On the first day of our Galapagos trip we were taken by bus through the the town of Ayora Port to the Charles Darwin Station. This is a kind of combination research center, ecological rehabilitation center, and zoo.
Most of the islands are part of a national preserve. They make no effort to save species that are endangered by natural forces – such as weather patterns – but they do try to counteract the damage done by man. Since men were the ones who decimated the tortoise populations, the people at the preserve are trying to save them.
Continue reading The Charles Darwin Station
Remember the pumpkin? The one I bought for Halloween then never got around to carving… . Well, I finally got around to it. I couldn’t believe the thing could sit around for so long and still be good, but it seemed fine – no soft spots or discoloration or odor – so I carved it up with an eye toward eating it and/or maybe leaving a thin, dry shell that I could reuse as a Halloween decoration in the future. In not either of those, then simply to see what an ancient pumpkin was like.
What it’s like is stringy.
You can see from the first cut-open shot, the glossy strings that you usually have to scrape as the second step of Jack O Lantern making had dried along with the seeds. I went ahead and cook the seeds with salt, and we ate them, but they weren’t nearly as good. The outsides were unusually woody and tough and the insides dry, but still nutty.
Once that was all scraped away, I started scraping out the wall of the pumpkin, trying to thin it for my shell effect and also get usable pumpkin. It was easier to scrape out than a fresh pumpkin, but the walls had developed the consistency of spaghetti squash.
Things went well until I got too confident, and put a hole in the skin of the pumpkin.
So much for drying it out as a future decoration. I simply couldn’t get it whittled down far enough without damaging the delicate exterior.
What I wanted was to make a pumpkin soup I dimly recalled having seen. The picture of the soup showed a smooth, creamy concoction. I was never able to achieve this.
First I boiled some of the pumpkin while freezing most of it. I thought I could boil it apart, but after a couple of hours, I tossed in some seasoning and ate it like I would squash, which is what it tasted like.
Next I took out the frozen pumpkin and put it through the blender. I ended up with something the size and shape of course-ground coffee. No matter how long I ran the Cuisinart, it would get no smaller. Once again, boiling would not smooth it out.
It didn’t taste like much, and I ended up tossing it out.
So… pumpkins have amazing shelf life, but I don’t recommend leaving them too long.
If anyone knows of a good pumpkin soup recipe, let me know.
To continue from last week:
I asked my mother, who used to teach Meal Management courses on campus, what the biggest, hairiest, most intimidating table setting might be. I’m looking for something I can use to scare the hero of a book I’m thinking about writing. She said something along the lines of Russian or European style would likely do the trick.
Frankly, I don’t find European all that intimidating. They baby you along with wait staff that hands you what you need when you need it, and all you have to do with the array of silverware around your plate is work your way from the outside in using a bit of common sense. Still, she managed to point out some finer points.
As I mentioned last week, where things go might be determined by the style of service you chose, but the specific pieces used are determined by the menu. I’m going to walk you through a meal with the following menu:
First course: Soup. Note underliner plate under bowl and bowl plate. It stays there until the main course.
Second: Fish course – since I’m not using a special fork to get into crab or lobster parts, it needs to be a fin fish like salmon.
Third course: Sorbet to cleans palate.
Fourth: Main course.
Sixth: Dessert and coffee. Coffee is often served separately in the living room.
In a real meal, the plates you are about to see would already have food on them as they arrived. On the left of each set is the way the setting will look at the beginning of the course, when the food arrives. On the right is how the guest should leave things right before the servants remove the used items in preparation for the next course.
I like this course the best for intimidating my hero. Can’t you see a country bumpkin confronted by this array stop to wonder what he’s supposed to do? Good think it comes first, at a time when he will likely be most vulnerable.
Now imagine he grabbed the bread plate to the right instead of to the left. This would cause a domino effect all the way down the table to either side so the person on the right would have no plate and the one to the left would have an extra. He gets over that just in time for fish. Yes, I can see this working.
I could have him wondering about now if the meal is over. He’s already had soup and fish, and this thing can sometimes come across as a bit like desert. BTW, isn’t that a pretty sorbet cup? If someone told him it’s to “cleanse the pallet” can’t you see him swishing it around in his mouth?
At least by now things should start looking familiar and he should have picked up the rhythm of things, including the way you leave your silverware angled across the plate when you’re done.
