Royal Wedding Performance Anxiety

© National Portrait Gallery, London

I thought I’d repost a quote that I featured a few years back as it seemed apt on the eve of another royal wedding. It’s from a letter by King Charles II to his chief advisor, the Chancellor, Lord Clarendon. Catherine of Braganza, the King’s new bride, was newly arrived  in Portsmouth. A quick formal ceremony was undertaken, prior to the State ceremony, to ensure that the sensitive issue of Catherine’s catholic faith could be accommodated in private. The stage was set for the wedding to be consummated. Unfortunately, Charles had been kept late in a Council meeting prior to his long journey to Portsmouth and was clearly not at his peak, luckily for him his bride had something of ‘a headache’:

XXVIII. To Clarendon, Portsmouth, May 21, 1662. 8 in the morning

I arrived here yesterday about two in the afternoon, and as soon as I had shifted myself, I went to my wife’s chamber, who I found in bed, by reason of a little cough, and some inclination to a fever, which was caused, as we physicians say, by having certain things stopped at sea which ought to have carried away those humours…

It was happy for the honour of the nation that I was not put to the consummation of the marriage last night; for I was so sleepy by having slept but two hours in my journey as I was afraid that matters would have gone very sleepily.

I’m quite taken with the idea of the entire country waiting in bated breath for report of Charles’ efforts in consummating his marriage. It was certainly causing some performance anxiety in the King. It may also be the only proof of Charles not being in the mood for bedroom shenanigans. Also, I’m not entirely sure what ‘shifted myself’ is, but I’m chalking that down to Early Modern toilet humour as well.

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Let’s hope young William doesn’t feel the weight of the nation on him on Friday night as well, or Kate for that matter.

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For more witty interplay between Charles and his Chancellor, see this post that I wrote a while back (HERE).

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