Fanny Burney

Fanny Burney Comments on the King and Queen

In 1785, Fanny Burney was introduced to King George and Queen Charlotte by Mrs. Delany, a confidante of the Queen.

Windsor, December, 1785 ... "I do beg of you," said dear Mrs. Delany, "when the Queen or the King speak to you, not to answer with mere monosyllables. The Queen often complains to me of the difficulty with which she can get any conversation, as she not only always has to start the subjects, but, commonly, entirely to support them: and she says there is nothing she so much loves as conversation, and nothing she finds so hard to get. She is always best pleased to have the answers that are made her lead on to further discourse. Now, as I know she wishes to be acquainted with you, and converse with you, I do really entreat you not to draw back from her, nor to stop conversation with only answering Yes, or No."

This was a most tremendous injunction; however, I could not but promise her I would do the best I could.

The Queen, indeed, is a most charming woman. She appears to me full of sense and graciousness, mingled with delicacy of mind and liveliness of temper. She speaks English almost perfectly well, with great choice and copiousness of language, though now and then with foreign idiom, and frequently with a foreign accent. Her manners have an easy dignity, with a most engaging simplicity, and she has all that fine high breeding which the mind, not the station, gives, of carefully avoiding to distress those who converse with her, or studiously removing the embarrassment she cannot prevent.

The King, however he may have power, in the cabinet, to command himself, has, in private the appearance of a character the most open and sincere. He speaks his opinions without reserve, and seems to trust them intuitively to his hearers, from a belief they will make no ill use of them. His countenance is full of inquiry, to gain information without asking it, probably from believing that to be the nearest road to truth. All I saw of both was the most perfect good humour, good spirits, ease, and pleasantness.

Their behaviour to each other speaks the most cordial confidence and happiness. The King seems to admire as much as he enjoys her conversation, and to covet her participation in everything he either sees or hears. The Queen appears to feel the most grateful regard for him, and to make it her chief study to raise his consequence with others, by always marking that she considers herself, though Queen to the nation, only, to him, the first and most obedient of subjects. Indeed, in their different ways, and allowing for the difference of their characters, they left me equally charmed both with their behaviour to each other and to myself.

Excerpt from: Burney, Fanny: The Diary of Fanny Burney. Selected and edited by Christopher Lloyd. London, 1948. p. 96-97, 103-104.

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