Prince Britain
Prince Britain
The Prince Octavius was a member of the British Royal Family as the thirteenth child and eighth son of King George III and his queen consort Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Six months after the death of his brother Prince Alfred, Octavius was inoculated from the smallpox virus. Several days later, he became ill. His subsequent death at the age of four devastated his parents, and in particular his father.
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  • 1783
    Age 3
    Six months after Alfred's death, Octavius and Sophia were taken to Kew Palace in London to be inoculated with the smallpox virus. While Sophia recovered without incident, Octavius became ill and died several days later, around 8 o'clock PM, on 3 May 1783, at Kew Palace.
    More Details Hide Details He was four years old. As was traditional, the household did not go into mourning for the deaths of royal children under the age of fourteen. Octavius has the distinction of being the last member of the British royal family to suffer from smallpox. On 10 May, he was buried alongside his brother Alfred at Westminster Abbey. Their eldest brother, now King George IV ordered their remains transferred to St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on 11 February 1820, at about 3 o'clock. According to Queen Charlotte, Octavius' death was unexpected; she wrote to a friend who faced a similar tragedy that "twice have I felt what you do feel, the last time without the least preparation for such a stroke, for in less than eight and forty hours was my son Octavius, in perfect health, sick and struck with death immediately." The prince's death had a marked effect, both mentally and physically on Queen Charlotte, who at the time was pregnant with her youngest child Princess Amelia.
  • 1782
    Age 2
    The second one is after the 1782 portrait by Gainsborough (see above) and is dated to about 1782 or 1784.
    More Details Hide Details The third portrait is by Benjamin West and was painted shortly before Octavius's death. Furthermore, among these five portraits, there are two enamels, both after Gainsborough's 1782 portrait; one is by William Bone and the other one is by an anonymous master. The sixth and last portrait represents the apotheosis of Octavius and Alfred (see above) and was painted by West. Another portrait, this time of Queen Charlotte, features Octavius. Painted in 1779 by West, this is both a portrait of the Queen and her children, who are featured in the background. Prince Octavius is at the centre of the group, wearing baby clothes and riding in a little phaeton. He is pulled along by Prince Ernest and pushed by Prince Adolphus. Two other portraits are housed by the National Portrait Gallery in London. The first is an 1817 engraving by Samuel Freeman, after Gainsborough. The second is another engraving, entitled The Apotheosis of the Princes Octavius and Alfred and of the Princess Amelia, published in 1820 by Robert Hicks.
    Octavius was three years of age when Alfred died on 20 August 1782, and he again became the youngest surviving child.
    More Details Hide Details Horace Walpole wrote to Sir Horace Mann that upon Prince Alfred's death, King George had declared "I am very sorry for Alfred; but had it been Octavius, I should have died too." In 1820, historian Edward Holt would write of the prince's character, "Though Prince Octavius had not passed his fifth year, he was considered very docile, and possessed good-nature in such an uncommon degree, that he was the delight of all about him." Biographer John Watkins added Octavius was "reckoned one of the finest of the royal progeny."
  • 1780
    Age 0
    Octavius was close to his nearest sister Sophia, who called Octavius "her son", and went with her and their siblings, Elizabeth and Edward to Eastborne on the Sussex coast, where he could take in the fresh seaside air during the summer of 1780.
    More Details Hide Details When he was nineteen months old, Octavius became an older brother with the birth of his younger brother Prince Alfred.
  • 1779
    Octavius was christened on 23 March 1779, in the Great Council Chamber at St James's Palace, by Frederick Cornwallis, The Archbishop of Canterbury.
    More Details Hide Details His godparents were The Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenb├╝ttel (husband of his first cousin twice-removed, for whom The Earl of Hertford, Lord Chamberlain, stood proxy); The Duke of Mecklenburg (his first cousin once-removed, for whom The Earl of Ashburnham, Groom of the Stole, stood proxy); and The Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (wife of his sixth cousin, for whom Alicia Wyndham, Countess of Egremont and Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Charlotte, was proxy). King George was extremely devoted to Octavius, who was too young to cause the kinds of trouble that his elder brothers were by the year of his birth. The king was affectionate and indulgent with his young children, and strove to attend their birthday parties and other events organized for their merriment; on one occasion a friend witnessed a happy domestic scene that involved George "carrying about in his arms by turns Sophia and the last prince, Octavius." Another witness wrote George and Charlotte "have their Children always playing about them the whole time"; during most evenings the children were brought to their parents between 6 and 7 O'clock to play for an hour or two. The king also was kept informed of his children's educational progress.
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