Old and New London: Volume 4. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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"At domus interior regali splendida luxu
Instruitur." Virgil: Æneid.
Carlton House in the Reign of George II.—A Facetious Remark—The Screen, or Colonnade—The Building described—The Gardens—The Riding House—"Big Sam," the Royal Porter—Carlton House from a Foreigner's Point of View—A Secret Conclave—The Miniature Court of Frederick Prince of Wales—Carlton House occupied by the Princess of Wales—Lord Bute—Carlton House a Focus of Political Faction—How the Marriage of the Prince of Wales and the Princess Caroline was brought about—The Regency of George IV.—Mrs. Fitzherbert—The Reckless Way in which the Princess of Wales would speak of her Unhappy Life—The Début of Princess Charlotte—The Prince of Orange and Prince Leopold of Belgium—Death of Princess Charlotte—Life at Carlton House under the Regency—"Romeo" Coates—George Colman, the Younger—"Beau Brummell"—General Arabin—Mike Kelly, the Actor—Death of George III. and Proclamation of the New King—Demolition of Carlton House—Carlton Terrace and its Principal Residents.
As stated in the previous chapter, the north side of the Mall, in St. James's Park, is nearly all occupied by the lofty mansions of Carlton House Terrace. They cover the site of Carlton House, the palace of Frederick, Prince of Wales, father of George III., and subsequently for many years the residence of George IV., when Prince of Wales. The building is mentioned by the author of the "New Critical Review of the Public Buildings" in the reign of George II., as "now belonging to his Royal Highness," meaning Prince Frederick. He describes it as "most delightfully situated for a palace of elegant and costly pleasure," adding, however, that "the building itself is tame and poor," and that "hardly any place is capable of greater improvements, and hardly any place stands in more need of them."
The house was distinguished by a row of pillars in front; whilst York (now Dover) House, Whitehall, the residence of the Prince's brother, the Duke of York, was marked by a circular court, serving as a sort of entry hall, which still remains. These two buildings being described to Lord North, who was blind during the latter period of his life, he facetiously remarked, "Then the Duke of York has been sent, as it would seem, to the Round House, and the Prince of Wales to the Pillory." John Timbs attributes this bon mot to Sheridan.
The house itself stood opposite what is now
Waterloo Place, looking northward, and the forecourt was divided from Pall Mall by a long range
of columns, handsome in themselves, but supporting nothing. Hence the once famous lines—
"Care Colonne, qui state qua?
Non sapiamo in verità:"
thus Anglicised by Prince Hoare—
"Dear little columns, all in a row,
What do you do there?
Indeed we don't know."
Lord North's allusion to these columns, quoted above, was scarcely much more complimentary. This screen, or colonnade, of single pillars, with the long line of cornice or entablature which rested upon them, formed a disagreeable impediment to the view of the front of the palace. "When I first saw England," writes Thackeray in "The Four Georges," "she was in mourning for the young Princess Charlotte, the hope of the empire. With my childish attendant I remember peeping through the colonnade at Carlton House, and seeing the abode of the Prince Regent. I can yet see the guards pacing before the gates of the palace. What palace? The palace exists no more than the palace of Nebuchadnezzar. It is but a name now."
The façade of the palace consisted of a centre and two wings, rusticated, without pilasters; and an entablature and balustrade which concealed the roof. The portico, by Holland, was of the Corinthian order, consisting of six columns, with details taken from the Temple of Jupiter Stator, in the Forum at Rome. Above this was an enriched frieze, and a tympanum, adorned with the Prince's arms. All the windows were plain and without pediments, except two in the wings.
There were in the building several magnificent apartments, which were fitted up and furnished in the most luxurious manner; and there was also an armoury, said to be the finest in the world. The collection was so extensive as to occupy five rooms, and consisted of specimens of whatever was curious and rare in the arms of every nation, with many choice specimens of ancient armour.
The building was modernised at a vast expense in the year 1788, and in 1815 further alterations were made in the interior. The edifice at this period is thus described in the "Beauties of England and Wales:"—"From the hall, which is exceedingly magnificent, you pass through an octagonal room, richly and tastefully ornamented, conducting to the grand suite of apartments on the one side, and to the great staircase on the other. The latter cannot be seen till you advance close to it, when the most brilliant effect is produced by the magical management of the light. Opposite the entrance is a flight of twelve steps, thirteen feet long, and on either side of the landing-place at the top of these is another flight of steps of the same length, which takes a circular sweep up to the chamber floor. Underneath is another staircase descending to the lower apartments. On a level with the first floor are eight divisions, arched over; two of these are occupied by Time pointing to the hours on a dial; and Æolus supporting a map of a circular form, with the points of the compass marked round it. The central division forms the entrance to an anteroom; and the others are adorned with female figures of bronze, in the form of termini, supporting lamps. The railing is particularly rich, glittering with ornaments of gold, intermixed with bronze heads. The skylight is embellished with rich painted glass, in panes of circles, lozenges, Prince's plumes, roses, &c."
One of the most splendid apartments in the palace was the crimson drawing-room, in which the Princess Charlotte was married, in 1816, to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. This apartment was embellished with the most valuable pictures of the ancient and modern schools, bronzes, ormolu furniture, &c. The other state apartments on the upper floor were the circular cupola room, of the Ionic order; the throne-room, of the Corinthian order; the splendid ante-chamber; the rose-satin drawing-room, &c., all of which were furnished and embellished with the richest satins, carvings, cutglass, carpetings, &c. On the lower level, towards the gardens and St. James's Park, were other equally splendid suites of apartments, used by the Court for domestic purposes, and for more familiar parties. These rooms, which were designed by Mr. Nash, consisted of a grand vestibule, of the Corinthian order; the Golden Drawing-room, the Gothic Dining-room, a splendid Gothic Conservatory, and the Library.
