A Royal Scandal


A Royal Scandal (1997) features Richard E. Grant as Prince George, the loutish heir to the throne of England, and centers on the Prince’s notoriously miserable marriage to Caroline of Brunswick (played by Susan Lynch) in 1795. Throughout the film, we see the two royals square off with one another as George, perpetually drunk, tries everything in his power to dispose of Caroline almost as soon as they first meet. Eventually reaching a detente, Caroline agrees to living as far away from George as possible, eventually running off to travel Europe while racking up loads of debt and loads more scandal. When George finally ascends the throne as King, Caroline returns from her exile and shows up uninvited to Westminster Abbey, demanding to be allowed inside to take her place as Queen. The only way out at this point is to put Caroline on trial in an attempt to secure proof that she was engaged in adulterous affairs. This backfired, as Caroline’s popularity with the populace grew, many of the opinion that she had been scorned by her husband and his countless mistresses (and one illegal marriage).

The costumes were designed by Colin Lavers and Tina Waugh, and are pretty decent examples of late-18th-century and early Regency dress. The wigs, as is typical for this era of historical film, leave a lot to be desired, particularly George’s frizzed wig that he wears throughout the first half. Once he abandons the wig for the more natural style of the early Regency period, things improve drastically.

1997 A Royal Scandal

Irene Richard as Maria Fitzherbert, George’s clandestine wife. Their marriage, though invalid, lasted 10 years before it was annulled and George was contracted to marry Caroline.

Francis Barber as Lady Jersey, George’s mistress at the time of his marriage to Caroline, and Michael Kitchen as Lord Malmsbury, the architect of George and Caroline’s disastrous marriage.

1997 A Royal Scandal

Malmsbury’s wig isn’t terrible, I’ll give it that much.

1997 A Royal Scandal

The happy couple. Caroline’s hair is not doing it for me, but I love the dress she wears in this scene when she meets George for the first time. Note his portrait miniature, surrounded by diamonds, around her neck.

1997 A Royal Scandal

Oh my, that’s an unfortunate hairdo on the lady-in-waiting in the back. But Lady Jersey’s simple cotton dress with a striped silk overgown is fabulous. Also, note the Prince’s miniature pinned to her bodice…

1997 A Royal Scandal

A full length view of the striped gown.

1997 A Royal Scandal

This is the gown that Caroline wears to meet George for the first time, and I wish I could get my hands on a higher quality photo so I could see what is going on with the skirt decorations. Whatever it is, it’s weird, but it strangely works, considering this era was so all over the place with decorative elements.

1997 A Royal Scandal

A better view, but still not good enough to see what the applied bits on the skirt fronts consist of. I do love the long, sheer striped train.

1997 A Royal Scandal

I spent a lot of time coveting Lady Jersey’s girandole earrings and matching necklace. Would love to find out where they came from…

A Royal Scandal is currently playing on Amazon Prime Video in the States, so check it out if you want an uncomplicated, fairly slow story with decent costumes that won’t smack of effort to watch. I know that sounds like faint praise, but, well … it is.


About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Sarah has an undergraduate degree in Clothing & Textile Design and a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture, with an emphasis on fashion history. When she’s not caught in paralyzing existential dread, she's drinking craft cocktails and writing about historical costume in film and television. She's been pissing people off on the internet since 1995.

8 Responses

  1. Elizabeth K. Mahon

    I watched this years ago on Masterpiece Theatre. I thought Richard E. Grant was miscast as the Prince of Wales (George IV) and I didn’t think much of Susan Lynch either. However, I did like the fact that someone had done a film about their disastrous marriage. I think this came out around the time The Madness of King George was in theatres. Would love someone to remake this. I mean if we can have multiple films/series about Queen Victoria!

    • MoHub

      That collar is nothing compared to Nigel Bruce in The Scarlet Pimpernel.

  2. Susan Pola Staples

    I’m going to look this up on Amazon. I vaguely remember it from Masterpiece Theatre.

  3. Patrick

    Thank you so much for mentioning this film, never heard of it before. The story is so interesting and fascinating as is the fashion period (too bad that there aren’t more early regency/late 18th century films out there). Will definatley give it a try

  4. Roxana

    I remember Jane Austen writing in a letter that she supported Princess Caroline because she was a woman and ‘because I hate her husband’.

  5. Emme

    I would rather see more films about this era, this horrible marriage, and Princess Charlotte. I’m burned out on Tudor Era films and I wish the media would stop now.