Sir Richard Croft, 6th Baronet

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Richard Croft by John James Halls, 1803–1804
Arms of Croft, of Croft Castle, Herefordshire: Quarterly per fess indented azure and argent, in the 1st quarter a lion passant guardant or[1]

Sir Richard Croft, 6th Baronet (9 January 1762 – 13 February 1818[2]) was an English physician to the British Royal Family and was the obstetrician to Princess Charlotte who became famous due to his role in "the triple obstetrical tragedy" of 1817.

Early life and family[edit]

He was born on 9 January 1762 at Dunster Park, Berkshire, the son of Herbert Croft and Elizabeth Young. He married on 3 November 1789 Margaret Denman, daughter of Dr. Thomas Denman and Elizabeth Brodie and the sister of Thomas Denman, 1st Baron Denman, who became Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales.

They had four children: Thomas Elmsley Croft, who succeeded his father as 7th Baronet; Archer Denman Croft, who succeeded his brother as 8th Baronet; Frances Elizabeth Croft; and the Reverend Richard Croft, rector at Hillingdon, Middlesex, England. Croft's great-grandson was Henry Page Croft, 1st Baron Croft (he being the son of Richard Benyon Croft, J.P., D.L., High Sheriff of Hertfordshire in 1892, of Fanhams Hall, Ware, Hertfordshire, and grandson of Reverend Richard Croft).[3]


He began his medical training under Dr Rupert Chawner, an apothecary/surgeon residing at Burton-upon-Trent. After he completed his training under Dr.Rupert Chawner, his parents sent him to London to complete his medical education. He became a pupil of Dr. John Hunter; and by recommendation of Dr. Matthew Baillie,[4] (a fellow pupil of Croft's and nephew of Dr. John Hunter) he boarded and lodged with Dr. Denman. Croft was also trained by his father-in-law, Dr. Thomas Denman, a preeminent obstetrician in London at the turn of the nineteenth century, whose textbook on childbirth had been first published in 1788. He graduated with his MD from the University of Oxford in 1789. He held the office of Physician to King George III.


He succeeded to the title of 6th Baronet Croft, of Croft Castle, County Hereford, on 27 April 1816 upon the death of his brother, Sir Herbert Croft, who had died without male issue.

"The triple obstetrical tragedy"[edit]

When Princess Charlotte conceived in February 1817, Croft was chosen to attend her. Following medical dogma, Croft restricted her diet and bled her during the pregnancy. Her membranes broke 42 weeks after her last period on 3 November 1817. Her bedroom at Claremont was chosen as the labour and delivery room. The first stage of labour lasted 26 hours. At the beginning of the second stage of labour, Croft sent for Dr. John Sims, who arrived seven hours later. The second stage of labour lasted 24 hours. He had correctly diagnosed a transverse lie of the baby during labour; however, forceps were not used as they had fallen into disfavour in the British medical community. A caesarean section at that time would have resulted in the princess's death. Eventually, Princess Charlotte delivered a stillborn 9-pound male. Five hours later she died, presumably from concealed inner bleeding.

Although the princess's husband and father sent messages to thank Croft for his care and attention, Croft was distraught over the outcome. The king ordered a necropsy, with the result that Sir Everard Home, 1st Baronet and Sir David Dundas, 1st Baronet, reported that everything had been done for the best.[5] However, the death of the Princess continued to weigh heavily on Croft, and on 13 February 1818, at age 56, he killed himself with a gun.[6][7] Near his body a copy of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost was found open with the passage (Act V, Scene II): "Fair Sir, God save you! Where is the Princess?"

Society portraitist Sir Thomas Lawrence was commissioned by Croft's half-sister to create a posthumous portrait sketch of Croft in his coffin.[8] The haunting result, now at Croft Castle, is often taken for a man sleeping.[9]

Charlotte's pregnancy is known in medical history as "the triple obstetrical tragedy".

Both Croft and his wife are buried at St James's Church, Piccadilly. A memorial to them is found within the church.

A memorial to Sir Richard, 6th Baronet, and Lady Croft in St James's Church, Piccadilly.


  1. ^ Kidd, Charles, Debrett's peerage & Baronetage 2015 Edition, London, 2015, p.P306
  2. ^ Peel, John (2004) "Croft, Sir Richard, sixth baronet (1762–1818)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press
  3. ^ Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage 2003, vol. 2, p. 2839
  4. ^ The brother of poet Joanna Baillie, he was a pupil of his anatomist John Hunter, his uncle. He was educated at Hamilton Academy, the University of Glasgow, and obtained his MD from the University of Oxford in 1789.
  5. ^ "Sir Richard Croft, Bt". British Medical Journal. 1 (2981): 211. 1918. JSTOR 20309438.
  6. ^ Memorials.
  7. ^ Taylor, Charles (1818). The Literary Panorama and National Register. C. Taylor. pp. 524–.
  8. ^ Levey, M. (2005) Sir Thomas Lawrence. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. pp. 201–203
  9. ^ Chris Upton (20 May 2006). "Sir Richard and the Princess; Chris Upton discovers a portrait that is not what it first appears at the historic Croft Castle". The Birmingham Post. Retrieved 6 January 2011.

Further reading[edit]

  • Shingleton (November–December 2006). "The Tumultuous Marriage of The Prince and The Princess of Wales". ACOG Clinical Review 11: 13–16.
  • Shingleton (July–August 2005). "A Famous Triple Death Tragedy". ACOG Clinical Review 10: 14–16.
  • [1] The Death of Princess Charlotte, An Obstetric Tragedy, Charles Oberst.
  • Leigh Rayment' s baronetage page
  • Crainz, Franco (1977) An obstetric tragedy: the case of Her Royal Highness The Princess Charlotte Augusta.
Baronetage of England
Preceded by
Herbert Croft
(of Croft Castle)
Succeeded by
Thomas Elmsley Croft