Princess in D.I.Y Marriage

Princess in D.I.Y Marriage

As the daughter of a king Princess Augusta was denied access to men of her own rank except those in her immediate family for most of her life. Like several of George III’s daughters she found herself lonely and drawn into romances with gentleman at court whether they were suitable or not.

It is believed that Princess Augusta first met Sir Brent Spencer, an Irish general in the British Army, around 1800. Augusta later told her brother, the future George IV, the two entered into a relationship in 1803 while Spencer was stationed in Britain. Although the couple conducted their relationship with the utmost privacy, Augusta did petition the Prince Regent in 1812 to be allowed her to marry Spencer, promising further discretion in their behaviour. While no official record of a marriage between the two exists, it was noted at the court of Hesse-Homburg at the time of her sister Elizabeth’s marriage in 1818 that Augusta was “privately married.”

Princess Augusta Sophia was born at Buckingham House, London, the sixth child and second daughter of George III (1738–1820) and his wife Queen Charlotte. The young princess was christened on 6 December 1768, by Frederick Cornwallis, The Archbishop of Canterbury, in the Great Council Chamber at St. James’s Palace. Princess Augusta had an older sister Charlotte (born 1766) and her younger sister Elizabeth (born 1770). In 1771, the two oldest princesses started travelling to Kew to take lessons under the supervision of Lady Charlotte Finch and Miss Planta. The pair, who had formerly been very close to their older brothers now saw little of them, except when their paths crossed on daily walks. In 1774, Martha Goldsworthy, or “Gouly” was put in charge of their education which included the feminine pursuits of deportment, music, dancing, and the arts. Their mother also ensured that they learned English, French, German, and Geography.

In 1782, aged 14, Augusta made her court debut on the occasion of her father’s birthday. Being terrified of crowds; the princess was painfully shy, and stammered when in front of people she didn’t know; her mother gave her only two days notice of the event. That year she lost her two baby brothers, Prince Alfred and Prince Octavius. Alfred had a bad reaction to his inoculation against smallpox and died aged nearly two. Six months after Alfred’s death, her younger brother Octavius and her sister Sophia were taken to Kew Palace in London to be inoculated with the smallpox virus. (This may seem irresponsible today but smallpox was virulent and no respecter of rank so inoculation, even with its risks was still probably a better bet than not being inoculated at all.) Sophia recovered without incident, but like his brother, before him, Octavius became ill and died several days later, he was just four years old. As was traditional at the time, the household did not go into mourning for the deaths of royal children under the age of fourteen but Augusta, who had loved the children dearly, was distraught.

Her formal education now came to an end. Now her duty was to join her elder sister and her parents at court and accompany them to the theatre and the Opera. With six daughters to clothe and educate the royal budget was stretched. The royal princesses often appeared in what was basically the same dress each in a different colour to save money and at home, they wore plain, everyday clothes unlike their royal contemporaries in Europe.

By 1785, Augusta and Charlotte were reaching an age where they could be considered as potential brides for foreign princes. In that year the Crown Prince of Denmark (later King Frederick VI) indicated to her father that he was interested in Augusta but George decided he could not allow his lovely daughter to go to Denmark after his sister’s disastrous marriage to King Christian VII. As their friends at court found husbands the sisters began to wonder when their turn would come. Their father it seems was reluctant to see them leave and the subject was not one for discussion in case it disturbed the often addled mind of their sick father. So, the years slid by with neither of them married. This was when pretty Augusta made her own arrangements with the dashing officer, Brent Spencer.

Spencer was upper middle class not royal; he became a commissioned officer in 1778 and fought with great credit in the West Indies in 1779–1782 during the American Revolutionary War and again in 1790–1794 during the War of the First Coalition. He was a professional soldier who rose through the ranks, first to Brigadier General, serving in the wars against Napoleon in Europe and Egypt. He was eight years older than Augusta and served with Wellington as his second in command during the Peninsular War where he became a full General. After the war, he became the MP for Sligo.

