George IV and Caroline of Brunswick
Some of the worst royal marriages in history actually started out as happy unions, only to descend into bitter acrimony amid political intrigue and concerns over inheritance. The marriage of George IV and Caroline of Brunswick does definitely not belong in this category. This was a match that was doomed from the start. Neither of them wanted to wed the other, and so neither of them made any effort to make it work. Quite the opposite in fact; both man and wife were guilty of such unreasonable behavior that it seems safe to conclude that, not only were they inconsiderate spouses, but they were both most likely mentally unwell.
The future George IV was still Prince Regent when the union was arranged in 1795. Significantly, at this point, he was already married. However, he had made the mistake of not only marrying for love but of marrying a Catholic. According to the Royal Marriage Act, that made the secret union illegal. His father, George III, ordered him to marry a Protestant. Fortunately, the Prince Regent’s first cousin, the 27-year-old German Caroline of Brunswick was free and single. The match was set and the wedding fixed for the day of April 8, 1795. The King even agreed to clear his son’s massive gambling debts if he went through with it.
The historical records show that George IV was drunk for his own wedding day. And he carried on drinking – brandy being his favourite tipples – and was unable to consummate the union that night. While his bride was not ugly, she was no beauty either. What’s more, she was widely regarded in English society as being ill-mannered, with poor personal hygiene. For her part, she felt no real attraction to the future King of England. He was overweight and clearly a drunkard and a womaniser. Nevertheless, the wedding went as planned (even if the groom constantly looked at his mistresses) and, before long, the union was indeed consummated, with Caroline giving birth to Princess Charlotte more or less nine months after the disastrous wedding day.
When the Prince Regent ascended to the throne and became George IV in 1820, the couple had long been living completely separate lives. They simply couldn’t stand to be in each other’s company. He barred her from attending his coronation, a humiliating experience which saw the doors of Westminster Abbey slammed in Caroline’s face. Just weeks after becoming monarch, George attempted to divorce his wife. He accused her of infidelity (she had taken a lover but he had taken many more) but public opinion was on her side. Caroline would be Queen of England, but only for a few months. She died on August 7, 1823, aged just 53. As per her wishes, her body was buried in her native Brunswick. The tombstone read: “Here lies Caroline, the injured Queen of England.”