Love could be crowned only at the King's pleasure. Nevertheless, on the morning of the coronation, the Queen, undaunted, drove in state to Westminster Abbey. To her chagrin, however, the officials would not permit her to enter the Abbey. The unhappy woman was forced, therefore, to return, defeated, through a jeering crowd, and in the following month she died, a broken-hearted woman. It is a sorry story.
But what of Mrs. Fitzherbert? In April, 1796, George separated from Caroline. In June, with ardent protestations of undying love, he began to implore Mrs. Fitzherbert again to receive him as her husband. Princess Caroline did not remonstrate; indeed, she "hoped her husband would not feel her any impediment to the reconciliation he was so desirous for."
For a long while, however, the Prince implored in vain; Mrs. Fitzherbert would not listen to him. "A link once broken," she said, "could never be re-joined." George, however, wooed ardently, even more ardently than he had done before the marriage. Her own family, moreover, and several members of the Royal Family, notably the Queen, who hated Princess Caroline, urged upon her a reconciliation.
Still, however, Mrs. Fitzherbert wavered. But the Prince was irrepressible. He would accept no rebuff; nothing could damp his ardour. Rarely has a wife been wooed thus by her husband. " How I have ever loved and adored you," he declared in one of his letters, " God only knows, and how I do now He also knows, and you cannot pretend to be ignorant of and disbelieve." It was impossible for Mrs. Fitzherbert to turn a deaf ear to passionate entreaties such as these.
As, however, in the first instance she had agreed to marry George mainly in order that thereby she might avert a tragedy, so now she agreed to a reconciliation. On June 13, 1799, the Prince wrote to her, and declared that he had resolved to be true to his vows, and was about to proclaim her as his wife before the world. "Think not," he continued, "that any advice whatever will make me delay my purpose or forswear my oath. Thank God, my witnesses are living - your uncle and your brother, besides Harris, who I shall call upon as having been informed by me of every, even the minutest, circumstance of our marriage."
Mrs. Fitzherbert was alarmed. At this time popular opinion was all on the side of Caroline. Should George be forced to carry his purpose into effect, the result, she knew, would prove disastrous both to herself and to the man she loved. Accordingly, she yielded to the ultimatum. But first she submitted the true facts of the case to the Pope's consideration; violate her conscience she would not. But when the Supreme Pontiff declared that, in the eyes of the Church she was still the wife of George, and, therefore, at liberty to rejoin him if he were truly penitent, she did not hesitate for another minute.
Eight years of nuptial happiness ensued. These years, it is true, contained their full measure of trouble; the "Seymour Case" and the "Delicate Investigation" both were unsettling and distressing, but, none the less, and in spite of "extreme poverty," Mrs. Fitzherbert herself has declared this to have been the happiest period of her life.
Again, with Brighton as the setting, was resumed that comedy of gay and innocent domestic happiness which Lady Jersey so ruthlessly had interrupted. Mrs. Fitz-herbert's influence soon reasserted itself over the Prince, and he, for his part, again reformed his character and became a model husband. But a broken link, however cleverly it may be repaired, is always liable to snap again. That, sooner or later, a cloud should again darken Mrs. Fitzherbert's happiness was inevitable, for George by nature was inconstant and was the personification of susceptibility.
Lady Hertford in the Ascendancy
In 1808 the Prince became strongly attracted by the personality of Lady Hertford. On both sides the affection appears to have been merely "platonic," but it was very strong. George adored Lady Hertford, and this adoration cut Mrs. Fitzherbert like a knife. Her husband's petits amours she could tolerate, and had tolerated readily, but this new fancy was different from the others. Lady Hertford was a woman of position, and no longer young and beautiful. The Prince's devotion to her deprived Mrs. Fitzherbert of those very things which, in the eventide of life, she valued most - his friendship and his confidence. It robbed her, moreover, of those thousand little acts of kindly thoughtfulness which had endeared him to her, and which, indeed, endear a man to any woman.
To chaperone Lady Hertford in public and to be snubbed by her husband in private she could not tolerate, for she knew her rival to be a foolish woman and unworthy of the Prince's love. Accordingly Mrs. Fitzherbert absented herself from the Pavilion, and shunned the Prince's society. This infuriated George. Would any woman dare treat him, the Prince of Wales, in this way? The breach widened rapidly, and now, as on the previous occasion, separation was signalled by the King becoming mad.
George III. lost his reason for the second time in 1810, and on February 5, 1811, the Prince formally took the oaths required of him as Regent. He was now wholly under the influence of Lady Hertford, who availed herself of every opportunity to emphasise and exaggerate the folly and danger of his connection with a Roman Catholic woman. George listened to her arguments readily; he was anxious now to find some dignified pretext for bringing to an end his relationship with Mrs. Fitzherbert. Moreover, acting, no doubt, upon Lady Hertford's advice, he was determined to prove that he had
Love disassociated himself from her for ever. Accordingly, in June, he arranged to give a fete at Carlton House, ostensibly in honour of the exiled French Royal Family. Two thousand guests were invited, and among them Mrs. Fitzherbert. A few days before the date of the entertainment, however, she was informed that a place would not be allotted to her at the Prince's table, as had been on such occasions in the past.