Friday, February 24, 2012

The Prince Regent - Arbiter of Taste
by Heidi Ashworth

When my sister, ardent reader of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, suggested I do my seventh grade report on the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, neither of us knew it would kindle a fascination with the Regency era that would generate two novels (so far!) a blog and a penchant for words such as "peckish", "secauter" and "bluestocking". The Regency, that unique and fascinating short-lived world, was created through the influence of three men; clothes-horse Beau Brummel, architect John Nash and "Prinny", the Prince of Wales.
The young Prince of Wales by Cosway
Prinny (later George the IV) led a scandal-inducing life even prior to his appointment as the Regent of the land, a circumstance necessary due to the illness of his father, George III, rendering him incapable of ruling the country. Much of the chatter in the scandal sheets had to do with Prinny's politics, his illegal marriage to Maria Fitzherbert, the antics of Caroline of Brunswick to whom he was legally and unhappily married, and his profligate spending. However it was his interest and patronage in art, architecture, literature and “home d├ęcor” that captured my imagination. The moment I read about the miniature river, complete with goldfish, that ran the length of his enormous dinner table at the Taj Mahal-inspired Royal Pavilion in Brighton, I was a fan.

Considered a witty conversationalist, Prinny was an intelligent man who spoke French, German and Italian and demonstrated an exquisite sense of style and taste. In addition to the building of the Brighton Pavilion, he was responsible for the purchase of the Elgin Marbles, the terraces of Regent's Park and Regent Street as well as the encouragement of literary greats Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott. In his younger years, before his enormous girth made him an object of fun, should Prinny deign to attend your dinner party or partner you in a quadrille at Almack's, your reputation was made. If invited to any of his numerous parties at Carlton House in London or, better still, the Pavilion in Brighton, one's social success was sealed.

However, as a guest at the Pavilion, one had some choppy waters to navigate. It was not uncommon for ladies to faint from the heat of thousands of candles or to be forced to endure the unwanted attentions of the regent's randy friends and acquaintances. However, I would gladly brave such unpleasantness for the opportunity to take in the opulence of the Pink Hall with its hand painted wallpaper and stained glass, domed ceiling, or the fresco-bedecked music room, the incredible Gothic style domed stables or for a chance to bask in the glow of just one stupendous candelabra.


Prinny was not one to look askance at his titles and honors and he enjoyed dressing up in full regalia. His honors and military appointments have highly romantic names such as Knight of the Garter, Knight of the Thistle, Privy Counsellor and Knight of St. Patrick, as well as Field Marshal, and Colonel of the 10th Royal Regiment of (Light) Dragoons (Hussars), the Prince of Wale’s Own. He enjoyed his 1822 visit to Scotland so much that he proceeded to appear in a kilt on a regular basis, bringing the Scottish tartan into fashion long before his niece, Queen Victoria, made all things Scottish de rigueur.

Prinny became George IV in 1820 but his excesses soon caught up with him and by the time he became king he was heavily overweight and suffering from gout, arteriosclerosis, dropsy and possibly porphyria, the ailment from which is father suffered. His only legitimate child died of post-partum complications in 1817, leaving him without an heir. His brother, Prince Frederick, died in 1827 so George the IV was succeeded by the third eldest son of George III, Prince William as William IV. Prinny’s last words, spoken on June the 26th of 1830 at Windsor, are purported to be thus: “Good God, what is this?” Clasping his page’s hand he said, “My boy, this is death.” Buried at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, he left behind a fantastic legacy uniquely known as The Regency.


Heidi Ashworth wrote her first Regency novel at age 10, and in her twenties' wrote several more. After several years devoted to other roles, she returned to writing, submitted Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind to Avalon Books and sold it. Shortly thereafter, she started a blog and a website which you can visit at http://www.heidiashworth.com and http://www.heidiashworth.blogspot.com/


5 comments:

Heidi said...

Thanks, Lesley--this looks beautiful!

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

You are most welcome, Heidi! Thanks for visiting...

Anne Gallagher said...

Heidi -- I have to say, Prinny is one of my favorite "charaters" and he figures prominantly in all my books. I love his depth and drama.

Lesley-Anne -- Another great post with another fabulous guest. Thanks so much.

connie said...

Lesley,

I was fascinated to know that he had a miniature of Mrs. Fitzherbert painted just before he had to marry Princess Caroline. After he died, one of his brothers (they all liked her) brought her into the palace to say goodbye. He told her George IV wore the miniature always and was buried wearing it.

I was visiting relatives in Galashiels Scotland. My cousin showed me Scott's view where he stopped every day he took that road home. When his funeral procession was on that road to his home at the top of the hill, his horses stopped at that lookout and refused to move before the usual stopping time had elapsed.

connie

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

Such interesting details! Thanks, Connie!

Anne--thank you for stopping by!