Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Birthday: May 19, 1744
Died At Age: 74
Sun Sign: Taurus
Born in: Mirow, Germany
Famous as: Queen Consort of Great Britain and Ireland
Empresses & Queens
Spouse/Ex-: George III of the United Kingdom (m. 1761–1818)
father: Duke Charles Louis Frederick of Mecklenburg
mother: Princess Elisabeth Albertine of Saxe-Hildburghausen
children: Charlotte, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh, Duke of Cambridge, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, Duke of York and Albany, Ernest Augustus I of Hanover, George IV, Prince Adolphus, Prince Alfred of Great Britain, Prince Augustus Frederick; Duke of Sussex, Prince Edward, Prince Frederick, Prince Octavius of Great Britain, princess amelia, Princess Augusta Sophia of the United Kingdom, Princess Elizabeth of the United Kingdom, Princess Mary, Princess Royal, Princess Sophia of the United Kingdom, William IV
Died on: November 17, 1818
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, baptized as Sophia Charlotte, went on to become the ‘Queen consort of Great Britain and Ireland’ following her marriage to King George III. When the kingdoms of Ireland and Britain became a unified sovereign state at the turn of the 18th century, she automatically became the queen of ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland’. Queen Charlotte was a connoisseur of music and applied arts, and patronized artists and craftsmen in her lifetime. She was also a recreational botanist who contributed towards the development and expansion of Kew Gardens in Southwest London. Charlotte and George led a blissful married life as the latter stayed faithful and never took a mistress. A total of 15 children were born to Charlotte in a period of 22 years, out of which two, Alfred and Octavius, died in their infancy. Charlotte gradually plunged into depression towards the latter years in her life when her husband was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease ‘porphyria’ which debilitated him severely and made him permanently insane. Her husband’s insanity made her extremely temperamental and her episodic mood fluctuations caused a strain in the relationships with her children. At the age of 74, she breathed her last in Kew Palace, holding her eldest son’s hand while resting on an armchair.
Childhood & Early Life
Queen Charlotte was born on 19 May 1744 at the Untere Schloss (Lower Castle) in Mirow, a town in the German duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz of the Holy Roman Empire.
She was the youngest daughter of Duke Charles Louis Frederick of Mecklenburg and Princess Elizabeth Albertine of Saxe-Hildburghausen.
Charlotte lost both her parents at an early age, her father died when she was only eight while her mother passed when she was 17. She had 9 siblings out of which 4 siblings died in their infancy.
Despite being intelligent, the education Charlotte received could at best be described as pedestrian if accounts maintained during her betrothal to George III are to be believed. Private tutors gave her basic instructions on language, natural history, and botany with special emphasis on religion and household management.
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Engagement and Marriage
King George II was the monarch of Great Britain when Charlotte was born, and Frederick, Prince of Wales, being the king’s eldest son, was the heir apparent to the throne. However, Frederick died during his father’s reign, paving the way for George, the king’s eldest grandson, to be anointed as the successor.
Following King George II’s death in 1760, his grandson George, now all of 22 years, succeeded him to the throne as George III. Much before George ascension, attempts to get him married proved unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the search for a suitable bride picked up pace after he was crowned as king.
Augusta, Dowager Princess of Wales, mother of King George III, was a very dominating woman who had thwarted his son’s attempts to marry Lady Sarah Lennox, sister of the 3rd Duke of Richmond, Charles Lennox. His mother preferred a shy and submissive woman who’d kowtow to her, and accordingly Princess Charlotte was selected.
King George III strongly felt that Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz would make an ideal bride and queen consort because of her humble and low-profile upbringing. Soon after their marriage, he advised her to steer clear of state politics and intrigues, a proposal which she readily agreed.
Following a formal announcement to the Council in 1761 of his decision to marry Charlotte, he sent Simon Harcourt, 1st Earl Harcourt to negotiate the wedding contract and conduct the princess to England. Charlotte’s brother, Adolphus Frederick IV, the incumbent duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Simon Harcourt became the joint signatories of the nuptial contract.
The voyage back to England that took almost three weeks turned out to be extremely tempestuous as Charlotte along with those who accompanied her braved storms while crossing the English Channel. She played the national anthem, “God Save the King” on the harpsichord for a safe passage to England.
Charlotte and George got married on 8 September 1761, at Chapel Royal located in the precincts of St. James Palace. The wedding was an exclusively private affair, attended only by the party from Germany, royal family, and a few select guests.
