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  • Writer's pictureClyve Rose

A Delicate Investigation - #NewRelease for Summer

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

The third instalment in my Regency spy series appears in the #1 bestselling collection Summer Secrets of the Soho Club. My novella, A Delicate Investigation is available now - and just made the #1 Bestseller list on Amazon in its first week - a first for me and thank you all!

As before, this novella contains a secret spy link to my 2 PREVIOUS SPY STORIES FOR FREE. The link only appears in this collection, which is only available for a limited release.

Like my other spy stories, it's based on real rumours - and documented scandal. While many in the world were glued to the internet and TV sets on 6 May, 2023, watching the coronation of King Charles III, I was researching about another coronation - one that never actually occurred.

Queen Caroline, the Injured Queen of England:

On 8 April 1795 the Prince of Wales (later the Regent) married his cousin, Princess Caroline of Brunswick. The Regent wasn’t much of a husband and installed one of his mistresses, Francis de Villers (Countess of Jersey) as Caroline’s Lady of the Bedchamber. Lady Jersey was one of the founders of Almack’s and ran ton society as well as Wellington ran the army. No one socialised with anyone Lady Jersey disliked, and kept their social standing. This included the Regent’s new wife.

The new Princess of Wales grew so unhappy she set up a separate household on the outskirts of London, becoming a social pariah. Lady Jersey encouraged her friends and acquaintances to spy on Caroline and spread rumours regarding ‘her low behaviour and associations’. One persistent bit of gossip from 1806 in which Lady Jersey delighted, was that Caroline bore an illegitimate child, one William 'Billy' Austin.

Innuendo & Rumours:

The Regent insisted Parliament investigate. In what’s known as the ‘Delicate Investigation’ they interviewed Caroline’s household but couldn’t find clear evidence of adultery. What is known, is that Princess Caroline fostered several children from families in straitened circumstances. The most well-known of these is Mr William ‘Billy’ Austin, fostered with Caroline since 1802.

At the same time, she also opened her home to a little girl: Edwinna Ward. Caroline was, by all accounts, a loving mother. Her life of social isolation was so intolerable that she accepted an offer from Parliament to relocate to the continent, in exchange for an annual stipend. She eventually set up home in Milan, Italy. It’s assumed she took her foster-children with her.

Her new establishment included an Italian soldier, Bartolomeo Pergami. He was married and had a daughter, Victorine. His entire family (sans wife) became part of Caroline’s household. Pergami was her most intimate friend. Whether they were lovers or not remains unclear (though Lord Byron declared it true). From 1815-1817 Westminster investigated such reports via a team of gentlemen known as The Milan Commission. Their findings consisted of observations, statements from servants, neighbours, and guests of the princess. Not all of this 'evidence' was true. Servants could be bribed (by either side) to make false declarations and Caroline's political influence didn't match the Regent's.

The Milan Commission:

The gathered papers were nevertheless sent home to England as 'evidence', and a precise duplicate of each document was created. The documents were purportedly kept in identical green bags (these feature heavily in my novella). A discreet company of fifteen lords were directed to study the evidence and determine whether or not Caroline had imperilled the morality of the nation by indulging in ‘improper relations with a man of low birth’.

Meanwhile, in January 1820 King George III died. The Regent assumed the throne and became King George IV. Caroline began the journey back to England, expecting to be recognised as the Queen she now was. Instead, King George used the evidence gathered in his first investigation, as well as the reports from his Milan Commission, to push for an annulment on the grounds of his wife’s adultery (his own numerous affairs were never mentioned).

From July to November 1820, Parliament debated what’s now known as the Pains & Penalties Bill. This amounted to a public trial of the queen, and her household. All were questioned before Parliament – even the little girl Victorine. The conservatives supported dissolving the marriage; the whigs supported the queen. Most of the mastheads also supported the queen. Caroline became a symbol of the inequity of divorce laws in the country at the time, and then a focal point for the nation’s disdain for their king’s excesses.

The bill passed with such a narrow margin that the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, withdrew it, fearing further civil unrest. Then came Christmas 1820, and January 1821 – when King George IV ordered Caroline’s name removed from the liturgy. The people were forbidden to pray for her wellbeing. Lord Liverpool also advised Caroline against attending the coronation on 19 July, 1821.

Her Failed Coronation:

Nevertheless, Caroline donned her coronation robes and attempted to enter Westminster Abbey. She was barred entry at every turn and had the doors of Westminster Hall slammed in her face. Queen Caroline was never formally crowned. She returned to Brandenburgh House that afternoon and reportedly fell ill. Within three weeks, she was dead.

Public sympathy for Caroline was at such a height that her funeral cortege was rerouted by rioting citizens. The people wished an opportunity to farewell a woman they believed had lived for them and suffered at the hands of her husband. Her body was returned to Brunswick for burial. She requested the following inscription attached to her coffin:

Here lies Caroline, the Injured Queen of England.

Lord Liverpool himself intervened to prevent this, fearing more riots. Caroline’s estates and wealth were inherited by her legatee, William Austin. Sadly, he ended his life in an asylum.

Her jewels were left to Victorine Pergami. No mention is made of Edwinna Ward, or the bags of evidence gathered by the Milan Commission. To this day, no one knows what became of either...

...which didn't stop me wondering.

Real Characters:

The following characters in A Delicate Investigation are based on real historical personalities:

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