Caroline of Brunswick

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Caroline of Brunswick (1768–1821), queen of George IV. Caroline's marriage to her cousin George, prince of Wales, in March 1795 was a spectacular disaster. According to her own testimony, intimacy was confined to the first night, and certainly the couple separated after the birth of their daughter Princess Charlotte in January 1796. Thereafter, Caroline spent much time on the continent with a strange entourage, which led to much gossip. A ‘delicate investigation’ into her conduct in 1806 cleared her of adultery but declared that she had been indiscreet. In 1815 Lady Bessborough, at a ball, found her ‘a short, very fat, elderly woman, with an extremely red face’, wearing a white frock cut ‘disgustingly low’. When George became king in 1820, Caroline rejected an offer of £50,000 p.a. to stay abroad and returned to England to claim her place as queen. Her cause was taken up by George's not inconsiderable number of enemies and she won a good deal of popular support. A government-sponsored bill to annul the marriage had to be withdrawn. Denman, one of her counsel, in a theatrical flourish, begged the Lords to remember that Christ himself had forgiven the woman taken in adultery, laying himself open to a celebrated riposte:Most gracious Queen, we thee implore
To go away and sin no more;
Or, if the effort be too great,
To go away at any rate.
When Caroline appeared at Westminster abbey in July 1821 at George's coronation, demanding to be let in, she overplayed her hand. She died a fortnight afterwards.

Sue Minna Cannon

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Caroline of Brunswick