Today we're joined by author Vanessa Kelly, whose Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard is out this week. The book launches the Renegade Royals series, which tells the exploits of the royal princes' illegitimate sons. Vanessa is here to talk about the real-life shenanigans of the British Royals, from Harry back to George. Thanks, Vanessa!
Outrageous parties, gambling and drinking, scandalous affairs, and lots of bad publicity—sounds like one of Prince Harry’s wild weekends in Las Vegas, doesn’t it? The poor lad has largely redeemed himself since those nude pictures hit the tabloids a few years ago, but he’s had to walk the straight and narrow to get there.
Not that Harry is the only Windsor to engage in famously bad behavior. After all, it wasn’t all that long ago that Prince Charles and his brothers were kicking over the traces and giving the poor Queen more than a few gray hairs. Remember all those salacious phone calls between Charles and Camilla when Charles was still married to Diana? For those of us who do remember, we’ll never look at tampons the same way again.
Queen Elizabeth’s children and grandchildren (with a few exceptions) displayed a knack for creating scandal in their younger years, although most have finally settled down (age will do that to you). In fact, compared to some of their royal ancestors they seem quite staid—particularly when put side by side with the notorious sons and daughters of King George III. The historical lifestyle of that particular set of royals reads like a Regency version of The Jersey Shore, but with better clothing, parties, and accents (and no tans).
Fans of Regency-set romances are familiar with the Prince Regent (later George IV), who gave the period its name. This royal bad boy conducted his first affair at the tender age of eighteen with Mary Robinson, a married actress with a child. The press was all over the affair with racy caricatures and satires, not surprising since the lovers hardly kept it a secret. The prince even offered Mary twenty thousand pounds to become his mistress, a veritable fortune back in the day.
The Prince Regent was notoriously fickle, however, soon abandoning Mary and moving onto numerous affairs, some of which resulted in illegitimate children. Prinny once confessed to being “rather too fond of wine and women.” He was notorious for riding “like a madman” through Hyde Park, running with a bad crowd, and drinking until passing out (he sounds a bit like Justin Bieber, if you ask me). One senior aide to the Prince wrote that “a more contemptible, cowardly, selfish, unfeeling dog does not exist.”
But the Regent was only one of several scandalous siblings. The prince with the worst reputation was Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (King of Hanover in his later years). Unlike his other male siblings, who tended to lead very public lives of excess and dissipation, Ernest kept his private life private. But he was a cold, arrogant man, and his penchant for privacy convinced the British public that all sorts of nefarious things were going on behind closed doors. Ernest was accused of an incestuous relationship with his sister, Sophia (possible but unlikely, although the Prince Regent apparently didn’t trust Ernest around his sisters), and many believed him guilty of the murder of his valet—presumably after he cuckolded the man’s wife, although there is no evidence to support that version of events.
Then there were the ladies of the family. Unlike their hard-living brothers, the royal princesses led a much more restricted life. That did not, however, stop Princess Sophia and Princess Amelia from each having an affair with a member of court. Sophia likely had a son as the result of a liaison with one of the king’s equerries and not, as was rumored, with Prince Ernest. There is some evidence to suggest that the son subsequently tried to blackmail his royal mother, although his efforts were unsuccessful.
Historians estimate that the royal brothers (and one sister) were responsible for as many as twenty-two illegitimate children. And given their flexible sense of morality, their excessive drinking and gambling and the way they hemorrhaged public money, it’s no wonder that most of the children of George III were royally loathed.
Prince Harry and his boyish hijinks can’t even begin to compete.
Learn more or order a copy of Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard by Vanessa Kelly, out now:
Vanessa Kelly is an award-winning author of Regency-set historical romance. Her new series, The Renegade Royals, features the illegitimate sons of the royal princes, although she promises that her heroes are very handsome and not at all repellant like their fathers. Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard, book one in the series, releases on January 7th.