The mansion was first erected for Lord Carlton, in 1709, and was bequeathed to his nephew, the Earl of Burlington, from whom it was purchased by Frederick, Prince of Wales, in 1732. The house in its original state was of red brick, and differed but little from any of the houses of noblemen and gentlemen which surrounded it. The necessary alterations for the reception of the Prince were at once begun, and the palace was newfronted with stone. Flitcroft is said to have drawn for the Prince, in 1734, a plan intended as an improvement on the existing house; and Kent designed a cascade in the same year for the garden, where a saloon was afterwards erected, and paved with Italian marble brought to England by Lord Bingley and Mr. George Dodington. The walls were adorned with statuary and paintings, and the chair of state was of crimson velvet embroidered with gold, said to have cost five hundred pounds. Rysbrack sculptured statues of Alfred and Edward the Black Prince, which were placed on marble pedestals in the garden. The grounds, which extended westward as far as Marlborough House, were in summer a perfect mass of umbrageous foliage; and in them men of the last generation remember to have heard nightingales singing. Indeed, the grove of trees was so tall and so thick, that it contained a rookery so lately as the year 1827. This fact is commemorated by some amusing verses entitled "The Emigration of the Rooks from Carlton Gardens," published in "Hone's Table Book," in that year.
Adjoining the palace was a Riding House, which, when the palace was demolished, was allowed to stand for some years, and was converted into a storehouse for some of the public records. It was long known as Carlton Ride. Its antiquarian contents were subsequently transferred to the great central building in Fetter Lane.
In one of the lodges dwelt "Big Sam," the royal porter to George III. and IV.; he is said to have stood nearly eight feet high.
The whole of Carlton House was pulled down in 1828, in order to make room for the central opening of Waterloo Place. Some of the Corinthian columns, which formed the colonnade in front of the house, were used in the portico of the National Gallery, and others were made use of in the chapel at Buckingham Palace.
The author of an amusing "Tour of a Foreigner
in England," published in 1825, thus expresses himself (or herself) with respect to Carlton House:—"Though the royal or government palaces are
among the most remarkable in London, they serve
to show how little the dignity of the sovereign is
respected in England in comparison with other
countries of Europe. To say nothing of St. James's
Palace (which the present sovereign has not thought
fit for his residence) there are in Paris many hotels
preferable to Carlton House. This pretended palace
is adorned with a Corinthian portico, the elegance
of which, at first glance, pleases the eye, but its
columns support nothing except the entablature
which unites them. On one of these pillars an
Italian artist chalked the following lines in the
name of Pasquin and Marfori:—
'Belle colonne che fate la?
Io no lo so en verità.'"
The shadowy and extravagant court kept up here by Frederick, as described by one who knew several of its members, Sir N. W. Wraxall, was not such as to convey a very favourable impression of the good sense of the father of George III. "His court," writes that author, "seems to have been the centre of Cabal, torn by contending candidates for the guidance of his future imaginary reign. The Earl of Egmont and Dodington were avowedly at the head of two great hostile parties. In November, 1749, we find his royal highness, in a secret conclave held at Carlton House, making all the financial dispositions proper to be adopted on the demise of the king his father, and even framing a new Civil List. At the close of these deliberations he binds his three assistants to abide by and support his plans, giving them his hand, and making them take each other's hands as well. The transaction, as related by Dodington, who was himself one of the party, reminds the reader of a similar convocation commemorated by Sallust, and is not unlike one of the scenes in 'Venice Preserved.' It was performed after dinner, however, which may perhaps form its best apology. The diversions of the prince's court appear equally puerile. Three times within thirteen months preceding his decease, Dodington accompanied him and the Princess of Wales to fortune-tellers; the last of which frolics took place scarcely nine weeks before his death. After one of these magical consultations, apparently dictated by anxiety to penetrate his future destiny, the party supped with Mrs. Connor, the Princess's midwife. From Carlton House, too, Frederick used to go disguised to Hockley-in-the-Hole to witness bullbaiting; and either Lord Middlesex or Lord John Sackville was commonly his companion on such expeditions. As far as we are authorised from these premises to form a conclusion, his premature death before he ascended the throne ought not to excite any great national regret."
It was partly at Carlton House that Frederick, Prince of Wales, in the lifetime of his father George II., held his miniature court, and amused himself with sketching out future administrations, in which his friends the Duke of Queensberry, the Earl of Middlesex, "Jack" Spencer, Lord John Sackville, and Francis, Earl of Guildford, were to have their parts. Sir N. W. Wraxall tells us in his "Memoirs" that Lady Archibald Hamilton, the Prince's chere amie, resided close to Carlton House, the Prince having allowed her to construct some apartments, the windows of which commanded a view over the gardens of that house, and which, indeed, communicated with the house itself.
Among the guests here in the time of Frederick, Prince of Wales, was Pope, who paid his royal highness very many compliments. "I wonder," said the Prince, "that you, who are so severe on kings, should be so complimentary to me." "Oh, sir," replied the crafty poet, "that is because I like the lion before his claws are full grown."
After the accession of George III. Carlton House was occupied by the Princess of Wales; and hither the young king was accustomed to repair of an evening, and pass the hours with his mother and her special favourite, Lord Bute, the world supposing that the trio formed a sort of interior cabinet, which controlled and directed the ostensible administration. Here, too, the lucky Scotchman whom good fortune, almost in a jest, raised to the premiership, used to pay his mysterious visits to the Princess of Wales—the mother of George III.—in Miss Vansittart's sedan chair, to the great scandal of the entire court.
The extraordinary degree of favour accorded to Lord Bute, and the predilection with which he was known to be regarded by the Princess of Wales, afforded fuel to popular discontent; and the public mind was inflamed by a series of satirical prints, in which her royal highness was held up to odium and reproach, the most odious comparisons being drawn between the Premier and herself and Mortimer and the Queen-Dowager Isabella, of the time of Edward III. The North Briton employed the pen of most powerful satire in the same direction.
