Major George Hanger regards himself one more time in the hallways gilt framed mirror “A
fine figure sir, most fine” It’s the birthday celebrations of his highness,
the Prince Regent and the ballroom beyond is filled with a glittering array of societies
finest. A perfect setting in which to make his debut
at court. Hanger strides into the room, head held high
and the elegant dancing figures pause for a breathless moment and stare open mouthed.
“What the fuck is that fellow wearing?” George has newly returned from fighting – with
some distinction- in the American Revolution. His regiment however were Hessian Jaegers
and while these German troops possess an admirable reputation in battle, their dull green uniforms
and wide brown-leather belts make a decidedly rustic contrast to the finely cut scarlet
of the English officers. To the assembled revellers he looks like gamekeeper
trying to hunt a particularly elusive pheasant Although the woman on his arm, Miss Gunning,
is a bit of stunner. Oblivious to the chortles, as the orchestra
begins to play, Hanger and his companion commence dancing the minuet.
Unfortunately, Georges clod-hopping attempts at gliding across the floor coupled with the
habit of waving his ridiculously plumed hat in the air every five seconds is the cue for
even more mirth at his expense. Breaking into a vigorous country dance complete
with flailing arms, is the final straw, George notices the Prince Regent himself is trying
to stifle his laughter and even the beauteous Miss Gunning is openly giggling.
This is not the impression he was hoping to make.
People don’t usually take the mickey out of thin skinned George. As a student in Germany
he had taken part in three duels before his twentieth birthday.
Running away to join the Prussian army had curtailed an academic career that had more
to do with fox hunting and Skirt chasing than book learning – although serving King Frederick
had given him an impressive knowledge of German swear words and taught him how to drink like
a beer-hungry salmon. That said, he was no stranger to mockery.
Returning to England and the army of King George he’d married a pretty and vivacious
wildcat of a gipsy girl. His fellow officers nicknamed her “The lovely
Aegypta of Norwood” on account of her exotic looks and less than exotic address.
They continued to laugh when, despite love sick Georges most valiant efforts, she ran
away with an itinerant, bow � legged tinker who was visiting the area repairing pots and
pans. Briefly forswearing women in favour of high
fashion, George ran up huge clothing debts and wisely took to high stakes gambling in
order to pay them off. However, strutting around in the latest neck
cloth, moaning bitterly about lecherous tradesmen and betting on anything that moves did little
to keep England�s shores safe from invasion. His superior officers took note of this and
promoted a younger man over him to a higher rank, Hanger resigned his commission in disgust,
joined the Jaegers and set sail for the Colonies. He proved himself to be a courageous officer,
earning the respect of Cavalryman and fellow roaring boy Banastre Tarleton.
Hanger once claimed that he had chased down a waggon fleeing the Battle of Camden and
bravely taken the surrender of someone’s pet monkey who for some reason was sitting in
the front seat, dressed in a flamboyant coat and hat. “I assumed he was Frenchman” Hanger
later recalled. The monkey may have joined the menagerie of
cats, dogs and other animals he kept with him in his quarters. Their shrieking along
with Hangers nonstop-and vocal- sexual athletics led to a string of complaints from sleep deprived
neighbours. Coming down with yellow fever- possibly brought
on by exhaustion – he became an enfeebled human skeleton who had to be turned over by
his servants because he was too weak to do it himself.
Near death, Hanger was carried to the Bahamas where he self-medicated with a tincture of
his own devising mixing the finest port wine with a hefty dose of opium.
It worked wonders but he was none the less ordered back to England.
Where he appears to have made quite the impression The morning after his appearance at the ball
a letter is delivered to Hangers lodgings In a nutshell it says.
“All the gentleman at Fridays ball would like to thank you for being so entertaining with
your stupid clothes and rubbish dancing, you were hilarious.
The ladies all thought you looked really dashing and not at all like a village idiot dressed
by a five-year-old. By the way, this is sarcasm, you fuckin bumpkin”.
Yours “question mark” Coincidently the same day an invite arrived
to dine with the prince at Carlton house. Hanger, so angry he could barely fasten his
necktie, takes the letter with him and shows the prince, vowing to call out and have satisfaction
from whoever wrote it. The prince admires his spunk and agrees that
he has been most dreadfully lampooned. His companions Charles Fox and Captain Morris
– who were also at the ball nod in agreement, a sombre looking Fox says that laughing at
Hanger’s dancing is particularly heinous. The prince takes the letter and looks at the
handwriting, to his amazement he says he recognises it. It belongs to the dramatist Richard Brinsley
Sheridan. In a flurry of furry hanger takes his leave
vowing to call Sheridan out immediately. His note delivered and the challenge accepted
– the two meet at the appointed place and time, the weapon of choice is pistols.
Sheridan seems surprisingly calm The prince and his friends watch from a nearby
coach as the two antagonists face each other, aim their weapons and fire.
Nothing happens The prince starts laughing as his companions
urge him to hush. The pistols are re loaded and the two men
fire again Nothing happens
By now Hanger is beyond fury “just what the hell is going on?”
His second informs him with a grin that often the third time is the charm
They fire a third time Sheridan drops on his back like a badly strung
puppet “By God, I’ve killed him”
Honour satisfied, Hanger hurriedly leaves the scene as the prince and cronies convulses
with laughter in their coach That evening hanger is once again summoned
to meet the prince “Bad business George”
The prince’s face is serious and Hanger wonders if shooting dead one of the country’s foremost
dramatist will hinder his chances of advancement. “Evening hanger”
Suddenly the dramatist in question steps out from behind a curtain and George nearly voids
his lunch into his immaculately tailored breeches The prince Regent collapses in hysterics
The pistols were loaded with blanks, the letter had been written by him and Sheridan was in
on the joke. You’ve been gulled, sir.
Hands are offered, laughter shared, cries of “Good Sport” all round and before you know
it, George Hanger – the comically dressed, bumpkin dancing prank stooge – is bellowing
out bawdy songs and finds himself enthusiastically accepted into the Prince Regents inner circle
And that’s when the fun really begins.