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Last week, I enjoyed a virtual trip to Lacock Village after missing my opportunity to visit it in person when I was in England in 2014. Tina liked reliving part of her Ireland trip through the novel The Green Road by Anne Enright.
I wrote about the death of King George III and the end of the Regency last year on the 200th anniversary. King George IV began his reign on the date of his father’s death, January 29, 1820.His coronation, however, didn’t happen until a year and a half later on July 19, 1821 at Westminster Abbey. It took so long because George IV really hoped to rid himself of his wife before the ceremony.
Prince George married Caroline of Brunswick in 1795 at the insistence of his father who refused to pay his debts unless the prince complied. George was already in a long-term relationship, married in an unrecognized Catholic ceremony to Maria Fitzherbert. George and Caroline’s marriage functioned just long enough to produce one child, Princess Charlotte of Wales. They formally separated in 1796.
Caroline returned to Britain, from several years in Italy, after George III’s death to stand alongside her husband and be crowned queen consort. Caroline was more popular among the British populace than the King, who they considered too extravagant. She remained popular even during a very public investigation by Parliament that accused her of having an affair with the Italian man who ran her household. The House of Lords passed the bill allowing the King to divorce Caroline, but the House of Commons responded to her popularity among the public and refused to take up the bill. She attempted to attend the coronation but was barred, in turn, at every door of Westminster Abbey. Caroline died three weeks later, claiming to have been poisoned, although her physicians said it was an intestinal obstruction.
George IV’s coronation was a lavish affair costing something over 22 million pounds in today’s money. One large expense was his 27-foot red velvet robe. It was sold to Madam Tussaud for the wax museum but has been recovered by the royal family and used at every coronation since George V in 1911. Another huge expense was the coronation banquet, the last of its kind, in neighboring Westminster Palace.
Were you familiar with this story? I’d picked up some of it over the years, but I was surprised by how scandalous it all was.