her point & keeps her, promis- 
ing faithfully to educate her in the Protestant religion and I 
understand she has a clergyman of that persuasion to come to 
her, three or four times a week. The Prince and Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert are passionately fond of this little creature, whom they 

133 



always call Minney. She calls Mrs. Fitzherbert "Mama" and 
the Prince *Trinney" and I hear at the time that her family 
wanted to get her from Mrs. Fitzherbert, she often dung 
with her little arms round the Prince saying, "Prinney, won't 
you fight for me : You won't let them take me from you 1" The 
Prince, I hear, had engaged to give her ten thousand pounds.' 

Fight for her he did when the time came, with no holds barred. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert had a certain case, for the Will appointing 
Lord Euston and Lord Henry guardians had been made before 
Minney was bom. The defence was that 'whatever amiable 
qualities she might possess, the Religion she professed excluded 
her from the right to retain the custody of a Protestant child'. 
During the next year or so she appealed to various courts and 
pathetically produced evidence from Bishops that Minney could 
recite the Protestant catechism. But judgements were invariably 
given against her. 

In January 1805 Lady Horatia's sister, Lady Euston, wrote to 
Minney's midshipman brother George: 

*We are still in suspense about little Mary though I hope 
that it will be decided in a few days. It is impossible to express 
all the anxiety that it has caused me, as everything has been 
tried that could possibly be thought of to defeat our object. I 
have never had any doubt of our success, but being obliged to 
act with such an appearance of harshness towards Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert is extremely painful to my feelings. At the same time 
I am supported by the consciousness that I am acting in the 
manner which would most please your dear Father and Mother 
if they could witness all that is passing, and though I may & 
must feel for Mrs. Fitzherbert I must not allow such feelings 
to interfere with my duty to any of the children of the two 
people I ever had the most reason to love in this world.' 

One evening in early November 1805 a messenger from the 
channel port arrived at the Pavilion with urgent news. The Prince 
went straight to Mrs. Fitzherbert and told her of the Battle of 
Trafalgar which had been fought on October 21 st and of Nelson's 
death. She knew the details before any other woman in England. 
A day later she wrote to her friend Mrs. Creevey: 

134 



*Nov. 6 1805 

Dear Madam, the Prince has this moment received an 
account from the Admiralty of the death of poor Lord Nelson, 
which has affected him extremely. I think you may wish to 
know the news which upon any other occasion might be called 
a glorious victory twenty out of three and thirty of the 
enemy's fleet being entirely destroyed no English ship being 
taken or sunk Captains Duff and Cook both killed and the 
French Admiral Villeneuve taken prisoner. Poor Lord Nelson 
received his death by a shot of musket from the enemy's ship 
upon his shoulder and expired two hours after, but not till the 
ship struck and afterwards sunk, which he had the consolation 
of hearing, as well as his complete victory before he died. 
Excuse this hurried scrawl. I am so nervous I scarcely can 
hold my pen.* 

Two days later Mrs. Creevey recorded a visit to Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert: 

'They found her alone and she was excellent gave me an 
account of the Prince's grief about Lord Nelson and then en- 
tered into the domestic failings of the latter in a way infinitely 
creditable to her and skilful. She was all for Lady Nelson and 
against Lady Hamilton, who, she said (hero as he was), over- 
powered him & took possession of him quite by force. But 
she ended in a natural good way by saying: "Toor creature. I 
am sorry for her now, for I suppose she is in grief." ' 

Nelson's death affected people in different ways. Young 
George Seymour, who had been at sea worrying over his little 
sister, now wondered if he would receive the promotion the great 
Admiral had promised him. Lady Euston wrote him (November 
iTth, 1805): 

'To have been distinguished by him at your age must be a 
most gratifying remembrance to you and can never be forgot 
and I trust that Lord Nelson even in his Grave will still serve 
his Country.' 

What could she have meant? That Nelson must whisper to his 

135 



captains in future battles? Or dispatch an angel to the Admiralty 
to nudge the officer in charge of Master Seymour's promotion? 
Aunt Euston continued: 

*I am much pleased with what you say about your poor 
little Sister Mary. I trust that the decision of the House of 
Lords will be favourable and obtained soon after the opening 
of the Sessions.* 

In June 1806 the Prince of Wales brought the Seymour case 
before the peers. Lady Euston had written her account of the 
Prince's last visit to Minney's mother for the Attorney-General: 

c He talked of his own daughter, of little Mary, of Lord 
Hugh, chiefly addressing his conversation to me & almost 
without waiting for an answer. Lady Horatia did not speak to 
him at all, and as she sat with her head turned towards me, she 
once or twice in a low voice expressed a degree of vexation 
at his volubility and she grew more and more faint and I, 
thinking to put an end to the visit, moved two or three times 
to take my leave but she detained me. At last she whispered to 
me: I believe you had better go for I see I shall never get rid 
of him while you stay. I then left them & before I got home 
I saw him pass in his Curricle so I knew he could not have 
stayed long after I was gone. In the evening when I saw her, 
she said: That she was not sorry that she had seen him, for 
that after I was gone he had mentioned Lord Hugh and all her 
children in a very affectionate manner, which she knew would 
please Hugh as he was certainly more attached to the Prince 
than he now liked to acknowledge and that his protection 
might certainly be some time or other of use to her sons/ 

This was not quite the version the Prince gave. He said that 
Lady Horatia had been delighted to talk with him, and had pressed 
her daughter into his care asking him to take an oath & solemnly 
swear to be 'the father & protector through life of the dear child'. 
The idea of him tiring anyone was quite ridiculous. Invalids re- 
vived in his presence. 

Minney's aunt could not know that, hoping to find the peers 
more amenable than the court judges, His Royal Highness was 

136 



dropping some extraordinary hints. He had sworn himself ready 
to do anything, say anything, to obtain this child. Only George 
Prince of Wales who went in for e delicate subjects' could have 
devised this new line of reasoning. To the consternation of the 
Seymour family His Royal Highness now whispered that he was 
Minney's father. The stern Protestant uncles and aunts, the legal 
guardians with all their patter about consciences and respecta- 
bility, froze in their tracks. No one quite believed it. But the 
Prince was absolutely sure. How could a child as enchanting as 
Minney have been sired except by himself? To have cuckolded 
his stern friend, the gallant Lord Hugh while he was away at sea 
fighting England's battles, now seemed in retrospect a most 
desirable act. The more he thought about fathering Minney the 
surer grew the Prince that he had done so. 

And who could contradict him? Poor Lady Horatia whom he 
had exasperated and exhausted could not arise to defend her 
honour. 

Eighty or ninety of the peers he canvassed listened with 
interest if not with credulity and promised to stand on his side. 
So did the royal dukes, except Gloucester, who was a half- 
brother of Lady Horatia. 

More important still, the Prince called upon Lord Hertford, 
head of the Seymour family, and made a private arrangement. 
Dazed and embarrassed by the length to which the Prince was 
ready to go, Lord Hertford gave assurances that if Minney were 
given to his custody he would leave her with Mrs. Fitzherbert. 
Lady Hertford went still further. To alleviate the tension she 
promised Maria that under no circumstances would she allow her 
husband to weaken even if sore pressed by all the Seymour 
family. Mrs. Fitzherbert wept with gratitude, and the Prince felt 
sufficiently secure to write the Duke of Norfolk, safely won over 
with best vintage port: c june 3rd, 1806: I have seen Lord Hert- 
ford, who will call upon you in the course of the day, or, at any 
rate, before the business is brought before the Committee.* 

Sir Samuel Romilly who appeared for the Seymours has des- 
cribed the final day of the trial (June i4th, 1806). 

1 replied in the House of Lords in the appeal respecting 
the guardianship of Miss Seymour. The order of the Lord 

137 



Chancellor was reversed and Lord and Lady Hertford were 
by the House appointed the guardians. Several peers voted 
against this but there was no division. I counted between 
eighty & ninety peers who were present. The Prince, who was 
as anxious that Mrs. Fitzherbert should continue to have the 
care of the child as he could have been if the child had been 
his own, and who knew that Lord and Lady Hertford would 
not remove her, had earnestly entreated all his friends to 
attend/ 

Romilly went on to deplore the Prince's action and to state 
that 'to canvass votes for a judicial decision is that which cannot 
be too strongly reprobated'. 

But who cared about this when little Minney's future had to 
be secured? By fair means or foul the Prince meant to get her. 
When Lord Hertford offered to take the guardianship upon him- 
self the Committee immediately agreed to the proposal and gave 
him c unfettered power of action*. 

The Prince's friends and brothers rejoiced. They knew a 
private arrangement had been made. The Duke of Kent promptly 
wrote to congratulate Mrs. Fitzherbert. 

'Accept then the assurance of my best wishes on this, as 
well as on every occasion in which your happiness is con- 
cerned and believe me it is no small gratification to me to 
reflect that I have had the opportunity of proving by my con- 
duct that in saying this I am far from meaning empty pro- 
fessions. Pray give my love to your little Angel* 

Concerning Minney's other aunt Lady Waldegrave who had 
struggled with Lady Euston to claim the child, Mrs. Fitzherbert 
wrote: 

'Came to town on purpose, wrote to all the Press to 
support her, turned out the people she had let her house to in 
Berkeley Square and fixed herself in it, telling everybody my 
poor Child was to go to reside with her on Saturday evening. 
What a horrid creature she is! Thank God she has been dis- 
appointed.' 

138 



Lady Euston, not knowing of Hertford's promise to the 
Prince, wrote hurriedly to her nephew George: 

'After having indulged the House of Lords with four days 
pleading upon the subject of your poor little Sister, Lord 
Hertford yesterday proposed himself as her guardian and was 
accepted as such. . . . What Lord Hertford's plans are we of 
course do not know. . . . Since I wrote the above I have been 
told that the Bishop of St. Asaph did propose Mrs. Fitzherbert 
as Guardian! but as he likewise is said to have talked of spirits 
coming from the shades of Pluto, we are certainly at liberty to 
doubt, not only whether he is a Protestant Bishop, but also 
whether he is a Christian/ 

Her triumph was short-lived. By July ist she knew Lord 
Hertford intended leaving seven-year-old Minney with Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert and she wrote again to George: 

'The prospect for your poor little Sister's moral and re- 
ligious education is a melancholy one, and I am sorry to say 
from all I hear that the great object of those she now lives 
with is to fill her mind with ideas of her superiority over her 
Sister, but I am happy to say that dear Racey's good sense is 
superior to her Age and she sees the folly of such conduct and 
only pities her Sister for having such nonsense put into her 

head Mrs. Fitzherbert must feel she will be answerable to 

us all for any misconduct of your poor little Sister and has in 
fact (to indulge her own inclinations) run the risk of being 
called to a very severe account if this child fails in any moral 
or religious duty. . . . Nothing can justify Lord Hertford's 
conduct, etc. etc.' 

Rules were laid down. Only the most Protestant of Protestant 
governesses might approach Minney. Mrs. Fitzherbert, thankful 
to have obtained surety, was ready to toe the line meticulously. 
She became terrified on receiving an outburst from Lady Euston 
who had heard that the French governess might be Roman 
Catholic! No. No indeed! Mrs. Fitzherbert's guileless endeavours 
to win Seymour approval showed up rather too obviously when 
Minney's elder sister Racey came over for the day. 



c Racey has seenpoor little Mary two or three times, but they 
are not comfortable together, for I suppose that in order that 
it may be repeated to us, there is such a display of education 
that when Racey visits Mary nothing else is thought of, but 
to show how much she has learned, is learning or is to learn, 
that Racey can only laugh at the parade.' 

Poor Mrs. Fitzherbert tried too hard. The pitiless aunt observ- 
ing her fears did not spare sarcasm over these assiduous en- 
deavours. 

The Prince, of course, remained in raptures. He had won as 
he always did when he expended enough tears, cajolery and 
threats. His little home beside the Pavilion would continue. The 
three of them could live on happily together, teasing and laughing. 
As long as the governesses remained very Protestant and Minney 
never inadvertently romped in Mrs. Fitzherbert's private Oratory 
they were safe. Who could wreck this domestic Utopia? 

Who indeed! 

Lady Hertford had graciously accepted showers of thanks, but 
Mrs. Fitzherbert still asked for some method of showing her 
gratitude. There was nothing in the world she would not do to 
repay so immense a favour. Lady Hertford possessed a strong 
character. It had been her assurance that she and her husband 
would leave Minney with Mrs. Fitzherbert which had pulled 
them confidently through the dreadful weeks before the trial. 
Over and over again Mrs. Fitzherbert wept tears of thankfulness 
when she called. There was nothing she would not do for her . . . 
absolutely nothing! 

Lady Hertford smiled coolly. Obviously Mrs. Fitzherbert was 
besotted by the child, her relief at gaining control of Minney 
blotted out any senses she might have had. Why should she guess 
that her benefactor no beauty herself, rather grim-looking in 
fact found it somewhat dull to be Marchioness of Hertford? My 
lady had decided that more amusing powers might be obtained 
by playing the role of Protestant inamorata to a Prince of Wales. 



140 



Eighteen 



THE price which Mrs. Fitzherbert must pay for little Miiuuey 
was not immediately plain. Lady Hertford allowed Maria 
and the Prince to simmer for a time in utmost content. Her 
shrewd eye watched the menage carefully, but she could afford to 
wait before insinuating herself more deeply in the Prince's con- 
fidence, and she knew well that however she behaved towards 
Minney's adopted mother no complaints could be made. The 
cards all lay in her pocket. 

Within three weeks of the happy ending of the Seymour case, 
Prinney and Mrs. Fitz were enjoying themselves at Brighton. 
Lady Jerningham describes the scene: 

'Races were being held and a great number of gentlemen 
are arrived to pay court to the Prince who protects these 
Races. He was on the course on the Box of his barouche. Mrs. 
Fitzherbert in another carriage-and-four with her brothers and 
other gentlemen the two Barouches standing by each other 
and the Prince frequently in conversation with her from his 
Box/ 

This carefree scene took place in the very week that the Com- 
mittee of Lords concluded 'the Delicate Investigation* into the 
conduct of Caroline of Brunswick and acquitted her of all charges 
of immorality. (Never has a Prince of Wales kept the House so 
busy.) 

Meanwhile the name of little Miss Seymour started to creep 
into the records of Pavilion festivities. Around her seventh or 
eighth birthday there is a description of a Ball given by the Prince: 

141 



"Mr. Sheridan, who arrived here the day before, was of 
the Royal Party. On the night following it being the natal day 
of the little interesting protegee of Mrs. Fitsherbert, Miss 
Seymour, this young lady gave a Ball and supper to a parry of 
juvenile nobility at the Pavilion/ 

All the summer of 1806 proved a happy one for Maria, but 
when the Prince's forty-fifth birthday occurred on August izth, 
Mrs. Fitzherbert suffered a chill and it was her sister Lady Hagger- 
ston who accompanied Minney to the celebration: 

'This being the natal day of the heir apparent the morning 
was ushered in by the ringing of bells and the flag was hoisted 
on the tower of the Church. Two oxen pro bono publico are 
roasting whole on the Level. At half-past twelve the Prince 
of Wales, habited as a Field Marshal, a star at his breast 
accompanied by his royal brother and mounted on a grey char- 
ger, splendidly caparisoned, left the Pavilion for the Downs 
where the following Regiments were drawn up in line. . . . The 
Royal brothers were all in regimentals with stars at their 
breasts. The Duke of Sussex wore his Highland uniform. . . . 
Lady Haggerston and Miss Seymour, the Lord Chancellor., 
Lord Headfort, Mr. Sheridan and Mr. Smythe were in the 
Prince's landau. Mrs. Fitzherbert was detained at home by 
indisposition.* 

Mrs. Fitzherbert's Brighton house, built in the Egyptian style, 
had, perhaps happily, blown down in a gale. Now the Prince 
ordered his architect, William Porden, to build her a French 
villa, a little further from the Pavilion, on the western side of the 
Steyne. 1 While the Prince toyed with the idea of completely re- 
building the Pavilion as an Indian Palace to match his domed 
stables, countless graceful houses with bow windows and fluted 
columns were being constructed for the ever-increasing numbers 
of aristocracy and gentry who, to be fashionable, now had to spend 
half their year at Brighton. 

Deky had been caused in the building of the fantastic Pavilion 
stables owing to Napoleon's blockage of the Baltic ports which, 

1 This house with its small oratory is now occupied by the Y.M.C. A. 

142 



among other inconveniences, made it impossible to obtain timber 
of sufficient length to support the dome of the exercising school. 
This engineering feat of Porden's measured eighty feet across. At 
last it could be finished, and while the Prince's wife moved into her 
villa the Prince's horses munched beneath the biggest dome in 
England encrusted with lotus leaves. 

The new church on the Steyne now became fashionable. From 
it the Royal Standard was flown to denote the Prince's occupation 
of the Pavilion and unctuously the Press recorded: c the example 
which the Nobility set here to the lower order of people by attend- 
ing divine worship on a Sunday is productive of the most salutary 
effect and the most decorous solemnity prevails throughout the 
town'. The nobility set other examples as well, less salutary, but 
on the whole too expensive to be copied by the "lower orders*. 

Meanwhile Lady Hertford played her game very, very care- 
fully. She knew that being Protestant her domination of the 
blowsy headstrong middle-aged Prince must become popular. 
Throughout 1807 and 1808 she steadily pressed herself forward, 
gaining his confidence and, when in London, trying to lure 
him away from Tilney Street to her own magnificent mansion, 
Hertford House (now the Wallace Collection in Manchester 
Square). 

Obediently her husband and son, both arbiters of taste, per- 
suaded the Prince to busy himself buying up those exquisite 
pieces of eighteenth-century French furniture which, owing to the 
Revolution, were coming on the market. (As a result the Royal 
collection is to this day unsurpassable.) Discussion of furniture is 
very safe ground. Such activities appeared blameless if expensive, 
and her ladyship's nose could be carried primly in the air while 
society watched every move. 

In June 1807 Mrs. Calvert was agog at a grand Assembly at 
Mrs. Fitzherbert's for c all the fine world, the Prince of Wales, 
Duke of York, Dukes of Clarence, Cambridge & Kent were all 
there, dressed in full uniform'. But a month kter, in July 1807, 
the sky had clouded. 'Last night we went to a ball at Lady Hert- 
ford's. I think poor Mrs. Fitzherbert much deserted by him now. 
He has taken it into his head to fall desperately in love with Lady 
Hertford . . . without exception the most forbidding, haughty, 
unpleasant-looking woman I ever saw.' 



By August all Brighton knew of the Prince's changing affec- 
tions. The Prince & Mrs. Fitzherbert are expected here either 
today or tomorrow. It is reported the King & Queen are to come 
to the Pavilion after the races. The Prince going to Cheltenham 
to be near his beloved Lady Hertford. Alas poor Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert!' When Mrs. Calvert visited Maria: 'She seemed extremely 
glad to see us and took us all over her house which is a very 
pretty one. I think the Prince looks dismally.' However, His 
Royal Highness continued to arrange parties for Minney at the 
Pavilion. He hired a conjurer to amuse her and her friends and on 
November 23rd, her ninth birthday, the local paper recorded: 
'The Prince arrived here in order we understand to celebrate the 
birthday of the Hon. Miss Seymour the interesting protegee of 
Mrs. Fitzherbert.' 

Warnings concerning the political danger of being associated 
with a Roman Catholic had long been showered on the Prince, 
and Lady Hertford gravely added her advice. Now Lord Carlisle 
wrote: 'Though I do not only believe, but know how innocent 
Mrs. Fitzherbert is of all that may be imputed to her on that head, 
yet I solemnly declare I consider her situation as becoming more 
perilous.' 

At this period public opinion became so anti-Catholic that 
Mrs. Fitzherbert grew frightened and destroyed the Papal Brief 
authorizing her to live with the Prince, and although she could 
not bear to burn her marriage certificate she scissored out the 
names of the two witnesses, her uncle and brother, who could 
be had for felony. 

According to the editor of the Romilly Papers, Mrs. Fitzher- 
bert's decision to employ the good graces of Lady Hertford in 
the Seymour case 

c was attended with consequences of considerable import- 
ance. It occasioned a great intimacy between the Prince and 
Lady Hertford which ended with her entirely supplanting Mrs. 
Fitzherbert in the Prince's favour; and it produced that hosti- 
lity towards the Catholics, which the Prince manifested when 
he became Regent, and his determination to place his confi- 
dence in those Tory Ministers, whom he had always before 
considered as his personal enemies.' 

144 



When in London, His Royal Highness continued to visit 
Tilney Street where, ignoring the cool looks of the lady he had 
twice bullied into accepting him as husband, he still enjoyed the 
smiles of Minney Seymour. One of Minney's small friends, later 
Lord Albemarle, has described the children's parties: 

'By my little hostess I had the honor of being presented to 
the Prince. No sooner was His Royal Highness seated in his 
armchair than my young companion would jump up on one 
of his knees to which she seemed to claim a prescriptive right. 
Straightway would arise an animated talk between Prinney 
and Minney as they respectively called each other.* 1 

Minney remained in ignorance of the strained relationship 
developing between beloved c Mama' and doting Trinney 3 . On 
her tenth birthday (November 23rd, 1808), the Brighton news- 
paper announced: *In the evening a grand Ball in celebration of 
the Hon. Miss Seymour was given to a number of the young 
nobility and gentry at the Pavilion. The Prince honoured the ball- 
room with his presence.* 

Meanwhile Mrs. Fitzherbert suffered acutely from the prim yet 
sadistic insistence of Lady Hertford that she must continue to 
visit the Pavilion, acting as a sort of unwilling chaperone. Now the 
great dangerous love affair was over. Completely over. Yet the 
Prince would not allow Maria to retire quietly as a wife no longer 
infatuating but respected. 

Lady Euston, grown reconciled to Minney's adoption, wrote 
not unkindly to her nephew George: 

*I know not what Mrs. Fitzherbert does in all these con- 
fusions and reconciliations as the World says it is all owing to 
Lady Hertford's influence that the Prince is put in a way to 
become a Good Boy. . . . Mrs. Fitzherbert looks remarkably 
well but she appears in public in an odd situation, having few 

1 Long long after when Albemarle had become the last officer survivor of the 
Battle of Waterloo- he wrote to Minney's youngest daughter, Lady Constance 
Leslie: 'Christmas Day 1888: Your letter called me back from the tenth to the first 
decade of my life. I almost fancied myself issuing from the nursery at 6 Tilney Street, 
for a walk in Hyde Park hand in hand with your beautiful Mother, each of us 
carrying one penny to bestow upon our two respective old blind women who sat 
begging at the edge of what was then called "the basin"/ 



people to converse with, and the Prince often not speaking to 
her at all and at other times she appears indignant with him 
when he does.' 

What was the hold that Lady Hertford exercised over the 
portly gentleman which George had become? The Brighton mob 
could not imagine how so stern and unattractive a woman could 
influence an ageing rake. They had not heard of complexes. Lady 
Hertford did not hold her prey through the lures of the bed- 
room. His Royal Highness had lain with too many women. None 
could seduce him now. And though he loved only Maria Fitz- 
herbert he feared losing power if associated with her at this crucial 
time. Lady Horatia had thought the Prince addled in his mind 
when he had called baby Minney 'his little governess'. But he 
loved being ordered about. He craved a tyrant and now one had 
appeared in a safe form Protestant and Tory. The Whigs were 
out of luck. The Heir Apparent, about to attain power as Regent, 
deserted them because of his Governess Complex! 



146 



Nineteen 



DON Lady Hertford's arrogant demands that Mrs. Fitzherbert 
must accompany her to the Pavilion and then play second 
fiddle passed human bearing. So did a rude secretary. 
On December i8th, 1809, Mrs. Fitsherbert wrote bluntly: 

1 trust Your Royal Highness will permit me to explain the 
reasons why I could not possibly accept the honour of your 
invitation to the Pavilion for yesterday and for this evening. 
The very great incivilities I have received these two years just 
because I obeyed your orders in going there was too visible 
to every one present, and too poignantly felt by me to admit 
of putting myself in a situation of again being treated with 
such indignity, for whatever may be thought of me by some 
individuals, it is well known Your Royal Highness four and 
twenty years ago placed me in a situation so nearly connected 
with your own that I have a claim on you for protection. I feel 
I owe it to myself not to be insulted under your roof with 
impunity. The influence you are now under and the conduct 
of one of your servants, I am sorry to say, has the appearance 
of your sanction and support, and renders my situation im- 
possible any longer to submit to.* 

She thought she had broken the fetters, but next day the 
Prince wrote back surprised and injured: 

c ln whatever time, my dear Maria, that you may be pleased 
to write to me or in whatever way you may at any time think 
proper to act by me, deeply as I may feel and lament it, yet 
that never can nor shall make me deviate from or forget those 

147 



affectionate feelings I have ever entertained for you. . . . With 
respect to the dear Child . . . she shall never under any circum- 
stance experience any alteration from me ... for as you may 
well recollect, I have told you how convinced I was and ever 
shall be of the innate excellence and sweetness of her dear 
little Heart, mind, nature and disposition.' 