One of the maids of honour in the establishment of the Princess of Wales at this house was Miss Elizabeth Chudleigh, better known a few years later as the Duchess of Kingston. When reproached for some irregularities by her royal mistress, whose penchant for the society of Lord Bute was notorious, she replied, with her usual wit and insolence, "Ah! madame, votre altesse royale bien sait que chacune ici a son But."
It is well known that throughout his boyhood and youth, and even in his early manhood, George III. lived a very quiet and secluded life: how quiet and how secluded, may be gathered from Sir N. W. Wraxall's "Memoirs of his Own Time." He writes: "During near ten years which elapsed between the death of his father, early in 1751, and the decease of his grandfather, a period when the human mind is susceptible of such deep impressions, he remained in a state of almost absolute seclusion from his future people, and from the world. Constantly resident at Leicester House or at Carlton House when he was in London; immured at Kew whenever he went to the country; perpetually under the eye of his mother and of Lord Bute, who acted in the choicest unity of design; he saw comparatively few other persons, and those only chosen individuals of both sexes. They naturally obtained, and long preserved, a very firm ascendancy over him. When he ascended the throne, though already arrived at manhood, his very person was hardly known, and his character was still less understood, beyond a narrow circle. Precautions, it is well ascertained, were even adopted by the Princess-dowager to preclude as much as possible access to him, precautions which, to the extent of her ability, were redoubled after he became king. It will scarcely be believed, but it is nevertheless true, that in order to prevent him from conversing with any persons, or receiving written intimations, anonymous or otherwise, between the drawing-room and the door of Carlton House, when he was returning from thence to St. James's or Buckingham House after his evening visits to his mother, she never failed to accompany him till he got into his sedan-chair."
Carlton House, from time to time, proved a focus of political faction. Sir N. W. Wraxall describes with great minuteness the entertainment given here by the Prince of Wales in May, 1784, in honour of the return of Fox for Westminster, after a prolonged and exciting contest in which both parties put forth all their strength. In order to give piquancy to the event, the Prince chose the day after the election, when all the rank, beauty, and talent of the opposition (Whig) party were assembled by invitation on the lawn of his palace for the fête, precisely at the time when the King, his father, was proceeding in state down St. James's Park to open the new Parliament. The wall of Carlton Gardens, and that barrier only, formed the separation between them. Then, while the younger part of the company were more actively engaged, there might be contemplated under the shade of the trees an exhibition such as fancy places in the Elysian Fields… Lord North, dressed, like every other individual invited, in his new livery of buff and blue, beheld himself surrounded by those very persons who, scarcely fifteen months earlier, affected to regard him as an object of national execration, deserving of capital punishment. Lord Derby and Lord Beauchamp, two noblemen long opposed to each other, Colonel North and George Byng, lately the most inveterate enemies, Fitzpatrick and Adam, depositing their animosities at the Prince's feet, or either at the altar of ambition or interest—were here seen to join in perfect harmony."
A few days afterwards, a second banquet even more magnificent was given by the Prince in the same interest—antagonistic, of course, to his father and his father's ministers—"a banquet," if we may believe the same writer, "prolonged, in defiance of usage and almost of human nature, from the noon of one day to the following morning. Every production," adds the gossiping writer, "that taste and luxury could assemble, was exhausted, the foreign ministers resident in London assisting at the celebration. A splendid banquet was served up to the ladies, on whom, in the spirit of chivalry, his royal highness and the gentlemen present waited while they were seated at table. It must be owned that on these occasions, for which he seemed peculiarly formed, the Prince appeared to great advantage. Louis XIV. himself could scarcely have eclipsed the son of George III. in a ball-room, or when doing the honours of his palace, surrounded by the pomp and attributes of luxury and royal state."
Here, also, in 1789, the Prince used to give dinners on Saturdays and Sundays to the hangerson of the Whig party, in the hope of confirming them in their allegiance to Fox. The guests were often thirty or forty in number. Sir N. W. Wraxall says, "Wine, promises, and personal attentions were not spared. Governments, regiments, offices, preferments, titles, here held out in prospect, retained the wavering and allured the credulous and discontented; private negotiations were likewise set on foot to gain over supporters to the Government." Here the Prince of Wales, in 1789, received the deputation from the House of Commons, with Pitt at its head, which first offered the Regency to his acceptance.
It is well known that George II. and his eldest son, Frederick, Prince of Wales, during several years previous to the early death of the latter, lived "at daggers drawn" with each other, and without even the veil of decency being drawn before their expressions of mutual dislike. To a certain extent, though not to the same degree, the court of Carlton House under George IV., as Prince of Wales, was maintained in constant hostility to that of the King his father at St. James's and at Kew.
In Mr. T. Raikes's "Journal," we get some insight of the manner in which the unfortunate marriage of the Prince of Wales was brought about. The author, as he tells us, was often in the company of the Duke of Wellington, who talked much about the Royal Family in his time, and on one occasion more especially with reference to the above marriage. "'The marriage,' he said, 'was brought about by Lady—, who exercised great influence over him: the Prince, who was easily led, imparted his wishes to the King, which were immediately and readily complied with; and as soon as his marriage was accomplished with the Princess Caroline of Brunswick, Lady——promoted their separation.' I said that this was amply corroborated by what I had lately read in Lord Malmesbury's Papers, who was selected by King George III. to go over to Brunswick, to make the formal proposals and bring the bride over to England. They had a wretched journey home, accompanied by the old Duchess, attempting to go through Holland, and embark at Rotterdam, where the squadron was waiting for them, but they were stopped by the French armies, and confined for a long time at a miserable Dutch inn, where they met with so many hardships, that the old Duchess was taken ill, and obliged to return home. Lord M——and his charge were also forced to beat a retreat, countermand the orders given to the men-of-war, and, after six or seven weeks' miserable adventures, they at last embarked at Embden and arrived in England." Queen Caroline on reaching England could not speak a word of English. So Samuel Rogers tells us in his "Diary."
