Maria, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh
This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (February 2015)
Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh
Portrait by Joshua Reynolds (1771-1774)
10 July 1736
St James's, Westminster, Middlesex (now London)
|Died||22 August 1807 (aged 71)|
Oxford Lodge, Brompton, Middlesex (now London)
|Burial||31 August 1807|
Maria, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh (née Maria Walpole; 10 July 1736 – 22 August 1807) was Countess Waldegrave from 1759 to 1766 as the wife of James Waldegrave, 2nd Earl Waldegrave, and a member of the British royal family from 1766 as the wife of Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh.
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 paternal first cousin the 4th Earl Waldegrave
- Lady Charlotte Waldegrave (1761–1808) who married the future 4th Duke of Grafton
- Lady Anna Waldegrave (1762–1801) who married Lord Hugh Seymour, son of the 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.
There is a portrait of Maria in 1764–65, shortly after she was widowed, painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. She also commissioned him in 1780 to paint The Ladies Waldegrave, a group portrait of her and Waldegrave's three daughters.
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 William'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: 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