Lady Pendleton, Damian Ashby’s eccentric aunt (see the epilogue to Treasuring Theresa on Susana’s web site), is visiting Susana from the early 19th century. She’s intrigued by life in 21st century Toledo, Ohio, and, of course, Susana is thrilled to have the opportunity to pick her brain about life in Regency England. It certainly gives her a great deal to write about in Susana’s Parlour!
Susana [to the Reader]:
The Prince of Wales became Regent in 1811 when his father was deemed unable to reign due to madness. He is often caricatured in historical fiction. Dubbed as “Prinny,” (and other, less polite sobriquets), the king’s eldest surviving son was intemperate in just about every area of his life and generally disliked by the populace.
So naturally, one of the first topics I broached with Lady Pendleton when she arrived on my doorstep was the Prince Regent and what he was like. And she did have a lot to say…but then, she usually does, doesn’t she?
I didn’t meet the Prince Regent until just after my marriage, and although we traveled in the same social circles, Pendleton did not approve of him, and not just because of politics. The Prince was a confirmed skirt chaser before his eighteenth birthday, and he tended to be attracted to older women. Though not normally a jealous man, Lord P did not like to see me much in company with him. I mean, how does one turn down the attentions of a future monarch without incurring rancor and courting future ill-will? No indeed, Pendleton remained riveted to my side whenever we accepted invitations to Carlton House or any event at which the Prince was expected to put in an appearance. [Sighing] Of course, my dear husband never knew of the handful of times I met the Prince at one of Georgiana’s salons at Devonshire House. But then, Lord P would never have countenanced my attendance at a Whig affair, so I simply omitted mentioning it. For his own good, of course.
Although I saw His Royal Highness eyeing my form with appreciation on occasion, he never importuned me in any way. No doubt it was due to the fact that he was already infatuated with Maria Fitzherbert, who, like me, was a half dozen or so years older than he was. He’d already had several mistresses by then, including that unfortunate actress, Mary Robinson, but this was different. He was well and truly besotted with Mrs. Fitzherbert.
Is it true that he contracted an illegal marriage with her?
Oh, indeed he did. Georgiana told me she was particularly asked by His Highness to assist Mrs. Fitzherbert’s acceptance in the ton. Of course, she could not refuse, although it was exceedingly distasteful to her. She and Maria detested one another, and as fond as she was of the Prince, Georgiana could not like the rashness of his actions in making such an imprudent marriage. Besides the fact that the law prohibited him from marrying without the approval of his father, she was twice-widowed already and a Catholic. [Shaking her head] Could he have found anyone less suitable to be spouse of a king?
So it was widely known that he had married without permission. Did his parents know? I wonder how they could countenance his marriage to Princess Caroline, then. Would that not be bigamy?
Well, even when he was sane, George III despised his eldest son. His illness notwithstanding, the old king was a conscientious ruler and I’m certain he despaired of the nation’s future well-being under his dissipated, self-indulgent son. [Shrugging] As to the unsuitability of his marriage, well, there was nothing to be done but to ignore it. I’m sure Maria was offered money to destroy the marriage lines and take herself off, but she was a good Catholic and considered herself married in the eyes of God. Well, the Pope himself declared the marriage valid.
Ah yes, no doubt he had hopes of bringing the English back into the True Faith.
Lady P [snickering]:
As if that would ever have happened! Although he lived on and off with her for the better part of two decades, the Prince philandered with others during that time, and even severed his relationship with her just prior to his marriage to that German princess, Caroline. When that turned out to be a colossal disaster, he reconciled with Maria briefly, but when that ended as well, the affair was well and truly over and one couldn’t even mention her name without incurring tirades of anger and bitterness.
And yet, didn’t he make a request to be buried with her cameo, or some such trinket?
It was a miniature of her eye, something she’d given him in the early days to remind him of her—that she was watching him—when they were apart. Despite everything that happened, he kept it, and they said he did speak of her affectionately at the end.
But she was a fool for throwing her lot in with him in the first place. Royal princes don’t marry commoners, and royal heirs marry for state reasons. At least they did in my day. I must confess that it warmed my heart to watch Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton on that computer contraption of yours, although I find it fascinating that she is related to Lord Shelbourne, who was prime minister for a year or so before Charles James Fox’s Whigs trounced him out of office. Why, Lord P and I knew him well.
It’s a small world, or so they say.
Indeed it is. Everyone is related to everyone else. It is enough to boggle the mind. I wonder if you and I could be related to each other, Susana? Have you ever thought of that possibility?
Well, you do bear a certain resemblance to my mother. But no, I haven’t yet found a connection. I wonder if a DNA test would help?
Lady P [puzzled]:
A DNA test? What can that be? Do explain yourself, Susana.
Susana [to the Reader]:
Well, our conversation took a different direction at that point, but I’m sure I shall have an opportunity to pick her brain further about the Prince Regent at another time.
As always, please do comment if you have any questions you’d like to ask Lady P about the late Georgian/Regency era. She does love to chat!