Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (Sophia Charlotte; 19 May 1744 – 17 November 1818) was the wife of King George III. She was Queen of Great Britain and Ireland from their marriage until the union of the two kingdoms in 1801, after which she was Queen of the United Kingdom. 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 illness and insanity, which became permanent in later life and resulted in their eldest son being appointed Prince Regent.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Marriage
- 3 Life as queen
- 4 Interests and patronage
- 5 Relations with Marie Antoinette
- 6 Husband's illness
- 7 Later life
- 8 Legacy
- 9 Titles, style, honours and arms
- 10 Issue
- 11 Ancestry
- 12 Notes and sources
- 13 References
- 14 External links and references
Sophia Charlotte was born on 19 May 1744. She was the youngest daughter of Duke Charles Louis Frederick of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Prince of Mirow and his wife Princess Elizabeth Albertine of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Mecklenburg-Strelitz was a small north German duchy in the Holy Roman Empire.
The children of Duke Charles were all born at the Untere Schloss (Lower Castle) in Mirow. According to diplomatic reports at the time of her engagement to George III, Charlotte had received "a very mediocre education".:16
When King George III succeeded to the throne of Great Britain upon the death of his grandfather, George II, he was unmarried. The seventeen 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 have had no experience of power politics or party intrigues. He instructed her on her arrival in London "not to meddle", a precept she was glad to follow. Charlotte spoke no English but was quick to learn the language, albeit speaking with a strong German accent. It was noted by many observers that she was "ugly", had a dark complexion and flared nostrils. "She is timid at first but talks a lot, when she is among people she knows", said one observer.:17
The King announced to his Council in July 1761, according to the usual form, his intention to wed the Princess.
By the end of August 1761, a party of escorts departed for Germany to conduct Princess Charlotte to England. Arriving at St. James's Palace on 7 September, the Princess met the King and the royal family. The following day at nine o'clock, the wedding ceremony took place in the Chapel Royal and was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Secker.
Life as queen
Less than a year after the marriage, on 12 August 1762, the Queen gave birth to her first child, the Prince of Wales, who would later become King George IV. In the course of their marriage, they had 15 children, all but two of whom (Octavius and Alfred) survived into adulthood.
Around this time the King and Queen moved to Buckingham House, at the western end of St. James's Park, which would later be known as Buckingham Palace. The house which forms the architectural core of the present palace was built for the first Duke of Buckingham and Normanby in 1703 to the design of William Winde. Buckingham House was eventually sold by Buckingham's descendant, Sir Charles Sheffield, in 1761 to George III for £21,000 (£2,820,000 as of 2014).
The house was originally intended as a private retreat, in particular for Charlotte, and was known as The Queen's House—14 of their 15 children were born there. St. James's Palace remained the official and ceremonial royal residence.
The King however enjoyed country pursuits and riding and preferred to keep his family's residence as much as possible in the then rural towns of Kew and Richmond-upon-Thames. He favoured an informal and relaxed domestic life, to the dismay of some courtiers more accustomed to displays of grandeur and strict protocol. Lady Mary Coke was indignant on hearing in July 1769 that the King, Queen, her visiting brother Prince Ernest and Lady Effingham had gone for a walk 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.":23
From 1778, the Royal family spent much of their time at a newly constructed residence, Queen's Lodge at Windsor, opposite Windsor Castle, in Windsor Great Park where the King enjoyed hunting deer. The Queen was responsible for the interior decoration of their new residence, described by friend of the Royal Family and diarist Mary Delany: "The entrance into the first room was dazzling, all furnished with beautiful Indian paper, chairs covered with different embroideries of the liveliest colours, glasses, tables, sconces, in the best taste, the whole calculated to give the greatest cheerfulness to the place.":23
Queen Charlotte endeared herself to her ladies and her children's attendants by treating them with friendly warmth, as in this note she wrote to her daughters' assistant governess:
My dear Miss Hamilton, What can I have to say? Not much indeed! But to wish you a good morning, in the pretty blue and white room where I had the pleasure to sit and read with you The Hermit, a poem which is such a favourite with me that I have read it twice this summer. Oh! What a blessing to keep good company! Very likely I should not have been acquainted with either poet or poem was it not for you.:72
However, the King's first bout of physical and mental illness in 1788 distressed and terrified the Queen. She was overheard by the writer Fanny Burney, at that time one of the Queen's attendants, moaning to herself with "desponding sound": "What will become of me? What will become of me?":116 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.:112–379 passim From 1792, she found some relief from her worry about her husband in throwing herself into the decorations and gardens of a new residence for herself, Frogmore House, in Windsor Home Park.
