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Caroline of Brunswick

Caroline of Brunswick (May 17, 1768 - August 7, 1821), Princess of Wales April 8, 1795 - January 29, 1820 and, technically, queen consort of King George IV of the United Kingdom January 29, 1820 - August 7, 1821.

Caroline was born on May 17, 1768 at Braunschweig (Brunswick) in Germany, daughter of the Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel by Princess Augusta of the United Kingdom, eldest sister of King George III. She became engaged to the king's eldest son, her first cousin, who saw marriage as an opportunity to increase his financial allowance, whilst having no intention of giving up his playboy lifestyle. Caroline and Prince George, who held the title of Prince of Wales, were married on April 8, 1795, at St James's Palace in London.

The marriage was a disaster even before it had taken place. Caroline was not attractive, but her main shortcomings in the eyes of her new husband were her lack of personal hygiene and the fact that she was apparently not a virgin. For her part, she found him fat, ugly and rude. Recently-discovered correspondence of the prince's reveals that the couple only had sexual intercourse three times in the whole of their married life. The consequence of one of these meetings was Princess Charlotte Augusta, George's only legitimate child, who was born on January 7, 1796. The Prince and Princess of Wales never lived together afterwards, and appeared separately in public.

Caroline was prevented from seeing her daughter on a day-to-day basis, and was eventually banished in 1799 to a private residence ('The Pagoda') in Blackheath where she adopted a licentious lifestyle. Those with whom she is alleged to have had affairs included the politician, George Canning, and the admiral, Sir Sidney Smith. This gave her husband ample opportunity to discredit her. Following an investigation into her personal affairs, she left the country and went to live abroad, building up large debts throughout Europe, cavorting with an assortment of lovers, and adopting rouge heavy enough, skirts short enough, necklines deep enough, and wigs frankly fake enough that England's queen consort became the talk of the Continent, a virtual walking comedy. During this period, the couple's daughter, Princess Charlotte, wife of Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, died after giving birth to her only child, a stillborn son.

Her estranged husband's accession to the throne in 1820 caused Caroline to return to Britain in 1820, but he, liberated from the strict authority of his late father, was beginning divorce proceedings against her. As a result, she was turned away from his coronation. A social outcast, dejected, and suffering from various ailments, though still legally queen, she died on August 7, 1821. Her body was returned to her native Brunswick for burial.

Last updated: 11-06-2004 21:00:32