After the death of Princess Charlotte in childbirth in 1817, the British Royal family was left without a legitimate heir to the throne. Since their marriage, King George IV had felt an overpowering physical and mental aversion to Queen Caroline, his consort, and the possibility of his begetting another child on her was less than zero.
None of the King’s brothers were married. The Dukes of York, Clarence, Kent, Cumberland, Sussex, and Cambridge all began to court potential brides in earnest.
In 1818 William Henry, Duke of Clarence, who would reign as King William IV, abandoned his 20-year relationship with Mrs. Jordan, with whom he had ten children, to marry Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, a rather plain lady half his age. In short time the strong-willed duchess managed to take her husband’s finances in hand and pay off his debts through economical living. Parliament voted to increase his allowance, which the Duke, who was angling for more, finally accepted.
William was crowned King in 1830. By all accounts he was faithful to his queen. They lived a sober, almost boring life, but, sadly, their two infant children did not survive. Queen Adelaide’s strong influence throughout her marriage can be seen in this illustration.This cartoon of the Adelaide Mill, drawn by English caricaturist, Robert Seymour, shows Adelaide decreeing that the court domestics must dress more humbly:
From other contemporary pictorial skits by Seymour we learn that various changes were made in the royal establishment, and the new queen seems to have addressed herself specially to a reform in the dresses of the court domestics. On the 1st of October, 1830, Seymour represents her grinding an enormous machine, called the “Adelaide Mill,” into which the women servants, dressed in the outrageous head-gear and leg-of-mutton sleeves of the period, are perforce ascending, and issuing from the other side attired in plain and more suitable apparel. “No silk gowns,” says Her Majesty as she turns the handle. “No French curls; and I’ll have you all wear aprons.” The new queen seems also to have shown a disposition to encourage native manufactures and produce at the expense of French and continental importations. These changes were not particularly pleasing to the Conservative lady patronesses of Almack’s, who were celebrated at this time for their capricious exclusiveness. One of Robert Seymour’s satires, bearing date the 1st of November, 1830, shows us a conference of these haughty dames, who seriously discuss the propriety of admitting some lady (probably the queen) who proposed appearing at one of the balls “in some vulgar stuff made by the canaille at a place called Kittlefields” [Spitalfields].” – English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the Nineteenth Century. How they Illustrated and Interpreted their Times, by Graham Everitt
The death of King William IV in 1837 led to the long and successful reign of Queen Victoria, daughter of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent.
Learn more about Mrs Jordan in this link: The Delectable Dora Jordan