Source: South London Press via Lavender Hill Library, Wandsworth
SOUTH LONDON AND THE LATE DUKE OF BRUNSWICK
Many hundreds of our local readers will peruse with avidity and wonderment the details of the sumptuous funereal formalities which the Genevese, in obedience to the late duke's will, are now hurrying forward, while for some no doubt the knowledge will be familiar that for a considerable period that eccentric nobleman resided in South London.
For the benefit of those to whom the fact is "not generally known", and with a view to their general entertainment, we would direct the attention of the many wayfareres who daily promenade the Wandsworth-road to the site of the mansion formerly occupied by the deposed duke and Frederick William, his father, and in which the present duke spent no brief period of his earlier days.
Situated immediately between the Nine Elms goods yard and the premises erst occupied by Price's Patent Candle Company, and more recently by the Lambeth Guardians as an auxiliary workhouse, stand "Brunswick House" and "Brunswick Lodge", which will be easily recognised by their substantial appearance, partaking rather of the family-mansion school of architecture than evincing any eminently ducal bearing. It will also be within the memory of many now living when the ground within which both the present "Brunswick House" and "Brunswick Lodge" now stand enclosed the far more palatial residence of the family of that eccentric nobleman whose recent demise and more than regal wealth are attracting such universal attention, and whose vagaries and eccentricities, when living, rendered him, whether driving in the Parisian "Bois de Boulogne", or when strolling along the fashionable promenades of our more prosaic and staid metropolis, "the observed of all observers". Frederick William succeeded to the duchy in 1806, but in 1807 it was seized by Napoloeon, and presented to his (Napoleons's) brother, Jerome, as part of his kingdon of Westphalia. It was then the duke who was nephew of George III, and brother-in-law of his son, afterwards George IV, came to England, and resided until the recovery of his duchy in 1813, in the Wandsworth-road, at a mansion of which the chief portion is now occupied by the London and South-Western Railway Institution. Two days before the battle of Waterloo the Duke Frederick William was killed at Quatre Bas. His son, Charles II, the late duke and subject of our notice, succeeded, but was expelled by his subjects in 1830; and he, like his father, took refuge in England. His brother Augustus, the present duke, resided with his brother and father at the mansion now called "Brunswick House", the two sons being both pupils at that time of Mr Wagner, the predecessor of Dr. Fraser Halle, and principal of the South Lambeth Grammar School, the school being at that time known by the name of "Brunswick House", having been so called in compliment of Mr Wagner's pupils. Wagner afterwards joined the literary staff of Galignani's Messenger, at that time a journal of considerable repute. His successor, Dr Armstrong, a distinguished scholar (pensioned by Lord Palmerstone, and his widow by Mr, Gladstone), discontinued the name of Brunswick House, and his successor, Dr Frase Halle, suggested that the old mansion of the duke should bear that designation, a suggestion which was adopted many years since by the then committee of the Literary Institution. It should also be mentioned that it was, too, at this mansion that the popular and much-beloved Princess Charlotte of Wales, daughter of George IV, who would, had she lived, ascended the English throne amid the acclamations of the people, also resided; her mother, the ill-fated Caroline, being sister of the then Duke of Brunswick. Both her father and her mother fell fighting against Napoleon, the former at Jena, in 1806.
It would have been a great pleasure to have closed this semi-obituary notice with an eulogistic narration of the good qualities and illustrious career of the late representative of the Duchy of Bruswick, but truth compels that we should only speak of him as fickle in mind, inconstant in friendship, and eccentric to the utmost verge of pompous and ridiculous vanity; the one redeeming point in a career which tended only in life to dim the lustre of a time-honoured duchy being the testamentary disposal of his vast wealth in favour of the city of Geneva, which has been aptly termed the "Queen of the Leman"; and we can only hope that in the hands of the thrifty and enlightened Genevese the immense wealth, amounting, it is said, in all to 200,000,000 francs or £8,000,000 sterling, will not have been amassed in vain. We hear, in fact, that the city authorities have already commenced the preliminary plans for putting their house in order, and if the laudably-arranged programme is carried out in detail, the utilitarian purposes to which the fortunately-derived revenue is being applied by the good people of Geneva, will go far to blot out and atone for the expenditure of its former owner on the "pomps and vanities" of which he was so great a lover.