Such a match would be considered wholly acceptable today but not in the 18th century. It is said that he and Augusta maintained their relationship through these years of separation and that he died with a picture of her in his hand at the age of 68. Augusta died on 22 September 1840 at Clarence House, aged 71.

Source: Wikipedia. Illustration: Augusta Sophia of the United Kingdom. Copy of the portrait exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1819 and now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Baltimore.

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon 

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Princess Blackmailed by Her Illegitimate Son

Princess Blackmailed by Her Illegitimate Son

This is the sad story of Princess Sophia daughter of George III

Sophia was an unworldly and shy woman who was seduced by a man 33 years her senior. She gave birth to his illegitimate child who grew up to blackmail her to pay his father’s debts.

Sophia’s childhood

According to her biographer Christopher Hibbert, in her young adulthood Princess Sophia, the 5th daughter of King George III, was a “delightful though moody girl, pretty, delicate and passionate.” She was devoted to her father, though she occasionally found him exasperating. She wrote that “the dear King is all kindness to me, and I cannot say how grateful I feel for it.”

The King had told Sophia he would take her and her sisters to Hanover and find them suitable husbands. Her father intended to be circumspect in his choice of his children’s spouses because he was well aware of his own sisters’ marriage experience.

His eldest sister, Augusta had never fully adapted to life in Brunswick after her marriage to Charles William Ferdinand Prince of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel despite her marriage settlement of £80,000 from the British government. Her husband took two mistresses; Maria Antonia von Branconi and Luise von Hertefeld. Augusta was never comfortable in Hanover and her German relatives were not keen on her. Her situation was made worse by the fact that her eldest sons were born with disabilities.

Augusta’s fate was unpleasant but not as bad as his other sister Caroline’s fate. Caroline had suffered a far worse. At the age of 15, she was married to her cousin, Christian VII of Denmark in 1766. A year later her husband abandoned her for his mistress Støvlet-Cathrine publicly declaring that he could not love Caroline because it was “unfashionable to love one’s wife”. Caroline was left neglected and unhappy as her young husband sank into a mental stupor of paranoia, self-mutilation, and hallucinations. Caroline took comfort with her husband’s doctor, Johann Friedrich Struensee, an Enlightenment man who ran Denmark with the half-crazed King introducing widespread reforms.

The affair between Caroline and Struensee resulted in Caroline giving birth to his child, her divorce, and Struensee’s execution in 1772. Caroline retained her title but not her children, eventually, she left Denmark and passed her remaining days in exile at Celle Castle in Hanover. She died there of scarlet fever on 10 May 1775, at the age of 23.

The Purple Light of Love

George was unable to keep his promise due to his own ill health. He had however arranged a dowery and allowance of £6,000 a year for her with Parliament. This should have made her an attractive match but Sophia was shy and she ruined what prospects she had when she met and fell in love with one of her father’s equerries, Colonel, Thomas Garth, a man thirty-three years her senior. Garth had a large purple birthmark on his face, causing Sophia’s sister Mary to refer to him as “the purple light of love.” Courtier and diarist Charles Greville, on the other hand, described him as a “hideous old devil.” One of her ladies-in-waiting wrote “The princess was so violently in love with him that everyone saw it. She could not contain herself in his presence.”

The Downfall

Sophia’s downfall came when she found herself pregnant with Garth’s child. Although there has been much debate amongst historians as to whether the child was Garth’s or her uncle’s, the Duke of Cumberland’s, Thomas Garth adopted the child, educated him and brought him into his regiment calling him his nephew.

Dorothy Margaret Stuart, in her book The Daughters of George III, reports the claim of the Corry family that Sophia Princess had secretly married Issac Corry, Groom of the Bedchamber to the Duke of Cumberland. Corry was a barrister and later became Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer. His family claim that he and Sophia had three children together but there is no real evidence to support such an idea. What we can be sure of is that Sophia never married and remained at court until her mother Queen Charlotte died. After the queen’s death, Sophia lived in Kensington Palace next to her niece Princess Victoria of Kent, the future Queen Victoria. Like her sister-in-law the Duchess of Kent, Sophia fell under the spell of Victoria’s comptroller Sir John Conroy and let him manage her money. The lonely and unworldly Sophia fell under Conroy’s spell too and he used her affection to rob her of most of her money.

