Married George, Prince of Wales in 1795 but he was already secretly married to Mrs Fitzherbert, only agreeing to the arranged marriage to salvage his financial position. He abandoned her just after the birth of their daughter Princess Charlotte. Caroline repaid her husband by leading a life of bawdy behaviour. Her travels took her around the Mediterranean, including Tunis, Jerusalem, Ephesus and Constantinople. In 1820 her husband wanted to divorce her so she was tried in the House of Lords for adultery, but acquitted. In July 1821 she was refused entry to George IV's coronation and died a fortnight later of shock. On her death her body was shipped back to Brunswick, her birthplace. This portrait of Caroline of Brunswick was painted after her separation from the Prince of Wales. Thomas Lawrence – rumoured to be among her lovers – depicts her here in defiant mood, her left hand and wedding ring deep in shadow. Her dress is of striking red velvet. Its ruff of fine muslin and 'rolled-up' sleeves, secured with gold braid, illustrate the popularity of the Renaissance as an influence on female court costume at this time. A tight whaleboned corset worn underneath this gown accentuates Caroline's figure. Her matching hat is trimmed with bird-of-paradise feathers and she is heavily rouged. Court fashions were often rather removed from those of the world outside; the outdated hooped dresses of the 1740s, for example, were still worn until around 1820.
Where to see this painting?
National Portrait Gallery, London
St Martin’s Place, London, Greater London, England, WC2H 0HE
If you are planning a visit to see this painting, check with the collection first. Paintings can be moved at short notice.