04 Jul Some 18th Century Gossip from Wroxton Abbey
Here’s a Wroxton Abbey trivia question for you: “When did the Prince of Wales, linked romantically to Lady Diana Spencer, visit Wroxton Abbey?”
If you’re thinking of that Prince of Wales, and that Lady Di, you’d be off by nearly 250 years.
In 1739 Frederick Prince of Wales was the guest of Francis Lord North at Wroxton Abbey. His Royal Highness enjoyed his visit so much that he requested a monument be raised in appreciation of the hospitality of his host. This obelisk stands today in the fields behind the Abbey.
THIS Prince of Wales was never to become King of England. Prince Frederick Louis was the eldest son of King George II. He became a political adversary of his father however, and was ostracized from the court and cut off from his fortune. He never was to inherit the throne. But his son became George III, the king during the American Revolution who had as his prime minister Frederick Lord North.
Due to his lacking funds to support his extravagances, which included patronage of the arts and sponsorship of cricket teams, Prince Frederick was very receptive when the fabulously wealthy Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, suggested to him in 1730 that he might consider marrying her favorite granddaughter, Lady Diana Spencer. To sweeten the romantic pot, according to Horace Walpole, the duchess offered the Prince of Wales a £100,000 dowry if he would agree to marry Lady Diana. Frederick, although he wrote of his passion for a person he called “ldy Dye,” was refused consent for this liaison by his father the King. They both went on to marry others, and both died young: Lady Diana at 25 and the Prince of Wales at 44.
Some Juicier Gossip
Some wags have suggested that Prime Minister Lord North’s strong resemblance to George III suggests that Prince Frederick the house guest may have taken it quite literally when advised to “make himself at home.” They say that he might have been the Prime Minister’s real father (making North the King’s brother).
This theory may be consistent with Prince Frederick’s randy reputation but apparently there is little to substantiate it. HOWEVER, his host at Wroxton Abbey, Francis Lord North, WAS the Lord of the Bedchamber to Prince Frederick. AND the Prince WAS godfather to the infant Prime Minister. To decide for yourself, click on the image to the left to see the portraits morph. (George III’s portrait was flipped horizontally for this demonstration.)
The prince, who was an avid, if somewhat inept player of the new sport of cricket, died of septicemia after being hit on the head by a ball. It may have been a cricket ball or it may have been a tennis ball; sources disagree. An epigram, quoted by Thackeray, commemorates the tragic event:
Here lies poor Fred
Who was alive and is dead…
There is no more to be said.”
One lasting legacy of the prince’s patronage of the arts is this memorable tune, first performed at his country home on the first of August, 1740.
Click below to hear a version recorded in 1914 on a wax cylinder:
[quicktime width=”300″ height=”35″]http://wroxtonabbey.org/wp-content/images/ditty.mp3[/quicktime]