Family has recently had some stick from the press, but both scandals and
flak were far worse 200 years ago.
came to the throne in 1760. Affectionately known as ‘Farmer George’, he
was a splendid chap and a keen champion of science and technology. His
eldest son, however, was a selfish prat. George Augustus Frederick,
Prince of Wales, loved fancy clothes, gambling, and women. He pulled his
first lover, an actress, while still a teenager, and there were many
more later, while his marital shenanigans make the present Prince of
Wales look positively virtuous. In 1785 George married Maria FitzHerbert,
but did so secretly and therefore illegally, since the Royal Marriages
Act of 1772 decreed that no member of the royal family could marry
without the consent of the king.
He soon got
bored with Maria, and agreed that the marriage was void; he had
squandered a fortune, and hoped that if he officially married Caroline
of Brunswick, he could persuade parliament to pay off his debt.
Unfortunately George and Caroline took an instant dislike to one
another; when he first saw her he said ‘I am not well; please get me a
glass of brandy.’
Farmer George, suffering from the inherited disease porphyria, had
finally become mad, and in 1811 the Prince of Wales officially became
Prince Regent. He was not at all interested in the affairs of state, but
cared mainly about style, and befriended architect John Nash and society
man Beau Brummel. The result? Regency splendour, from Regent’s Park and
Regent Street to Cheltenham and Bath. George spent another fortune
tarting up Brighton Pavilion and Buckingham Palace, and gradually
descended into a slurry of over-indulgence in women, drink, and drugs.
loved all the extravagant scandal; there were endless articles and foul
cartoons of the bloated and drunken prince. Essayist Charles Lamb -
friend of the poets Coleridge, Shelley, and Byron - wrote of him
Not a fatter
fish than he
round the polar sea.
blubbers – at his gills
What a world
of drink he swills…
This (or else
my eyesight fails),
be the Prince of Whales.
eventually became king, Caroline turned up at the coronation to claim
her rights as queen, but the doors of Westminster Abbey were slammed in
her face. A right royal rumpus.