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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Prinny's Fete Honoring the Duke of Wellington



On July 21,1814 the Prince Regent held a Fete in the temporary rooms in the garden of Carlton House to honor the Duke of Wellington. The first of the two thousand guests began to arrive at nine o'clock. They were received at the grand entrance by equerries who conducted the guests to the fanciful rooms and tents on the garden front of Carlton House.

John Nash built a series of temporary rooms and buildings in the garden at Carlton House to house the fete. The illustration at right depicts the side garden in 1820. A polygonal ballroom one hundred and twenty feet in diameter with a tented roof was the main feature. The room was brick with a leaded roof. The interior of the ballroom was designed to give the impression of summer light, airiness, and festivity. It was designed to replicate a huge bell tent so the umbrella shaped ceiling was painted to resemble muslin. The upper walls and ceiling were then hung with gilt cords and tassels to further the resemblance to a tent. Muslin draperies covered the walls. They were swagged open to reveal mirrors hung on the walls. The ballroom was illuminated with twelve sparkling chandeliers. A pair of flower covered temples had been erected in the polygonal ballroom to screen the bands. A covered promenade hung with draperies and rose colored cords led to a Corinthian temple. Inside was a marble bust of the Duke of Wellington by Turnerelli placed on a column in front of a large mirror engraved with a star and a capital letter W. Another covered walkway hung with green calico displayed transparencies representing such subjects as the "Overthrow of Tyranny by the Allied Power". Elsewhere in the garden were supper tents and refreshment rooms hung with white and rose curtains and with regimental colors printed on silk.



The Regent himself appeared in his field marshal's full dress uniform wearing his English, French, and Prussian orders. He had long wished to be made a field marshal of the British army, but his father had steadfastly refused on the grounds that since George was the Prince of Wales and several of his brothers were pursuing military careers they should hold some honors he did not. Now, as Prince Regent, George could suit himself.
The fete was a great success. Even the Queen stayed until half-past four and many guests were still there at dawn.

It's interesting to note that only a few days before the fete, George IV had much more on his mind besides the upcoming festivities - Princess Charlotte and he had come to loggerheads regarding the question of where she was to live. The following account is from George IV: Memoirs of His Life and Reign by Hannibal Evans Lloyd, though this is just one of a hundred accounts of the episode:

The differences between the Prince Regent and the Princess of Wales caused his Royal Highness some pain on account of the Princess Charlotte, who on several occasions took part with her mother in opposition to his wishes. This led to some very remarkable transactions. Determined that she should be more immediately under his own eye, in the year 1814, on the 12th of July, the Prince Regent visited Warwick House, and informed the Princess Charlotte that he was come to dismiss all her household, and that she must immediately take up her residence in Carlton House, and from thence go to Cranbourn Lodge; and that five ladies, whom he named, amongst whom were the Countess Dowager of Rosslyn, and the Countess of Ilchester, were in the next room in readiness to wait upon her. After some expostulation on the part of the Princess Charlotte, the Prince remaining firm and resolute, she appeared to acquiesce in his determination; but pleading a wish to retire for a moment, to compose herself before she was introduced to the ladies, she was permitted to do so; and whilst the Prince was engaged in close conversation with Miss Knight, a lady of the Princess Charlotte's household, she, in an agony of despair, privately left Warwick House, and throwing herself into a hackney coach, in Cockspur-street, drove to Connaught House, the residence of her mother. Here she found that the Princess of Wales was gone to Blackheath. She despatched a servant to meet her; and threw herself on a bed, exclaiming, "I would rather earn my bread, and live upon five shillings a-week, than live the life I do." Before the Princess of Wales arrived, the Archbishop of Canterbury went to Connaught Place, to fetch the Princess Charlotte away; but Sicard, a faithful servant of the Princess, refused to admit him.

As soon as the discovery of the flight of the Princess Charlotte was made known to the Prince Regent, he sent for the ministers, and a council was held at the Foreign Office, and also at Carlton House. The Archbishop of Canterbury not succeeding in the object of his mission to Connaught House, the Duke of York was afterwards sent with a written message from the Prince, containing her father's commands to bring her to Carlton House.

On the arrival of the Princess of Wales from Blackheath, she drove immediately to the Parliament House, and eagerly inquired for Mr. Whitbread, who was absent; she then inquired for Earl Grey, who was not in town; and, disappointed, she hastened to her own house in Connaught-place, and had an affecting interview with her daughter, with whom she continued till three o'clock in the morning. Soon after this time the Princess Charlotte was conveyed, by the Duke of York, to Carlton House; having been previously informed by Mr. Brougham (who had been sent for by the Princess of Wales), that by the laws of the land, she must obey her father's commands. Period.

So, aside from that, Princess Charlotte, how'd you enjoy the fete?

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