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]: Lady Pendleton’s opinions on George III tend to be diametrically opposed to mine, which she attributes to my “ignorance due to indoctrination by history books written by misguided wretches attempting to justify the dreadful bloodbath caused by the radical colonists.”
It seems doubtful that we will ever come to agreement on that score—too many years of July 4th picnics and fireworks and, pledging allegiance to the flag, and singing “The Star-Spangled Banner”—but I have begun to see George III in a more sympathetic light. More than 200 years have passed and since my trip to England last year, I have come to realize that the English do not see him as the tyrant “we” do (and I say “we” even though at least some of my ancestors still lived in England during that time), and most never did.
And I have to say—in spite of all the patriotism instilled in me over decades—I am intrigued with the idea of growing up speaking with a British accent. (Can I be deported for saying that?)
Lady P: You must admit that the American accent sounds decidedly low class, Susana. Perhaps I could give you lessons in enunciating. Much like that Henry Higgins did to Eliza in that film we saw the other evening. You would never pass for upper class in society, of course, but it would be a definite improvement.
Susana: I thank you for offering, Lady P, but I’ll stick with the lazy American drawl for now. Perhaps some other time.
Lady P: Very well. Shall we discuss His Royal Highness King George III for your readers? Where shall I start?
Susana: At the beginning would be best. Where did you meet him?
Lady P: I was too young to attend his wedding to Queen Charlotte, but I do recall my mother bringing home a flower—was it a camellia or a rose?—but it was pink and she put it in one of the heaviest books in the library for pressing. I remember feeling very sad that she had to destroy such a pretty posy in order to preserve it. I wonder what happened to it? I believe my brother Henry inherited all the books in the library, so perhaps it’s still there. He was never one to read or study overmuch.
Susana: But you did meet him at some point?
Lady P: Goodness, yes. During my come-out—my mother was so vexed that the Royal Pair failed to attend my presentation ball—I was presented to Queen Charlotte, as were all of the young debutantes, you know, and I did meet them once or twice that season. After I was married to Lord Pendleton, we met more often. Lord P was in the House of Lords, you know, and we were obliged to attend certain political events.
Susana: What did you think of him?
Lady P: He was a kindly old man, quite stodgy, you understand. As a young girl, I didn’t appreciate that quality in him. One expected the King to be a cut above the rest of society, and he wasn’t at all. I recall complaining to Pendleton about the plainness of the fare at Windsor Castle and why the King could not have a French chef as skilled as ours, and he said the King didn’t appreciate rich food anymore than he did the French. Good, hearty English fare was good enough, he said.
Susana: I hear his marriage was a love-match.
Lady P [snorting in a very unladylike manner]: Romance again, Susana? Americans seem obsessed with it. The King met his betrothed on the day of the wedding. He wasn’t allowed to marry Lady Sarah Lennox when he wished to because she was only the sister of a duke. Royalty must marry royalty, you know. Or at least they did in my time.
Susana: But they did have fifteen children, so the marriage must have been somewhat of a success.
Lady P: Oh indeed, they got on well after that. Queen Charlotte was not well-favored, but she had a very pleasant disposition. She was a perfect wife for a down-to-earth man like the King.
Susana: So what happened to their children? The sons, at least, did not seem to be able to sustain such happy marriages. Look at the Prince Regent, for example. His life was like the antithesis of his father’s.
Lady P: Indeed. The King disliked his oldest son intensely. Frederick was his favorite. Pendleton told me the King often bemoaned the fact that Frederick was not his oldest son. Brought up to be a military man. He was the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, you know, until the scandal.
Susana: The scandal?
Lady P: Apparently he passed on military secrets to his mistress, a sly little hussy by the name of Mary Anne Clarke. She took bribes in exchange for promotions, and although she was the one to blame, it was his indiscretion in telling her such things that caused him to resign in disgrace. [shaking her head sadly] Should have stuck by his long-suffering wife. Frederica was a most amiable woman.
Susana: So even his favorite had feet of clay. What about the others? Wasn’t one of them accused of murder?
Lady P: Ernest, that was. He was an odd sort. Spread all sorts of cruel rumors about his brothers. His valet turned up with his throat cut, and it was whispered that he’d been seduced by his master, who murdered him when the man attempted to blackmail him.
Susana: Oh my. Homosexuals were hung in those days, were they not?
Lady P: Indeed they were. It would have been a massive scandal had that little fact become known. Which is no doubt why the inquest determined that the man committed suicide.
Susana [shuddering]: Who commits suicide by cutting their throat?
Lady P: Exactly. Not to mention that the man was left-handed, and the deed had to have been done with his right hand. [sighing] But I suppose such things must be done to protect the monarchy and the nation.
Susana: Surely among fifteen children there must have been at least one or two who turned out well. What about the daughters?
Lady P: Poor Amelia died in 1810. She was 27 and unmarried, since she had not been allowed to marry the man of her choice, Charles Fitzroy. She was the youngest and the King’s favorite and he was never the same after that. The other girls—well, the oldest, Princess Charlotte was married to the King of Württemburg—remained unmarried and living at home, and dear me, they never dissembled about expressing how they felt about that. Well, they were all rather plain, like their mother, and ran to fat, but they did adore their father, no matter how unstable he become as the years passed.
Susana: The Prince of Wales was made Regent because of his illness, which has been called dementia. Did you ever see him in that state, or know someone who did?
Lady P: I did not, of course, since he was kept in seclusion as soon as he began to exhibit symptoms. But Pendleton did, on one occasion, when he was attending the King on parliamentary business. [clucking her tongue]. He began speaking in shrill tones, so quickly that he could not be easily understood, calling for “the woman he loved,” a certain Lady Pembroke who served at court. His eyes bulged and he dropped his breeches to reveal his backside. Pendleton was horrified when I nearly fell over laughing when he described it. He said it was a horrifying experience.
Susana: The King of England mooned your husband? Heavens, what a sight that must have been! [grinning broadly]
Lady P: Harrumph! It was, rather. And yet I did feel very sorry for him. He was a fine king and deserved much better than to be afflicted by such an undignified malady. And then to have his sons to be such bounders, and one of his daughters to bear an illegitimate child… It is almost a blessing that such distressing news was kept from him.
Susana [sighing]: My belief in fairytale royal marriages died a tragic death after what happened with Princess Diana. Although I can’t help hoping that Prince William and Kate will end up happily.
Lady P: They do seem a sensible pair, and very well-matched, like my nephew Damian and his wife Theresa. Have I told you Theresa is expecting again?
Lady P: What was that Spanish place we went to last week? I rather fancy one of those—what do you call them—burros?
Susana: Burritos, Lady P. And it was Mexican, not Spanish. Mi Hacienda, on Glanzman Street. They offer salsa lessons on Wednesday nights. What do you say we paint the town while we’re at it.
Lady P: A burrito will do, Susana. And perhaps some of those savory chips. Never had anything like them before. Do you suppose I can take the recipe back with me for my own cook to prepare?
Susana [shaking her head]: Sorry, Lady P. We’ve had this discussion before. Remember the Prime Directive?
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!