|Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales and Leopold I by William Thomas Fry, after George Dawe, 1817|
Princess Charlotte of Wales was not a happy young lady. The only child of the Prince Regent, later to be George IV, by the age of 20 she was unmarried, dissatisfied and at odds with her father over his wish to marry her off to William, Prince of Orange. An attachment to a Prussian gentleman ended when he set his cap elsewhere and so Charlotte decided that she would settle for the "next best thing", as she wrote to a friend. that "next best thing" was Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, the future Leopold I of Belgium.
Determined that she would not marry the Prince of Orange, Charlotte made repeated arguments in favour of Leopold to her father, who was reluctant to give his consent to the match due to political concerns. With Leopold signalling that he would be happy to consider the matter and Charlotte not about to let things drop, in early 1816 the Prince Regent finally relented and invited Leopold to Brighton to discuss this most important issue.
|The first meeting between Princess Charlotte of Wales and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld|
The meeting proved to be a wildly successful encounter and George finally gave his blessing to the union. The official announcement of the engagement was made in the House of Commons on 2nd March and the people of England met the news with great cheer. Claremont House was purchased by the Prince Regent and it was agreed by parliament that the far from wealthy Leopold's salary would be £50,000, leaving the way clear for the big day.
|The wedding of Princess Charlotte of Wales and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, 1818|
On 2nd May 1816 the streets of London were thronged as thousands upon thousands of people turned out to watch the happy occasion, which would take place at nine o'clock that evening. In the Crimson Drawing Room at Carlton House, Charlotte, Leopold and their guests assembled for a ceremony that could not have been more different that that of the bride's own parents. Charlotte's gown was magnificent and was reported to have cost in excess of £10,000 and her groom wore the uniform of a British General. The ceremony passed without incident and the happy couple went on to honeymoon at Oatlands.
The devoted newlyweds were not destined to enjoy a long marriage but that is not a story for today; instead, I raise my teacup and wish happy anniversary to Charlotte and Leopold.
Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.