Wednesday, 6 July 2005

The Mistresses of George IV

George IV was the son of the notorious King George III. Instead of developing a reputation for being well and truly mad like his father, George junior became known as a great ladies man and bon viveur. George loved to indulge and he did so often. Throughout his life he had a series of mistresses, the first of which was Mary Robinson when he was 18 years-old in 1780. She was an actress and said to be extremely witty with very long dark hair. He saw her in a performance at the Drury Lane Theatre and started sending her expensive gifts. As the affair progressed he decided to write her a bond for 20,000 guineas, which was a lot of money in those days. However, when the affair was over the Prince took the bond back and instead gave her an annuity of 500 pounds per annum.

Next on his list was Mrs Grace Dalrymple Eliot. She had married a man 20 years her senior, a doctor for the aristocracy. This gave her entry to London's high society circles where she met the Prince as well as other men she was simultaneously having affairs with. George introduced her to the Duc d'Orleans in 1784 and she promptly ran off with him to Paris.

Lady Melbourne was the daughet of a Yorkshire baronet. she was an educated woman and managed her dissolute husband's affairs. As was the practice with upper class women of the 18th century, Lady Melbourne only remained faithful to her husband until her son was born, after which she embarked on a series of affairs. From 1780 to 1784 she knew the Prince of Wales in the 'Biblical sense' so to speak and her fourth son, George Lamb was said to be the prince's son.

Mrs Maria Anne Fitzherbert was one of the most notable of his mistresses because he had to court her wildly until she said 'yes'. Their affais started in 1784 and ended in 1794, when the Prince had to marry Caroline of Brunswick. He did give her an annuity of 3,000 pounds though. In 1799 he tried to get her back as his marriage was a disaster and his current mistress (who had also influenced his choice of wife), Lady Jersey, was not satisfying him. As they had had a secret Catholic marriage in 1785 Maria only agreed to get back with George when the Pope told her that theirs was the only true marriage. However, in 1807 George left her agan for the Marchioness of Hertford. Nice man.

Lady Hertford lasted until 1819. She was influential in persuading George to turn to the Tories.

His last mistress was Elizabeth, Countess Conyngham, who was with him until his death in 1830. She was the daughter of an investment banker (they were called merchant bankers in those days). she was said to be shrewd, greedy and volutptuous. apparently she had an affair in the 1790 with Lord Ponsonby who was supposed to be so good looking that he escaped being executed in Paris during the Revolution because the women thought he was too handsome to kill and intervened.


Peter said...

'Notorious' seems an unfair term to use when writing of George III. He seems to me to have been a very competent, educated monarch, labelled "Farmer George" because he had a little too much of the common touch for some.

He was also unusually generous. When someone - a lunatic, I think - failed to assassinate him, and she was dragged away by guards, he was calling after them keenly not to do her any harm, as she done not harmed him.

Obviously he was ill for long periods of his life, but a hereditary illness is hardly his fault, and shouldn't denigrate his achievements in lucid periods.

Alterior said...

He is notorious due to his madness in later life. That is what I meant. This post was not about George III but when I do write about him I will not omit his lucid periods.

Anonymous said...

Marchioness Conyngham was not adverse to advancing the interests of her family and friends with the King. She had had her son Lord Francis Conyngham "placed" in a Government position.The King wanted Conyngham appointed Under Secretary of Sate. The Prime Minister, Canning was horrified that Under Secretary Conyngham would have exclusive access to the King.