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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]:
In our last encounter, Lady P enlightened us on the Prince of Wales’ illegal marriage to a twice-widowed Catholic lady unsuitable in every way to be Queen Consort of England. Following that, he married—for reasons of state—his first cousin, Caroline of Brunswick, daughter of his father’s sister. I’ve read of what a dreadful disaster that was, but I wanted to pick Lady P’s brain about it.
Really, Susana! Pick my brain, indeed! What an indelicate turn of phrase!!
It’s just an expression, your ladyship. It means—well, I should have said only that I’m curious to learn what you have to say about the Prince’s choice of wife.
Lady P [shuddering]:
Naturally I have a great deal to say about it, but first I must shake off the image of some quack physician performing surgery on my brain. Is there anything left of the cooking sherry?
No, you finished that one off last week after watching the finale of Downton Abbey, don’t you remember? But don’t despair—I bought a new bottle yesterday at the Kroger store.
[A slight pause while Susana leaves the room and returns with a glass of wine for Lady P.]
Lady P [after draining half the glass and dabbing at her lips with a handkerchief]:
Just the thing. I do enjoy a little wine in the evening, you know. What a pity you have no wine cellar. Why, in my day, every reputable household had a wine cellar and a stock of good wine. Even though you yourself do not indulge, Susana, you ought at least to think of your guests!
My friends and I usually go out. In any case, if your ladyship is properly refreshed, I wonder if we could resume our conversation about the Princess of Wales. I have heard that she and the Prince detested each other on sight. Is that true, do you think?
That was indeed the on dit, and I must say, I could believe it. The Prince arrived late to his wedding, and in a most intoxicated state, too. Lady Bessborough—Georgiana’s sister Harriet, you know—told me that the night before he’d written a note declaring his everlasting love to Maria Fitzherbert—with whom he was estranged at the time—and he made out a will leaving everything he owned to her as well. Harriet was much distressed to see the state he was in.
Susana [shaking her head]:
Then why was she chosen in the first place? He was a grown man; surely he could have found a way to avoid it if he’d wished to.
Was he? A grown man, I mean. Much of the time his behavior resembled that of an over-indulged child. [Looking around nervously] I suppose I can say that with impunity since he’s been dead for nearly two centuries, but truly, my dear, the Prince of Wales was never the man his father was, the madness notwithstanding. [Sighing] In any case, the Prince had accumulated such debts that Mr. Pitt—the Prime Minister, you know—promised to give him a substantial increase in income if he were to make a suitable marriage.
So…he was forced to marry Caroline of Brunswick to pay his debts? Did he have no other prospective brides to choose from?
Well, when you eliminate the Catholic royalty and those who were already wed, there were only two who were eligible, both of them his first cousins. Princess Louise of Mecklenberg-Strelitz was his father’s brother’s daughter, and frankly, she was the prettier of the two and seemingly possessed of the better temperament. There were rumors of Princess Caroline’s scandalous behavior even then, you see.
Then why did he choose her? Did she have a larger dowry?
Lady P [clucking]:
The on dit was that Lady Jersey—the Prince’s mistress at the time—chose her because she seemed a less formidable rival.
So…he allowed his mistress to choose his wife?
If you believed the Prince to be a man of integrity and good character, my dear Susana, then you have not been attending my words at all. The man had no intention of forming a true marriage, and even though he had broken with Maria, in some manner he still considered her his true wife and resented the necessity of making another connection for state purposes.
So he didn’t really care who he married.
Whom, my dear. Not who. No, I don’t suppose he did. Consequently, when he ended up with a wife as odious as Caroline, nearly everyone secretly believed his punishment was well deserved.
Did you agree with them, Lady P?
Lady P [sighing]:
As many faults as the Prince had, my dear, they were nothing compared to those of Caroline of Brunswick. Those who defended her when apprised of his cruel treatment—and that was nearly the whole of England, you know—could hardly have been well acquainted with her. Well, Sally Jersey was an exception, but then, Sally never did approve of the Prince, since she was forever having to live down the fact that her mother-in-law had been his mistress for a time, and had, in fact, chosen Caroline for him in the first place.
Sally Jersey, one of the patronesses of Almack’s? Who would refuse vouchers to young ladies who did not demonstrate the utmost propriety in their conduct?
What did you think of Caroline, Lady P?
Lady P [throwing up her arms]:
She was truly dreadful, Susana. She rarely bathed, ate and drank to excess, was most immoderate in her dress and speech, and it was said that she was not chaste. But you should really ask Leticia, Lady Beauchamp, since she served—most unwillingly, I must say—as one of the Princess’s ladies-in-waiting.
Lady Beauchamp? Where have I heard that name before?
She was an acquaintance of Theresa’s, you know, Damian’s wife?
Ah, yes. But they were hardly bosom friends, as I recall.
Lady P [smiling]
Oh my, not at all. But they were merely young girls at the time, and you know how catty young girls can be. But then…perhaps we should arrange to have Leticia come for a visit sometime soon. I think you would enjoy—how did you put it—performing surgery on her brain for a time.
Picking her brain is the proper expression, Lady P.
It is not proper at all, Susana, and you know it quite well. I do feel the need for another glass of that cooking sherry, if you don’t mind.
Susana [to the Readers]:
That’s all for this episode. But I am intrigued by the idea of speaking with Leticia, Lady Beauchamp. Perhaps Lady P will be able to persuade her to come for a brief visit to tell me about her experiences with the infamous Princess of Wales who was never allowed to be Queen. I can’t promise anything, however. This time travel thing can be very complicated.
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!