Just for fun, let’s pretend the servants have it in for him and didn’t give him a fork. Here’ he was so sure he knew what he was doing, but can he be sure the lack of utensil isn’t his fault?
I think this could work. What do you think? Would you find a dinner like this intimidating?
This is going to be about as basic as you get. I’ll get a little more elaborate next week.
The first step in setting a table is to plan the menu. What you will serve will determine which items need to be set. For example, if you will be serving soup, then your guests will need a soup spoon. Otherwise it does not need to be on the table. If you are serving steak, you may wish to include a steak knife. I will discuss the various possibilities in much greater detail next Monday.
The second step is to decide which style you wish to use. When serving European style, the place settings may become quite elaborate with multiple plates and an array of silverware in front of each seat. When serving Compromise of Family style the plates will all be at the head of the table, waiting for the food to be placed on them before being handed around to their respective places. Again, I will discuss this in more detail later.
In most setting the fork(s) should go on the left of the plate. The knife(s) and spoon(s) should go on the right. The knife should always be closest to the plate with the blade facing inward where it can do the least amount of harm to the clumsy. Spoons and forks should be placed so that the diner can take up whatever is on the outermost edge and be ready to eat whatever will be served next. For instance, if a salad comes first and the salad fork is place on the table rather than on the salad plate, it should be on the outside of the array of forks, furthest from the plate.
Napkins may be place in a variety of places. Placing them under the silverware may create a problem, however, as the silverware must then be removed and may become jumbled at the very beginning of the meal when the napkin in placed in the lap. Optimally, it will go to the left of the forks.
Stop laughing, Anastasia. You know I’m talking about a handkerchief type thing, not a diaper.
The water glass should go to the right, toward the middle of the table. Other glasses, such as wine glasses, juice glasses, etc. should be placed in the same general vicinity.
I will admit that my own table settings have occasionally been rather sparse. I’ve been known to put down nothing more than a plate and a pair of chopsticks.
Drop by next week when I attempt to get fancy with this.
So Prince George lost his suit against Princess Caroline, who returned most of the way to the King’s good graces. Then to add injury to insult, Fox dies. Last week’s By George! Was pretty eventful. If you missed it, click here.
The government that replaced the “Ministry of all the talents” was familiar to Caroline; The Duke of Portland became Prime Minister. George Canning, a man long suspected of being Caroline’s lover, became Foreign Secretary. Spencer Perceval became Chancellor of the Exchequer. Lord Eldon became Lord Chancellor, and Secretary of War went to Lord Castlereagh. One of their first acts was to make official what had already unofficially taken place. That there was no longer any reason for Princess Caroline to excluded from royal functions.
On April 21st 1807, a formal request was made to provide the Princess “some apartments” in one of the royal palaces “more convenient to court.” The King agreed and found rooms for her at Kensington Palace, with the understanding that rooms at St James would be made available as a vacancy appeared. Now, most of us, if we had passed through such an ordeal, would be thankful for the opportunity to prove ourselves worthy. Caroline was genuinely grateful to be back in Their Majesties good graces. But she still didn’t see anything wrong with her behavior.
I suspect that Caroline was simply incapable of understanding her responsibilities. She never evidenced the slightest grasp of the fact that she, as a Princess of Wales, effectively had no private life. Everything she did, in public and behind closed doors, was fair game. She refused to accept that and behaved, till her dying day, as though no one had a right to question her behavior. To be fair, Charles the First believed the same thing; but look what happened to him.
She continued to “dress very ill, shewing too much of her naked person.” Said one Lady. She also continued to flirt outrageously with young men. She also began spending money. Now that she had been received back into the court, the Prince was pressured to increase her allowance to 12,000 pounds a year. With the loss of his political allies, the Prince had no choice but to agree. Parliament also voted Caroline 5,000 pounds on top of that. She also received 34,000 pounds to refurbish her house and…49,000 pounds to settle her debts.
The Prince and Caroline may have been totally unsuited for one another, but in some ways they were like two peas in a pod. The government decided to forestall any future expenditure on Caroline by pointing out to the Prince that he, as her beloved husband, should be paying ALL her bills. This suggestion was ill-received and he refused to do so. Spencer Perceval, who, as Chancellor of the Exchequer had His Highness by the short and curlies, further pointed out that His Highness was being VERY generously compensated by the government already.