Her son, Tommy Garth of the 15th Hussars (1800-1873), learned of his true heritage when his father thought he was on his deathbed in 1828. With the family deep in debt, he tried to blackmail the royal family with evidence of his mother’s true identity. As historian Flora Fraser writes, ‘all parties played unfairly’. The royal family offered young Garth £3,000 for his box of evidence. They took the box but did not pay him so he went to the papers. The press dug up the gossip concerning the possibility of the Duke of Cumberland, her uncle, being his true father making the latter part of Sophia’s life very difficult.

Charles Greville summed Sophia up with he wrote in his diary in May 1848, shortly after she died: “Princess Sophia died a few days ago, while the Queen [Victoria] was holding the Drawing-room for her Birthday. She [Sophia] was blind, helpless, and suffered martyrdom; a very clever, well-informed woman, but [one] who never lived in the world.”

Sources:

Fraser, Flora (2004). Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III. London: John Murray. ISBN 0-7195-6109-4.
Hibbert, Christopher (2000). George III: A Personal History. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-02724-5.
Hibbert, Christopher (2001). Queen Victoria: A Personal History. De Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-81085-9.

Dorothy Margaret Stuart, The Daughters of George III, Fonthill Media Ltd, 2016.

Illustration: Princess Sophia, 1792 by Sir William Beechey, The Royal Collection

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon 

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Royal Ascot – Horses, Hats and Lots of Money

Royal Ascot – Horses, Hats and Lots of Money

Ascot Racecourse pronounced /ˈæskət/, by those in the know is close to Windsor Castle and is the Queen of England’s favourite racecourse. The most famous and prestigious race is The Gold Cup.

Ascot Racecourse was founded in 1711 by Queen Anne. The first race, “Her Majesty’s Plate”, had a purse of 100 guineas, was held on 11 August 1711. Seven horses competed, each carrying a weight of 12 stones (76 kg). This first race comprised three separate four-mile (6437 m) heats. It’s changed a lot since then.

Every year Royal Ascot is attended by Elizabeth II and other members of the British Royal Family such as The Prince of Wales, arriving each day in a horse-drawn carriage with the Royal procession taking place at the start of each race day and the raising of the Queen’s Royal Standard. It is a major event in the British social calendar, and press coverage of the attendees and what they are wearing often exceeds coverage of the actual racing. There are three enclosures attended by guests on Royal Ascot week.

The Royal Enclosure is the most prestigious of the three enclosures, with recent visits from the Queen and Royal Family members. Access to the Royal Enclosure is restricted, with high security on the day. First-time applicants must apply to the Royal Enclosure Office and gain membership from someone who has attended the enclosure for at least four years. Those in the Royal Enclosure have the options of fine dining and hospitality, and a selection of bars. The dress code is strictly enforced. For women, only a day dress with a hat is acceptable, with rules applying to the length and style of the dress. In addition, women must not show bare midriffs or shoulders. For men, black or grey morning dress with top hat is required.

Over 300,000 people make the annual visit to Berkshire during Royal Ascot week, making this Europe’s best-attended race meeting. There are eighteen group races on offer, with at least one Group One event on each of the five days. The Gold Cup is on Ladies’ Day on the Thursday of the meet, hats are the order of the day – the more outrageous the better.

In 2012, the Golden Jubilee Stakes was renamed the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. In 2013, the Windsor Forest Stakes was renamed the Duke of Cambridge Stakes, with the Queen’s consent, recognising the new title given to Prince William; in 2015, the newly created Commonwealth Cup became the eighth Group One race at Royal Ascot, replacing the Buckingham Palace Stakes. In 2016, total prize money across the five days of Royal Ascot was £6,580,000. This year the prize money is expected to be higher. Races with notable prize money increases for 2016 included the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (£750,000 from £525,000), the Queen Anne Stakes (£600,000 from £375,000) and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (£600,000 from £525,000), while the other Group One races all had their prize money increased to £400,000. The Gold Cup in 2016 was run as “The Gold Cup in Honour of The Queen’s 90th Birthday”.

