Wellington: A Personal History

By Christopher Hibbert | Go to book overview

29 King George IV and Queen Caroline 1820-1

'God save the Queen -- and may all your wives be like her.'

THE DUKE SAW little to admire in the new King. Indeed, he had not long expostulated to Creevey, 'By God! You never saw such a figure in your life as he is! Then he speaks and swears so like old Falstaff, that damn me if I am not ashamed to walk into a room with him.' 1 As for his brothers, the royal dukes, they were, 'My God! the damnedest millstones about the necks of any government that can be imagined. They have insulted -- personally insulted -- two thirds of the gentlemen of England.' 2 Yet the Duke, as an inveterate enemy of republicanism, as a member of the King's Cabinet and a loyal servant of the Crown, felt himself in duty bound to support his Majesty in any way his conscience would allow. So that when the King made it known that he wanted to divorce his detested wife, who returned to England on 5 June 1820, he gave the most careful consideration to the problems which the King's decision raised.

The Cabinet had already made it known that they were against a divorce since this was possible only by Act of Parliament or by a trial for treason on grounds of the Queen's adultery with her Italian majordomo, Bartolommeo Bergami -- or, as he preferred to spell his name, Pergami. The ecclesiastical courts could only grant a separation and, in any case, an action there would entail recriminatory evidence being given against the King. The Cabinet had accordingly endeavoured to persuade his Majesty to agree to a settlement which would not only keep his wife abroad but would also contain a formal enactment depriving her of her powers and privileges as queen consort. 3 On behalf of the King, Wellington and Castlereagh had met the Queen's representatives to discuss the possibility of the Queen accepting an income of £10,000 a year and agreeing to undertake to remain abroad and not

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