It is impossible at this interval of time to conceive the bitterness with which Queen Caroline was
assailed by the Tory press, at the head of which,
for wit and influence, stood the John Bull, with
Theodore Hook as its editor. It is with a dash of
dry humour that Hook's biographer, in an article
in the Quarterly, makes these observations:—"There is little to be said in defence of the early
virulences of John Bull except that they were,
we believe without exception, directed against the
Queen and her prominent partisans; and that the
Whig leaders, both in Parliament and in society,
had, from the commencement of the Regency, countenanced attacks equally malignant on the private
life and circle of George IV.—nay, encouraged, in
times then freshly remembered, the long series of
libels by which the virtues and the afflictions of
King George III. were turned into matter of contemptuous sport. The truth is, the Liberals—as
they about this period began to style themselves—had shown a fervid desire to domineer in a haughty
monopoly of wicked wit: their favourites among
the literati almost resented any interference with
it as an intolerable invasion of 'vested rights.'
The ultimate result of the struggle was, we think,
highly beneficial to both parties. In the words
of Thomas Moore—
'As work like this was unbefitting,
And flesh and blood no longer bore it,
The Court of Common Sense then sitting
Summoned the culprits both before it.'
On either side, when there came coolness enough for measuring the mutual offences and annoyances, all persons of influence seem to have concurred in the determination that such things should no longer be tolerated."
On the meeting of both Houses of Parliament on the 30th of November, 1810, a report of the physicians on the state of the King's health was brought in and laid before the members. The final issue of all the debates which followed was, that the Prince of Wales should be Regent, under certain restrictions; and that the Queen should have the care of the King's person, her Majesty being assisted by a council. The ceremony of conferring the regency on the Prince was performed at Carlton House with great pomp, on the 5th of February, 1811; and in the following June, the Prince Regent gave here a grand supper to 2,000 guests, a stream with gold and silver fish flowing through a marble canal down the central table.
One of the first acts of the Regent, after his being sworn in in due form before the Privy Council, was to receive here the address of the Lord Mayor and Common Council of the City of London on the occasion; and as he on the same day held a council, all the Ministers of State were present, when it was read in a very solemn manner. The address of the City was partly condoling and partly congratulatory. Among the grievances was specified "the present representation in the Commons House of Parliament, a reform in which was necessary for the safety of the Crown, the happiness of the people, and the independence of the country." To this the Prince Regent returned a kind and dignified answer, assuring the City that he should esteem it as the happiest moment of his life, when he could resign the powers delegated to him into the hands of his sovereign, and that he should always listen to the complaints of those who thought themselves aggrieved.
The household of the Prince Regent here was full of bickerings and quarrels. As a proof of the absurd stress laid by his Royal Highness upon the merest trifles, it may be mentioned that on one occasion the sub-governess of the Princess Charlotte was obliged to resign her situation at Court because her youthful ward, in a freak, had made a childish will in rhyme, leaving her poll parrot to——, and all her non-valuables to Miss Campbell, as residuary legatee. Indeed, it is said by Miss Amelia Murray, in her "Recollections," that the sub-governess was even accused before the Privy Council of treason, for allowing the heiress presumptive to the throne to make a will, even in jest! It is to be hoped that the authoress is guilty here of a little feminine exaggeration.
The Princess of Wales herself, as is too well known, had anything but happiness in her married life. On one occasion, as we learn from the "Diary of the Times of George IV.," when all her Royal Highness' ladies had been invited to a fête by the Prince Regent, from which she herself was excluded, she presented each of them with a very handsome dress; and to one her Royal Highness wrote: "Dear—, pray do me de favour to accept and wear de accompanying gown; and when you are in de ball at Carlton House, tink of me, and wish me well. For ever your affectionate, C. R."
If the Prince ever really cared for any woman, it was for Mrs. Fitzherbert. After his accession to the throne, and the trial of Queen Caroline, he shut himself up almost wholly from the public gaze, and lived chiefly within the walls of Carlton House, his table being presided over by the beautiful Marchioness of Conyngham, whose brilliant wit, according to his Majesty's estimate, surpassed that of all his friends, male or female.
The Princess of Wales always spoke highly of Mrs. Fitzherbert; she would say:—"That is the Prince's true wife; she is an excellent woman; it is a great pity for him he ever broke vid her. Do you know, I know de man who was present at his marriage, the late Lord Bradford. He declared to a friend of mine, that when he went to inform Mrs. Fitzherbert that the Prince had married me, she would not believe it, for she knew she was herself married to him."
The author of "Memories of the Times of George IV." mentions several instances of the unguarded and reckless way in which the Princess would speak of the situation in which she was then placed, and also of her previous life. She would dwell, in conversation with her friends, on the drunken habits of her husband, which were then notorious to the world. How he spent the first night of his marriage in a state of intoxication is known by all the readers of the "Memories" above mentioned, the author of which says that after the birth of the Princess Charlotte, the unhappy lady received through Lord Cholmondeley a message to the effect that in future the Prince and her would occupy separate establishments. "Poor Princess!" continues the writer, "she was an ill-treated woman, but a very wrong-headed one. Had she remained quietly at Carlton House, and conducted herself with silent dignity, how different might have been her lot. It is true, as her Privy Purse, Miss Hamilton, once told a person of my acquaintance, she was so insulted whilst there, that every bit of furniture was taken out of the room she dined in, except two shabby chairs; and the pearl bracelets, which had been given her by the Prince, were taken from her to decorate the arms of Lady Jersey. Still, had the Princess had the courage which arises from principle, and not that which is merely the offspring of a daring spirit, she would have sat out the storm, and weathered it."
