Caroline of Brunswick: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Caroline of Brunswick

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Caroline of Brunswick
Portrait of Queen Caroline, ca. 1820, by James Lonsdale, who styled himself "Principal Painter in Ordinary to the Queen." Her hands are arranged to display her wedding ring in order to emphasize her fidelity to her marriage vows.
Queen consort of the United Kingdom
and of Hanover
Tenure 29 January 1820 – 7 August 1821
Spouse George IV
Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales
Full name
Caroline Amalie Elisabeth
House House of Brunswick-Bevern (by birth)
House of Hanover (by marriage)
Father Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick
Mother Princess Augusta Frederika of Wales
Born 17 May 1768(1768-05-17)
Braunschweig, Holy Roman Empire
Died 7 August 1821 (aged 53)
London, England
Burial Brunswick Cathedral

Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (Caroline Amelia Elizabeth; later Queen Caroline; 17 May 1768 – 7 August 1821) was the wife of George IV of the United Kingdom from 1795, and his queen consort from 29 January 1820 until her death.


Early life

Caroline was born on 17 May 1768 at Braunschweig (Historic English name: Brunswick) in Germany, daughter of Karl William, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and Princess Augusta Frederika of Wales, eldest sister of George III.


In 1794, she was engaged to George III's eldest son, her first cousin, George, Prince of Wales. They had never met—George had agreed to marry her because he was heavily in debt, and if he contracted a marriage with an eligible princess, Parliament would increase his allowance. Caroline seemed eminently suitable: she was a Protestant of royal birth, and the marriage would ally Brunswick and Britain. Though Brunswick was only a small country, Britain was at war with revolutionary France and eager to obtain allies on the European mainland. On 20 November 1794, Lord Malmesbury arrived at Brunswick to escort Caroline to her new life in Britain.[1] In his diary, Malmesbury recorded his reservations about Caroline's suitability as a bride for the prince: she lacked judgment, decorum and tact, spoke her mind too readily, acted indiscreetly, and often neglected to wash, or change her dirty clothes.[2] He went on to say that she had "no acquired morality, and no strong innate notions of its value and necessity."[3] However, Malmesbury was impressed by her bravery; on the journey to England, the party heard cannonfire, as they were not far from the French lines. While Caroline's mother was concerned for their safety, Caroline was unfazed.[4]

On 28 March 1795, Caroline and Malmesbury left Cuxhaven in the Jupiter. Delayed by poor weather, they landed a week later, on Easter Sunday 5 April, at Greenwich. There, she met Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey, George's mistress, who had been appointed Caroline's Lady of the Bedchamber.[5] According to Lord Holland, the Duke of Wellington had claimed that it was Lady Jersey who had selected Caroline as George's bride. She chose, so Wellington said, a woman "of indelicate manners, indifferent character and not very inviting appearance, from a hope that disgust with a wife would secure constancy to a mistress."[6]

On meeting his future wife for the first time, George called for a glass of brandy. He was evidently disappointed. Similarly, Caroline told Malmesbury, "[the Prince is] very fat and he's nothing like as handsome as his portrait."[7] At dinner that evening, the Prince was appalled by Caroline's garrulous nature and her jibes at the expense of Lady Jersey. She was upset and disappointed by George's obvious partiality for Lady Jersey over her.[8]

Troubled marriage

Caroline in 1795, shortly before her marriage to the future George IV.

Caroline and George were married on 8 April 1795 at the Chapel Royal, St. James's Palace in London. At the ceremony, George was drunk. He regarded Caroline as unattractive and unhygienic, and told Malmesbury that he suspected that she was not a virgin when they married.[9] He, of course, was not. He had himself already secretly married Maria Fitzherbert; however, his marriage to Fitzherbert violated the Royal Marriages Act 1772 and thus was not legally valid.[10]

The prince's correspondence reveals that the couple only had sexual intercourse three times: twice the first night of the marriage, and once the second night.[10] He wrote, "it required no small [effort] to conquer my aversion and overcome the disgust of her person."[11] Princess Charlotte Augusta, George's only legitimate child, was born from one of these unions on 7 January 1796. Immediately on her birth, Charlotte became second in the line of succession to the British throne. The Prince and Princess of Wales never lived together afterwards, and appeared separately in public, both becoming involved in affairs with other lovers. This earned her the nickname 'The Immoral Queen.' It was alleged that her marriage was made uncomfortable by George IV's affair with Lady Jersey. However, it is more likely that Caroline had little interest in her husband, and thus little interest in whom he might be involved with romantically.