The Prince had at last raised his wife's allowance from 3,000 
per annum to 6,000, but he had never paid her the annual i 0,000 
promised as a marriage settlement. When Maria wrote him that 
owing to his architect Porden outrunning the estimate for build- 
ing her house she was in money difficulties she used terse phrases 
noting that c as your wife I feel I have still a claim upon your pro- 
tection'. She said she could not possibly pay Porden and that if 
arrested 1 shall feel no degradation in going to jail. It is no debt 
of extravagant folly, but a, circumstance what will happen now and 
again that of being deceived by those we place confidence in.' 

Naturally the Prince did not show this letter to Lady Hertford. 
The debt to Porden was settled and perhaps to assuage his own 
discomfort of mind when he next ordered a diamond necklace 
for Lady Hertford he dispatched a duplicate to Mrs. Fitzherbert 
which she received with a wry face but did not return. 

The Duke of Kent, who for twenty-seven years lived with 
Madame de St. Laurent, and the Duke of Clarence, still maintain- 
ing domestic bliss with Mrs. Jordan, both remained close friends 
of Mrs. Fitzherbert. They wrote her every few days, often giving 
details of the coughs, rheumatic colds and other fits which affected 
their chosen ladies whom the Royal Marriage Act kept to the 
status of 'unmarried wives'. So unhappy had been the results of 
their younger brother, the Duke of Sussex, taking the law into 
his own hands and marrying a lady of high estate without the 
King's consent that neither Clarence who was to be King 
William IV nor Kent dared attempt illegitimate Church services. 

In 1792 the Duke of Sussex had married as the Christian 
Church says a man must, of his own will and before witnesses 
the Protestant Lady Augusta Murray, daughter of the fourth 
Earl of Dunmore. Later in the year they arranged a second 
marriage in St. George's, Hanover Square, and two children were 
bom of this union. King George HI perverted by unholy egotism 

148 



which allowed him to contravene that clear dictum of his own 
religion, 'those God had joined together let no man put asunder*, 
declared the marriage invalid and the children illegitimate. The 
senseless cruelty of this act ruined the life of the harmless Sussex, 
of his nobly-bred Scottish lady, and of their son and daughter who 
could not know what to call themselves. Ridiculously, the marri- 
age was valid in Hanover and Ireland where the boy could be 
called 'Prince of the Blood Royal, grandson of the reigning King 
of England'. But despite every entreaty the inhuman old monarch 
refused to admit legitimacy in England to these two grandchildren, 
and the mortified Lady Augusta finally retired to seclusion in 
Scotland. 1 

Watching the trials and tribulations of the royal brothers and 
remaining in the confidence of them all, Mrs, Fitzherbert realized 
the desperate unhappiness bound to have fallen on any children 
she might have acknowledged bearing to the Prince of Wales. If 
they had come to her then she did wisely to maintain so rigidly 
the secret. And if she bore none, then she could count herself 
lucky. Little Minney had caused her torment enough as it was. 

The Duke of York, who had been Heir Presumptive to the 
Heir Apparent, throughout the early difficult days maintained a 
steady and serious correspondence with Maria. He was her great- 
est friend for over twenty years, and it is unfortunate that all these 
letters, apparently ill-spelt but no less readable for that, should 
have been burned because they were interesting, while chests of 
harmless notes concerning Madame St. Laurent's cough and Mrs. 
Jordan's malaise from the other royal brothers remain. In 1809 
the Duke of Clarence wrote his eldest son George from Ports- 
mouth: The oftener you dine at Mrs. Fitzherbert's the better. 
Remember me to her in the kindest manner possible.' 

Mrs. Jordan (whom the Duke referred to as 'your mother' 
when writing to his offspring) added wishes and advice. Young 
George forgot some of his father's letters in Mrs. Fitzherbert's 
house and they were swept into her papers: 

'Your mother trusts you have gone down well to Brighton. 
I hope you called last night on Mrs. Fitzherbert. ... I could 

1 Eventually the son became known as Sir Augustus <TEste. The daughter 
married Lord Truro. 

149 



not see the Prince as I was to dine with the Queen. The dinner 
was uncommonly pleasant and I had a very long and interest- 
ing conversation with the King. You must write frequently 
and believe that your mother and myself, whether present or 
absent, are attached to you in an unalterable manner, dear 
George. Your most affec. father. 

William.' 

George Fit2clarence showed, like his royal uncles, an inability 
to write proper English. The intensive education with eight hours 
a day of study punctuated by floggings organized by the old King 
had not produced even tolerable literacy in the Duke of York, so 
his nephew got nagged not to fall into the same category. Clarence 
writing to congratulate George on promotion in the Army added: 

c You must pay attention to your spelling and get someone 
to correct your English. Show this letter to Colonel Quintin 
with my best compliments. . . . Write frequently either to 
your mother or to me. She is in town and plays tomorrow at 
the Opera House. My best wishes and compliments attend 
Mrs. Fitzherbert and give my love to Minney.' 

Mrs. Jordan, an educated actress, better educated it seems than 
certain members of the royal family, implored him to take heed: 

indeed, my dear George, this is of more consequence than 
you at present imagine. Only reflect how the Duke of York's 
letters and the spelling of the kte Duke of Cumberland was 
ridiculed and is ever to this day.' 

And again: 

*You are to tell Mrs. Fitzherbert from your father that he 
wishes she would be so good as to introduce you to the 
Duchess of Bedford. It is reported that Lord Paget is killed 
in a duel by Henry Wellesley whose wife he ran away with last 
Monday. . . . Mrs. Fitzherbert speaks very handsomely and 
kindly of you. I see by your spelling that you do not make use 
of your Dictionary/ 

150 



George Fitzclarence was preparing to embark with his regi- 
ment for the Peninsular War and his sailor father sent him a fare- 
well letter full of sensible advice: 

'Dear George, 

Your letter informing me your regiment is going abroad 
arrived yesterday. A soldier is always happy to obey, and I 
make no doubt you will do your duty as you ought, and I trust 
in God you will be as fortunate as you were on the last 
occasion. Give my best compliments to Col. Quintin and 
desire him to work you well in the riding house, & you must 
make the most of your time to become a good horseman. I 
hope for your sake Mrs. Fitzherbert will remain at Brighton 
till you march to embark. Thank her in my name for all her 
attention & goodness to you. . . . The less baggage you now 
know by experience the better. Only take what is useful & 
not ornamental. At the same time you must have what is 
ordered. Your mother goes on Saturday to Bath & Bristol, 
and will be absent between three & four weeks. She, Mrs. 
Sinclair . . . and your brothers & sisters write in love & best 
wishes, and I remain your affec. father, 

William.' 

In January 1809 Sir John Moore had been killed at Corunna 
in the heroic evacuation of his army. Years more of terrible war- 
fare back and forth across the bleak Spanish mountains lay ahead, 
while a sanctimonious, criticizing home government failed to 
comprehend that Napoleon could be surely beaten by dragging 
out his line across a desolate country. The English soldier was in 
a bad way. He had lost his great General Moore in January, and 
in February he lost a reform-loving Commander-in-Chief in the 
Duke of York. Like all the royal dukes he could not keep out 
of trouble where ladies were concerned. After obediently marry- 
ing a German princess who proved childless, Frederick of York 
had proceeded to live openly with his mistress, the brazen, greedy 
Mary Anne Clarke. Not content wkh what remuneration she 
could squeeze out of her prince, this avaricious wanton organized 
a private trade in Army commissions. While serious-minded York 
(called by Lady Hester Stanhope 'the best friend a soldier ever 



had*) had since 1795 struggled to reorganize Army training, ad- 
ministration and the appointment of officers, his mistress, unknown 
to him, dealt out commissions beneath the regulation price. The 
tragedy of Corunna was forgotten while a Grand Committee in 
the packed House of Commons questioned Mrs. Clarke whose 
impudent answers mesmerized all. She knew men. Six hundred 
members of Parliament were just six hundred possible victims. 
Although caught out in twenty-eight falsehoods she kept her head 
sufficiently to refuse answering a really difficult question on 
grounds of 'indelicacy*, and before the trial ended a note had 
been thrust into her hand from an enterprising parliamentarian 
reading, '300 guineas & supper with me tonight*. 

Everyone now understood the Duke. It was proved that her 
dishonest transactions took place behind his back, but neverthe- 
less he had to resign as Commander-in-Chief at a time when he 
was sorely needed. Meanwhile the old Admiral Lord St. Vincent 
asked the House of Lords to give command in the field to one 
of the royal dukes preferably Kent. He argued splendidly on 
methods of using royalty. 'They have made the science of war 
their study from childhood, if they are not to be employed, I am 
at a loss to conjecture for what purpose they were bred to arms.' 

York and Kent during these uncomfortable debates called 
upon Mrs. Fitzherbert almost daily. Being well accustomed to 
gentlemen in trouble she had a soothing touch in moments of 
stress. Alas that all those letters to 'My ever dearest Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert* except the trivial ones concerning their gout and 'the 
King's bilious eye* were burnt by her later. 

The poor Duke of York felt the injustice of his fate bitterly. 
He had after all married as bidden. No one after a glance at his 
princess could possibly expect him not to keep a mistress. How 
could he have guessed what she would get up to? 

Amidst these political storms young George Fitzclarence left 
England, feeling perhaps he had more to learn from his uncle 
York than the avoidance of spelling mistakes. 



152 



Twenty 



Now came two years during which Mrs. Fitzherbert re- 
garded the Prince's infrequent visits with cool politeness. 
She still received summons to the Pavilion and formally 
took her pkce there as his wife. But as the likelihood of being 
made Regent approached he grew nervous and evasive. There was 
talk of ministers asking the Prince to declare before he took his 
oaths for the Regency 'whether he was not married to a Papist'. 
It is difficult to follow quite how that royal rubbery mind now 
worked. On January 3ist, 1811, just a week before taking his 
oaths as ruler of the Three Kingdoms, the Prince sent for Mrs. 
Fitzherbert to drive from Brighton to see him in London. When 
she entered his presence he asked to which party he should, when 
Regent, confide administration of the country. Lord Grey the 
Whig leader was no friend of hers, but knowing how deeply the 
Prince had been involved with that party she thought it necessary 
to give old friends an interlude in office. 'Only retain them, Sir, 
six weeks in power. If you please, you may find some pretext to 
dismiss them at the end of that time/ He remonstrated. With 
immense effort he was trying to work himself up to overthrow his 
former friends, he wanted to hear Mrs. Fitzherbert speak Lady 
Hertford's words: 'Retain the Tories under Mr. Perceval.' For 
hours he kept Maria arguing. The Prince kept asking her opinion 
on the Whigs then tearing her answers to pieces. 

At length seeing that her words availed little, Mrs. Fitzherbert 
asked leave to return to Brighton. His Royal Highness started 
and looked at her in his arrogant pathetic way. He saw his 'own 
dearest wife Maria', plump, fresh-skinned, still lovely at fifty-four 
grown smarter in self-defence than when he first knew her, but 

153 



still carrying that calm he had never been able to destroy. This 
was the last time their eyes would meet, his shifting unhappily, 
hers serene. Once more he sensed that stability which he longed 
for and did not himself possess. Once more he wished he could 
return her cool, unflinching look. The Prince sighed with self- 
pity. Here lay his peace, but he might not take it. Happiness had 
all become so very complicated. He wanted the full power of 
Regent and Lady Hertford kept reminding him of the unpopularity 
of Catholic ties. He had to let her go. 

Before she swept into her formal departing curtsy, Mrs. 
Fitzherbert remembered one matter which had long tormented 
her and she decided to make a statement wanted or unwanted. 

"She then urged upon him, as strongly as she was able, the 
disadvantages which must accrue to his future happiness from 
treating his daughter, the Princess Charlotte, with so little 
kindness. "You now, Sir," she said, "may mould her at your 
pleasure, but soon it will not be so, and she may become, 
from mismanagement, a thorn in your side for life." "That is 
your opinion, Madam," was his only reply.* 1 

She drove back to Tilney Street exhausted. Next day in the 
street she met old Creevey who, alone among the Whigs, could 
not see why the Prince should not chuck his party if it had ceased 
to be useful to him. 

On February 2nd he scribbled: 

1 said all I thought to Sheridan in vindication of Prinney, 
but I presume I am wrong as I stand single in this opinion. I 
went however to Mrs. Fitzherbert at twelve today, an oppor- 
tunity I made with her yesterday in the street, and she and I 
were agreed on this subject/ 

She had fought as hard as she could for the Whig Party, but as 
the Regent was determined to abandon them she would not 
criticize his choice. 

During the next few months Wellington's victories in Spain 

1 Lord Stourton's narrative. 

154 



kept England in jubilant mood. Until early summer Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert must have remained in contact with the Prince Regent, for 
the Duke of Kent deep in financial troubles and much disliked 
by his elder brother after asking her to intercede for some 
monetary request on his behalf, wrote to her. 

May 31 1811 

My ever dearest Mrs. Fitzherbert, 

As the House meets today ... I fear I must put off the 
pleasure of calling on you till Monday etc. . . . In the meantime 
I must entreat your acceptance of my most warm and grateful 
acknowledgments for your kind attention to my poor interest, 
which but for you, I believe, would, in the midst of so much 
more important arrangements have been altogether over- 
looked and be the result of your affectionate negotiation for 
me what it will, I shall ever bear in equally grateful recollection 
the zeal with which you undertook it.* 1 

But in June came a final rudeness from the Prince. Perhaps 
with a sense of relief that it was all over at last, Mrs. Fitzherbert 
abandoned Brighton for several years and moved to Sherwood 
Lodge, Battersea, which being near to London gave more educa- 
tional amenities for Minney. 

The conclusive break-up occurred over a magnificent dinner 
celebrating the Regency to be given at Carlton House. The exiled 
King Louis XVHI of France and his family were to be guests of 
honour, as a slight perhaps to Napoleon whose marshals were 
ranging their troops tiger-like for a last possible effort to wipe 
out Wellington's Portuguese Army. Mrs. Fitzherbert received 
her usual summons, but was hesitatingly informed by the Prince 
Regent that a new seating arrangement would be made. Ever 
since his marriage to a commoner the Prince had made it custom- 
ary to sit at this table without regard to rank. Mrs. Fitzherbert 
automatically took her place at the head of the table as his wife, 
and when they went to other people's houses she had to be treated 
as the highest lady in the room. This delicate, deliberate, carefully 
observed etiquette had been insisted upon by the Prince for nearly 
thirty years. Even Lady Hertford's nagging had not altered the 

1 Pierpont Morgan Library. 

155 



procedure, for he dreaded the day that Maria's door would be 
closed in his face for ever. 

Now, intoxicated with that long-coveted power of being 
Regent, he decided to break his rule. He informed her that with a 
Bourbon King present the guests must sit according to rank. 
This meant that Mrs. Fitzherbert would be at the end of the table. 
Even had she been created a Duchess as he and Fox once wished, 
it could not have helped the situation as Maria Fitzherbert sat 
at the royal table as the Prince's wife or not at all. She underlined 
her refusal to accept future commands to Carlton House or the 
Pavilion in a letter of which she took a copy that survives tagged 
in her writing: "Copy of letter written the Prince, June 7, 1811, 
when persuaded by Lady Hertford not to admit me to his table.* 

'Sir, 

After the conversation Your Royal Highness held with me 
yesterday I am sure you will not be surprised that I have sent 
my excuses for not obeying your commands for Wednesday 
next. Much as it has ever been my wish during a period of near 
thirty years to save you from every embarrassment in my 
power yet there are situations when one ought not entirely to 
forget what is due to oneself. You, Sir, are not aware, in your 
anxiety to fill your table with persons only of the highest rank, 
that, by excluding her who now addresses you merely for 
want of those titles that others possess, you are excluding the 
person who is not unjustly suspected by the world of possess- 
ing in silence unassumed & unsustained a Rank given her by 
yourself above that of any other person present. Having never 
forfeited my title to Your Royal Highness's public as well as 
private consideration by any act of my life, to what could this 
etiquette be for the first time imputed: No one, my dear Sir, 
has proved themselves thro' life less solicitous than myself. 
But I cannot be indifferent to the fair, honourable appearance 
of consideration from you, which I have hitherto possessed & 
which I feel I deserve, & for which reason I can never submit 
to appear in your house in any place or situation but in that 
where you yourself first placed me many years ago.* 

In this letter Mrs. Fitzherbert made her final curtsy to the 

156 



gentleman who had sworn before the heavenly hosts to love her 
into eternity, and packed her bags for Sherwood Lodge. She felt 
thankful she had purchased this retreat and soon the three elder 
royal dukes who had begged her not to abandon their brother 
were flocking to Battersea for sympathy and advice. The Duke of 
York avoiding all reference to the break-up wrote: 

*I am rejoiced to learn that you are so well pleased with, 
and feel so comfortable at Sherwood Lodge. From what I 
could judge of the place, when I was with you there last year, 
I am certain it was capable of being made very pretty, and I 
shall be very anxious as soon as I return to town to see all your 
improvements.' 

Gossip does not record what Louis XVIII thought of the 
splendid dinner at Carlton House. While Mrs. Fitzherbert had 
received a summons in the form of an insult, the Princess of 
Wales received no invitation at all. Generous of nature, she 
allowed her ladies-in-waiting to attend without her. However 
cruelly treated, Caroline of Brunswick never sought to spoil the 
enjoyment of others, and she considered this celebration 'well 
worth seeing'. 

England commented caustically: 'Both wives have remained 
by their own firesides.' 



157 



Twenty-one 



N* o w came a period of quiet content for Maria Fitzherbert. 
The strain was over. Nearly thirty years of moods, change- 
ability, brain-storms and sulks had kept her nerves keyed 
taut. At last she could relax and enjoy life in her own way. There 
was no dearth of friends. The royal dukes hurried to her with 
each tidbit of news, and she found herself invited to the great 
houses of England and surrounded by genuinely devoted people. 
Apart from the sarcasm of lampoons and a few jealous women, 
not one derogatory remark is recorded concerning Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert. In that age of slashing wit and infamous satire she passed 
almost unmolested. The English public, so ready to hate a Papist, 
acknowledged her dignity and tidy behaviour. 

During the summer of 1811, soon after Mrs. Fitzherbert's 
separation from the Regent had become absolute, the Duke of 
Clarence decided to end his twenty-year liaison with Mrs. Jordan. 
His motives were mixed. He had lived cosily with her and the 
children at Bushey, and even allowed her to help support him with 
her earnings but, none the less, such a number of bastards proved 
a financial drag. He could never expect that his income of 20,5 oo 
per annum would be increased to the 40,000 usual for a married 
royal duke unless he shed the plump, hard-working, ever-devoted 
mother of his ten children. On the whole, William of Clarence had 
proved a kindly man, but now he began to worry about his prox- 
imity to the throne. Suddenly he felt sure he would outlive both 
Regent and the childless Duke of York. Then only Princess 
Charlotte stood between him and kingship. If she produced no 
children his progeny must inherit. He toyed with the idea of tak- 
ing a legitimate bride, not immediately, of course, but sometime, 

158 



somewhere. And the first step must be, ot course, to assume tne 
appearance of a bachelor. Not so easy with ten young Fitzclarences 
allowed to call him 'Father*. The first blow was delivered with 
blunt unkindness. England learnt that Mrs. Jordan had been 
given the sack in a pathetic manner. 

To help eke out the Duke's insufficient income she was ful- 
filling a provisional engagement at Cheltenham and on the last 
night she played Nell in The Devil to Pay. The public loved their 
great comic actress and noticed nothing strange in her manner 
until she reached the laughing-drunk scene. Her audience then 
waited for that famous Jordan laugh, 'the most enlivening thing in 
nature equally beyond praise and description*. Instead they saw 
their star burst into tears. 

By morning everyone knew the Duke of Clarence had written 
Mrs. Jordan to arrange a final separation. The newspapers angrily 
took it up. They knew she had borne him ten children and that 
he often lived on her earnings. If he thought he could fling her 
aside unnoticed he had made a mistake. 

Mrs. Jordan, though heart-broken, did not scold. She could 
write a far more lucid letter than the royal brothers and one of 
these states quite simply: 

'Could you believe or the world believe that we never had 
for twenty years the semblance of a quarrel. But this is so well 
known in our domestic circle that the astonishment is the 
greater. Money, money, my good friend, or the want of it, has 
I am convinced made HIM at the moment the most wretched 
of men, but having done wrong he does not like to retract. 
But with all his excellent qualities his domestic virtues^ his love 
for his lovely children what must he not at this moment 
suffer?' 

The Duke proved adamant. On the previous Christmas he 
had revelled in the joy of a family party in his apartments at St. 
James's decorated by Mrs. Jordan with blue and crimson hangings. 
George Fitzclarence had returned from the wars and she had 
written *. . . We shall have a full and merry house at Christmas. 
It is what the dear Duke delights in: a happier set when alto- 
gether I believe never existed/ 

159 



But the set had been reunited for the last time. Mrs. Jordan's 
remaining five Christmases were to be spent in exile alone with 
her daughters, and harried by creditors. In 1816 she died at St. 
Cloud, of heart-break it seemed, because so many posts had come 
in without a kind letter from the Duke. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert's case was, of course, less desperate. For one 
thing she was a lady and possessed a high place of her own in 
society. Her situation in the world appeared to be that of aban- 
doned wife, not of cast-off mistress. After the rift became absolute 
Minney Seymour continued to receive every kindness from the 
Prince. The shadow of her elders' dispute never entered the 
schoolroom. After her fourteenth birthday, in the delicate hand 
developed by all those eager governesses she wrote the Regent: 

'Brighton. Nov. 25 1812 

My dear Prinney. How kind you were to remember my 
birthday and send me such a beautiful present! I have placed it in 
a very conspicuous situation and it is very much admired. Pray 
accept my most grateful thanks for it. I must not omit thank- 
ing you for the piece of paper I found inclosed in Colonel 
MacMahon's letter. It was very acceptable as sometimes I am 
rather an extravagant personage. I ride almost every day and 
Adonis is as great a favourite as ever. Dear little Sancho is 
rather neglected for I fancy myself almost too big to ride on 
him. I hope, my dear Prinney, that you enjoy good health & 
you will ever believe me to remain your most grateful & 
affec. Minney.' 

To watch the flowering of this girl who had been the dearest 
love of her life atoned for Mrs. Fitzherbert's other tribulations. 
The Regent always kept her informed of his illnesses (perhaps he 
secretly believed in the efficacy of Maria's prayers), but she only 
corresponded with him henceforth about financial matters and 
rewards for various servants. On the few occasions they met 
in society she cut him in the grand manner. These haughtinesses 
were as avidly watched as their former sweet glances. Sir Henry 
Holland wrote: 'I witnessed once, when meeting the Prince 
Regent & Mrs. Fitzherbert in the same room at Bridgewater 
House, that rejection of every intercourse on her part which gave 

1 60 



origin to so many anecdotes/ Professor Charles Webster in his 
Introduction to the Letters of George IV mentioning Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert stated "otherwise she only appears in connection with the 
Prince's daughter, Minney Seymour, a tie that still connected them 
when all others had been severed*. Experts, basing their opinion 
on George's own beliefs and his habit of signing letters to 
Minney as 'your father by adoption* decided that e the conclusion 
is inescapable'. But a man who cannot speak the truth ceases to 
think the truth and the Prince's infatuation with the idea of being 
Minney's father is no proof at all. Mrs. Fitzherbert must have 
known the secret but she has left no clue. At the age of fifteen 
Minney wrote (in ever firmer script): 

'November 27 1813 

My dearest Prinney, For as you kindly commanded me 
always to call you so; you will I hope receive my most grateful 
thanks for the kind & affectionate letter, which you were so 
good as to write. It gave me additional pleasure, as it is some 
time since I have had the happiness of receiving a letter written 
by yourself. I mustlikewisethankyoufor the truly handsome & 
magnificent ornament which accompanied it; it is very beauti- 
ful and I shall have great pleasure in wearing it, as being your 
gift. I have not yet rode but intend doing so in a few days; the 
horses are very well and Adonis is as great a favourite as 
formerly. I ride dear little Sancho occasionally, but have 
almost outgrown the little fellow.' 