For the following description of the début of the Princess Charlotte at Carlton House in the year 1813, we are indebted to Captain Gronow, who was present as a guest. He writes: "At the period to which I refer, Carlton House was the centre of all the great politicians and wits who were friends of the Prince Regent. The principal entrance of the palace in Pall Mall, with its screen of columns, will be remembered by many. In the rear of the mansion was an extensive garden that reached from Warwick Street to Marlborough House; green sward, stately trees (probably two hundred years old), and beds of the choicest flowers, gave to the grounds a picturesque attraction perhaps unequalled. It was here that the heir to the throne of England gave, in 1813, an open-air fête, in honour of the battle of Vittoria. About three o'clock p.m. the élite of London society, who had been honoured with invitations, began to arrive—all in full dress; the ladies particularly displaying their diamonds and pearls, as if they were going to a drawing-room. The men were, of course, in full dress, wearing knee-buckles. The regal circle was composed of the Queen, the Regent, the Princesses Sophia and Mary, the Princess Charlotte, the Dukes of York, Clarence, Cumberland, and Cambridge.
"This was the first day that her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte appeared in public. She was a young lady of more than ordinary personal attractions; her features were regular, and her complexion fair, with the rich bloom of youthful beauty; her eyes were blue and very expressive, and her hair was abundant, and of that peculiar light brown which merges into the golden; in fact, such hair as the middle-age Italian painters associate with their conceptions of the Madonna. In figure her royal highness was somewhat over the ordinary height of women, but finely proportioned and well developed. Her manners were remarkable for a simplicity and good-nature which would have won admiration and invited affection in the most humble walks of life. She created universal admiration, and I may say a feeling of national pride, amongst all who attended the ball. The Prince Regent entered the gardens giving his arm to the Queen, the rest of the royal family following. Tents had been erected in various parts of the grounds, where the bands of the Guards were stationed. The weather was magnificent, a circumstance which contributed to show off the admirable arrangements of Sir Benjamin Bloomfield, to whom had been deputed the organisation of the fête, which commenced by dancing on the lawn.
"The Princess Charlotte honoured with her presence two dances. In the first she accepted the hand of the late Duke of Devonshire, and in the second that of the Earl of Aboyne, who had danced with Marie Antoinette, and who, as Lord Huntly, lived long enough to dance with Queen Victoria. The Princess entered so much into the spirit of the fête as to ask for the new fashionable Scotch dances. The Prince was dressed in the Windsor uniform, and wore the garter and star. He made himself very amiable, and conversed much with the Ladies Hertford, Cholmondeley, and Montfort. Altogether, the fête was a very memorable event."
Lady Clementina Davies writes in her "Recollections of Society:"—"The Princess Charlotte was treated by all parties as the brightest hope of England. When she made her début at Carlton House a brilliant circle attended. The Queen, the Regent, the Princesses, and the four Royal Dukes, were there, but all eyes were engrossed by the royal girl."
The Princess could not well help resenting the affronts offered to her mother. Indeed, as a child, and throughout her girlhood, she had a most difficult part to play, for, as she often used to say, "if she showed affection or respect for one of her parents, she tacitly blamed the other, and, of course, was blamed in return."
It has often been asked what induced the Princess Charlotte so suddenly to give his congé to the Prince of Orange, and suddenly to accept Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg in his stead. The Hon. Amelia Murray in her "Recollections," writing of the visit of the Allied Sovereigns in 1814, thus solves the mystery:—"The Prince of Orange was not particularly attractive; Prince Leopold, on the contrary, was a handsome young man, though not then specially noticed; but very soon it was discovered that the Princess Charlotte preferred him to her former lover. Small blame to the young Princess! but I have strong reason to believe that it was through a Russian intrigue that she had been thrown in the way of the handsomest prince in Germany, and that the Grand Duchess of Russia came here for the purpose of disgusting the Princess of England with her intended husband. It did not suit Russian views that England and Holland should be so closely connected. The Grand Duchess of Oldenburg came to this country, I verily believe, for the purpose of 'putting a spoke into that wheel.' She took an hotel in Piccadilly; she earnestly sought the acquaintance of Miss Elphinstone, who was known to be on intimate terms with the Princess. She gave grand dinners, and took care to invite the Prince of Orange on the night when he was to waltz in public with the Princess as her fiancé. The Grand Duchess plied him well with champagne, and a young man could hardly refuse the invitations of his hostess. In fact, he was made tipsy, and the Princess was disgusted. Then, in Miss Elphinstone's apartments, the charming Prince Leopold was presented. Was it to be wondered at that a girl of seventeen should prefer him to the former lover? The Prince of Orange accordingly was speedily dismissed, and in due time he married the Duchess of Oldenburg's sister. This intrigue accounts for all that happened subsequently."
The story of the engagement of the Princess Charlotte to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg is told, however, somewhat differently in the gossiping pages of Captain Gronow's "Anecdotes and Reminiscences." He writes: "The Duke of York said one day to his royal niece, 'Tell me, my dear, have you seen any one among the foreign princes whom you would like to have for a husband?' The Princess replied, with much naïveté, that she was most agreeably struck with Prince Leopold of Coburg. She had heard of his bravery in the field, and especially of his famous charge in the battle of Leipsic, for which he was rewarded by the Order of Maria Theresa. In a few months afterwards she became the wife of the man whom she so much admired, and from whom she was so soon afterwards torn away by the hand of death." It will be remembered that she died in childbirth, having given birth to a dead infant. Her death was felt as a blow by the whole nation. Miss Amelia Murray, who held a post at Court, and may be supposed to have been well informed on such subjects, does not hesitate to express her opinion that "the Princess Charlotte was starved to death," her medical attendant, Sir Richard Croft, having forbidden her to eat meat so as to keep up her strength. Sir Richard was so much affected by the calamity that he committed suicide shortly afterwards.
