Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Queen consort of George III
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was the Queen consort of the United Kingdom as the wife of King George III. She was also the electress consort of Hanover in the Holy Roman Empire until the promotion of her husband to King of Hanover on 12 October 1814, which made her Queen consort of Hanover. Queen Charlotte was a patroness of the arts, known to Johann Christian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, among others.
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  • 1818
    Died on November 17, 1818.
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  • 1817
    After having attended a reception in London 29 April 1817, she was jeered by a crowd.
    More Details Hide Details She told the crowd that it was upsetting to be treated like that after such long service. 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. He died blind, deaf, lame and insane 14 months later.
  • 1816
    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.
    More Details Hide Details On the PBS website page for this episode, Valdes interprets an excerpt of a poem reproduced there as attesting to Charlotte's African features, but it clearly refers to her as descended from the Vandals, an East Germanic tribe. According to Valdes, Queen Charlotte's African contribution 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. in any event, Charlotte shared descent from Alfonso and Madragana with a large proportion of Europe's royalty and nobility.
  • 1814
    During the Regency of her son, Queen Charlotte continued to fill her role as first lady in royal representation because of the estrangement of the Prince Regent and his spouse. As such, she functioned as the hostess by the side of her son at official receptions, such as the festivities given in London to celebrate the defeat of Emperor Napoleon in 1814.
    More Details Hide Details She also supervised the upbringing of Charlotte of Wales. During her last years, she was met with a growing lack of popularity and sometimes subjected to demonstrations.
  • 1811
    While her son, the Prince Regent, wielded the royal power, she was her spouse's legal guardian from 1811 until her death in 1818.
    More Details Hide Details Due to the extent of the King's illness he was incapable of knowing or understanding that she had died.
  • 1804
    From 1804 onward, when the King displayed a declining mental health, Queen Charlotte slept in a separate bedroom, had her meals separated from him, and avoided seeing him alone.
    More Details Hide Details From this time, Charlotte cultivated a better relationship with her eldest son the Prince of Wales together with her daughters Princess Augusta and Princess Elizabeth, and her sons the Dukes of Clarence, Kent and Sussex, while her younger daughters as well as her other sons (the Dukes of York, Cumberland and Cambridge) supported their father. 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. He 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 50 guineas.
  • 1792
    From 1792, she found some relief from her worry about her husband by planning the gardens and decoration of a new residence for herself, Frogmore House, in Windsor Home Park.
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  • 1791
    Queen Charlotte and the Prince of Wales finally reconciled, on her initiative, in March 1791.
    More Details Hide Details After the King's recovery in 1789, he remained mentally fragile, and his health was easily provoked by emotional stress. The necessity to spare the King anything that could upset him and provoke a new outburst of illness placed the Queen under considerable stress. 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.
  • 1789
    The Queen used this Bill when she refused the Prince of Wales permission to see the King alone, even well after he had been declared sane again in the spring of 1789.
    More Details Hide Details The whole conflict around the Regency led to a serious discord between the Prince of Wales and his mother. In an argument he accused her of having sided with his enemies, while she called him the enemy of the King. Their conflict was publicly demonstrated when she refused to invite him to the concert held in celebration of the recovery of the King, which created a scandal.
  • 1788
    During the 1788 illness of the King, there was a conflict between the Queen and the Prince of Wales, who were both suspected of desiring to assume the Regency, should the illness of the King become permanent resulting in him being declared unfit to rule.
    More Details Hide Details The Queen suspected the Prince of Wales of a plan to have the King declared insane with the assistance of Doctor Warren, and take over the Regency. The followers of the Prince of Wales, notably Sir Gilbert Ellis, in turn suspected the Queen of a plan to have the King declared sane with the assistance of Doctor Willis and Prime Minister Pitt, so that he could have her appointed Regent should he fall ill again, and then have him declared insane again and assume the Regency. According to Doctor Warren, Doctor Willis had pressed him to declare the King sane on the orders of the Queen. In the Regency Bill of 1789, the Prince of Wales was declared Regent, should the King become permanently insane, but it also placed the King himself, his court and minor children under the guardianship of the Queen.
