Olga's Gallery

Caroline of Brunswick


Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick, wife of George IV (1768-1821) - Queen Consort, wife of King George IV, though he refused to recognize her as such, and she died only a few days after his coronation. George, then the Prince of Wales, had been forced into marrying her by his father, George III, who refused to pay off the Prince’s debts unless he agreed to a socially acceptable marriage.

Caroline gave birth, in 1796, to a daughter -- Princess Charlotte Augusta -- George IV’s only legitimate issue.

Perhaps because their relationship started off under such circumstances or perhaps because they really were completely incompatible in character, George despised Caroline, finding fault with everything about her. He refused to live with her, and carried on numerous affairs, some of them quite high-profile, while co-habitating with his common-law wife Mary Fitzherbert, even going so far as to write Caroline out of his will. In the face of such treatment, Caroline felt no more obligation to stay faithful to her husband than he did to her, and was involved in several alleged flings of her own.

Despite this and the wild gossip surrounding both their private lives, Caroline was always more popular than George in the eyes of the British public, being viewed as a grievously wronged wife. After George became Prince Regent in 1811 and she found herself increasingly ostracized by British high society, she used her position to aid George’s Whig opponents, casting her in an even better light in the eyes of the people.

The staunch support she enjoyed infuriated the Prince Regent, who was never a beloved ruler. For her part, Caroline used her popularity to leverage money from him and Parliament. By 1814, the situation had deteriorated so much that George was willing to spend any money to see her gone and Caroline left for Europe after securing a handsome allowance. Between the years 1814 and 1820, she lived, for the most part, in Italy, where she took as lover one Bartolomeo Pergami. Though there was talk of divorce between her and the Prince Regent, the negotiations were never conclusive.

In 1820, upon hearing of the death of King George III, Caroline expressed her intent to be crowned Queen Consort and left for England. The newly-acceded George IV, at the same time, resolved to prevent this from happening by any means necessary.

Caroline’s arrival in England in 1820 was a scandalous affair. George had successfully persuaded the Church of England to refuse to recognize her, and, at his prompting, the House of Lords had conducted an investigation concluding that Caroline had been in an extramarital affair with Pergami -- hardly a secret -- and proposed a bill to strip her of her title and her marriage. However, she still had the support of the House of Commons, making it impossible to pass the bill, and the public. Matters came to a head when Caroline attempted to force her way into Westminster Abbey for the coronation service, and had to be stopped by the guards at bayonet-point. She fell ill immediately upon getting back to her apartments, and died some three weeks later, on August 7, 1821. Although it was speculated at the time that she had been poisoned, it is more likely that Caroline had a nervous break-down and fatally over-medicated herself in her distress.

See: Sir Thomas Lawrence. Caroline, Princess of Wales and Princess Charlotte. Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick.

The Trial of Queen Caroline: The Scandalous Affair that Nearly Ended a Monarchy by Jane Robins. Free Press, 2006.
The Unruly Queen: The Life of Queen Caroline by Flora Fraser. Anchor, 2009.
The disastrous marriage: A study of George IV and Caroline of Brunswick by Joanna Richardson. Greenwood Press, 1975.
The Murdered Queen! Or, Caroline of Brunswick; A Diary of the Court of George IV by Lady Charlotte Campbell Bury. General Books LLC, 2010.

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