The joyful days at Brighton were merely an idle summer solace. George's happiness and moral reformation, gratifying though they may have been, did not serve to satisfy his creditors. By rural retrenchment and a careful study of domestic economy, he may have prevented himself from sinking deeper, but he was quite unable to lift himself out of the mire of debt. Something had to be done to relieve the strain, and in 1787, contrary to the advice of his friends, the Prince of Wales appealed to Parliament for help. The move was a dangerous one, for it was almost inevitable that, during the course of a debate on his affairs, some member should raise the question of his marriage. And a member did raise the question, a sturdy, irrepressible Tory Devonshire squire, named Rolle. Fox denied the allegation strongly.
"His Royal Highness," he declared, had authorised him to declare that, as a peer of Parliament, he was ready in the other House to submit to the most pointed questions which could be put to him respecting it, or to afford to his Majesty, or to his Majesty's Ministers, the fullest assurances of the utter falsehood of the fact in question, which never had, and commonsense must see never could have happened."
In making this statement there can be no doubt but that Fox was actuated by the best of motives, and it would be unfair to press the charge of perfidy either against him or against George. In the first place, the
Prince had no idea that his friend would repudiate the marriage with such unnecessary vehemence; and, secondly, at this time, at any rate, Fox was ignorant of the true facts of the case.
In spite of this, however, never did Mrs. Fitzherbert forgive him for shaming and disgracing her in public. Nor, indeed, did she forgive her husband lightly. George, however, was sincerely apologetic; he had been concerned solely with the payment of hi debts, and because aspersions had been cast publicly upon his wife s honour he was truly grieved. He assured her, moreover, that he had given Fox no authority for denying the marriage - this was, of course, untrue - and persuaded the pliable Sheridan to seize the earliest opportunity of modifying Fox's declaration in the House of Commons.
Thus, still relying on George's promise of future reparation, Mrs. Fitzherbert gradually allowed her outraged feelings to be pacified. In July she left London with her husband and travelled to Brighton. Here the towns-folk did all that was possible to help her to forget her recent disappointments, and greeted her and her Royal husband with unfeigned delight. "Though nobody ventured to call her 'princess,'" wrote a contemporary resident, "everyone of her innumerable admirers enthroned her as the 'queen of Hearts' throughout the length and breadth of fast-increasing Brighton, and a more loyal people it was impossible for a sovereign to
Love have. They honoured her, they almost worshipped her."
The troubles of the past began to fade, and basking in the ardent sunshine of each other's love, George and his wife again found happiness. At this time Mrs. Fitzherbert's power was at its zenith; the Prince was the slave to her littlest wish, and the world, even the Royal Family, tacitly recognised her as his wife. Mrs. Fitzherbert's Downfall
This frail matrimonial bark, however, was constructed only for fair weather sailing; ride a storm it could not, but it was destined to meet with many. During the winter of '89, moreover, with alarming suddenness, it met with one more serious than the rest. The King became mad, and George, once again, was called into the arena of politics. The struggle for the Regency between the Prince and his mother forms a sordid and ignoble story, but upon the life of Mrs. Fitzherbert that struggle had an important bearing, for she threw herself into it whole-heartedly. Should George emerge victorious, she felt that she had much to gain; she hoped then for the fulfilment of his promises and reparation for all past ignominies.
Her interference, however, was ill-advised, since, as a direct consequence, it became inevitable that the question of her marriage should again be raised in Parliament. It was raised, and again the marriage was denied. Secondly, moreover, her interference, and indeed the whole struggle, was all to no purpose, for on the very day upon which the Regency Bill was to have passed into law, the King recovered his reason.
Disappointed and disgusted by the pettiness of party strife, the Prince and Mrs. Fitzherbert returned to Brighton, where George once again found himself delegated to that position of political impotence which it pleased his Royal father to force his heir to fill. Whatever aims and aspirations the Prince had ever had were stifled at their very birth, and George III. did all he could to exclude his son from taking part in public life. . Is it a matter for wonder, therefore, that he should have decided now to submit, and to divorce himself from his governing instincts? With Mrs. Fitzherbert to inspire him, he had striven, but, as now he saw, striven in vain. A reaction set in, and from this time definitely begins a period of decadence.
His mode of life changed completely; restraint and prudence he threw to the winds; the Pavilion, once the home of happy irresponsibility, now became the abode of reckless revelry. To Mrs. Fitzherbert life lost its sweetness; it is true she took part in these new and doubtful pleasures, but they were utterly distasteful to her; she was a refined, proud woman.
Still, however, she remained loyal, and strove hard to effect a reconciliation between the Prince and his father. But her troubles now were many; the Press again had become scurrilous; she had lost her influence over her husband, and George was marching straight to ruin.
Tragedy already loomed large before her, and now not a ray of hope lighted the future, for in 1794 George III. ruthlessly annulled the marriage of her husband's younger brother. Now, not only was Prince Augustus Frederick the sixth son, and, therefore, far removed from the succession, but his wife, Lady Augusta Murray, although a Roman Catholic, was herself of semi-royal blood,, a direct descendant of the ill-fated Stuart monarchs. To save his wife, moreover, Prince Augustus did all he could, but George III. turned a deaf ear to his supplications, although he expressed himself willing - nay, begged to be allowed - to renounce for ever all claims to the succession.