“One of the most unpleasant habitations in London.”

Princess Charlotte and her new husband were given Camelford House as their London residence.  “One of the most unpleasant habitations in London,” a certain Lady Williams-Wynn is reported to have said.  This view from Oxford Street executed in watercolor in 1850 by J. H. Shepard seems to support her ladyship’s remark:

The front portico beyond the Oxford street entrance is little more distinguished in this early twentieth century photograph. It is remarkable that a house with such a modest exterior should survive for so long when the far more grand Carlton House belonging to the Prince Regent had been torn down nearly a century before.   And why should the newly married prince and princess want to live in such a place?

The answer may lie in a variety of circumstances.  The house lay in the very fashionable environs of the Grosvenor estate end of Mayfair.  In my Notorious series, the Northam townhouse was merely blocks away and Vivien’s townhouse just down the street along Park Lane.   Also, the lease on Camelford House was available–the previous tenant Lord Grenville had moved out.  He had been Prime Minister, notably heading a coalition government called the “Ministry of all the Talents,” a term that one encounters even today to describe various political coalitions and collaborations, albeit rather loosely.

Another attractive feature was Camelford’s highly refined interior.  The first-floor reception rooms were several in number but diverse in design and decoration.  Perfect for receptions and entertaining.  The marvelous plasterwork crafted in the neoclassical style was particularly notable, if difficult to discern in this 1912 photograph taken just before the house was demolished.

Happily, much of the elegant fittings of Camelford were saved before the wrecking ball.   They were purchased intact and reinstalled in a Northumberland Grade II listed building called Lemmington Hall.  At one time this Georgian country mansion was a ruin before its restoration in the early twentieth century.  Then it became a convent.

Today, the interior of the newlyweds’ London home provides a perfect setting for celebrating one’s nuptials. Lemmington Hall is now a wedding venue.

Nothing common about a tiara

similar in style: the 1934 Cartier tiara with lotus design


Oh, the tiara!  The most important thing that does so much to elevate one on the BIG DAY.

This site displays a nice array of illustrious figures wearing the 1936 Cartier Halo tiara which Kate wore on her wedding day.

Something borrowed:  the tiara is part of the Royal Collection.

It had belonged to the late Queen Mother, given to her by her husband, the Duke of York, later George VI.  See the trailer for The King’s Speech here.  No tiaras in the film, as I recall, but bloody good dialogue.

Prince William married a commoner.  So did George VI, his great-grandfather.   Yet Bertie’s wife was Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, no mere miss.  Interestingly, British law deems anyone a commoner who is not royalty or a peer. Whether they are the descendant of a coal miner or an earl.

Putting the law aside, one could argue the Queen Mother was someone not quite in the common way.

But we were discussing tiaras.  Princess Charlotte’s tiara was described as diamonds fashioned into a wreath of roses and leaves.  The detail of this crown is difficult to see in the old plate below.

Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold wedding processional

The jeweller who made the princess’ tiara was Rundell, Bridge & Rundell.  The firm was subsequently commissioned to craft her father George IV’s state diadem that evoked similar motifs:  roses, thistles and shamrocks.  This famous crown was worn by Her Majesty for her coronation and gets trotted out for the opening of Parliament.

It is not inconceivable to imagine we see the remnants of Charlotte’s crown in her father’s:

The Diamond Diadem, 1820

The Regent’s House or God’s – Part One

Westminster Abbey by Canaletto, 1749

Unlike Prince William, Princess Charlotte did not wed in a church or chapel.  In fact, she is the only heir-presumptive to the English throne that I can think of being married in a secular place.   If there are others, they are few in number.

The Regent was in charge of all the arrangements for his daughter’s wedding and thus ordered the ceremony to take place at his palace, Carlton House.  In part two, we shall see that the plot is nothing as humorous as Father of the Bride.   

But for now, it should be noted that Carlton House was extensively rebuilt and decorated at great expense by the Prince Regent. It was admired for its lavish decoration and derided as being inferior to many hotels in Paris.  In front of the palace there was a curious set of columns which perplexed passers-by and inspired the-then famous ditty:

“Dear little columns, all in a row, What do you do there?  Indeed we don’t know.”

Carlton House (those pillars do look odd)

I’m digressing a bit, but the following observation by a contemporary witness is rather amusing:

Then the Duke of York bas been sent, as it would seem, to the Round House, and the Prince of Wales to the Pillory.”

*gales of laughter*

At times the Regent found the Duke of York somewhat trying.  Especially when he believed his younger brother, fond uncle as he was, would get his niece Charlotte into a scrape, or encourage her natural inclination towards rebellious behavior (I wonder where she got that from?).  The Duke of York had his own palace called York House, which stands today as the Scottish office in Whitehall.  You can see its prominent feature–a drumlike circular hall beyond the entrance vestibule.

York House, now Dover House

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?