Wilhelmina Charlotte Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach (Ansbach, Holy Roman Empire, 1st March 1683 – London, England, 20th November 1737)
|Caroline of Ansbach by Jacopo Amigoni, 1735|
Just a couple of days ago, we peeked in at the final hours of Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and today we once again the share last moments of a queen. Caroline of Ansbach was, of course, the wife of George II, and had enjoyed several successful periods as regent. These periods won her the admiration and respect of the English people and she remained popular throughout her ten years as queen.
Like so many women of her era, Caroline underwent no small measure of trauma during her ten pregnancies and it was to be a trauma to her womb that would eventually kill her. Although she began to suffer a number of ailments as she grew older, the fatal blow came on 9th November 1737 when she attended a reception and was struck down by a terrible pain in her abdomen.
Despite the agony the queen tried to carry out her duties she was forced to retire to her private rooms at St James's Palace where the royal physicians descended, led by Dr John Ranby. The doctors decided that Caroline's womb had ruptured and set about treating her in their tried and tested way. When bleeding produced no solution they attempted surgery and the queen endured these unaesthetised procedures without complaint, growing weaker with every passing day.
Eventually Caroline and George told the doctors that, many years earlier, the queen had suffered from an umbilical hernia. With this knowledge, Ranby could finally take action and went to work on the hernia, which over the years had caused part of her bowel to decay. In the gruesome operation that followed, the doctors sliced out the decayed flesh, completely opening her bowels and causing catastrophic damage. From that day on her fate was sealed; raw excrement oozed into her abdomen and out through the surgical wounds as Caroline clung weakly to life, suffering untold agony with every moment.
For a week the queen lingered on, well aware that her death was swiftly approaching. She begged her husband to marry again once she was gone but he refused, saying that he may take a mistress, but never another wife. In his eyes, no woman could truly match her and as she faded from life, he maintained a vigil at her side.
At ten o'clock on the evening of 20th November 1737, attended by her husband and daughter, Caroline's unimaginable suffering came to an end. She took George's hand and told him with her final breath, "I am going."
As she had been so many times, the queen was proved right. Plunging the public, court and her own family into mourning, Caroline of Ansbach passed away. She was buried in Westminster Abbey and when her husband joined her in death, their coffins were placed side by side and the sides removed, so that they might rest together for eternity.
Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.