It was wittingly said of those who were admitted in former days to the circle of Carlton House, that they learnt there the value of being good listeners, or else afterwards came to lament the want of that qualification. Hear what you like, but say as little as possible, was the rule with that gay and heartless coterie who gathered round the Prince Regent in those gilded salons.
Cyrus Redding wrote in the Times a witty "Dialogue between Carlton House and Brandenburg House," which caused a sensation in town.
The following is an extract from a letter dated February 23rd, 1812:—"The Prince Regent went yesterday in grand state to the Chapel Royal—the first time of his appearance as virtual sovereign. As he proceeded from Carlton House to St. James's surrounded by all his pomp, &c., not a single huzza from the crowd assembled to behold him! Not a hat off! Of this I was assured by a gentleman present, on whom I can depend."
Of the Prince Regent himself, who so long held his court here, Captain Gronow, who was much behind the scenes, has but little that is favourable to say. According to Captain Gronow's anecdotes, the Prince, so far from being "the first gentleman in Europe," was "singularly imbued with a petty and vulgar pride. He would rather be amiable and familiar with his tailor than agreeable and friendly with the most illustrious of the aristocracy of the kingdom; and would rather joke with 'Beau' Brummell than admit to his confidence a Howard or a Somerset. And yet he took good care always to show good manners in public. His misfortune was his marriage with a most unattractive and almost repulsive woman, Caroline of Brunswick; and his debts were at the bottom of his ill-starred union. He sold himself, in fact, for a million sterling."
Sir N. W. Wraxall tells a good anecdote about Lord Carhampton, who, as Colonel Luttrell, had contested the representation of Middlesex against John Wilkes:—"In 1812, soon after the restrictions imposed by Parliament on the Prince Regent were withdrawn, Lord Carhampton was lying in an apparently hopeless state at his house near Berkeley Square, whence premature intelligence of his death was carried by some officious person to Carlton House. The Prince, who was at dinner at the time, immediately gave away his regiment, the Carabineers, to a general officer present, who actually 'kissed hands' on his appointment. No sooner did the report reach Lord Carhampton next day, than he dispatched a friend to Pall Mall with a message for the Prince, informing his Royal Highness that he was still happily in the land of the living, and humbly entreating him to dispose of any other regiment in the service except the Carabineers. Lord Carhampton, with much humour, added, that the Prince might rest assured that, in case of his own death, he would give special directions to his servants to lose not a moment, when he was really no more, in notifying the fact at Carlton House. The Prince very much enjoyed the joke, and Lord Carhampton got well enough to laugh at it in his company."
Another story is told of one of Theodore Hook's hoaxes, the scene of which was Carlton House under the Regency. On the 17th of June, the Prince gave here a fête of "surpassing magnificence." "Romeo" Coates was at this time in all his glory—murdering Shakespeare at the Haymarket, and driving his bright-pink cockle-shell, with the life-like chanticleers in gilt traps, about the parks and the streets of the West-end. Hook, who could imitate almost any and every handwriting, contrived to get into his possession one of the Chamberlain's tickets for this fête, and produced a fac-simile commanding the presence of Signor Romeo at Carlton House. He next equipped himself in a gorgeous uniform of scarlet, and delivered in person the flattering missive at Mr. Coates's door. The delight of Romeo must be imagined. "Hook," says one of his biographers, "was in attendance when the time for his sallying forth arrived, and had the satisfaction of seeing him swing into his chariot, bedizened in all his finery, with a diamond-hilted sword and the air of Louis le Grand. Theodore was also at the front entrance of Carlton House when the amateur's vehicle reached its point. He saw him mount up the broad steps and enter the vestibule. The stranger passed in without remark or question; but when he had to show his ticket to the Private Secretary, that eye caught the imposture. Mr. Coates was politely informed that a mistake had occurred, and had to retrace his course to the portico. The blazoned chariot had driven off; in wrath and confusion he must pick his steps as he might to the first stand of hackney-coaches. Hook was at his elbow well muffled up. No such discomfiture since the Knight of the Woeful Countenance was unhorsed by the Bachelor Sampson Carrasco: We must not omit that the Prince, when aware of what had occurred, signified his extreme regret that any one of his household should have detected the trick, or acted on its detection. Mr. Coates was, as he said, an inoffensive gentleman, and his presence might have amused many of the guests, and could have done harm to no one. His Royal Highness sent his secretary next morning to apologise in person, and to signify that as the arrangements and ornaments were still entire, he hoped Mr. Coates would come and look at them. And Romeo went. In this performance Hook had no confidant. To do him justice, we believe he never told the story without some signs of compunction."
One day, at a party at Carlton House, the Prince Regent gaily observed that there were present two "Georges the Younger," alluding to himself and George Colman, Junior, but that he should like to know which was "George the Youngest." "Oh !" replied Colman, with a happy sally of wit, "I could never, sir, have had the rudeness to come into the world before your Royal Highness." The Prince was highly amused, and never forgot the joke or its author.
In April, 1814, as we learn from Allen's "History of London," "when Marshal Blucher arrived at Carlton House, all attempts to keep the populace out of the court-yard were in vain: the two sentinels at the gate, with their muskets, were laid on the ground; and the porter was overpowered. To indulge the public, the doors of the great hall were thrown open on the occasion; and here the first interview of the General with the Prince Regent took place."