Just three days after Charlotte's birth, George made out a new will. He left all his property to "Maria Fitzherbert, my wife", while to Caroline he left one shilling.[12] The newspapers claimed that Lady Jersey opened, read and distributed the contents of Caroline's private letters.[13] She despised Lady Jersey and could not visit or travel anywhere without George's permission.[14] The press vilified George for his extravagance and luxury at a time of war and portrayed Caroline as a wronged wife.[15] She was cheered in public and gained plaudits for her "winning familiarity" and easy, open nature.[11] George was dismayed at her popularity and his own unpopularity, and felt trapped in a loveless marriage with a woman he loathed. He wanted a separation.[16]

Princess of Wales

Caroline moved to a private residence: at first to The Vicarage in Charlton then to Montagu House, the home of the Earl of Sandwich, in Blackheath. No longer constrained by her husband, or according to rumour her marital vows, she entertained whomever she pleased.[17] She flirted with Admiral Sir Sidney Smith and Captain Thomas Manby, and may have had a fling with the politician George Canning.[18]

Detail of a portrait of Caroline by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1804.

Her daughter Charlotte was placed in the care of a governess in a mansion near Montagu House, and Caroline visited her often.[19] It seems that a single daughter was not sufficient to sate Caroline's maternal instincts, and she adopted eight or nine poor children, who were fostered out to people in the district.[20] In 1802, she adopted a three-month old boy, William Austin, and took him into her home. By 1805, Caroline had fallen out with her near neighbours, Sir John and Lady Douglas, who claimed that Caroline had sent them obscene and harassing letters. Lady Douglas accused Caroline of infidelity, and alleged that William Austin was Caroline's illegitimate son.[21]

In 1806, a secret commission was set up, known as the "Delicate Investigation", to examine Lady Douglas's claims. The commission comprised four of the most eminent people in the country: the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Lord Grenville, the Lord Chancellor Lord Erskine, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales Lord Ellenborough and the Home Secretary Lord Spencer. Lady Douglas testified that Caroline herself had admitted to her in 1802 that she was pregnant, and that Austin was her son.[22] She further alleged that Caroline had been rude about the royal family, touched her in an inappropriately sexual way, and had admitted that any woman friendly with a man was sure to become his lover.[22] In addition to Smith, Manby and Canning, Thomas Lawrence and Henry Hood (the son of Lord Hood) were also mentioned as potential paramours. Caroline's servants could or would not confirm that these gentlemen were her lovers, nor that she had been pregnant, and said that the child had been brought to Caroline's house by his true mother, Sophia Austin. Sophia was summoned before the commissioners, and testified that the child was hers.[23] The commissioners decided that there was "no foundation" for the allegations, but despite being a supposedly secret investigation, it proved impossible to prevent gossip from spreading, and news of the investigation leaked to the press.[24] Caroline's conduct with her gentlemen friends was considered improper, but there was no proof that she had been guilty of anything more than flirtation. Perhaps Caroline had told Lady Douglas that she was pregnant out of frustrated maternal desire, or as part of a foolish prank that, unfortunately for her, backfired.[23] Later in the year, Caroline received further bad news as Brunswick was overrun by the French, and her father was killed in the battle of Jena-Auerstadt. Caroline had wanted to return to Brunswick and leave Britain behind her, but with much of Europe controlled by the French she had no safe haven to run to.[25]

