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As has been before said, Mr. Brougham had taken no pains to conceal his contempt for the Regent, and this, connected with the reputation which he had won as an advocate and as a parliamentary orator, led to his being employed as counsel of the injured and despised wife of George IV. This gave him his highest position as an advocate, together with great popularity. Lord Jeffrey, writing in 1817, calls Mr. Brougham “the most powerful, active, and formidable speaker" in the House of Commons. In the autumn of that year he visited the Princess Caroline in Italy, having then been acting as her legal adviser some three
or four years.
The story of this unhappy woman's life is one of the saddest and most interesting; a life rendered utterly miserable by the combined effects of a very deficient early training, and a husband's unceasing persecution and brutality. The Prince of Wales being plunged in debt by his extravagant and dissipated course of life, and looking about him for some feasible way to raise money, found that marriage would extract from Parliament that which no appeals of his could obtain. He at once determined to take a wife, though this proceeding was eminently distasteful to him; and his cousin, Caroline of Brunswick, was selected as the victim. She was the daughter of the old Duke of Brunswick, principally distinguished as a soldier, who, when he had endeavored to advise her, had frightened her by his sternness, and who had given her an instance of every thing that was bad by his own example. She was thoughtless and frivolous, but kind-hearted and charitable, with no idea, however, of the value of money. She had little or no education ; she wrote and spelt badly; knew French and German tolerably; but, although her mother was an English woman, she said afterwards that she knew only one English word when she landed in England.3 Great pains had been taken to mould her religious convictions so that she might, without difficulty, assimilate them to those of whatever Roman Catholic, Protestant, or neutral husband any royal bargain might consign her, and with the usual result.1 She was lacking in dignity, either as a lady or a princess; she was coarse in her language, rather from ignorance than immorality; and was extremely untidy in her person. In short, what could be expected of a young woman brought up in a court entirely lacking in the commonest examples of decency or decorum, under the guidance of a depraved and licentious father, and dining at a table which was graced by her father's mistress, who was disgusted at the indecent stories there told by the good lady of the house, the duchess ? Lord Malmesbury, who was despatched by George III. to bring home his son's bride for him, gives a most amusing account of his experiences in Brunswick. Her father said of her, “Elle n'est pas bête, mais elle n'a pas de jugement:" "She is not a fool, but she has no judgment;" her father's mistress re-echoed his opinion, saying, “ that she was not clever, or ill-disposed, but of a temper easily wrought on, and had no tact ;” adding afterwards, “ De plus elle a beaucoup de vanité, et quoique pas sans esprit, avec peu de fond.” “Elle n'a pas le cour depravé, - elle n'a jamais rien fait de mauvais, mais la parole en elle devancé toujours la pensée.”? She had good natural qualities, but want of training, either by precept or example, had nearly spoiled her.
1 Life : London, 1852, ii. 166. Sir James Mackintosh thus characterizes Lord Brougham, in 1818: “The address and insinuation of Brougham are so great, that nothing but the bad temper which he cannot always hide, could hinder him from mastering everybody as he does Romilly. He leads others to his opinion; he generally appears at first to concur with theirs, and never more than half opposes it at once. This management is helped by an air of easy frankness, that would lay suspicion herself asleep. He will place himself at the head of an opposition, among whom he is unpopular; he will conquer the House of Commons, who hate, but who now begin to fear him.” – Life: London, 1835, ii. 345. ? McGilchrist, 79.
3 Rogers's Table Talk.
With no English ideas, with a head full of loose foreign notions, Lord Malmesbury, in the short time while she was with him, endeavored to prepare her for the uncommonly trying experience she was doomed to undergo. By constant advice, going into the fullest particulars, even down to cleanliness of person and of dress, he schooled her in her duties as Princess of Wales and future Queen of England, explaining to her what would be required of her in England; what sacrifices she would have to make to public opinion; what she would have to blind her eyes to in the shape of her husband's weaknesses ; and, above all, the importance of making a good impression on the old king and queen.
i Lord Eldon writes, in 1820, referring to the omission of her name from the liturgy, “She said, as I hear, to one of her counsel, who called upon her the other day, just after prayers, when she was eating, “This praying makes me very hungry; if they put me in the liturgy, I shall be absolutely famished.'” — Twiss's Life of Eldon, ii. 376.
2 Malmesbury's Diaries, iii. 164, 165, 169.
But how could he, a man, be expected to instil, in a few days, the lessons which it was a mother's duty to have made her familiar with from her birth? The marriage treaty was signed December 4, 1795; and on the 29th of the same month she left home with Lord Malmesbury. Starting with the best intentions, but with a very imperfect idea of what she ought to do; and feeling in her breast the womanly yearning after domestic bliss, — such poor notion of it as her distorted imagination could form of that blessing, — all in vain, as it was something which her future husband neither desired nor could comprehend ; she bade good-by to her parents. Arrived at Greenwich on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1796, after a long and uncomfortable winter's journey, how was she received ? Not by an eager bridegroom, anxiously awaiting her coming ; but, after an hour's suspense, when the royal carriages at last drove up, she was met, not by her future husband, but by that husband's mistress, considerately delegated to accompany her to the royal family. Instead of enjoying the endearments of the prince, she suffered the vulgar criticism and ridicule of Lady Jersey. At last, when she had reached the Duke of Cumberland's apartments in London, she was visited by Prince George, who, hastily embracing her, with hardly a word, called at once for a glass of brandy; and, disgusted at her personal untidiness, instantly withdrew. The marriage, a cold, heartless affair, the bridegroom being very drunk, was celebrated in the Chapel Royal, St. James's, three days after.
