The Prince and his debts

Explaining the circumstances of Charlotte’s birth (1)

George, Prince of Wales, miniature by Richard Cosway, 1792, Public domain

Charlotte’s story begins with money – or the lack of it. Her parents would never have married if her father, George, Prince of Wales, had not needed to clear his debts.

In 1783 George had come of age and the then Whig government discussed with the Prince’s father, George III, how much income he should receive. The Whigs were the Prince’s political friends, and inclined to be generous and they suggested an annual income of £100,000 a year. The frugal King was horrified, and the amount was whittled down to £62,000 p.a (£50,000 from the Civil List and £12,000 from the Duchy of Cornwall). Persuaded by his friend, Charles James Fox, George rather sulkily agreed to accept that sum and proceeded to rebuild his residence, Carlton House, on a grand scale: a mini-Versailles that he could not afford without piling up debt upon debt.

The front of Carlton House in the early nineteenth century. Public Domain

Following his clandestine and illegal marriage to Maria Fitzherbert in 1785, George for a while lived a more domesticated life. But his debts continued to rise, and by 1786 they had reached the dizzy sum of nearly £270,000. For the first time it was suggested to him that if he wanted Parliament to clear his debts, he should marry a foreign princess. The idea horrified him so much that he closed down Carlton House, sold his racing horses and carriages and went to live with Mrs Fitzherbert in Brighton. Continue reading “The Prince and his debts”