The Prince Regent's Seal, 1785
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Provenance: Florence, Lady Head (1853-1931), widow of Sir Robert Garnett Head, 3rd Baronet, (1845-1907), and by descent to her daughter, Mary (1881-1979) who married Percy Meyrick Morris-Davies (1880-1934) of Guestling House, Sussex in 1922.
Gold mounted citrine intaglio engraved with the Royal arms of the Prince Regent as borne 1762 to 1801 - these being the royal arms of King George III differenced by a label of three points argent. Together with two early 20th century note cards bearing the die stamped address Guestling House, Guestling, Sussex. The first applied with two wax seal impressions and inscribed in ink ‘The Prince Regent’s / seal, which he / gave to Mrs Fitzherbert’. The second also with seal impression and annotated verso ‘The Prince Regent / gave this seal to /Mrs. Fitzherbert. / It assed in time Florence Lady Head / who gave it to her daughter Mary’
’The Prince Regent / gave this seal to / Mrs Fitzherbert. / It passed in time to / Florence Lady Head / who gave it to her / daughter Mary.’.
Mrs Maria Fitzherbert (1756-1837) was secretly married to the Prince of Wales in 1784. Born Mary Anne (Maria) Smythe, she was a member of an old Roman Catholic family, and at eighteen married Edward Weld of Lulworth Castle, a widower who died soon after. Three years later, in 1778, she married Thomas Fitzherbert and had a son, but the child died in infancy. Thomas Fitzherbert died in 1781, leaving Maria in possession of a house in Park Street, London, and an annual income of over £1000 per annum. At the age of twenty-seven, she came out of mourning and entered London society under the wing of her uncle Lord Sefton and her half brother Henry Errington. In 1784 at the opera with Lord Sefton she was introduced to George Prince of Wales, then aged 22. In July 1784 when the Prince of Wales threatened suicide, she agreed to accept a ring as a gift, which the Prince regarded as a pledge of marriage. She then took refuge on the continent. Eventually she was traced and returned to England in December 1785 to marry him. This despite the legal prohibitions of the 1689 Bill of Rights (marriage to a Roman Catholic would exclude George from the succession) and the Royal Marriage Act of 1772 (requiring the King's consent to the marriage of his heir). Three different clergy were approached to undertake the ceremony to be held in secret. The third parson, who agreed to carry out the ceremony, was the Rev. Robert Burt. He had been appointed one of the Prince's chaplains in about June 1784. The marriage took place in Mrs Fitzherbert's Park Street house on 15 December 1784.
Guestling House near Hastings, Sussex was the property of Percy Meyrick Morris-Davies (1886-1934) a mining engineer, educated at Rugby School, and sometime officer in Queen Victoria’s Own Sappers and Miners, Indian Army. He married (Florence) Mary Head, daughter of Sir Robert Garnett Head, 3rd Baronet and his wife Florence Julia Pollock, on 17 July 1922.
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