The Hampshire Seat of King George IV as Prince
of Wales (later, Prince Regent), 1788 to 1795

Home      4 Farewell Kempshott


Background, Acquisition, Separation
The idea of the Prince of Wales purchasing the Kempshott Estate in 1795, became just one of three possibilities, however, during that year.  Towards the end of March, the Prince was 'in treaty' for Penton Lodge near Andover,1 'Mr Powlet's place', some twelve miles west of Kempshott.  The catalyst for the third option was one paragraph in a letter from the Queen on 30 June 1795.  She mentioned that 'Mr Drummond of the Grange is reported to be dead... [It is] a good house & fine place ready at hand'.2  Drummond's executors needing finance to satisfy accumulated debts sought a lessee for The Grange, Northington, some eight miles south of Kempshott.  The suitability of this mansion of nearly fifty rooms led the Prince, by 19 October, to take a twelve-year lease of the fully furnished Grange and 660 acres, at a yearly rent of £900,3 and paying an additional £5,000 for the stock and fixtures.  The beer alone was estimated at £500, so large a quantity was in the cellar.4
 Reasons for the Prince deciding to relinquish Kempshott are conjectural.  Aborted moves by the Prince to purchase the estate and enlarge the mansion house suggest acute sensitivity to his debt crisis.  John Crooke, of course, simply may have refused to sell, leaving the Prince perhaps unwilling to prolong the tenancy of a place now considered to be of an insufficient size for a newly married heir-apparent.  The new Princess of Wales may have seized influence, perhaps wishing to consign notions of a 'bad brothel' full of French refugees and other acquaintances of her husband of whom she disapproved, to his bachelor past.  Consideration given by the Prince to leasing Penton Lodge and, later, The Grange with its much increased size, suggests the pursuance of a less expensive alternative.  The choice of the latter led to Lord Cholmondeley's 1795 memo to the House of Commons, stating that the Prince had been:
'pleased to part with His House at Kempshot in Hampshire, and having taken another in the same County known by the Name of the Grange... His Royal Highness has commanded the same to be substituted in His Public Accounts in the Place of His Estate at Kempshot'.5
The Grange, Northington, Hampshire, Early 20th Century 
Image reproduced by courtesy of Lost Heritage - England's Lost Country Houses
Relinquishment by the Prince of his Kempshott tenancy gave rise to the pursuance of certain contractual obligations.  Crooke was concerned about:
'the particular Circumstances of a Rope & Buckets of another Well, in complete Order when His R[oyal] Highness took the Place, having become rotten & useless from neglect'.
Wishing to purchase the 'Wheel and other Apparatus of the Well-House built by His R[oyal] Highness', Crooke asked 'Goodman' (? Henry Goodman of Southwood Farm or a relative) to provide a residual value - estimated to be 'about £45'.  Crooke's intention was then to pay for the well-house once certain payments seemingly owed to Crooke by the Prince had been settled.  He would then 'pay any difference that might be due, after some unsettled Accounts, which still remain in my hands, were brought forward and discharged'.6
 Failing to keep the Winslade and Dummer parish boundary ditch 'amply competent', the Prince's lease with Thomas Terry was breached.  The Prince, however, was said to have remedied the matter in 1796 by paying £50 to John Crooke 'to open a certain Ditch, and to make a Fence belonging thereto', and, if correct, had thereby transferred responsibility to Crooke.  John Crooke, however, seemingly disputed this and advised Terry to seek a remedy by applying to Lord Cholmondeley, the Prince's chamberlain and head of the Office for Managing HRH's Affairs.  Cholmondeley then referred him to General Samuel Hulse, the Prince's treasurer, to whom Terry complained of having lost 'two years rent of about 16 Acres con[n]ected'.  In his letter to Hulse of 9 December 1796, Terry quoted the lease's terms:
'and in case it shall be thought convenient to remove or grub up any live Hedge or Row on the Kempshot Estate which s[e]perates [sic] the Parish of Dum[m]er from the Parish of Winslade being the Boundary Eastward of the s[ai]d Parish of Dum[m]er, then, the s[ai]d Sam[ue]l Hulse shall leave the Ditch belonging to the s[ai]d Fence, amply competent to ascertain the afores[ai]d Parishes in Perpetuity as a Boundary etc etc'.
Terry was also owed £6.10s.10d, being the balance of an unknown settlement between one Claridge, for the Prince, and Terry, up to October 1796.  Whether he received any recompense is unclear.  Terry also had concerns about 'replanting and replacing a Wood'.7  The outcome - whether this was undertaken or whether there was compensation in lieu - again remains unclear. 
