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QUEEN CAROLINE (died 1821)
The Princess of Wales goes abroad-Her suite-Her travels—The Order
of St. Caroline-Italian members of her Household-Bartolomeo
WHEN, after eight years of incessant persecution, the Princess of Wales, in dire need of rest and change, went abroad, she had at the time no definite plans as to where she would go, or how long she would remain away. She was, however, determined immediately to return to England should any further proceedings be taken against her by the Prince Regent or on his behalf, and, anyhow, of course, on the death of George III. On August 9, 1814, travelling under the style of the Duchess of Cornwall, she sailed from Worthing, and went, so quickly as might be, to Brunswick to see her brother, the reigning Duke, with whom she stayed for awhile.
Among those who accompanied Her Royal Highness were Lady Charlotte Lindsay, Lady Elizabeth Forbes, her Ladies-in-Waiting ; Sir William Gell and Anthony Butler St. Leger, her Chamberlains ; Captain Hesse, her Equerry; and Dr. (afterwards Sir Henry) Holland. Her adopted son, William Austin, was one of the party. Soon after, St. Leger having to return to England, he was replaced by the Hon. Keppel Craven, son of the Lady Craven, who afterwards became Margravine of Anspach.
It is unnecessary to follow Caroline on her travels during those six years. She roamed through Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. She visited the Near East, and proceeded to Egypt. At Jerusalem in 1816, following the example of other royal personages, she founded an Order of Knighthood, the membership of which was limited to those who accompanied her to the Holy Land. Bartolomeo Pergami was appointed Grand Master, and he and William Austin were created hereditary Knights, and Captain Howman and Dr. Mochetti non-hereditary Knights. Anything more absurd than this Order can scarcely be conceived.
The original members of the Princess's suite had, perforce, one by one to leave her, being called home by family ties or matters of business. They were replaced by Italians. This was the more unfortunate because her footsteps were dogged by the Prince Regent's spies, eager to gather evidence against her. That she was, however, aware of this is clear from a sentence in a letter which she entrusted one of these to deliver, and, as a spy would not be a spy if he did not read correspondence that passed through his hands, it is legitimate to wonder what he thought when he came to the sentence : The bearer of this letter is a person who never speaks the truth; he is a spy of the cabal.”
When Caroline was at Milan late in 1814 she asked Sir William Gell to engage a courier in place of one who had left her service. Gell enlisted the good offices of the Marquis Ghisiliari, Grand Chamberlain to the Emperor of Austria, who recommended for the post one Bartolomeo Pergami (or Bergami), who had served in the
campaign of 1812-14 under General Pino. Pergami was not the low-born scamp that it was presently endeavoured to make him out. He was a soldier of fortune, who had fallen on evil days, and, when recommending him, the Marquis expressed the hope that his protégé might later be promoted to a more responsible post.
The appointment was made, and, as it happened, was most unfortunate.
Very soon after Pergami joined the household of the Princess rumour had it that he became her lover. He was a very striking figure. “A man about five feet eleven inches in height, of a decidedly military aspect, large mustachios and whiskers, dark complexion and eyes, a bold but agreeable countenance, of robust form, and altogether of most prepossessing and gentlemanly appearance"-S0 runs one account.
Six feet high, a magnificent head of black hair, pale complexion, mustachios which reach from here to London. Such is the stork,” Lady Charlotte Campbell described him ; while Karoline Bauer, who knew more about men than most, wrote of him as very tall and broad-shouldered, with dark, fiery Italian eyes, black hair, and an arrogant smile upon his broad face. He had something savage and vulgar in his face and his whole deportment."
It goes without saying that the Princess's conduct was indiscreet. Pergami had a beautiful young daughter, Victorine, who shortly came to live with him, and the Princess of Wales, with her love of children, did everything in her power to keep the girl with her. It is to be feared that Pergami took advantage of this desire. Anyhow, Caroline promoted him, first Equerry, and then Chamberlain. She obtained for him the military order of a Knight of Malta, and purchased for him the Sicilian title of Baron della Francini. She saw to it that at
Jerusalem he was invested Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, and, as has been said, she named him Grand Master of her own order of St. Caroline. Not content with this, she surrounded herself with members of his family. His brother Louis became her Major-domo; another brother, Valotti, formerly Under-Prefect at Cremona, she made Controller; and his sister, the Countess Oldi, was attached to her suite as a Lady-in-Waiting.
Lord Spencer said that the very openness of these proceedings of the Princess of Wales cried aloud her innocence, but that certainly was not the general impression in England. It may well be that the accounts were embellished, but evidently there was enough that was true to make her friends uneasy.
There were rumours that proceedings against her were about to be instigated, but Brougham did not credit this. “ The accounts of the Princess of Wales are worse and worse; she embarked on the 17th of November for Palermo, courier and all," he wrote to Lord Grey, December 5, 1815. “Captain Briggs volunteered taking her, and if they have evidence against her, I should think he may bring her home, and not to Palermo. If they have not, the voyage may furnish it. . . . My opinion is, that they will be afraid to touch her—at least until they have the evidence of English witnesses, for no Italian would be believed ; but the voyage may supply the defect in their
Even Lady Charlotte Campbell was perturbed. However, she was somewhat comforted to receive from Como in 1817 the following letter from a friend : “I have seen the Princess of Wales. To my infinite surprise Her Royal Highness wrote and desired me to wait upon her yesterday, which I did accordingly, and found her looking well, but dressed in the oddest mourning I ever saw ; a white gown, with bright lilac ribbons in a black crape cap ! She was gracious in her manner towards me, and spoke friendly of Lady--, which I was glad to hear, as by all accounts she was much displeased with her for leaving her service. But if she was angry, her wrath is at an end. I have often observed with admiration that the Princess never retains any revenge or unkind feelings long, even towards those who most deeply wrong her. She soon forgives what she considers slights or treachery towards her, which is a noble trait, and a rare one, and which ought always to be mentioned in her honour. ... I dined accordingly last evening with Her Royal Highness. The Comtesse Oldi sat at table, but her brother did not. The Princess talked sensibly, and cautiously I should say, and appeared in very calm spirits. I watched the
I attendants closely, and could not discover any want of proper respect in their manners, etc., towards her. Perhaps they were on their guard before a stranger ; but certainly,
: as far as I could see, they were as well-behaved as possible. The Comtesse Oldi seems a stupid silent woman. Her appearance is not particular in any way. The Princess's apartments are comfortable, and altogether I was agreeably disappointed; for I own, from all I had heard, I expected to find things very different from what I did."
The spies already referred to, to justify their existence, sent home incriminating reports. As these could scarcely be acted upon without corroboration, the Baron Frederick d'Ompteda, Hanoverian Envoy at the Vatican, was employed by Lord Stewart, British Minister at Vienna, to make independent enquiries. This gentleman contrived to worm his way into the confidence of Her Royal Highness, and he did his best to earn his reward by sending mendacious accounts to London.