A Princely Dilemma. Elizabeth Rolls
A Princely Dilemma
MILLS & BOON
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George, Prince of Wales (future Prince Regent/George IV) and Princess Caroline of Brunswick, 1795
George, Prince of Wales, with his mistress in tow, only lays eyes on Princess Caroline of Brunswick three days before their wedding, and his resentment is palpable. Christopher, Duke of Severn, knows all about arranged marriages—his new wife’s fortune is the reason plain Linnet is wearing his ring!
Severn and Linnet must persuade the spoilt princeling and his soon-to-be bride that a paper marriage can become something more. But in trying to convince the royal couple, a tantalizing spark ignites between the duke and his convenient duchess…
About the Author
Easter Sunday, April 5, 1795, St James’s Palace
‘Severn! A moment, if you will!’
Christopher James Beaulieu, Duke of Severn, turned at the summons to find Lord Malmesbury, his face white, closing the door to Prince Ernest’s private apartments in St James’s Palace.
‘Of course, Malmesbury,’ said Severn, keeping his features blank. ‘Something I can do for you?’
‘Can you turn the clock back nine months?’
Severn blinked…having just seen His Royal Highness, George, Prince of Wales, burst from his brother’s apartments. ‘Nine months?’ His mouth twitched. ‘Has a happy event just occurred in there? Who’s the father?’
Malmesbury cast a harried look around in case any of the bewigged and liveried royal footmen stationed in the corridor had heard, and glared at him. ‘Levity, my lord duke,’ he snapped in an undertone, ‘is out of place!’ He wiped his brow with a handkerchief and, keeping his voice low, said, ‘I have just had the—’ he gulped ‘—honour of presenting Princess Caroline of Brunswick to His Royal Highness.’
Severn could only conclude that to ruffle Malmesbury’s diplomatically serene feathers so badly, the introduction had not gone well. Of course, the fact that the prince had fairly galloped down the corridor…
‘I beg your pardon, Malmesbury,’ he said. ‘I saw the prince. He seemed, er, distracted. Muttered something about being duped and he must see Her Majesty immediately.’
Malmesbury groaned. ‘I have but a moment—the king wishes to see me. Severn, he repulsed her!’
Severn thought it possible his lower jaw might not recover from the shock. He, too, shot a glance at the footmen. Stolid and unblinking, they gave not the least hint that they had any idea of what was going on. He wouldn’t have wagered a groat on that. Not after Prinny’s idiocy. ‘He repulsed the princess?’
‘Yes!’ Malmesbury gripped his arm, drew him away from the footmen. ‘Repulsed her, announced that he felt unwell and demanded a glass of brandy!’
And Severn thought he knew all there was to be known about making a disastrous marriage of convenience. ‘Er, is there something wrong with the princess, or is it just that His Highness is being—’ He hesitated, searching for a diplomatic phrase.
‘—is being a damned fool?’ suggested Malmesbury. ‘A little of both perhaps. The princess is not, I fear, overly acquainted with the use of soap.’
Severn wrinkled his nose in sympathy with his future king as Malmesbury continued. ‘But she has improved vastly, and appears willing and eager to conform, but not if the Prince of Wales continues in this wise! After he left she complained that he was not as handsome as the portrait she was sent, and that he was fat!’
‘He is fat,’ said Severn. And it was highly likely that the portrait sent had been flattering in the extreme. At least he hadn’t made the mistake of relying on a portraitist’s fancy; he’d thought he was extremely well-acquainted with his bride before offering, let alone marrying. Which just went to show how mistaken one could be…
Malmesbury didn’t even glare. ‘Lord, what a mess. Severn, if you can, try to see the prince. Represent to him the…the folly of continuing to insult his bride. She is not, I fear, of a governable or tractable temper. This, on top of sending Lady Jersey as lady-in-waiting to meet her at Greenwich.’
‘Oh, yes, he did,’ said Malmesbury. ‘Apparently the queen was behind it. And the blasted woman was late! Lady Jersey, that is—not Her Majesty.’ His teeth actually ground. ‘Furthermore she had the temerity to attempt to sit beside the princess in the carriage. Claimed the motion made her unwell if she sat facing backwards!’
‘Well, quite apart from Prinny’s rudeness in sending his mistress to receive his bride,’ said Severn, ‘why the devil did Lady Jersey accept the appointment if she can’t sit in a carriage backwards?’
Malmesbury’s smile was pure acid. ‘I asked her that myself. Anyway, look, Severn, if you can talk with the prince, try if you can to get him to see reason. He likes you. And haven’t you recently married?’
‘I returned from my honeymoon yesterday.’ And he didn’t want to talk about it to anyone, least of all Prinny. ‘I’m surprised you knew anything about it.’
The baron nodded. ‘Oh, yes. Someone mentioned it in a letter. The thing is, he might listen to you. Voice of experience and so forth.’ Malmesbury looked apologetic. ‘After all, there are parallels, if you will forgive my bluntness.’
Severn forcibly relaxed his hands. ‘At least His Highness is marrying to settle his own debts,’ he said coldly. Then, at Malmesbury’s steady regard, he sighed. ‘Oh, very well. I’ll try what I can do, but I’m not making any promises.’ Prinny, when he had a bee in his bonnet about a woman, was deaf to anything remotely resembling reason. And if Lady Jersey was pulling his strings about the princess… Nor was the queen happy about the match, having wanted her son to marry her own niece, not the king’s.
Malmesbury gripped his hand. ‘Thank you. I promised her