William Godwin's Diary


Princess Caroline of Brunswick-Wollfenbüttell married the Prince of Wales in 1795. The marriage was not a success and Princess Caroline separated from her husband and moved to Blackheath in 1796. There were a number of rumours about her loose living and in 1806 an official inquiry, the ‘delicate investigation’, was begun when she was rumoured to be pregnant, although her behaviour was hardly comparable to that of her estranged husband. During the Regency relations deteriorated still further, with Caroline being denied the right to visit her daughter Princess Charlotte (1796–1817), and in 1813 Caroline began extensive travels in Europe and north Africa. Scandal linked her closely with a pretended Baron, Bartolemeo Bergami, who assumed pride of place in her household, and reported on her increasing eccentricity. In 1818, on the basis of these reports, the prince set up a three-man commission to report on her behaviour with a view to securing a divorce. In January 1820, before anything further was settled, the prince acceded to the throne, so that Caroline was technically the Queen. George IV tried to exclude her from the Anglican litany of prayers, which roused Caroline, who determined to return to claim her title. Her return was a cause célèbre for the radical press, who delighted in the embarrassment caused to the king and the government, who decided to try to exclude her from the title and annul the marriage through an act of Parliament. The progress of the Bill of Pains and Penalties through the House of Lords became known as the ‘Trial’, which Caroline attended daily, supported by huge crowds. Godwin noted the adjournment of the proceedings to allow her to prepare her defence and noted when her defence finished. The Bill of Pains and Penalties received a third reading on 10 November where it was passed so narrowly that the authorities declared that they did not intend to proceed any further with the Bill (Godwin noted that the bill is ‘rejected’). The queen was excluded from the Coronation, and in a demonstration of the fickleness of the crowd she was jeered when she tried to force an entry. A settlement was reached under which she would live abroad but she was taken ill and died in August 1821.

See DNB and The Times, 18 August, 11 September, 4 October and 11 November 1820.