James Gillray : Fashionable Contrasts; – or – the Duchess's little shoe yielding to the magnitude of the Duke's foot, originally published by Hannah Humphrey on January 24, 1792. The print shows the feet and ankles of the Duke and Duchess of York (Frederick, Duke of York and Albany 1763-1827, son of George III, and Frederica Charlotte Ulrica 1767-1820, his wife), in an obviously copulatory position, with the Duke's feet enlarged and the Duchess's feet drawn very small.
Frederica Charlotte was born in Charlottenburg, on 7 May 1767. She was the only child of her parents, whose union was extremely unhappy due to their mutual infidelities. After several affairs with musicians and officers, Fredrica's mother, the Crown Princess, became pregnant in 1769. Then she planned to escape from Prussia with her lover, but she was betrayed and captured, causing a public scandal. After a divorce was quickly granted, Elisabeth Christine (who retained her title) was placed under house arrest in the castle of Stettin, where she remained for the next seventy-one years until her death in 1840, aged 93. Frederica Charlotte never saw her mother again; she was raised by her paternal grandmother Princess Luise Amalie and her stepmother Frederika Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt, who married the Crown Prince almost immediately after his divorce.
On 29 September 1791 at Charlottenburg Palace, she married Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, the second son of George III. There was a second marriage at Buckingham House on 23 November. The new Duchess of York received an enthusiastic welcome in London. Reportedly, the Prince of Wales, who was at the time, albeit not legally, married to Maria Fitzherbert, regarded it unnecessary for him to enter a dynastic marriage, because his brother the Duke of York had married a Princess and could provide an heir to the throne in his stead.
The marriage was, however, not a happy one, and by 1794, it had become apparent that the Duke and Duchess of York would have no issue. Along with the fact that the parliament would make it possible to pay his debts should he marry officially, it was also the fact that the Duchess of York was by 1794 no longer expected to have children which prompted the Prince of Wales to agree to issue marriage negotiations of his own. The couple separated and the Duchess retired to Oatlands Park, Weybridge, where she lived eccentrically until her death. Their relationship after separation appears to have been amicable, but there was never any question of reconciliation. They had no children.
She is described as : "clever and well-informed; she likes society and dislikes all form and ceremony, but in the midst of the most familiar intercourse she always preserves a certain dignity of manner", and :"probably no person in such a situation was ever more really liked." In 1827, she was called: "a harmless but an eccentric little woman, with an extraordinary fondness for cats and dogs, some indications of the German severity of family etiquette, which gave her household the air of Potsdam, and but a slight share of those attractions which might retain the regards of a husband—young, a soldier, and a prince." High-stakes gambling is reported to have taken place at Oatlands. Frederica kept many dogs and was apparently very devoted to monkeys Her father-in-law once remarked : "Affection must rest on something, and where there are no children, animals are the object.'" At her death, her spouse is described as sincerely grieved and very anxious that the wishes expressed in her will should be carried out.