Abstract

This article explores the intense and ultimately embittered relationship between Frederick, prince of Wales and John, Lord Hervey, Vice-Chamberlain to Frederick's father, George II. It is argued that an understanding of their relationship, and the possible reasons behind its collapse in early 1732, can help to illuminate broader debates about the nature of English politics and society in the early eighteenth century. The relationship highlights the continuing vitality of notions of the royal favourite during a period when court politics was being transformed by the development of a parliamentary monarchy. Furthermore, because Hervey has emerged in recent years as a key figure not only in the study of the court and politics, but also in the history of sexuality, a reappraisal of his relationship with Frederick has implications for our understanding of aristocratic libertinism, sexual attitudes, and male friendship. The article goes on to consider the Patriot opposition attacks on Sir Robert Walpole and his supporters, popular concern over the rise of sodomy, and the construction of Hervey as a sexual deviant in the writings of figures such as William Pulteney and Alexander Pope. Thus, Frederick's and Hervey's relationship also offers a case study in the interaction between the court, the opposition, and popular opinion at a moment when the development of the public sphere was forcing the early Georgian monarchy to engage, in ever more subtle ways, with its image.

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