Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz wife of King George III

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz wife of King George III

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (Sophia Charlotte; 19 May 1744 – 17 November 1818) was by marriage to King George III the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland from her wedding in 1761 until the union of the two kingdoms in 1801, after which she was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until her death in 1818. She was also the Electress of Hanover in the Holy Roman Empire until the promotion of her husband to King of Hanover on 12 October 1814, after which she was also queen consort of Hanover. Queen Charlotte was a patroness of the arts and an amateur botanist, who helped expand Kew Gardens. George III and Charlotte had 15 children, 13 of whom survived to adulthood. She was distressed by her husband’s bouts of physical and mental illness, which became permanent in later life and resulted in their eldest son’s appointment as Prince Regent in 1811.

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Her Serene Highness Princess of Mecklenburg
Her Majesty Queen of Great Britain and Ireland
19 May 1744 – 17 November 1818

Born
19 May 1744
Unteres Schloß, Mirow,
Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Died
17 November 1818 (aged 74)
Kew Palace, Kew, England,

Spouse
George III (m. 1761)

Children
1 George IV
12 August 1762 26 June 1830
married 1795, Princess Caroline of
Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, had issue but no descendants today

2 Prince Frederick
Duke of York and Albany
16 August 1763-5 January 1827
married 1791, Princess Frederica of Prussia, no issue

3 William IV
21 August 1765-20 June 1837
married 1818, Princess Adelaide of Saxe-
Meiningen, no surviving legitimate issue, but has illegitimate descendants, including David Cameron, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

4 Charlotte, Princess Royal
29 September-1766 6 October 1828
married 1797, King Frederick of Württemberg, no surviving issue

5 Prince Edward
Duke of Kent and Strathearn
2 November 1767-23 January 1820
married 1818, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld had issue Queen Victoria.

6 Princess Augusta Sophia
8 November 1768-22 September 1840
never married, no issue

7 Princess Elizabeth
22 May 1770-10 January 1840
married 1818, Frederick Landgrave of Hesse Homburg. no issue

8 Ernest Augustus I of Hanover
5 June 1771-18 November 1851
married 1815, Princess Friederike
of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
had issue, descendants include Constantine II of Greece and Felipe VI of Spain.

9 Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex
27 January 1773-21 April 1843
(1) married 1772, The Lady Augusta Murray
had issue, marriage annulled 1794
(2) married 1831, The Lady Cecilia Buggin
(later 1st Duchess of Inverness)
no issue

10 Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge
24 February 1774-8 July 1850
married 1818, Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel, had issue, descendants include Elizabeth II

11 Princess Mary, of Gloucester and Edinburgh
25 April 1776-30 April 1857
married 1816, Prince William Frederick
Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh
no issue

12 Princess Sophia
3 November 1777-27 May 1848
never married

13 Prince Octavius
23 February 1779-3 May 1783
died in childhood

14 Prince Alfred
22 September 1780-20 August 1782
died in childhood

15 Princess Amelia
7 August 1783-2 November 1810
never married, no issue

House of
Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Father
Duke Charles Louis Frederick of
Mecklenburg, Prince of Mirow

Mother
Princess Elizabeth Albertine
of Saxe-Hildburghausen

Sophia Charlotte was born on 19 May 1744. at the Untere Schloss (Lower Castle) in Mirow a town in the German duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz of the Holy Roman Empire.

She was the youngest daughter of Duke Charles Louis Frederick of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1708–1752 known as “Prince of Mirow”) and of his wife Princess Elizabeth Albertine of Saxe- Hildburghausen (1713–1761). Her father died when she was only eight.

Charlotte had received “a very mediocre education”. Her upbringing was similar to that of a daughter of an English country gentleman. She received some rudimentary instruction in botany, natural history and language from tutors, but her education focused on household management and on religion taught by a priest.

When King George III succeeded to the throne of Great Britain upon the death of his grandfather, George II, he was 22 years old and unmarried.

Augusta, Dowager Princess of Wales, mother of King George III, was a very dominating woman who had thwarted his son’s attempts to marry Lady Sarah Lennox.

The 17-year-old Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz appealed to him as a prospective consort partly because she had been brought up in an insignificant north German duchy and therefore would probably have had no experience or interest in power politics or party intrigues.

Her mother Princess Elisabeth Albertine died 29 June 1761 and was buried at the ducal crypt in Mirow.

The King announced to his Council in July 1761, according to the usual form, his intention to wed the Princess, after which a party of escorts, led by the Earl Harcourt, departed for Germany to conduct Princess Charlotte to England.

