Clarence House: Nash’s Regency Palace

“Oh, that fool coachman has set us down at the wrong place,” Diana exclaimed.

Vivien felt sorry for Diana’s new driver.  He had only been brought up from the country just the week before and had little experience in navigating London’s congested street.  Yet he had much to recommend him, in her estimation.  His careful handling of the reins was a welcome respite from the reckless driving of Northam’s previous coachman who used to tool the massive four-in-hand coach at breakneck speed.  After years of terrorizing the streets of London, the old retainer had finally given his notice to quit.

“But I am persuaded we are precisely where we should be.”  Vivien hastened to reassure her friend.  “Look, this is clearly Nash’s work.  Take the portico for instance. The upper part is Corinthian.  The lower is Doric.  Very admirable for the new Clarence House.”

“But this stucco and pink cannot be a house for Old Bill.  I suppose Her Highness had a say in its design.”

“And no doubt she is waiting for us even now.  While we stand about dawdling!”

Vivien did not like to be late, especially when invited to take tea with HRH Princess Adelaide, soon to become Queen Adelaide to her husband’s William IV, the Sailor King.  This was understandable, she being the granddaughter of a sheep herder.  Diana, her companion, was the daughter of the Earl of Northam, and stood on ceremony with no one.  Not even a German princess and the wife of a future king she referred to as “Old Bill.”

“Old Bill” was Princess Charlotte’s uncle, the Duke of Clarence.  He was the man George Washington once plotted to kidnap while the prince was serving in the British Navy during the War of Independence.  Happy July 4th!

When Diana and Vivien visited the Duke’s addition to St. James Palace in 1827 it had just been finished.  There was much to admire in the Palladian design of the noted architect John Nash, who was also responsible for Park Crescent (used in abundance to display the finest in Regency architecture in various Jane Austen films) and part of Buckingham Palace.  William IV was a frugal man whose careful expenditures are credited to Queen Adelaide.  They remained in Clarence House even after he became King, despite the availability of Buckingham Palace.

Clarence House is expected to be the London residence of the newest royal couple.  It is currently occupied by the Prince of Wales and his wife, as well as Prince Harry.  The palace is also noted for being the long-time residence of HRH Elizabeth the Queen Mother, whose lovely blue morning room with her coat of arms is especially inviting:

Regency Wedding

These days it seems appropriate to be discussing royal nuptials.  Therefore, who can resist making comparisons?  I, for one, cannot.  

On this day, May 2nd, 1816, one hundred and ninety-five years ago, HRH Princess Charlotte, the Prince Regent’s daughter, married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg.  After revisiting some primary historical sources, I have discovered the rather surprising conclusion that Kate and Wills have much in common with the most popular royal couple from the Regency era.

Of course, we can be reasonably sure of at least two major differences.  I refer to them below using my favorite scenes from Monty Python for purposes of illustration only.

Indulge me.

1)  We know that the heir-presumptive will not have to undergo the rigors of childbirth at the hands of nineteenth century obstetrics.  But if he should want to, please see  I want to be a woman at :22.

2) Kate won’t have to become King of the Belgians.  You see, they’ve already got one!  See the French taunting King Arthur at 1:22.   Well, some Belgians do speak French.

Sorry, sorry!  I just get carried away.

In the coming weeks some curious connections and common paths between the Regency and modern royal wedding will be presented.  Courtship, houses, dresses, manners and other momentous concerns will be examined.  With the help of some characters from my Notorious series.

Will you join me?