And The Regent Takes A Wife --or Two

by Linore Burkard - Date: 2007-02-21 - Word Count: 672 Share This!

George Augustus Frederick, (1762-1830), better known as the Prince Regent during the illness of his father, King George III, was recognized in his youth as having a good deal of charm, wit and no lack of intelligence. So why did he accept a bride that nearly made him ill just to look upon, when neither national emergency or political expediency demanded the marriage?  The union was chillingly devoid of even the smallest natural sympathies that should exist between a husband and wife, almost from the first day. Furthermore, his dislike of the Princess Caroline --his bride-to-be--was in effect established before the wedding ceremony.

Which begs the question: Why did he do it? 

The answer is no mystery in one sense: He was in enormous debt (some say to the tune of what would amount to nearly 1.7 million dollars in today's money) and the only way to cajole Parliament into --once again-- bailing him out of it, was to agree to wed a politically correct bride. (ie., to provide a legitimate heir).

The King chose her: a royal niece of Brunswick, and the prince, grateful for the freedom from debt, accepted the choice sight unseen.  And this is where the mystery begins.

Why on earth would the fastidious prince, privileged since birth, chafing at the bit of his father's reign (personally, if not politically*) agree to such an important decision without meeting his future would-be bride?

He knew himself to have extraordinary sensibilities concerning everything which surrounded him:  He was a man of great taste for luxuries, the exotic, the sublime.  He collected art, plate, furniture, clothing, military uniforms, and more. He loved things beautiful and elegant, from his silken drawers to his horses--and Princess Caroline was neither. His  illegal marriage to Maria Fitzherbert was evidence of his strong-willed insistence on getting what he wanted--he was obsessed with "Mrs. Fitz" and thought himself deeply in love . (He was forbidden by law to marry a Catholic, not to mention one who had already been twice widowed; Mrs. Fitz, for her part, was a moral lady who would not be a mistress. So, to have her,  he married her, illegally. This is why he was  able to later marry the Protestant princess Caroline. )

It is this same man of deep feelings and passion who we later find going as a lamb to the slaughter in the matter of a very real and legal marriage to his cousin. In the one instance when it would have behooved the prince to oppose his father--and only in his choice of bride, not the marriage itself--he is as silent as the grave, officially.  He expressed private doubts and misgivings and had to quickly down a potent libation (brandy, I  think) after meeting the future Princess of Wales.  And yet he married her. He threw caution to the wind, betrayed his common-law wife and worse, his own  intuition and  nature--and went ahead with the wedding.

All this--just to escape debt?

If this were so, he no doubt have been careful not to incur more of it in the future. Yet the truth is the prince was hounded by unbridles spending throughout his lifetime. Parliament increased his income numerous times, yet it made no difference. He always far outspent whatever they allowed him, and putting him once again in a position of having to please the Peers to get out of debt.

Was it to please the King?

Unlikely. The prince and his father (like the previous Hanoverian Georges) did not enjoy a good relationship. They were nearly always at odds, and the King openly disliked his eldest hson. Additionally, the prince made no remarks (that I have found recorded) to support the supposition.

In the final analysis, it eludes me why this charismatic, intelligent man allowed his wife--and in effect, a portion of his life--to be frivolously decided for him.

Note: * There was a political departure from the King that the prince kept to only until his regency, which was an affiliation and close friendship with the Whigs, primarily the notorious Charles James Fox. 






Linore Rose Burkard writes Inspirational Regency Romance as well as articles on Regency Life, Homeschooling, and Self-Improvement. She publishes a monthly eZine "Upon My Word!" which you can receive for FREE by signing up at

Ms. Burkard graduated from the City University of New York with a Magna Cum Laude degree in English Literature, and now lives in Ohio with her husband and five children.  To read other articles she has written, go to:

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