On 17 August 1761, the Princess set
out for Britain, accompanied by her brother, Duke Adolphus Frederick and by the British escort party. On 22 August, they reached Cuxhaven, where a small fleet awaited to convey them to England.

The voyage was extremely difficult the party encountered three storms at sea, and landed at Harwich only on 7 September. They were received by the King and his family, which marked the first meeting of the bride and groom.

within six hours of her arrival, Charlotte was united in marriage with King George III. The ceremony was performed at the Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace. Only the royal family, the party who had travelled from Germany, and a handful of guests were present. It was said “They did not fall in love and marry they married and fell in love.”

Charlotte spoke no English this was not an immediate problem because her husband and all his family spoke German perfectly. She was, however quick to learn English, albeit speaking with a strong German accent.

It was noted by many observers that she was “ugly”, had a very dark complexion and flared nostrils. “She is timid at first but talks a lot, when she is among people she knows”, said one observer

The coronation took place on 22 September 1761 at Westminster Abbey. George and Charlotte were carried separately in sedan chairs and then escorted into the abbey on foot, each under a canopy.

Less than a year after the marriage, on 12 August 1762 at St James’s Palace the Queen gave birth to her first child, George the Prince of Wales.

In the course of their marriage, the couple became the parents of 15 children, all but two of whom (Octavius and Alfred) survived into adulthood.

 

St. James’s Palace was the official residence of the royal couple but the king had purchased a nearby property, Buckingham House. The new property was relatively more private and compact and stood amid rolling parkland not far from St. James’s palace.

Around 1762, the King and Queenn moved to this residence, which was originally intended as a private retreat. The Queen came to favor this residence greatly, spending much of her time there, so that it came to be known as The Queen’s House. Indeed, in 1775 an Act of Parliament settled the property on Charlotte in exchange for her rights to Somerset House

In April 1764, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, then aged eight, arrived in Britain with his family as part of their grand tour of Europe and remained until July 1765. The Mozarts were summoned to court on 19 May and played before a limited circle from six to ten o’clock.

Afterwards, the young Mozart accompanied the Queen in an aria which she sang, and played a solo work on the flute. On 29 October, the Mozarts were in town again, and were invited to court to celebrate the anniversary of the King’s accession. As a memento of the royal favour Mozart published six sonatas known as Mozart’s Opus 3, that were dedicated to the Queen on 18 January 1765, a dedication she rewarded with a present of 50 guineas.

In 1767, Francis Cotes drew a pastel of Queen Charlotte with her eldest daughter Charlotte, Princess Royal. Lady Mary Coke called the likeness “so like that it could not be mistaken for any other person”

During her first years in Great Britain Charlotte had some difficulty in adapting to the life of the British court due to a strained relationship with her mother in law, Princess Augusta.

Her mother-in-law made it difficult for Charlotte to establish social contacts by insisting on rigid court etiquette. Furthermore, it was Augusta who initially appointed many of Charlotte’s staff, among whom several were suspected to report to Augusta about Charlotte’s behavior. When she turned to her German companions for friends, she was criticized for keeping favorites.

She favoured an informal and relaxed domestic life, to the dismay of some courtiers more accustomed to displays of grandeur and protocol. Lady Mary Coke was indignant on hearing in July 1769 that the King and Queen had gone walking through Richmond town by themselves without any servants. “I am not satisfied in my mind about the propriety of a Queen walking in town unattended.”

From 1778, the Royal family spent their time at a newly constructed residence, Queen’s Lodge at Windsor. The Queen was responsible for the interior decoration of their new residence.

Described by friend of the Royal Family Mary Delany…

Queen Charlotte endeared herself to her ladies and her children’s attendants as in this note she wrote to her daughters assistant governess…

Charlotte did have some influence on political affairs through the King, an influence she was not considered to abuse. Her influence was discreet and indirect, as demonstrated in the correspondence with her brother Charles. She used her closeness with George III to keep herself informed and make recommendations for offices

When the King had a first, temporary, bout of mental illness in 1765, Charlotte was kept unaware of the situation by her mother-in-law and Lord Bute. The Regency Bill of 1765 stated that if the King should become permanently unable to rule, Charlotte was to become Regent. This was unsuccessfully opposed by her mother-in-law, but as the King’s illness of 1765 was temporary, Charlotte was not made aware of it, nor of the Regency Bill.

In 1784 the 22 year old prince of wales met Maria Fitzherbert. He became infatuated with her and pursued her endlessly until she agreed to marry him. The marriage was not valid under English law because it had not received the prior approval of King George III and she was a roman catholic.

