In January of 1811, England’s beloved King George III was
deemed to be mad, and England had no choice but to appoint George Augustus
Frederick, the Prince of Wales, age 48, Stto the regency. Unlike his frugal and
stolidly Tory father, the prince fraternized with Whigs, and was already famous
for accruing enormous debts, hosting expensive, hedonistic parties, and, most
damning of all, taking an illegal, Catholic, secret wife.
The Prince Regent
When he became Regent, the prince was delighted with his
ascendancy if for no other reason than access to more money. But he could not publicly
celebrate his new position due to the country’s grief for their ill King. He postponed
celebrations until June of that year to hold an extravagant grand fête at his
London palace, Carlton House. It was in
fact the largest celebration dinner in history, with four hundred at table, and
another 1600 scattered among lavishly appointed tents on the grounds.
on Pall Mall. Also called Carlton Palace.
All the grand royalty and nobility
of Europe were invited. In England, many in the haut ton anxiously
coveted invitations. At first reserved only for the peerage and their
offspring, by the time of the event, more than 2,000 invitations had been
issued to all classes—but not everyone was happy to attend. The Queen, furious
that her son would hold such an extravagant affair while the King suffered,
refused. She wasn’t the only notable missing. Princess Charlotte, the Regent’s
legal but estranged wife, was not even invited. And Mrs. Fitzherbert, his
Catholic wife (not recognized by the Church of England since it was illegal for
the Protestant prince to marry a Catholic), refused, like his mother, to
attend, since she had not been granted a seat at the regent’s table, though his
new mistress, Lady Hertford, had.
view of Carlton House, Pall Mall.
the main dinner table, in which 200 lucky guests got to sit (with the Regent seated
in a veritable throne at the head), “A
large silver basin filled with water fed a stream [in a ‘marble canal’] which
meandered between banks of flowers and vegetation and was stocked with golden
fish and silver gudgeons, reaching the whole length of the principal supper
table.” 1 “At the head of the table was a large silver fountain”
which released the flow of water, which ran trickling along its length and poured into “a series of
cascades into a ‘circular lake surrounded with architectural decorations, and
small vases, burning perfumes.”2 It was an unprecedented display,
and both amazed and perplexed the guests.
The prince was so happy with his
lavish spectacle that he wished to share it with the public, and thus the
fabulous display was to last for three days in which the outdoor pavilions and
ornate decorations were left standing. The first and second days, for ticketed
members of the public, were fairly manageable. But word spread rapidly of the
wonders to be seen. Couple that with the palace’s announcement that the third
day was the last chance for anyone to admire the impressive grounds and a
portion of the interior of the palace, and utter catastrophe ensued.
for the Regent, the furor to see it was so fierce that order could not be
maintained. It was reported that more than 30,000 curious people tried to crowd
their way in that day. Some were severely injured. Many more lost hats,
bonnets, coats, shawls, shoes, and even underclothing. London papers afterward
claimed there were great tubs at Carlton House filled with the lost items.
Contemporaries both praised and harshly criticized the affair. It was described as “an assemblage of beauty, splendor and profuse magnificence,” by admirers, but as one of the princes’ “greatest follies and extravagances,” by detractors.In my book, Miss Tavistock’s Mistake, lovably headstrong Miss Tavistock, like most of London, determines to see Carlton House and its splendors, against the hero’s advice. She says,
She turned toward the gate, thinking only of escape. Two young women came sobbing by, trailing torn muslin. Others passed with expressions of horror, one with arms crossed over breasts.
Oh, why hadn’t she heeded the captain’s warnings? But thought of him sent her further into despair. Losing shoes and a bonnet were nothing—he was lost to her. An involuntary sob escaped, and then light-headedness made her stop, and she stood swaying as the world spun. And then a pair of hands, gentle hands, took her by the arms. ‘Here you are, thank God!’ a firm voice said.
Just before everything went black, she saw the concerned face of Captain Rempeare looking down at her like an angel of light.
‘I’ve got you now. You’re safe,’ he said.
She tottered against him, and then he swept her off her feet and into his arms.”
Thank you. Let me know if it's okay now. I hope you're not having to stay at the hospital another night.
Notes: 1 George IV, E.A. Smith, 2 Ibid., 3Ibid
See Miss Tavistock’s Mistake Here.
Carlton House, South
Linore Rose Burkard is a serious watcher of period films, a Janeite and a hopeless romantic. An award-winning hybrid author, besides Regency romance, she also writes contemporary romance and, as L. R. Burkard, YA Apocalyptic suspense. A magna cum laude English Lit. graduate of CUNY, Linore now lives with her husband and five children in Ohio where she is active at church and president of the Dayton Christian Scribes, (but drops everything for Masterpiece Theatre or Mets baseball!).
Linore’s newsletter for a free flash-fiction regency love story.