Chapter 5

In Waiting

DURING THE REIGN OF England’s new king, George I, the structure of both the male and female royal households changed little from what it had been under his predecessors. Since the reign of James I, there had been four main departments: the Lord Chamberlain’s department, the household below stairs under the Lord Steward, the stables under the Master of the Horse, and the Bedchamber under the direction of the Groom of the Stole. With the exception of the first of these, which was the largest and had several different offshoots, each had a clearly defined purpose. The stables department looked after the King or Queen’s horses and carriages, and its leading officers became personal royal servants when the sovereign was out of doors. The household below stairs was a vast supply department that acquired, prepared and distributed food, drink, fuels and other necessaries throughout the court. The Bedchamber staff, among whom Henrietta and Charles were numbered, were the personal servants of the monarch in his or her private apartments. As such they were among the most sought-after positions because they had the greatest access to the sovereign.

The royal household had, however, decreased considerably in size due to rising costs. Under Charles I, it had comprised 1,450 staff; a hundred years later, George I employed 950. The majority of these were located within the Lord Chamberlain’s department, which employed an average of 660 staff, while the Bedchamber was the smallest department with just thirty. However, there were many more men and women working at court than those who were listed as official servants. All of the greater and many of the minor household officers employed servants of their own, some of whom did their master’s work. Often, therefore, an appointment in the household could bring a regular income and access to the sovereign without any arduous duties. Taking the official servants and their own staff together, well over a thousand men and women were connected with the royal household in some way. This was a vast number, particularly when compared to the households of the nobility, the greatest of whom had only fifty servants, and most of whom had fewer than thirty.

In addition to the household structure that was already established for George I when he arrived at St James’s, he also brought seventy-five of his own servants from Hanover. His two Turkish Grooms of the Bedchamber served the majority of his personal needs, and a number of bedroom pages did the rest. Furthermore, the new King had such a strong aversion to formal etiquette that the traditional duties performed by the bedchamber staff, such as the elaborate dressing ceremonies, were no longer required. Their activities were therefore limited to introducing men into the King’s rooms and accompanying him when he went out of his apartments. During the early years of his reign, George lived as private a life as possible. Even on the rare occasions that he dined in public, his bedchamber staff were not required to serve him on bended knee, as court etiquette usually dictated. As a result, these posts became little more than sinecures.

The King chose not to appoint a Groom of the Stole until 1719. For the first five years of his reign, therefore, the Gentlemen of the Bedchamber were the most senior officials in that department. These posts were the preserve of the nobility, and most were held in conjunction with positions in government. Below them were the Grooms of the Bedchamber, of whom Charles Howard was one. Seven out of the eight Grooms had a military background, as was traditional for this position. The Grooms were the middle rank of servants in the Bedchamber and should have been kept busy with a range of tasks connected with the King’s person, including helping him to wash and dress. But although they were almost always in attendance, this was more for public show than for practicality, thanks to George I’s reliance on his German servants. The absence of any onerous duties no doubt suited the slothful Charles Howard perfectly.1

His wife had a rather less easy time of it. In contrast to the King, both Caroline and her husband embraced every element of the traditional court ceremonies. This entailed a busy life for all those who attended them. The structure of their households mirrored that of the King, although the staff were paid significantly less. The Princess’s Bedchamber was presided over by the Duchess of St Albans as Groom of the Stole.2 Below her were the Ladies of the Bedchamber, who were all peeresses and undertook the most honourable and ceremonial duties of that department. They oversaw the work of the lower-ranking bedchamber staff and acted as companions to the Princess. They also waited on her during formal dinners, receptions and other state occasions. Not being a peeress, Henrietta was barred from this rank of servant, and was instead among the Women of the Bedchamber, who made up the middle tier of staff. Below them were the sempstresses, laundresses and other more menial servants.