Ascot racecourse closed for a period of twenty months on 26 September 2004, for a £185 million redevelopment funded by Allied Irish Bank and designed by Populous and Buro Happold. As the owner of the Ascot estate, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth reopened the racecourse on Tuesday 20 June 2006. Upon re-opening the new grandstand attracted criticism for failing to provide sufficiently raised viewing for patrons to watch the racing, and devoting too much space to restaurants, bars, and corporate hospitality facilities. At the end of 2006, a £10 million programme of further alterations was announced to improve the viewing from lower levels of the grandstand.

 

 

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction. Sinclair is a second chance romance set in Georgian London and Yorkshire with horse racing and doctors that puts women to the fore. Available on Amazon – in Paperback and o Kindle. Also available on:

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Love Letters Past and Present

In the now famous words of Cheap Trick, “I Want You to Want Me,” is a common refrain in many a love letter. The song only reached number 29 in the UK Charts in 1979 but  was used in the 1999 hit romcom, 10 Things I Hate About You. In the story, new student Cameron (Gordon-Levitt) is smitten with Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) and, in order to get around her father’s strict rules on dating, attempts to get “bad boy” Patrick (Heath Ledger) to date Bianca’s ill-tempered sister, Kat (Julia Stiles).

Written by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, it is a modern version of William Shakespeare’s comedy The Taming of the Shrew. The song plays to a montage of Ledger pursuing Stiles as he tries to persuade Kat (Stiles) to go to the prom with him and of course they fall in love with each other in the end.

It seems that Kings too were not above a bit of begging when cupid’s arrow hits its mark. Henry VIII’s State Papers contain a letter he wrote to his then mistress Anne Boleyn who was residing in Hever Castle in 1527.

The love struck Henry VIII wrote:

I beg to know expressly your intention touching the love between us.Necessity compels me to obtain this answer, having been more than a year wounded by the dart of love, and not yet sure whether I shall fail or find a place in your affection, ….

But if you please to do the office of a true loyal mistress and friend, and to give up yourself body and heart to me, who will be, and have been, your most loyal servant, (if your rigour does not forbid me). I promise you that not only the name shall be given you, but also that I will take you for my only mistress, casting off all others besides you out of my thoughts and affections, and serve you only.

I beseech you to give an entire answer to this my rude letter, that I may know on what and how far I may depend…..

Written by the hand of him who would willingly remain yours, H. R.”

Anne was playing a longer game than Henry imagined at the time, determined to be his wife, not just his mistress. She keeps him on tenterhooks, torturing his heart for as long as she can being tardy with her replies. Of course, she gets her way, but things did not turn out exactly as she had planned!

The Taming of the Shrew has been the subject of critical controversy. Dana Aspinall writes “Since its first appearance, sometime between 1588 and 1594, Shrew has elicited a panoply of heartily supportive, ethically uneasy, or altogether disgusted responses to its rough-and-tumble treatment of the ‘taming’ of the ‘curst shrew’ Katherina, and obviously, of all potentially unruly wives.”

Some scholars argue that even in Shakespeare’s day, the play must have been controversial, due to the changing nature of gender politics. Marjorie Garber, for example, suggests Shakespeare created the Induction so the audience wouldn’t react badly to the misogyny in the Petruchio/Katherina story; he was, in effect, defending himself against charges of sexism. G.R. Hibbard argues that during the period in which the play was written, arranged marriages were beginning to give way to newer, more romantically informed unions, and thus people’s views on women’s position in society, and their relationships with men, were in a state of flux. As such, audiences may not have been as predisposed to tolerate the harsh treatment of Katherina as is often thought. Evidence of at least some initial societal discomfort with The Shrew is, perhaps, to be found in the fact that John Fletcher, Shakespeare’s successor as house playwright for the King’s Men, wrote The Woman’s Prize, or The Tamer Tamed as a sequel to Shakespeare’s play. Sadly for Anne Boleyn, she suffered the full weight of the King’s misogyny when he had her killed to bed his new fancy, the luckless Jane Seymour.

