Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 21.djvu/201

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
George IV
George IV

sion was much remarked. He also addressed to the king in writing long remonstrances against the animosity shown by the queen in the affair of Colonel Lenox's duel with the Duke of York, and a memorial explanatory of his conduct during the king's insanity, but the father and son continued to be estranged.

By 1789 the prince was again almost as deeply in debt as ever. More than double the amount granted by parliament had been spent upon Carlton House. His creditors were clamorous and dunned him in the streets. During the king's illness he and his brother, the Duke of York, with the assistance of Weltjie, the cook, had begun raising money abroad upon their joint post-obits, conditioned for payment when either should ascend the throne. Some 30,000l. was obtained in this way upon most usurious terms, but with the king's recovery these bonds lost their attraction to speculators. The prince had also, in 1788, endeavoured to raise 350,000l. in Holland upon the security of the bishopric of Osnaburg. It was brought out as a formal loan; Thomas Hammersley, a banker of Pall Mall, was to receive subscriptions and pay dividends. The loan was taken up abroad, and large sums were obtained in this way through persons named Boas, De Beaume, and Vaucher. Interest at six per cent, was paid till 1792, but when the bonds at maturity were presented for payment the prince's agents repudiated their liability. Importunate claimants were expelled the kingdom under the Alien Act. The affair began to wear the aspect of a deliberate fraud. Mrs. Fitzherbert, too, had brought her jointure into the common stock of her own and the prince's funds, and was soon almost penniless. To pay the bailiffs out of her house, the prince pawned his diamonds. Yet mere want of money was not allowed to interfere with his numerous amusements. Faro at Mrs. Hobart's, cricket at Brighton, private theatricals at Richmond House, and masked balls at Wargrave engrossed his attention. He became an ardent patron of the turf till an imputation of swindling fell at least upon his jockey, and drove him from it in dudgeon. In 1788 he won the Derby, and in the four years following took 185 prizes. His jockey, Sam Chifney [q. v.], was suspected of spoiling the prince's horse, Escape, for his first race at Newmarket on 20 Oct. 1791, in order to affect the betting upon the next day's race, which the horse was allowed to win. The Jockey Club censured Chifney, and sent Sir Charles Bunbury to warn the prince that if he suffered Chifney to ride for him no gentleman's horse would start against him. The prince took deep offence. He never revisited Newmarket, but hs continued racing for at least twenty years longer. He bought seven horses one after another in hopes of winning the Ascot Cup, and even so late as 1829 attended the Ascot meeting (see Greville Memoirs, 1st ser.) After 1792 he retired into the country, and for some time lived principally at Bagshot Park, at Kempshott Park, near Basingstoke, and at Critchill House in Dorsetshire.

At last he became so involved that for the sake of an increase of income he consented to a marriage as the only condition upon which the king could be induced to assist him. In June 1793 he employed Lord Malmesbury to arrange his affairs for him. He owed 370,000l., and had executions in his house. He talked of going abroad; he sold five hundred horses and shut up Carlton House; he proposed to live in the country and devote three-fourths of his income to the payment of his debts. By August 1794 matters had proceeded so far that he had promised the king to give up Mrs. Fitzherbert and to marry the Princess of Brunswick. A reconciliation was all the more easy because, since the disunion among the leading whigs in 1792, the prince had nearly severed himself from his old friends. In November Lord Malmesbury was despatched to the court of Brunswick with a formal proposal for the princess's hand, and the prince, though he had then only seen her portrait, displayed in his correspondence with the emissary the impatience and ardour of a lover. None the less he was at the same time wholly under the influence of Lady Jersey, whose husband he appointed his master of the horse, and this person after the wedding was thrust upon the princess as her principal lady in waiting. When the Princess Caroline [q. v.] arrived at St. James's on 5 April 1795, she and the prince met for the first time, and he found the shock of his emotions upon that occasion so severe that, having kissed her in silence, he was obliged to drink a dram of brandy in a corner of the room. The ceremony of marriage took place on the evening of 8 April at the Chapel Royal, St. James's, and the prince was only brought through it with decorum by the prompting of his father, who was more familiar than he was with the prayer-book. Long afterwards the princess accused him of having been dead drunk most of the wedding night (Diary of the Times of George IV}. The honeymoon was spent partly at Windsor, partly at Kempshott, but very shortly a quasi-separation took place between the prince and his wife. The marriage had been entirely without affection on either side, and he treated her without respect or even decorum. On