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Home arrow Historical arrow Peninsular Notes arrow Passion and Principle

Passion and Principle Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Friday, 08 February 2008

From "Passion & Principle – the loves and lives of Regency Women" by Jane Aiken Hodge
(published by John Murray, London, 1996)



…The second daughter, Princess Augusta Sophia, was forty-three when the King (George III) was finally declared insane in 1811 and immured at Windsor. Next year, she wrote a passionate appeal to her brother, now Prince Regent, begging him to connive at a secret marriage with the English officer she had loved for years. ……

… In the early years of the next century, she gave up thoughts of a foreign marriage when she fell in love with an Englishman. She never named him, but all the evidence points to a successful Irish career officer called Brent Spencer. General Sir brent SpencerThe handsome son of a country squire, he had joined the army at seventeen and was well advanced in a dashing career when they first met, probably early in 1800 after he had served in Holland with her brother, the Duke of York, in 1799· The Duke spoke highly of him in despatches and might well have introduced him to his sisters. He then served with distinction in Egypt, returning to England in 1805, when he was promoted to major-general, appointed equerry to the King and placed on the staff. After that they were bound to meet. He was abroad again in 1807, commanding a brigade in the surprise attack on Copenhagen, and next year he served in the Peninsular War as second in command to Sir Arthur Wellesley. He fought courageously, but the future Duke of Wellington found him unreliable, describing him years later as ‘exceedingly puzzle-headed, but very formal.’ He sounds a perfect son-in-law for George III. The Peninsular years were the high point and end of his career. He resigned on being superseded by Sir Thomas Graham in 1811 and returned to England. Made a general on retirement, he bought a small estate at Lea, within easy distance of Windsor, and settled there.
 Next year, Princess Augusta wrote her appeal to her brother, describing the twelve years she had known her beloved, and the anxiety she had suffered when he was in action. She referred to a previous conversation with the Prince in 1808 when she had told him about her lover’s handsome offer to give up his position as equerry so as to spare her the constant frustrating meetings. She had urged him not to do so, obviously hanging on to her crumb of happiness. Now she wanted more. Her brother was Regent, could he not sanction a waiver, or a dodging of the Royal Marriage Act for her and her man? If he could not actually attend the wedding, would her dear brother allow the Duke of York to represent him? And perhaps most important of all, would he speak to the Queen on her behalf?
‘I am certain the Queen cannot approve if she merely thinks of my birth and station ... But when she considers the character of the man, the faithfulness and length of our attachment, the struggles that I have been compelled to make, never retracting from any of my duties ... I am sure that she will say that long and great has been my trial, and correct has been my -conduct ... I am proud of possessing the affection and good opinion of an honest man and highly distinguished character, and I am sure that what you can do to make us happy, you will not leave undone.’
We do not know what, if anything, the Prince Regent did, but he was always loving and good to his sisters and when his daughter died in childbirth in 1817 he chose Brent Spencer to break the terrible news at Windsor. Spencer was installed as a Knight of the Bath the same year and Princess Augusta was present at the ceremony. They may have had private happiness, but anything public was impossible. She achieved a small measure of freedom when Queen Charlotte died in 1818 and, perhaps significantly, left her a house and farm at Frogmore.

Last Updated ( Friday, 08 February 2008 )
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