As Woman of the Bedchamber, Henrietta was one of only a small number of servants who had close and regular contact with the Princess. She and the seven other women who held this post took it in turns to be ‘in waiting’ – that is, on duty in the palace. During her periods of waiting, Henrietta was in more or less constant attendance on her mistress. Her day began early, as she was required to rise before the Princess and be ready to come into her bedchamber as soon as she awoke. Her first task was then to pour out the water in which the Princess washed, or on the days when she bathed, to fill the bath with the hot water that the Page of the Backstairs brought up in great ornamental ewers. The washing or bathing over, Caroline’s private chaplain was summoned and she would hear morning prayers, usually within the bedchamber itself. This was an important part of the Princess’s daily ritual. She was devoutly religious and, though raised as a Lutheran, became an enthusiastic follower of the Anglican faith once in England.

After prayers came the ceremony of dressing the Princess in her day clothes – or ‘shifting’, as it was known. This was the most strictly ordered of all the bedchamber rituals. Each attendant looked after a specific item of clothing, which varied according to their rank. The Women of the Bedchamber, assisted by the laundresses and sempstresses, were responsible for the Princess’s underwear. Her outer garments, which were more valuable and elaborate, were commissioned and cared for by the Ladies of the Bedchamber, under the watchful eye of the Groom of the Stole. After the attendants had ensured that the correct garments were ready, the Woman of the Bedchamber would set them out in order and then hand each item in turn to the Lady of the Bedchamber, who would assist the Princess in putting them on. This painstaking procedure would continue from the linen undergarments to the skirts and outerwear, right down to accessories such as gloves and fans. The final touches would then be put in place, namely dressing her hair and fastening on her jewellery. This would be performed by the Woman of the Bedchamber under the supervision of the Lady, who would discuss with her mistress which jewels she wished to wear that day.

The ceremony of dressing over, the Princess would venture out into the court, attend formal occasions, make visits or go to chapel, depending on the day of the week. Whatever she was doing, her bedchamber ladies and women were in waiting all the time, in case they were required to run errands for her or attend to her appearance. In the early evening, Caroline would return to her private apartments, where she would spend her time reading, talking or playing cards with her ladies. If there were any formal entertainments later in the evening, such as a drawing room or assembly, both the Ladies and Women of the Bedchamber would accompany their mistress. Finally, the Princess would retire and the rituals of the morning would be performed in reverse, with the ladies and women undressing their mistress and preparing her for bed. Often it could be as late as two o’clock in the morning before they were able to retire themselves.

Henrietta’s work as a Woman of the Bedchamber was not hard as such, and was certainly less physically demanding than her years of serving her husband, but it was constant and often unpredictable, depending as it did upon the whim of the Princess. The hours were also very long, and she would have had precious little time to herself. Even when she was not actively attending to the Princess, she would have been surrounded by the other Women and Ladies of the Bedchamber who were in waiting. Although friendships did develop between them, these were overshadowed by the fierce rivalry that dominated Caroline’s household, as each member of it vied for favour. There was more or less constant bickering, and heated arguments could flare up over the most trivial of matters. Lady Cowper, whose diary is rich in gossip and scandal from the court, described one such occasion: ‘This day was passed in Disputes amongst us Servants about the Princess’s kissing my Lady Mayoress, and quoting of Precedents.’3 Henrietta tended to keep out of these petty disputes, anxious to avoid anything that might jeopardise her newly won position. Her neutrality and discretion won the admiration and respect of the other ladies, and while they might quarrel among themselves, they rarely quarrelled with her.

There was one exception. Charlotte Clayton, another Woman of the Bedchamber, was a favourite of the Princess, but sensed that in Mrs Howard she had a rival. She knew that Henrietta’s association with Caroline went back further than her own, to the court in Hanover, and she was suspicious of the way in which Henrietta held herself aloof from the bickerings of the household. Part of Mrs Clayton’s insecurity no doubt sprang from her own rather obscure background. Her husband was a lowly clerk of the Treasury, and she had only risen to the position in the Princess’s household thanks to her acquaintance with the Duchess of Marlborough. She had won Caroline’s admiration by affecting to share her views on religion, and had steadily increased her influence over her mistress.

