Friday, 2 May 2014

The Wedding of Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold

We have heard of a good many royal marriages here at the guide that ended badly. There have been still more that endured for years in mutual dislike or, on a good day, simply simmered resentfully instead. It is a pleasure, therefore, to tell of a happy marriage, albeit one that ended in tragedy after just 18 months.

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales and Leopold I by William Thomas Fry, after George Dawe, 1817
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 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
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.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

8 comments:

  1. Good to read of her taking her fate in her own hands! Looking forward to the next instalment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think Charlotte was very much a lady who knew what she wanted!

      Delete
  2. I've always felt sorry for Charlotte. But at least she was happy for a small while.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always felt for her too, such a sad ending.

      Delete
  3. I understand he really wanted children and he got that at least - he hadn't much time but he was able to have time with one child.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's true, a small but important mercy.

      Delete
  4. Charlotte didn't give birth to any living children.
    Despite people thinking marriages begun in May were unlucky, hundreds of couples all over England set May 2nd as their wedding day.
    Charlotte's bride clothes were extensively reported . Some ladies were allowed in to see the gowns. Prince Leopold was a great favorite with the population especially since he had no throne of his own and so wouldn't take their future queen out of the country. Charlotte had objected to William of Orange because he looked like a frog and because she would have to spend half of the year out of England.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do like Charlotte and Leopold; such a sad story.

      Delete