Sunday 29 September 2013

A Regal Disagreement: Charlotte, Princess Royal

The Princess Charlotte, Princess Royal (Charlotte Augusta Matilda; London, England, 29th September 1766 – Ludwigsburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, 5th October 1828) 

Charlotte, Princess Royal

Of late we've met composers, politicians and even murderers but it seems like a long time since we shared the salon with a member of the Hanoverian dynasty. Previously I wrote of the tragic Princess Amelia and today it's time to meet her sister, Charlotte, Princess Royal. Whilst Amelia lived a short life blighted by an unfulfilled romantic attachment, Charlotte would travel far from her Buckingham House birthplace and become a queen, though none of this would be achieved with a certain amount of royal drama!

When Charlotte was born she was the fourth child and first daughter of King George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, her status as eldest daughter meaning that she was destined from birth to be one of the key players in a suitably grand dynastic marriage. Her parents were ecstatic to have a girl join their growing family and before she was two years old, Charlotte's education began. As a child she had a love of language and stories that never left her, though she disliked the study of music and the more public side of being a royal princess, expected to perform dances and theatrical tableaux as was the German way.

Charlotte particularly excelled in artistic pursuits under the tuition of Mary Moser and as an adult turned her talents to porcelain, decorating pieces that she would fire in a purpose-built kiln in the grounds of her marital home.

The three eldest daughers of George III (Charlotte, Augusta and Elizabeth) by Gainsborough Dupont
The three eldest daughers of George III (Charlotte, Augusta and Elizabeth) by Gainsborough Dupont

With her childhood spent under the watchful eye of Queen Charlotte, the little princess threw herself into her studies. She was an intelligent and studious child and though her looks were compared unfavourably to her pretty younger sisters, Charlotte refused to be cowed and set her mind to the future. Keen to be married, she found the field of possible husbands massively reduced by her father's decision that she would not marry into a Catholic family under any circumstances. However, the suitor most favoured by Charlotte was not only the son of a Catholic, he was also a man with scandal in his past.

The Hereditary Prince Frederick of Württemberg was a widower and father of three, who had been accused of violence by his late wife, Duchess Augusta of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, who had fled her husband and taken refuge in Russia. Charlotte's cousin, Augusta was also the sister to Caroline of Brunswick, later estranged wife of Charlotte's brother, George. Mindful of these allegations as well as his Catholic ties, the King and Queen refused permission for the marriage to go ahead but Charlotte would not back down and petitioned tirelessly, eventually winning the blessing of her father.

The wedding took place on 18th May 1797 at the Chapel Royal of St. James's Palace with celebrations going on for days and the newlyweds set off for their new home in Stuttgart the following month. Despite Frederick's fearsome reputation he and Charlotte appear to have enjoyed a peaceful marriage; though their only child was stillborn on 27th April 1798, Charlotte's stepchildren adored her and she was devoted to them in turn. Free from her mother's somewhat dominant influence, Charlotte blossomed in Stuttgart and enjoyed her new life immensely. 

Frederick I of Württemberg by Johann Baptist Seele
Frederick I of Württemberg by Johann Baptist Seele

The settled life of the Stuttgart court was to suffer a serious shake-up in 1800 when French troops marched into Württemberg and sent the Duke and Duchess fleeing to Vienna. To the horror of Charlotte's parents, Frederick allied with Napoleon, making territorial exchanges and taking the title Elector of Württemberg on 25th February 1803. He later provided troops to France and on 1st January the Elector and Electress became King and Queen after a coronation held in Stuttgart, ruling from their home at the Ludwigsburg Palace.

Although Frederick switched sides in 1813, Charlotte's parents must have found it hard to reconcile the behaviour of their daughter and son-in-law and George flatly refused to address her as Queen of Württemberg, even after the title was confirmed by the Congress of Vienna. 

Frederick I of Württemberg by Johann Baptist Seele
The Bridal Night by James Gillray, 1797

Frederick died in 1816 and the Dowager Queen remained at the palace they had shared, receiving noble visitors from across Europe including her own illustrious siblings. 30 years after she left England in 1797, she returned to her native land to undergo surgery for dropsy, returning to Germany to convalesce. Dowager Queen Charlotte died at home in 1828 having lived an eventful life, a long way from the shy little girl who had been born in Buckingham House.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

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


Unknown said...

She sounds like she was quite the model student. Thank goodness Frederick's nasty character didn't surface at all during their marriage. Mind you, it was eventful politically enough without it!

Catherine Curzon said...

It certainly wasn't a quiet life in Stuttgart...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a positive note in history,

Catherine Curzon said...

A pleasure!

Gem Twitcher said...

It's interesting that you should call her Mother"dominant",Madame? Are you sure this is the correct word as she has never come across to me in history as this? Who "wore the pantaloons"at Windsor-the King or the Queen?

Catherine Curzon said...

I haven't encountered this in any other facet of her life but I did always feel that Queen Charlotte was somewhat overbearing in her regimented upbringing of her daughters. Perhaps I am doing her a disservice!

Gem Twitcher said...

I've always thought that the Queen took her lead from her husband-as a good Georgian wife should do!! They certainly had their hands full with their large family-especially the boys!! (Enough said!) but they were a very close couple and perhaps protected family values too much? Fanny Burney often said the Queen was a kind person,as did Mrs Delaney-but maybe this was when they were older?

Catherine Curzon said...

I don't think she was unkind; perhaps over-protective given the size of the family, as you rightly note! She was also so protective of her husband in later years, for understandable reasons.

Lexy said...

Maybe her mother also resented the fact that she wanted to leave her side to marry while apparently she planned to keep her daughters near instead of marrying them away ( seems it was a trend in those times since Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had planned to marry their daughter to a French cousin instead of a foreign ruler)

Catherine Curzon said...

I suspect that might have come into it too!

Anne Stott said...

When William and Barbara Wilberforce were on their honeymoon in the Mendips in June 1797 the villagers thought they were the Princess Royal and her husband.

Catherine Curzon said...