Marriage made in hell

29th October 2004 at 01:00
any royal personages have blundered up the aisle into marital disaster, but perhaps none more so than the Prince Regent and his bride, Caroline of Brunswick. They didn't have a lot going for them as a couple.

The heir to the English throne was fashionable, fastidious and extravagant, a lover of art, architecture and cherry brandy. He also had a weakness for older women - a lot of them.

Caroline, his stocky German cousin, was not interested in paintings or buildings. She did not much care what she looked like or how often she washed. Courtiers regarded her as flippant, sarcastic, and, heaven forbid, vulgar. But Prinny agreed to the union in order to get Parliament to pay off his debts.

When he met Caroline, in 1795, he promptly got drunk. He was still drunk three days later when they got married. Not a good start, but neither was Prinny's decision to take his mistress on the honeymoon. Nine months later, Caroline gave birth to a girl, and two days later her husband drew up a will leaving everything to a twice-widowed Catholic he had illegally married in 1785. To his wife he left one shilling and instructions that she was to have nothing to do with raising their daughter. He also announced a separation.

From then on, Prinny had it in for Caroline. Newspapers were encouraged to publish scandalous stories about her and she was only allowed to see her daughter once a fortnight. She was no saint, but neither was the Prince. He tried to divorce her in 1820. During the trial Caroline's dirty linen was hung out to dry. But the public was on her side and the case was dropped.

In 1821, the pair gave a spectacular display of marital disharmony. July 19 was the day of George's coronation. Caroline, who had been allegedly romping round Europe in see-through dresses, realised she was missing out on her crown. The wife of the king turned up at Westminster Abbey, but was barred because she had no ticket. The rejection did not do George any good, further alienating the public. However, the thorn in his side died later that year, aged 53. He never married again.

Cartoon representation of Caroline, published in George IV's coronation year

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