PRINNY AND MRS. FITZ – LOVE LETTERS

Pandf

Idly searching The Times archive looking for something juicy, I happened upon an item in the issue of 4 November 1796 which looked intriguing.  It began:

“The following is extracted from a Volume just published, intitled, LETTERS between an Illustrious PERSONAGE and a LADY of HONOUR at B*******. “  [Brighton]

It then printed two letters with all names asterisked out apart from the lady’s name – MARGARITTA.   A little more digging showed that this was the name Maria Fitzherbert used in her letters to the Prince of Wales, which I did not know before this.  How these letters came to be available is not clear.  They must have been written about 1784, when Prinny was pursuing Mrs Fitz.  After his marriage to Princess Caroline in 1795, and rejection of Maria, she may have let them slip or had them stolen.

Fortunately I found copies of these letters, and several more, collected in a book called Love letters of Famous Royalties and Commanders, selected by Lionel Strachey, 1909.  They appear elsewhere but are not freely available in digital form (I found this book on HathiTrust).  Here is a selection, minus the asterisks, for your enjoyment.

FROM MRS. FITZHERBERT
“Princes, like women, find few real friends;
All who approach them their own ends pursue,
Lovers and ministers are seldom true.”

So spake a bard well used to courts and my sex. To you, my Prince, I ought, agreeable to the style of those who surround you, pay an implicit obedience, and meet you as you desired on my quitting the ballroom last night. Meet you! What, you, the Prince of Wales, whose character in the annals of gallantry is too well known for me to suppose that after such a meeting I should have any character at all? This may be too free—I am unused to address people of excessive rank—my manners are unaffected—I know not a sentiment that I would wish to disguise, and I should be happy to know only that behaviour from your Royal Highness that must command silent respect from
Your father’s affectionate subject,
MARGARITTA

TO MRS. FITZHERBERT
I find but too often cause to lament that rank in life that perhaps is envied me by all the world. Princes indeed have few real friends. Even your sex fly me, and does the amiable Margaritta allow her better judgment to be biassed by public calumny? It is beneath the heart that reigns in so lovely a bosom! I do not command, far from it, I only entreat a further knowledge of you, and where is the impropriety of permitting a meeting with a condescension that will make me most happy—not your Prince, the son of your Sovereign, but your admiring,
your adoring,
WALES

FROM MRS. FITZHERBERT
Public calumny I am above; my own reasons and observation are the charms that forbid a private meeting.  Already has the notice bestowed on me at the ball by your Royal Highness brought on me the envy of my own sex and the impertinence of yours. I like not your associates, particularly that wild man, H., [presumably George Hanger] who stares me out of countenance. The difference of our rank in life forbids a further knowledge of me, and I entreat you to avoid me. I shall be tonight at the ball, not because I like it, but my not having appeared since the last is, I find, observed; and some of our visitors yesterday told me I was too much engaged by the Prince’s notice to bestow any on those beneath him. Come to the ball, dance with Lady B., and take the slightest notice of me. Why should you wish to take more? There are a hundred much prettier women! Mrs. O. for example—you think her pretty. She is indeed divine! And she has a husband, an officer of spirit, to shield her from the rude attacks of envy. You may enjoy her conversation, she yours, and malice dare not speak. But me, an unprotected, helpless orphan? It will be cruel to pursue the humble,
MARGARITTA

TO MRS. FITZHERBERT
Cold, unkind, Margaritta ! Why am I forbid that attention which is your due—which all the world must pay you? Why am I doomed to pass an insipid evening with a woman of fashion only, when my heart and my better judgment would lead me to the most elegant, the most accomplished fair that Brighton has to boast. Mrs. O. is beauteous, but it is not mere beauty I admire, it is expression, “a something than beauty dearer.” You know my opinion of Lady B.; her rank entitles her to my hand, nothing besides could induce me. I respect her Grace for the sake of the best of mothers, and therefore I comply with what politeness and etiquette requires; but why must I give up the enjoyment of your conversation? Be superior to common talk.  Call not yourself unprotected—all the world must be your friends. I am concerned H. displeases you. I am certain he never designed it. This wild man has really some good points; that he admires you I wonder not, and perhaps he is not perfectly delicate in that admiration.  Does S. [Sheridan?] likewise displease you, and little J. O. [John Willet Payne, known as ‘Little Jacko’?], that you say you do not like my associates? If they do, they shall not trouble you; I want no company when in yours!  I felt your absence from the ball, and rejoice that you will grace it this evening. It is impossible to see you with indifference! In vain would you exact so hard a task from the tenderest of your friends,
The obliged,
WALES

[Obviously Maria didn’t turn up at the ball!]

TO MRS. FITZHERBERT
What a disappointment! Ah, cruel Margaritta ! I entered the ballroom last night at nine, in the highest spirits. My eyes flew round it with impatience, in search of the only bright object they wished to see—but they sought in vain! I asked H. and S. after you; they had seen you airing—not dressed for the ball. I was disconcerted ! Is it possible so gentle a form, a countenance so soft, so tender, can be thus unkind? I danced with several, and I was persuaded at about one o’clock to join in a Scotch reel. The small company that remained were diverted, but nothing could reanimate my spirits. Why do you thus fly me? Once more I entreat a meeting; let it be at your own house if you please. Where is the impropriety? If you grace not the court, which hundreds may rejoice at, why refuse attentions that are most due to you? I wish not to be considered here in my public character—much less by you—than as any other private gentleman whose eyes and whose heart assure him you are most worthy his regard.  I esteem a character that I would not injure; report says yours is faultless as your form. Allow me, permit me, a further knowledge of you; you will not find me, I trust, undeserving of your good opinion, but that I shall always remain
Your devoted and admiring
WALES

FROM MRS. FITZHERBERT
Surprised that I was not at the ball! Recollect your letter in the morning: it is impossible to see you with indifference. What then was I to expect? No one thing that I wished. You imagine, I doubt not, that my vanity would have been so well gratified that reason would have been silent. Had I suffered the woman wholly to prevail, this must have been the case; but a thousand combining circumstances have almost quelled the foibles of my sex, and vanity you must suppose dead in me when I withdraw thus from your notice. And yet I wish your friendship, am deeply interested in your fame, and desire most ardently that you may be as eminent in goodness as in rank.  I cannot receive your visits; the family I am with would leave the place immediately on such an event. They are what the world calls extreme good people—what I should call outrageous. They are not of the number of your friends.  Your first unfortunate vote in the house against our gracious Sovereign they will never forgive, and it is vain that I urge the impetuosity of youth, that love of independence so natural to all, that you gave not that vote from reason. I dare believe you never thought about it.  F. [Fox] desired it, and you was glad to appear to have a will of your own.  But why enter I into politics, yet you make me a politician. I was violent for P. [Pitt] ; I now dislike him, but like not F. [Fox] notwithstanding.  A man of bad private character, though of the greatest talents, and blest with uncommon genius, can never deserve the love of a worthy heart.  I took an airing last night, and paid a very stupid visit, yet was I not dissatisfied.  It was a proper sacrifice to prudence.  I am now going a-sailing. Our party is large, the day is fine, and the gale favourable. If you write again, be cautious how your letter is given me. I think it needless to desire you to destroy mine. They have no merit to entitle them to preservation; and as they are not directed or signed with my real name, I think they can never be made public. Yet I am not without fear. Such trash would be a treasure to the printer, and the very initials of your name would sell a book wonderfully.
Adieu.

The letters show Mrs. Fitz to be feisty, intelligent and artful.  I find her endearing and interesting in the extreme.  Note her prophetic last sentences!

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