Mrs Clayton was a woman of considerable cunning, and used her advantageous position to win titles and riches for both herself and her family. She once received a pair of diamond earrings as a bribe for securing a prestigious post at court for the Earl of Pomfret. Decked out in these jewels, she went to visit the Duchess of Marlborough, who was entertaining Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. As soon as Mrs Clayton had left them, the Duchess exclaimed: ‘What an impudent creature, to come hither with a bribe in her ear!’, to which Lady Mary replied: ‘Madam, how should people know where wine is sold, unless a bush is hung out?’4

Henrietta struggled to hide her dislike for Mrs Clayton, and as her own influence in the Princess’s household grew, the rivalry between them intensified. Their animosity did not escape the sharp eye of John, Lord Hervey, who claimed that at its root lay not just rivalry, but a profound difference in character. ‘Mrs Clayton and Mrs Howard hated one another very civilly and very heartily, but not in equal constraint,’ he wrote, ‘for whilst Mrs Clayton was every moment like Mount Etna, ready to burst when she did not flame, Mrs Howard was as much mistress of her passions as of her limbs, and could as easily prevent the one from showing she had a mind to strike, as she could the other from giving the blow. Her passions, if I may be allowed the comparison, were like well-mannered horses, at once both hot and tractable.’5

Her influence with the Princess may have been inferior to Mrs Clayton’s, but in terms of popularity among the ladies at court, Mrs Howard far outstripped her rival. As well as the Ladies and Women of the Bedchamber, she also befriended the Maids of Honour – the unmarried ladies who were the Princess’s main companions at court. These well-born young ladies were amongst the liveliest and most vivacious at St James’s – if not in the whole of England. Most were still in their teens, and their beauty and giddiness lent a much-needed brightness to life at court. Principal among them was Mary Bellenden, daughter of John, 2nd Lord Bellenden. Her voluptuous beauty and high spirits made her the darling of the court. Horace Walpole talked of the ‘universal admiration’ for her, adding, ‘Her face and person were charming, lively she was even to etouderie,6 and so agreeable that she was never afterwards mentioned by her contemporaries but as the most perfect creature they had ever seen.’7

Mary Bellenden’s closest rival at court was Mary (‘Molly’) Lepel, who combined beauty and charm with a lively wit and intellect. Her more poised style and ability to please won her the admiration of some of the greatest intellectuals of the day, including Voltaire, who wrote a poem in her honour. Lord Chesterfield said of her: ‘She has been bred all her life at Courts, of which she has acquired all the easy good breeding and politeness without the frivolousness. She has all the reading that a woman should have, and more than any woman need have.’8

Among Miss Lepel’s many admirers was the waspish courtier Lord Hervey. Hervey was handsome in a delicate sort of way, and his slender, mincing figure bordered on the effeminate. He had a voracious sexual appetite that was satisfied by both men and women, and he was described as being as much a fop as a rake. Alexander Pope excoriated his immorality and christened him ‘Lord Fanny’, who ‘now trips a lady, and now struts a lord’. Hervey’s acerbic wit and love of gossip found full expression in his memoirs, which recorded – and often exaggerated – the daily round of events and scandal at the Georgian court. Despite his sexual ambivalence, Hervey married Molly Lepel – apparently for love, for she had no fortune – and she bore him eight children.

