Dictionary of London Immigrants |||

1820 - Montague House (Blackheath)

In 1795, George, Prince of Wales, married Caroline of Brunswick. Nine months later Caroline gave birth to Princess Charlotte, but shortly after the couple separated. From 1798, Caroline was living in Montague House, Blackheath (demolished in 1815). Londoners remained sympathetic to the princess who had been neglected by her selfish and degenerate husband. Rumours circulated about her lifestyle and a possible illegitimate child. An investigation into her private life found her not guilty, but access to her daughter was restricted.

She moved to Italy in 1814 and nominated Bartolomeo Pergami as her secretary. He became her intimate companion. In January 1820, George V was crowned king and Caroline returned to London to assert her role as Queen Consort. After George’s demand for the marriage to be dissolved, the 1820 Pains and Penalties Bill was introduced to prove Caroline’s adultery. The widely reported proceedings (with all salacious details) took place at the House of Lords with parliamentarians as judge and jury.

The prosecution called (unreliable) witnesses from among Caroline’s Italian servants and her name was dragged through the muck. With public feelings in her favour against a despised George V, witnesses had to be protected from unruly mobs. They were described and depicted as corrupt bribe-takers. Xenophobia and anti-Italianism were in full flow. Although narrowly passed in the House of Lords, the Tory government decided to withdraw the Bill and give up any attempt to help George divorce Caroline.

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