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CLAREMONT, AND THE PRINCESS CHARLOTTE,
BY THE AUTHOR OF "MARY POWELL."
Daughter of chiefs and monarchs! where art thou?
In the sad midnight, while thy heart still bled,
The mother of a moment, o'er thy boy,
Death hushed that pang for ever: with thee fled
The present happiness and promised joy,
Which filled the imperial isles so full, it seemed to cloy.
Ir is more than twenty years ago that we accompanied an invalid mother one fine autumn by leisurely stages to the Isle of Wight. Our first halt was at the neat country inn of the Bear at Esher, fifteen miles from town; and while one of us remained with my dear mother in the quaint little inn parlour, the others proceeded up a by-road to the left of the inn, bounded by mossy park palings, and overhung by fine trees, till we reached a lodge-gate, surmounted by the royal arms.
At the mention of a talismanic name, "the gates wide open flew," though not on golden hinges turning, and we proceeded up a carriage-road, winding through undulating turf cropped by sheep, till we came to the house.
It is a substantial, light-brick mansion, with stone dressings, and a Grecian portico surmounted by the royal arms. A flight of about twenty steps led us to the entrance-door, where we soon obtained audience of the housekeeper, who took us over the first-floor, which comprises a square entrance-hall, grand staircase, and eight spacious apartments en suite.
After duly admiring a fine cast of the Warwick vase in iron, lined with copper, executed at Berlin, which occupies the centre of the hall, we entered the library, which contained full-length portraits, by Dawe, of the Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold; also portraits of the Princess's preceptor, Dr. Fisher, Bishop of Salisbury, and her sub-preceptor, Dr. Short.
"On this chair," said the housekeeper, with a little sigh, "the Princess laid her shawl the evening she returned from her last walkand her watch on that chimney-piece. She was tired, and sat down directly she came in."
We listened with reverence; then followed her into the diningroom, where there was a fine cattle-piece, by Loutherberg, over the chimney-piece. Next we came to the gallery, fifty-eight feet by twenty-four, where were full-length portraits of the Prince and Princess, again by Dawe, who seems to have basked in the sunshine of Court patronage. There were also many other portraits, including
those of George III. and Queen Charlotte, copied by Lawrence from Sir Joshua Reynolds; the Princess's maternal grandmother, the Duchess of Brunswick; the keen, caustic Frederick the Great, of Prussia, &c. Also several cabinet pictures, by the old masters; none of them sufficiently interesting to retain a permanent place in the memory. One of them the Princess had herself bought at an old shop in Oxford-street. Various busts, a statuette or two, and one or two bronzes. In one of the windows, I now forget which-either of this gallery or the drawing-room-a pretty polished table, formed of the pebbles collected at the sea-side by the Princess in her childhood, imbedded in cement.
Next came the breakfast-room, communicating with the room in which the Princess died, and which, for twenty years afterwards, was locked up. In this breakfast-room, if I remember right, the Prince slept when the Princess was confined; and here he afterwards slept when he became King of the Belgians, during his yearly visits to Claremont. Adjoining it are a small dressing-room and bath-room.
Lastly, we came to the drawing-room, stored with ornaments and curiosities of all descriptions, including two Indian cabinets presented to the Princess by the Marquis of Hastings; and a superb porcelain table, adorned with highly-finished paintings of the interior of the Louvre, and presented to the Prince by Charles X. Here we were pleased to renew our acquaintance with Sir William Beechey's charming portrait of the Duchess of Kent, sitting on a sofa, dressed in slight mourning, with her infant daughter, the little Victoria, playing with the Duke of Kent's miniature, hanging round the widowed Duchess's neck.
The housekeeper remarked that those of the household who could remember the Princess Charlotte, thought the Princess Victoria somewhat resembled her, especially in her quickness and decision. Her Royal Highness was very fond of coming to Claremont, where King Leopold wished her to feel quite its mistress; and once, when with the intention of doing her honour, new chairs, &c., were substituted for the old ones in the drawing-room, she exclaimed that she liked the old ones the best, and begged they might be restored to their places.