Minney, kept happily occupied with her ponies and French 
lessons and music and dancing, was indeed growing up. And 
someone had fallen painfully in love with her. Poor George Fitz- 
clarence, the eldest of the Duke of Clarence's ten children, re- 
turned at intervals from the bloodstained battles and perishing 
miseries of the Peninsula. As his father decreed, he visited Mrs. 
Fitzherbert frequently, but it was no longer for the sake of the 
old lady's kindness. Little pirouetting Minney, who was to drive 
many men to distraction, caught and thoughtlessly held his deep- 
ly sincere, intense, unhappy heart. With a terrible slow ache he 
realized that he had loved her since she was a girl of twelve. And 
was there hope for such as he, a royal bastard brought up and 

161 



educated as if he were a legitimate son? He had seen his worthy 
father floundering in financial difficulties as an admiral on half- 
p a ~ jj e had seen his mother strong as a cart-horse worked to the 
bone on tours to provide for her extraordinary family. He himself 
had done bravely in the wars but he had no self-confidence, no 
proper name as yet and no sparkling wit. As far as Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert was concerned he could never be considered a match for 
her darling ewe-lamb. 

During his long campaigns in Spain, George sent frequent 
letters to the fourteen- or fifteen-year-old Minney whose tantaliz- 
ing elf-shaped face never quite left his memory, and on August 
4th, 1813, he wrote from Legaca: 

'I cannot refrain from congratulating you, my dear Mrs. 
Fitzherbert, upon a most splendid victory we have gained 
over the enemy. We have fought some most desperate battles, 
& have always come off with victory. Horace is well, & what 
is not of so much consequence to a young lady in your house, 
so am I & my brother. Horace had his horse shot. Mine was 
grazed on the nose with a ball Since the 25th ult. the French 
have lost 16,000 men, we 7,000. 1 refer you to the Gasytto for 
leading facts, as I have not time to give an account of our most 
gallant exploits. Never has anything shown Lord Wellington 
to more advantage or the British soldiers' courage more than 
these operations. We have taken great part of the enemy's 
baggage & 4,000 prisoners. Captain Harding is slightly 
wounded. I have been in France. I sent you oak leaves I took 
from a tree to crown myself conqueror. I send Minney some 
box I wore in my hat during the whole of the action, as it was 
fought on the anniversary of Talavera.' 

George was humble and afraid of showing feeling. On he 
went into France with Wellington's army, and his letters, always 
containing small hints and hopes that Minney might care about 
him, reflected the general excitement at Napoleon's abdication. 

Early in 1815 Mrs. Fitzherbert travelled to Paris and was on 
February 12th received at the Tuileries by King Louis XVIIL 
Presumably the Regent's famous dinner-party could not have 
been among the topics discussed. She hurried back to England 

162 



when Napoleon escaped from Elba and was at Brighton much 
waited on by her royal dukes when the news of Waterloo came 
through. " 

The famine price of wheat, theCornLaws and the Nottingham 
riots, where starving workers battered themselves against the 
terrifying new advent of machinery, passed Mrs. Fitzherbert by, but 
she wrote imploringly to the Prince when any of his old servants 
were fallen on bad days and begged him for help or pensions that 
had escaped his secretaries* notice. 

She travelled a great deal now between her houses in Tilney 
Street and Battersea and Brighton, and Minney could usually be 
seen in her carriage. Lady Verulam wrote: 

'We met yesterday Mrs. Fitzherbert and her protegee. She 
was driving herself in one of the fashionable carriages. They 
have four wheels and one horse & go at a great rate. One 
could not help moralizing, as the road she was on was the very 
one on which the Princess of Wales was driven almost every 
day in her phaeton.' 

Mrs. Fitzherbert's position in society remained the same as in 
former years, but there were curious incidents. A letter from Mrs. 
French at Cheltenham describes one: 

'Mrs. Fitzherbert was judiciously invited to a fete by 

Colonel in honour of the Princess Charlotte's birthday. 

He first treated Mrs. Fitzherbert as Regentess by leading her 
into the supper room before all the women of rank, and then 
gave toasts & made orations upon the merits of the Prince & 
Princess and the lovely fruit of their union. Was ever such 
folly, inconsistency & want of feeling? 5 

When the Prince completely abandoned the cause of the 
Whigs, Ireland and the Catholics, Tom Moore wrote 'The Prince's 
Song* sung at the Duke of Devonshire's house in 1815: 

*When first I met thee, warm & young, 
There shone such truth about thee, 
And on thy lip such promise hung, 



I did not dare to doubt thee, 

I saw thee changed, yet still relief. 

Still clung with hope the fonder, 

And thought, though false to all beside, 

From me thou couldst not wander/ 

But Moore had the wisdom to ask his publisher to date this 
poem '1789' to 'prevent the confusion of supposing it to be Mrs. 
Fitzherbert or some abandoned mistress instead of Ireland'. 

In the spring of 1817 Minney, now a polished young lady of 
eighteen with a train of enamoured gentlemen in tow, was 
brought to London to e come out'. As she had been giving small 
parties and balls for "the young nobility' since she was ten this 
official debut simply meant that she added her name to Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert's visiting-cards. The power wielded by Miss Seymour at 
the Prince's Sunday receptions has been plainly recorded by John 
Gurwood, a penniless officer who had led the survivors into the 
breach at Ciudad Rodrigo and been presented by Wellington 
with the Governor's sword. The sword not being all the remuner- 
ation he desired, Gurwood was now seeking promotion and pro- 
tection in Brighton. He exerted himself to please Mrs. Fitzherbert 
and 

'Miss Seymour expressed her surprise that I had not re- 
ceived an invitation to the Pavilion, &, in the course of con- 
versation, she asked me whether I am not desirous of going 
there. Both vanity & curiosity prompted me to confess that I 
certainly was desirous. . . . The Sunday following this con- 
versation, I received a summons to attend. I judged, from 
Miss Seymour's manner that evening, & the Regent speaking 
to me when accompanied by her, that to her I was indebted 
for this wished for honour, which, if all went well, I intended 
to turn to my own advantage when a favourable opportunity 
presented itself.' 

Gurwood always ostentatiously wore the Ciudad Rodrigo 
sword and eventually the Regent, seated between Lady Hertford 
and Lady Cholmondeley, asked him to relate the history of it. 

164 



c The opportunity I had so long desired now burst upon 
me. I was aware of its importance, & I never related the par- 
ticulars of the forlorn hope of Rodrigo with greater delibera- 
tion, or with more effect. When I had finished, the Regent rose 
from his seat & striking me on the shoulder said, "By God! 
You are a damned fine fellow!" * 

Eventually Gurwood obtained his promotion and all because of 
Minney. 

At about this time Mrs. Fitzherbert added in ink the name of 
Maryanne Smythe beneath that of Minney to her printed card. 
Maryanne, described as her niece, was the only daughter of the 
late Jack Smythe and had quietly joined the household. Here a 
mystery lies unravelled for the family records at Swynnerton state: 

c lf she was a daughter of John Smythe, she cannot have 
been legitimate, for John Smythe had no children by his wife, 
widow of Captain Strickland . . . many indications point with 
considerable probability to the conclusion that she was a 
daughter of Mrs. Fitzherbert by George IV.' 

It seems possible that Maryanne could have been the Prince's 
daughter by Mrs. Fitzherbert just as it seems unlikely that Minney 
was his daughter by Lady Horatia. But neither contention can be 
proved or disproved. Only a few odd clues in letters lead one to 
feel that Maryanne may well have been Maria's own child. She 
was a quiet pretty girl with a face yet more pointed than Minney's 
and even bigger eyes, but she lacked the vivacity and irresistible 
fascination of the 'adopted daughter'. She seems to have been a 
little younger but no birth-date is on record. Mrs. Fitzherbert did 
not take her to France in August 1817 when she travelled to 
Namur with Minney. On the way back they were received by the 
royal family in Paris, and in October Mrs. Fitzherbert opened up 
her Brighton house for the winter. She had hardly launched her 
two girls into the social round when the death of Princess 
Charlotte in childbirth threw the Pavilion into mourning. Mrs. 
Fitzherbert' s kind heart ached for the banished Princess of Wales, 
and she remembered a far-off day when 'she was much affected by 
the Princess Charlotte throwing her arms around her neck, and 



beseeching her to speak to her father, that he would receive her 
with greater marks of his affection; & she told me that she could 
not help weeping with this interesting child.' 1 

Now there was no heir to the throne. The six enormous portly 
royal dukes, who between them must have weighed as much as 
four carthorses, had not succeeded in producing a single, legiti- 
mate child. Promptly the Dukes of Clarence, Cambridge and Kent 
found themselves ordered to the continent to find suitable 
princesses and try respectably for a son. Before departing they 
came to Mrs. Fitzherbert for advice. Kent needed it in particular. 
For years he had written her every detail of his journeyings and 
financial straits and many of his eight or nine page letters survive. 
On his wanderings he had occasionally mentioned possible brides 
for his brothers and c that odious Princess Amelia of Baden, whom 
I find the Papers have thought fit to give to me!' but dear Madame 
St. Laurent lived happily with him in Brussels as she had in 
Baling and Knightsbridge and her health was ever in his thoughts 
and the subject of his pen. Now came a very difficult moment, for 
the papers were full of the necessity for the dukes to marry 
German princesses. After Princess Charlotte's death Kent had 
written Maria miserably: 

'And when to that is added all that I foresee may happen, 
I might add must happen to myself in long consequence, you 
may imagine how deeply all these considerations must have 
affected me. Thank God, owing to my abstemious mode of 
living, and my availing myself of the opportunity of my own 
little Garden affords me of taking the air, I have preserved my 
health, but my heart is half-broke, and, when I look at my poor 
companion of four & twenty years, I think we may perhaps 
before long be imperatively forced by my duties to my family 
& my Country to part, it quite distresses me, and from morn- 
ing till night I hardly ever have a dry eye. But I strive to think 
that an all-wise Providence will direct all eventually for the 
best, & to await the events that may be at hand with resigna- 
tion & submission 1 hope I shall have the energy to do my 

duty, but the sacrifice of so much domestic comfort will be 
dreadful. Yet even that can only be thought of, if the means 

1 Lord Stourton's narrative. 

166 



are afforded me amply according to my feelings to provide for 
the honourable & comfortable independence for life of that 
individual who has been my sole comfort & companion 
during so many dreary years which I passed, one may say, 
almost beyond the Pale of Society. You see how openly I 
speak to you, but I know you will enter into all my feelings.* 

Madame de St. Laurent after twenty-seven years as his 
accepted c unmarried wife' retired into a convent and the Duke 
returned to England to be briefed on the German Courts he must 
visit. On May 6th, 1818, he wrote: 

*My ever dearest Mrs. Fitzherbert, 

I called yesterday afternoon immediately on leaving the 
Queen's House, where I had gone straight from the Regent to 
appraise my Mother of all being settled as to my marriage 
with poor Prince Leopold's sister, to communicate this event 
to you as my oldest, dearest friend, but was unfortunate in 
missing you. I therefore now write to inform you of it, & to 
say that as my departure must be very near at hand I shall en- 
treat your leave to look in on you this evening about 8, or a 
little after, when I can get away from the Queen's House, that 
I may not be deprived of the happiness of seeing you before I 
am off. And of course therefore if you don't send me word to 
the contrary before 5, 1 shall be with you. Till then, and ever, 
I remain, with the warmest & liveliest attachment, ever, my 
dearest Mrs. Fitzherbert, 

Your most affectionate & devoted 

Edward/ 

Within the month he married Princess Victoria of Saxe- 
Coburg, a plump little widow with two children by her former 
marriage. In June the Duke of Cambridge also found a German 
spouse and in July the Duke of Clarence followed suit. The three 
unlovely German princesses chosen by the three stout elderly 
dukes were put on their mettle to produce an heir for England. 

The Duke of Clarence had, when he abandoned the gallant 
Mrs. Jordan, come to Mrs. Fitzherbert for comfort. He wanted 
Maria to feel sorry for him. Now, however, he was brave enough 

167 



to make his own explanations to his horde of children. To George 
he wrote 

'that both public and private duty conspired to make me see 
the absolute necessity of marrying a Princess: in addition to 
which I had the consolation to believe that, as Princes marry, 
I was fortunate indeed in having for my future wife the 
Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen.' 

The Duke of Kent fussed over the predicament of Madame de 
St. Laurent but he was really sorrier for himself than for her. 
When he brought his Duchess to Kew for a second marriage 
service in the presence of Queen Charlotte he found time to visit 
Mrs. Fitzherbert and bewail his fate. 

In a letter which refers unromantically to his honeymoon as 
c the situation I have been placed in' he wrote: 

'August 25 1818 

Having at length the prospect (if you will admit me to- 
wards 7 & 8 oclock this Evening) of being able to pass half an 
hour with you, perhaps the only leisure moment I may have 
(as in fact it has been hitherto) before I leave England, I send 
this over by a messenger simply to say that I will take my 
chance & call at your door at all events. In the meanwhile 
pray do me the justice to believe that you never have been out 
of my thoughts & that nothing but the situation I have been 
pkced in for the last seven weeks would have made me either 
abstain from writing or calling until now, as neither time or 
situation can alter the warmth or sincerity of my attachment 
for you. Remember me kindly to dear Miss Seymour & accept 
the assurance of all that unutterable, lively & friendly regard 
with which I shall remain to the latest hour of my existence, 
my ever dearest Mrs. Fitzherbert, your most affectionate & 
devoted. 

Edward.' 

That evening the unenthusiastic groom arrived at Tilney 
Street for a half-hour's gossip with his old friend. Maria seems to 
have cheered him up. At any rate nine months later to the day, on 
May 24th, 1819, the little Princess Victoria was born. 

168 



Twenty-two 



ATER Mrs. Fitzherbert reached the age of sixty her mind 
naturally centred on the romances of the new generation. 
By now she was far more interested in the flirtations of 
vivacious Minney and shy, gentle Maryanne than in her own 
finished e affair'. And the Daughters' took plenty of chaperoning! 
Mrs. Fitzherbert who had, after all, attained more experience of 
life than most women, sought to guide and advise them. She 
scolded naughty Miss Seymour for turning her back at dinner on 
her cousin, die ardent young Lord Beauchamp, and she prompted 
shy Miss Smythe. Both young ladies received a number of marri- 
age proposals and although Mrs. Fitzherbert wrote of Minney: 
*I confess however miserable I shall be to part with her, I am most 
anxious she should marry and I trust this Spring may produce 
something worthy of her', she secretly rejoiced that none suited. 
Who could be worthy of the exquisite, whimsical Miss Seymour, 
plum of the marriage market, with her royal dowry and romantic 
connections? After Minney had refused her hand to Lord Francis 
Leveson-Gower, Lord Arthur Hill and Lord Glengall, Mrs. 
Fitzherbert fussed because gossip linked her with a Mr. Bruce at 
Brighton. In a long letter to George Seymour she wrote: 

*. . . there is not the smallest reason for the reports that 
have been so industriously circulated concerning her. She is 
certainly an object of attraction and particularly so in the con- 
fined circle and if a Man happens to speak to her or is seen to 
join her walking, it immediately sets people talking. ... It is 
natural at her age to like being admired and I hope with her 
good sense as she grows older, that the love of flirtation will 
rebate. 



Let me beg of you to contradict this absurd report which 
vexes me very much and certainly it is detrimental to her but 
really I don't know how it is to be avoided unless I lock her 
up in her room and never let her see a human being. I have, 
thank God, had my health so well this winter that I have never 
lost sight of her for a moment but the times she went to the 
Pavilion/ 

For all her 'love of flirtation* Minney hated the hurt eyes of a 
rejected suitor. Wistfully, hopelessly, George Fitzclarence con- 
tinued to call, hinting at his deep love. The Duke of Clarence 
seems to have favoured an alliance, but Minney remained firm and 
the Regent certainly disapproved. Clarence wrote his son warn- 
ingly in 1819: *Be prudent & cautious & don't irritate the Regent. 
I want to know in what manner he interfered respecting Miss 
Seymour for or against you. I am surprised at the conduct of Mrs. 
Fitzherbert which you did not deserve.' 1 

The Prince Regent, besotted with the idea that Minney was 
his daughter, wanted a spectacular marriage, and a worthy recipi- 
ent for the 20,000 he had settled on her. Minney wanted a 
dashing hero. 

George Fit2clarence fulfilled no one's requirements, he wasn't 
legitimate, he wasn't particularly rich and he could not scintillate. 
He might be brave, but quietly brave, a devoted officer adored by 
his men in the freezing miseries of the Peninsular War, and 
snubbed by young ladies in drawing-rooms. Minney relegated 
him to the shelf of dear dullards. 

At the time gossip had it that the marriage was discouraged 
because of consanguinity if the Regent was Minney 's father as he 
said, then she and George were first cousins but obviously the 
real answer lay in Minney's own feelings and perhaps in Mrs. 
Fitzherbert's terse assessment, 'One of the family is enough.' 

After years of rebuff, George unhappily allowed his father to 
arrange a marriage for him. The Duke of Clarence chose Mary 
Wyndham, one of the six natural children of the 3rd Earl of 
Egremont. This gentleman, the owner of Petworth and one of the 
greatest picture collectors of the century, could be placed among 

1 Fitzclarence Papers. 

170 



the more awe-inspiring English eccentrics. Lord Egremont had 
inherited his enormous Sussex home at the age of twelve. He 
ruled for sixty-five years undisputed lord of his territories both 
outside and inside the magnificent fagade of Petworth. The friend 
of Fox and Burke, an enterprising agriculturist and a patron of 
art in the grand manner, he delighted the distinguished men of 
his generation with lavish hospitality and abundant wit. He also 
managed to induce the lady who lived on the top storey of Pet- 
worth, carrying the courtesy title of Mrs. Wyndham, to bear him 
six children. Brought up as if legitimate the brood must have been 
slightly surprised when in 1801 their mother suddenly came 
downstairs, obtained marriage lines and became Countess of 
Egremont! The change proved disastrous. His Lordship could 
not abide the sight of a wife around, and probably she interfered 
with his friend Turner who was painting huge canvases there. 
By 1819 Egremont wished to marry off his daughters, no easy 
task with girls of noble blood and no tide. A royal bastard 
seemed the perfect match. 

Unfortunately Mary Wyndham and George Fitzclarence did 
not suit each other. Perhaps they had too much in common and 
were for ever capping each other's stories of how badly their 
mothers had been treated. 

Minney was now twenty-one and Maryanne probably younger. 
Years of pleasant dalliance appeared to lie ahead. Not until a 
young lady reached twenty-seven did the bell toll thereafter, in 
defiance of actuality, public opinion deemed e a female incapable of 
the romantic passion'. 

The Fitzherbert household moved chiefly between Tilney 
Street and Brighton where bracing winds kept society frisky 
whether or not the gout-ridden Prince inhabited his Pavilion. 
John Croker the Regent's new toady who worked for him with 
the Press wrote: 

'One reason why Mrs. Fitzherbert may like this place is 
that she is treated as queen at least of Brighton. They don't 
Highness her in her domestic circle but they Madam her pro- 
digiously, and stand up longer for her arrival than for ordinary 
folks, and in short, go as near to acknowledging her for 
Princess as they can, without actually giving her the tide 



when she dines out she expects to be led out to dinner before 
Peeresses mighty foolish all this!' 

In fact Mrs. Fitzherbert had grown tired of her own story, and 
she knew how to live vividly and freshly in the present rather than 
in the past. 

With slightly raised eyebrows she watched the Pavilion, in 
which a loving husband had once experimented with Chinese 
wallpapers to amuse her, grow into the most exotic architectural 
fantasy in Europe. Nash designed the new exterior in glorious 
Indian style with spires, minarets and pinnacles that prevented 
the immense dome of the stables from overweighting the effect. 
Maria refused to put foot across that threshold, but she listened 
fascinated to descriptions of the Chinese interior, of cyclamen 
pink wallpapers, and chandeliers, that glistened with writhing, roar- 
ing dragons. Minney reported the bold flaming colours and how 
the Regent marched friends through the vast new kitchen he was 
so proud of. The shimmering banqueting hall and music room 
were enough to reduce most of his guests to tongue-tied em- 
barrassment or stuttering eulogy. 

Maria, whose 'drawing room* the Pavilion had once been, felt 
she could not like that new Chinese interior volcanic yet ex- 
quisite in inspiration, barbaric yet perfectly composed. Probably 
she was too conventional to appreciate such exuberance; her tastes 
belonged to the classical eighteenth century. She had loved the 
original well-proportioned farmhouse. On December 28th, 1819, 
she wrote old Creevey welcoming him back to Brighton: 

'You would scarcely know Brighton. It is so enlarged 
since you were here, and is at this moment so full there is not 
a house to be had. I cannot boast of much society which for- 
merly we abounded with at this season. When I tell you that 
52 public coaches go from hence to London every day & 
bring people down for six shillings you will not be surprised 
at the sort of company we have besides which the Royal 
Palace attracts numbers who are puzzled to know what to 
make of the appearance of the building which it is impossible 
for me, or indeed anyone else to describe. 

The Regent & all his household are here, but as he never 
172 



stirs out of his parlour, & no one sees him it makes no altera- 
tion in our proceedings. Minney desires me to assure you & 
all her kind friends of her best wishes.' 1 

All this time Lady Hertford worked hard to keep the reins 
tight on her naughty unstable Prince. Tierney wrote that Sir 
John Leach might have been Chancellor, 'but that his name is now 
in the black book of Hertford House and, of course, at the 
Pavilion in consequence of his having dined with Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert'. 2 

The royal personages who had framed and affected her life 
started to die off. Queen Charlotte had gone to her grave in 1818, 
the Duke of Kent died in 1820, leaving an eight-month-old 
daughter, Victoria, and six days later the old King George III 
passed to the deeper shades. Unhappy Caroline of Brunswick died 
in 1821, a few months after the Coronation which she was not 
allowed to attend. Trinney' was now King as he had so long 
desired and, as far as English law went, a widower. There was no 
question of remarriage however. As those nearest to him record, 
c the wife of his youth* was ever in his thoughts and caused him 
much pain. In fact he had taken the trouble to clearly announce 
that in the event of the Princess of Wales's death no second 
alliance would be considered. 

Untruthful and changeable as George IV was, he never 
showed stinginess. When he married Maria Fitzherbert he had 
promised her 10,000 a year. Until 1801 he only managed to pay 
her 3,000. He increased this to 4,000 when she returned to him. 
As his financial troubles decreased the annuity grew to 6,000, 
and finally in April 1820 to the long-promised 10,000. 

Such figures had never been sufficient for a lady who had to 
keep the style demanded of a Prince's wife and she had forever 
been plagued by financial worries. The loyalty she bore had not 
prevented a very angry wife penning stiff letters in the past. In 
1813 she had written: 

'The load of public business, which Your Royal Highness 
must have had to occupy your time, has rendered me unwilling 

1 Creevey Papers. 

2 Glenbervie Diaries. 

173 



to press myself on your recollection: and the hope that I should 
find you remembering me without my having the pain of re- 
questing you to do so, has withheld me from writing sooner; 
but now that business is considerably over, permit me to urge 
the promise, when you are still in Town, to recall to Your 
Royal Highnesses recollection myself & my situation. Placed 
by you, Sir, when the memorable event of our Union took 
pkce in the year '85 under circumstances which rendered you 
the only person in this world, while life endured, that I could 
ever look up to for protection & support, bound by every tie 
that Honor or Religion could impose, & utterly precluded 
from forming any other connection for the future comfort, 
support or happiness of my life. You were at that period 
pleased to settle on me 10,000 per aim. as the income be- 
fitting the situation you placed me in. The act, Sir, was a 
voluntary one of your own etc. etc. . . . Permit me to receive 
henceforward the allowance you promised me twenty-eight 
years ago an allowance which the times have not increased 
in value. The arrears may be inconvenient to Y.R.H. to grant, 
but with my best wishes for your welfare & happiness, I have 
the honour to subscribe myself respectfully, 

Maria Fitzherbert.' 

Respectfully, but sternly. 

Apart from these businesslike epistles, she wrote the Regent 
a few appeals concerning his old servants, when they fell into 
distress. Obviously they still turned to her as the person most 
likely to evoke their royal master's pity, and as a rule her written, 
*I only think the poor fellow from his good conduct deserves 
some reward*, had the required effect. 

Once or twice Maria and her husband met in public and cut 
each other in the grand manner. Corpulent as he had become, the 
Regent still possessed immense dignity but he could not equal 
the dignity of Mrs. Fitzherbert. Watchers remarked that when 
they passed on the stairs however high he managed to carry his 
nose, hers appeared to be lifted yet higher. 



Twenty-three 



M 



RS. FITZHERBERT thought she could never be hurt 
again, but whoever loves remains vulnerable and she 
doted on her adopted daughters* 

The inevitable happened. Each girl acted according to her 
character. Maryanne die obedient Catholic mouse took her cues 
from 'Mama' and only admired suitable gentlemen, while Protest- 
ant Minney the favourite, closely watched by the King, fell in love 
with quite the wrong man. 

