The Prince’s marriage: limited choices

Explaining the circumstances of Charlotte’s birth (2)

Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester, by Sir Joshua Reynolds. The King disapproved of her parents’ marriage and refused to stand godfather

The Prince had to marry – that was agreed – but it was here that the problems began. His choices were circumscribed by two Acts of Parliament: the Act of Settlement (1701) which stated that he had to marry a Protestant, and the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, which specified that no descendant of George II could marry without the consent of the monarch. There was also the fact, prescribed by practice though not law, that he could not marry a commoner; no monarch had done this since Henry VIII’s marriage to Katherine Parr in 1543. As a young man his father, George III, had fallen hopelessly in love with Lady Sarah Lennox, but he had not married her. Instead he had chosen a bride he had never met, Princess Charlotte of Mecklinburg-Strelitz: in other words, a ‘German frau’. His son would have to do the same.

There was the added complication of Maria Fitzherbert. Her relationship with the Prince was widely known, but it was whispered behind closed doors and never made public. As has been seen, Charles James Fox had nearly ruined his political career by speaking about it in Parliament. From the point of view of the marriage negotiations, Mrs Fitzherbert, doubly unsuitable as a Catholic and a commoner,  did not exist. Continue reading “The Prince’s marriage: limited choices”