By the end of 1811, King George III had become permanently insane, and the Prince of Wales was appointed as Regent. He restricted Caroline's access to Princess Charlotte, and Caroline became more socially isolated as members of high society chose to patronise George's extravagant parties rather than hers.[26] Caroline needed a powerful ally to help her oppose George's increasing ability to prevent her from seeing her daughter. In league with Henry Brougham (pronounced "broom", "brew-am", or "bro'am"), an ambitious Whig politician who favoured reform, she began a propaganda campaign against George.[27] George countered by leaking Lady Douglas's testimony from the "Delicate Investigation", which Brougham repudiated by leaking the testimonies of the servants and Mrs Austin.[28] Charlotte favoured her mother's point of view, as did most of the public. Jane Austen wrote of Caroline: "Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman and because I hate her Husband."[29]

In 1814, after Napoleon's defeat, nobility from throughout Europe attended celebrations in London, but Caroline was excluded.[30] Unhappy at her treatment, she negotiated a deal with the Foreign Secretary, Lord Castlereagh. She agreed to leave the country in exchange for an annual allowance of £35,000. Both Brougham and Charlotte were dismayed by Caroline's decision, as they both realised that Caroline's absence would strengthen George's power and weaken theirs.[31] On 8 August 1814, Caroline left Britain.[32]


After a two-week visit to Brunswick, Caroline headed for Italy through Switzerland. Along the way, possibly in Milan, she hired Bartolomeo Pergami as a servant.[33] Pergami soon rose to the head of Caroline's household, and managed to get his sister, Angelica, Countess of Oldi, appointed as Caroline's lady-in-waiting.[34] In mid-1815, Caroline bought a house, Villa d'Este, on the shores of Lake Como, despite the fact that her finances were stretched.[35]

From early 1816, she and Pergami went on a cruise around the Mediterranean, visiting Napoleon's former palace on Elba, and Sicily, where Pergami obtained the Order of Malta and a barony.[36] By this time, Caroline and Pergami were eating their meals together openly, and it was widely rumoured that they were lovers.[37] They visited Tunis, Malta, Milos, Athens, Corinth, Constantinople and Nazareth. Caroline entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey in a convoy of camels.[38] Pergami was made a Knight of the Order of Jerusalem. In August, they returned to Italy, stopping at Rome to visit the Pope.[39]

A caricature by George Cruikshank mocking Caroline for her supposed affair with Pergami.

By this time, gossip about Caroline was everywhere. Lord Byron wrote to his publisher that Caroline and Pergami were lovers,[40] and Baron Friedrich Ompteda, a Hanoverian spy, bribed one of Caroline's servants so that he could search her bedroom for proof of adultery. He found none.[41] By August 1817, Caroline's debts were growing so she sold Villa d'Este and moved to the smaller Villa Caprile near Pesaro. Pergami's mother, brother and daughter, but not his wife, joined Caroline's household.[42]

The previous year, Caroline's daughter, Princess Charlotte, had married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and the future of the British monarchy looked bright. Then tragedy struck: in November 1817, Charlotte died after giving birth to her only child, a stillborn son. For the most part, Charlotte had been immensely popular with the public, and her death was a blow to the country.[43] George refused to write to Caroline to inform her, leaving it for their son-in-law Leopold to do, but Leopold was deep in grief and delayed writing. George did, however, write to the pope of the tragedy, and by chance the courier carrying the letter passed by Pesaro, and so it was that Caroline heard the devastating news.[44] Caroline had lost her daughter, but she had also lost any chance of regaining position through the succession of her daughter to the throne.[45]