Should Caroline’s bills go unpaid, the public would hold him, not Caroline or the government, responsible. Did His Highness wish to become more unpopular than he already was? The Prince agreed to pay all of Caroline’s bills, even though he couldn’t afford to pay his own. As if The Prince didn’t already have enough problems in the wife department, Caroline’s father, the Duke of Brunswick, was killed while fighting the French at the battle of Auerstadt in 1806.
Caroline could now loudly proclaim, “My daddy was a war hero!” Her husband, on the other hand, couldn’t even be trusted to stick with his regiment when it was camped outside Brighton. When he learned that he would never be made general nor be allowed to serve overseas, he hoofed it to London to sulk in the austere confines of Carlton House. A move that was duly noted by the press. 1807 wasn’t a total wash however, in that year the Prince found himself, once again, in love.
- Mr. Al
To recap previous week’s blogs about Priny, the prince has built himself a couple of homes, secretly married Mrs. Fitzherbert, gotten kicked to the couch when he wouldn’t fess up to the world that he’d married her because he didn’t want to lose the throne, weaseled his way back into her good graces, and now runs off to London for some carousing with his brother. Mr. Al, take it away.
Accompanying the Duke and Prinny to London was the head of the Dukes household, Major-General Richard Grenville. This is what he had to say about the trip. They were “totally guided by the Prince of Wales.” Also that they were “thoroughly initiated into all the extravagances and debaucheries of this most virtuous metropolis.” In for a penny, in for a pound seemed to be Prinny’s view of things.
An M.P. (Member of Parliament) for Sutherlandshire had this to add; “The Prince has taught his brother to drink in the most liberal and copious way, and the Duke, in return, has been equally successful in teaching his brother to lose his money at all sorts of play-quinze, hazard, ect. To the amount, as we are told, of very large sums.” The Prince had found his groove once more.
The timing could hardly have been worse. Although no time was a good time for The Prince to fall off the wagon, this particular episode happened to coincide with another unfortunate event. His Majesty went off his nut. It was October 1788. While it was not the first time the King had had one of his “episodes”, it was by far the worst.
For several weeks he had been in excruciating pain, mainly in his digestive tract; but also in his back and legs. The doctors gave him laudanum, an opium extract, for the pain. This caused constipation, which worsened the intestinal pain. So they gave him castor oil and senna to…um…open the sluice gates again.
More pain. More laudanum. More constipation. More castor oil, ect. As if all this were not enough, the Kings behavior was becoming, to put it mildly, erratic. His sense of duty would not allow him to put off official business. He kept at his paperwork until his handwriting, never his strong point to begin with, became totally unreadable.
On October 24, he insisted at appearing at the levee at St. James Palace to, in his words, “stop further lies and any fall in the stocks.” The stocks would have been better off had he not done so. His Majesty looked like death warmed over a can of sterno.
His clothes were a mess, his coordination was way off, and his speech was fast and slurred. The whites of his eyes had turned yellow, he had a very visible rash and his feet had so swollen that, combined with his bad coordination, he was reeling like a drunken sailor. Or like his eldest child, though I doubt that anyone made that comparison to his face. By the time he returned to Windsor Castle, the stocks, and everyone else, were completely alarmed.
The papers tried to spin it in the most non-alarming way they could. The Morning Post said it was a “dropsical disorder.” But, it added, “By no means of the alarming kind.” Gentleman’s Magazine informed its readers that it was just “A regular fit of the gout.” If only. The people closest to the King and Queen were under no illusions.
Fanny Burney, Queen Charlotte’s Keeper of the Robes, wrote in her journal that his Majesty was “all agitation, all emotion.” He was talking a mile a minute about whatever popped into his head and he couldn’t sleep. Although the Queen tried to put a good face on it, she was at a loss to understand what was happening.
The fact that no doctors could be found who could explain it caused her even greater grief. It is, in fact, still debated what exactly was wrong with George the III. Most experts come down on the side of a hereditary metabolic disorder known as porphyria.
