The Pains and Penalties Bill 1820 was a bill introduced to the British Parliament in 1820, at the request of King George IV, which aimed to dissolve his marriage to Caroline of Brunswick, and deprive her of the title of Queen of the United Kingdom.
George and Caroline had married in 1795, when George was still Prince of Wales. After the birth of their only child, Princess Charlotte of Wales, they separated. Caroline eventually went to live abroad, where she appointed Bartolomeo Pergami to her household as a courier. He eventually rose to become the head servant of her household, and it was widely rumoured that they were lovers.
In 1820, George ascended the throne and Caroline travelled to Britain to assert her rights as queen consort of the United Kingdom. George despised her, and was adamant that he wanted a divorce. Under English law, however, divorce was illegal unless one of the parties was guilty of adultery. As neither he nor Caroline would admit adultery, George had a bill introduced to Parliament, which if passed would declare Caroline to have committed adultery, and grant the King a divorce. In essence, the reading of the bill was a public trial of the Queen, with the members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons acting as both jury and judges.
After a sensational trial, which was heavily reported in the press in salacious detail, the bill was narrowly passed by the House of Lords. However, because the margin was so slim and public unrest over the bill was significant, the government withdrew the bill before it was debated by the House of Commons as the likelihood of it ever passing was remote.
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... With the failure of the bill, the radicals largely lost Caroline as a figurehead of the reform movement, since they were stripped of a cause and Caroline had no further need of them as allies ...
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