George was determined to press ahead with a divorce, and set up a commission chaired by the Vice-Chancellor John Leach to gather evidence of Caroline's adultery. Leach sent three commissioners to Milan to interrogate Caroline's former servants, including Theodore Majocci and Caroline's maid, Louise Demont.[46] In London, Brougham was still acting as Caroline's agent. Concerned that the "Milan commission" might threaten Caroline, he sent his brother, James, to Caroline's villa in the hope of establishing whether George had any grounds for divorce. James wrote back to his brother of Caroline and Pergami, "they are to all appearances man and wife, never was anything so obvious."[47] The Milan commission was assembling more and more evidence, and by 1819 Caroline was worried. She informed James Brougham that she would agree to a divorce in exchange for money.[48] However, at this time in England divorce by mutual consent was illegal; it was only possible to divorce if one of the partners admitted or was found guilty of adultery. Caroline said it was "impossible" for her to admit that, so the Broughams advised that only formal separation was possible.[49] Both keen to avoid publicity, the Broughams and the Government discussed a deal where Caroline would be called by a lesser title, such as "Duchess of Cornwall" rather than "Princess of Wales".[49] As the negotiations continued at the end of 1819, Caroline travelled to France, which gave rise to speculation that she was on her way back to England. In January 1820, however, she made plans to return to Italy, but then on 29 January 1820 King George III died. Caroline's husband became King and, at least nominally, she was Queen of the United Kingdom.[50]

Queen consort

"The Trial of Queen Caroline, 1820" by Sir George Hayter.
"Detail from The Trial of Queen Caroline, 1820" by Sir George Hayter.

Instead of being treated like a Queen, Caroline found that her estranged husband's accession paradoxically made her position worse. On visiting Rome, the pope refused her an audience, and the pope's minister Cardinal Consalvi insisted that she be greeted only as a Duchess of Brunswick, and not as a queen.[51] In an attempt to assert her rights, she made plans to return to Britain. The King demanded that his ministers get rid of her. He successfully persuaded them to remove her name from the liturgy of the Church of England, but they would not agree to a divorce because they feared the effect of a public trial. The government was weak and unpopular, and a trial detailing salacious details of both Caroline's and George's separate love lives was certain to destabilise it further.[52] Rather than run the risk, the government entered into negotiations with Caroline, and offered her an increased annuity of £50,000, if she stayed abroad.[53]

By the beginning of June, Caroline had travelled north from Italy, and was at St Omer near Calais. Acting on the advice of Alderman Matthew Wood and Lady Anne Hamilton (daughter of Archibald Hamilton, 9th Duke of Hamilton), she rejected the government's offer.[54] She bid farewell to Pergami, and embarked for England. When she arrived on 5 June, riots broke out in support of her. Caroline was a figurehead for the growing radical movement that demanded political reform and opposed the unpopular George.[55] Nevertheless, George still adamantly desired a divorce, and the following day, George submitted the evidence gathered by the Milan commission to Parliament. On 15 June, the Guards in the King's Mews mutinied. The mutiny was contained but the government was fearful of further unrest.[56] Examination of the bags was delayed as Parliament debated the form of the investigation, but eventually, on 27 June, they were opened and examined in secret by 15 peers. The peers considered the contents scandalous, and a week later, after their report to the House, the government introduced a bill in Parliament, the Pains and Penalties Bill 1820, to strip Caroline of the title of queen consort and dissolve her marriage.[57] It was claimed that Caroline had committed adultery with a low-born man: Bartolomeo Pergami. Various witnesses, such as Theodore Majocci, were called during the reading of the bill, which was effectively a public trial of the Queen. The trial caused a sensation, as details of Caroline's familiarity with Pergami were revealed. Witnesses said the couple had slept in the same room, kissed, and been seen together in a state of undress.[58] The bill passed the House of Lords, but was not submitted to the House of Commons as there was little prospect that the Commons would pass it. To her friends, Caroline joked that she had indeed committed adultery once—with the husband of Mrs. Fitzherbert, the King.[10][59]

Even during the trial, the Queen remained immensely popular, as witnessed by over 800 petitions and nearly a million signatures that favoured her cause.[60] As a figurehead of the opposition movement demanding reform, many revolutionary pronouncements were made in Caroline's name.[61]

All classes will ever find in me a sincere friend to their liberties, and a zealous advocate of their rights.

—Queen Caroline, September 1820, quoted in Robins, p.240.

A government cannot stop the march of intellect any more than they can arrest the motion of the tides or the course of the planets.