The mother of George the First transmitted it to the Hanoverians. She was the granddaughter of James the First. The Stuarts had been severely afflicted by this disease, which is characterized by severe abdominal pain, discolored urine, neuritis, and weakness of the limbs. Mental manifestations include hysteria, rambling speech, hallucinations and some elements of paranoia and schizophrenia. Those of the 18th century, presented with a person thus afflicted, could be forgiven for thinking that person mad as a hatter.
When we left off last week Prinny had gotten everything he wanted and then some. He didn’t loose his crown, and he wasn’t sleeping on the couch any longer. Let’s see how he handles it.
The faux orientalism that one sees at Brighton Pavilion today is not what guests to the first pavilion saw in the late 1780′s That pavilion was “a low Greco-Roman house faced with cream coloured tiles, the centerpiece of which was a domed rotunda encircled by six Ionic columns bearing classical statues. The handsome, bow-fronted wings which flanked the rotunda to the north and south were provided with those decorative iron-work balconies which were soon to become so distinctive a feature of the town.”
The interior was well done up in the French style that was so popular at the time. Hideously expensive, but that couldn’t be helped. And now that he was reconciled with Maria, The Prince was going to behave himself. Drinking and skirt chasing were off the agenda. Even the Morning Post, a paper that never shrank from reporting the grisly details of the Prince’s public behavior, had to inform it’s readers that The Prince was “gaining many hearts by his affability and good humor.”
They even went so far as to report that he “was certainly more sober” and that his company was “much better than it used to be.” High praise indeed! Mrs Fitzherbert received much of the credit for turning the Prince around. Even the Prince’s rakehell friends from London had to behave themselves when they came down to visit. Perhaps there was hope for him yet. Then again, perhaps not.
The Prince’s behavior was exemplary, but anyone who really knew him should have known that he did not have the self-discipline to maintain such a façade of respectability. The Prince was, so to speak, kindling waiting for a spark to set him aflame. That spark was provided by the return, in the summer of 1788, of his brother, the Duke of York.
The Duke had been away in Germany for six years. Part of that time had been spent on his education. But the main reason he had been gone so long was because that’s the way Dad wanted it. All the Prince’s brothers suffered the same type of exile to a lesser or greater extent. The Prince’s sisters suffered exactly the opposite. They were rarely allowed to go anywhere. Even under escort.
This bred resentment toward Mom and Dad in the girls that manifested itself quite differently than it did in the boys. If resentment was more anti-social, pronouncedly so, in the boys, it was only because the boys were given greater freedom of action. The girls were never let off the leash long enough to show how bad they could be. In reading their letters to their brothers one gets the impression that they wouldn’t have minded a little peril, to paraphrase Monty Python.
Not surprisingly, His Majesty was not in the least upset about his children’s feelings toward his paternal policies. He was King. Their duty was to obey. What could be simpler? His Majesty believed that if the Dukes were allowed to lollygag in England, they would turn out as bad as their eldest brother. It never occurred to him that treating them like pariahs as soon as they stopped being babies, shipping them off to foreign countries and forcing them to stay there, was not the ticket to producing model citizens.
Can you imagine getting George the III and his kids on “Oprah?” That would be something to see! Anyway, the Duke of York returned and Prinny was there to greet him. They traveled to Brighton so the Duke could meet Mrs Fitzherbert. He found her most gracious and charming. The two of them got on wonderfully. After a spell of catching up on family news, Prinny announced that he and his brother would be popping up to London for a bit of sport. Without Mrs Fitzherbert. The spark had been struck; the fire was just getting started.
After all we’ve learned about Prinny in the last few weeks, I don’t think anything in this week’s installment is going to surprise anyone. I can clearly see the workings of Georgian and Regency society, and could easily work it into one of my books. Thank’s Mr. Al for another fascinating look at Prince George IV.
Poor Prinny! Didn’t anyone care how HE felt? It would not seem so because he immediately became a basket case. He would confine himself to bed claiming a high fever. The cure for that, at his insistence, was bleeding, with lancets and leeches. To replace all that lost blood, he drank large quantities of wine. When that didn’t do the trick, he switched to hard liquor. His public behavior was as predictable as it was embarrassing.
He attended a ball where his behavior became so wild that, “some of his companions called for his carriage and almost forced him away.” So it went for several weeks. In one particularly nasty episode at a ball the Prince sat, goggle-eyed and falling down drunk, in a chair next to the dining room door. After dinner was called he roughly groped every woman who walked past him. Which was every woman in attendance since these ladies did not dare offend the Prince of Wales by skipping dinner.