Acquired as an elegant hunting-lodge, Kempshott symbolized the Prince of Wales' early independence from the royal establishment.  This, though, was only the beginning.  To some government members the Prince's debt crisis was to render Kempshott an appealing substitute for Carlton House,8 the rebuilding and furnishing of which had contributed substantially to his financial liabilities of £630,000 in 1795.Notwithstanding a reduction in his London establishment, the Prince incurred further expenditure while at Kempshott, acquiring and disposing of Rookley House and purchasing Stockbridge House,  both in Hampshire.  Stockbridge House had been the residence of the late Duke of Cumberland, the Prince's uncle, subsequently being sold to a Mr G. Phillips. By purchasing the property the Prince avoided 'again embrewing himself in brick and mortar to erect stabling at Kempshot; Stockbridge House having convenient accommodation for at least sixty horses'.  Having left Kempshott he leased The Grange at Northington, also in Hampshire, and Crichel House in Dorset.10  Additionally, at an annual rent of £1,000, he leased the Marine Pavilion, Brighton, Sussex, from Louis Weltje (purchasing it in 1807 from Weltje's trustees for £17,000) upon which, from 1787, much expenditure had been, and continued to be, lavished.  Prudence, plainly, had proved difficult to achieve.  Should his marriage to Mrs Fitzherbert have been officially disclosed then disinheritance and retrenchment may have followed, with Kempshott Park becoming an agreeable principal residence.
Three notably contrasting women in the Prince's life had all lived with him at Kempshott House.  The first, Mrs Maria Fitzherbert, he loved; the second, Frances, Countess of Jersey, he lusted after; the third, Princess Caroline, Princess of Wales, he loathed.  All symbolized, perhaps, an ambiguous disposition towards women.  His beloved legitimate heir, Princess Charlotte of Wales, may even have been conceived at Kempshott - while the royal couple remained sufficiently physically tolerant towards each other.  Charlotte's tragic death during the birth of her first child in 1817, who also died, following her marriage to Prince Leopold,11 was a severe blow to the Prince of Wales, and must have united the estranged couple in grief, if only for a short time.  Had she lived, then, Princess Charlotte would, of course, have succeeded her father as Queen, with her issue becoming heir-apparent.  Her uncle, King George III's third son, would have remained Duke of Clarence.  Her cousin, the daughter of her other uncle, the Duke of Kent, would have remained Princess Victoria.  Princess Charlotte's untimely demise had inadvertently created three monarchs - King William IV, Queen Victoria, with Prince Leopold, now a tragic widower, eventually becoming first King of the Belgians.
'Left With the Baby', by George Cruikshank.
Cruikshank's view of the ill-fated marriage of Prince George and Princess Caroline.
Source: The Times, 64083, 27 July 1991.
'Prinny' was described by J.B. Priestly as the 'Prince of Pleasure' and 'an easy and affable prince'.  Sir Max Beerbohm declared him 'a splendid patron... Indeed he inspired society with a love of something more than mere pleasures, a love of the "humaner delights". He was a giver of tone'.  The historian and author Roger Fulford maintained that 'He did more than any other man before him, or after, to develop the art of living in England'.  Without the privileges of his birth, though, would George Augustus Frederick have found a lasting contentment as a private gentleman, openly married to a Mrs Fitzherbert - discreetly tempered by a Lady Jersey - yet still developing 'the art of living', if only at county level?  Quite probably.
The Prince of Wales having severed all formal connections with Kempshott, returned briefly in 1799 as part of his lengthy reconciliation with Mrs Fitzherbert.  With their 1785 marriage having been pronounced canonical by the Pope at or near this time, Mrs Fitzherbert had begun 'the eight happiest years' of her life.  A dinner was arranged, she travelling from the Andover home of her uncle.  Kempshott's new lessee, Lord Dorchester, in collusion with Henry [later Sir] Rycroft, effected the reunion.12  Walking through the mansion house, the couple would have been reminded of their first evening together surrounded by their chosen decorations, especially those for the drawing room, an exclusive decision by Mrs Fitzherbert.13  Their presence there, sadly, did not lead to a resumption of life at the mansion house. They may have spoken of it, but the Prince of Wales and Mrs Fitzherbert perhaps considered it best simply to leave the former royal manor of Kempshott to slip into the archives of Hampshire's rich history.
 Copyright (c) 2013 Christopher Golding