Maids of Honour Row – The Green

Maids of Honour Row

This early Georgian terrace built in 1724 for Caroline, Queen to George II. Caroline was a popular benevolent monarch who like many British queens suffered years of family turmoil. Her political mind, intellect and culture, however, gained her much respect. She can also be credited with being a pioneer of the novel idea of a vaccine over 300 years ago.

Richmond Palace was already mostly decimated when the remaining parts facing The Green were cleared in 1724 to make way for the Maids of Honour Row. They were built as three-storey, 5 window terrace houses that were to be residences for the ladies-in-waiting of the then Princess of Wales, Caroline of Ansbach.

Caroline had six maids in waiting and it is assumed there were originally intended to be 3 large houses for their use, but for some reason, a fourth was built making up No.s 1-4 Maids of Honour Row. The original palace tower at the back of number one was acquired 60 years later and linked to the house with passageways.

Maids of Honour Row, Richmond Green

The Royals themselves were at Richmond Lodge located in Old Deer Park, near to where the Royal Observatory stands. The couple had sailed to England in 1714 when Caroline’s father-in-law was coronated as George I. Two of their daughters travelled with them however their oldest son Frederick was left behind to continue his schooling in Hanover.

The couple threw themselves into their new home country, learning the language, adopting the countries customs and importantly, favouring English courtiers over their native German. These ways, so different from George’s father, made them popular with the people. By 1717, their political opposition to the King led them to be considered at the centre of opposition to the Kings governance. The situation obviously strained feelings between the Monarch, his son and daughter-in-law.

An argument over the God Parents of his newly born grandson was a final straw in family relations. The King placed his own son and wife under-house arrest, subsequently banishing them from the court. He also enforced guardianship over his own grandchildren separating them from their parents.

This caused immense grief to Caroline, having already lost a child to stillbirth her separated son fell gravely ill, dying whilst away from his Mother, An autopsy was even performed to prove illness rather than heartbreak the cause. Another tragedy befell Caroline while at Richmond Lodge in 1718, a terrible storm caused her such fright and anxiety she miscarried another child. Caroline and George went on to have 7 children who survived to adulthood.

Caroline was very clever, well-read and loved the arts. Often more favourably compared with her husband in terms of learning and culture she spent considerable time and money planning grand and original designs for her gardens at Richmond. Leicester House, which stands where Leicester Square is today, was the Prince and Princess’s London residence. They entertained important people of the day there and Caroline made great friends with future prime minister Robert Walpole.

For the sake of the country’s unity, Walpole felt relations between Monarch and Son should be smoothed. Caroline agreed, hoping a reconciliation would lead to the return of her three eldest daughters. However, negotiations with King never led to their return.

Caroline and George’s marriage was considered successful. It was completely acceptable for a King of the day to have a mistress. Caroline accepted these extramarital relations never causing a fuss or taking a boyfriend herself. She noted that she preferred to keep a good eye on her husband’s mistresses by making them her ladies-in-waiting. A notable mistress of George Agustus was Henrietta Howard who lived at Marble Hill House. She was both Lady of the Bedchamber and Lady of the Robe to Caroline.

George and Caroline became King and Queen in 1727. Caroline was left in charge as Regent several times when George was required to travel back to Hanover. The Country was safe in Caroline’s hands with her deftly dealing with diplomatic disagreements which arose. Popular with academics and the people alike, Voltaire described her like this in one of his letters.

“I must say that despite all her titles and crowns, this princess was born to encourage the arts and the well-being of mankind; even on the throne she is a benevolent philosopher, and she has never lost an opportunity to learn or to manifest her generosity.” 

Voltaire [48] 

Her quest for knowledge led to some surprising patronages. Corresponding with some of the greatest minds of the time she learnt about the newest discoveries in science. She helped to popularise a pioneering new medical breakthrough ‘violation’ an early form of immunisation for Smallpox (The plague of the time). After first testing the vaccine on condemned prisoners she inoculated her own children.

By there were no ladies in waiting still residing in the Row with all being privately let by 1734. Unfortunately, her private life in later years had also been marred by family problems. This time it was disagreements with her oldest son Fredrick. Caroline died in 1737 at the age of 54 at St James Palace.


Palaces and Parks of Richmond and Kew – Volume II, John Cloake

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