Interests and patronage
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.
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. Johann Christian Bach, eleventh son of the great Johann Sebastian Bach, was then music-master to the Queen, and put difficult works of Handel, J. S. Bach, and Carl Friedrich Abel before the boy: he played them all at sight, and those present were quite amazed. 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 fourth anniversary of the King's accession. As a memento of the royal favour, Leopold Mozart published six sonatas composed by Wolfgang, known as Mozart's Opus 3, that were dedicated to the Queen on 18 January 1765, a dedication she rewarded with a present of fifty guineas.
Queen Charlotte was an amateur botanist who took a great interest in Kew Gardens, and 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, saw that the collections were greatly enriched and expanded. Her interest in botany led to the magnificent South African flower, the Bird of Paradise, being named Strelitzia reginae in her honour.
Among the royal couple's favored craftsmen and artists were the cabinetmaker William Vile, silversmith Thomas Heming, the landscape designer Capability Brown, and the 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.
The queen also founded orphanages, and in 1809 became the patron (providing new funding) of the General Lying-in Hospital, a hospital for expectant mothers, which 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 saw to it that her daughters were better educated than was usual for young women of the day; however, she 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, with the result that none of her daughters had legitimate issue (one, Princess Sophia, may have had an illegitimate son).
In 2004, the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace staged an exhibition illustrating George and Charlotte's enthusiastic arts patronage, which was particularly enlightened in contrast to that of earlier Hanoverian monarchs. It compared favorably to the adventuresome tastes of the King's father, Frederick, Prince of Wales.
Up until 1788, portraits of Charlotte often depict her in maternal poses with her children, and she looks young and contented; however, in that year her husband fell seriously ill and became temporarily insane. It is now thought that the King was suffering from porphyria, but at the time the cause of the King's illness was unknown. Sir Thomas Lawrence's portrait of her at this time marks a transition point after which she looks much older in her portraits; indeed, the Assistant Keeper of Charlotte's Wardrobe, Mrs. Papendiek, wrote that the Queen was "much changed, her hair quite grey".
Relations with Marie Antoinette
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. Charlotte was eleven years older than Marie Antoinette, yet 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 even 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 be shocked and overwhelmed that such a thing could happen to a kingdom, and at Britain's doorstep.
After the onset of his madness, George III was placed in the care of his wife, who could not bring herself to visit him very often, due to his erratic behaviour and occasional violent reactions. It is believed she did not visit him again after June 1812. However, Charlotte remained supportive of her husband as his illness, now believed to be porphyria, worsened in old age. While her son, the Prince Regent, wielded the royal power, she was her husband's legal guardian from 1811 until her death in 1818.
The Queen died 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 at 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.
Her eldest son, the Prince Regent, claimed Charlotte's jewels at her death, but the rest of her property was sold at auction from May to August 1819. Her clothes, furniture, and even her snuff were sold by Christie's. It is highly unlikely that her husband ever knew of her death, and he died blind, deaf, lame and insane fourteen months later.
The Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia, Canada were named after her until 2010 when they were renamed "Haida Gwaii". Queen Charlotte City on Haida Gwaii was developed in 2005, and in turn, was named after Queen Charlotte as well. The Queen Charlotte Sound in British Columbia, Canada (not far from the Haida Gwaii Islands) and Queen Charlotte Sound, South Island, New Zealand were named after Queen Charlotte. The cities of Charlottesville, Virginia, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and Charlotte, North Carolina, are also named in her honour; the latter is in Mecklenburg County, also named after her, as is Fort Charlotte near Kingstown, capital of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The proposed North American colonies of Vandalia (because of her supposed Vandal ancestry; see above) and Charlotina were also named for her. Queen Street, or Lebuh Queen as it is known in Malay is a major street in Penang, Malaysia named after her.