One of the most constant frequenters of Carlton House in the days of George Prince of Wales was George Brummell, or "Beau Brummell," as he was known to his friends, and is still known to history. He was born in 1777, and sent to Eton, where he enjoyed the credit of being the best scholar, the best oarsman, and the best cricketer of his day. His father was under-secretary to Lord North, and is said to have left to each of his children some £30,000. Whilst at Eton, he made plenty of aristocratical friends; and being regarded as a sort of "Admirable Crichton," obtained the entrée to the circle of Devonshire House, where the Duchess of Devonshire introduced him to the Prince Regent, who gave him a commission in the 10th Hussars. When he left the army he lived in Chesterfield Street, where he often had the Prince to sup with him in private. Notwithstanding the great disparity of rank, the intimacy continued for several years. He spent his days mainly at Brighton and at Carlton House, keeping a well-appointed resi dence in town, and belonging to "White's" and other clubs, where high play prevailed. His canes, his snuff-boxes, his dogs, his horses and carriage, each and all were of the first class, and distinguished for taste; and the cut of his dress set the fashion to West-end tailors, who vied with each other in their efforts to secure his patronage. After a few years, however, a coolness sprang up between him and the Prince, as he espoused the cause of Mrs. Fitzherbert, and finally, the mirror of fashion was forbidden to approach the royal presence. Even this, however, blew over, and having been lucky enough to win a large sum at cards, he was once more invited to Carlton House. Here, in joy at meeting once more with his old friend, the Prince, he took too much wine. The Prince said quietly to his brother, the Duke of York, "I think we had better order Mr. Brummell's carriage before he gets quite drunk," so he left the palace never to return. It is said by Captain Gronow, that in treating his guest thus, the Regent merely retaliated on him for an insult which he had received from him a year or two before at Lady Cholmondeley's ball, when the "Beau," turning to her ladyship, and pointing to the Prince, inquired, "And pray who is your fat friend?" Another version of the rupture between the Prince and "Beau" Brummell is, that one day he risked some freedom of speech to his royal patron, to whom he is reported to have said, "George, ring the bell!" This he always denied; but it is certain that whatever his words were, they never were forgotten or forgiven by the Prince. Every one knows Brummell's subsequent career and fate. For a few years he was a hanger-on at Oatlands, the seat of the Duke and Duchess of York; then, having lost large sums at play, was obliged to fly the country, and, having lived in obscurity for some years at Calais, obtained the post of British Consul at Caen, where he died, in anything but affluent circumstances, in 1840—another proof, if any proof be needed, of the precarious existence of those who live by basking in the sunshine of royalty.
Another of the friends and companions of the Prince Regent was General Arabin, the writer of witty prologues and epilogues for lords and ladies. Late in life he "cut" the Prince, like George Brummell, and revenged himself by writing a volume of scurrilous memoirs of Carlton House and its inmates. The book is mentioned by Cyrus Redding as in MS., and we do not think it has ever yet seen the light.
Then there was a man named Lade, who, from having had the management of the royal stables, and having married a very pretty wife, formerly a cook in the royal establishment, received the honour of knighthood from the Prince Regent. Sir John Lade's ambition, however, even after he became a "Knight Batchelor," was to imitate the groom in dress and in language. "I once heard him," writes Mr. Raikes in his "Journal," "asking a friend on Egham racecourse to come home and dine. 'I can give you a trout spotted all over like a coach-dog, a fillet of veal as white as alablaster (sic), a pantaloon cutlet, and plenty of pancakes.' It was then the fashion to drive a phaeton and four-in-hand. The Prince of Wales used to drive a phaeton and six as more magnificent. … As a boy, I have often seen the Prince driving round and round the park in this equipage, followed by a dozen others of the same description, including Lord Sefton, Lord Barrymore, and other notorious 'whips.'"
Tommy Moore was a constant guest here, under
George IV., who, as Regent and as King, "played
the cheap and easy part of Polycrates to the Irish
Anacreon." Some of our readers will not have
forgotten Moore's whimsical description of the
Prince Regent's breakfast-room at Carlton House
during the London season:—
"Methought the Prince in whisker'd state
Before me at his breakfast sate;
On one side lay unread petitions,
On t'other hints from five physicians;
Here tradesmen's bills, official papers,
Notes from 'my lady,' drams for vapours;
There plans for saddles, tea and toast,
Death-warrants, and—the Morning Post."
Mike Kelly, the Irish comedian, was another frequent visitor here, and of him Cyrus Redding, in his "Recollections," tells us many anecdotes:—"Kelly was a good after-dinner man. He told many stories of the characters of his time, and of the 'Prince, God bless him!' to use his own words in relation to George IV. All the boon companions of the Prince were friends of Kelly's. After the 'true prince,' Sheridan was Kelly's hero. The veteran composer spoke of one tainted in appearance from such a connection during his life's prime. He looked flaccid from past indulgences. The best of those, high or low, who had come within the influence of the same circle, exhibited similar resemblances to half-worn rakes."
When Dr. Parr dined at Carlton House by royal command, the Prince Regent most good-naturedly allowed him to sit after dinner and quietly smoke his pipe.
The likeness so often drawn between the Regent in his youth to the Hal of Shakespeare, and the similar change of conduct with that Prince when he came to the throne, and which is made an excuse for every caprice of humour and every change of system, has told the tale long ago of an heir-apparent and a crowned monarch. There was, however, nothing new in the conduct of the Prince Regent: all princes who scorn their father's ministers and measures during their minority, generally adopt both when they come to reign.
It was whilst residing here, in 1780—soon after attaining the dignity of a separate royal household—that the Prince of Wales became passionately attached to Mrs. Mary Robinson, the popular actress, better known by her name of "Perdita." In vain did George III. remonstrate with his son upon his infatuation. The Prince appeared in public with the lovely "Perdita" by his side; and the assumed name of "Florizel," under which royalty sought her plebeian hand, became known to, and was commented on, by the fashionable world without any reserve. It was only a more honourable love for Mrs. Fitzherbert, which dated from the following year, that induced the then heirapparent to the British throne to give up the most foolish of semi-romantic unions by which a royal personage was ever entangled. "Florizel," in due course, became king; but "poor Perdita" died in debt and broken-hearted less than twenty years afterwards, and lies at rest in the parish churchyard of Old Windsor, where she had spent the last few years of her life.