By modern standards he does not sound such a disaster. In 
fact one is now inclined to wonder what all the fuss was about. 
But those were the days when Miss Austen's heroines were dis- 
cussing gentlemen's incomes, and the importance of title and 
fortune passes our imagination. 

George Dawson 1 who was to cause Mrs. Fitzherbert five 
years of hysterics and Minney so many sleepless nights, was a 
fiery young cavalry officer who suffered the bad luck of being the 
younger son of an Irish earl. He had seen a bit of the world. Two 
horses were killed under him at Waterloo and he must have 
broadened his outlook when, attached to the British military 
mission to Russia, he witnessed the horrible scenes of Napoleon's 
retreat from Moscow. Mrs. Fitzherbert knew, however, that apart 
from distinguishing himself in battle, Captain Dawson's good 
looks and ready wit had already caused a number of ladies to fall, 
not very happily, in love. Such gentlemen must be kept fighting, 
not wooing. 

There is a description of him, engaged in the former 

1 Later he and his brother, Lord Portarlington, added the name 'Darner' to 
please thek aunt. 

175 



occupation. At the close of Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington 
sent him to order the Union Brigade to advance. 

'When Dawson came up & said: "Now gentlemen, you are 
to advance with the rest of the Army," he said he should never 
forget the look Muter cast upon him. They all broke into a 
sort of canter & guided by Dawson came upon some French 
infantry who were still defending themselves. As Muter gave 
the order to charge, the French fired a volley & hit Dawson 
in the knee, who heard Muter grumble out in his Scotch: "I 
think you ha' it nu, sir." J1 

The fact that he had courage as well as good looks impressed 
neither Mrs. Fitzherbert nor George IV who, watching the 
dowry he had granted increase to 20,000, had no wish to see 
it handed over to a penniless soldier, a mere leader of cavalry 
charges. Their precious Minney had been raised to make a spec- 
tacular marriage. No personal attributes could compensate for 
George Dawson's deficiency in having been born ^younger son. 

At first Mrs. Fitzherbert had found him charming, but when 
she realized that Minney was falling in love, she expressed horror 
at such a husband. Captain Dawson drank, but hardly more than 
his contemporaries, he gambled, but so did most of the aris- 
tocracy, he had a dreadful reputation with the ladies, and this 
Minney could well understand and presumed she could cure. 
Even worse, his elder brother would inherit title and property. 
There were floods of tears and endless beseechings because 
Minney could not bear to distress her beloved 'Mama' and yet 
she could not think of giving up George either. 

The King and the Duke of York were called upon to devise 
methods of tactfully separating the young couple. George IV and 
Mrs. Fitzherbert had not spoken for ten years, but the awful 
prospect of Minney marrying Captain Dawson drew them to- 
gether in plots and plans, which had the usual effect of throwing 
coals on a fire. Go-betweens hurried between the thwarted lovers 
until Mrs. Fitzherbert whisked Minney off to Paris. When George 
Dawson wanted to follow Minney warned him: 'Your proposal 
of meeting me abroad would but cause embarrassment to all 

1 Reminiscences. Colonel Gronar. 



parties concerned and I am quite convinced could never lead to 
the consequence you anticipate/ 

Nevertheless he appeared in Paris undaunted and wrote to his 
friend Lord Alvanley: 

'When I first met Miss Seymour she seemed as if she 
wanted to avoid me: this & the repulsive manner of Mrs. 
Fitzherbert gave me but little hope & I resolved to stifle 
every feeling of my heart. . . . One day I had the good fortune 
to meet her alone & it was upon this occasion that I was made 
the happiest man in the world. I received the assurance that 
she was not indifferent to my attachment to her but at the 
same time she observed to me how insurmountable appeared 
the difficulties attending on eventual happiness! . . . she was 
bound by every event connected with her life to the King & 
to Mrs. Fitzherbert & she could not summon enough courage 
to propose to them what she knew would meet with their 
disapprobation! . . . Miss Seymour from every circumstance 
connected with herself has a right to look forward to making 
the most splendid marriage. ... I know that I am nobody & 
have nothing. . . / 

Nothing but good looks and that most unfair gift of the gods 
charm. 

Meanwhile the good-natured Duke of York found himself 
promising George to put in a kind word for him, while at the 
same time assuring Mrs. Fitzherbert that he would do all in his 
power to disencourage the romance. 

George quickly bethought him of a rich, childless, adoring 
aunt who had previously paid his debts after many a wild fling. 
The sister of Lord Dorchester, she had inherited two immense 
properties in Dorset, and Dorchester House in London. All her 
letters to George (preserved in the Portarlington Papers) are full 
of fun. When Queen Caroline bought a house near her, she sent 
her nephew e a Prayer and I think a good one. 

Gracious Queen we thee implore 
Go away & sin no more, 
But if that effort be too great 
Go away at any rate.' 

177 * 



Now he turned to her and confided the whole story of his 
impossible love. To Minney he wrote: 

e To one of my brothers Lady Caroline Darner made an 
allowance assuring him that she would provide for him at her 
death. I have no reason for supposing that she would not do 
as much for me. . . . And with this must be considered that the 
Duke of York was so kind as to promise that he would do 
something for me! I feel that from the intimate terms upon 
which he is with Mrs. Fitzherbert that nothing would do me so 
much good in her opinion as H.R.H. being so good as to 
express to her a desire to serve me. ... I am the more anxious 
on this point from Mrs. Fitzherbert having authorised her 
friends here to say in her own & in Miss Seymour's name that 
I had behaved very ill to them, that I had repeatedly received 
from Miss Seymour an opinion of how indifferent I was to her, 
that I followed them from here & was constantly putting my- 
self forward & annoying them!' 

Society remained agog with excitement. Tom Moore in his 
diaries (March 24th, 1820), writes: 'George Dawson is gone off 
to England to try & Make interest with the Duke of York to get 
the King's consent to his marrying Miss Seymour.* 

All through 1821, after she returned to Europe, Minney 
secretly sent long letters to her George describing with pain Mrs. 
Fitzherbert's miseries over 'the subject' and saying sadly: c As for 
the King being spoken to by any of my brothers, I could hardly 
venture to wish item to undertake a commission I feel would be 
so ill-received.' 

No one backed George except good old Lady Caroline who 
thought the blood of four Irish lords should suffice even if Miss 
Seymour was the King's daughter. She wrote her nephew a 
peremptory letter (May iyth, 1821): 

Tor my sake therefore as well as your own, I wish you to 
leave Paris & come to London immediately. Your Sisters 

wish it. Your friends wish it and most of all your wishes 

it. I think your coming would do good at present. Your 
enemies & rivals are busy spreading reports that you are too 

178 



happy at Paris with the Duchesse de Castris & your coming 
here would give the lie to them all & give you an opportunity 
of judging for yourself of the feelings of her you are interested 
in. My belief is that she feels inwardly as you & I wish her to 
feel & the contrary of what Mrs. Fitzherbert wishes but I 
think you ought to come now & rejoice her heart & refresh 
her memory with the sight of you. I pointed out your sister 
Lady Louisa to her the other night, at Lady Wordey's and she 
thanked me much for it & thought her like you. I am going to 
have a nice Party for the week of the Epsom Races & I wish 
you to be at it & I long to reassure you of the friendship & 
regard of your old Subscriber.' 

Lady Caroline jovially signed herself thus because she had paid 
so many of his past debts. 

In London the lovers could only meet by carefully contrived 
chance and each time Mrs. Fitzherbert heard about it she had to be 
given smelling-salts. At last Captain Dawson grew exasperated 
by these storms at his approach and dared to express himself *in 
a strong manner about Mama'. For this he received a sound scold- 
ing from her loyal adopted daughter who would not allow one 
word against Mrs. Fitzherbert from anybody. 

At the end of December 1821 she wrote from Brighton: *I 
cannot make out one thing, which is an anxiety she has shewn she 
never before did of the King and myself having greater com- 
munication with another. She told me that the coldness which she 
has lately shewn me must originate from having those about him 
who misrepresent me to him/ 

The Marchioness of Conyngham had repkced Lady Hertford 
in His Majesty's affections. Good natured, rapacious and nanny- 
like rather than governessy, she only bothered to run down Miss 
Seymour in order to increase the King's interest in her own 
girls. Minney wrote to George: 

'However I wish I may soon see the King. I have only been 
out once since I have been here & that to Church on Christmas 
Day, when I met Lady Conyngham & family, who over- 
powered me with affection. I began to think she must be 
getting out of favour, but I believe this is not all the case 



I think people are quite mistaken in thinking that the 
King's coldness to me was encouraged by Mama, as I am sure 
she herself was very annoyed by it & was very anxious for me 
to write which I was prevented doing by an invitation to the 
Pavilion the very day my letter was to have gone.* 

She did prepare a letter however and left it with Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert who relayed a description of its reception after Minney 
left for France: 

'Sherwood Lodge. July 29 1822 

Your letter, dearest Minney, gave me the greatest pleasure 
imaginable, for what I suffered all Wednesday it is impossible 
to describe. The wind was so high & the river so agitated that 
I did nothing but run from the house to watch the tide all day, 
and I worked myself up to a state of anxiety scarcely to be 
borne. . . . 

Several people called on me that morning, among the rest 
the Duke of York. He took your letter & gave it to the King 
& stayed with him whilst he read it. The King was extremely 
delighted & pleased with it, and said to the Duke: "This is a 
very kind letter indeed." He asked him questions, how long 
you were to remain abroad & if, as he had been informed, I 
was going to join you & pass the winter in Paris : ... I am 
very glad you wrote. I think it will make the Marchioness 
very angry & I trust it will convince the King that the stories 
told him respecting you were only her fabrication. . . / 

A month later Mrs. Fitzherbert unfortunately heard that 
Captain Dawson had told various friends that, perhaps reasonably, 
he would abandon the difficult chase were he not sure of Miss 
Seymour's affections. Mrs. Fitzherbert took this as bragging, and a 
fresh outburst reached George Seymour who was travelling to 
Dresden at the time with Minney in his charge: 

'Sherwood Lodge. August 1 3 1822 

It is so humiliating to her that I cannot bear it. I have not 
mentioned this to her in my letter because I know it would 
only irritate her. I hope to God she will fairly & truly give it 

1 80 



up for if she does not I cannot conceive anything more de- 
plorable to herself or to us all As to myself \ am perfectly un- 
equal either in mind or body to support the misery I have en- 
dured any longer . . . etc.' 

The elder Seymour sister, Racey, had married Mr. Morier, the 
British Minister there, and Minney hoped to enjoy the change of 
a small German Court. She wrote her lover: 'We are indeed much 
better separated when things are come to what they now are. . . . 
It is seven in the morning. I am still writing. . . .' 

Through the next months after registering shock at the 'tragi- 
cal end of Lord Londonderry" (Castlereagh's suicide), Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert's lengthy letters are composed entirely of gossip concern- 
ing Minney's young friends and Maryanne's dance partners, their 
finances, their love affairs, and who is "'smitten' with whom. 
Minney's friend Harriet, daughter of Lord Glengall, is to marry 
Lord Belfast (later third Marquess of Donegal), and astutely the 
old lady observes: 'She is not in love, but I do not think knows 
anything about being so nor do I think she will ever be so with 
anyone.' Mrs. Fitzherbert knew what's what where the heart was 
concerned. A fortnight later the story grows more intriguing. 

c As soon as they return from Ireland, my Lady & Harriet 
are to go to Paris, Belfast is to follow & they mean to be 
married there. Everyone is enraged at this proceeding after all 
the trouble there has been, but Lady Glengall told me in con- 
fidence that Harriet must & would go to Paris to get some 
corsets made which could not be done here, & her shape in 
every respect absolutely depended upon it. What a sad thing! 
I understand it is much worse than is perceptible. She now 
looks very graciously to Lord Belfast & we all agree that she 
now likes him extremely. Indeed he is very deserving.' 

Whatever her health Mrs. Fitzherbert never ceased to give 
large dinner parties and the theme recurs: C I only want you at the 
party to make it perfection' or When I am conversing with you, 
my dearest Minney, I never know when to leave off'. 

A very different note is struck in the correspondence with 
brother George. They wrote to each other worried confidential 

181 



sports condemning Minney's frame of mind was she recover- 
ig? Forgetting? Brooding? Minney's brother relayed: 

In the conversations I have had with her it is impossible 
for me not to see that the infatuation towards him still con- 
tinues & therefore to dread the effect that his meeting her again 

may have She is persuaded that he will go out to the West 

Indies in October or November & is reasonable enough to 
acknowledge that absence will be likely to weaken the un- 
fortunate impression he has made upon her mind which I 
trust circumstances & time & fresh impressions may remove 
particularly if she adheres to the resolution she now expresses 
to have no correspondence with him.* 

Mrs. Fitzherbert and the King had pulled strings with the 
Duke of York, now reinstated as Commander-in-Chief. George 
was to be promoted and sent to the West Indies where perhaps 
he would conveniently get yellow-fever or marry some lovely 
Creole. 

Minney had, perhaps understandably, become as sneaky with 
her brother as with Mrs. Fitzherbert. She never ceased to corres- 
pond with George Dawson. The long ardent letters of both lovers 
have been preserved. While she was travelling Minney's are 
naturally the most entertaining. At Aix-la-Chapelle the Duke of 
Devonshire tried to make the Seymours remain for a Ball c but 
my dansomanle did not prevail nor were we anxious to be deprived 
of post horses the whole way up the Rhine*. The servants all ask 
to go to the execution of a woman who had murdered her hus- 
band in order to get her own head cut off, it seeming to her, c the 
most desirable kind of death'. Walter Scott's son comes to dine, 
*He appears the most pompous I ever saw'. They refuse to attend 
a Chasse where the Queen of Saxony and the rest of the royal 
family stood on a platform mowing down a herd of deer driven 
into an enclosed field. C I never heard of a more inhuman pro- 
ceeding*. Berlin she finds an exceeding dull garrison town but 
*What pleased me the most was the Queen of Prussia's monument 
at Charlottenburg which I thought perfectly beautiful. . . .* 
Minney casually makes clear her own disbelief of the prevailing 
opinion concerning her parentage by describing: 

182 



*a soiree where ... we met most of the society of Berlin & 
where the lady of the house thought proper to present every 
one person to me & I could not help remarking afterwards 
upon her carrying about a large picture which she was showing 
everybody & appearing to draw their attention upon me. I 
could not account for this till I was told someone had spread 
the unaccountably ridiculous report of my being the King of 
England's daughter & to improve the idea a Print of Princess 
Charlotte had been carried about to prove the likeness that 
was said to exist between us. I could not help laughing when 
all this was told me, though George for the honour of the 
family was inclined to take it au serieux. , . .* 

Meanwhile Captain Dawson went off to visit Aunt Caroline 
in Dorsetshire who had not only stated that she would leave her 
smaller property Came to him, but had insisted that the King 
should hear how much he would inherit. He informed Minney: 

c She wrote to Lord Bathurst that what she wished for me 
particularly was to be put about the dear King. Portarlington 
[George's brother] means to change our name to Darner. I 
don'.t think that signifies much though, there are too many 
grocers & butchers that bear the present one. The village near 
my brother's pkce in Ireland is inhabited by Dawsons who all 
swear they are related. God only knows! Perhaps they may!! . . . 
After writing last night I went to Lady GlengalTs where I 

heard the lamentable details of Lord Londonderry's death 

Too intense occupation as in the case of Pitt, Fox, Whitbread 

& Romilly had destroyed the vigour of his mind 1 passed 

through St. James Square yesterday evening about 8 o'clock* 
There were a good number of persons of the Lower Classes 
assembled round the house & I am told that they loudly heaped 
every sort of imprecation upon him.' 

From Dre&den, Minney laughed at George's name-changing: 

'You say you may be related probably to those of your 
name about your brother's place, so I am probably living in 
the house with one of your Cousins as the maitre d'hotel has 



the same appellation as yourself & Being the only English 
servant in the establishment I am always obliged to send for 
Mr. DawsonP 

How her light-hearted style changes when she pens a letter 
to His Majesty. There are a number of Minney 's letters to George 
IV in the Windsor Archives and these beginning 'My dearest Sir' 
are all so formal and uninteresting that one obtains an insight 
into how difficult it is for royalty to know the fun of the world. 
The King loved Minney as much as he loved any creature alive, 
but a high wall lay between them. However, he was well pleased 
at the docility of her epistles at this time and Mrs. Fitzherbert 
approved of Minney *s personal correspondence with His Majesty. 

Thinking that she was winning, dearest Mama now announced 
that she could face a winter in Paris with Minney. George Dawson, 
approaching his last days in England, learnt: 

C I think Mama more inclined to join me at Paris than she 
even was two days ago & I should think it would be almost 
the moment of your departure for the West Indies. She has 
always dwelt so much upon the misery she went through when 
last abroad by your having followed us to Paris that I am sure 
a renewal of it would make her more irritated than ever. . . .* 

But before Mrs. Fitzherbert would actually leave England and 
join her adopted daughter in Paris she wrote a long ultimatum 
which ended: 

*You must be well aware of the misery we both have 
suffered for the last three or four years on a subject most pain- 
ful to me and to all those who are attached & interested about 
you. It has quite destroyed the entire comfort & happiness 
of both our lives. It has so completely destroyed mine that 
neither my health or spirits can bear it any longer. What am I 
to think when scarcely three weeks ago you voluntarily de- 
clared to me that this sad affair was quite at an end & in less 
than a week afterwards the whole business was begun over 
again. The purport of my writing to you is to implore you to 
come to a final decision upon this business. You must decide 

184 



& that decision must be done immediately. I beg your answer 
may be a written one to avoid all unpleasant conversation 
upon a subject so heart-rending to one whose whole life has 
been dedicated to you & whose affection to you none can 
surpass.' 

George Dawson lost his temper outright when he heard of 
this 'impolitic, weak & ridiculous act'. He accused 'Mama' of not 
fighting fair and quoted in fury a recent incident when he had 
intended to accompany the Duke of York from Brighton to 
London, but Sir Derek Keppel warned him, 'I am not sure you 
will be Men venu.' The Duke's A.D.C., a certain Cooke, had told 
him 

'the Duke was very much irritated against you, had said 
that you behaved very ill to Miss Seymour & Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert, that you had told stories & bragged of ckcumstances 
which had never taken place, that he the Duke of York, had 
had an interview with Miss Seymour before she set out etc. 
etc.' 

George's friend, Lord Alvanley, had replied he did not believe 
any of this story, whereupon Cooke 

'offered to bet him fifty guineas that it was true & further 
that we should never be married. Cooke is a cautious man 
about money, however mischievous he may be from being 
a gossiping & fawning toady & you may therefore judge 
what Mrs. Fitzherbert must have told the Dukel 

In November, 1821, Lt,Colonel Dawson sailed for the West 
Indies. Well he knew that Mrs. Fitzherbert hoped he would never 
reappear and in a final diatribe he let fly: 

'What do you think of Gurwood going to my brother, who 
is at Paris, & saying that he knew our friendship was at an 
end & that you no longer cared for me. . . -There is nortong 
so abject as a fawning flatterer who will sacrifice any old friend 
to furnish matter for gossip for their Protectors. Gurwood I 

185 



have no doubt writes in the same manner to his idol Beau- 
champ. [George was jealous of this rival, who being Lord 
Hertford's eldest son, an art expert, and Minney's cousin re- 
ceived encouragement from Mrs. Fitzherbert] . . . Goodnight 
my dearest love. The officers of a Frigate just paid off are din- 
ing in the next room & are beginning to get drunk & noisy 
& I shall go to bed. . . . 

At this moment ... I feel that if I am not doomed to re- 
turn, the only injuries I have received which I shall not be 
able to forgive will be that Mrs. Fitzherbert has been guilty 
of to me. For her sake I hope that God will be more merciful 
to her than I know she deserves and, if my life is sacrificed, 
may not feel the pangs of Conscience at her latter end, which 
she richly deserves for having caused & prolonged my misery.* 

Then the canvas of his ship swelled and there came a long 
silence. George Dawson had been swept away in the Trade Winds. 



186 



twenty-four 



DURING her lifetime Mrs. Fitzherbert never used a postage 
stamp. Her numerous letters and most of Minney's went 
by courier. So many notes survive that, reflecting that her 
entire correspondences with the Duke of York and several other 
people were destroyed, one is forced to the conclusion that these 
ladies spent several hours each day scratching away at their 
writing desks. 

During the winter of 1822-3 Mrs. Fitzherbert and Minney 
both seemed to find social life flat. George might be out of the 
way but dearest Mama still fussed. She knew Minney was think- 
ing of him, waiting for the rare posts from the West Indies, 
secretly reading his letters in her room and writing back every 
detail of their life: 

*. . . I have never begun upon the subject to Mama but 
contented myself with desiring my brother to tell her I heard 
from you before you sailed & that I was ready to speak upon 
the subject, if she would afford me any opening to it, but this 
she has never done 

At Stuttgart there was nothing worth remaining for, but 
the old Queen of Wurttemberg, eldest sister of George IV, 
hearing from the Minister of our arrival despatched a messen- 
ger to desire we would dine with her the following day. I had 
never seen the old lady before, but was not reminded of this 
being our first acquaintance. I was rather amused by finding 
my nom de guerre familiar with her & hearing myself addressed 
as "Minney" by one who had never seen me & who had left 
England thirty years before, eleven of which she told rne she 

187 



had passed without receiving a single letter from her own 
family & Bonaparte had afforded her the first opportunity of 
transmitting one to the old King during the War. She kept me 
a long time in her Cabinet, asking me all sort of questions 
about the King, although she appeared to be as much au 
courant of London gossip as I could possibly have made 
her. . . . 

Count Orloff committed a dreadful gaffe the other day with 
Lady Downshire, who happening to tell him we had arrived 
at Paris, he asked her if I had not lately refused un Lord Arthur 
Hill, who had for some years been a mes pieds & it was not 
till she changed countenance he recollected he was speaking of 
her son. . . . 

I hear very bad accounts of the King's health. He is said to 
have been more haunted by the Blue Devils than I could have 
supposed when I imagined myself to have been surrounded by 
the entire set. He is said to have the gout, but I fear this is not 
really the case & that his mind is affected.' 

Perhaps unwisely for his own tranquillity George had asked 
Minney to recount her flirtations. With humour she did so. 

Taris. March 3 1823 

I believe you made me promise to give you a list ofpeches 
d y habitude I was likely to commit here. They would have con- 
tented themselves by occasionally raising the report about 
Beauchamp & myself, which ceasing upon his & Major Gur- 
wood's departure from Paris has been followed by the dis- 
covery of a passion malheureuse entertained for me by Prince 
Jules de Polignac [newly appointed French Ambassador to 
London]. 

I am at this moment causing to be employed 500 agents of 
the Police in consequence of my ecrin having been robbed of 
everything but my last few diamonds. Fifteen of my best 
bracelets are gone & among them your beautiful blue one & 
the King's picture. I have almost been amused at how much 
au tragque French people take things of this sort.' 

Lady Gwydir wrote on April jth, 1823: 

188 



'Miss Seymour, I begin to hope, will not marry Prince 
Jules de Polignac, though it looked like it at one time. 
Mrs. Fitzherbert was in great danger; gout in the stomach. 
Miss Seymour has not recovered her trinkets includ- 
ing the King's picture, notwithstanding the reward she 
offered/ 

A man's letter, dated August ist, 1823 preserved in the Fitz- 
herbert Papers shows how much interest Minney's love affairs 
aroused: 

'The Royal Squadron is moored at Cow T es but no prospect 
is held out of His Majesty repairing thither for that purpose. 
He is held at Council today to receive Mons. de Polignac, who 
delivers his credentials from His Most Christian Majesty. There 
is no doubt of Mons. de Polignac having offered marriage to 
Miss Seymour but it was done sub rosa & with all due finesse 
& diplomatic tact so that son amour propre n'est pas blesse^ 
Monsieur & the mortification of a refusal to a proposal only 
informally made has been spared to His Excellency. The im- 
pudence & the selfishness of these Frenchmen is really in- 
tolerable.' 

On February ist, 1824, Minney's brother Frederick wrote her 
from Geneva and referred in curious fashion to Mrs. Fitzherbert 
and Maryanne: 

*I have not heard any accounts of you for a length of time 
but perceive by a Pavilion Concert list that you are in Brighton 
& that you there appeared among the Nobility, thanks to be 
rendered I suppose for such an honour to the most gracious 
lady who has always been so active in promoting your inter- 
ests with the Sovereign, even to the prejudice of her own 
daughter. . . .' 

Evidently the Seymours, who were always eager to refuse 
suggestions of Minney's royal blood, took it for granted that 
Maryanne was the King's daughter. 

