Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January 8, 1847 --- The Duke's Secret Marriage

Quietly, at a modest chapel in grim Clerkenwell, H.R.H. Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, takes a secret wife. 

George is the Queen's cousin and a royal favorite.  The bride is Louisa Fairbrother, a printer's daughter.  She was a very popular actress (gasp!)  A best-selling poster in London showed Louisa in her favorite role as "principal boy" in "Sinbad the Sailor," complete with faux moustache.  On her wedding day, Louisa was pregnant with the couple's third child. 

The ceremonies needed to be private as the wedding flaunts the Royal Marriage Act which would have required that the Prince get the Queen's permission, an impossibility.  The Queen had her sources and soon discovered the marriage and did not approve.  She refused to ever meet George's wife.  The marriage was declared "morganatic," meaning the sons were barred from ever succeeding to their father's Dukedom.  The children were given the surname Fitzgeorge. 

The Duke's career was not derailed; he would serve a lengthy term as Commander-in-Chief of the Queen's Army.  He kept an establishment at Cambridge House in Piccadilly but spent most evenings with his wife and family at their home in Queen Street, Mayfair.  On Sundays, they attended church together.  Louisa was not allowed to attend any Court or military functions.  The Duke explained that she preferred to remain at home "where she only sees her friends."

The marriage lasted 43 years until Louisa's death in 1890.  The obituaries were discreet.  The Times whispered, "The circumstances of her domestic life call for no long notice."  The Queen, by then somewhat softened on the matter, sent the Duke a note of sympathy.  He replied, appreciative of the Queen's concern, and "it would have been such a joy to my beloved one had she known." 

No members of the Royal family joined the procession to Kensal Green.  The Duke later rejected his space in the Royal vault at Windsor and opted to be buried beside his wife.


  1. You say: 'He replied, appreciative of the Queen's concern, and "it would have been such a joy to my beloved one had she known."' Can you tell me where this quote comes from?

  2. Sorry for the tardiness, Graham, I am traveling. The quote was taken from a book entitled Mayfair by Reginald Colby (1967, p. 91).