You never know what will turn up when cataloguing the Mayor’s Receipts and none more interesting than those of 1813/14. The first glimpse into something of interest were two receipts for payment in 1813, one for apprehending the alleged Duke of Brunswick as a possible French prisoner of war and the second paid to the Sergeant at Mace for hire of horses and looking after the Duke. However, it is in the following year’s accounts where the story fully unfolds.
The receipts for July 1813, paid in 1814, add more information to this unusual story. It would appear that the Prince of Wales, later to become George lV, was on a tour of Wales and his brother in law, the Duke of Brunswick, was travelling to meet his relation. As a foreigner in town with no proof of who he was, Messrs Wingfield, Barber and Williams, the Mayor’s Officers, detained him and held him at the Lion Inn, who ‘being unfurnished with the usual passport was mistaken for a French Officer having broken his parole’.
The difficulty was, in an age long before photographs, that nobody knew what the Duke of Brunswick looked like. A letter was sent to the Honourable Mr Jenkinson, asking him to come to Shrewsbury and identify the prisoner. As he was unable to come Mr Forrester was asked, and he was able to confir
m, ‘from conversation’, that the Duke of Brunswick was who he said he was, despite them never actually having met before. Lord Liverpool was advised of the subject and the King’s messenger delivered a passport to the Duke with a letter from the Lord Viscount Sidmouth, His Majesty’s Principal Secretary at State for the Home Department, approving the steps which had been taken and authorising the Duke’s release.
The matter didn’t end there. The Mayor wrote a ‘long letter’ to the Earl of Powis, the Recorder, of all the circumstances of the case. The Earl had to attend Lord Sidmouth and the Prince Regent to explain the matter to their satisfaction. The Mayor also wrote to Lord Sidmouth regretting that the Duke had been detained and enclosing a statement from those who had apprehended him.
Letters were sent to Mr Wingfield, Mr Barber and Mr Williams suggesting that if £100 were paid to Salop Infirmary no legal proceedings would be taken as no disloyal or improper motives were the reason for detaining the Duke. Mr Jenkinson received a letter from the Duke thanking him for the ‘polite attention paid to him’ and this put an end to the matter.
Julie Burden, Volunteer