When George Dawson returned from the West Indies in 1824 

189 



ic intended to force Mrs. Fitzherbert to enumerate his villainies 
>r else stop treating him like an outcast. In a long supplicating 
etter he told her his debts were all paid off but: 'Miss Seymour 
us informed me that she never will agree to marry me unless you 
ran consent to her marriage, having restored to me the good 
opinion you once entertained of me.' 

This plea with Mrs. Fitzherbert's brief cold reply survives in 
the Portarlington Papers. Still refusing to consent to the couple 
meeting under her roof, she suggested that as Minney's elder 
sister was in Town that 'would be the properest place for you to 
see her'. Nor was she prepared to state exactly what she had 
against the Colonel. *My feelings have been so harrassed upon this 
sad subject & I have been made so completely miserable & un- 
happy that I must beg your permission to decline entering into 
the details contained in your letter.* 

Poor Minney, who had been kept under stress for over four 
years, now wrote to her beloved from Brighton (April gth, 1824): 
*I am being reduced to the alternative of making one of die two 
beings most interested about me wretched.' 

At this point the Duke of York, kind, blustering, portly 
Frederick, the Heir to the Throne and dearest of the King's 
brothers, made it his business to put in a good word for Dawson 
both to Mrs. Fitzherbert and to George IV. 

By July 1 3th, 1825, the couple had announced their engage- 
ment and Minney was penning one of her anxious epistles to 
*My dearest Sir': 

It would be disingenuous in me to attempt to conceal 
from Your Majesty that time has not reconciled Mama or my 
brothers to the step, upon which my future happiness de- 
pends. ... I dare not entreat that Your Majesty should so far 
condescend as to add so important a favour to the innumerable 
ones you have already lavished upon me, by affording that 
sanction & support on a subject (which with all my decided 
opinions upon) I know that Your Majesty must condemn . . . 
etc.' 1 

On the day after he received Minney's letter, George IV dis- 
Windsor Archives. 

190 



cussed the marriage with the Duke of York. His Majesty con- 
sidered it hopeless to thwart true love further and who could 
have known it better? He took the precaution, however, of cutting 
George Dawson out of Minney's settlement. Next day the King 
wrote his brother what he considered to be 'the best palliative or 
justification in some degree for her sad imprudence'. In those days 
a wife's fortune automatically became her husband's property, but 
Minney's fortune was to be 'placed in trustee's bands & settled en- 
tirely, solely & only upon her & upon any children she may probably have 
hereafter. When she has done this, she will completely exonerate 
Mr. Dawson from every possible imputation of having been 
activated upon by any principle or motive of self-interest*. The 
King then desired his brother to read the whole contents of this 
letter 'in extenso, both to Mrs. Fitzherbert, as well as to Minney 
Seymour, the first moment you can obtain an interview with 
them'. 1 

Comatose the King might appear but he remained level- 
headed in this emergency. Drawing up marriage settlements was 
after all his forte. 

The Duke called at Tilney Street three days later, although 
Minney wrote crossly to George that she supposed e his own 
affaires de c&ur interfere with the interest he may shew in those of 
his friends'. His Royal Highness reported his visit to George IV 
thus: 

"Both ladies appeared most affected by the extreme kind- 
ness of your letter, and after Miss Seymour, who was so ner- 
vous as to be hardly able to speak, had retired, Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert expressed herself in most feeling terms of acknowledge- 
ment of your goodness.' 1 

George Dawson found the Marriage Settlement as drawn up 
by the King himself, e unusual, degrading & clearly betraying a 
want of confidence in me'. It was the snub he minded, not the 
fact he could not touch his wife's money. He was struggling to be 
materially worthy of her and to give her all he possessed in the 
world. 

1 Windsor Archives. 



Minney's brother, George Seymour, wrote a note of peace 
saying he could not expect kind feelings after so violently oppos- 
ing the marriage, but that now he wished them both happiness. 
Only the vanquished Mrs. Fitzherbert could not bear to meet the 
bridegroom. 

On August 1 2th a radiantly happy Minney visited Cowes. She 
wrote one last soothing letter to the man who for nearly five years 
had fought so hard for her hand. 

*. . . as for your not understanding my feelings as to the 
cutting remarks of His Majesty I cannot attempt to explain 
what you naturally cannot enter into. I am neither appre- 
hensive of his reminding you of your not being a Duke or of 
actual absence of fortune. . . .' 

After all the disputes it was impossible for Minney to be 
married from Tilney Street so she had moved to her brother's 
house. Mrs, Fitzherbert kissed her fondly as she left, but she could 
not face the ordeal of attending the ceremony and disappeared 
to the country, ostensibly to bow her head in grief. 

On August zoth, 1825, the couple were married quietly at St. 
George's, Hanover Square. Both families signed the Register, 
George Seymour and the Moriers witnessing for Minney, Lord 
Portarlington and Lady Louisa Dawson for George, and Mr. 
Forster, the King's Solicitor, for His Majesty. 

George IV thought tenderly on this day of his pretty, wilful 
ward. With a letter asking her to be kind to his 'poor old friend 
Mrs. Fitzherbert' he gave a splendid wedding present. 

The couple departed for their honeymoon to an apartment 
lent them in Hampton Court Palace. As their carriage moved 
through the summer haze Minney lifted shining eyes to George. 
She was his at last. The King had sent a fine jewel. And no one 
had reminded him that he was not a duke. 



192 



Twenty-five 



MRS. FIT2HERBERT recovered from her defeat with 
remarkable resiliency. The threatened miserable retire- 
ment turned into a round of country house visits with 
Maryanne. 

Boxes of her affectionate letters to Alinney survive. On the 
very day after the wedding, August zist, 1825, she wrote: 

'No mother I am certain ever loved her own child more 
dearly than I have loved you. I pray to God from morning to 
night that your happiness may be as complete as I wish and as 
you deserve. Mr. Dawson will, I trust, do all in his power to 
render you happy. 

I have had kind invitations from the Cholmondeleys and 
also from the Seftons but as I had written the Duke of Devon- 
shire to fix being at Chatsworth on the 8th I was under the 
necessity of sending my excuses. . . . The other day I went to 
Lord Grosvenor, who gave us a fine lunch. The house is the 

most magnificent thing I ever saw I am expecting to hear 

every day of you from Paris where I hope you will not be 
tempted to make a long stay/ 

What a relief to be able to write light-heartedly: 

'Dearest Alinney, 

Pray accept the enclosed to buy Hats and Bonnets at Paris. 
I wish I was able to make it thousands instead of hundreds/ 

'Chatsworth. October 17 1825 

I cannot tell you, dearest Minney, the delight I felt when 

X 93 



the Duke gave me a letter from you dated Nantes. . . . He said 
it was addressed in your handwriting and he knew it would 
make me happy. . . . The Duke seemed very pleased at your 
having bought so many French hats etc. He is greatly occupied 
with ladies' dresses. He says you dress remarkably well, and 
that at one of his parties, you desired him to admire a gown 
you had on. He said it was certainly very pretty but that it was 
an old one. He had seen you in it before. He expects everybody 
to be dressed here as if going to a Ball and looks rather shy if 
you have not a fresh gown for every day. This is rather a bore 
for me, for I hate the trouble of dressing up and in this par- 
ticular I am afraid I don't stand very highin his estimation * 

'Tilney Street. November 7 1825 

I arrived here the day before yesterday, rather glad to get 
to my fireside before the very bad weather sets in. ... After I 
left Chatsworth I went to the Fitzherberts and then to Trent- 
ham where I met the whole family. Lady Stafford was con- 
stantly lamenting you were not her daughter-in-law,* 

Indeed many lamented for Minney. Neither Lord Beauchamp 
nor Lord Arthur Hill who had been at her feet for so long ever 
married. Nor did Mrs. Fitzherbert's own particular choice the 
Duke of Devonshire, only son of the unforgettable Georgina. 
George Fitzclarence continued to hint his devotion until his tragic 
death. 

When Minney reached Rome in January 1826 she confided 
glad news to Mrs. Fitzherbert who needed a new fuss. When she 
heard that precious Minney expected a baby and had not even a 
house in which to nest, it gave the old lady good grounds for 
exertion. She wrote off to Naples: 

C I have been enquiring all over London to get a house for 
you, for I cannot bear the idea of your not having a Home 
somewhere and since I have had your last letter I am more 
anxious than ever. 

All your old lovers are now providing for themselves in a 
great hurry. Wortley [Lord Wharndiffe] is married and the 
day before yesterday I got a letter from Lord Clare to inform 

194 



me of his marriage. . . . Pray do write to Louise [Mrs. Wat 
Smythe, widow of Mrs. Fitzherbert's brother]. Her extreme 
jealousy of me is owing to my visit to Hooton where I was 
treated with great affection and kindness and her hatred of 
Maryanne she makes no secret of, as she has taken into her 
head people take more notice of her than of her girls.* 

Mrs. Fitzherbert, always fond of these Smythe nieces, hints 
that Mrs. Wat has taken to the bottle, c the only possible explana- 
tion of her resentments unless she is not right in her mind'. She 
adds: 

Tray do write to Louise who is in such an uncomfortable 
state with everybody and I am sure if you don't write she will 
think I have prevented you. . . . 

I have determined to take no notice and shew her and the 
girls every kindness and attention in my power, for really I 
have a very sincere affection for her and would do everything 
on earth I could both for her and her children/ 

Mrs. Wat's two pretty daughters were poor but Protestant, so 
it should have been far easier to find a selection of suitable hus- 
bands for them than for Maryanne. Eventually with Minney's 
help they married well. 

Towards the end of February 1827 when the Dawson-Damers, 
as they now were, planned to leave Naples Mrs. Fitz wrote: 

'You may depend upon finding on your arrival a comfort- 
able house, and everything you can want. Therefore make your 
mind easy upon that score, only if, my dear Minney, if taking 
so long a journey in your situation will not be detrimental to 
you, for Gods sake don't hesitate but set out immediately. 
You can make another tour of Italy whenever you like. . . .' 

When the young couple arrived back in London they took up 
residence in Tilney Street with Mrs. Fitzherbert, who now found, 
perhaps to her own surprise, that George was the most fascinating 
of men. 

At the request of Lord and Lady Glengall he hurried off to 



TO* 



stand for Tipperary in the June election. Sir Henry Halford, the 
King's physician, came to inquire about Minney's confinement, 
while Mama wrote daily soothings to the prospective father. On 
June 1 3th a little daughter arrived. George IV immediately sent 
his best wishes and Mrs. Fitzherbert dispatched hourly bulletins 
to Tipperary: 

'June 1 6 1826 

I have the best possible news to send you. Our dear 
Minney has had a very good night and Doctor Herbert says 
she is quite well and has ordered her chicken for dinner. She 
desires a thousand loves to you and bids me tell you the baby is 
in a very flourishing state. . . .' 

For twenty-four hours, after Minney 's accouchement Mrs, 
Fitzherbert's hand trembles so she can hardly write but she then 
informs George that the Duke of York approved of his standing 
for Parliament in Ireland. 

A few days later both she and Minney were furious to learn 
that Lord Glengall's mother had written to Lady Caroline Darner 
requesting her to send 2,000 c to carry on the Election' which 
might 'irritate and make the Old Lady very cross and out of 
humour*. Mrs. Fitzherbert wrote it was: C I really think very 
meddling and interfering with what she has nothing to do with/ 

On June i9th Minney disobediently took up a pen to write 
her husband: 

*Mama took care to recount to Sir Henry Halford all your 
Parliamentary intentions which she does in a manner directly 
opposite to what Lady Glengall's story would be. This is for 
the sake of being repeated at Windsor, and elk s* excuse to talk 
of your ideas to anyone as if Tipperary was on its knees to 
have you for its member/ 

Lady Glengall had impeded George IV's Irish tour in 1 821 by 
wearing mourning for Queen Caroline and saying His Majesty 
had landed dead drunk. The King had an elephant's memory for 
slights. 

There is something disarming about the happy end of Mrs. 

196 



Fitzherbert's relationship with Colonel Dawson as she still calls 
him. Now she is scheming for his sake with King and Duke of 
York and writes him: 'your sisters are very anxious for your 
return in which all the inhabitants of this House most lovingly 
join". 

On July ist Minney wrote to her husband: 

'Supposing you are successful, do not let your manifesta- 
tions of gratitude be prolonged to an extent that will reduce 
you to hear of me suspended to the bedpost. ... I cut the en- 
closed out of the Paper yesterday. It looks as if your wish of 
being put on full pay was complied with but the Duke [of 
York] whom Mama saw yesterday never mentioned it and I 
had not, when she went to Brompton, found it in the Paper. 
She found the Duke very low and his legs terribly swelled. He 
spoke of your Election, of your certainty of success next 
Parliament. . . / 

On July 1 3th the baby daughter was christened Georgina, His 
Majesty King George the Fourth having condescended to be 
godfather. 1 

Mrs. Fitzherbert hung tenderly over the first little creature 
born in her house, savouring as nearly as possible the joys of 
grandmotherhood. 



1 This baby, the first flower of the Seymour romance, grew up to suffer the fate 
of many unfortunate Victorian females. She married Earl Fortescue, an insufferable 
tyrant who forced her to bear fourteen children. She died worn out at the age of 
forty. The several sons who survived into the 19208 still remembered with fear and 
dislike that father who fifty years before had stood in front of the fire warming his 
coat-tails, roaring furiously at his cowering family and fading wife. 

197 



Twnty-six 



IN JANUARY 1827 the Duke of York died. He wrote to 'dearest 
Mrs. Fiteherberf to the very end assuring her he was much 
better and in good spirits. They had both agreed to destroy 
each other's letters, and it was with relief that she received back 
her own correspondence which she spent two years perusing and 
burning. She told Lord Stourton that with these papers she could 
have given the best private and public history of all the transac- 
tions of the country from the close of the American War down to 
the death of the Duke of York, either from her communications 
with the Duke, or her own connections with the opposite party, 
through the Prince and his friends. 

Minney wrote His Majesty a letter of condolence, describing 
his little god-daughter and adding sincere wishes 'from the person 
in whose house I am now living'. 

Mrs, Fitzherbert's letter-file contained hundreds of letters 
from various members of the royal family. She went over them 
constantly herself, destroying any which might lead to trouble. 
Minney's daughter would in time carry on this work with 
Victorian scissors. George Dawson-Damer and George Seymour 
occasionally scribbled a note on their own which they left among 
family papers and many of these survived. George Seymour coldly 
recorded that the Duke of Clarence told him: c he knew George 
IV had paid 95,000 to Lady Conyngham to buy Bifrons' [the 
estate to which she eventually retired]. Lady Conyngham had 
never been able to abide Brighton where Mrs. Fitzherbert's house 
was forever catching His Majesty's eye evoking memories which 
he smothered with elephantine sighs. In March 1827 she per- 
suaded him to leave the Pavilion for ever and incarcerate himself 

198 



with her in Windsor Castle. Incarceration is the only word to des- 
cribe the Kling's fate now; he could not escape from the burden of 
his 350 Ib. of wine-sodden flesh. He who loved beauty and grace 
and had cared so much for his personal appearance now suffered 
a loathing of his own body and wished no one to see it. And his 
mind also felt imprisoned. He kept pretending he had been a 
different person. Sometimes he pretended he had led a charge at 
Waterloo, or that he had fought with his fists and beaten a stout 
Brighton butcher. Or he told himself how he had been loved and 
seduced by the upright Lady Horatia Seymour. Lying alone in 
growing pain he remembered only how splendidly he had always 
acted and how brave and truthful his friends should think him. 
Fox, Burke, Sheridan they would attest his prowess, were they 
here. But the cold eye of the Duke of Wellington froze these 
fantasies unpleasantly, and only too often now George of England 
felt like heaving his huge body round and lying with his face to 
the wall, sick of the world, sick of all he had missed. 

The King wept easily nowadays, not merely if he were contra- 
dicted, for Lady Conyngham seldom allowed that, but no sooner 
did he start to talk about himself at all than tears would begin to 
pour down his fat cheeks. 

No one had understood him, no one except . . . The locket 
containing her picture still hung around his neck. Lady Conyng- 
ham had never attempted to get it off him. She did not really care 
whose face haunted him and being corpulent herself avoided 
physical manoeuvre. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert wrote often that she also shed tears, but they 
were always tears of happiness over her two daughters. Surroun- 
ded by young people who adored her, she was enjoying her 
seventies. 

A letter to Minney from Brighton says: 

*I cannot let the post go out this Evening without thanking 
you a thousand times for the very useful & delightful present 
you sent me. . . . On seeing your writing I immediately called 
out for my spectacles. Judge then of my surprise when I found 
what the contents of the little box contained. I have worn 
them ever since & think them quite perfect. What a sly person 
you was to have concealed the Glass which I tormented every- 

199 



body about for a length of time. . . . Old Sally says she does 
not mind all the trouble she had to look for it, as it was such a 
pretty thought and attention of Mrs. Dawson.' 

She goes on to scold Minney for her surprisingly modern 
habit of banting. How often in the last thirty years have daughters 
not heard their mamas use like words: 

'Harriet tells me you are dreadfully thin & that you eat 
nothing but starve yourself. I am very sorry to hear it for I 
know your passion for growing thin. Depend upon it, it is 
not becoming to you & everybody I see is of the same 
opinion/ 

Other letters from Brighton ramble on: 

"There has not been for years so deep a snow as there is 
here. It would kill poor dear Baby to take her out in this sad 
weather. . . .* 

1 have just received a letter from Eude, the poor Duke of 
York's cook, to offer me to purchase some lamps I gave the 
Duke some years ago. It would make me quite unhappy to 
have them back again, and would bring all sorts of uncom- 
fortable facts to my recollections. . . .' 

1 hear nothing but your gay parties in town. I have had a 
very kind letter from Sir Henry [the King's physician]. I under- 
stand he recommends strongly to you a change with respect to 
hours etc. I hope, my dear Minney, you will follow his direc- 
tions & get a little more embonpoint which is certainly 
necessary both for your health as well as your looks. . . . We 
are all very angry at your having had the baby's head shaved!' 

To George Dawson-Damer, who had little political ambition, 
she wrote, April 24th, 1827, C I suppose there will be no small 
difficulty in arranging the new Ministry if it can be managed at all. 
I wish in the scramble you might get'some of the good things. 
But, but will it last? . . .' 

200 



Later from Bath she hoped the change of air would help Mary- 
anne to recover from an illness: c Our lodgings are very good & 
our living most perfect having one of the best cooks I ever met 
with. . . .' She who had supped for twenty years at the Prince of 
Wales' s table should have been a fair judge. 

As well as looking after Maryanne, Airs. Fitzherbert kept Mrs. 
Wat Smythe and her daughters during the winter months at 
Brighton. 

Prince Puckler-Muskau, an outrageous German looking for 
an English heiress, gave a foreigner's version of life there. He 
often went to Mrs. Fitzherbert's to 'play "ecarte" and whist with 
the men, or loo with the young ladies. These small circles are 
much more agreeable than the great parties of the metropolis. 
There, every art is understood but the art of society.' 

On February 24th, 1827, he wrote: 

C I spent this evening at Mrs. F.'s a very dignified & delight- 
ful woman, formerly as it is affirmed, married to the King. 
She is now without influence in that region, but still uni- 
versally beloved & respected "d'un excellent ton et sans 
pretention". 

In this house one sees only "beau monde". Indeed there is 
not much of the very emptiest in the exclusive society here; 
or they live completely retired, that they may not come into 
collision with the persons they call "Nobodies", whom they 
shun with greater horror than Brahmins shun Parias. Though 
my station & connections allow me to enter the sanctuary, I 
do not on that account disdain the worth without/ 

Mrs. Fitzherbert may have been fussy in selecting her com- 
pany, but she saw that the girls all enjoyed themselves while pru- 
dently pursuing rich husbands. In June she was at Richmond 
when news of old uncle Errington's death came through, and 
Maria Fitzherbert remembered with a throb that far-off night 
when he had introduced her to the Prince on the Opera steps. 
Both the witnesses to her marriage had now died, and a new 
generation had arisen bent on their own romances and chafing to 
get to a glamorous garden party near by. Heartless little Louisa 
Smythe wrote in her journal: 

201 



'Saturday. June 30 1827. ... It certainly was not an un- 
expected event and it is only to be wondered at that he arrived 
to such an advanced age, but however unexpected the event I 
could not help wishing it had not happened today, as it 
agitated dear Mama very much. We did not get to Richmond 
Hill till after four, when we found Aunt Fits very cross & the 
rest of the party rather in a fuss; however we all arrived quite 
safely at Boyle Farm, where we proceeded down a little 
winding path till we reached the house where Lord Castle- 
reagh & Ld. Chesterfield met us in the most graceful manner 
with bouquets.' 1 

The Lords Castlereagh and Chesterfield, hosts at this glamor- 
ous breakfast, were about the most eligible young men in London. 
The weather remained perfect, the guests dined in tents to the 
sound of village bells and there was dancing, fireworks and supper 
till three in the morning. 

Only Aunt Fitz (who was engineering her Smythe nieces* 
debut in smart society) had been cross cross and sad, for one who 
stood gallantly by her in the past. Kind great-uncle Errington had 
in fact left the Smythes some money, but the ungrateful young- 
sters resented having to wear black at the smart expensive Al- 
mack's balls. On July 4th Louisa lamented: c We went to Tilney 
Street, and drove all over the Town to get black beads. Mama did 
not go to Almacks, therefore Mary & I went with Minney. We 
went en noir, but did not look so triste as our costumes bespoke 
us. . . .' 

Great-und.es should not die in the middle of a gay social 
season. 

That winter Mrs. Fitzherbert wrote to Minney who was 
approaching her twenty-ninth birthday: 

'Tilney Street. November 20 1827 

I imagine, dearest Minney, that you will receive this on the 
23rd. I wish I were with you to express to you in person all 
I feel upon the occasion, and how sincerely and from the 
bottom of my heart, I wish you, my dear Child, many happy 
returns of the day, with everything you wish for or desire, 

1 The Prettiest Girl in England. Richard Buckle. 1958. 

202 



You talk of old age, think what I am! I assure you I should be 
very sorry to have to pass my youthful days over again. It is a 
great consolation, at my advanced age, to have those I love 
the most (yourself and Mary, my two children) both well & 
happy, and to receive from them kindness & affection and to 
end my days in peace & quietness/ 

Ten days later she moved to Brighton where society still 
'ma'am'ed' her and stood up when she entered the room as for 
royalty. 

'November 29 1827. 

Here I am with all England at Brighton! There never were 
so many people of Fashion here before, & my house has been 
like a Fair all day yesterday & today. But I shall not be com- 
fortable, my dearest Minney, until I get you & George here. 
It is the only thing I have to look forward to with pleasure. 
The day before I left town I was with Princess Sophia [sister 
of King George IV] for an hour & an half. She said she was 
quite sure Lady Conyngham had done what she told them all 
she intended to do, and that the King said he was very happy 
at it. Henry Halford assured me that he was now quite well. 
He had been ill with the gout and had lost a great deal of his 
size by Halford's making him live very abstemiously but he 
was the better for it/ 

At the end of December Mrs. Fitzherbert wrote much per- 
turbed over the early death of George Dawson's sister, Lady 
Harriet Erskine: 

It must have been a great comfort to Dawson his having 
been to visit her. I hope Lady Caroline will continue her 
pension. ... I am now, thank God, got well again, & have 
exerted myself to the utmost to make my inhabitants gay & 
happy. I have longed for you, dearest, to assist me for I am 
not able to do much. My mind is youthful but my body is 
very old.' 

On January ist, 1828, Minney wrote to the King pleading for 
Lady Harriet's family: 

203 



*My dearest Sir, 

It becomes once again my most welcome duty to congratu- 
late Your Majesty upon the arrival of the New Year etc. etc. 

I have had to bear for the last ten days the melancholy in- 
telligence of the very sudden death of my sister-in-law, poor 
Lady Harriet Erskine without a day's previous illness & 
leaving her husband. Your Majesty may know as a son of the 
kte Lord [Chancellor] with eight children two younger than 
Your Majesty's little god-daughter & with her death nothing 
remaining to them but his small living, as the allowance Lady 
Caroline Darner made for her has I fear ceased with her. 

His Majesty always listened to his Minney. The destitute papa 
was made Dean of Ripon. 

