Brunswick Square, WC1N

Place Name

Caroline of Brunswick (May 17, 1768 – August 7, 1821), was Queen of the United Kingdom and Hanover as the wife of King George IV from January 29, 1820 until her death in 1821. She won much support and sympathy from the public as a result of the way she was treated by her husband, and as such the name was a popular choice with developers of the time. Born in the German city of Braunschweig (Brunswick in English), she was the daughter of Charles William Ferdinand and his wife Princess Augusta, eldest sister of King George III. It wasn’t a particularly happy childhood for the young Princess, spending much of it in seclusion while her father openly conducted adulterous affairs. In 1794 she became engaged and one year later married her first cousin, George, the playboy Prince of Wales. From the outset the marriage was a disaster. The Prince, who was already secretly married, and having run up huge gambling debts, was only going through with it on the promise that parliament would increase his allowance. Lord Malmesbury arriving at Brunswick to escort Caroline to her new life in Britain recorded in his diary his reservations about her suitability as a bride: she lacked judgement, decorum and tact, spoke her mind too readily, acted indiscreetly, and often neglected to wash, or change her dirty clothes. His reservations proved right and the couple separated only one year after the birth of their daughter, Princess Charlotte. Her situation, living separately to her husband, and with access to her daughter severely restricted, prompted Jane Austen to write of Caroline: “Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman and because I hate her Husband.” Caroline fled to Europe where in 1817 she received the news that her daughter Charlotte had died in childbirth at the age of 21. In 1820, with the prince pushing ahead with plans for a divorce and inciting rumours of her infidelity, Caroline returned to England to assert her position. Despite public riots in support of her, the soon-to-be-crowned King barred her from his impending coronation. She fell ill in London and died only three weeks later. The name Brunswick itself, originally Brunswik, is a combination of the name Bruno, a Saxon count who died in AD880, and Low Germanwik, related to the Latin vicus, meaning a place where merchants rested and stored their goods. Another explanation of the city’s name is that it comes from Brand, or burning, indicating a place which developed after the landscape was cleared through burning. The Square itself was built by the eminent Regency/Georgian developer James Burton in 1795. It was built on land belonging to the Thomas Coram Foundation in order to raise money for the Foundling Hospital nearby. Prior to that the land had been fields. Shirley Green in Who Owns London, says that: ‘The square’s freeholds were later acquired by a subsidiary of McAlpine, which tore down the eighteenth-century terraces and replaced them with the Brunswick Centre, a residential–cum–shopping complex that looks like a 5-storey machine-gun emplacement”’.





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