Her provision of funding to the General Lying-in Hospital prevented its closure, and today it bears her name (Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital) and is an acknowledged centre of excellence amongst maternity hospitals. A large copy of the Allan Ramsay portrait of Charlotte hangs in the main lobby of the hospital.
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, was chartered in 1766 as Queen's College in reference to Queen Charlotte. Despite the outcome of the American Revolution, the college would remain Queen's College until 1825 when it was renamed after an American revolutionary war officer and college benefactor, Colonel Henry Rutgers. However, its oldest extant building, Old Queen's (built 1809–1823) and the city block that forms the historic core of the university, Queen's Campus, in New Brunswick, New Jersey continue to retain the historical reference.
Titles, style, honours and arms
Titles and styles
- 19 May 1744 – 8 September 1761: Her Serene Highness Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg
- 8 September 1761 – 17 November 1818: Her Majesty The Queen
The Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom are impaled with her father's arms as a Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The arms were: Quarterly of six, 1st, Or, a buffalo's head cabossed Sable, armed and ringed Argent, crowned and langued Gules (Mecklenburg); 2nd, Azure, a griffin segreant Or (Rostock); 3rd, Per fess, in chief Azure, a griffin segreant Or, and in the base Vert, a bordure Argent (Principality of Schwerin); 4th, Gules, a cross patée Argent crowned Or (Ratzeburg); 5th, Gules, a dexter arm Argent issuant from clouds in sinister flank and holding a finger ring Or (County of Schwerin); 6th, Or, a buffalo's head Sable, armed Argent, crowned and langued Gules (Wenden); Overall an inescutcheon, per fess Gules and Or (Stargard).
The Queen's arms changed twice to mirror the changes in her husband's arms, once in 1801 and then again in 1816. A funerary hatchment displaying the Queen's full coat of arms painted in 1818, is on display at Kew Palace.
|George IV||12 August 1762||26 June 1830||married 1795, Princess Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel; had issue, but no descendants today|
|The Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany||16 August 1763||5 January 1827||married 1791, Princess Frederica of Prussia; no issue|
|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, the present Prime Minister|
|Charlotte, Princess Royal||29 September 1766||6 October 1828||married 1797, King Frederick of Württemberg; no surviving issue|
|The Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn||2 November 1767||23 January 1820||married 1818, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld; had issue, descendants are today's British royal family through his daughter, Victoria. The current monarchs of Denmark, Norway and Sweden also descend from him.|
|The Princess Augusta Sophia||8 November 1768||22 September 1840||never married, no issue|
|The Princess Elizabeth||22 May 1770||10 January 1840||married 1818, Frederick, Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg; no issue|
|Ernest Augustus I of Hanover||5 June 1771||18 November 1851||married 1815, Princess Friederike of Mecklenburg-Strelitz; had issue; has descendants today, including King Constantine II of Greece and King Felipe VI of Spain.|
|The Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex||27 January 1773||21 April 1843||(1) married in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act 1772, The Lady Augusta Murray; had issue; marriage annulled 1794
(2) married 1831, The Lady Cecilia Buggin (later 1st Duchess of Inverness); no issue
|The Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge||24 February 1774||8 July 1850||married 1818, Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel; had issue; has descendants today, including Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms.|
|The Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester||25 April 1776||30 April 1857||married 1816, Prince William, Duke of Gloucester; no issue|
|The Princess Sophia||3 November 1777||27 May 1848||never married, no (legitimate) issue|
|The Prince Octavius||23 February 1779||3 May 1783||died in childhood|
|The Prince Alfred||22 September 1780||20 August 1782||died in childhood|