All this, scanty as it was, interested us in our future Queen, who became our Queen in reality the following year; but being as yet only the expectancy and rose of the fair state, I must say we dwelt less on her than on the memory of one whose early promise, misfortunes, short-lived happiness, and premature death, had already consecrated the sleepy shades of Claremont; and as we returned through the park, after visiting the gardens, we dropped into silence, during which I called up all the scattered anecdotes of her that my memory supplied.
I have often wondered that no little manual has ever appeared, simple and short enough to preserve her name among us. She was born on the 7th of January, 1796; and the separation of her parents occurring soon afterwards, she was left in charge of her mother, the
Princess of Wales, who took up her abode at Montague House, Blackheath. In a short time, however, the little Princess was removed from her mother's care, and placed with Lady Elgin in a neighbouring residence; only visiting the Princess of Wales once a week.
Meantime her education was carefully conducted. Hannah More, writing in 1799 from Fulham Palace, says: "I have been rather royal lately; on Monday I spent the morning at the Pavilion at Hampton Court, with the Duchess of Gloucester; and yesterday I passed the morning with little Princess Charlotte at Carlton House. She is the most sensible and genteel little creature you would wish to see. I saw Carlton House and gardens in company with the pretty Princess, who had great delight in opening the drawers, uncovering the furniture, curtains, lustres, &c., to show me. My visit was to Lady Elgin, who has been spending some days here. For the Bishop of London's entertainment and mine, the Princess was made to exhibit all her learning and accomplishments; the first consisted in her repeating 'The Little Busy Bee,' the next in dancing very gracefully, and singing 'God save the King,' which was really affecting (all things considered) from her little voice. Her understanding is so forward that they really might begin to teach her many things. It is, perhaps, the highest praise after all to say, that she is exactly like the child of a private gentleman, wild and natural, but sensible, lively, and civil." She delighted the Bishop of London (who told her that when she went to Southend, she would be in his diocese,) by dropping on her knees, and asking his blessing.
Probably the bad terms on which her royal parents were living had caused her removal to Carlton House; but she used still to visit the Princess of Wales at Blackheath, and as she drove along the Kent-road, stood at the carriage window kissing her pretty hand to passers-by, her beautiful fair hair falling in long heavy curls over her shoulders. One day my grandmother, who had frequently thus noticed her, observed, to her surprise, that she wore a dark crop wig, surmounted by a white turban, with a red rose in it! On mentioning this strange circumstance to a lady who had friends at Court, the latter replied, "Ah, I think I can explain it. The Prince of Wales lately asked Lady Elgin why the child's hair was allowed to grow in that frightful manner, on which she replied that it was by the Princess of Wales's order. The Prince sent for scissors, and, without another word, cut the Princess's hair off himself, so close that her head was rubbed with spirits to prevent her taking cold; and, doubtless, the first wig that could be procured was made use of." However that might be, my grandmother saw for herself, when the wig was left off, that the hair beginning to grow was notched across the forehead, as if by an unskilful cutter.
Unhappy the child of parents at variance! Of course, the Princess Charlotte was soon old enough to know "the state of parties;" for children are, in general, precociously observant of such matters, and she was a clever child. Unable to decide the demerits
of the case, her heart instinctively clung to her mother, who, wayward and flighty beyond belief, had a certain gay good-humour that probably attracted children. The Princess of Wales was not likely to attach her daughter to Queen Charlotte, by whom she was herself treated very coldly. In May, 1807, she claimed to be received at Court, which was reluctantly granted; but the Queen gave no token of being pleased to see her. On this occasion the Prince and Princess of Wales met for the last time in their lives, and in the very centre of the apartment-the observed of all observers. They bowed, paused a moment or two, exchanged a few words heard by no one else, and then passed on; he, cold and stately, she, "halfmirthful, half-melancholy, as though she rejoiced she was there in spite of him, and yet regretted that her visit was not under happier auspices." Three years afterwards, Queen Charlotte sent the Princess of Wales an elegant aigrette on her birthday. The Princess Charlotte, with more levity than respect, observed that it was "pretty well, considering who sent it!" which was doubtless received with a hearty laugh. The poor old Queen's popularity had long been on the wane; she was most unjustly considered stingy, though it appeared, after her death, that she had privately given large sums of money to her sons; and her strong sense of propriety was equally unpalatable to the Prince and Princess of Wales. I remember hearing that on one occasion, when every one had, in obedience to etiquette, finished their tea at the same time with the Queen, except the Princess Charlotte, who remained chatting and sipping from her cup, an attendant presented himself with a salver, and respectfully said, "Your Royal Highness, Her Majesty has finished," on which she laughingly replied, "If the Queen's throat is paved, mine is not," and retained her cup. The story went on to relate that the Queen took no notice of the slight at the time, but, the next morning, sent for the Princess, and remonstrated with her on her conduct, adding, "The King's days can now be but few; and, should an untimely end unhappily await your father, you would be Queen of England. In that event, I should pay to you the same respect that you now owe to me," which so much touched the Princess that she shed tears.
