CollectionPapers of Mrs Maria Fitzherbert
Record TypeWritings (documents)
ReferenceGEO/MAIN/50201-50259, 50832-50932, GEO/ADD/29
TitlePapers of Mrs Maria Fitzherbert, 1785-1856
Date1785-1856
DescriptionThis collection comprises the following Series:

1. Papers to, from and concerning Maria Fitzherbert, 1785-1856.
2. Papers concerning Maria Fitzherbert's annuity, 1807-1830.
3. Papers regarding Mary Georgina Emma Seymour, 1799-1828.
LanguageEnglish
Extent75 documents
LevelCollection
Admin HistoryMaria Anne Fitzherbert (née Smythe) (1756-1837) was the companion and supposed unofficial wife of George IV. She was born at Tong Castle on 26 July 1756, the daughter of Walter Smythe and Mary Ann Errington, and was educated in Paris at a Catholic convent.
Maria married her first husband, Edward Weld in 1775, who died the same year following a fall from his horse. She was left unprovided for as the estate passed to her husband's brother. Her second marriage to Thomas Fitzherbert took place three years later in 1778. The marriage did produce a son, but neither son or father lived long and Maria was widowed again in 1781. However this time she was provided with an annuity and residence in Mayfair.
After she had become widowed for the second time she entered London Society where she met George, Prince of Wales (later George IV), who pursued her until she agreed to marriage. The supposed marriage was conducted in secret by Chaplain in Ordinary, The Reverend Robert Burt, at her residence and in the presence of her relatives, Henry Errington and John Smythe, in December 1785. The ceremony was conducted in secret as it was invalid under the Royal Marriages Act 1772 which stated the Prince would need permission from George III to wed. If the marriage had been valid George IV would have lost his place in the line of succession as Maria was a Roman Catholic. Although the marriage was not valid in British law, and George IV later denied it had taken place, Pope Pius VIII declared it valid.
In June 1794, after almost ten years of companionship, the Prince of Wales ended their relationship and intended to marry Caroline of Brunswick as a means of solving his ever pressing financial issues. However, he arguably never completely relinquished his affection for Maria Fitzherbert as, after the birth of George IV's only daughter, Princess Charlotte of Wales and the breakdown of his marriage with Caroline, he wrote a new Will bequeathing everything to Maria and would also go on to provide her with an annuity, although payments were not always punctual. In spite of the financial support he provided he would never reunite with her preferring the company of his mistresses, including Lady Jersey and Lady Conyngham.
During George IV's last days he kept Maria's final letter under his pillow and requested to be buried with a miniature of her eye. Upon his death it was found that he had kept her letters, which were subsequently destroyed, and William IV, who was aware of the extent of their relationship and her annuity, ensured she would be provided for until her death on 27 March 1837 at Brighton.
It was rumoured that her relationship with George IV had resulted in children, but it is not thought they had any issue. Maria did however have two 'adopted' children Mary Ann Smythe (later Stafford-Jerningham) and Mary Georgina Emma Seymour (later Dawson-Damer), both of whom she provided for in her Will.
Custodial HistoryThe majority of these records are believed to have been part of the original acquisition from Apsley House in 1912. See Series and File levels for alternative custodial history.
ArrangementThis collection is comprised of three series to reflect the separate physical location, and custodial and administrative history of the records; the original order is unknown. The majority of documents within this collection have been catalogued to maintain the physical order of the records, which is principally chronological.
Skeletally catalogued to File level, Winter 2020/2021.
Related MaterialFor further records regarding Maria Fitzherbert, see also George IV Calendar
For letters sent from Maria Fitzherbert to George FitzClarence, see also GEO/ADD/39/86-87, 105, 158, 221, 645
For letter from Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn to Maria Fitzherbert, see also GEO/MAIN/45284-45297
For letter from William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh regarding Maria Fitzherbert, see also GEO/MAIN/54371-54372, 54374-54376, 54378, 54387
RepositoryRoyal Archives
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