Here the Prince of Wales was privately married, on the 21st of December, 1785, by a clergyman of the Established Church, to Mrs. Fitzherbert, a Roman Catholic lady of high family and connections—just a week after writing a letter to Charles James Fox, denying the truth of a rumour to the effect that he had contracted a morganatic marriage.
On the 29th of January, 1820, the venerable King, George III., died at Windsor Castle; and on the following morning, in pursuance of established usage, the cabinet ministers assembled at Carlton House, and here George IV. held his first court. This was numerously and brilliantly attended by all ranks and parties, who eagerly offered their homage to the new king; the re-appointment of the Lord Chancellor, and several ministers, was the first exercise of sovereign power, the oaths of allegiance being administered to those present. A council was, in compliance with the royal ordinance, immediately holden; and all the late king's privy councillors then in attendance were sworn as members of the new council, and took their seats at the board accordingly.
The proclamation of the new king took place publicly in the metropolis, on Monday, January 31st. The first proclamation was made on the steps of Carlton House, in the presence of his Majesty, his royal brothers, and the principal officers of state. The procession then formed in the following order, and proceeded to Charing Cross:—Farriers of the Life Guards with their axes erect; French horns of the troop; troop of Life Guards; the beadles of the different parishes in their long cloaks; constables; two knights marshals' officers; knight marshal and his men; household drums; kettle drums; trumpets; the pursuivants; Blue Mantle; Rouge Croix; Rouge Dragon and Portcullis; the Kings of Arms in their tabards and collars; Garter, Sir I. Heard, knt., supported by two sergeants at arms, with their maces; Clarencieux and Norroy; heralds in their full dress; the procession being concluded by a troop of Life Guards.
On arriving at Charing Cross, the proclamation was again read, and the procession proceeded to Temple Bar, where the usual formalities of closing the gates, and admitting one of the heralds to shew his authority, having been gone through, the cavalcade entered the City, and were joined by the Lord Mayor, sheriffs, and several of the aldermen; the proclamation was read at the end of Chancery Lane, at the end of Wood Street, Cheapside, and at the Royal Exchange, when the heralds and the military returned.
In the year 1828, as above stated, Carlton House was demolished; much of the ornamental interior details—such as marble mantelpieces, friezes, and columns—being transferred to Buckingham Palace. Upon the site of the gardens have been erected the York Column and Carlton House Terrace; the balustrades of the latter originally extended between the two ranges of houses, but were removed to form the present entrance to St. James's Park, by command of William IV., soon after his accession to the throne. Upon the site of the court-yard and part of Carlton House are the United Service and the Athenæum Club-houses, and the intervening area facing Waterloo Place, on either side of which are placed, on granite pedestals, bronze statues of Lord Clyde and Sir John Franklin.
We learn from Evelyn that in his time the ground now covered by Carlton House Terrace and Carlton Gardens was known as "The Mulberry Gardens," and that they were "the only place of refreshment about the town for persons of the best quality to be exceedingly cheated at."
The house in Carlton House Terrace next but one eastward from the Duke of York's Column was the residence of Mr. Gladstone for some years before and during his premiership, in 1868–74. Curiously enough, it was occupied for a time, some thirty years earlier, by another Prime Minister, the late Earl of Derby, then Lord Stanley. A curious and interesting anecdote is told concerning this house by Mr. Forster in his "Life of Charles Dickens." He writes:—"The story is, that Lord Derby, when Mr. Stanley, had on some important occasion made a speech which all the reporters found it necessary greatly to abridge; that its essential points had, nevertheless, been so well given in the Chronicle that Mr. Stanley, having need of it for himself in greater detail, had sent a request to the reporter to meet him in Carlton House Terrace and take down the entire speech; that Dickens attended and did the work accordingly, much to Mr. Stanley's satisfaction; and that, on his dining with Mr. Gladstone in recent years, and finding the aspect of the dining-room strangely familiar, he discovered afterwards, on inquiry, that it was there he had taken the speech. The story, as it actually occurred, is connected with the brief life of the 'Mirror of Parliament.' It was not at any special desire of Mr. Stanley's, but for that new record of debates, which had been started by one of the uncles of Dickens, and professed to excel 'Hansard' in giving verbatim reports, that the famous speech against O'Connell was taken as described. The young reporter went to the room in Carlton Terrace because the work of his uncle Barrow's publication required to be done there; and if, in later years," adds Mr. Forster, "the great author was in the same room as the guest of the Prime Minister, it must have been but a month or two before he died, when, for the first time, he visited and breakfasted with Mr. Gladstone."
The house No. 9 has been for some years the official residence of the German Ambassador, and here, in 1873, died Count Bernstorff. At No. 14, Lord Lonsdale's, is a very fine collection of old furniture of various styles and dates, with a profusion of Sèvres china, among which is the splendid service given by Louis XV. to the Empress Catharine. At No. 1, Mr. George Tomline has a fine gallery of paintings, including some Murillos. No. 18, the last on the southern side, was the Duke of Hamilton's; but its contents were sold off under the auctioneer's hammer in 1870, and the house afterwards occupied by Earl Granville.
In 1840 the Prince Louis Napoleon (afterwards Emperor of the French) was living here, in the house of Lord Ripon, No. 1, in Carlton Gardens. This mansion accordingly became the centre of preparations for his famous descent upon Boulogne in the August of that year—an abortive attempt to revive the "Napoleonic Idea" in France, which led to the Prince's imprisonment in the fortress of Ham. It is said, indeed, by Mr. B. Jerrold, in his "Life of the Emperor," that in this house the Prince and his friends amused themselves with coining military buttons for a "regiment of the future."