Neither William IV. nor Queen Victoria ever spent much time at Brighton. In King William’s case it was explained that the dampness of the Pavilion did not suit him; and as to Queen Victoria, it was said that she disliked the fact that buildings had been erected so as to cut off the view of the sea. It is quite likely, however, that the queen objected to the associations of the place, and did not care to be reminded of the time when her uncle had lived there so long in a morganatic state of marriage.
At length the time came when the king, Parliament, and the people at large insisted that the Prince of Wales should make a legal marriage, and a wife was selected for him in the person of Caroline, daughter of the Duke of Brunswick. This marriage took place exactly ten years after his wedding with the beautiful and gentle-mannered Mrs. Fitzherbert. With the latter he had known many days and hours of happiness. With Princess Caroline he had no happiness at all.
Prince George met her at the pier to greet her. It is said that as he took her hand he kissed her, and then, suddenly recoiling, he whispered to one of his friends:
“For God’s sake, George, give me a glass of brandy!”
Such an utterance was more brutal and barbaric than anything his bride could have conceived of, though it is probable, fortunately, that she did not understand him by reason of her ignorance of English.
We need not go through the unhappy story of this unsympathetic, neglected, rebellious wife. Her life with the prince soon became one of open warfare; but instead of leaving England she remained to set the kingdom in an uproar. As soon as his father died and he became king, George sued her for divorce. Half the people sided with the queen, while the rest regarded her as a vulgar creature who made love to her attendants and brought dishonor on the English throne. It was a sorry, sordid contrast between the young Prince George who had posed as a sort of cavalier and this now furious gray old man wrangling with his furious German wife.
Well might he look back to the time when he met Perdita in the moonlight on the Thames, or when he played the part of Florizel, or, better still, when he enjoyed the sincere and disinterested love of the gentle woman who was his wife in all but legal status. Caroline of Brunswick was thrust away from the king’s coronation. She took a house within sight of Westminster Abbey, so that she might make hag-like screeches to the mob and to the king as he passed by. Presently, in August, 1821, only a month after the coronation, she died, and her body was taken back to Brunswick for burial.
George himself reigned for nine years longer. When he died in 1830 his executor was the Duke of Wellington. The duke, in examining the late king’s private papers, found that he had kept with the greatest care every letter written to him by his morganatic wife. During his last illness she had sent him an affectionate missive which it is said George “read eagerly.” Mrs. Fitzherbert wished the duke to give up her letters; but he would do so only in return for those which he had written to her.