A final letter from Paris to Mrs. Fitzherbert described the 
social life there: 

"Hotel Bristol 

You really would have laughed to have seen my levee to- 
day. Lady Granville called & said the file of carriages went 
round the Place Vendom. Lady Anglesey & Lady Mary 
Stanley and the Bear [Chairman of the Hudson Bay Fur Co.] 
are in this Hotel, the latter very particular in his enquiries 
after you. He saysjw# are the only person who can talk openly 
to the King & give him good advice & that you must get 
the Garter for Louis Philippe. Tomorrow we dine with old 
Tallyrand but Paris is & he very dull they say. Everybody has 
been to see me but Yarmouth [Lord Hertford's son also called 
Beauchamp] & I mean to go and see him on Sunday when he 
again starts in the Balloon.' 

Would that we heard more about Talleyrand and early 
Ballooning and less about dear Baby and the price of hats. 
To George Dawson Mrs. Fitzherbert wrote often: 

'Brighton. January 7 1828 

Though scarce able to hold my pen from another attack 
of gout in my right hand, I will not let this post go without 
thanking you for the kind letter I have received from you. 

204 



It cheers me very much by the good accounts you sent me of 
dear Minney & the Baby. By your accounts you are not near 
so gay at Paris as we are here. There never was anything so 
delightful as the gkls in this house. We have now a very good 
Society & a great many Beaux from Town but I suppose they 
will all soon take their departure to hunt after the Loaves & 
Fishes [political and court appointments] and fine confusion 
we shall have at the meetings of Parliament.* 

In her journal Louisa Smythe recorded the daily round at 
Aunt Fitz's house from January ist when she had a dinner for 
twelve people to January 25th when she gave a ball at Steyne 
House. 

'We all dined at three & by halfpast-ten we were dressed 
& in the drawing-room. Our costumes were exceedingly ad- 
mired. . . . The Ball was universally considered charming. 
Aunt F lookeda merveille, & everybody seemed in high force.' 

Next day the girls did not come down till after two when their 
beaux arrived to talk it over. Young and tireless they were slightly 
indignant at being sent to bed at eleven, 'sacrificed to the 
Treasures' as they called Mrs. Fitzherbert's servants. 

Meanwhile the old lady refused to join the Dawson-Damers in 
Paris though Minney wrote: *The weather here is heavenly. We 
can hardly believe a word of the snow you complain of. We sus- 
pect it a little excuse for your not telling us when you will come 
here, you dear naughty woman! We can lodge you so charmingly 
close to us next door. . . / She did not intend to cease watching 
Maryanne's courtship by a certain gentleman although this meek 
little mouse would not have dreamt of riding her own line. 

It was not so easy to find a handsome Catholic husband, and 
although this suitor was a younger son Mrs. Fitzherbert liked him. 

On April ist, 1828, after returning to London, she wrote a 
hard-headed assessment of the match: 

C I have little hopes of the event I announced taking place. 
Everything we could wish for or desire except that odious 
commodity money, which on the part of the young man is 
very deficient. The person's name & connections are most 

205 



desirable in every point of view & the father & mother have 
connected with diem & have written such kind & affectionate 
letters upon the subject that we are both charmed & so would 
you if you knew all. Mary is not able to write to you herself 
which she had intended doing to tell these particulars which 
for the present we beg & implore of you not to mention or to 
give an idea of to any soul breathing. The young man is 
Edward Jerningham, second son of Lord Stafford, very 
amiable, good-looking and gentlemanlike. His brother I be- 
lieve is now in Paris. Therefore for Heaven's sake don't say 
anything about it to a human being. There are unfortunately 
ten younger children, their fortune five thousand each, which 
is so very trifling that though I shall give Mary at present 
twenty thousand added to this, they could not exist without 
a further addition. I have written to beg they will endeavour 
to do something more. If this is not acceded to, the marriage 
cannot take place. However I do not as yet quite despair. 
Fortunately Mary has not seen enough of him to be much 
attached & feels the smallness of his fortune would be a great 
drawback to their mutual comfort, for it really would not en- 
able them to have the common necessaries & comforts of life 
& if they should have children they would absolutely be 
beggars.' 

How many young couples must have lived on tenterhooks 
in those days, when if sufficient fortune could not be produced a 
marriage had to be broken off. There was never any question of 
the suitor earning money. Indeed there seems to have been no 
method of stepping down into the new world of industry or 
banking. If devoid of inherited wealth a gentleman had only one 
method of making himself a fortune, and that was to become 
captain of a ship in the Royal Navy and earn prize-money in 
action at sea. 

Maryanne's romance was not frustrated however. Lord Staf- 
ford, particularly anxious for the match, probably stinted the ten 
younger children to procure this pretty little bit of Catholic fluff 
for his second son and the wedding took place. 

On June i6th, 1 828, Mrs. Fitzherbert gave c a fine breakfast in 
Tilney Street, where Maryanne remained till four o'clock'. 

206 



Next day she wrote to the bride a very perfect description of 
the aftermath of many such festivities: 

"June 17 1828 

Though half dead with fatigue I will not let the post go 
without scribbling a few lines to you, dearest Mary. I long to 
hear you got safe to Tunbridge & that you found your new 
habitation comfortable. I never passed a more melancholy day 
than I did yesterday. After you left me I really felt quite alone 
in the world. Minney came to me about seven o'clock & we 
went to Lady Stanley's [her niece] a little after ten. My servants 
were very anxious to get me out of the house that they might 
begin their amusements. They were all in high spirits & kept 
up the Ball till near six this morning. I went to bed about 
twelve & shutting all the doors it did not annoy me, in the 
least. Mrs. Wat brought me home from Lady Stanley's & her 
new footman was so extremely in liquor that we were obliged 
to get one of Sir Thomas' servants to hold him behind the 
carriage to keep him from breaking his neck. Her carriage 
wheel broke down as she left this house in the morning. There 
never was anything so unlucky as she is with her Establish- 
meat. . . . Say a thousand kind things from me to my son-in- 
law & believe me ever most affectionately.' 

Why does she call Jerningham her son-in-law when she never 
refers thus to Colonel Dawson? Why did she expect a Duke for 
Minney & yet gladly acquiesce to a second son for Maryanne? 
There is no clue in this mystery. Mrs. Fitzherbert must have 
known what blood ran in the veins of both girls, but if she left a 
hint it has not survived the scissors of Minney's daughters. We 
only know that when Lord Stourton counselled her to leave some 
evidence in her own handwriting that no children had been born 
e she smilingly objected on the score of delicacy'. 

When an American Catholic called James Ord who had been 
educated by the Jesuits in Georgetown College wrote to Mrs. 
Fitzherbert asking 'discreetly & in guarded language' if he was 
not her son born the year after her marriage to the Prince, he 
received no reply. 



207 



Twenty-seven 



DULL one might call her life now with its grandmotherly 
fusses and tenderness, but after so much turbulence and 
drama is the ultimate achievement of happiness, content- 
ment and love really dull? 

While the King groaned and swelled, his Maria remained 
radiant through her seventies. There is nothing senile in Mrs. 
Fitzherbert's affection to her adopted daughters. She and Minney 
were unusually congenial beings. To Maryanne visiting her new 
in-laws she writes more maternally: 

'July 21 1828 

Your welcome letter has given me the greatest pleasure and 
delight to hear my little girl has been received in the manner 
you mention. It really affected me so much that I have shed 
abundance of tears. I should have behaved very ill, had I been 
present, for kindness and joy such as you have received is 
very affecting. . . . You would laugh at me if at this moment 
you could witness the large drops that trickle down my 
cheeks. . . . Minney quite well. I am going to her and shall 
show her your letter and I shall do the same thing in Cumber- 
land Place, [Mrs. Smythe's house.] I shall enjoy seeing their 
faces when they read all the great and grand doings and the 
delightful welcome you have received from all both high and 
low. You are a fortunate little girl. . . .' 

Apparently the Smythe girls suffered from jealousy of Mary- 
anne and Minney. Nevertheless, that winter Mrs. Fitzherbert 
again had them to stay at Brighton and on January i2th, 1 829, she 

208 



gave a Fancy Dress Ball. The Brighton Gazette published an exuber- 
ant account: 

'Mrs. Fitzherbert's grand Fancy Dress Ball was not only 
the most splendid party given during the present season, but 
the most splendid probably ever seen in Brighton. There were 
more than two hundred present, including all the Fashionables 
now residing in the town. No magnificence can be conceived 
greater than that displayed in the various dresses, which were 
exceedingly rich. . . . The fine rooms of the noble mansion, 
thus lighted up, presented a most brilliant and dazzling appear- 
ance & on the supper table every delicacy was seen in pro- 
fusion. . . . We do hope that Mrs. Fitzherbert may long enjoy 
health to promote the prosperity of the town. . . . Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert, who we are happy to say, looked in excellent health 
and spirits, wore a rich dress of white satin; the Hon. Mrs. 
Dawson-Damer a handsome black fancy dress, head-dress of 
diamonds; Hon. Mrs. Jerninghatn a black velvet dress, with 
richly ornamented stomacher. . . . Miss Smythe, a beautiful 
Turkish dress, with handsome turban of scarlet and gold and 
a profusion of diamonds; Miss G. Smythe looked most lovely 
in a simple white fancy dress, with a veil confined with a 
chaplet of white roses. . . .' 

Louisa Smythe's chief suitor, Sir Frederick Hervey-Bathurst, 
reappeared unexpectedly for this ball. Mrs. Fitzherbert dis- 
couraged him as being 'a bore', but what did Louisa think of 
Maryanne's choice?: 

Oh! how I should get bored with such a life, & such an 
aimiable, good natured, stupid husband. Mais qui se ressemble 



And when criticized by a certain gentleman for being a flirt, 
Louisa confided in her journal that she feared *that the generality 
of the world give me credit for following Mrs. Dawson's example 
& walking in her footsteps'. 

Brighton was certainly gayer than Windsor these days. Ireland 
had reached the brink of civil war because the King reputedly 

209 



refused to allow Catholic emancipation. George in had gone off 
his head each time this subject was broached, and now his son 
announced that his views were those of his Severed & sainted 
father*. In March 1829 George IV said he would dismiss his 
Ministry rather than consent to the Bill and sent for his Cabinet. 
The ministers travelled to Windsor in trepidation. There is a 
perfect description of the scene: 

c He spoke to them for nearly six hours fortifying himself 
with repeated sips of brandy & water* Threats to retire to 
Hanover, tears, and even kisses, were all tried to shake the 
ministers 5 attachment to the Bill, but all in vain, & the King 
boldly dismissed them from office! He was found after the 
interview by Lady Conyngham & Kingston lying on a sofa, 
utterly exhausted.' 1 

They explained to him that the Bill's opponents were too few 
to form a government for him. He had got to obey Wellington. 
Furiously, the King gave in. Oh, to be so badly treated! His 
tainted father* had in the past been anti-Catholic and so was he. 
Hadn't Lady Hertford made him give up Maria because she was a 
Catholic? And now he was asked to grant them emancipation! 

Peacefully from Tilney Street Mrs. Fitzherbert wrote Minney : 

'October 19 1829 

I will not bore you with a repetition of our goings on at 
Brighton, as you must have read it in the newspapers. I must 
say I was very sorry to leave that place as I never passed my 
time more pleasantly. I suppose you have heard that the Duke 
of Wellington went to Brighton to visit Lady Jersey [daughter- 
in-law of the ancient enemy]? He dined with her & went away 
at night. What will Mrs. Arbuthnot [Wellington's lady-love] 
say to this? ... I must bid you adieu, my dearest, with kind 
love to Dawson. Pray tell him not to call me Madame. It is so 
formal. Lady Conyngham is not well. The thought of Brighton 
I believe has made her sick. You'll see by the Papers His 
Majesty does not intend honouring us with his presence.* 

1 George IV, Roger Fulford. 

210 



Mrs. Fitzherbert spent November redecorating Steyne House. 
To Minney: 'Think of me, dearest, in this house quite alone, and 
unless I have you or the Jerninghams I am content to be so.' To 
Maryanne: C I have quite finished my drawingrooms, but I don't 
like them half so well as I did the old red & white.' 

Her letters to George Dawson-Damer who was hunting up in 
Lancashire are many pages long. An 'odious' paragraph appeared 
in the newspapers intimating the King meant to slight the 
Dawsons by not inviting them to an imaginary party at Windsor. 
Mrs. Fitzherbert sent the proper channels buzzing and could 
write George: 

'The King read it & has behaved beautifully upon the 
occasion (violent outrageous to the greatest degree) & wishing 
very much to find out who could have been the author of so 
diabolical & malicious an invention, he put himself into a 
violent passion & declared that he had always had the greatest 
affection & always should have for Minney & that he had 
done everything to prove it to her & that if he had given any 
party she & Colonel Dawson, would have been the first he 
should have invited. . . / 

Five years after losing her battle with the determined Colonel 
she is able to end her missive: 'God bless you dear George.' 

In December she was worried over a horrid hunting accident 
which befell Minney's nephew, the eldest son of George Seymour. 
It was the day of frantic doctoring and no anaesthetics. George 
had to hold his son during a fifteen-minute operation which the 
patient bore with resolution but: 'Poor George was very nearly 
dead of it.' She had spared Minney this news c as I know she was 
rather uneasy that you might meet with some accident'. She goes 
on to hope the c dear children are getting over the Chicken-pox', 
to say the Duke of Devonshire 'raved about you & Minney & said 
after you left Chatsworth all was dull & stupid'; to hope the Duke 
of Wellington will 'come off triumphant' in the political confusion. 

Apart from the chaperoning, and not very successful snubbing 
of her nieces' beaux, Mrs. Fitzherbert's life continued to overflow 
with family interests. She lived her girls' lives with them. Her 
references to servants are always kind. 'The Treasures* included 



one decrepit old Daykin, easy to visualize: 1 would not think of 
taking a Butler whilst poor Daykin is able to crawl about the 
house. It would kill him to have anyone put in his place/ 

Human beings arouse interest and compassion in Maria to the 
very end, be they ancient butlers or asthmatic royal dukes. When 
poor Maryanne lost a baby Sussex hastened to condole: 

"Kensington Palace 

It was only last night I was aware of the sad misfortune 
with which poor Mrs. Jerningham had been visited. As I al- 
ways must feel interested in what concerns you & knowing 
how much you have your niece's interest at heart I cannot 
refuse myself the melancholy satisfaction of expressing to you 
my concern on the occasion & likewise to inquire after the 
poor little lady. Believe me, dear Mrs. Fitzherbert, with great 
sincerity 

Augustus Frederick.' 

During 1830 George IV became very ill and Mrs. Fitzherbert 
retreated to Brighton: 

c The constant histories respecting the King & people's 
curiosity to find Out what I think & what I do, would annoy 
me so much that, dull as it is here, I am spared many uncom- 
fortable occurrences that would annoy me. ... I have this day 
got your letter, dearest Minney. George's account the day 
before of what the Duke of Wellington reported had made me 
hope that the King wasn't so ill as rumour said, & that the 
Drawing Room etc. being put an end to, would relieve his 
mind. I remembered the King always liked to make himself 
out worse than he was to excite compassion, & that he always 
wished everyone to think him dangerously ill, when little was 
the matter with him. This I had hoped was the case at present, 
but alas I fear it is not so from your account. . . .' 

When His Majesty rallied she wrote: C I never thought the case 
so desperate as many did because I knew the Man. 9 

Minney had already informed Mrs. Fitzherbert that Lady 

212 



Conyngham had consulted two bishops *as to the propriety or 
rather impropriety of her remaining with the King & that they 
had given it in favor of morality, her remaining where she was, 
from the chance it afforded of making the King look out for & 
create fresh scandal'. The King's doctor, Sir Henry Halford, wrote 
that he had passed Minney's sympathetic inquiries to His Majesty, 
'who desired me to be sure to give you His very affectionate 
love'. 

That was all. 

He did not want Minney or Mrs. Fitzherbert by his bedside. 
Hardly able to breathe and forced to sleep sitting up the King did 
not wish to be seen by those who had once loved him. Watched by 
his physicians, with Lady Conyngham and the Duke of Welling- 
ton coldly eyeing each other in the background, he awaited the end 
in pain. 

Sir Henry, his exhausted physician, wrote Mrs. Fitzherbert a 
description: 

'Windsor. June 3 1830 

My dear Kind Madam. . . . The King has been, & con- 
tinues excessively ill, with embarrassment & difficulty of 
breathing. The worst circumstances under which I ever wit- 
nessed the Dukes of Clarence & of Sussex under their attacks 
of spasmodic asthma, hardly come up to His Majesty's dis- 
tress at times. What result I can hardly venture to say with 
confidence. His Majesty's constitution is a gigantic one & his 
elasticity under the most severe pressure exceeds what I have 
ever witnessed in thirty-eight years* experience. I think I can 
say with much more certainty what must be my own fate unless 
a speedy amendment or fatal issue arrives soon. . . .' 

At the end of June, hearing that the King's gigantic constitu- 
tion was failing at last, Mrs. Fitzherbert drove to Tilney Street. 
Through Sir Henry Halford she sent a letter to her dying husband 
who seized it gladly, read it with emotion and placed it under 
his pillow. Dear Maria, he could rely on her thoughts and her 
prayers, he knew she suffered for him. But he was beyond sending 
an answer. The King's wife awaited her summons in vain. 

Just before dawn on the morning of June z6th George IV 

213 



broke an internal blood-vessel. In agitation he sent for the sleep- 
ing Sir Henry who arrived to see the King take his other physi- 
cian's hand, look up into his face and say: c My boy, this is death.* 
An express messenger galloped off to inform the Duke of 
Clarence he was King. 

The great bell of St. Paul's gave the news to London. A friend 
of Mrs. Fitzherbert's heard the tolling and hurried to Tilney 
Street to tell her that for the third time she was a widow. 

According to the Grenville Memoirs Clarence on becoming 
William IV immediately 'sent the Duke of Sussex to Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert to put her servants into mourning'. 

Within a week the new King returned nine of her portraits 
but there was one still missing, a miniature by Cosway set with 
diamonds. Maria fretted to know what had become of this small, 
exquisite locket, for she knew that George IV had kept it to the 
end. 

The Duke of Wellington divulged to Minney that George IV 
had always worn this miniature and wished to be buried with it 
around his neck. Minney felt shy of telling her for some time and 
when she did: 'Mrs. Fitzherbert made no observation but soon 
large tears fell from her eyes.' 

Maria then knew that she had never left his mind. All through 
the long years of mutual coldness, all through the ugly end, she 
had been able to serve him. He died with the picture of her around 
his neck and the thought of her in his heart. 



214 



Twenty-eight 



THE House of Hanover produced better brothers-in-law 
than husbands. William IV treated Mrs. Fitzherbert with 
love and respect. At first she worried over finances but she 
held a charge on the Pavilion for 6,000 a year and the new King 
amicably settled this. In return she signed a release on any claim 
to the property of George TV, Creevey heard the Duke of Sussex 
say to a lady: 'You'll be glad to hear, Ma'am that the King has 
continued to Mrs. Fitzherbert the same pension she had before 
I am very glad of it, Sir, it does His Majesty great honour Oh, 
Ma'am> tie whole family made a point of it.' 

On July z6th, her seventy-fifth birthday, she wrote Minney in 
a rare mood of despondency: 

C I was so worried with all the tracasseries of yesterday that 
I could not sleep, & therefore I got up early & went to ten 
o'clock church. I am just returned when I found your dear 
little note & the beautiful fan. ... Dont wish me happy re- 
turns of the day. I do not desire them for myself. I often regret 
(though I am told it is wrong) that I ever was born, but I wont 
touch upon this subject, as I dont wish to hurt your feelings, 
& because I hope & believe you have an affection for me.' 

Later on she felt: C I am getting every day better & I think I owe 
it chiefly to having declined all torment with lawyers.' 

The Duke of Wellington, cold, straight and unsentimental, 
inspired confidence in the old lady. When as George IV's executor 
he paid business visits she felt herself on firm ground. 

That was more than Mrs. Dawson-Damer was feeling then. 

215 



She had insisted on marrying an attractive lady-killer. Always the 
spoilt darling of her own brilliant little set, Minney could not 
realize that handsome gentlemen with an eye for the fair sex re- 
main true to form after marriage. Now Louisa Smythe exulted: 
'Minney was there. I never was more struck by anything than the 
change in her appearance, anxiety & jealousy have aged her to a 
degree which I should not have thought possible/ 

For once Minney could not turn to Mrs. Fitzherbert for sym- 
pathy for dear Mama now adored that 'most fascinating of men*. 

George Dawson-Damer was the only person present when, 
soon after his accession, William IV called at Steyne House. It 
must have been a curious moment. Mrs. Fitzherbert showed for 
the first time her marriage certificate and the King's eyes filled 
with tears. With what fortitude she had kept that secret proof I 1 

His Majesty inquired if he could make amends for his brother's 
treatment. According to a note left by Minney's youngest daughter 
Constance, he begged her c to wear the Royal Liveries and accept 
the Title of Duchess. Mrs. Fitzherbert replied that as she had 
never forfeited her good name as Mrs. Fitzherbert she would not 
change it; my father then with her told us this.' She merely put her 
servants in mourning and herself wore widow's weeds. 

A few days later Mrs. Fitzherbert lunched at the Pavilion. His 
Majesty handed her out of her carriage and the Queen received 
her with a kiss. It must have been a strange sensation, to hobble 
back through those portals. To Minney she wrote: 

'September 10 1830 

My reception was most flattering. I was overwhelmed with 
kisses from males & females. The Princess Augusta [one of 
George Hi's unmarried daughters] was particularly gracious. 
I felt rather nervous, never having been in the Pavilion since 
I was drove away by Lady Hertford. I cannot tell you my 
astonishment at the magnificence, & the total change since my 
first acquaintance in that house. They live a very quiet life. 
His family are the only inhabitants. I think I counted today 
eight Fitzclarences. George comes next week. You never saw 
people appear so happy as they all do.' 

1 She also showed him 'another interesting & most affecting paper". What was 
this? Why did King William weep? He had long known of her marriage. 

216 



In this strange household it took a person of Mrs. Fitzher- 
bert's calibre to comfort Queen Adelaide on failing to produce a 
legal heir while smoothing the disputes of ten royal bastards. 
Colonel George Fitzclarence became Earl of Munster on which 
The Times remarked 'that the relationship of this gentleman to the 
fountain of honour united to his high attainments, moral worth 
and professional reputation entitle him to a mark of paternal re- 
gard', but this one title seemed insufficient to the remainder of the 
brood who, merely given the rank of Marquis's children, began to 
sulk and bicker with each other. They wanted crosses and grand 
orders and all kinds of fancy decorations. 

On October ist Mrs. Fitzherbert wrote from Brighton: 

e l am going today to dine at the Pavilion, & tomorrow 
with Lady Aldborough who keeps open house & has very 
good parties, but is sadly mortified at having her Company 
often taken from her to dine with the Royalties, & never once 
being invited herself. I think it is very hard upon her, particu- 
larly as she has taken a house here & furnished it with her fine 
things from Paris, & means to make Brighton her home. I 
never saw this pkce so full in my life. You can scarcely get 
along the streets for the number of carriages, very smart, & 
the owners dressed out as if going to some entertainment, but 
not a face you ever saw before.' 

The year came to its end with Mrs. Fitzherbert reinstated as a 
member of the royal family, her servants wearing the royal livery 
of scarlet and blue. King William continually visited her both 
at Tilney Street and Brighton while Queen Adelaide sent little 
notes. 

Minney with her children reached Steyne House late on 
December 3ist and scribbled to her husband: 

e l write one little line to tell you that instead of the road 
being bad & requiring four horses we arrived here at seven 
after remaining an hour at dinner at Crawley. The Ducks are 
quite well & Maryanne & I have the house to ourselves very 
comfortably as Mama is dining at the Pavilion where she is 
particularly desired to remain to see the New Year in, so I 

217 



suppose she will wait to be kissed & I shall not see her to- 
night.' 

Mrs. Fitzherbert, a rheumaticky old lady, was again being 
kissed by a Sovereign. 

On February 8th, 1831, Mary Frampton wrote in her diary: 

"The magnificence of the parties given by the King & 
Queen at the Pavilion are spoken of as realising the ideas of 
entertainments described in the Arabian Nights. The King 
consults Mrs. Fitzherbert much as an old friend in matters 
relating to the fetes/ 

Mrs. Fitzherbert now talked openly of her marriage to George 
IV and the new Court accepted her as his widow. 

Minney's brother, Sir George Seymour, joined the party at 
Steyne House and kept a detailed diary. He and the Dawson- 
Damers were frequently dining at the Pavilion. So was the Duke 
of Wellington, and when the King complimented him in an after- 
dinner speech the Duke sat in respectful silence which Seymour 
thought showed his good taste. C A subject should receive a com- 
pliment from his Sovereign as a son from his father.' 

More endearing, we read that on January 26th 'Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert had a very nice children's Ball when little Blanche 
[Minney's three-year-old daughter] 1 made her debut'. 