The King’s bout of physical and mental illness in 1788 distressed and terrified the Queen. She was overheard by the one of the Queen’s attendants, moaning to herself with “desponding sound”: “What will become of me? What will become of me?”

The night the King collapsed, she refused to be left alone with him and successfully insisted that she be given her own bedroom. When the doctor, Warren, was called she was not informed and was not given the opportunity to speak with him

When told by the Prince of Wales that the King was to be removed to Kew, but that she should move to Queens House or Windsor, she successfully insisted that she accompany her spouse to Kew. However, she and her daughters were taken to Kew separately from the King and lived secluded from him during his illness. They regularly visited him, but the visits tended to be uncomfortable as he had a tendency to embrace them and refuse to let them go.

In 1788 the royal couple visited the Worcester Porcelain Factory (founded in 1751, and later to be known as Royal Worcester), where Queen Charlotte ordered a porcelain service that was later renamed “Royal Lily” in her honour. Another well-known porcelain service designed and named in her honour was the “Queen Charlotte” pattern.

During the 1788 illness of the King there was a conflict between the Queen and the Prince of Wales, who were both suspected of desiring to assume the Regency, should the illness of the King become permanent resulting in him being declared unfit to rule

The Queen suspected the Prince of Wales of a plan to have the King declared insane with the assistance of Doctor Warren, and take over the Regency

The followers of the Prince of Wales notably Sir Gilbert Ellis, in turn suspected the Queen of a plan to have the King declared sane with the assistance of Doctor Willis and Prime Minister Pitt, so that he could have her appointed Regent should he fall ill again, and then have him declared insane again and assume the Regency.

According to Doctor Warren, Doctor Willis had pressed him to declare the King sane on the orders of the Queen. In the Regency Bill of 1789, the Prince of Wales was declared Regent, should the King become permanently insane, but it also placed the King himself, his court and minor children under the guardianship of the Queen

The Queen used this Bill when she refused the Prince of Wales permission to see the King alone, even well after he had been declared sane again in the spring of 1789. The whole conflict around the Regency led to a serious discord between the Prince of Wales and his mother.

After the King’s recovery in 1789, he remained mentally fragile, and his health was easily provoked by emotional stress. The necessity to spare the King anything that could upset him and provoke a new outburst of illness placed the Queen under considerable stress.

The French Revolution of 1789 probably added to the strain that Charlotte felt. Queen Charlotte and Queen Marie Antoinette of France kept a close relationship.They shared many interests, such as their love of music and the arts, in which they both enthusiastically took an interest.

Never meeting face to face, they kept their friendship to pen and paper. Marie Antoinette confided in Charlotte upon the outbreak of the French Revolution. Charlotte had organized apartments to be prepared and ready for the refugee royal family of France to occupy. After the execution of Marie Antoinette and the bloody events that followed, Charlotte was said to have been shocked and overwhelmed that such a thing could happen to a kingdom, and at Britain’s doorstep

In an argument the Prince accused his mother of having sided with his enemies while she called him the enemy of the King. Their conflict was publicly demonstrated when she refused to invite him to the concert held in celebration of the recovery of the King, which created a scandal. Queen Charlotte and the Prince of Wales finally reconciled, on her initiative, in March 1791

As the King gradually became permanently insane, the Queen’s personality altered she developed a terrible temper, sank into depression, no longer enjoyed appearing in public, not even at the musical concerts she had so loved, and her relationships with her adult children became strained.

From 1792, she found some relief from her worry about her husband by planning the gardens and decoration of a new residence for herself, Frogmore House in Windsor Home Park

The Prince of Wales’s debts continued to climb, and his father refused to aid him unless he married his cousin Princess Caroline of Brunswick. In 1795 the prince acquiesced and they were married on 8 April 1795 at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace

The marriage, however, was disastrous each party was unsuited to the other. The two were formally separated after the birth of their only child, Princess Charlotte, in 1796, and remained separated thereafter. The Prince of Wales wrote his last will and testament, bequeathing all his “worldly property to my Maria Fitzherbert, my wife, the wife of my heart and soul” and left Caroline one shilling.

From 1804 onward, when the King displayed a declining mental health, Queen Charlotte slept in a separate bedroom, had her meals separated from him, and avoided seeing him alone. From this time, Charlotte cultivated a better relationship with her eldest son the Prince of Wales together with her daughters Princess Augusta and Princess Elizabeth, and her sons the Dukes of Clarence, Kent and Sussex while her younger children supported their father.

