Saturday, August 7, 2010

Caroline of Brunswick

Poor Queen Caroline, who died on August 7, 1821.  If ever there was an argument against arranged marriage, this was it.  Caroline was married to her cousin, the future George IV of England, in 1795.  George is said to have required a glass of brandy upon first meeting Caroline,  who was not considered attractive, and is said to have been coarse and ill-kempt.  George married her, but locked her out of his coronation ceremony.  That occasion is described by Sir Walter Scott as recorded in William John Loftie's "Westminster Abbey":

'Sir Walter Scott, whose poems and romances did so much in the same direction, himself wrote a description of the scene.

The King's bed was removed from Carlton House to the Speaker's official residence, and he slept on the night of the 18th, we are told, ' in the Tapestry-room, looking out over the Thames,' the last time the old Palace was inhabited by a king. The King arrived at half-past eight and supped with his host. The next morning was as fine as the day which saw the Queen's Jubilee in 1887. The King entered Westminster Hall at ten, and already ' appeared to be somewhat fatigued.' He, however, himself superintended the arrangements, and gave each of the grand functionaries the piece of the regalia which he was to carry. The Dean and Chapter had brought them all over from the Abbey. When he handed the crown to Lord Anglesey he graciously dispensed with his walking backwards in retiring, as the Marquis had lost a leg at Waterloo six years before.

The heat in the Abbey is described as intense. The King in his heavy robes appeared, even at the commencement of the ceremony, to be ' distressed almost to fainting.' He was by no means young, very fat and in bad health. It is strange that he should have been willing to take part in so long a service. But he went through with it to the end, with a personal pluck and courage which showed that even George IV. could sometimes rise to the occasion. At the recognition he stood by his chair ; and he listened to the sermon with his head uncovered. After the coronation he retired for ten minutes into St. Edward's Chapel, and when he came out the church was already half empty, everybody either tired out or anxious to see the procession back. He is described as much encumbered with his splendid attire, but he moved forward and shook hands with his sister the Duchess of Gloucester, before he left the Abbey. The banquet in the Hall took place at five, the procession having only left the Abbey at four. When all was over the King returned to Carlton House in the twilight of the summer evening.

The effect of this pageant on the art and literature of the succeeding period was immense. The revival of a mediaeval ceremonial necessitated the revival of mediaeval art. Heraldry and architecture received the strongest stimulus. Historical novels became the rage ; and, no doubt, a great deal of the hold which the Gothic style took on the building genius of the day must be ascribed to the coronation of George IV. It was as nearly as possible one hundred years since the last Gothic touches were put, under Wren's supervision, to the north transept of the Abbey. During that time the Palladian tradition of Inigo Jones and Wren had died out, and was succeeded by the supposed Greek taste which put the portico to Apsley House and supplied us with the National Gallery, Euston Station, and St. Paneras Church. But the Grecian architecture did not flourish. The best things—the British Museum and St. George's Hall—are conspicuous for their rarity ; and it may be conceded that, only for the wretched ' restoration ' craze which so closely attended it, the Gothic revival was a benefit to architecture...'

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