Pains and penalties procedure
How the House of Lords ‘tried’ Queen Caroline
in Domestic and international trials, 1700–2000

In the summer of 1820, King George IV demanded that his government secure the punishment of his estranged wife, Queen Caroline, for her allegedly adulterous behaviour. Ministers acquiesced, and introduced a bill of pains and penalties to deprive the Queen of all royal titles and privileges, and to affect a divorce. After lengthy consideration by the House of Lords the bill was withdrawn, to the King's annoyance and the embarrassment of his government. This chapter examines the bill procedure as a parliamentary phenomenon. It conferred on Parliament considerable authority, but its unusual process also subjected the legislature to considerable strain. Caroline's 'case' was one that the government had tried hard to avoid. Legally obscure, politically dangerous, and generating considerable public disquiet, it had been forced upon ministers by the refusal of both the King and Queen to compromise.

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Domestic and international trials, 1700–2000

The trial in history, volume II

Editor: R. A. Melikan


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