|Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1774|
Today we meet Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester, a most noble lady who had her own ideas about what she wanted from life. The life of this great granddaughter to George II and niece to George III was a long one, which started in scandal.
Sophia was the only surviving daughter born of a secret marriage between William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and brother of George III, and his wife, Maria Walpole. It was not until Maria fell pregnant with the little girl that the illicit union became known and the rift between William and his brother, George, was immediate and long-lasting, though happily not permanent. Feeling betrayed and angry at the deception, the king enforced a ruling that the Duke and his family should not be admitted to the royal household should they attempt to enter.
With the pomp and ceremony of a royal christening therefore denied, the couple arranged a private baptism for their daughter with some family and friends in attendance. Thereafter the family retired to the continent, where they remained for a good many years and where Sophia's beloved brother, William , was eventually born.
|Princess Sophia of Gloucester by John Haslem, 1846|
Eventually though the Duke and Duchess and their children returned to England, where the king and his brother were reconciled. As she grew out of childhood, Sophia matured into a young lady of culture, intelligence and charm and she was well-liked by those who knew her. The young princess was very briefly considered as a possible match for the Duke of Clarence but Sophia had no intention of marrying and firmly rejected such proposals.
At the age 40 Sophia was named Ranger of Greenwich Park and became hugely popular with the people of the area. Her philanthropic interests magnified as she grew older and she died well-loved and respected by all who knew her.
Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.