This display of temporary insanity moved Mrs Fitzherbert not a whit. It had finally occurred to her that her hubby was the source of all this mischief. The bastard had allowed her good name to be flung upon the dung heap of public opinion for the sake of getting his allowance increased.
And she was right. Needless to say, the Prince didn’t see it that way. As time went on she began to relent in her hard feelings about her sorta husband. One thing that went a long way toward that was the totally unexpected reception she experienced among high society. Officially, they were not married. But everyone began treating her as if she were the Princess of Wales.
Even the Duchess of Gordon, a staunch Tory and close friend of the Queen, announced that she believed that Fox had lied. She invited Mrs Fitzherbert and the Prince to a ball. The Prince, sobered up since his reconciliation, was seen dancing with Mrs Fitzherbert. Everyone was charmed. Except the Archbishop of Canterbury. He thought it was “very odd.”
What he didn’t understand was that it was a ” lady thing” Wrote Edmond Malone to his friend Lord Clarmont, “I do not know what rules the ladies govern themselves by. She (Mrs Fitzherbert) is courted and queens it as much as ever.” Men! They just don’t get it. And how much money did it take to get the Prince to accept the besmirching of Mrs Fitzherberts good name?
Weeeeell…an additional 10,000 pounds on top of his original 50,000. That would come from the Civil List. Parliament voted 160,000 to pay his debts, plus an additional 60,000 to put the finishing touches on Carlton House. And not a moment too soon, because he started getting some big ideas about his “marine pavilion” in Brighton.
You all have been asking what Mrs. Fitzherbert thought of the way people saw her marriage to George. Well, Mr. Al finally gets around to telling us. Way to keep us hanging, Mr. Al.
Mrs. the Princess of Wales (sort of) was not pleased at all. According to sources she was “deeply afflicted and furious against Fox.” Since she was not a stupid woman the only explanation for her anger, beyond the fact that she never liked Fox in the first place, was that the Prince had lied to her about Fox knowing they were married.
Which he had. Not that he was going to cop to it. Instead, he stomped around denouncing Fox for his perfidy. Said one witness to the spectacle, he was “LIKE A MAD THING” How dare Fox deny his marriage! And in such a public fashion! You can’t trust anyone these days!
At this point we must ask a question. What was Mrs Fitzherbert thinking when she married the Prince? Yes, she loved him and believed that he loved her. He most likely did, in his own limited fashion. But, and this is a big “But”, she must have known the marriage was illegal. Her boyfriend wasn’t any old guy; he was the Prince of Wales.
It is true that the Pope had written to her telling her that if she and the prince married in a proper Catholic ceremony the church would recognize them as man and wife. That would have been great if the Prince planned to renounce all and he and Mrs Fitzherbert spend the rest of their lives in Rome.
That was not the Prince’s plan. To say the least. He wanted to be king. Mrs Fitzherbert knew that. She also knew, or should have, that the only way he could become king is by publicly denying his marriage to her. One of the king’s brothers had been banished from England for taking a Catholic woman as a mistress. What did she think His Majesty would do when he found out one of his boys had MARRIED one?
She knew all this and yet vilified Fox for doing the only thing that would guarantee the Prince his throne. And His Highness, in an astounding display of hypocrisy, went along with her stamping his slippered feet and cursing Fox as a false friend.
He apparently did this to make Mrs Fitzherbert feel better. And that, apparently, was all the Prince had in mind at the time. However, since the humiliation had been publicly delivered, some sort of public statement would have to made for the sake of Mrs Fitzherberts peace of mind.
She told the prince this. She also told him he would be sleeping on the couch until it happened. This placed His Highness in a very difficult position. He knew full well why Fox did what he did, but he couldn’t show Mrs Fitzherbert that he approved. Now he had to get Fox to eat crow, in Parliament, in full view of his peers and the press, so that Mrs Fitzherbert wouldn’t make him sleep on the couch. There were limits to friendship, and the Prince had reached his with Fox.
It seems when Prince George gets tired of pretending to be bucolic and makes a run for the money he isn’t the only one cruising for a bruising. We return to Mr. Al’s weekly take on the life of George IV.
