Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales is on our Regency Promenade by Nancy Mayer
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF ILLUSTRIOUS LADIES
March 1806 La Belle Assemblee
HER ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCESS OF WALES
CAROLINE AMELIA ELIZABETH, the present Princess of Wales, and wife of his Royal Highness George, Prince of Wales, was born May 17, 1768.
She is the second daughter of the present Duke of Brunswick, of the Electoral line of Hanover, and of consequence, closely connected before her marriage with the Royal Family of Great Britain.
The following genealogical account of her Royal Highness will explain her connection with the Royal Family of England, and is sufficiently ample for our purpose:–
Frederick Lewis, late Prince of Wales, father of his present Majesty, was born on January 20, 1707. Married April 20, 1736, Augusta, daughter of Frederick II., Duke of Saxe-Gotha, and great aunt to the present Duke; by whom (who died Feb. 8, 1772) he had the following issue; and died March 20, 1751 during the lifetime of his father.
First, Augusta, born July 31, 1737; married to the present Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel, Jan. 17, 1764 by whom she had issue three sons, viz. first, Charles-George-Augustus, born Feb. 8, 1766; married, Oct. 14, 1790, Frederica-Louisa-Wilhelmina, daughter of the late Stadtholder; second, George-William-Christian, born June 27, 1769; third, William-Frederick, born Oct. 9, 1771; and three daughters, first, Charlotte-Georgiana-Augusta, the eldest, born Dec. 3, 1764; married Oct. 11, 1780, Frederick-William, now Duke of Wirtemberg-Stutgard, lately created King of Wirtemberg by the Emperor of the French (by whom she had two sons and a daughter,) and died in 1791.
The present Duke of Wirtemberg is brother to the Empress of Russia: he was born on Nov. 7, 1754; and on May 18, 1797 married, secondly, to Charlotte-Augusta-Matilda, Princess Royal of England; second daughter, Carolina-Amelia-Elizabeth, born May 17, 1768, was married, April 8, 1795 to her cousin, the Prince of Wales, and has issue Charlotte-Carolina-Augusta, born January 7th 1796.
In the short sketch which we propose to give of her Royal Highness, it might be difficult to confine ourselves altogether within those limits which respect for her exalted character and rank would prescribe, and at the same time to produce an account which should convey interest and instruction. We shall therefore, extract from the writings of a German traveler who was intimately acquainted with her Royal Highness, such an account as will endear her to all those subjects whom she is destined to reign over in future.
The following extract is from Travels in England in the year 1803 by Joachim Henry Campe. It is proper to observe that these Travels have never appeared in any English translation.
Speaking of the richness of the soil and the other sources of prosperity of England, the author proceeds as follows:–
“What principally contributes to the promotion of agriculture in England is the general and well founded esteem in which that most beneficial of all human occupations is held in that country. The first Peer of the realm, the Nobility of every rank, even the King himself, do not consider it beneath their dignity to become attentive and industrious farmers.
Ladies of the highest rank engage in avocations of rural and domestic economy, by which they require the respect both of their own countrymen and of all enlightened foreigners.”
Thus for example, the Princess of Wales.
“When I was at her residence at Blackheath, she had the condescension to conduct me to a garden at some distance, which she has principally laid out herself, and which she superintends, in such a complete sense of the word, that no person must presume to do any thing in it but what she herself directs. I admired the beautiful order and the careful cultivation even of the most insignificant spot; the judicious combination of the useful with the agreeable, which appeared so delightful wherever I cast my eyes. I was charmed with the neat borders of flowers between which we passed, and was doubly rejoiced to find them so small; because, as the Princess remarked, too much room ought not to be taken from the useful vegetables merely for the purpose of pleasing the eye.
I was transported with the elegance, taste, and convenience displayed in the pavilion, in which the dignified owner, who furnished the plan and the directions for every part of it, has solved the problem, how a building of but two floors, on a surface of about eighteen feet square, could be constructed and arranged in such a manner that a small family capable of limiting its desires, might find in it a habitation equally beautiful, tasteful, and commodious. The manner in which this has been effected, deserves, in my opinion, the notice and admiration of professed architects.
“After my Royal Guide had shewn me her favourite spot, a small and extremely simple seat, placed in the corner of the garden, overshadowed by two or three honeysuckles, the branches of which are bent in such a manner that one of the finest prospects which this place commands opens to the view as through a window,–she invited me to survey the most important part of her grounds. I manifested some surprise, conceiving that I had seen every thing. The lovely Princess smiled, and conducted me to a considerable tract covered with vegetables, composing the farther and largest portion of this remarkable garden.
