The press was divided into two camps during the Queen Caroline Affair. The Times supported Caroline while The New Times wrote in support of the government. (Robins 164) In August of 1820, shortly before the start of the trial, The Times published a ‘leaked’ letter from the Queen to King George IV. In reality, the letter was a work of fiction authored by journalist William Cobbett; however, the article accomplished its goal of endearing the public more to the cause of the Queen by exposing the ill treatment Caroline suffered at the hands of her husband. (Fraser 410)
A telling article appeared in The Times detailing the return of the soon-to-be Queen Caroline from her years abroad. The article’s mentions cries “resounding from all quarters and appearing to emanate from persons of all ages and conditions, of ‘God save the Queen’ and ‘Long live Queen Caroline.’ (Addresses to the Queen) With such a positive reaction from her people, the Queen responded to the crowd and her remarks were later published in The Times, her largest supporter in the media. Caroline spoke to the injustices rendered toward her by her husband in saying,
The general sentiment of the people respecting the Bill of Pains and Penalties has been too clearly expressed to be misunderstood. It has been universally reprobated as unconstitutional and unjust. The evidence that has been adduced in support of the Bill has admirable harmonized with its character. Cruelty and injustice are fitly attended with such bar auxiliaries as insincerity and perfidy. The charges against me originated in nothing but malice, and have been supported by nothing but falsehood.
The Times provided a unique opportunity for discourse in a public setting between Caroline and her supporters. Such discourses between Caroline and the press commonly occurred and were often published during the course of the trial.
Caroline enjoyed such popularity with the general public that it is difficult to find occasions in the press in the where she is not celebrated. An article entitled “The Queen” appeared in The Morning Post and was one of the few to condemn the actions of the Queen abroad. The article, also addressing the Queen directly, represents the more conservative members of the English population who protested the Queen’s actions as immoral and reprehensible. The article censures the Queen for her behavior as unbecoming of her station and her gender. The anonymous authors denounce the Queen and her actions as setting a bad example for her subjects, especially her female subjects. The address ends with an admonishment of the Queen for damaging the reputation of the British Empire – for although she is not British by birth, she is British by marriage and should thus uphold the reputation of her nation in all that she does. The article implies that the Queen failed to thus appropriately perform her royal duties. It is interesting to note however, that this article is one of the few that exist condemning the actions of the Queen. This implies that the majority of popular support lay with Caroline and not with her husband George.
An article titled “Address to the Queen, from the Male Population of Halifax, To Her Most [ill] Majesty Caroline, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland,” appeared in the newspaper The Leeds Mercury and is typical in its support of the Queen. The authors exclaim “our indignation and abhorrence at that system of insult and persecution, with which your Majesty has been pursued.” They emphasize their belief in Caroline’s innocence and “hope and fervently pray that your Majesty may speedily and finally triumph over your foes.” 3,572 men signed this address. They illustrate the continued support Caroline found, not just in London, but all over England.
Other Print Materials
A variety of print materials other than newspapers found themselves distributed throughout the country, especially in London. Historian Christopher Hibbert mentions, “an unprecedented number of caricatures and satirical pamphlets appeared in the shops and were sold in the streets.” (Hibbert 157) In evidence of the Queen’s popularity, only one print seller produced prints loyal to the King; all other publications supported the Queen. (Hibbert 157)
Did the press influence the outcome of the Affair?
George followed outdated rules in playing the game of politics. He believed politics took place only in the House of Lords and in his own court; his wife played by more recent rules. Caroline understood that mass media – the press – was changing the way the game was played. The articles addressed to the Queen and her responses indicate a knowledge of both her people and the times in which she lived. She understood the power of the press to manipulate public opinion in her favor. She used a language of victimization to endear the people to her cause; if the King could victimize his lawful Queen, he could also victimize his people. This fear of victimization allowed the radical Reform Movement to gain followers and popularity thereby ushering in an era of reform. This era of reform would not have been possible without the trial and (limited) success of Queen Caroline in maintaining her rights and titles, if not in practice, at least on paper.