|The Princess Amelia||7 August 1783||2 November 1810||never married, no issue|
|Ancestors of Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz|
Claims of African ancestry
In the PBS magazine Frontline, it was claimed by one Mario de Valdes y Cocom that Charlotte may have had African ancestry and that painter Allan Ramsay, a noted abolitionist, emphasized the Queen's alleged "mulatto" appearance to support the anti-slavery movement. Valdes incorrectly claimed that an early-19th century medical practitioner, Baron Stockmar, was Queen Charlotte's personal physician and that he had described the Queen as having a "mulatto face" in his autobiography. According to Valdes, Queen Charlotte's apparent African features could have been inherited three to six times over from one ancestor nine generations removed, Margarida de Castro e Sousa, a 15th-century Portuguese noblewoman, who traced her ancestry to King Afonso III of Portugal (1210–1279) and one of his mistresses, Madragana (c. 1230–?). Critics of Valdes' theory point out that Margarita's and Madragana's distant perch in the queen's family tree – nine and 15 generations removed respectively – makes any African ancestry that they bequeathed to Charlotte negligible. Charlotte shared descent from Madragana with a large proportion of Europe's royalty and nobility. Moreover, it is not certain that Madragana was a Black African woman. In fact, the notion that Madragana was a "Moor" appears to have originated centuries after her death, with an author named Duarte Nunes de Leão, writing in 1600. And, in the context of the Iberian Reconquista, any Muslim, regardless of ethnic origin, including Europeans who had converted to Islam, were referred to as "Moors". Some researchers believe Madragana to have been a Mozarab: an Iberian Christian of Sephardi Jewish origin, living in Spain when it was under Muslim control:
Even if Madragana was ethnically African and she was Charlotte's 16th great-grandmother by blood, she would have been one of Charlotte's 16,384 16th great-grandparents, making Madragana's genetic contribution to Charlotte's heritable traits just 0.006 percent of her total inherited DNA.
Notes and sources
- Wurlitzer, Bernd; Sucher, Kerstin (2010). Mecklenburg-Vorpommern: Mit Rügen und Hiddensee, Usedom, Rostock und Stralsund. Trescher Verlag. p. 313. ISBN 3897941635.
- Fraser, Flora (2005). Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-679-45118-8.
- Percy Hetherington Fitzgerald: The good Queen Charlotte, 1899; page 32-33
- Levey, pp.8–9
- Nash, p. 18, although the purchase price is given by Wright p. 142 as £28,000
- UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2014), "What Were the British Earnings and Prices Then? (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
- In 1775, an Act of Parliament settled the property on Queen Charlotte, in exchange for her rights to Somerset House (see Old and New London below)
- Westminster: Buckingham Palace, Old and New London: Volume 4 (1878), pp. 61–74. Date accessed: 3 February 2009. The tradition persists of foreign ambassadors being formally accredited to "the Court of St. James's", even though it is at Buckingham Palace that they present their credentials and staff to the Queen upon their appointment.
- "Berkshire History". Queen's Lodge. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
- "Berkshire History". Frogmore House. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
- Otto Jahn, Sir George Grove: Life of Mozart, Volume 1, 1882, page 39
- Engel, Louis: From Mozart to Mario: Reminiscences of half a century, Volume 1, 1886, page 275
- Engel, Louis. From Mozart to Mario: Reminiscences of half a century, Volume 1, 1886, p. 39.
- Gehring, Franz Eduard. Mozart, 1911, p. 18.
- Otto Jahn, Sir George Grove: Life of Mozart, Volume 1, 1882, page 41
- Murray, John. A handbook for travellers in Surrey, Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight, 1876, pp. 130-131.
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Missouri Botanical Garden bulletin, Volume 10, 1922, p. 27.
- Levey, p. 4
- Levey, pp. 7–8
- Levey, p. 7
- Levey, p.16; the building in the distance is Eton College Chapel, as seen from Windsor Castle.
- Levey, p.15
- Fraser, Antonia: Marie Antoinette: The Journey, 2001; page 287
- Baker, Kenneth (2005). George IV: A Life in Caricature. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-25127-0. p.114.