—Queen Caroline quoted in The Times, 7 October 1820

But with the end of the trial her alliance with the radicals came to an end.[62] The government again extended the offer of £50,000 a year, this time without preconditions, and Caroline accepted.[63]

Untimely death

Despite the King's best attempts, Caroline retained a strong popularity amongst the masses, and pressed ahead with plans to attend the coronation service on 19 July 1821 as Queen. Lord Liverpool told Caroline that she should not go to the service, but she turned up anyway.[64] George had Caroline turned away from the coronation at the doors of Westminster Abbey. Refused entry at both the doors to the East Cloister and the doors to the West Cloister, Caroline attempted to enter via Westminster Hall, where many guests were gathered before the service began.[65] A witness described how the Queen stood at the door fuming as bayonets were held under her chin until the Deputy Lord Chamberlain had the doors slammed in her face.[66] Caroline then proceeded back to an entrance near Poet's Corner, where she was met by Sir Robert Inglis, 2nd Baronet, who held the office of "Gold Staff". Inglis persuaded the Queen to return to her carriage, and she left. Caroline lost support through her exhibition at the coronation; the crowds jeered her as she rode away,[67] and even Brougham recorded his distaste at her undignified behaviour.[68]

That night, Caroline fell ill, and took a large dose of milk of magnesia, and some drops of laudanum.[69] Over the next three weeks she suffered more and more pain as her condition deteriorated. She realised she was nearing death, and put her affairs in order. Her papers, letters, memoirs, and notebooks were burned. She wrote a new will, and settled her funeral arrangements: she was to be buried in her native Brunswick in a tomb bearing the inscription "Here lies Caroline, the Injured Queen of England".[70] She died at 10:25 p.m. on 7 August 1821 at the age of 53. Her physicians thought she had an intestinal obstruction,[10] but she may have had stomach cancer, and there were rumours at the time that she'd been poisoned.[70] Even up till her last moments, she was being reported on by a man named Stephen Lushington, who conveyed his insights to the King's loyal supporter, the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool. Exactly why this deathbed surveillance was carried out remains unclear, and the surviving documentation is patchy. The exact cause of her death remains unknown.

Afraid that a funeral procession through London could spark public unrest, Lord Liverpool decided the Queen's cortège would avoid the city, passing to the north on the way to Harwich and Brunswick. The crowd accompanying the procession were incensed and blocked the official route with barricades to force a new route through London. The scene soon descended into chaos; the soldiers forming the honour guard opened fire and rode through the crowd with drawn sabres. The crowd threw cobblestones and bricks at the soldiers. Two members of the public were killed. Eventually, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Sir Robert Baker, ordered that the official route be abandoned and the cortège passed through the city. As a result, Baker was dismissed from office.[71]


The story of Caroline's marriage to George and her battle to be recognized as Queen Consort served as the basis for the 1996 BBC docudrama A Royal Scandal with Susan Lynch as Caroline and Richard E. Grant as George IV. Caroline is mentioned in the third series of the BBC comedy Blackadder, in which Mr. E. Blackadder, dismisses Caroline of Brunswick as a potential wife for George because she "has the worst personality in Germany". The 2008 radio play The People’s Princess, with Alex Jennings as George IV and Rebecca Saire as Caroline, drew parallels with the marriage and divorce of Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Caroline of Brunswick's arms[72]

Titles and styles

  • 17 May 1768 – 8 April 1795: Her Serene Highness Duchess Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
  • 8 April 1795 – 29 January 1820: Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales
  • 29 January 1820 – 7 August 1821: Her Majesty The Queen

At her death, Caroline's official title was Her Majesty Caroline, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen of Hanover, Duchess of Brunswick and Luneburg


Name Birth Death Notes
Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales 7 January 1796 6 November 1817 married 1816, Prince Leopold George Frederick of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield; no surviving issue



