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Maria Fitzherbert (Maria Anne Fitzherbert, born Smythe; 26 July 1756 – 27 March 1837), was the first woman with whom the future George IV undertook a wedding ceremony, and his companion for a large part of his adult life. However the marriage in the UK was invalid under English civil laws concerning royal marriages and she never became queen or acquired any other title. Pope Pius VII, nevertheless, declared the marriage valid.

Early life

Maria Anne was the eldest child of William Smythe of Brambridgemarker, Hampshire, and Mary Ann Errington. Her paternal grandparents were Sir John Smythe, 3rd Baronet, of Acton Burnellmarker, Shropshiremarker, and Constantia Blount. Her maternal grandparents were John Errington of Beaufront, Northumberlandmarker, and Maria Levery (Maria was also mother to Charles William Molyneux, 1st Earl of Sefton by her third marriage). She was educated in Parismarker.


She was married to Edward Weld, 16 years her senior, a rich Catholic landowner of Lulworth Castlemarker in July 1775. Maria Anne soon became a widow, as Weld died just three months later after falling from his horse.

She was married a second time, three years later, to Thomas Fitzherbert of Swynnertonmarker, Staffordshire. She was ten years younger than he. They had a son who died young. She became a widow for a second time on 7 May 1781, inheriting a residence in Mayfairmarker and an annual income of £2,500.

The young widow Mrs Fitzherbert soon entered Londonmarker high society. In spring, 1784, Maria was introduced to a youthful admirer: George, Prince of Wales. She became the most notable royal mistress to the future George IV of the United Kingdom by marrying him on 15 December 1785, in the drawing room of her house in Park Street, London. Her uncle, Henry Errington, and her brother, Jack Smythe, were the witnesses.

The marriage was considered invalid under the Royal Marriages Act 1772 because it had not been approved by King George III and the Privy Council. Had permission been asked, it would probably not have been granted, as Mrs. Fitzherbert was a Roman Catholic. Had the marriage occurred validly under the Royal Marriages Act, the Prince of Wales would have been disqualified to inherit the Crown under the provisions of the British Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement 1701. However, since the marriage was legally null and void, the disqualification did not apply.

Relationship with Prince of Wales/George IV after his marriage

Maria and the Prince continued to see one another romantically even after the Prince's marriage to Caroline of Brunswick, and the Prince returned to live with Maria in about 1800, but their relationship had ended permanently by 1811. During this time he was also romantically involved with Royal courtesan Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey, but this affair apparently had no adverse effect on Maria's affair with him.
Following the death of George on 26 June 1830, it was discovered that he had kept all her letters, and steps were taken to destroy them. The new King, William IV, offered to make her a Duchess, a recompense for the difficulties she had suffered on his brother's behalf. Mrs Fitzherbert replied that ‘she had borne through life the name of Mrs Fitzherbert; that she had never disgraced it, and did not wish to change it’.

She is buried in St John the Baptist's Church, Kemp Townmarker, Brightonmarker.An American genealogy researcher named Bruce Shattuck alleges that a son was born to George IV and Maria Fitzherbert. According to Shattuck, this son, who went by the name James Henry Adolph Fitzherbert, was paid by William IV in 1832 to go into exile in America.

In film


  1. Richard Abbot, "Brighton's unoffical queen," THE TABLET, 1 September 2007, 12.
  2. The Line of British Rulers Broken after the Morganatic Marriage of King George IV, From old document (1940s) scanned by Bruce Shattuck April 2000
  • WH Wilkins: Mrs Fitzherbert and George IV. – London, New York und Bombay : Longmans, Green, & Co., 1905
  • Sir Shane Leslie: Mrs. Fitzherbert : A Life. Chiefly from Unpublished Sources. 2 Bände. – London : Burns Oates, 1939–40
  • Anita Leslie: Mrs. Fitzherbert. – London : Hutchinson & Co. Ltd., 1960
  • Geraldine Simpson: Mrs Fitzherbert : The Uncrowned Queen. – 1971
  • Valerie Irvine: The King's Wife : George IV and Mrs Fitzherbert. – London : Hambledon & London, 2005. – ISBN 1-85285-443-X

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