How a son of Aveley kept the Queen at bay!

  Posted: 13.10.21 at 15:32 by The Editor

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In the latest of her features reflecting on historical gems from Thurrock and wider Essex, Nub News correspondent Sue Yates (the chair of Thurrock Historical Society) tells the story of a day never to be forgotten by an otherwise dull man who stood his ground on his King's command and kept a Queen at bay.

SIR Thomas Barrett-Lennard of Belhus, Aveley, was born on 6 January 1762 and was Lord Dacre’s natural son by Elizabeth FitzThomas. Because of his illegitimacy he could not inherit the title of Lord Dacre but was made a baronet in his own right in 1801. Thomas lived a long, if uneventful life - except for one day.

That day was 19 July 1821 - King George IV’s coronation - which I am sure he never forgot.

The Prince of Wales, son of George III, had run up large debts amounting to £630,000 and as a result he agreed to marry Caroline of Brunswick to placate Parliament. Caroline was short, fat and ugly, but then George was no oil painting.

She never changed her undergarments, and rarely washed. Her body odour was overwhelming and after embracing her he went to the far end of the room claiming he felt ill and demanded a large glass of brandy.

He continued to drink brandy until their wedding three days later. In fact he was so drunk that on his wedding night, 8 April 1795, he collapsed into the bedroom fireplace and remained there until the following morning.

Caroline did however, become pregnant with their only child Princess Charlotte. George found Caroline so disgusting that he refused to live with her.

A year after the wedding he sent her a note saying she could do as she liked. Caroline took him at his word.

Over the next few years Caroline was accused of several accounts of infidelity. She was popular with the public but George was not. In 1814 Caroline left the country to live abroad running up debts all over Europe and allegedly having several lovers.

Aware of George’s impending coronation she returned to England in 1820 despite being offered cash to stay away.

George was adamant that she should not be crowned his Queen so asked his ministers to strip her of the title.

A Bill to this effect passed through the House of Lords but was not presented to the House of Commons.

The coronation was a very extravagant affair costing £230,000.

George had a new crown created which contained 12,000 diamonds! The ageing and overweight King perspired excessively in his thick velvet coronation robes and his long curled wig and plumed hat. He got so hot that he used 19 handkerchiefs to mop his brow.

In order to make sure Caroline did not get in to Westminster Abbey for his coronation attendees were given tickets and security was strictly observed. No ticket, no entry.

Sir Thomas Barrett-Lennard was deputised to guard a side door to the Abbey. He went outside the Abbey to get a breath of air when Caroline and her Chamberlain, Lord Hood, arrived at the side door.

The Queen threw back her veil and said: “Sir Thomas Lennard I have seen you at Southend; know me now as the Queen of England. As your Queen then I command you to afford me ingress to the church by that private door.”

“May it please your Majesty,” replied Sir Thomas bowing very low at the same time, “though it is well known that I sympathise with your cause, the word of honour of an English gentleman must not be broken, and all the Royalty of Europe could not make me do so.

“In everything else I am your Majesty’s most faithful servant”.

The Queen was turned away and left without gaining entry.

It is interesting to speculate what might have happened had Sir Thomas not stood his ground and let the Queen in to the Abbey. What did happen was Caroline fell ill that night vomiting and with an erratic pulse. She died three weeks later. The exact cause of her death was never ascertained.

Caroline thought she had been poisoned and died aged 53 on 7 August 1821.

She is buried in her native Brunswick and her tomb is inscribed “Here lies Caroline, the injured Queen of England.”

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