The Prince did find someone to bring the matter up before Parliament. This gentleman, Nathanial Newnham, did raise the subject of the Prince’s financial distress, but made no mention of his marital status. Prime Minister William Pitt tried to kill the subject by stating that only the King could ask Parliament for such a subsidy. His Majesty had not done so. End of discussion. Time to move on.
Mister Newnham let the matter drop for the time being. But he made it clear that he intended to bring the matter forward again, this time as a formal motion, during the May 4th session. Pitt tried to do an end run around Newnham by asking what, exactly, he intended to say? Newnham, realizing he was far out on a limb, stated that his only concern was for the Prince’s “embarrassed situation.” He would formally request that someone go to the King and ask that he place before Parliament a motion to vote money for his kid. That’s all!
Before the Prime Minster could breath a sigh of relief, up from the Tory benches rose one John Rolle, a solid Church of England squire from Devon. Mister Rolle said that the question of money for the Prince had serious implications. This was because it was ”a question which went immediately to affect our constitution in Church and State.”
Uh-oh. The only question that he could possibly be referring to was, of course, the question of wither or not the Prince had married a Catholic. After a bit of hemming and hawing, throat clearing and pretending not to know what the speaker was referring to, Pitt tried to get Newnham to drop the whole matter. If Newnham did not, Pitt threatened, he might be forced to bring up the issue, “though with infinite reluctance, to the disclosure of circumstances which he should otherwise think it his duty to conceal.”
At this point, one of the Prince’s supporters, one who was “out of the loop” so to speak, rose to defend the Prince’s honor. Base accusations had been made! Ugly rumors were being circulated! This had to end! No, by God, they would not let the matter drop! The Prince’s own people had called Pitt’s bluff. Pitt had no more interest than the Whigs in exposing the Royal Family to such a scandal. The Tories, with more venom than foresight, were glad to help the Prince’s “supporters.”
It was Fox who would handle the matter for the Prince. What are friends for? Although Mrs Fitzherbert did not like Fox, and consequently the Prince had cooled noticeably toward him, Fox believed that a flat out declaration that the Prince had not, nor would he ever, marry Mrs Fitzherbert would best serve everyone. What could be simpler? After all, Fox believed it was the truth.
So that’s exactly what he did. On April 30 1787, Fox spoke to the House denouncing those who had spread vile rumors about his friend There was no truth, none at all, concerning a marriage between the Prince and Mrs Fitzherbert. The opposition was not convinced, but it had no proof. Fox left Parliament convinced he had done his best by his friend, his party, and his country.
Some time later, while having drinks at one of his clubs, he was approached by a gentleman who had some interesting news. “Mister Fox, I hear that you have denied in the House the Prince’s marriage to Mrs Fitzherbert. You have been misinformed. I was at the marriage.” Oh dear. Fox had been placed in a very difficult position. True, he placed himself there but that was only because his good friend the Prince had sworn on his dead granny’s Bible that he was not, and never had been married.
Fox was not the only one seeing red.
When we left off Mr. Al was telling us that George IV had run into a bit of trouble with money. Again. Take it away Mr. Al.
His Majesty informed the Prince that he could not consider asking Parliament to bail him out without first knowing how much was owed. He appointed one Colonel Hotham to go over the receipts. Even with a staff, it took him over a month to come up with a figure. The total was 269,878 Pounds, 6 Shillings, 7 1/2 Pence. Gulp!
The average ANNUAL wage of a semi-skilled farm laborer at this time, a group that made up a big part of the population, was approximately 40 Shillings. And that was for a 10 to 12-hour day of manual labor, six days a week. The average life expectancy of these fellows was 19. The women didn’t last much longer. Just a little something to give you some perspective.
Although most of Hotham’s figure was construction and home furnishings, a fair amount was also gambling debts. The Prince’s stable contained a large number of very expensive racehorses. Unfortunately, he didn’t win enough races with them to cover his expenses. It was not unknown for his Highness to drop thousands of pounds on a single race.
This was the expense that really burned dad’s britches. Spendthrift was one thing; at least he had Carlton House to show for it. Gambling was money thrown into the gutter. He demanded that the Prince justify his behavior and swear solemn oaths that he would mend his ways. The Prince felt rather put-upon to receive such a demand from his father, even if he was the King.
