Artist: Guy Stauber
Title: A Glass of Brandy
Location: Brunswick House, Brunswick Place, Southampton, SO15 2AP
Commissioned by: Empiric (Southampton) Limited
Bespoke artworks by Southampton based Graphic Artist and Illustrator, Guy Stabber that respond to and communicate the sites history to give the site’s new residents, local people and visitors a unique artistic interpretation on the sites past.
There are two locations for the artwork; the first is along the third floor balcony and the second is on the ground floor on prominent windows. The third floor balcony has 16 panels, there are images cut through these panels which are backlit at night time to reveal a range of icons that are repeated in the background of the main illustration on the ground floor, thus providing a link between the two sites.
The large ground floor window panels adjacent to the pavement display the main illustration, including an information panel on the history of the site.
The brief for the artwork stipulated that the design and materials must be: low maintenance, be constructed of hard wearing material and that the relationship between George IV and Caroline of Brunswick was paramount to the design. Below is a little about the history of their relationship that informed the public artwork.
In Georgian and regency times, streets and new developments were often given royal or aristocratic names in a display of patriotism, as such an association was believed to provide a ‘good address’ and assist to ‘gentrify’ the location. This was the case with Brunswick Place as the road was named after Caroline of Brunswick.
Caroline was married to Prince George of Wales in 1795, later to become King George IV, in a strategic marriage to assist Britain build allies across Europe as the empire expanded.
Their marriage was disastrous from the outset, with George IV infamously exclaiming on his first meeting with Caroline “… I am not very well, pray get me a glass of brandy”.
Caroline was not impressed with George either and told a friend “the Prince is very fat and he’s nothing like as handsome as his portrait.”
They despised each other and George IV vowed she would never be the queen, and insisted on a divorce. However, Caroline became a popular public figure in the growing radical movement of the time causing the government to withdraw the divorce.
In a letter to a friend, George claimed that the couple only had sexual intercourse three times and wrote, “… It required no small effort to conquer my aversion and overcome the disgust of her person.” Caroline claimed George was so drunk on their wedding night that he “passed the greatest part of his bridal night under the grate, where he fell, and where I left him”.
Jane Austen even wrote about Caroline, in a letter to a friend: “Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman and because I hate her Husband.”
During the development of Brunswick Place, John Simpkins who rented and developed the land referred to the area as “ripe for development and genteel residences” and offered patronage through naming the road after Caroline who had recently married into the royal family.