flirt and skirt: fresh prince

Princes and their friends, after settling on a place like a cloud of butterflies, often gorge themselves on its nectar and then flutter away to stimulate their appetites in fresh pastures. This time, however, fate riveted the Prince to Brighton. He fell in love with a dangerously unusual widow: Mrs. Fitzherbert. Mrs. Fitzherbert was a Roman Catholic; pious, virtuous, very comely. She neither welcomed the Prince’s attention nor responded to his ardor. She preferred to be left alone.

---This painting by Whistler shows the Prince Regent wearing nothing but a pair of wings and the Garter Star. He kneels over a sleeping woman who symbolises 'The Spirit of Brighton'. The scenery in the background is the sea and above are clouds and stars. Purchased by Brighton Museum & Art Gallery in 1945---Read More:

The Prince’s siege grew hectic: he swore, he cajoled, he promised; presents rained on her. Conducted in utmost secrecy, it was, of course, illegal. No Prince of the British royal family could marry without the sovereign’s consent; no consent could have been forthcoming from George III for a marriage to a Roman Catholic widow. On the Prince’s part the ceremony was meaningless folly; on hers, the necessary religious sanction to her bedding with the Prince.

In Mrs. Fitzherbert’s eyes, and in the eyes of her Church and of her fellow believers, the Prince was her husband. In English law, she could be nothing but his mistress. The Prince, of course, flaunted his conquest but strenuously denied, even to a friend as close as Charles James Fox, the method by which he had achieved it. Nevertheless, rumors reverberated, and George III, never a man of easy temper, regarded his son with so prejudiced an eye that he left him to stew in his debts.

---Although the Enlightenment initially sparked the divorce debate, it was the French Revolution that succeeeded in secularizing family life. Public institutions sought to invade the very private sentiments of individuals and turn them outward in service of the state. In the first gasping breaths of the nineteenth century, a backlash developed against this transparency of state and individual, but for 24 years, marriage was viewed as a covenant which could be broken as all secular affairs could be torn down and if desired, rebuilt. This resulted in 30,000 divorces between 1792 and 1803, the years when the divorce laws remained the most liberal.---Read More:

During his frantic courtship the Prince, according to Lord Holand, had rolled in grief on Charles James Fox’s floor, crying by the hour and “swearing that he would abandon the country, forgo the crown, sell his jewels, and scrape together a competence to fly with her to America.” Instead of which, once wed, he drove off in ostentatious austerity to Brighton and installed Mrs. Fitzherbert conveniently near the farmhouse that he had begun to regard as his own.

As soon as Parliament accepted the denals of the Prince’s friends about his marriage, presuaded the King to grant him 10,000 pounds extra per year to settle debts, the Prince was able to devote himself to love, architecture, and interior decoration which, with food, drink, and music were to be the obsessions of his life. For more than forty years he pursued all of them at the pavilion he built for himself at Brighton, for like all compulsive builders and decorators, the Prince was never finished….


---Like Goya before him, Wilkie chose to paint scenes from the Peninsular War. But he bowdlerised the conflict for the consumption of the conservative market back in England. The true horrors of battle found no place on canvases such as his The Defence of Zaragoza, a saccharine retelling of the tale of the so-called “Maid of Zaragoza”, a heroine of the conflict who had entered folklore for her exploits. In Wilkie’s painting she is a limp-wristed and ever-so-English-looking maid, firing a cannon towards the enemy’s positions. A priest holding a crucifix directs operations, as if to underline that these Spanish insurgents are no revolutionaries-in-waiting, but god-fearing pillars of the state who will return to normal life with exemplary docility the moment the war has ended. King George IV was sufficiently reassured by Wilkie’s distortions of history to buy all four of the resulting pictures.---Read More:

Undeterred, the Prince decided to employ more drastic measures. In 1784, Maria received a visit from the royal physician and two messengers. They told Maria the Prince had stabbed himself and that his dying wish was to see her. Maria agreed to go but only if Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, agreed to come with her. Georgiana was having a party when she was called away but, feeling she really had no choice, she agreed to go with them, leaving her sister Harriet in charge at Devonshire House. It was dark when they arrived at Carlton House, the residence of the Prince of Wales.

Here, the two women found Prinny sprawled across the sofa and covered in blood, crying and breathing with difficulty. Moved at the scene, Maria agreed to marr

m. All that was needed to seal the pact now was a ring which Georgiana reluctantly provided. Now, Prinny fell back on the sofa and seemed to rest more easily. The two women returned home. In the morning, Maria fled the country and went to France. It wasn’t just the realization the stunt was probably staged that made her pack her bags, she also knew their marriage wasn’t valid for the law….

…He was still in love with Maria, who, tired of spending time on the continent, returned to London in November 1785. She now agreed to marry him properly. On 15th December 1785, in her London home, the couple was married by Mr Bart, an Anglican priest. It was rumoured that he agreed to celebrate the wedding because the Prince had promised to pay his debts or even bail him out of prison. Read More:

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