The UK had now been at war wth France for ten years and with the United States for a year and a half. Food prices were rising, supplies were limited and there was a thriving trade in smuggling to and from France. The Prince Regent declared Wednesday 10 March, “A Public Day of Fasting and Humiliation………..for imploring His [Almighty God’s] Blessing and assistance on His Majesty’s Arms, for the restoration of peace and prosperity to His Majesty and His Dominions’. On the day appointed, the Regent, his daughter, and the Dukes of York, Cumberland and Cambridge went to the Chapel Royal, St. James; the House of Lords to Westminster Abbey and the Commons to St. Margaret’s Westminister.
Presumably this covered the humiliation part of the agenda. It is not reported for how long that well known gourmand the Prince Regent fasted or with what plain dishes he chose to mortify himself.
In the same month, the Philharmonic Society of London, now the Royal Philharmonic Society, was formed, its aim being “to promote the performance, in the most perfect manner possible of the best and most approved instrumental music". Not content with the existing repertoire, they also commissioned new works, most notably in 1817 a new symphony from Ludwig van Beethoven, and were amply rewarded with one of the greatest symphonies ever written, his Symphony No. 9, the Choral Symphony whose final movement is a monumental setting of Schiller’s Ode to Joy.
He was determined to treat Charlotte as a child until she married, not allowing her to replace her governesses with ladies-in-waiting or otherwise set up her own household. She was however permitted to attend the birth-night ball at Carlton House where she danced with her uncle, the Duke of Clarence, thirty years her senior. We can imagine how thrilled the seventeen-year-old Charlotte must have been by this treat.
The prince not unnaturally took offence and the breach between the two men was never healed.
In the ensuing rout, the King’s carriage and the French baggage train containing vast amounts of looted treasure were abandoned to the pursuing English army who in turn helped themselves liberally. The Marshall’s baton presented by Napoleon to General Jean Baptiste Jourdan was sent by Wellington to the Prince Regent while King Joseph’s silver chamber pot, another gift from the emperor, was appropriated by the 14th Light Dragoons (later 14th Hussars and now the King’s Royal Hussars), who to this day drink from it on regimental mess nights. The chamber pot became known as ‘the Emperor’ in honour of its august donor and the 14th subsequently were nicknamed ‘the Emperor’s chambermaids’.
The news of the victory was met with great rejoicing in England. On 20 July there was a great public fête in Vauxhall, at which Marshal Jourdan’s baton was displayed.. The gardens were illuminated on a grand scale, bands played, there were three displays of fireworks and the whole closed with dancing which went on until 2 p.m. Tickets, excluding dinner, cost between three and ten guineas.
Once again, Napoleon was forced to retreat to France. He was now hard-pressed on all sides. On 9 November, Wellington’s army crossed the Pyrenees and entered France. By the end of the year, The Netherlands had been liberated and the exiled Prince of Orange proclaimed Sovereign Prince. In December, his twenty-one-year-old son, Prince William, was presented to Princess Charlotte as a potential bridegroom.
To read other posts in this series, scroll down or click on The Regency Decade in the side bar.