Another anecdote was, that the Princess Charlotte, on asking one of the ladies placed about her who would be the proper person to present her at Court, was answered, "the Duchess of York," which made her so indignant at the implied slight to her mother, that she threw a cup of tea into the speaker's face. For this she was taken to task by her preceptor, Bishop Fisher, who said, "I fear your Royal Highness did not remember my recommendation to overcome these hasty bursts of temper, by mentally repeating the Lord's Prayer." "O yes," said she, "I remembered it, but I really was too much provoked to do it."
She early gave traits, indeed, of self-will, caprice, and obstinacy; but also of kindness, generosity, and a love of truth, candour, and rectitude. "Her skin is white," wrote Lady Charlotte Campbell,
"but not a transparent white; there is little or no shade in her face, but her features are very fine. Their expression, like that of her general demeanour, is noble. Her feet are rather small, and her hands and arms are finely moulded. She has a hesitation in her speech, amounting almost to a stammer; her voice is flexible, and her tones dulcet, except when she laughs." For the greater part of this description I can vouch. I perfectly remember seeing her, coming out of the Chapel-Royal one Sunday, dressed in a green satin pelisse, walking very fast-holding the Bishop, her preceptor, not by the arm, but by the hand-and bobbing, rather than bowing, her head to the rows of people between whom she passed. She looked very white, and very cross, as if she had heard something unpleasant in the sermon.
Poor young Princess! she was very unhappy. At that time she was living in the dismal seclusion of Warwick House, behind Picca dilly. The Princess of Wales had publicly appealed to the Prince in a letter which he had twice privately sent back unopened, and which she then inserted in the newspapers; remonstrating, among other things, against the restrictions now placed on her intercourse with her daughter. The Prince-Regent, incensed at the publicity thus given to the letter, refused to allow any meeting at all, for awhile, between the Princesses. The Duchess of Leeds was ap pointed to succeed Lady De Clifford as governess, much to the dissatisfaction of the Princess Charlotte, who said she thought she was old enough, now, to dispense with a governess. But though an Order in Council might prevent the mother and daughter from meeting under one roof, it could not prevent chance interviews in the open air, when their carriages met. On one of these occasions, they drew up near the Serpentine River, leant from their carriagewindows, and eagerly kissed one another, greatly to the interest of sympathizing spectators.
In 1814, the Prince of Orange came to England as the Princess Charlotte's suitor. The Prince Regent had the marriage much at heart, and more than one interview with the Princess was accorded him. But he failed to obtain her good graces, which some say were already bespoken for Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg by the Duchess of Oldenburg. As the Princess, though forbidden to see her mother, continually exchanged letters with her, the Prince Regent, believing this correspondence influenced her rejection of the Prince of Orange, prohibited its continuance, and even, it is said, examined the contents of her writing-desk. Satisfied that she was still too much under her mother's influence, he quietly took measures for her removal from Warwick House to the dull seclusion of Cranbourne Lodge, in Windsor Forest. Accordingly, on the 16th of July, 1814, he repaired to Warwick House, accompanied by the new ladies-in-waiting whom he intended to place about the Princess. These were the Countesses of Rosslyn and Пlchester, the Misses Coates, and Miss Campbell. A short walk through the gardens of Carlton House brought them to their destination. The Prince