The coronation ceremony where the newly married couple, George and Charlotte, were crowned king and queen, respectively was observed on 22 September 1761 at Westminster Abbey.
Charlotte’s transitioning from being the princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz to becoming the queen of England and Ireland was smooth, largely because of her mild disposition and tranquil temperament. In order to communicate effectively with the royal family members and her subjects, she started taking lessons in English.
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She gave birth to a son on 12 August 1762; he was christened George. George would go on to assume the title of ‘Prince of Wales’ and succeed his father, King George III to the throne.
The married life of Charlotte and King George was blissful and the couple had 15 children in total, out of which Octavius and Alfred died during their childhood.
Initially, the regal couple lived in St. James Palace, the official royal residence with their firstborn but later on, sometime in 1762, shifted to Buckingham House. Buckingham House which was bought by George III in the year he married was the preferred residence of Queen Charlotte.
The queen gave birth to her next 14 children in Buckingham House and spent most of her time in this royal residence. She surrendered ownership rights of Somerset House in lieu of gaining property rights for Buckingham House through a parliamentary statuette.
Princess Augusta made social networking quite difficult for her daughter-in-law, Charlotte, as she compelled the latter to conform to stringent principles outlined by the ‘Royal Council’ or the “King’s Court”. Charlotte’s royal attendants were handpicked by Augusta who allegedly kept the latter posted about the queen’s activities.
Despite being topnotch royals, George and Charlotte maintained a remarkably low-profile that greatly dismayed courtiers, many of whom scathingly criticized their lifestyle.
Since 1778 onwards, the couple and their children started staying at Queen’s Lodge in Windsor Great Park which was bang opposite to Windsor Castle.
As parents, Charlotte and George were both very domineering and overprotective. They did not resist Prince of Wales, their eldest child who treated his wife Caroline very harshly. Alternatively, they discouraged attempts by young and eligible bachelors to woo their six daughters.
The queen, in the later years, began exerting her influence in the administrative and political affairs of the state though in a discreet manner. Apart from making recommendations for appointing her preferred candidates for high offices, she kept herself informed about the ‘War of the Bavarian Succession’ that broke out in 1778.
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A Patron of Music and Arts
Both Queen Charlotte and King George III were admirers of music and promoted well-known composers, especially German musicians like Bach and Handel, and the Austrian child prodigy, Mozart. The queen is also credited with developing Kew Gardens. She patronized artists, craftsmen, and also established numerous orphanages.
Illness of Her Husband
In 1765, King George III experienced his first episode of mental disorder but his mother Augusta did not inform Charlotte about the monarch’s illness. Neither did Augusta notify Charlotte about the Regency Bill (enacted in 1765) stipulating that she as the queen consort was empowered to rule if the king became permanently indisposed.
The king had another episode of mental illness in 1788 that immensely unnerved and rattled the queen. George III was shifted to Kew where he was kept in solitary confinement. Charlotte and her six daughters also relocated to Kew but lived separately, visiting the king frequently.
The king’s illness became the bone of contention between Prince of Wales and his mother, Queen Charlotte. The queen nursed the suspicion that her son wanted to rule by proxy by having his father declared insane. Alternatively, Prince of Wales believed that his mother wanted to assume charge as a Regent.
The tug-of-war between Queen Charlotte and Prince of Wales with regards to Regency soon developed into full-blown discord leading to spats in public. On one occasion, the queen purposely did not send an invitation to her son for a concert held to commemorate the king’s recuperation which created quite an outrage.
The Twilight Years
King George’s recurrent spells of mental and physical afflictions that led to his lapsing into permanent insanity had a damaging effect on the queen as well. Her personality underwent a change for the worse as she experienced frequent mood swings and became severely depressed.
Charlotte, in order to tend to her ailing husband, gradually stopped making public appearances and her relationship with her children soured. During this period, she endeavored to improve the strained relationships with her daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Augusta, sons, Dukes of Sussex, Kent, and Clarence, and Prince of Wales, the eldest sibling.
As per the Regency Bill of 1789, the queen became the sole guardian of King George III after he turned fully insane in 1811 which he remained till his death on 29 January 1820.
Queen Charlotte died a little more than a year earlier on 17 November 1818 at ‘Dutch House’ in Surrey in the presence of her sons, George and Frederick, and daughters, Augusta and Mary.