Princess Caroline’s Bath

It was no secret that the Prince Regent (later to become George IV) and his wife, Princess Caroline of Brunswick, didn’t get on. He hated the sight of her – though frankly he was no oil painting himself – and banished her off to the country so he could continue his philandering in peace. To get her own back, she started to live it up at her new gaff in Greenwich, Montague House – now flattened and back to being part of the Royal Park and managed to get herself ‘a bit of a reputation’ into the bargain…

Right from the start she was well aware that she wasn’t considered “the right kind of gel” in royal circles. When the Earl of Malmsbury travelled to Brunswick to collect her in the first place he had described her as dowdy, stockily built, coarsely-spoken and washing so little as to be “malodorous.” George had only agreed to marry his cousin for her cash anyway. She had arrived in Greenwich to find that far from actually greeting her himself, he’d sent his mistress to pick her up – and even she was late. As soon as he set eyes on her, the indelicate prince declared himself sick and called for some brandy. After the briefest of polite consummations while she conceived Princess Charlotte, Caroline was packed off back to Greenwich.

She held parties and soirees – very daring affairs at which she apparently wore rather less than the going amount of clothing – and at which all manner of saucy events occurred. She even had a giant bath made (at a time when few people washed at all) and threw a few bashes in that too. George became so angry (jealous, perhaps, that she was having a better time than him??) that he razed the palace to the ground, and sent her packing.

In a beautiful irony, however, the woman whose chief fault in George’s eyes was that she smelled, lives on in Greenwich, the people of which never stopped secretly rather liking this scarlet woman who brought a bit of fun to the area. The sole remaining part of Caroline’s palace is that salacious bath, situated in the southwest corner wall of the park, near Ranger’s House. A fabulous sunken affair, complete with steps leading down into it, for many years it was filled-in and used as a rather unsubtle flowerbed, until as part of the millennium celebrations, those good burghers of Greenwich, the Friends of Greenwich Park, excavated it and it is, at last restored to a dignity which it may never have had in life.

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