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle 

Sinclair is available of Amazon. Click here to get your copy.

Sinclair is set in the London Borough of Southward, the Yorkshire town of Beverley and in Paris and Edinburgh in the late 1780s. Strong female leads include the widow Charlotte Leadam and the farmer’s daughter Lucy Leadam. Sinclair is a story of love, loss and redemption. Prodigal son James Sinclair is transformed by his experience of being shipwrecked on the way to India to make his fortune. Obstacles to love and happiness include ambition, conflict with a God, temptation and betrayal. Remorse brings restitution and recovery. Sinclair is an extraordinary book. It will immerse you in the world of 18th century London where the rich and the poor are treated with kindness and compassion by this passionate Scottish doctor and his widowed landlady, the owner of the apothecary shop in Tooley Street.  Sinclair is filled with twists and tragedies, but it will leave you feeling good.

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The History of the Love Letter

 

How to Write a Good Love Letter

The pursuit of love and happiness

The Shocking Story of Princess Sophia Dorothea – The Uncrowned Queen of England

The Shocking Story of Princess Sophia Dorothea – The Uncrowned Queen of England

This is the shocking case of the Princess who was married against her will, spurned, divorced, and imprisoned for 33 years.

In August 2016, a human skeleton was found under the Leineschloss (Leine Palace, Hanover) during a renovation project; the remains are believed to be those of Swedish count, Philip Christoph von Königsmarck, (1665-1694) a soldier in the Hanoverian army and the lover of Princess Sophia Dorothea, the wife of the first Hanoverian king of Britain.

Early Life

Sophia Dorothea was just sixteen years old when she was married to her cousin, George Louis of Hanover, the future king of Great Britain and Ireland in 1705.

Poor Princess Sophia Dorothea did not get a good start in life; she was born illegitimately; the daughter of her father’s long-term mistress, Eleonore d’Esmier d’Olbreuse, Countess of Williamsburg (1639–1722) on 15 September 1666, and was considered an inconvenient royal bastard. Without a wife and an heir her father, Prince George William, Duke of Brunswick Lüneburg, eventually did the right thing and married his mistress which had the effect of legitimising his only child.

George I of Britain

Her Father’s Legitimate Heir

Sophia Dorothea was ten years old when she became heir to her father’s kingdom, the Principality of Lüneburg. This made her a good catch despite her problematic origins because Lüneburg was a wealthy principality and Sophia Dorothea, like her mother, was attractive and lively.

Along with her legitimacy came talk about her marriage. In the six years between her acceptance into the royal family and her eventual marriage, three prospective husbands were considered for her.

Marriage Proposals

First, there was talk of marriage to the Danish heir presumptive. Some years later her engagement to the Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel was broken off by her father after her aunt, Duchess Sophia of Hanover, convinced him she should marry her cousin, George Louis of Hanover to join their two duchies together. Duchess Sophia hated her niece, whom she considered brazen, coquettish, and uneducated. When told of the change of plan, sixteen-year-old, Sophia Dorothea shouted, “I will not marry the pig snout!”

Twenty-two-year-old George Louis was not keen on the match either; he already had a mistress and was happy with his life as a soldier. Although he was a prince, he was ugly and boring, even his mother didn’t like him. Nevertheless, Duchess Sophia was determined to keep the family fortune together, and despite both Sophia Dorothea’s and her son’s objections, the pair were married on 22 November 1682, in Celle. For his pains, George Louis received a handsome dowry and was granted his father-in-law’s kingdom upon his death, and Sophia was left penniless.