‘This,’ said she, ‘is my principal concern. Here I endeavour to acquire the honourable name of a farmer, and that, as you see, not merely in jest. The vegetables, which I raise here in considerable quantity are carried to town and sold. The produce amounts annually to a handsome sum.’
“You will probably guess to what purpose this handsome sum is applied. Or, shall I let you a little more into the secret of the active and benevolent life which the future Queen of the first and most powerful nation in the world here leads in a simple country house, which is in fact not so large as that of a petty German Baron. Well then, be it so; I will even run the risk of incurring her anger, in case she should ever be informed of my treachery. My heart is too full to resist the impetuosity with which it attempts to discharge itself.
“Know then that this accomplished young Princess leads in this modest mansion a life so useful, so active, so virtuous, that I might challenge the most celebrated philosopher, in a like situation, to surpass her. She has no court, no officers of state, no chamberlains, no maids of honour &c. because she has no occasion for them here; but she is occasionally visited by a couple of female friends, who are not so merely in name,–the very intelligent and worthy Mrs., Fitzgerald and her amiable daughter. Her whole long forenoon, that is, from six in the morning till seven in the evening, is devoted to business, to reading and writing, to the cultivation of different arts; for instance, music, painting, embroidery, modeling in clay, gardening and to—education.
“My last word, I see, staggers you; because it is so extremely unusual to see persons of princely rank occupy themselves with an employment, which cannot have any charms for persons who have a taste only for the pleasures and amusements of a court. But you will be still more surprised when I add, that it is not the young and hopeful Princess, her daughter, whom she educates, but eight or nine poor orphan children, to whom she has the condescension to supply the place of a mother. Her own is the child of the State, and, according to the constitution of the country, must not, alas! be educated by herself.
These poor children, on the other hand, are boarded by her with honest people in the neighbourhood; she herself not only directs every thing relative to their education and instruction, but sends every day to converse with them, and thus contributes towards the formation of their infant minds.
Never while I live, shall I forget the charming, the affecting scene, which I had the happiness of witnessing, when the Princess was pleased to introduce to me her little foster children. We were sitting at table; the Princess and her friends were at breakfast, but I, in the German fashion, was taking my dinner. The children appeared clothed in their cleanest, but at the same time in the simplest manner, just as the children of country people are in general dressed. They seemed perfectly ignorant of the high rank of their foster mother, or rather not to comprehend it.
The sight of a stranger somewhat abashed them; but their bashfulness soon wore off, and they appeared to be perfectly at home. Their dignified benefactress conversed with them in a lively, jocose, and truly maternal manner. She called to her first one, and then another, and among the rest a little boy, five or six years old, who had a sore upon his face.
Many a parent of too delicate nerves would not have been able to look at her own child in this state without an unpleasant sensation. She called the boy to her, gave him a biscuit, looked at his face, to see whether it got any better, and manifested no repugnance when the grateful infant pressed her hand to his bosom.
“What this wise Royal Instructress said to me on this occasion, is too deeply impressed upon my memory to be erased. ‘People find fault with me,’ said she, ‘for not doing more for these children, after I have once taken them under my care, I ought, in their opinion, to provide them with more elegant and costly clothes, to keep masters of every kind for them, that they may once make a figure as persons of refined education.
However, I only laugh at their censure, for I know what I am about. It is not my intention to raise these children into a rank superior to that in which they are placed; in that rank I mean them to remain, and to become useful, virtuous, and happy members of society.
The boys are destined to become expert seamen, and the girls skilful, sensible, industrious house-wives—nothing more. I have them instructed in all that is really serviceable for either of their destinations; but every thing else is totally excluded from the plan of education which I have laid before them.
Those who are acquainted with the splendor of the higher classes, and have reflected upon it, will beware of snatching children from the more happy condition of inferior rank, for the purpose of raising them into the former, in despite of Providence and natural destination.’
“Such is the wise and philanthropic manner in which this admirable Princess, in the flower of her age, passes one day after another. Towards evening, a very small company of not more than three or four persons, assembles at her house to dine with her; and fortunately ceremony does not oblige her to pay regard in her selection to any other recommendation than merit. It is only on Court-days, when the Royal Family assemble, that she goes to town, or to Windsor, to complete the dignified circle of which she is such a distinguished ornament.
To the Theatres, and other places of amusement of the fashionable world, her Royal Highness is a stranger. Since she came to England, she has only been twice to the play, and that was soon after her arrival. This, which of itself is an extraordinary circumstance, will be considered a great sacrifice by those who know the uncommon love and respect which is cherished by people of all ranks for their future Queen, and consequently need not be told, that she renounces a triumph as often as she withdraws from public view.