King George III and Queen Charlotte were music connoisseurs with German tastes, who gave special honour to German artists and composers. They were passionate admirers of the music of George Frideric Handel.

Queen Charlotte was an amateur botanist who took a great interest in Kew Gardens. In an age of discovery, when travellers and explorers such as Captain James Cook and Sir Joseph Banks were constantly bringing home new species and varieties of plants, she ensured that the collections were greatly enriched and expanded. Her interest in botany led to the South African flower, the Bird of Paradise, being named Strelitzia reginae in her honour

Among the royal couple’s favored craftsmen and artists was German painter Johann Zoffany who frequently painted the king and queen and their children in charmingly informal scenes such as a portrait of Queen Charlotte and her children as she sat at her dressing table.

Charlotte’s last surviving dress. It is entirely made of lace, hundreds of strips of the highest quality imported bobbin lace skilfully pieced together rather than just trimmed with lace. By 1805, when the dress was made she had borne 13 living children and suffered years of trauma over the psychotic episodes and periods of virtual imprisonment of her husband.

The queen founded orphanages, and in 1809 became the patron (providing new funding) of the General Lying-in Hospital, a hospital for expectant mothers. It was subsequently renamed as the Queen’s Hospital, and is today the Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital.

The education of women was of great importance to her, and she ensured that her daughters were better educated than was usual for young women of the day; however, she also insisted that her daughters live restricted lives close to their mother, and she refused to allow them to marry until they were well-advanced in years. As a result, none of her daughters had legitimate issue (Princess Sophia, may have had an illegitimate son).

During the Regency of her son, Queen Charlotte continued to fill her role as first lady in royal representation because of the estrangement of the Prince Regent and his spouse.

As such, she functioned as the hostess by the side of her son at official receptions, such as the festivities given in London to celebrate the defeat of Emperor Napoleon in 1814.

She also supervised the upbringing of her grandchild Charlotte of Wales. During her last years, she was met with a growing lack of popularity and sometimes subjected to demonstrations.

After having attended a reception in London on 29 April 1817, she was jeered by a crowd. She told the crowd that it was upsetting to be treated like that after such long service.

The Queen died 17 November 1818 (aged 74) in the presence of her eldest son, the Prince Regent, who was holding her hand as she sat in an armchair at the family’s country retreat, Dutch House in Surrey (now known as Kew Palace).

She was buried at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Her husband died just over a year later. She is the second longest serving consort in British history (after the present Duke of Edinburgh), having served as such from her marriage (on 8 September 1761) to her death (17 November 1818), a total of 57 years and 70 days.

Places named after her include
.Queen Charlotte, British Columbia
.Fort Charlotte, Saint Vincent
.Charlottesville, Virginia
.Charlotte, North Carolina
.Mecklenburg County, North Carolina

She was an expert in the art of needlework and passed many an hour with her embroidery. As gifts to her dearest friends, Charlotte often created beautifully embroidered objects. Such as this intricately embroidered pocketbook which Queen Charlotte sent to her friend, Mrs. Delaney, with a note which said that she should wear, “this little Pocket Book in order to remember at times, when no dearer Persons are present, a very sincere well wisher, Friend, and affectionate Queen, Charlotte.”

According to Mario de Valdes y Cocom Charlotte may have had African ancestry via descent from Margarita de Castro e Souza, a 15th-century Portuguese noblewoman, who traced her ancestry to King Afonso III of Portugal (1210–1279) and one of his mistresses, Madragana (1230–?).

Margarida de Castro e Sousa genealogy and descent.

Baron Stockmar had described the Queen as having a “mulatto face” in his autobiography and that other contemporary sources made similar observations. The characteristics of the Queen’s portraits certainly had political significance since artists of that period were expected to play down, soften or even obliterate undesirable features in a subjects’s face.

Perhaps the most literary of these allusions to her African appearance, however, can be found in the poem penned to her on the occasion of her wedding to George III and the Coronation celebration that immediately followed.

The Royal Household itself, at the time of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, referred to both her Asian and African bloodlines in an apologia it published defending her position as head of the Commonwealth.

.Heike Makatsch – in Longitude (2000)
.Frances White – in Prince Regent (1979)
.Agnes Lauchlan – in The Young Mr Pitt (1942)

.Lily Kann – in Mrs. Fitzherbert (1947)
.Helen Mirren – in The Madness of King George (1994)

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Her Serene Highness Princess of Mecklenburg
Her Majesty Queen of Great Britain and Ireland
19 May 1744 – 17 November 1818

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Oh my goodness, So many children but so few grandchildren.

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