The eldest among the Maids of Honour was Mary Meadows, who did her best to keep her unruly companions in order. She had quite a task, especially with Sophia Howe. This young lady owed her position at court to the fact that she was the great-granddaughter of Prince Rupert, brother of old Electress Sophia. Miss Howe was exceedingly gay and flighty, and her irrepressible humour frequently bordered on the coarse. On one occasion, she had a fit of giggles during a service in the royal chapel at St James’s, earning her a severe reprimand from the Duchess of St Albans, who told her she could not have done a worse thing. ‘I beg your Grace’s pardon,’ Miss Howe tartly replied. ‘I can do a great many worse things.’9

Sophia Howe was not the only Maid of Honour to fail in her religious devotions. The Chapel Royal soon became a magnet for all the beaux at court, and a great deal of ogling and giggling went on, especially during Bishop Burnet’s long sermons. The situation became so intolerable that he complained to the Princess, who eventually agreed to his suggestion that the Maids of Honour’s pew should be built up so high as to shield them from their admirers. This sparked one such admirer to lament:

And now Britain’s nymphs in a Protestant reign

Are boxed up at prayers like the Virgins of Spain.10

The liveliness of Princess Caroline’s household, and that of the Prince of Wales, formed a sharp contrast to the general tenor of life during the early years of George I’s reign. The new King was fifty-four when he ascended the throne, by which age his habits and principles of thought were firmly entrenched. He was not inclined to change either for the sake of his new court, and instead continued the routines that he had established as Elector. These had been simple in Hanover and remained so in England. He wanted very few of the innumerable rights and courtesies to which he was entitled. He was a shy and reserved man, and the notion of traditional royal ceremonies such as the levée, during which the King invited members of the court into his bedchamber to observe his dressing, were abhorrent to him. He would have none of them.

George I hated fashionable society and shunned it whenever possible. He rose early but did not emerge from his bedchamber until noon, when he went into the adjoining closet to receive his ministers and other visitors. These audiences generally lasted until three o’clock in the afternoon, when the King again retired to his bedchamber. He ignored the Stuart tradition of dining in public, choosing instead to take his meals in private, waited on by his faithful Turkish servants. Late in the afternoon, he would venture out to take a walk alone in the gardens of St James’s. On Sundays he was forced to spend more time in public because of the requirement to attend chapel. But even then, few courtiers would catch more than the briefest glimpse of him as he hurried back to his private apartments after the service, and he rarely spoke to any of the dense throng lining the corridors.

The King spent most of his leisure hours in the apartments of his two favourite mistresses, Mesdames Schulenburg and Kielmansegg. These were situated as far apart in the palace as possible, with George’s apartments in between, because the two women hated each other. One of the more innocent pleasures that he enjoyed with Madame Schulenburg was to sit and watch her cut figures out of paper, an occupation that would hold him in thrall for several hours.

But George was not a total recluse. In the evenings, he sometimes slipped out of St James’s and went to the theatre or opera with a small party of intimate friends. He shied away from the royal box, however, preferring to watch the performances incognito. Since he knew little English, he favoured ballets and pantomimes. His companions were almost always women, and despite his reserve, he enjoyed flirting with them. His dalliances occasionally attracted unwanted attention, however. One evening, in a moment of impetuosity, he kissed the hand of the Dowager Duchess of Ancaster, who was sitting next to him. In her surprise, she rose and made a low curtsey, which unfortunately drew the attention of the ladies nearby, who ‘clapped their fans to their faces, and tittered’. It was reported that ‘The whole house was astonished’, and that the King’s display of gallantry was ‘pretty near to a declaration of love’.11

Very occasionally, George would join the Princess’s evening parties for half an hour, but he always resisted her invitation to take part in the card tables. This was not due to any aversion to gambling: George loved to play cards, but he preferred to do so with a select group of friends in private houses.

The new King’s reluctance to show himself in public did nothing for his popularity. His English subjects grew increasingly disdainful of him, and of his mistresses, whom they thought resembled more the ugly sisters of pantomime than the beauteous creatures they were accustomed to in the royal court. One day Madame Kielmansegg was taking a ride in a carriage when she was accosted by a jeering mob. Leaning out of the window, she called: ‘Goot people, why you abuse us? We come for all your goots!’ To which a voice from the crowd shouted back, ‘Yes, damn ye, and for all our chattels too!’12

A rather more serious indication of a lack of public support for the new regime came less than a year after George I’s accession. His preference for German habits and customs over English ones also extended to his views on foreign policy. He persuaded Parliament to release funds for the military campaigns in which he was engaged on Hanover’s behalf. He also implemented a foreign policy that was almost entirely dictated by his desire to augment Hanover’s status, even though it sacrificed British interests – and coffers. This sparked widespread resentment among both his ministers and his subjects.

