Your RDA of Irony

All in the Family

George III had just as much trouble with his children as with his colonies. He was a good husband (a first in his dynasty) and was a well-meaning father, but there was inherent dysfunction in the family. Hanoverian fathers and sons tended to hate each other; George I vs. George II, George II vs. Prince Frederick. Once again, George III was the exception. He didn’t know his father well enough to loathe him–but everyone else did. And the feud resumed with George III and his sons. For some reason, the exemplary family man produced nothing but cads and rascals.

The future George IV was a bigamist. That would seem a promising opportunity for heirs, but the Prince of Wales was a consistent underachiever. With his adored wife (a Catholic widow whom the royal family and Parliament refused to acknowledge) he had no children. He also had an official wife, Princess Caroline, but couldn’t stand her. In fact, when he became King, he had her locked out of the coronation. Yet somehow, a heir was produced: Princess Charlotte. The succession was secured.

Princess Charlotte married and in 1817, with the assistance of 19th century medicine, died in childbirth as did her heir. The succession was unsecured.

Suddenly, the younger sons of George III–who were well into their middle-ages–found themselves imminent to the royal succession. William Duke of Clarence, and Edward Duke of Kent now were obliged to do something that they had managed to avoid: find suitable wives and produce legitimate children. Both the Dukes married in 1818.

William, who had a long-standing mistress and a resultant family of FitzClarences, married a nice, young German aristocrat named Adelaide. The Ducal couple certainly tried to have children. Unfortunately, they had a series of miscarriages and two little girls who died in infancy. (The kind-hearted Adelaide loved children and found solace in helping raise her husband’s illegitimate grandchildren.)

Edward, Duke of Kent, married an ill-tempered German aristocratic widow named Victoria. She even had children from her previous marriage–but for Edward that only proved her a sound breeder. And indeed she was. In 1819, she gave birth to a daughter who would also be called Victoria. The Duke of Kent, unaccustomed to diligence and probably exhausted by it, died in 1820. So, his infant daughter became the Duchess of Kent.

George III finally died in 1820. His rotten son became George IV; he died in 1830. The affable and now elderly Duke of Clarence became William IV; Adelaide was a popular queen and would have a city in Australia named for her. Having no surviving children of their own, their heir was the Duchess of Kent. William IV died in 1837 and was succeeded by his niece.

As for the Hanoverian habit of fathers-hating sons, and vice versa, you will be relieved to know that it survives. Edward VII resented Prince Albert, George V disapproved of Edward VII, George VI was terrified of George V, and you know how Prince Philip and Prince Charles feel about each other.

Leave a Reply