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Royal Weddings Come in Pairs

10 June 2018

 

The Race for a New Princess

Royal Weddings Come in Pairs

by Keith Wait

SMDG at Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare, Hampton, 9th June

A review by Didie Bucknall

Keith Wait has given us yet another enlightened historical insight into history in his latest presentation set in Georgian England in the early 1800’s. Royal Weddings Come in Pairs was performed at Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare. The Temple is in a lovely riverside garden setting and the delicious teas and cakes afterwards made a perfect afternoons’ entertainment.

The scene is set in the dying embers of the reign of George III, with the assumption of the Regency by Prinny, the future King George IV, and the tragic curtailment of nations’ hopes for the future of the monarchy by the death in bungled childbirth of Princess Charlotte. As all the remaining Princes had been happily sowing their wild oats with unsuitable women, the Royal Succession was in peril. Of Queen Charlotte’s 15 children, only 12 are alive. Norma Beresford as the Queen bewails the fact that she has 56 grandchildren, none of whom are legitimate. The race was on to find suitable princesses for the royal dukes to marry and produce an heir to the throne.

Prinny, magnificently portrayed by a suitably padded William Ormerod, is asked to give the Royal Assent to various bills, among them, dear to the royal heart, is one to set in place the Act which will later evolve into the Hampton Allotment Fuel Charity. King George I had generously endowed the later demolished St Mary’s church, and in 1830, the soon to be William IV, was to lay the foundation stone of the rebuilt church as we know it today. He also presented the church with the magnificent now newly-restored organ and he and Queen Adelaide were regular worshippers at St Mary’s.

Topical references and jokes abounded. There were preposterous suggestions that one of the Princes might marry an American. Divorced women were completely discounted as suitable wives. There were worries that we could be ruled by Brussels and that the Napoleon was trying to block our trade with Europe but that Admiral Collingwood was successfully preventing the French from fishing in our waters.

Under the skilful direction of Helen Smith, the piece was brought to life. With pieces of lace, skirts, tiaras, mobcaps and jackets the cast were transformed into their various roles. The Princes sported stunning blue satin sashes and though at first it could be confusion, it was quickly obvious which was which. Graham Beresford was the soldier prince Adolphus Duke of Cambridge with little conversation but battles and skirmishes and military daring do, Ron Hudson as William Duke of Clarence, later the sailor king William IV who, after having nine children with Mrs Jordan in Bushy House, was anxious to find a rich wife to pay off his enormous drinking debts. Happily he was saved by the lovely Adelaide touchingly played by Barbara Orr. Barbara also played Princess Augusta Duchess of Cambridge lapsing into (perfect) German in her excitement that her childhood friends were to be married into the family, popped up yet again as the Lord Chancellor. Archie McMillan was the Duke of York largely remembered for marching his troops to the top of the hill and marching them down again, was here keeping his brothers in order in giving due reverence to the office of the Prince Regent.

Gina Way was cheekily saucy as Princess Charlotte before her untimely death, Sue McMillan donned a mobcap to play the maid Hetty brimming with gossip and then transformed herself into Charlotte’s bereaved husband Leopold overcome with grief and also the physician to the King, while Sue Birks played the physician to the doomed Charlotte and later appeared in diamond tiara as blushing bride to the Duke of Kent.

Keith researches his subjects meticulously and possibly is loath to leave some facts out, but for those unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the Napoleonic Wars, so much historical information was hard to follow, however it did set the scene and the dire situation of succession that the royal family found themselves in in the death of Charlotte, the illness of the King and also of the Queen were clearly portrayed.

The pair of marriages of Duke of Kent with Princess Victoria and the Duke of Clarence with Princess Adelaide took place in July 1818 in Kew Palace and, drawing on yet another parallel with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Hetty spilled the beans to inform us that there had indeed been another royal wedding, that of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex but, as their marriage had not received the royal assent it had been annulled, their heirs were declared illegitimate and their line would die out so there could never be another Duke of Sussex.

Didie Bucknall
June 2018

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