  • 1765
    This was unsuccessfully opposed by her mother-in-law and Lord Bute, but as the King's illness of 1765 was temporary, Charlotte was not made aware of it, nor of the Regency Bill.
    More Details Hide Details The King's 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?" The night the King collapsed, she refused to be left alone with him and successfully insisted that she be given her own bedroom. When the doctor, Warren, was called, she was not informed and was not given the opportunity to speak with him. When told by the Prince of Wales that the King was to be removed to Kew, but that she should move to Queens House or Windsor, she successfully insisted that she accompany her spouse to Kew. However, she and her daughters were taken to Kew separately from the King and lived secluded from him during his illness. They regularly visited him, but the visits tended to be uncomfortable, as he had a tendency to embrace them and refuse to let them go.
    The Regency Bill of 1765 stated that if the King should become permanently unable to rule, Charlotte was to become Regent.
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    When the King had a first, temporary, bout of mental illness in 1765, Charlotte was kept unaware of the situation by her mother-in-law and Lord Bute.
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  • 1762
    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.
    More Details Hide Details In the course of their marriage, they had 15 children, all but two of whom (Octavius and Alfred) survived into adulthood. Around 1762 the King and Queen moved to Buckingham House, at the western end of St. James's Park, which would later become 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. 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. During her first years in Great Britain, Charlotte had some difficulty in adapting to the life of the British court due to a strained relationship with her mother-in-law, Princess Augusta. Her mother-in-law made it difficult for Charlotte to establish social contacts by insisting on rigid court etiquette. Furthermore, her mother-in-law initially appointed many of Charlotte's staff, among whom several were suspected to report to Augusta about Charlotte's behavior. When she turned to her German companions for friends, she was criticized for keeping favorites, notably her close confidante Juliane von Schwellenberg.
  • 1761
    Three days of public celebrations followed, and on 17 Aug 1761, the Princess set out for Britain, accompanied by her brother, Duke Adolphus Frederick, and by the British escort party.
    More Details Hide Details On 22 Aug, they reached Cuxhaven, where a small fleet awaited to convey them to England. The voyage was extremely difficult; the party encountered three storms at sea, and landed at Harwich only on 7 September. They set out at once for London, spent that night in Witham, at the residence of Lord Abercorn, and arrived at 3:30 pm the next day at St. James's Palace in London. They were received by The King and his family, which marked the first meeting of the bride and groom. At 9:00 pm that very same evening (08 Sept 1761), within six hours of her arrival, Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was united in marriage with King George III of Great Britain. The ceremony was performed at the Chapel Royal, St. James's Palace, by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Secker.
    They reached Strelitz on 14 Aug 1761, and were received the next day by the reigning duke, Princess Charlotte's brother, at which time the marriage contract was signed by him on the one hand and Earl Harcourt on the other.
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    The King announced to his Council in July 1761, according to the usual form, his intention to wed the Princess, after which a party of escorts, led by The Earl Harcourt, departed for Germany to conduct Princess Charlotte to England.
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    She was Queen of Great Britain and Ireland from her marriage in 1761 until the union of the two kingdoms in 1801, after which she was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until her death in 1818.
    More Details Hide Details 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 in 1811.
  • 1760
    Her upbringing has been compared to that of a daughter to an aristocratic landowner at his country estate: she was given some education in botany, natural history and language, but the focus of her education was on household subjects by a governess and religion by a priest, and it was not until after her brother succeeded to the throne in 1760 that she had experience of royal duties and court life.
    More Details Hide Details When King George III succeeded to the throne of Great Britain upon the death of his grandfather, George II, he was unmarried. His mother and advisors were anxious to have him settled in marriage. The 17-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.
  • 1744
    Sophia Charlotte was born on 19 May 1744.
    More Details Hide Details 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".
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