The Jacobites, who had been steadily gaining support on both sides of the border, seized the chance to further their own cause at the expense of the King’s, and started to gather their forces. They planned three risings: ‘James III and VIII’, who was in exile on the Continent, was to land in the south-west of England and lead a march to London. At the same time, Jacobite forces in the Borders and Scottish Highlands were to be mobilised. This was the people’s chance to rid themselves of ‘German George’ and restore the rightful Stuart king to the throne. James’s health was drunk in public and at private dinners by passing the wine glass over the water bottle to signify ‘the King over the water’. There was a flurry of pamphlets and ballads denouncing the Hanoverian regime and urging people to rise up in support of their rightful king. Meanwhile, George I doggedly persisted with his pro-Hanover policy, flying in the face of public opinion, and either refusing to believe in the threat to his crown or caring little for it.

In the event, the Jacobite risings came to nothing. Poor leadership and indecision, coupled with effective government intelligence, nipped the south-west rebellion in the bud. On the Borders, the Jacobite forces advanced as far as Cumbria and captured Preston, but were then outnumbered and obliged to surrender. The rising in Scotland was initially successful, and both Perth and Aberdeen were captured. But again lack of leadership prevented them from pushing home the advantage. If the Jacobite risings had failed to achieve their objective, however, they had provided a very clear demonstration of the anti-Hanoverian feeling across the country at this time. Thenceforth, George would ignore public opinion at his peril.

With the popularity of the King at an all-time low, the Prince and Princess were quick to seize the advantage. They made themselves as affable and visible as George was dour and reserved. While he stubbornly pursued his German habits and interests, they loudly expressed their love for all things English. The Prince proclaimed: ‘I have not von drop of blood in my veins dat is not English.’ This may have been a little more convincing if it had not been expressed with such a strong accent, and had it not been well known that he in fact had even more German blood in his veins than his father. He went further still by announcing at a reception one evening that he thought the English were ‘the best, handsomest, the best-shaped, best-natured and lovingest people in the world, and that if anybody would make their court to him, it must be by telling him that he was like an Englishman’. This delighted the English courtiers but horrified their German counterparts, who ‘could not contain themselves, but fell into the violentist, silliest, ill-mannered invective against the English that was ever heard’. They had further cause for complaint when Caroline took up her husband’s theme and declared that she would ‘as soon live on a dunghill as return to Hanover’.13

How sincere these expressions were is uncertain, but the fact that the Prince and Princess voiced them and made an effort to understand and speak English (admittedly not very competently) gave them a huge advantage over the King. What really swung the tide of popular opinion in their favour, though, was not their words but their actions. Spying the gap that George I had created by refusing to enter into court ceremonials and other formal occasions, they threw themselves headlong into the full round of engagements offered by fashionable society, determined to add some much-needed glamour and vitality to the Hanoverian court. As Lord Hervey observed: ‘the pageantry and splendour, the badges and trappings of royalty, were as pleasing to the son as they were irksome to the father’.

The Princess gave a series of balls and masquerades at Somerset House and St James’s Palace, to which all of London’s most elegant noblemen and women flocked. She also held formal drawing rooms two or three evenings a week, where guests were treated to lively conversation, music and cards. The latter became all the rage, and before long the whole court was gripped by gambling fever. Lady Cowper recounted that on one occasion ‘There was such a court I never saw in my life. My mistress and the Duchess of Montagu went halves at hazard and won six hundred pounds. Mr Archer came in great form to offer me a place at the table, but I laughed and said he did not know me if he thought I was capable of venturing two hundred guineas at play, for none sat down to the table with less.’14 High play was accompanied by deep drinking, and things occasionally got out of hand. At a drawing room one evening, a gentleman present, who had evidently taken great advantage of the royal hospitality, fell out with another guest, and in the fray ‘pulled him by the nose’. He was promptly thrown out for being ‘drunk and saucy’.15