Neglected for his mistresses, left alone, unloved, actually driven from him, she soon took refuge at Montague House, Blackheath, where she drew around her a small coterie of persons, the friendship of many of them being undoubtedly dictated by political motives and enmity to her husband. Among these visitors, the most distinguished were Mr. Canning, Lord Eldon, and his brother, Sir William Scott. During this retirement, she was very imprudent in her acquaintances, and indiscreet in her conduct. She evinced a great fondness for infants, and, unfortunately, adopted a child from the Brownlow-street lying-in hospital; an action which her enemies soon took advantage of, by charging her with being its
1 Mr. R. Rush, formerly our Minister at the Court of St. James, says, that he was toid“ that when she lived at Blackheath, she had many a time played blind-man’sbuff with Sir William Scott, Mr. Canning, and others, who made up her parties.” Residence at the Court of London, 1819–1825, p. 343.
mother. This led to the so-called “ Delicate Investigation,” the matter being referred, in May, 1806, to a commission, consisting of Lords Erskine, Grenville, Spencer, and Ellenborough. Although the hearing was entirely ex parte, she was proved to be clear of guilt, while she was reprimanded for her rash course. Whatever she may have deserved, the treatment she met with was most unjust. She was denied admission to the court, owing to her husband's relentless persecution, prompted by a simple feeling of distaste for her. Mr. Perceval and his political associates took her up. At last, she obtained a tardy acquittal. The Duke of Portland's ministry, in 1807, recommended her reception at court, and declared her innocence. She was accordingly received at court in May of that year. Her father was killed at Jena, at the age of seventy-one, and her mother, an exile, sought refuge with her in England; an accession which brought little of happiness or credit with it.
At length the Princess of Wales, being in debt, signed a deed of separation ; in consequence of which her debts were partially paid, and she had a fixed income settled on her. When her husband became regent, she was honored with no higher title, and received no greater emolument. Her conduct was marked by the same bad traits which had always characterized her. She gave frequent dinner parties, and entertained many guests; but she alienated the nobility, and lost friends; her behavior being undignified, and not calculated to command the respect of the English people. She was denied free intercourse with her only child, the Princess Charlotte. The Privy Council reported that restriction on her was necessary. Through the influence of the regent, she was treated with contempt, neglected in society, and excluded from court. Mr. Whitbread then took up her cause, tried to regulate her actions, defended her in Parliament, and looked generally after her interests. In consequence of the flight of the Princess Charlotte from Warwick House to her mother's residence in July, 1814, the regent prohibited any further intercourse whatever between mother and daughter, and took stringent measures to enforce this resolve. The Princess of Wales then determined to go on to the continent to travel, and with her husband's approval, — who was only too glad to be rid of her, - sailed from England on the 9th of August, 1814. For six years she remained abroad, visiting Brunswick, Germany, France, Switzerland, and Italy. At first she was received with the honors due to her position. Gradually the English ladies and gentlemen forming her household, all withdrew; others were applied to, but refused to enter it, and, at length, she had none in her employ but foreigners, and those mainly Italians. In 1816, she resided for some months in Sicily, and then took a journey to Jerusalem, stopping at Tunis, Utica, Carthage, Athens, Troy, Constantinople, &c. She retired in September to her villa on the Lake of Como. In 1817, she visited the Grand Duke of Baden, at Carlsruhe. Although she was generally treated with no respect either in public or private, she met with especial indignities from the representatives of Great Britain. During her absence, she had formed a strong attachment for an Italian courier in her employ, named Bartolomeo Bergami; had conferred upon him every honor in her gift; had made him valuable presents; had taken his relations into her service; had kept him constantly in her company; had given him and received from him caresses in the most public manner. From what was seen by those who met her wherever she went, it was concluded that she was living in adulterous intercourse with this man. These reports went instantly to England, were eagerly received and credited by the regent, and the consequence was, the appointment of the “ Milan Commission,” whose duty it was to inquire into her conduct, and collect proofs of her guilt. From that time she was constantly subject to careful and unceasing espionage; and, as might be expected, evidence was plentifully collected in a country so prolific in spies and informers as Italy. During these years the marriage and death of her daughter, the Princess Charlotte, had taken place in quick succession ; events which the unhappy mother was left to learn by chance, not being favored with even a decent and deserved announcement of these occurrences. Such was Queen Caroline, and such had been her unenviable lot, when the death of George III. made her husband king, and gave her the rank, with none of the attendant advantages or honors, of Queen of England; her name being even omitted from the liturgy.
On the 29th of January, 1820, George III. died; and it was soon evident that the new sovereign would be satisfied with nothing short of a divorce from his wife. Mr. Brougham and Mr.
1 Dr. Doran’s " Lives of the Queens of the House of Hanover,” vol. ii. ; Diaries and Correspondence of the Earl of Malmesbury, vol. iii.