George Seymour paid long visits to Steyne House; he spent 
the days riding on the Downs with the harriers and evenings 
playing whist with his dear old hostess. They talked over past and 
present, material assets which had once mattered seriously seemed 
less important now and there did not really seem much to worry 
about. Mrs. Fitzherbert had paid 13,000 for a London house 
which she gave to the Dawson-Damers and old Lady Caroline 
had died leaving them Came, a splendid Dorsetshire property. 

In May 1831 George Dawson-Damer departed for Tipperary 
to contest his seat while England quivered over Lord Grey's 
First Reform Bill. 

1 As Lady Blanche Haygarth, she died in 1916, the last person who remembered 
seeing Mrs. Fitzherbert. 

218 



Minney wrote humorously to her husband of Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert's partiality for him (May lyth, 1831). 

*I cannot help being amused at Mama's little vanity about 
it. She talks so big of your success & arranges the whole thing 
a sa maniere tort et a trovers. However her auditors do not know 
better. She is so gay . . . she is bent on going to the Opera to 
see Taglioni & has engaged a box with Lady Guildford. Last 
night I chaperoned Melle d'Este [the Duke of Sussex's 
daughter, sometimes called "Princess Emma"] at Devonshire 
House Concert which was much less good than Leopold's 
as Walesky [Napoleon's son by Marie Waleska] described: 
r impression vous restait d* avoir cause longtemps avec un ennzyeux. . . . 
I am told Prince Leopold is much annoyed at the King giving 
the new Earl [Munster] the Royal Livery.' 

There was much bad feeling over the d'Estes; legitimate but 
illegal children of Sussex, who received no titles while the King's 
outright bastards collected a variety. 

'May 23 1831 

Yesterday I dined in Tilney St. where I met the Jeming- 
hams, Smythes, Mrs. Bruce & Mr. Weld. His reforming ideas 
do not suit Mama, who though she had no opinion, is I see in 

her heart very anti-Reformist Poor d'Este is gone abroad 

very ill. I think he must feel pretty hurt that Lord Grey, the 
Duke of Sussex's friend, should not have done something for 
him., when he has been making Lords & Ladies of the Fitz- 
clarences.' 

'May 25 1831 

Minney [aged five] was at the Ball. I saw nothing of His 
Majesty but the Queen was very amiable & introduced me 
to her sister who recollected little Minney's animation and 
figure. ... At last I lost her & found that for want of a more 
commodious seat she had popped herself under the railings 
& seated herself on the Throne, where by-the-by she would 
look very well, for I think her much more distinguee looking 
than little Victoria. 

219 



Mama got quite tete montee about your getting in yesterday. 
. . . Only think of my dissipation last night at Devonshire 
House & there we stayed till three-thirty as the Duke would 
make me dance the Cotillon with him. . . . There was a variety 
of opinions about Fitzclarence's Peerage generally unfavour- 
able but however he is gazetted as Earl of Munster, Baron 
Tewkesbury, which latter title he chose from merely the cir- 
cumstance of our having suggested it/ 

'June 3 1831 

I have done nought except spending the evening in 
Tilney St, where Mama is looking as well as possible. ... I 
had a letter from Fitzclarence today from Windsor to give me 
an account of the party which he states is heavy: that Lady 
Grey looks bored, that the King was much better received 
yesterday and that when Lord Grey was cheered & recog- 
nised, he with great good taste withdrew from the popular 
demonstration & that the Jerseys dined there yesterday. What 
an awkward party though, the King is right if he wishes to 
make no distinctions. Lord Worcester described the King 
speechifying & drinking Lord Grey's health but that the King 
did not waken from table till near one o'clock.' 

Mrs. Fitzherbert worried about Munster. Although his letters 
to Minney had all been full of fun and humour, the old lady wrote : 
1 fear you will find him in a state of great excitement which I 
regret very much. I hope you may be able to quiet his mind for he 
makes himself quite ill with it & I fear & dread the consequences 
to him/ 

That summer she remained in London. Although Minney 
pronounced her un-Reformist, she watched with interest the 
efforts of Lord Grey to alter the whole political fabric of England. 

'August 21 1831 

The town is quiet but at the smallest signal from Lord Grey 
is ready to rise. We are in a sad state. God knows what is to 
happen. Munster tells me he writes to you every other day 
what passes. He is violently unhappy & really has a great 
reason to be so. His father is in great good spirits. He does 

220 



everything Lord Grey wishes & I am sorry to say is only 
occupied with dinners & balls. It is quite melancholy! Talley- 
rand & Montrond appear much more active than any of our 
people. Talleyrand is certainly the cleverest person in existence.' 

Minney toured Ireland with her husband during the remainder 
of the summer and so missed King William's Coronation. Staying 
with the Duke of Leinster at Carton, the largest house in Ireland, 
she wrote: 

'August 23 1831 

You will perceive from the date we are still here. It is so 

pleasant & their kindness is beyond anything Last Saturday 

they discovered to be our wedding-day so they prepared a little 
surprise in the shape of a fete champetre & to my not agreeable 
surprise the Duke & the boys fired a salute under our win- 
dows. . . . Only think of our being married six years. Time 
passes dreadfully quick. One always dreads the future not 
being as happy as die past & I want no change nor could it 
be for the better.' 

Mrs. Fitzherbert wrote thanking them for the grapes, melon 
and peaches which reached her from Came and fussed a little: 

'Have you read the account of another steam-vessel having 
been lost near Beaumaris: Promise me, my dearest Minney, 
that you will not return, either yourself, George or your 
children by any other than the regular way from Dublin to 
Holyhead. The number of people that have lost their lives is 
quite shocking to think of/ 

On September 8th the Coronation of William IV took place 
and next morning both Mrs. Fitzherbert and George Munster 
wrote to Minney. From Tilney Street came the usual personal 
gossip: 

'Munster came two days before the Coronation. He cer- 
tainly has the govt flying about him . . . nothing could persuade 
Her Ladyship to go there. . . . People are quite outrageous 

221 



with the Duchess of Kent for refusing to come to the Corona- 
tion. She has got some bad advisers about her & this refusal 
will do her much mischief with the public. ... I saw nothing 
for I had got cold at Chiswick, though we fortunately had a 

beautiful day I have had three dinner invitations from the 

Palace & have been obliged to send excuses. You will see an 
extraordinary list of Peers. I understand there are to be fifteen 
more made to get the majority in the House of Lords. Several 
have refused accepting this dignity & several that ought not 
from birth or situation are very anxious to be appointed. This 
is lowering the Peerage sadly.' 

William IV created peers galore to push through the Reform 
Bill but still omitted his nephew d'Este. 

George Fiteclarence, Earl of Munster, watched his father 
crowned and wrote Minney an amusing account: 

'September 9 1831 

Thank heaven the Coronation is over & for your consola- 
tion I can assure you it was an exact repetition of the last, only 
the music was feeble, if not bad, & the King's robes only cost 
(to George's cost) 1,400 instead of 20,000! I only arrived in 
town on Monday & found the Palace & its inmates in a 
glorious bustle. But for the rain, a most ridiculous rehearsal 
had been ordered for Wednesday. The wall separating the 
Kings Mews from Buckingham House garden was pulled 
down, & the King was to stand in the garden, & see all the 
coaches & horses & footmen in their state-liveries go through 
this absurd & childish rehearsal! Fortunately it rained; or so 
they tell me, if the State Coach which weighs seven ton, had 
once got on the wet turf or gravel, it would have so sunk that 
no power under an eighty-horse steamer could have drawn it 
back into the stable. The King, however, went over the Abbey 
to see the locale, and in so doing caught a cold which showed 
itself in a swelled face. As it was his left cheek, no doubt it was 
intended providentially in order to offer a larger surface to his 
liege lords when they did homage. 

All London was on the move at six o'clock & the arrange- 
ments for arriving at the Abbey excellent, & no trouble or 

222 



difficulty arose throughout the day. Lady Minister was ill & 
could not go, hoping to save herself to dine with the King who 
had a party of 100 covers. I did not leave my house till half- 
past nine, trusting to my crimson & gold liveries, which 
looked magnificent, to make all barriers fly open before 
me. 

The arrangements of the Interior were the same as the last* 
only there was a second chair for the Queen, on a stage a step 
lower than the King's. About 150 Peers & 70 or 80 Peeresses 
were present & the seats of the latter looked very well, like a 
parterre of tulips only the Duchess of St. Albans in the front 
looked like a full blown peony; the young Duchess of Rich- 
mond was next to her, making the contrast still more remark- 
able. Lady Clanricarde in front looked well & was seated next 
to Lady Salisbury. All the Peeresses, who had received their 
Coronets to make honest women of them, were present and it 
was amusing to see the virtuous women indignant at their 
neighbourhood. Lady Rosebery was, I hear, seated between 
two whose past life might be, not questioned, but with truth 
commented on. Lady Waldegrave, your fair cousin was 
present. 

When the Peers did homage the Duke of Wellington was 
loudly & spontaneously cheered, which was all very well, as 
the great Captain of the Age, though contrary to etiquette. 
But the silly Whigs made it political by cheering Lord Grey 
and then some fools cheered Brougham & it became ridiculous 
from the attorney's clerks & sheriffs* officers who had got 
smuggled into the galleries applauding the Law Lords! 

I had not embraced (I find that is the correct expression) 
the King since my birthday, when ten years old, on which 
occasion he told me that I was no longer a boy, & that he did 
not like kissing (I beg pardon) men. He told me he was not at 
all tired. The sermon of the Bishop of London was good & 
impressive and had the advantage of only lasting seventeen or 
eighteen minutes, whereas if you recollect, on the former 
occasion it detained us near an hour. 

The scramble for medals was highly indecorous, very like 
schoolboys quarrelling at chuck-farthing & fighting for half- 
pence. Portarlington was on the bench before me. I had my 

223 



cocked hat in the King's dressing-room & giving my Coronet 
& Robes to one of his pages, I jumped on my horse and saw 
the whole Procession on its return. It was a fine sight, but one 
coach-and-six is so like another coach-and-six that it is after 
all but a tame affair. Tens of thousands of loyal alias Reform- 
ing spectators all very vehement of course. Frederick [his 
brother] who, I think foolishly had the head of the Procession 
arranged it well but in his anxiety to be as fine as possible was 
nearly killed. He had put a Persian bridle on his horse, so 
heavy with silver that it absolutely dropped off, and he went 
along Pall Mall & Charing Cross like Johnny Gilpin, till for- 
tunately stopped without accident. 

What do you think of his sending Enroll [Lord Erroll had 
married His Majesty's third daughter] the night before to the 
King, passing over all his brothers and without saying a word 
to any of us ... and asking for the Grand Cross of the Guelph 
and which the King gave him! and this after I had spontane- 
ously gone to Taylor [Private Secretary] & saying that to pre- 
vent difficulties & in order Justice might be done my Brothers 
they ought only to accept the Grand Cross! Adolphus is very 
angry. I shall have nothing but the Bath [second most noble 
British order]. We had a dinner of 100 at the Palace which 
went off well only the King made some unwise speeches/ 

Minney received this & numerous other accounts of Williams's 
coronation as she journeyed with her husband through Cork 
and Kerry where they visited the great houses and enjoyed the 
fair autumn weather. C I wish you were not so afraid of the sea 
for I am sure you would be delighted with Killarney & altogether 
amused by Ireland which seems to me now the quiet part of the 
world/ 

All the letters of this year are crammed with political gossip. 
Minney is most indignant that Lady Shrewsbury c who means to 
cut a great figure* has spread the untrue rumour that Maryanne's 
Jerningham diamonds are borrowed plumes lent by Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert for Court occasions. c ls not this truly Cattish?' 

Minney kept the entertaining letters she received weekly from 
Lord Clanricarde and his wife Harriet describing the Reform Bill 
dramas: 

224 



'October 10 1831 

Harriet being too indolent or tired to write herself has 
desired me to tell some of the details of the late debate & of the 
reports that are rife through the Town. Harriet may be ex- 
cused when you hear that she began at \ to 3 or 4 every day & 
sat or stood through the whole of the five nights debate ex- 
cepting the last two hours of Saturday's morning when she 
missed the most eloquent (save one) speech that I ever heard, 
I mean Lord Grey's. There was a delightful re-union below 
our Bar, from 70 to 90 ladies each night. These were attended 
by amorous M.P.s and Heirs apparent and were as thick as a 
Birthday Squeeze. . . .' 

'Oct ii 

Edward Lord Rokeby is in fine spirits . . . behind the 
Woolsack he greatly admired the quantity of Port wine (3 
bottles) that Brougham drank in the course of his great 
speech/ 

Lady Clanricarde continued the saga of *ks grandes crises' with 
descriptions of the speeches: 

'Peel's I am told was also excellent but I cannot make a 
comparison between them for there was something in the 
kindling enthusiasm of Stanley's manner quite beyond des- 
cription & which I think proceed from a more generous heart 
& less cool head than I have ever suspected Peel of possessing. 
. . . We dined yesterday at Holland House. What odd questions 
Lady Holland asks. She asked me yesterday before John 
Ponsonby "whether I had anything on when I went into the 
Shower Baths?" From an indefinable sense of decency I told 
a lie and said: oh, yes a great deaL I am gkd Mrs. Fitzherbert 
liked the Bravura,' 

Actually Mrs. Fitzherbert was growing tired of the new in- 
dustrial slum problems. 

C I wish that odious Reform Bill was over one way or an- 
other. Everybody is worn out with it and it makes Society 

225 



dreadfully dull. The Town is still very full but no parties, 
dinners or anything going on. After three excuses to the 
Palace for not being well, I felt bound not to send a fourth & 
I dined there on Sunday & really had a very pleasant party. 
The King is in high form & all the rest in high good humour. 
Many enquiries after Minney for none of them call you by any 
other name. I wish I could send you a comfortable account of 
Munster, who I am sorry to say is huffed with everybody & is 
exactly in the same state he was in last winter. He tells me his 
father takes no notice of him. The Queen is jealous . . . etc. 
Frederick [the King's second son] has hope for the Guelph 
Order after having, as you know, refused it with great imper- 
tinence and contempt. This is another grievance. I feel very 
angry with Munster at the same time I pity him, for he makes 
himself quite miserable. The King desires him to go to the 
Palace whenever he likes, & he did so for some time. Now he 
says he will not go without an invitation. TELntre nous I think he 
is a little wrong in the upper storey.' 

'October 21 1831 

The King is so entirely at Lord Grey's orders that he has 
no will of his own. ... I met the whole family at the Palace the 
other day. They . . . made many enquiries about you. I was 
rather disappointed with the Grand Duchess [Helena of 
Russia], I had heard so much of her beauty. She is certainly 
pretty & pleasing, & covered with the finest diamonds I ever 
saw, far superior to our Queen's. 

Much as I like Brighton, I feel uncomfortable with respect 
to the Royalties. That happy family last year at the Pavilion is 
very different now to what it was then. ... I am engaged to 
dine there every Sunday during their stay at Brighton which 
they told me was not to prevent my dining there the other 
days of the week. They are all very kind & I feel grateful but 
you know what it generally is.* 

Yes, Minney knew as well as Maria Fitzherbert that life in 
Hanoverian royal circles tended to become rather a bore. 



226 



Twenty-nine 



THE last six years of Mrs. Fitzherbert's life flow evenly. 
There is no twilight. To the end she remains a busy old lady 
giving parties and arranging visits for the Darners, Jerning- 
hams, Seymours and Smythes. William IV and his Queen Adelaide 
continued to inundate her with invitations, but the squabbles of 
His Majesty's sons and sons-in-law put the whole royal family *in 
a sad state of confusion' so that she frequently made excuses and 
then felt guilty. Mrs. Fitzherbert was not one to show ingratitude, 
especially at a time when the monarchy had become so unpopular 
and poor King William had to face the Reform Bill. 

The country's disturbed state is echoed in Mrs. Fitzherbert's 
letters which record amazement at the Riots, and complain of 
endless Reform discussions which spoil general 'conversation. She 
had been brought up in the distant eighteenth century to ignore 
the barbarous lower classes, and though her own servants adored 
(and indeed bullied) her, the idea of granting power to the un- 
educated shocked her. Yet she must hav felt admiration as well 
as agitation after the fall of Wellington when Lord Grey, Fox's 
true successor, formed a Whig Ministry and for fifteen months 
stood up to the hysterical masses, the furious Tories and outraged 
Lords. Would that Georgina Devonshire might have risen from 
the shades to watch her erstwhile lover, now a fearless old man, 
forcing through the Bill which was to alter England! Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert never moved out of her own eighteenth century and when 
the people grew unruly she thought the end of the world had 
come. Indeed, the gentle, brocade-clad old lady proclaimed her- 
self hard hit when Brighton forbade fireworks! 'The horrid 
Radicals in Brighton would not allow fireworks or illuminations 

227 



for the King's arrival which has always been done. I am grieved 
beyond words at the place. Being one of the oldest inhabitants, I 
cannot bear to see it in the state it is in now.* 

King William, portly yet lacking in majesty, certainly had to 
undergo a trying time. Even his relations grew disrespectful. 
When he was finally cornered and forced to sign the Bill his vapid 
cousin the Duke of Gloucester, Minney's half-uncle, transferred 
his own nickname impertinently asking, c Who is Silly Billy now?* 

Minney, who had always enjoyed the company of George IV, 
wrote uncharitably to her husband after the heated election of 
1832: 

'I dined at the Pavilion on Friday. The King (Old Goose 
in high spirits) did not know who stood for Sussex. . . . 

I was cruelly disappointed at finding you did not arrive 
till New Year's Day & I thought Mama so unkind to be hurt 
by your delay that I have represented you gouty, so remember 
& keep up to my assertions. Poor dear Mama is terribly 
languid . . . the King coming made her feel we would have so 
little time to ourselves, mats ifimporte ... I talked of your gout 
till I expect to see you lame!* 

When cholera flickered through England, Mrs. Fitzherbert 
moved to Brighton but bade Minney have no fear. The Austrian 
and Russian ambassadors had both assured her 'this disease con- 
fines itself to the lower & dirty poor class of people'. 

On November 2 1 st, 1 8 3 1 , Mrs. Fitzherbert casually mentioned 
that she had heard of the death of Mrs. Jack Smythe widow 
of Maryanne's presumed father. Now, however, the Hon. Mrs. 
Jemingham seemed to have forgotten she had been launched in 
society as Jack's daughter and she did not turn aside from a 
hunting trip to attend the funeral. This absolute disregard of her 
technical mother's death coupled with Mrs. Fitzherbert's refer- 
ence to Jemingham as a son-in-law Minney's husband never re- 
ceived this appellation are the only real pointers to any likeli- 
hood that Maryanne might be her own daughter. 

The fascinating Journals of the Smythe girls recently dis- 
covered and published by a great-great-grandson reveal mingled 
fondness and irritation for the old aunt in whose house they spent 

228 



each winter. Louisa Smythe finally accepted a rich suitor, Sir 
Frederick Hervey-Bathurst, and Aunt Fitz, who had been against 
the match, reversed her opinion. 

Numerous family arrangements were being made by the old 
lady of Tilney Street to the very end. A Smythe nephew wanted 
to become a midshipman; she pointed out the 'disagreeable side* 
but asked George Seymour to place him. Colonel Dawson- 
Damer contemplated giving up his seat in Parliament to become 
an equerry she let the King know; Maryanne's third baby 
seemed to be dying she wrote: If it please God to take the dear 
Baby to himself, you, my dearest must exert all your fortitude & 
submit to his Will/ 

The younger generation turned to her in trouble and her 
thoughts were so occupied by them that often she forgot her own 
past. It was better so. On March 3rd, 1833, she wrote from 
Brighton: 

'Many thanks, dear Minney, for your letter this morning. 
The account you give of your conversations with the Duke of 
Wellington makes me rather nervous. I am not very well, & 
anything upon the subject always annoys me very much 

The exchange of letters is not yet done but I am permitted 
everything to be settled by Thursday. On Friday I am to see 
the King, & then I hope I shall be at liberty to depart. The 
Duke of Wellington & Lord Albemarle are to come to me at 
twelve o'clock tomorrow morning. I am frightened to death 
for fear of setting my house on fire, I shall be heartily glad 
when this business is finished.' 

And next day when free to journey to Aix-la-Chapelle to sip 
the waters she wrote: 'Thank God my mind is relieved by having 
all the papers except some particular ones committed to the 
flames.* 

From this moment on Mrs. Fitzherbert dismissed the past and 
her letters are studded with the dramas of 'dear Baby's ninth 
tooth*. Minney and Maryanne both proved prolific and baby after 
baby produces tooth after tooth. 

In May 1833, while the parents travelled, the old lady took 
Minney 's year-old son to stay at Petworth where Lord Egremont's 

229 



illegitimate daughter, now Countess of Munster, 'odious as 
usual', plagued her unhappy husband. Mrs. Fitzherbert informed 
the Dawson-Damers: 

f l arrived in town last night from Petworth & your dear 
child is quite well. There never was anything behaved so well. 
He was the admiration of the whole House. I never saw so 
intelligent a little animal as it is. He walked about the whole 
House & took such notice of all the fine pictures & statues 
that you would have been astonished, had you seen him, Lord 
Egremont took him several times into his own room & swears 
he must be two or three years old as he never saw anything 
like him.* 

If Mrs. Fitzherbert's maternal instincts had been thwarted in 
the past now she made up for it, playing the role of doting 
Granny to whole packs of little Dawsons and Jerninghams. To 
Maryanne she wrote in this her seventy-seventh summer: 'How 
dull & stupid the house is without you all, particularly little 
Augustus, who kept us all alive & though I scolded him for the 
noise of his drums, yet I would give anything to hear them 
again/ 

Minney scorned Baden: 

c The French Society here is good but the English what 
one meets with at Cheltenham, of which the whole place puts 
me in mind. I am afraid you will find Minney looking very 
ugly. She has lost her front teeth but Blanche is looking in 
beauty & very angry she cannot speak German/ 

Mrs. Fitzherbert cheers Maryanne with the news that the 
Brisbanes could 

*talk of nothing but their admiration of your little Augus- 
tus & laughed heartily at his telling them I had a Koman 
Catholic nose. . . . My house has been quite like a Fair. So many 
people called yesterday & today that I was quite worn out. 
We went to a party at the Pavilion last night, two hundred & 

230 



fifty people The King as usual singled me out & stuck by 

me all night. The poor Queen so ill with a cold she could 
hardly speak. . . .* 

That winter she crossed to France and took once again her 
apartment in the Hotel Bristol. Paris appeared gayer than Brighton 
these days but even there an unusually dull pair occupied the 
throne. As soon as Mrs. Fitzherbert arrived Louis Philippe and 
Queen Amelie desired her to go to them: 

"Nothing could exceed the kindness of their reception of 
me: they are both old acquaintances of mine. I have declined 
all their fetes, and they have given me a general invitation to 
go there every evening whenever I like it, in a quiet family 
way, which suits me very much. I really think I never saw a 
more amiable family; so happy & united. The King seems 
worn to death with business all day & all night, but he 
assured me that things were going on much better, though 
there were a great many people trying to make mischief. 
I told him I was afraid he had sent many of them to make 
disturbances in our country. He is very much attached to 
England & hopes we shall always be friends/ 

Minney spent most of the winter with dear Mama and parts of 
her letters to George describe the balls and operas they attend to- 
gether. Dinner at the Tuileries is always Very dull*. Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert suffered from gout but she could still entertain a younger 
generation. Minney wrote: 

'December 17 1833 

There never was such a constitution! I sat with her in the 
dark bedroom, for she had not got out of her bed for 48 hours. 
She was very amusing about her younger days & told me it 
was the 48th anniversary of her marriage with the King, 
December 15, 1785. She says she is not at home & will not 
allow she is ill to those who call. . . . There is a ridiculous re- 
port that has reached Mama's ears of the King's intention to 
prove to the world his respect & feelings towards Mama, that 
as she never would accept a Title, to make me for her sake a 

231 



Baroness in her own right to descend to my son, & this be- 
cause Mama had no male relation & that I was in consequence 
nearest to her as the adopted child of the late King > & her- 
self. . . / 

Mrs. Fitzherbert need not have worried about titles for her 
favourites. By chance Minney's son was to become 4th Earl of 
Portarlington, George Seymour's son 5th Marquess of Hertford 
and Maryanne's sons would be the loth and nth Lord Staffords. 

In the late summer of 1-834 she decided to return to England 
permanently and wrote Minney: 1 should have much pleasure in 
joining you anywhere you & George might propose but alas! mes 
beaux jours sont posset, & I must make up my mind to my armchair 
& my fireside. I am not fit for anything else!' 

From then on Mrs. Fitzherbert contented herself with travel- 
ling around England staying with favourite relations. 