The Prince and Princess did not confine their entertainment to the court, but made sure that they were seen in all of London’s most fashionable retreats. The capital was at that time a city built for entertainment: assembly halls, pleasure gardens, coffee houses and gambling rooms were springing up everywhere, and the great aristocratic mansions were being transformed to suit the new social tastes of the privileged classes. There was greater vibrancy in the arts, and a host of new theatres were opening up in London’s West End. The royal couple were very fond of operas and plays, and were often to be seen in full state at the Haymarket or Drury Lane, enjoying everything from Shakespeare to the latest farce. Caroline even caused a scandal at court by going to see a risqué new comedy called The Wanton Wife – much to the horror of the Duchess of Roxburgh, who claimed that it was ‘such a one as nobody could see with a good reputation’.16

On the evenings when there was no formal court occasion or play to divert them, the Prince and Princess would dine at the houses of great noblemen and women. Frequent mention is made in the newspapers and diaries of the time of a dinner at the Duchess of Shrewsbury’s, a supper at my Lady Bristol’s, or a ball at the Duchess of Somerset’s. The couple always made sure that they were at their most affable and charming on such occasions, conscious that with the nobility rested one of the surest routes to good opinion among the population at large.

Their social pursuits did not stop during daylight hours. In the early months of the reign, they walked in St James’s Park every day, accompanied by a fashionable crowd and those seeking to be so. Later on, the Princess discovered the gardens at Kensington Palace, which she greatly admired, and they soon became a popular destination for London’s socialites. Entrance was by ticket only, so the general public could only watch from behind the gates, eager for a glimpse of the glamorous young royals.

In the fashionable world, dinner was taken in the middle of the day, and, unlike the King, Caroline and George upheld the Stuart tradition of dining in public. Ordinary people would flock to watch the spectacle of the royal couple and their guests eating, and would endure many hours of being squeezed and jostled in the galleries that lined the dining room. This became such a popular pastime that a ticketing system had to be introduced.

Like everything else at court, mealtimes were governed by rigid codes of etiquette and ceremony, which were then mirrored in fashionable households across England. Guests would walk into the dining room in strict order of rank, ladies first. The mistress (in this case the Princess) would sit at one end of the table, surrounded by the most important female guests. The other would be occupied by her husband and all of the gentlemen present. This division of the sexes often led to overexuberance among the male diners, whose boisterous habits of drinking loud healths and reciting lewd ballads went unchecked by the ladies seated a safe distance away.

Some attempts to curb these excesses were made later on in the century by John Trusler, who published The Honours of the Table, a series of rules for behaviour during meals. This advised that it was vulgar to eat too quickly or too slowly, as it showed that one was either too hungry or did not like the food. Guests should also avoid smelling the meat whilst it was on the fork because it implied that they suspected it was tainted. Trusler warned of a number of other faux pas. ‘It is exceedingly rude to scratch any part of your body, to spit, or blow your nose . . . to lean your elbows on the plate, to sit too far from it, to pick your teeth before the dishes are removed.’ And woe betide anyone who had the call of nature during meals. If it was too urgent to be ignored, then they must steal from the table unobserved and return without making any mention of where they had been. Jonathan Swift poked fun at such rigid strictures in his satirical handbook, Directions to Servants, which recommended practices that would have made Trusler faint away in horror: from combing one’s hair over the cooking, to eating half the meat before it went to table, and keeping quiet about any lumps of soot that accidentally fell into the soup.

