Saturday 8 February 2014

An Unloved Princess: Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, Princess of Wales

Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, Princess of Wales (Gotha, Germany, 30th November 1719 - London, England, 8th February 1772)

Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, Princess of Wales by Charles Philips, 1736
Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, Princess of Wales by Charles Philips, 1736

A royal lady joins us today; unfairly maligned in her day and mocked, ridiculed and gossiped about, the mother of George III bore her burdens with dignity.

Princess Augusta was born to a life of privilege as the daughter of Frederick II, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg and Magdalena Augusta of Anhalt-Zerbst. That she would make a dynastic marriage was never in doubt and, despite her virtual inability to speak English, at the age of 16 the young princess set foot on English shores as the bride-to-be of 29-year old Frederick, Prince of Wales, son of George II and Queen Caroline.

A lavish ceremony was held 27th April 1736 and so began a happy marriage for the new royal couple. Together they had nine children, all of whom survived childhood yet their home life suffered from the unhappy relationship between Frederick and his parents, who he refused to allow to meet his firstborn child. Indeed, when Augusta went into labour whilst at Hampton Court, Frederick was so adamant that his child would not be born under his mother and father's roof that he made the distress mother-to-be flee to St. James’s Palace in the middle of the night.

Despite this, Augusta supported her husband throughout his domestic travails and devoted herself to him, enjoying a civil but cool relationship with the king and queen whom Frederick so loathed. The apparently unassuming, naive Augusta proved her worth following Frederick's death in 1751. Now a valuable political figure as mother the to heir-apparent she threw herself on the sympathy of her bereaved father-in-law and he rallied to support her and her children.

Seeking both a friend and a tutor for her son, Augusta entrusted the young George's education to John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute and a man who had been a mutual friend to both Augusta and her late husband. Before long though, the press and public began to whisper that Stuart was doing a lot more in the royal household than simply tutoring the children and the princess was mercilessly and unfairly mocked throughout the land. As her son, the boy who would become George III, grew into a man, she guarded him fiercely and held an enormous influence over his decisions and actions. 

Augusta died of throat cancer aged just 52 yet even at her funeral the peace was shattered, as her coffin was heckled on its passage to its final resting place.

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

Pen and Sword
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Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)


Unknown said...

This poor lady! How awful for her to have been treated like this. And, why did Frederick hate his parents so much? Have I missed an earlier post about this? If not, will you please elaborate on this subject in a future post? Thank you.

Catherine Curzon said...

I certainly will be elaborating on it, there is quite a tale to tell!

Unknown said...

Well, who could really blame her taking some kind of comfort from another male in the household? Not very noble of the John Stuart, though. I'm not exactly clear precisely who he' is or where he came from. Good for the father-in-law to step in after his son's death. This can so often seem to be the case. The pull of the grandchildren is great!

Catherine Curzon said...

I have done a little tinkering to make Stuart's place in the story clearer, I do hope that makes more sense!

Unknown said...

Certainly does! Thanks...

Anonymous said...

I think I'm right in saying that Bute was the first Scotsman to become Prime Minister. When I was in the 6th form doing A-level history my entire coursework seemed to consist of essays on him and the young George III. The only thing I can remember about Augusta is her advice to her son "Be a king George" and pictures of some very indelicate engravings featuring her and Bute in a variety of compromising positions while the country went to rack and ruin.

Anonymous said...

Seems I can't publish comments using a Facebook ID which is why may comment was about Bute, and the engravings anonymous.

Catherine Curzon said...

That sounds like a rather entertaining A-level, if it featured indelicate engravings! I think you're right, he was the first Scotsman to assume the office.

lynneconnolly said...

She seems to have inherited much of the political controversy that Frederick fostered. Her grandsons were far more roundly traduced!

Catherine Curzon said...

She did have a horrible time!