In a snit, the Prince wrote to his dad that he would not have the Prince of Wales to kick around anymore. He wrote that he had, “No reason to expect either at present or in the future the smallest assistance from His Majesty.” Dad’s reply? Tough noogies boy! What are you gonna do? Get a job? If only! You’ve made your bed, sonny-boy, now sleep in it. Or words to that effect.
He was not totally devoid of feelings for his son’s situation however. He told the Prince that if he were to seriously consider getting married he would do what he could to get Parliament to vote him a subsidy. Dad had chosen not to believe the wild rumors about his son being secretly married to a Catholic. God’s whiskers! Not even the Prince was that daft!
What dad wanted was a marriage to a nice German princess. Protestant, of course. Never! Cried the Prince. Let Prince Frederick get married and produce heirs to the throne. He wanted nothing to do with German princesses and babies! Dad came back with a counter-offer. I’ll consider paying your bills if you dump your Whig buddies. Especially that Fox guy. Dump him and I’ll pay your bills.
The Prince was affronted that dad would even suggest such a gross act of betrayal. Why, he was so affronted that he decided to do something rash. Something that would show dad, hell, show the world, that the Prince had his principals.
As we have seen, debt was something the Prince had begun piling up in his early teens. Some of it was the result of opportunistic place seekers who wanted his Highness in their debt. A much larger portion of it was gambling and partying. But it wasn’t until he acquired Carlton House that his debts hit astronomical figures.
One of the reasons, perhaps the main reason, his debts were so high was not only that he wanted the best of everything, which, of course, he did, but also because he was being grossly overcharged simply because he was the Prince. If the Duke of Sussex paid 30 pounds for a silver embroidered waistcoat, the Prince was charged 150. It went like that for everything.
The Prince was a walking credit card. When he saw something he wanted, he’d say “Have it delivered to Carlton House and put it on my bill” He never asked how much something cost and never thought to question the merchants and contractors who billed him. More to the point, the King, who was scandalized by his son’s expenditures never thought to question the bills either.
When the King eventually did intervene in the Princes financial affairs, neither he nor the men he appointed ever went after the Prince’s creditors and questioned them about their bills. Of course, no one would expect the king to lower himself to such depths. But it is surprising that such a step never occurred to the Princes financial watchdogs.
This does not explain the whole matter of the Prince’s debts. Another important point is that the Prince seemed totally oblivious to the whole idea of money. It was something that was always there. No matter how much mom and dad might carry on about money, they pretty much gave the Prince whatever he wanted. Eventually.
To give you an example, when the Prince, actually King George the IV, died in 1830 an inventory of his possessions turned up 700 wallets. These wallets contained over 10,000 pounds! The guy didn’t pay any attention to money. Except when he wanted a lot of it ASAP.
Dad liked to carry on about the Prince being a slug. No industry, no desire to better himself or make himself productive. The bitter fact of the matter was dad wouldn’t let him be or do anything. With his other boys it was a simple matter of sending them to Germany to continue their “education” and then forgetting to allow them to return home.
He couldn’t do that to the Prince of Wales. The whole point to the Prince of Wales is that he would one day be king. But until that day, he was just the Prince. And since he refused, point blank, to allow the Prince any role whatsoever in government, and business was for the “Lower Sorts”, the Prince had little to do but go shopping. Boy, did he go shopping!
Anyway, as we rejoin his Highness we find him, once again, in financial peril. He goes to dad, hat in hand. Dad was willing to talk about it, with a few conditions.
When we left off – a couple of weeks ago – Prince George the Fourth had finally convinced Mrs. Fitzherbert to be his wife. Mr. Fox was not ammused.
The Prince decided to alleviate his friend’s fears by doing what he did best. He lied like a thief in a letter to Fox stating that he had no intentions of marrying Mrs. Fitzherbert. It would never happen. Scouts honor. Before Fox had even received the letter, the search was on for a Church of England parson to do the deed.
The trouble with getting such a gentleman was that any parson performing that particular ceremony (marriage) for that particular individual (Prinny) in those particular circumstances (without dad’s permission) would be guilty of a felony. In the prisons of 18th century London, a felony conviction was as good as a death sentence.
In the end his Highness had to turn to someone who was already in prison. The Rev John Bart was doing time in Fleet prison for debt. The Prince offered to spring him immediately and find him a job. He also promised to give him 500 pounds and make him a bishop!….after he became king.