The obsession with order and ceremony at the royal table was matched by the lavishness of the fare that was served. Enormous quantities of food were consumed by the assembled guests, and the predominance of meat astonished foreign visitors. ‘I always heard that they [the English] were great flesh-eaters, and I found it true,’ wrote one. ‘Among the middling sort of people they had 10 or 12 sorts of common meats which infallibly takes their turns at their tables.’17 The first course to be served almost always consisted of various types of meat, some of which was accompanied by sauces. Stewed or potted venison, pork sausages, ‘jugged’ pigeons, pheasant with prune sauce – all made their way to the tables at court. Vegetables such as turnips, carrots and parsnips were served occasionally, but many people believed them to be bad for the health and steered well clear. Dessert was the final course to arrive. Strawberry fritters, whipped syllabubs, jellies and sweetmeats were favourites with the sweet-toothed Georgians. A healthier option of fresh fruit was also included, and the privileged classes were treated to exotic varieties such as pineapples, peaches and grapes, which were grown in the hothouses that had started to spring up across the country. This sumptuous feast would have been washed down with wine, followed by coffee or hot chocolate, and all three beverages would have been generously sweetened with sugar.

It is hardly surprising that after the last dishes had been cleared, the Prince and Princess would retire to their apartments for a postprandial nap. But they were soon back on the social round. For Caroline, this involved making calls. Ladies of quality passed most of their afternoons going from house to house drinking tea, which was a luxury commodity in those days. Etiquette demanded that if a caller came while the lady of the house was out and left a card, that visit must be returned the following day. This meant that members of fashionable society were constantly flitting around London in sedan chairs and carriages, catching up with their obligations and making calls of their own choosing.

Gentlemen, meanwhile, idled away many hours in the new coffee houses that were opening up across the capital, such as White’s Chocolate House in St James’s Street or Lloyd’s of Lombard Street. Here they would read newspapers or debate political matters whilst enjoying their coffee or hot chocolate. One foreign traveller to London was astonished by the number of these establishments, and by the variety of pursuits that went on within them. ‘Some coffee houses are a resort for learned scholars and wits; others are the resort of dandies or of politicians, or again of professional newsmongers; and many others are temples of Venus.’18

Such was the social whirl into which Caroline and George threw themselves. They were swept up by, but at the same time dictated, the fashionable life of London. At a public dinner one day, they were delighted to see the ‘country folks’ wearing straw hats, and when the Princess noticed that one girl had come without hers, she sent her home to get it. This prompted several of the gentry present, who were eager to win favour with the royal couple, to don straw hats the following day.

The Prince and Princess certainly seemed to have the knack of courting ordinary people and high society alike, and they were loved for it. Their charm offensive worked so well that just a few months into the reign, the foreign traveller and diarist Sir Dudley Ryder noted: ‘I find all backward in speaking to the king, but ready enough to speak to the prince.’19

Knowing that his son was more popular with the English than he was himself irritated George I intensely and fuelled the growing discord between the two. But rather than focusing upon improving his own public profile, he handed the Prince and Princess a further advantage by announcing that he was leaving for a visit to Hanover. He had been itching to do so ever since he had inherited the British crown: he missed the order and familiarity of the court at Herrenhausen, and in particular the obedience of his people there, who were a good deal less troublesome than his fractious English subjects. His timing could not have been worse. Sympathy for the Jacobites remained strong, and people were still smarting from the heavy expenses to which he had subjected them in pursuance of Hanoverian interests. It was in vain that his ministers pressed these points upon him, and the King left London in June 1716. Those who watched him go said that he was the most animated they had seen him since his arrival in England.

Much to the Prince’s resentment, the King did not trust him enough to make him regent during his absence. Instead, he revived a title that had not been in use since the Black Prince’s time in the fourteenth century – that of ‘Guardian of the Realm and Lieutenant’. This carried less authority than the position of regent, and George further restricted his son’s powers by insisting that the Duke of Argyll, the Prince’s trusted friend and adviser, should be dismissed. The Prince was livid and his wife was ‘all in a flame’, but in the end they relented, and the King, having won his point, set out for Hanover.20

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