  1. ^ Robins, Jane (2006). Rebel Queen: How the Trial of Caroline Brought England to the Brink of Revolution. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780743478267. p.5.
  2. ^ Malmesbury's diary quoted in Robins, pp.6–9.
  3. ^ Farquhar, Michael (2001). A Treasure of Royal Scandals, p.94. Penguin Books, New York. ISBN 0739420259.
  4. ^ Malmesbury's diary quoted in Robins, pp.9–10.
  5. ^ Robins, pp.11–12.
  6. ^ Holland's memoirs quoted in Robins, p.15.
  7. ^ Malmesbury's diary quoted in Robins, p.16.
  8. ^ Robins, p.16.
  9. ^ Robins, p.17
  10. ^ a b c d Shingleton, Hugh M (November-December 2006). "The Tumultous Marriage of The Prince and The Princess of Wales". ACOG Clinical Review 11 (6): 13–16.  
  11. ^ a b Robins, p.18.
  12. ^ Robins, p.20.
  13. ^ Robins, pp.20–21.
  14. ^ Robins, p.22.
  15. ^ Robins, pp.19, 21.
  16. ^ Robins, pp.22–23.
  17. ^ Robins, p.25.
  18. ^ Robins, pp.26–27.
  19. ^ Robins, p.27.
  20. ^ Robins, pp.27–28.
  21. ^ Robins, p.29.
  22. ^ a b Robins, pp.29–30.
  23. ^ a b Robins, p.31.
  24. ^ Robins, pp.31–32.
  25. ^ Robins, p.32.
  26. ^ Robins, p.36.
  27. ^ Robins, pp.37–41.
  28. ^ Robins, p.42.
  29. ^ Letter from Jane Austen to Martha Lloyd, 16 February 1813, quoted in Robins, p.42.
  30. ^ Robins, p.46.
  31. ^ Robins, pp.47–50
  32. ^ Robins, p.49.
  33. ^ Robins, pp.62–63.
  34. ^ Robins, p.66.
  35. ^ Robins, p.67.
  36. ^ Robins, p.69.
  37. ^ e.g. Letter of Lord Sligo quoted in Robins, p.62.
  38. ^ Robins, pp.69–72.
  39. ^ Robins, p.72.
  40. ^ Letter from Byron to John Murray, January 1817, quoted in Robins, p.73.
  41. ^ Robins, pp.72–73.
  42. ^ Robins, p.74.
  43. ^ Robins, pp.53–54.
  44. ^ Robins, pp.74–75.
  45. ^ Robins, p.55.
  46. ^ Robins, pp.76–77.
  47. ^ Letter from James Brougham to his brother Henry, quoted in Robins, p.79.
  48. ^ Robins, p.79.
  49. ^ a b Robins, p.80.
  50. ^ Robins, p.82.
  51. ^ Robins, p.85.
  52. ^ Robins, pp.96–100.
  53. ^ Robins, p.100.
  54. ^ Robins, pp.116–117.
  55. ^ Robins, pp.93–94.
  56. ^ Robins, pp.126–127.
  57. ^ Robins, pp.132–143.
  58. ^ Robins, pp.193–202.
  59. ^ Thomas Moore's Memoirs, (London, 1853) vol.III, p.149 quoted in Robins, p.176.
  60. ^ Robins, p.237.
  61. ^ Robins, pp.159–164, 240–242.
  62. ^ Robins, p.300.
  63. ^ Robins, pp.305–306.
  64. ^ Robins, pp.308–309.
  65. ^ Robins, p.309.
  66. ^ Miss Elizabeth Robertson quoted in Robins, pp.310–311.
  67. ^ Robins, p.311.
  68. ^ Creevey Papers edited by Sir Herbert Maxwell, 7th Baronet (1903). London: John Murray. pp.361–362, quoted in Robins, p.312.
  69. ^ Robins, p.312.
  70. ^ a b Robins, p.313.
  71. ^ Robins, pp.314–317.
  72. ^ Maclagan, Michael; Louda, Jiří (1999), Line of Succession: Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe, London: Little, Brown & Co, p. 30, ISBN 0-85605-469-1  

External links

Caroline of Brunswick
Cadet branch of the House of Welf
Born: 17 May 1768 Died: 7 August 1821
British royalty
Title last held by
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Queen consort of the United Kingdom
Title next held by
Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address