Mister Bart apparently didn’t realize that doing what the Prince wanted him to do would virtually guarantee that his highness would never become king. It would also guarantee Mister Bart a return trip to Fleet. Oh well, it’s the fine print that always trips people up. On the evening of December 15, 1785 His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales wedded Mrs. Maria Fitzherbert. The witnesses were Maria’s uncle, her younger brother and a couple of the Princes most trusted drinking buddies.
The lovebugs went off to Ormeley Lodge for a week’s honeymoon. Then it was back to London for the Christmas season. There were a few people that the Prince had confided in about the marriage. Closest friends who could be trusted to take his Highness’s secret to the grave. They swore never to tell a soul. Before one could say, ”Merry Christmas”, all of London was buzzing with rumors.
Said the Marquess of Lothian, “I am very sorry for it, it does him infinite mischief, particularly amongst the trading and lower sort of people, and if true must ruin him in every light.” It’s not likely that his Highness was gravely concerned with what the Lower Sorts had to say about him. Or anyone else for that matter. He had done the one thing that would finally get his Beloved Maria to have sex with him! Merry Christmas indeed!
Unfortunately for the Prince, his secret marriage wasn’t his only problem. He had managed to pile up more debts. Much of it from his redecorating of Carlton house. Before continuing, the question of the Prince’s debts needs closer scrutiny. Just as the Prince was different from all other gentlemen, so were his debts. And, as we shall see, he received very special treatment from his creditors.
- Mr. Al
So Prince George consoled himself over the refusal of Maria Fitzherbert to join him in matrimony with the attentions of the likes of Lady Bamfylde, dinners, and redecorating.
But his beloved Maria was never far from his thoughts. And, although he did not know it, his letters were having an effect. She remained in Europe for a year. Toward the end of that time her companions reported that she had become increasingly listless. She seemed to be running out of things to do that held her attention for any length. She spoke increasingly of returning to England.
At first her reasons were that she was homesick and that she needed to look after her properties. Gradually she spoke more often of her growing belief that the Prince did, perhaps, really love her. Even when she was reminded that the law had not changed, if the Prince married her he would lose everything, did not deterre her.
After all, she pointed out, the Prince was well aware of the situation and claimed, loudly and often, that he did not mind losing all to be with his One True Love. One day, she made up her mind. The Prince really wasn’t as crazy as she had once believed. Yes, he ran with a bad crowd, he drank too much, ate too much and, in general, displayed a shockingly intemperate, if not downright childish, personality.
But for all that he was sweet, considerate, after a fashion, and still very charming. Mrs Fitzherbert convinced herself that what the Prince needed was a firm but loving hand to guide him. She wrote a letter to the Prince telling him of her intention to return to England and marry him.
When the Prince received that letter, he was beside himself. When Charles Fox heard the news, he was also. But for a very different reasons. While he truly cherished the Prince’s friendship, he had other reasons for staying close to his Highness. What the Prince wanted to do would destroy his, well, his utilitarian value. Although Fox would never come right out and say such a thing.
He sent the Prince a long letter laying out the reasons why a marriage to Mrs. Fitzherbert would be a bad idea. He did touch on the political ramifications. He also mentioned that the King was not without options, son-wise. Granted, the Princes brothers were hardly better behaved than his Highness, but that would be a moot point if the Prince forced his fathers hand by marrying a Catholic.
And did Mrs. Fitzherbert really want to stir up all the old prejudices against Catholics? Fox was sure that she did not. As the Princes deeply concerned friend, he had to advise him to lay off the Catholic girls. Besides, he reminded his Highness, even if he went ahead and did the deed, it wouldn’t be real!
Even two Catholics getting married by a priest in England had to re-perform the ceremony with an Anglican parson or the state would not recognize it as valid. Tut,tut. Said the Prince. Let me worry about that. Fox pointed out that any children from such a union would be bastards. Illegitimate kids might be a given with Hanoverian males, but what would the devote Catholic Fitzherbert clan think?
The Prince was touched that Fox had such a deep concern for his happiness. It broke his heart that his friend was getting his silk undies in a bunch over the matter. So touched was he, that he decided to do something about it. Prince of Wales-style.
Thank you Mr. Al. Can I have the next file yet?