On October i2th, 1835, Mrs. Fitzherbert wrote to Minney 
from Hooton, the country home of her niece Lady Stanley: 

'Sir Thomas Stanley braves all wind & weather, which he 
never allows to stop him from hunting & shooting every 
day. ... I had set my mind upon going to see the famous rail- 
road at Liverpool, which is only about seven miles from this 
place, for although we planned going every day we have never 
on account of the weather been able to succeed in our wishes.' 

Maria Fitzherbert never rode in a train but she actually saw a 
track! One of her last surviving letters written about seven months 
before she died, to Maryanne, shows what an eager mind she re- 
tained: 

1 never was at Baden but at all the other places you 
mention. I know well & should like to go over them again. 
You will be delighted with Switzerland. I have been there four 
times & know every inch of the country. Zurich is charming. 
... I am sure you will be glad to hear dear Minney is quite 
recovered her confinement. I sincerely hope it will be the last. 
Four girls & one little boy is quite sufficient.' 1 

1 It was the last and this baby Constance survived until 1925 when she gave the 
author a faint impression of that distant lovely kdy called Mrs. Fitzherbert. 

232 



Meanwhile George Seymour relayed disapproval of the young 
Princess Victoria. His doctor 'has no opinion of the Duchess of 
Kent's abilities or of her daughter's ... the latter never sees those 
of her own associates & is educated as if her capacity was as re- 
markable as her own station*. And Munster's behaviour grew 
more worrying: 'His manner contradicted his intention of behav- 
ing better to the King.* Yet he was kind when Mrs. Fitzherbert 
wanted help for an illegitimate relative. She wrote on October 
2nd, 1836: 

*I am sure you will be glad to hear I have at last persuaded 
Henry Smythe to accept a most excellent situation with a 
Salary of 200 per arm. He seems delighted with it, as the fair 
Lady he wanted to marry has consistently refused his offers. 
He has been nearly four years trying what bis beautiful appear- 
ance would do & has unfortunately found no one so in love 
with him as he is with himself. I hope however he will do well. 
It is a situation many have been anxious to obtain. Lord 
Munster has been kind enough to get it to me.' 

Princess Augusta, George Hi's second daughter and now a 
spinster in her sixties, remained one of Mrs. Fitzherbert's most 
affectionate old acquaintances. When in London the Princess fre- 
quently asked her sister-in-law to dine 'in my comfortable pretty 
little Den', in St. James's Palace. They had shared four decades of 
royal rows. Now their gossip sometimes pertained to the turmoils 
of industrial England, but more often they enjoyed the scandals 
and witticisms of the live world rekyed by Minney and George. 
Mrs. Fitzherbert's feelings towards her old enemy Fox had 
mellowed. She could laugh when the Darners recounted a conversa- 
tion between Talleyrand and Lord Brougham. Talleyrand thought 
that among other activities Fox had enjoyed a love affair with the 
great actress Mrs. Siddons. Brougham shook his head: 'That 
would resemble a love affair with the Ocean.' 

Mrs. Fitzherbert spent the winter of 1836 at Steyne House. 
Along the roads where she had once nimbly handled a single fast 
horse now a large barouche drew her out for air, and Brightonians 
proudly saluted her footmen in royal livery. As always she visited 
the Church of St. John the Baptist once a week for confession. At 



her hour the church was closed to all except a young charwoman 
whom the priest instructed to drop a deep curtsy to the mysteri- 
ous veiled lady 'for maybe it was the Queen of England & maybe 
not 9 . 1 

Mrs. Fitzherbert knew the time had come to settle mundane 
affairs. She sent George an inventory of her plate which he was to 
distribute after selecting the pieces he and Minney desired. She 
made a sensible detailed Will providing for her servants. To 
Minney and Maryanne went all her jewellery. In Minney's hands 
she placed a miniature of the Duke of Kent, given her by old 
Queen Charlotte, and a bundle of Kent's letters. These she re- 
quested Minney to give to his daughter Victoria. (The old lady 
never realized how strongly the young Princess hated the Fitz- 
herbert story with its rumours of children born in wedlock.) 

Mrs. Fitzherbert spent her last Christmas at Brighton. In 
March 1837 she arranged to visit the Dawson-Damers in Dorset 
and they were planning a gay Easter at Came when news arrived 
that the woman who had been the mainspring of their lives for so 
many years had collapsed. Minney and George drove hurriedly 
across England and Maryanne set out from Norfolk. Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert died on Easter Monday fortified by the last rites of her 
Church. Though she had often suggested that eighty-one years is 
too long on earth those she left wept bitterly as if a young person 
had departed from their midst. Minney's heartbroken letters re- 
iterate the beauty of her face in death. 

Maria Fitzherbert, who never broke her word, lies buried in 
her Catholic church in Brighton with three wedding rings carved 
on the stone finger of her effigy. 



The charwoman survived until 1900 when she related this to the parish priest. 



Envoi 

None of the younger people whom Mrs. Fitzherbert loved so 
dearly lived into old age. George Dawson-Damer died in 1856 
before inheriting his brother's earldom. Minney died even earlier, 
in 1 847, at the age of forty-nine. Yet this gave her time to impress 
on her twelve-year-old daughter Constance how charming a per- 
son Mrs. Fitzherbert must have been. And in her turn Constance, 
who lived to be nearly ninety, could transmit something of that 
far-off human story to her great-grandchildren. Maryanne died in 
1848. 

George Fitzclarence, Earl of Munster, shot himself in March 
1842. He worshipped Minney to the end, and before committing 
suicide he ordered a clock specially made for her in Paris. Her 
name and her birth-date are engraved on the face to represent 
the hours, around the clock itself coils the serpent of eternity, 
while rosemary for remembrance surmounted by enamel forget- 
me-nots states firmly what he never dared to say right out. 

This clock, his last gift, he arranged should be delivered to her 
on her birthday, November 23rd, eight months after his death. 

It looks down on me as I write these last pages, so perfectly 
fashioned, so wistfully devised a reminder of almost forgotten 
loves and griefs. 




Bibliography 



1806 The Patriots Review of Mr. Jeffrey's Pamphlet reflecting 

the conduct of the Prince of Wales. 
1831 Memoirs of George the Fourth. Robert Huish. 
1856 Memoirs of Mrs. Fityherbert with an account of her marriage 

with H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, by the Hon. Charles 

Langdale. 
1903 The Creevey Papers (1768-1838), edited by Sir Herbert 

Maxwell, Bt. (John Murray). 
1905 Mrs. Fityberbert and George IV. W. H. Wilkins (Longmans 

Green). 

1930 Queen Caroline. Sir Edward Parry (Ernest Benn). 
1933 Royal Dukes. Roger Fulford (Duckworth). 
193 j Brighton. Sir Osbert Sitwell and Margaret Barton (Faber & 

Faber), 

1939 Mrs. Fityherbert, A Life chiefly from unpublished sources. 

Shane Leslie (Burns, Gates & Washbourne). 

1940 Letters of Mrs. Fifyherbert, edited by Shane Leslie (Bums, 

Gates & Washbourne). 
1955 Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire. Earl of Bessborough (John 

Murray). 

1958 The Prettiest Girl in England. The Love Story of Mrs. 
Fitsherbert's niece, from journals edited by Richard 
Buckle (John Murray). 
Brighton Gazette. 
Sussex Advertiser. 
Morning Post. 



236 



Index 



ADELAIDE, Queen (of Saxe Meiningen), 
168, 216, 217, 218, 219, 223, 226, 227, 

2 3* 
Albemarle, Lord, 13, 1 8, 145, 229 

Aldborough, Lady, 217 
Alvanley, Lord, 177, 185 
Amelia of Baden, Princess, 166 
Amelie, Queen, 231 
Anglesey, Lady, 204 
Arbuthnot, Mrs., 210 
Armistead, Mrs., 31, 38 
Ashton, Mrs., 100 
Astley, Sir Edward, 70 
Augusta, Princess, 109, 216, 233 
Austen, Jane, 175 

BARNARD, Lady Anne, 37 
Barrymore, Lord, 61, 79, 84, 127 
Beauchamp, Viscount (4th Marquis of 

Hertford), 169, 186, 204 
Belfast, Lord ^rd Marquis of Donegal), 

181 

Belgrave, Lord, 82 
Berkeley, Lady, 125 
Berry, Miss, 119 
Bessborough, Lady, 26, 119-20 
Bloomfield, 126 
Bodenham,7i 
Bouverie, Edward, 35 
Brougham, Lord, 223, 225, 233 
Bruce, Mr., 169 
Brummel, Beau, 65 
Brunswick, Duke of, 96, 101, 123 
Buckle, Richard, 202 fa. 
Burke, Edmund, 60, 78, 79, 81, 83, 171 
Burney,Dr., 117 
Burt, Rev., 50, 56 
Bury, Lady Charlotte, 58-9, 104 
Busche, Mme, 99 
Bute, Lord, 80 
Butler, Hon. Mrs., 71, 116 
Butler, Lady Eleanor, 82, 83-4 



CALVERT, Hon. Mrs., 120, 133-4, 143-4 
Cambridge, Adolphus, Duke of, 65, 

143, 166, 167, 224 
Canterbury, Archbishop of, 72, 103, 

104 

Carlisle, Lord, 144 
Castlereagh, Lord, 202 
Charlotte, Queen, 28, 29, 32, 43, 62-3, 

78, 79, 80, 82, 89, 90, 98, 101, 104, 109, 

113, 133, 144, 167, 168, 173, 234 
Charlotte, Princess, 15, 106-7, 109, xu, 

115, 117, 129, 131, 132, 133, 154, 158, 

163, 165-6, 183 
Cholmondeley, Lady, 164, 193 
Clanricarde, Lord, 224, 225 
Clanricarde, Lady Harriet, 223, 224, 

225 

Clare, Lord, 194 
Clare, Lady, 125 
Clarence, Duke of (William IV), 65, 75, 

89, 91, 101, 103, 105, 128, 143, 148, 

149-50, 151, 158-9, 160, 162, 166, 

167-8, 170, 198, 213, 214, 215, 216, 

217, 2l8, 220, 221, 222-4, *^> 7> 

228, 229, 231, 233 

Clarke, Mary Anne, 65, 151-2 

dennont, Earl of, 86 

Qermont, Lady, 86 

Conyngham, Marchioness of, 179, 180, 

198, 203, 210, 213 
Corry, Isaac, 76 
Cosway, 17, 214 
Coutts, Mr., 129 
Creevey, Thomas, 18, 125, 127, 128, 

154, 172, 215 
Creevey, Mrs., 19, 125, 126, 128-9, 134, 

J 35 

Crewc, Mrs., 32 
Croker, John, 171-2 
Crouch, Mrs., 76-7 
Cumberland, Duke of (bro. of George 



Cumberland, Anne, Duchess of, 48, 55, 

Cumberland, Ernest, Duke of (son of 

George III), 65, 88, 112 
Cunningham, General, 75 

DAMER, Lady Caroline, 177-9, l8 3> 196, 

203, 204, 218 
Darnley, Lord, 97 

Dawson, Lady Louisa, 179, 192 
Dawson-Damer, Lt.-Col. the Hon. 
George, 21, 76 fn., 175-86, 187, 
189-92, 193, 195-7, 198, 200, 203, 

204, 207, 210, 211, 2l6, 217, 2l8, 219, 
221, 224, 228, 229, 231, 232, 233, 234, 
235 

Dawson-Damer, Georgina, 197 

De Castris, Duchesse, 179 

De Lamballe, Princess, 61 

De Noailles, Duchesse, 86 

De Polignac, Prince Jules, 188, 189 

D'Este, Sir Augustus, 148-9, 222 

Devonshire, Duke of, 182, 193-4, 211, 
220 

Devonshire, Georgina, Duchess of, 18, 
26, 28, 32-3, 35-6, 39-40, 49, 55, 58, 
61, 79, 117, 123, 129-30, 227 

Dillon, Catherine, 85 

Dorchester, Lord, 177 

Downshire, Lady, 125, 126, 188 

Dundas, Henry, 82, 96 

Dunmpre, Earl of, 148 

EGREMONT, 3rd Earl of, 170-1, 229, 230 
Egremont, Countess of, 171 
Elliott, Sir Gilbert, 57, 73, 74 
Emma, 'Princess', 148-9, 219 
Errington, Henry, 22, 46-7, 55, 56, 72, 

96, 112, 113, 114, 124, 201, 202 
Enroll, Lord, 224 
Erskine, Ladv Harriet, 203, 204 
Euston, Lord, 132, 134 
Euston, Lady, 115, 118, 134, 135, 136, 

138, 139, 145-6 

FITZCLARENCE, George (Earl of Mun- 
ster), 15, 149-50, 151, 152, 159, 161-2, 
168, 170, 171, 194, 216-17, 220, 221, 

222, 226, 230, 233, 23} 

Fitzherbert, Thomas, 24-5, 26 

Forester, Lady, 87-8 

Forster, Mr., 192 

Fortescue, Earl, 197 fn. 

Fox, Charles James, 26, 31, 32, 38, 40, 
45, 50-5, 66, 67, 68, 69-72, 73, 74, 
76-7, 79, 81-2, 129, 156, 171, 183, 
227, 233 

Frampton, Mary, 23, 63, 218 



French, Mrs., 163 
Fulford, Roger, 210 

GAINSBOROUGH, 22 

George, II, King, 90 

George III, King, 24, 28, 29, 30-3, 36, 
38-9 42, 43 44-6, 49, 52, 53, 60, 62, 
64* 65, 66, 74, 79, 80-1, 83, 89, 90, 
94-5, 96, 98, 101, 103, 104, 106, 109, 
120, 123, 132, 133, 144, 148, 149, 150, 
152, 173, 188, 210 

Gideon, Sir Sampson, 75 

Gillray, 60, 79 

Glengall, Lord, 169, 181, 195 

Glengall, Lady, 181, 183, 195, 196 

Glengall, Harriet, 181 

Gloucester, William, Duke of, 31, 41-2, 
58>59,75>79,i37 

Gloucester, Duchess of, 41-2, 64, 75, 
97, 118 

Gloucester, 2nd Duke of, 228 

Gordon, Duchess of, 74 

Gordon, Lord George, 79 

Granville, Lord, 93 

Granville, Lady, 204 

Grenville, Lord, 130 

Grey, Lord Charles, 71, 82, 129, 153, 
218, 219, 220, 221, 223, 225, 226, 227 

Grey, Lady, 220 

Gronar, Colonel, 176 fn. 

Gtosvenor, Lord, 193 

Guildford, Lady, 219 

Gurwood, John, 164-5, 185, 188 

Gwydir, Lady, 188 

HAGGERSTON, Lady, 124-5, 142 
Halford, Sir Henry, 196, 200, 203, 213, 

214 

Hamilton, Lady, 135 
Harding, Captain, 162 
Harrington, Lady, 87 
Harris, James (Earl of Malmesbury), 

43-6, 95-6, 99, 100-1, 103, 106, 113 
Hastings, Warren, 78, 127 
Haygarth, Lady Blanche, 218 fn. 
Headfort, Lord, 142 
Hertford, 2nd Marquis of, 64, 132, 137, 

138, 139, 140, 143 

Hertford, Lady, 137, 138, 140, 141, 143, 
144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 153, 154, 155, 

156, 164, 173, 179, 210, 2l6 

Hertford, 3rd Marquis of, 143, 186 
Hervey-Bathurst, Sir Frederick, 209, 229 
Hill, Lord Arthur, 169, 188 
Holland, Lord, 37, 38 
Holland, Lady, 225 
Howe, Lord, 90, 97 
Huish, 29-30 



Hunter (courtier), 47 
Kurd, Archbishop, 30 

JEPHSON (servant), 117 
Jerningham, Edward, 206, 207, 228 

Jerningham, Lady, 59, 116, 117, 141 
ersey, Lady, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 
100, 101, 105, 106, no, 113, 116, 117, 

122 

Jervis, Admiral Sir John (Earl of St. 

Vincent), 122 
Jervis, Miss, 24 
Johnstone, Miss, 126, 127 
Jordan, Mrs., 65, 148, 149, 150, 151, 

158-60, 162, 167 

KEATE, 35 

Kenmare, Lady, 116 

Kent, Edward, Duke of, 65, 138, 143, 

148, 152, 155, 166-7, i 6 , 173, 234 
Keppel, Sir Derek, 185 
Keppel, Mrs., 97 
Knight, Rev. Johnes, 49-50 

LADE, Sir John, 61, 127 

Langdale, Hon. Charles, 13, 15 

Lawrence, 15 

Leach, Sir John, 173 

Lennox, Colonel, 83 

Leopold, Prince, 219 

Leslie, Lady Constance, 14-15, 16-17, 

18, 19, 145 fn., 216, 232, 235 
Leveson-Gower, Lord Francis, 169 
Londonderry, Lord, 181, 183 
Louis XV, King, 23 
Louis, XVI, King, 84 
Louis XVIII, King, 155, 156, 157, 162 
Louis Philippe, 204, 231 
Louise of Mecklenburg, 95 
Luke, Lord, 50 

MACAULAY, 78-9 

MacMahon, Colonel, 160 

Mahon, 126 

Marie- Antoinette, Queen, 61, 79, 84 

Mary, Princess, 109 

Melbourne, Lady, 37 

Montrond, 221 

Moore, Sir John, 123, 151 

Moore, Tom, 163-4, 178 

Morier, Mr., 181, 192 

Mornington, Earl of, 62, 94-5 

Murray, Lady Augusta, 65, 148-9 

NAPOLEON, 122, 123, 131, 155, 162, 163, 

175, 188 
Nash, 172 
Nassau, Mr., 114 



Nelson, Captain Horatio (Admiral Lord;, 

24, 122, 132, 134-5 
Newham, Alderman, 68-9 
Norfolk, Duke of, 127-8, 137 

ONSLOW, Lord, 35 
Orange, Princess of, 39, 41 
Ord, James, 207 
Orleans, Duke of, 38 
Orloff, Count, 188 

PAGET, Lord, 150 

Payne, Admiral Jack, 81, 93-5, 97, 112, 

113, 117, 132 
Payne, Sir Ralph, 50 
Peel, Sir Robert, 225 
Pelham, Colonel, 76 
Perceval, 153 

Pigot, Miss Isabella, 86-8, 91, 109 
Pitt (the Younger), William, 43, 45, 50, 

66 -?o, 7*. 79> 82, 83, 122, 130, 183 
Ponsonby, 225 
Pope, 90 

Porden, William, 142-3, 148 
Portarlington, Lord, 175 fn., 183, 185, 

223 

Portarlington, Lord, 4th Earl of, 15, 18 
Portland, Duke of, 45, 67, 83 
Puckler-Muskau, Prince, 201 
Pulteney, 73 

QUINTIN, Colonel, 150, 151 

REYNOLDS, Sir Joshua, 64, 78 

Richmond, Duchess of, 223 

Rigby (Master of the Rolls), 32 

Robinson, Mrs., 21, 30, 31 

Rockingham, 81 

Rokeby, Lord Edward, 225 

Rolle, 67, 69-70, 82 

Romilly, Sir Samuel, 137-8, 183 

Rosebery, Lady, 223 

Russia, Empress of, 79 

Russia, Grand Duchess Helena of, 226 

Rutland, Duke of, 62, 76 

Rutland, Duchess of, 76 

ST. ALBANS, Duchess of, 223 

St. Asaph, Bishop of, 139 

St. Laurent, Mme, 65, 148, 149, 166, 

167, 168 

St. Vincent, Admiral Lord, 24, 152 
Salisbury, Lady, 223 
Santague (servant), 109 
Saxony, Queen of, 182 
Sefton, Lord, 22, 26, 195 
Sefton, Lady, 26, 193 
Selwyn, George, 83 



Seymour, Frederick, 189 

Seymour, Admiral Sir George, 18, 103 
fh., 118, 134, 135-6, 139, 169, 180, 
181-2, 187, 192, 198, 211, 218, 229, 

232, 233 

Seymour, Lord Henry, 132, 134 
Seymour, Lord Hugh, 64, 81, 93, 96-7, 
104, 114, 115, 117-18, 133, 134, 136, 

Seymour, Lady Horatio, 64, 96-7, 
114-15 117-19, 133, 134, 136, 137, 
146, 165, 199 

Seymour, Minney, 14, 15, 18, 62, 115, 
1 1 8, 119, 131-4, 136-40, 141-2, 144, 
145, 146, 148, 149, 150, 155, 160, 161, 
162, 163, 164, 165, 168, 169-70, 171, 
J 72, i73 175. 17^97, 198, 199-200, 

202-5, 20J. 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 
213, 214, 215, 2l6, 217, 218, 219, 220, 
221, 222, 224, 226, 228, 229, 230, 231, 

233, 234, 235 

Seymour, Racey, 139-40, 181, 190 
Seymour, Lord Robert, 88 
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, 61, 66, 67-8, 
70, 71, 73 78, 81, 122, 127, 129, 142, 

Sheridan, Mrs., 74, 78, 81 

Shrewsbury, Lady, 224 

Siddons, Mrs., 233 

Sinclair, Mrs., 151 

Sitwell, Sir Osbert, 84, 124, 127-8 

Smith, Sir Sydney, 121 

Smythe, Henry, 233 

Smythe, Jack, 14, 55, 56, 79, 83, 12, 

113, 165 

Smythe, Mrs. Jack, 228 
Smythe, Sir John, 22 
Smythe, Louisa, 201-2, 209, 216, 229 
Smythe, Mary (ne'e Errington), 47 
Smythe, Maryannc, 14, 165, 169, 171, 

175, 181, 18^ 193, 195, 201, 203, 205, 

206^ 2087209, 211, 212, 217, 224, 

za8. 229, 230, 232, 234, 235 
Smythe, Walter (father of Mrs. R), 22 
Smythe, Walter (Wat) (bro. of Mrs. R), 

46,55>7983 

Smythe, Mrs. Wat, 195, 201, 207 
Sophia, Princess, 203 
Southampton, Lord, 35, 36 
Spencer, Countess, 58 
Stadtholder, The (of Holland), 39, 40 
Stafford, Lord, 206 
Stafford, Lady, 93 

Stanhope, Lady Hester, 84, 119, 121, 151 
Stanley, Sir Thomas, 225, 232 
Stanley, Lady Mary, 204, 207, 232 
Stourton, Lord, 13, 39 fn., 71 in., 72, 

117, 154 fh., 166, 198,207 



Strickland, Captain, 165 
Suffolk, Lady Henrietta, 90 
Sussex, Augustus Frederick, Duke of 
28, 65, 142, 34^9, 212, 213, 214, 215] 

Swift, 90 

TALBOT, Mrs., 59 
Talleyrand, 204, 221, 233 
Tierney, 173 
Townley, Mrs., 21 
Turner, 171 

VERNON, Harriet, 29 

Verulam, Lady, 163 

Victoria, Princess (later Queen), 14, 

16, 168, 173, 219, 233, 234 
Victoria of Saxe-Coburg, Princess 

(Duchess of Kent), 167, 168, 222, 233 
VUleneu ve, Admiral, 135 

WALDEGRAVE, Dowager Lady, 42 
Waldegrave, Lady, 118, 138, 223 
Wales, George, Prince of (George IV) 
*3> M, 15, 1 6, 17, 18, 21-2, 26, 28-148* 
153-6, 158, 160-1, 162-5, 166, 170, 
I 7 I > I 72-~4> J 75> l l^ *77> 178, 179- 
80 182, 183, 184, 187, 188, 189, 190-2, 

190, 197, 198-9, 201, 203, 204, 207, 
208,209-14,215,218,228 

Wales, Caroline, Princess of (and Bruns- 
wick), 14, 18, 95, 96, 98, 99-101, 103- 
4, 105-6, 109, in, 116, 117, 119-20, 

Walpole, Sir Edward, 42 ' 

Walpole, Sir Robert, 42 

Webster, Professor Charles, 161 

Weld, Edward, 22, 23-4, 26 

Wellesley, Henry, 150 

Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, ist Duke 

of, 13, 16, 18, 154, 155, 162, 164, 176, 

210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 215, 218, 223, 

227, 229 

Wharncliffe, Lord (Wortley), 194 
Whitbread, 183 
Wilkes, John, 80 
Wilkins, W. M., 14, 17, 
Worcester, Lord, 220 
Wortley, Lady, 179 
Wurttemburg, Queen of, 187-8 
Wyndham, Mary (Lady Munster), 170, 

171, 223, 230 

YORK, Frederick, Duke of, 15, 19, 29, 
30, 44, 46, 49, 52, 65, 75, 80, 83, 84, 
8 9> 9 1 * 97-8, 122, 143, 145^150, 151, 
152, 157, 158, 176, 177, 1787180, 182, 
185, 187, 190, 191, 196, 197, 198, 200 

York, Duchess of, 89