- Otis K. Rice and Stephen W. Brown. West Virginia: A History. 2nd Ed. University Press of Kentucky, 1994. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-8131-1854-3
- David W. Miller. The Taking of American Indian Lands in the Southeast: A History of Territorial Cessions and Forced Relocations, 1607-1840. McFarland, 2011. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-7864-6277-3
- Thomas J. Schaeper. Edward Bancroft: Scientist, Author, Spy. Yale University Press, 2011. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-300-11842-1
- "The Expediency of Securing Our American Colonies, &c." (1763). p. 14. Reprinted in The Critical Period, 1763–1765. Volume 10 of the Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library. Clarence Walworth Alvord, ed. Illinois State Historical Library, 1915.p. 139.
- The London Gazette: . 8 September 1761.
- Pinches, John Harvey; Pinches, Rosemary (1974). The Royal Heraldry of England. Heraldry Today. Slough, Buckinghamshire: Hollen Street Press. p. 297. ISBN 0-900455-25-X
- Queen Charlotte's hatchment Historic Royal Palaces website: Surprising stories, Retrieved 15 December 2010
- PBS - The blurred racial lines of famous families - Queen Charlotte
- In fact, Christian Friedrich Freiherr von Stockmar was personal physician not to Queen Charlotte, but to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1816, at the time of Leopold's marriage to Princess Charlotte of the United Kingdom. See "Christian Friedrich, baron von Stockmar", in Encyclopædia Britannica (2010), retrieved 14 February 2010, and "Christian Friedrich Stockmar, Baron von", in The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition (2008), retrieved 14 February 2010.
- Valdes credits this sources to the "History Department of McGill University. It was the director of the Burney Project (Fanny Burney, the prolific 19th century British diarist, had been secretary to the Queen), Dr. Joyce Hemlow, who obtained from Olwen Hedly, the most recent biographer of the Queen Charlotte (1975), at least half a dozen quotes by her contemporaries regarding her negroid features." (in PBS - The blurred racial lines of famous families - Queen Charlotte).
- Stuart Jeffries, "Was this Britain's first black queen?" The Guardian, 12 March 2009.
- Duarte Nunes de Leão,Crónica d'El Rei Dom Afonso III, 1600; modern edition: Duarte Nunes de Leão, Crónica dos Reis de Portugal, Porto, Lello & Irmão, 1975.
- Anselmo Braamcamp Freire, Brasões da Sala de Sintra, 3 vols., Lisbon, Imprensa Nacional-Casa de Moeda, 1973; António Caetano de Sousa, História Genealógica da Casa Real Portuguesa, Coimbra, Atlântida-Livraria Editora, 1946; Felgueiras Gayo & Carvalhos de Basto, Nobiliário das Famílias de Portugal, Braga, 1989; José Augusto de Sotto Mayor Pizarro, Linhagens Medievais Portuguesas, 3 vols., Porto, Universidade Moderna, 1999; Manuel Abranches de Soveral, "Origem dos Souza ditos do Prado", in Machado de Vila Pouca de Aguiar. Ascendências e parentescos da Casa do Couto d'Além em Soutelo de Aguiar, Porto, 2000.
- Hedley, Olwen (1975). Queen Charlotte J Murray ISBN 0-7195-3104-7
- Levey, Michael (1977). A Royal Subject: Portraits of Queen Charlotte. London: National Gallery.
- Fraser, Flora (2005). Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-679-45118-8
- Drinkuth, Friederike (2011). Queen Charlotte. A Princess from Mecklenburg-Strelitz ascends the Throne of England Thomas Helms Verlag Schwerin, ISBN 978-3-940207-79-1
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.|
- Queen Charlotte, 1744–1818: A Bilingual Exhibit (c1994)
- The Blurred Racial Lines of Famous Families — Queen Charlotte at the PBS site
- King George III: Mad or Misunderstood?
- The Search for Princess Charlotte
- Archival material relating to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz listed at the UK National Archives
- "Was this Britain's first black queen?" by Stuart Jeffries - The Guardian (March 2009)
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Cadet branch of the House of MecklenburgBorn: 19 May 1744 Died: 17 November 1818
Title last held byCaroline of Ansbach
|Queen consort of Great Britain and Ireland
|Acts of Union 1800|
|Electress consort of Hanover
Holy Roman Empire dissolved in 1806
|New title||Queen consort of the United Kingdom
Title next held byCaroline of Brunswick
|Queen consort of Hanover