George IV and Canning

Thirty years of private relations when they were often at odds preceded the appointment of Canning as Prime Minister in 1827 by George IV, writes Christopher Hibbert.

On meeting the Prince of Wales for the first time, George Canning was ‘charmed beyond measure’ and ‘far beyond’ his expectation with ‘the elegance of his address and the gentlemanliness of his manner’. The Prince was equally taken with Canning.

Soon afterwards, however, he swore that he would ‘never receive Mr Canning again’. For he had learned that the ‘damned scoundrel’ paid regular visits to that ‘fiend’, that ‘very monster of iniquity’, that detested wife of his, Princess Caroline of Brunswick.

The Prince had also heard that Canning and the Princess often contrived to be left alone together in the drawing-room of her house at Blackheath, and he believed - and had good reason to believe - that they were lovers.

Many others shared the Prince’s suspicions. It was common gossip in London society that at the time of the separation of the Prince and Princess in 1796, Canning had been with her when she had received her husband’s letter agreeing never to propose ‘a connexion of a more particular nature’ should any accident happen to their daughter, Princess Charlotte.

She had asked Canning how she ought to interpret the letter and, so it was said, Canning had ‘decided peremptorily that it was a letter giving her permission to do as they liked, and they took advantage of it on the spot’.

Certainly Lord Boringdon, who claimed to have been Canning’s earliest adherent in the House of Lords, thought that the Princess was probably his mistress. So did Canning’s friend, Lady Bess-borough.

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