The state parliament in the former Leineschloss /

Leine Castle in Hannover Lower Saxony Germany

An Unhappy Marriage

The unhappy couple set up home in Leine Palace in Hanover where Sophia Dorothea was under the supervision of her odious aunt, Duchess Sophia, and spied on by her husband’s spies when he was away on campaign. Despite their unhappiness, the pair produced two children; George Augustus, born 1683, who later became King George II of Great Britain and a daughter born 1686 when Sophia Dorothea was twenty.

Sophia Charlotte

von Keilmannsegg

Having produced two children, George became increasingly distant from his wife spending more time with his dogs and horses and his nights with his mistress, the married daughter of his father’s mistress, a woman called Sophia Charlotte von Keilmannsegg, who was rumoured to be George Louis’ half-sister.

Aggrieved, lonely, and unhappy Sophia Dorothea found a friend in the Swedish count Philip Christoph von Königsmarck, (1665-1694) who was a soldier in the Hanoverian army. Philip was a year older than Sophia Dorothea and the antithesis of her ugly, boorish husband.

Countess of Platen

The Fatal Affair

Sophia Dorothea was no saint. She was quick-tempered and rarely discrete, and her choice of Von Königsmarck as a lover was not the best. Königsmarck was a dashing, handsome gigolo and the former lover of her father-in-law’s mistress, the Countess of Platen and the Countess had a jealous nature.

Königsmarck and Sophia Dorothea began a love affair of clandestine trysts, real love, and their coded correspondence facilitated by a trusted go-between. Their love affair was uncovered in 1692 when the Duchess of Platen presented a collection of their letters to her lover, Sophia Dorothea’s father-in-law the Elector of Hanover. Von Königsmarck was banished from the Hanoverian court but soon found a position in the neighbouring court of Saxony where one night when he was buried in his cups he let slip the state of affairs in the bedchambers of the royal house of Hanover. George Louis got wind of what had been said and on the morning of 2 July 1694, after a meeting with Sophia at Leine Palace, Königsmark was seized. No one except his murderers knew what happened to him next.

Philip Christoph von Königsmarck,

(1665-1694)

 

A Sad and Lonely Death

Dorothea never saw her lover again. George Louis divorced her in December, and early the following year she was confined her to Schloss Ahlden a stately home on the Lüneburg Heath in Lower Saxony. She stayed there for the rest of her life. Her children were taken away from her, and she was forced to live alone.

When Sophia Dorothea died in 1726, she had spent 33 years in her prison. Before she died, she wrote a letter to her husband, cursing him for his treatment of her. A furious George forbade any mourning of her in Hanover and London.

George, I died shortly after the Countess of Platen exonerated him of any involvement in Von Königsmark’s death. Two of her henchmen made deathbed confessions to the crime. Although George I was cleared of Von Königsmark’s death, his son George II never forgave his father for the treatment he had meted out to his mother.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophia_Dorothea_of_Celle

Notorious Royal Marriages: A Juicy Journey Through Nine Centuries of Dynasty By Leslie Carroll

The Georgian Princesses By John Van der Kiste

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle.

Sinclair is available of Amazon. Click here to get your copy.

Sinclair is set in the London Borough of Southward, the Yorkshire town of Beverley and in Paris and Edinburgh in the late 1780s. Strong female leads include the widow Charlotte Leadam and the farmer’s daughter Lucy Leadam. Sinclair is a story of love, loss and redemption. Prodigal son James Sinclair is transformed by his experience of being shipwrecked on the way to India to make his fortune. Obstacles to love and happiness include ambition, conflict with a God, temptation and betrayal. Remorse brings restitution and recovery. Sinclair is an extraordinary book. It will immerse you in the world of 18th century London where the rich and the poor are treated with kindness and compassion by this passionate Scottish doctor and his widowed landlady, the owner of the apothecary shop in Tooley Street.  Sinclair is filled with twists and tragedies, but it will leave you feeling good.

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Princess Anne – The Princess Who Married a Hunchback