It seems Prince George is always hurting for money. Too bad his mad starts only make things worse. When his father insists he marry a nice German girl before he’d pick up the tab, Priney doesn’t respond well.
Said the Prince; he would show “firm determination not to appear again in public till he could do so with the dignity and splendor to which his rank in life entitled him.” Dad was not impressed. To give action to his words, the Prince shut up Carlton House, fired all but a handful of servants, they hadn’t been paid in months anyway, sold his racehorses and fancy carriages and moved to Brighton.Throughout much of the Georgian period Brighton had been growing in popularity as a seaside resort. What had been for centuries a small fishing village, had suddenly begun to sprout the mansions of the Better Sorts. The Prince was having none of that, however.
He was on a mission to prove he was poor. Relatively speaking. He rented a farmhouse for himself and a small villa for Mrs Fitzherbert, who joined him after he settled in. It was the summer of 1786 and the Prince could often be encountered strolling about town or taking a dip on the beach.
As would happen numerous times over the course of his life, the Prince had discovered that the further from London he got, the more popular he became. The citizens were tickled pink to have him. He spoke to fishermen and shopkeepers with the same easy familiarity with which he spoke to his peers back in London.
He had cut way back on his drinking, he didn’t gamble, his rakehell London cronies were not in evidence and his infamous “pavilion” was not yet a gleam in his eye. He was, to all the world, a quiet, retired country gent. He was twenty-four. Although he did not flout his marriage to Mrs Fitzherbert, he didn’t try very hard to hide it.
Indeed, the lovebirds were often seen together. They attended local theatricals, the country fairs and other local entertainments. The Prince charmed the boots off the local nabobs, who veyed with one another to have him as a dinner guest.
Mrs. Fitzherbert won universal acclaim for her quite demeanor and intelligent conversation. This was a good thing because the Prince, while intelligent enough, tended to be a bit pedantic. He could, and often did, hold his dinner guests hostage while he prattled on, sometimes for hours, about some subject or another.
And, of course, dinner couldn’t be served until he shut up. Happily, there was none of that in Brighton this particular summer. The Prince and Mrs. Fitzherbert were apparently happy as clams. As summer turned to autumn, the Prince moved into a larger house, Bushy Park. The infamous (to Americans) Lord North owned this property.
And all the while this picture of domestic bliss was taking place the Prince was waiting for dad to give in. It didn’t happen. Mrs. Fitzherbert tried to assure her beloved that it was only a matter of time. The Prince knew better. He had received an offer of a loan from the Duke of Orleans.
Not stopping to consider the political ramifications of being in debt to a French duke, his Highness was ready to accept. Cooler heads prevailed however, and he was talked out of it. But something had to be done! This “impoverished prince” act was getting to be a major pain in the butt.
The Prince decided that if he could get no money from dad directly he would have to take his case to Parliament. In person. His Highness was informed in no uncertain terms just what a bad idea that was. Questions would be raised. Questions he dare not answer publicly.
First and foremost would be is he married to a Roman Catholic? The Prince fully understood what the news of his marriage to Mrs. Fitzherbert would mean if he publicly acknowledged it. But, by God, he needed money! The urge to redecorate was upon him!
He tried to convince his Whig supporters that his recent good conduct would be enough to calm the waters. Not likely, was the reply. The Prince would not be put off. He eventually found someone to raise the subject in Parliament. He would bitterly regret having done so.