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CAROLINE (QUEEN)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): ACC/1305
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives - click here to see details of the physical location of collection
Full title: CAROLINE (QUEEN)
Date(s): 1821
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 0.01 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Avis | George | fl 1821 | member of Foot Patrole

Context

Administrative/Biographical history:

Princess Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel was born on 17 May 1768 at Brunswick, the second daughter of Karl II, duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, and Princess Augusta, sister of George III. She was married to George, Prince of Wales on 8 April. The Prince was reportedly the worse for alcohol and had to be supported to go through the ceremony. This inauspicious beginning heralded a series of quarrels between the royal couple. Caroline alleged that throughout the honeymoon the Prince consorted with his drunken cronies and ignored her. On his part, the Prince took offence at Caroline's accusation that he had mistresses, refused to change his social and domestic habits for her benefit, and demanded that she should submit to his authority, which she refused to do.

The only child of this stormy marriage, Princess Charlotte Augusta (1796-1817), was born on 7 January 1796. Caroline had attempted to live on amicable terms with George, but he neglected her and she became increasingly lonely, bored, and resentful. The inevitable separation took place in 1796. Caroline left Carlton House in 1797 and went to live in a rented house near Blackheath. The Prince would have forbidden her access to her child, but King George III, who always favoured Caroline, insisted that she should be allowed to visit Charlotte.

Caroline made no attempt to exploit her situation politically. She remained prominent in society and entertained frequently at Blackheath, often in an informal and high-spirited atmosphere. During the Regency she was excluded from the court and only with difficulty could she obtain permission to see Charlotte, who was educated under the Prince of Wales's supervision. Caroline therefore decided to leave England, and set off on a series of travels, initially to Brunswick but shortly afterwards around the Mediterranean. Almost weekly reports came in of indiscreet and scandalous behaviour, improper entertainments in which she took part, and extravagant and theatrical behaviour which became a subject of scandal in the newspapers, providing further ammunition for her estranged husband in his efforts to divorce her.

As soon as George IV became king Caroline set off for England to claim her position as Queen. She was met at St Omer by Henry Brougham, whom she made her Attorney-General, and by Lord Hutchinson on behalf of the Cabinet who brought a proposal, reluctantly accepted by the King, to give her an annuity of £50,000 provided she would not cross the Channel nor claim the title of Queen. She refused, despite Brougham's plea to her to negotiate a settlement. She was now being advised by Matthew Wood, an alderman and former Lord Mayor of London, who represented a group of metropolitan radicals who wanted to use her to stir up opposition to the king and the government. The Queen's arrival became, as the government had feared, the occasion for widespread public rejoicings. She reached London on 6 June and went first to Alderman Wood's house in South Audley Street, later renting Brandenburg House at Hammersmith. Throughout the proceedings against her in the summer and autumn of 1820 she was the focus of many demonstrations, receiving over 350 addresses of support from all sections of the population, many from groups of women who saw her as a symbol of the oppression of their sex. She also had the support of The Times and many other opposition or radical newspapers. She herself had no interest in or sympathy with radicalism, but her cause was now overtly political as the nation divided into two camps.

The Cabinet, spurred on by the vengeful King, unwillingly prepared a bill of pains and penalties to strip Caroline of her title and to end her marriage by Act of Parliament. The bill was introduced into the House of Lords on 17 August. It was one of the most spectacular and dramatic events of the century. The Queen's progresses to and from Westminster to attend the 'trial', as it became known, were attended by cheering crowds; deputations by the dozen visited Brandenburg House to present addresses, the newspapers published verbatim accounts of the Lords' proceedings, and the caricaturists on both sides had a field day. So obscene were some of the prints against the King that over £2500 was spent in buying them up and suppressing their publication. Against this proof of public support for the Queen the 'trial' was doomed to failure. The witnesses were clearly unreliable and were discredited by the cross-examination of her counsel, Henry Brougham and Thomas Denman. Many of the witnesses were believed to have been bribed or intimidated, and the widespread knowledge that George himself had had several mistresses added to the belief that Caroline was a victim, if not an entirely innocent one, of royal and political persecution. In the end, though the circumstantial evidence against her was strong enough to convince many peers of her guilt, many also feared that her condemnation would spark off popular rioting or even revolution. Ministers realized that even if the Lords passed the bill the House of Commons would almost certainly reject it under intense pressure from their constituents. The bill passed its third reading in the Lords by only nine votes and Liverpool, the Prime Minister, announced on 10 November that it would proceed no further.

Caroline had not, strictly speaking, been acquitted of the charges against her, but the public verdict was in her favour as a wronged woman unjustly persecuted by a husband no better than she was. A great crowd turned out to witness her procession to a thanksgiving service organized by her supporters in St Paul's Cathedral on 29 November 1820, when the psalm ordered for the service was no. 140-'Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man'. Nevertheless, attempts to exploit her victory were unsuccessful. The Cabinet rejected her demand for a palace and the King refused to let her be crowned with him. He was supported by the Privy Council who declared that a Queen had no inherent right to coronation, which was at her husband's discretion. When she tried to force her way into the Abbey on coronation day, 20 July 1821, she was humiliated by being refused entry and she was jeered by the crowd that had so recently acclaimed her.

Caroline now accepted the Government's offer of an allowance of £50,000 a year if she went to live abroad, but less than a fortnight after the coronation she was taken ill at the theatre, and after a short but painful illness she died, apparently of an intestinal obstruction, on 7 August 1821. She wished to be buried beside her father at Brunswick, and the British government was only too anxious to get her corpse out of the country. Her funeral procession was intended to pass round to the north of the City of London to avoid public demonstrations. The cortège was intercepted by a crowd at Hyde Park Corner and forced to go through the city after a battle with the Life Guards in which two men were killed by the soldiers. The coffin was eventually embarked from Harwich, her supporters placing on it as it left British waters the inscription 'Caroline, the injured Queen of England'. Her body was taken to Brunswick and laid in the ducal vault on 24 August.

Source: E. A. Smith, 'Caroline (1768-1821)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004.

Content

Scope and content/abstract:

Documents concerning the behaviour of the crowds during the funeral procession of Queen Caroline, 1821, comprising list of statements, with brief notes of contents of each, made by members of Foot Patrole who were obstructed by crowds while on duty on Tuesday 14 August 1821 at Cumberland Gate near Edgware Road, (seven soldiers made statements mainly concerned with minor injuries received during rioting); and statement by George Avis, one of Foot Patrole belonging to the Public Office, Bow Street, of how he saw the crowds behaving at Cumberland Gate, 14 August 1821.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English

System of arrangement:

2 items.

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: City of London.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at: http://search.lma.gov.uk/opac_lma/index.htm

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited in 1976 (Acc/1305).

Allied Materials

Related material:


Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
April to June 2009

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