Feminist Icon Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Queen Charlotte was born Her Serene Highness Princess Charlotte Sophia to Duke Charles Louis Frederick and Duchess Elizabeth Albertine from The House of Meklenburg Strelitz part of the Holy Roman empire in Germany on 19th May 1744. Sophia Charlotte was the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland up until her death in 1818. She was crowned Queen by marriage to King George III which also made her Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. On the 12th October 1814 her husband was promoted to Royal of Hanover by which she became Queen Consort of Hanover.

 

“A patroness of the Arts Queen Charlotte was also an Amateur Botanist who initiated the expansion of Kew Gardens. Charlotte and George III had 15 children of who 13 survived to Adulthood.”

The youngest of 8 children, she traveled from Germany to England with one of her brothers and married on the same day at the Chapel Royal, St James Palace on 17th August 1761. This was the first day she set eyes on her husband; it is said she was chosen by 22 year old King George III Mother; Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha Altenburg, who had sabotaged his attempts to marry Lady Sarah Lennox. The Princess was chosen because it was thought the 17-year old’s modest education would make her less interested in politics, easier to control and less of a threat. Queen Charlotte was polite and courteous, an observer made this remark “She is timid at first but talks a lot, when she is among people she knows”.

The Princess was coronated on 22nd of September 1761 at Westminster Abbey. Charlotte Spoke no English but this was not an issue because her husband and his family spoke German perfectly well. ‘They did not fall in love and marry. They married and fell in love’.

Queen Charlotte gave birth to 15 children of which 13 survived. It has been recorded that so many pregnancies without a break was starting to weigh down on her.

“I don’t think a prisoner could wish more ardently for his liberty that I wish to be rid of my burden and see the end of my campaign. I would be happy if I knew this was the last time”. ~ Queen Sophia Charlotte

“The Queen took the death of her children hard”

She wrote about her pregnancy in 1780 whilst pregnant with her 14th child Prince Alfred.   Not long after his birth Alfred died after having small pox inoculation in 1782. His older brother Prince Octavius died the following year in 1783 from the small pox virus. the Queen took the deaths hard. She wrote to Lady Charlotte Finch –

“Receive this urn as an acknowledgement for your very affectionate attendance upon my dear little angel Alfred, and wear the enclosed hair, not only in remembrance of that dear object, but also as a mark of esteem from your affectionate Queen Charlotte.”

This was made available as part on the Royal archives online project.

Queen Charlotte opened many orphanages in London and was the Patron of ‘Queen Charlottes’ & Chelsea Hospital in Hammersmith London which was named after her. One of the oldest maternity hospitals in Europe, it dates back to1739. Up until 1999 it still occupied a site at 339–351 Goldhawk Road, Hammersmith.

Queen Charlotte was a fan of the arts – socialized and supported famous classical composers of the time.Lives of England’s Reigning and Consort Queens’ by H. Eugene Lehman recorded that the Queen helped Johann Christian Bach to receive his position as State musician for her Husband George III after Frideric Handels Death the composer of the famous ‘Handels Messiah’ who had previously served in the position for George I and her husbands father George II.

According to Olwen Hedley, The Queen also made an impact on the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Her biographer wrote “As a young mother, [Queen Charlotte] extended her liberality to the eight-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart when he and his family visited England in 1764.” Mozart later dedicated his Opus 3 in her honor. His 6 Sonata’s were published on the 18th January 1765. The opening in English translation means “Filled with pride and joy at daring to offer you a tribute, I was finishing up theses sonatas to be laid at the feet of your Majesty; I was, I confess, drunk with vanity and thrilled with myself, when I spied the Genius of Music at my side.” Mozart accompanied the Queen in aria in which she sang and played a solo work on the flute.

St Jame’s Palace was the official residence of the Royal couple however in 1762 they moved permanently into newly purchased Buckingham House. She liked it so much it was called ‘The Queens House’ and in 1755 an act of parliament made it officially hers in exchange for her rights to Somerset house. Initially Charlotte found it hard to adapt to British Court life because of a her overbearing mother in-law; Princess Augusta. Queen Charlotte liked to go for walks and was caught walking freely unattended to the dismay of Lady Mary Coke who found it to indignant, commenting “I am not satisfied in my mind about the propriety of a Queen walking in town unattended”.

In 1778 the Royal Family moved out to a newly refurbished section of Windsor Castle called the ‘Queens Lodge’ where the interior designed by Her Majesty herself. A friend of the Royal Family Mary Delany describes, “The entrance into the first room was dazzling, all furnished with beautiful Indian paper, chairs, covered with different embroideries of the liveliest colours, glasses, tables, sconces, in the best taste; the whole calculated to give the greatest cheerfulness to the place”,

Charlotte influenced the abolition of the slave trade through her husband by subtly consulting and persuading him on political affairs such as slavery. Olaudah Equiano an activist also known as Gustavus Vassa the ‘African’ author of his autobiography ‘The interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano’ wrote to the Queens sympathetic side knowing the Queens husbands and his father King George II were murderously pro slavery.

Charlotte Sophia of_Mecklenburg Strelitz by studio ofAllan_Ramsay

The City Charlotte in the North and South Region of Carolina was originally a Native American trading post. European colonist founded it in 1768 by loyal to the British Crown. They named the City ‘Charlotte Town’. ‘The Queen City’ was named after the Kings Consort to stay in his good books and to keep receiving an endless supply of food, men, money and more. There are also towns called “Queen City in Missouri and Texas. However Charlotte turned on the King and despite the Loyalist’s efforts the American Revolution began. Civil war broke out on September 26th 1780 in Charlottesville and the ‘The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence’ was produced.

In 1765 the King suddenly took ill with his first episode of mental illness. That same year the Regency Bill stated that the King should be ruled permanently unfit to rule and Charlotte should become Regent. This was highly opposed by her mother in law. The Kings health soon returned again and Charlotte was kept unaware of his illness and the Regency Bill. However after the Kings mental health continued to deteriorate which became unbearable as his ill health meant that she couldn’t be left alone safe with him.

The king was sent by Dr Warren to live at Kew Gardens. Charlotte and the children were initially refused to go with him but she argued endlessly and eventually got her own way. The Family stayed together but lived secluded from George whilst he was having one of his episodes of mental illness.

During her husbands’ bouts of mental illness she was constantly being bought into dispute with the Prince of Wales over the thrown and in 1788 the Prince of Wales was declared Regent should the king become permanently insane but placed the king himself, his court and minor children under the guardianship of the Queen. She denied the Prince of Wales access to King George during times of illness. The Prince of Wales later married his cousin baring one child who they named Charlotte. The couple were not a good match and were soon separated and divorced.

Extra strain was added to the Queen when the French Revolution broke out. She prepared accommodation for her good friend and confident Mary Antoinette, However the French Royals did not make it to England and were executed. More grief was bestowed upon Her Royal Highness.

Although Queen Charlotte was German, evidence suggests that her heritage was of African ancestry from relatives of the Portuguese Royal family. Mario de Valdes Y Cocom believes she was a descendant of Castro e Souza a Portuguese noblewoman of the 15th century. Her ancestry can be traced to King Alfonso III of Portugal (1210-1279) and his lover Madragana (1230-?) a blackamoor (a term used coined by Shakespeare for Muslims in those days) The Moors of Spain came from North Africa. Due to the political emphasis during the time and error of her reign it is very likely that Queen Charlottes true image has been corrupted to look more Caucasian, De Valdes y Cocom argues in PBS Frontline that “The Blurred Racial Lines of Famous Families,” Queen Charlotte’s features, as recorded by her contemporaries, gave her an “unmistakable African appearance.” It has been said that many courters called her “ugly” and that she had a dark complexion and flared nostrils.

King George III mental health condition worsened from 1806 onwards. It got to the point where she could no longer sleep, eat or be in his company unattended. He died on 29th January 1820. Charlotte found relief at Kew Gardens. In an age of discovery from the likes of Captain James Cook and Sir Joseph Banks she was able to expand collections of exotic plants and species found on their crusades. As an amateur botanist the Queens keen interest in botanicals led to the flower of South Africa ‘Birds of Paradise’ being named after her as ‘Strelitzia Reginae’.

As she aged Queen ‘Sophia’ Charlotte continued to play an active role to both her throne and family. The Prince of Wales marital issues with divorce made it difficult for him to rule and although serving the Kingdom in such good faith she grew unpopular and was treated with contempt. She died on the 17th November 1818 and is buried at St Georges Chapel Windsor Castle.

Her Royal Heiness Queen Charlotte Sophia (22nd September 1761 -17 November 1818

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.