Maria, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh
|Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh
Portrait by Joshua Reynolds
|Spouse||James Waldegrave, 2nd Earl Waldegrave
Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester
|Issue||Elizabeth, Countess Waldegrave
Charlotte, Duchess of Grafton
Lady Anna Seymour
Princess Sophia of Gloucester
Princess Caroline of Gloucester
Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester
10 July 1736|
St. James', Westminster, Middlesex (now London)
|Died||22 August 1807
Oxford Lodge, Brompton, Middlesex (now London)
Maria Walpole (10 July 1736 – 22 August 1807), the Countess Waldegrave and Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh, was a member of the British Royal Family, the wife of Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh. Her marriage to the Duke without the knowledge of King George III led to the passing of the Royal Marriages Act 1772.
Maria Walpole was the daughter of Edward Walpole and Dorothy Clement. Her grandfather was Robert Walpole, considered to be the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1721–41). She grew up at Frogmore House in Windsor, but her parents were not married, and her illegitimate status hindered her social standing despite her family connections.
- Lady Elizabeth Waldegrave (1760–1816) who married her cousin, the 4th Earl Waldegrave
- Lady Charlotte Waldegrave (1761–1808) who married the 4th Duke of Grafton
- Lady Anna Seymour (1762–1801) who married Admiral Lord Hugh Seymour, son of Francis Seymour-Conway, 1st Marquess of Hertford. Anna and Hugh were the great-grandparents of Charles Spencer, 6th Earl Spencer, who was the great-grandfather of Diana, Princess of Wales. The Earls Spencer are descended from John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough; the Seymour-Conways are descended from Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset.
Duchess of Gloucester
On 6 September 1766 she married Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, at her home in Pall Mall, London. The Duke was a brother of King George III. The marriage was conducted in secret as the British Royal Family would not have approved of a marriage between a prince and a widow of non-royal rank and illegitimate birth. They lived at St Leonard's Hill in Clewer, near Windsor, and had three children.
- Princess Sophia of Gloucester (1773–1844)
- Princess Caroline of Gloucester (1774–1775)
- Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh (1776–1834)
The marriage to a commoner of the Duke's other brother, the Duke of Cumberland, led to the passing of the Royal Marriages Act 1772, which required all the descendants of George II to seek the sovereign's approval before marriage. It was only in September 1772, five months after the passage of the Act, that the King became aware of Prince Henry's marriage to Maria. As the Act's provisions could not be applied retroactively, Maria and the Duke's marriage was considered valid. Due, however, to the anger of her brother-in-law at the marriage, she was never received at court.
Titles and styles
- 10 July 1736 – 15 May 1759: Miss Maria Walpole
- 15 May 1759 – 28 April 1763: The Right Honourable The Countess Waldegrave
- 28 April 1763 – 6 September 1766: The Right Honourable The Dowager Countess Waldegrave
- 6 September 1766 – 25 August 1805: Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh
- 25 August 1805 – 22 August 1807: Her Royal Highness The Dowager Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh