from Huish's Memoirs of her late
royal highness Charlotte Augusta (1818)
Having lived the first seventeen years of her life in virtual seclusion, Princess Charlotte was allowed, at last, to appear in public. Perhaps this was in response to her mother’s anxious letter to the king; perhaps it was to distract her from the disappointment of having her request to set up her own establishment refused.
Whatever the reason, on 5 February 1813, Charlotte was present at a fete held by her father, the Regent, at Carlton House, dressed in richly embroidered white lace over white satin, and adorned with diamonds. Soon after, she was seen at the opera with the Duchess of York, and the following year, she was formally presented to the queen at a drawing room.
Around this time, rumours abounded concerning Charlotte’s supposed relationship with Captain Charles Hesse, an army lieutenant who was said to be the illegitimate son of the Duke of York. The Princess of Wales had allegedly promoted the relationship, though more to antagonise the Regent than to bring about Charlotte’s happiness, and had arranged for them to meet at her home in Kensington.
The Regent was alarmed by this seemingly wayward behaviour and when her governess, Lady de Clifford, resigned, most probably as a result of the Hesse affair, she was replaced by the Duchess of Leeds, with Cornelia Knight as lady companion, and they were given strict instructions not to let Charlotte out of their sight. Unfortunately, his fears led George to act unfeelingly, cruelly denying his daughter the recommended visit to the seaside for her health in July 1813, refusing to believe that she was really ill.
from La Belle Assemblée (1830)
Despite the obvious failure of his own arranged marriage, George was now determined to promote one for his daughter. The chosen bridegroom was Prince William of Orange, an unprepossessing and indecisive young man who had served on the Duke of Wellington’s staff in Spain. He had subsequently been given a command at Waterloo which he had fulfilled with notorious incompetence. Unsurprisingly, he was often given the nickname, “Silly Billy”. When Charlotte discovered that she was expected to live largely in Holland, she was horrified, and on 10 June 1814, she told Prince William that she would not marry him and the proposed marriage had to be abandoned.
Charlotte runs away
The Regent was furious at Charlotte’s disobedience. He dismissed Cornelia Knight and the Duchess of Leeds and virtually all her servants and created a whole new household for his daughter. Dismayed, Charlotte ran away to her mother at Connaught House, but she was obliged to return in disgrace to Warwick House with the Duke of York.
As a result, her conduct was severely monitored. She was sent to live at Cranbourne Lodge in Windsor Park, her correspondence was stopped and she was only allowed to see people connected with the Regent’s party, to the great concern of the Duke of Sussex who questioned this seeming incarceration in the House of Lords. Suffering from ill-health, she was sent to Weymouth to recuperate.
A happy marriage
|The marriage of Princess Charlotte|
to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg
from La Belle Assemblée (1816)
Death of the Princess
After two miscarriages, Charlotte became pregnant again, but the joyful anticipation came to an abrupt end when she died on 6 November 1817, having given birth to a stillborn boy the previous evening.
|Princess Charlotte |
from The Ladies' Monthly Museum
In memoriam (1817)
The whole country went into mourning. A public subscription was initiated by the Duchess of York for a commemorative monument and over £12,000 was raised by the adoring public. The Regent, however, in typical egocentric fashion, declared that the monument should be erected in the St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle and not in Hyde Park in London, to the outrage of public who had funded it.
Read about Charlotte's unhappy childhood
Sources used include:
Hibbert, Christopher, George IV (1972, 1973)
Huish, Robert, Memoirs of her late royal highness Charlotte Augusta (1818)
Parissien, Steven, George IV, The Grand Entertainment (2001)