“She devotes one day in the week to her own daughter, the Princess Charlotte, who comes to see her, and spends the day with her. There is nothing to prevent her from enjoying this gratification oftener, for the child must be brought to her whenever she pleases. For wise reasons, however, she denies herself and her daughter the more frequent repetition of a pleasure of which both of them are every day ardently desirous.
‘If,’ said she, ‘I were to have the child with me every day, I should be obliged sometimes to speak to her in a tone of displeasure, and even of severity. She would then have less affection for me, and what I said to her would make less impression upon her heart. As it is, we remain in some measure new to each other; at each of her visits I have occasion to shew her love and tenderness, and the consequence is that the child is attached to me with all her soul, and not a word I say to her fails of producing the desired effect.’
“I was myself an eye-witness of the truth of this. Such tender attachment, and such fervent love as this child, only seven years old manifests to her Royal Mother is assuredly seldom seen in persons of that rank. Her eyes are incessantly fixed on the beauteous countenance of her tender mother and what eyes! Never, in a child of her age, have I beheld eyes so expressive, so soft, so penetrating. The first time she cast them on me she seemed as though she would penetrate my soul. The most experienced observer of mankind cannot scrutinize more severely a person of whom he wishes to form a speedy judgment.
For the rest, neither her dress nor her behavior afford the least room to suspect her high destination. The former is so simple, and the latter so natural and unaffected, that were you to see her in any other place, without knowing her, you would scarcely take her for the heiress of a throne. In every dress, and in every place, however, the attentive observer would easily discover her to be an extraordinary child.
The Royal Artist, her mother has made a model of her, and of several other persons who are dear to her, in clay, and afterwards taken from them plaster casts, which are most perfect resemblances. In acquiring that art, this accomplished Princess pursued a manner of her own.
Instead of working, as usual, a long time from models, she merely procured instruction in the use of the tools; her fancy then formed, from the detached traits of a poem, the representation of an imaginary person, and she began to compose the figure without any copy. The subject of her first essay was the Leonora of Burger’s celebrated Ballad; her second was the head of an old Lord, whose name I have forgotten; and the third was her daughter, the Princess Charlotte.
“This reminds me of another piece of work by the hand of this Royal Artist, which I had likewise an opportunity of inspecting, and which appeared to me equally beautiful and ingenious. In passing through her work-room (where, besides a choice collection of books, and all kinds of implements of the arts, you see a large table covered with papers, writings, drawings, and books, ) she took the trouble to direct my attention to a very handsome table, and asked me what I conceived it to be.
Without a moment’s hesitation, I declared it was inlaid, or, as it is called, Mosaic work, and that it was an excellent specimen of the art. She smiled, and said, that could not be, as she, who knew nothing of Mosaic work, had made it herself, and in a few hours.
‘It is nothing more,’ added her Royal Highness, ‘than a square of ground glass, on which I have fastened with gum different kinds of natural flowers, which were first carefully dried and pressed, and then turned the glass with the smooth side uppermost, to produce the illusion by which you were just now deceived.
The whole art, or rather the trifling degree of trouble, which this easy operation requires, consists merely in the choice of the situation which must be given to each flower, so that one may be properly connected with the others, and that as small a vacancy as possible may remain between them.’
As the glass would not, however, be completely covered, I suppose (for unluckily I forgot to inquire) that the intervals are stained with colours, so as to give them the appearance of stone.
“By means of this pleasing artifice she has made a Chinese lamp for one of her other apartments, which, like those of coloured glass or thin alabaster, diffuses a very mild light.
“A second table in her work room, which appears to be composed of every possible species of marble, is, what I never should have guessed without being told,–nothing more than a square of ground glass, which, on the under side, is painted in such a manner, that the spectator cannot help taking the whole for specimens of all the species of marble joined together an inlaid. In each corner a small copper-plate of some antique figure is stuck; of course, on the reverse of the square, which completes the deception.
“You must, my friend, have no sense of what is fair, and great and lovely, if I should have occasion to apologize for this little digression into which I have been involuntarily led. Your heart, which is ever open to all that is virtuous and excellent, must, I know, receive equal pleasure with my own, from these particulars of the wise an benevolent system of life, which a Princess, destined for the Throne of Great Britain and Ireland, has prescribed for herself, and pursued for so many years with a fortitude and a perseverance which seems to exceed the powers of her sex.”
Regency Promenade is written every month by Nancy Mayer, Regency researcher extraordinaire. http://www.regencyresearcher.com/