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Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Six Princesses: Princess Amelia (1783-1810)

Princess Amelia  from the European  Magazine  and London Review (Nov 1810)
Princess Amelia from the European
Magazine and London Review (Nov 1810)
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Princess Amelia (7 August 1783 - 2 November 1810) was the youngest child of King George III and Queen Charlotte

The youngest Princess

Princess Amelia was born at the Royal Lodge, Windsor, on 7 August 1783, the fifteenth child and sixth daughter of King George III and Queen Charlotte. She was their youngest child, being more than twenty years junior to George, Prince of Wales, their eldest. She was christened in the grand council chamber at St James’ Palace on 19 September (1) by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The favourite daughter of George III

Amelia’s birth came after the deaths of the two youngest princes, Alfred in August 1782 and the much-loved Octavius in May 1783. George III had been very attached to Octavius, and Amelia in some measure replaced him in her father’s affections. She became her father’s favourite child and when she was young, the King would sit on the carpet playing with her.

Princess Amelia from the Lady's Magazine (1792) Princess Amelia from The Lady's Magazine (1792)
Princess Amelia from The Lady's Magazine (1792)
The education of a Princess

A pretty girl, Amelia grew to be tall and slender in person and graceful in demeanour. Like her sisters, her education was supervised by Lady Charlotte Finch and she was taught such academic subjects as English, French and geography as well as the accomplishments of a young lady – music, art and needlework. She became proficient on the piano and skilled at riding, her favourite pastime, but her frequent ill health prevented her from attaining as much as her sisters.

Precarious health

Unfortunately, Amelia’s health was never robust, and in 1798, when she was fifteen, she became ill with tuberculosis in her knee. By eighteen, she was also suffering from erysipelas, a painful bacterial skin infection also known as St Anthony’s fire. All kinds of treatments were tried including bleeding, blistering, leeches and sea bathing, as well as various remedies such as beef tea and calomel.

Princess Amelia  from The Georgian Era (1832)
Princess Amelia
from The Georgian Era (1832)

A summer in Worthing

During the summer of 1798, Amelia spent the summer in the quiet resort of Worthing rather than the King’s favourite place, the more lively resort of Weymouth. The Prince of Wales was a regular visitor, riding over most mornings from Brighton to see her, and sending presents when he could not visit. He wanted her to stay with him at the Pavilion, but his parents would not allow her to be moved.

Amelia was very fond of her brother George, calling him her “dear angelic brother” or her “beloved eau de miel”. She found his visits “really and truly a cordial”.

George IV  from La Belle Assemblée (1820)
George IV from La Belle Assemblée (1820)
In the spring of 1799, Amelia was declared to be in a state of convalescence and a grand entertainment was given by the Queen at Frogmore on 8 March to celebrate her recovery.

Sea bathing in Weymouth

Amelia frequently visited Weymouth with her family, but her health was deteriorating and by the summer of 1799, she was not well enough to walk on the esplanade with her sisters, but stayed in Gloucester Lodge playing music, entertaining her young niece, Princess Charlotte, or making presents for her family.

The following year, she was back in Weymouth, and experienced an alarming incident. One morning she entered her bathing machine to find two men inside who refused to leave. The proprietor eventually had to frighten them out by drawing the machine into the waves and the defeated men were jeered by the crowd as they hurriedly made their exit.

Gloucester Lodge on Weymouth seafront
Gloucester Lodge on Weymouth seafront
Love in Weymouth

In 1801, Amelia was once again bathing in salt water for her health in Weymouth, attended by one of the King’s equerries, Colonel Charles Fitzroy. Fitzroy was twenty years older than Amelia and the second son of Lord Southampton, who was descended from an illegitimate son of Charles II. George III was devoted to Fitzroy and referred to him at Court as Prince Charles.

Charles FitzRoy from The Romance of Princess
Amelia by WS Childe-Pemberton (1911)
Amelia fell in love with Colonel Fitzroy and desperately sought her brother George’s support to marry him. The Queen was vehemently opposed to the match. From as early as 1803, it appears that the Queen was aware of Amelia’s attachment to Fitzroy and repeatedly remonstrated with her daughter about “this unpleasant business”. Amelia never forgave her mother for her denigration of her love and complained to her brothers about the Queen’s lack of affection for her.

Amelia told her brother Frederick, the Duke of York, that she considered herself married already and began signing her letters AFR – Amelia FitzRoy – Charles’ “affectionate and devoted wife and darling” from about 1804.

Princess Amelia from The Romance of Princess Amelia  by WS Childe-Pemberton (1911)
Princess Amelia from The Romance of Princess Amelia
by WS Childe-Pemberton (1911)
Amelia’s last illness

Amelia grew progressively worse and returned again to Weymouth in 1808 with her sister Mary as her devoted companion and nurse. A bathing machine was adapted for her use so that she could bathe in the sea water without effort. Other days, she went sailing, being lifted up the side of the boat in a slung chair.

“Remember me”

When she realised that her life was ending, Amelia arranged for the Court jewellers, Rundell, Bridge and Co, to prepare a ring as a final gift to her father. The ring was set with one of her jewels and a lock of her hair pressed under a small crystal window and was inscribed with the words “Remember me”. When the King visited her chamber, Amelia put the ring on his finger and her father promptly burst into tears.

George III  from The History of the Reign of George III   by Robert Bissett (1822)
George III
from The History of the Reign of George III
 by Robert Bissett (1822)

An unfulfilled legacy

However, her last thoughts were for her forbidden love, Colonel Fitzroy:
“Tell Charles I die blessing him.” 
In her will, she left everything to Fitzroy except for a few legacies. However, Amelia had lived beyond her means and had borrowed money from her siblings and likely also from Fitzroy. In reality, all she had to bequeath was her jewellery, and even this, George persuaded Fitzroy to renounce his claim to for the sake of delicacy and it was given to Mary instead. Afterwards, George showed some remorse that he had not been able to better fulfil his sister’s dying wishes.

The death of George III’s favourite daughter

Amelia died at Augusta Lodge, Windsor, on 2 November 1810. On Tuesday 13 November (2), the day of her funeral, every shop in Windsor was closed. The funeral procession was lit by torchlight and the Dean of Windsor led the service and the body was interred in St George’s Chapel at Windsor. The Countess of Chesterfield was the Chief Mourner, supported by Lady Halford, the Countess of Ilchester and the Countess of Macclesfield.

Princess Amelia's coffin  from La Belle Assemblée (1810)
Princess Amelia's coffin from La Belle Assemblée (1810)
The King was stricken with grief at the death of his favourite child and rapidly descended into a period of derangement from which he never recovered.

Princess Amelia  by Mirabelle Knowles (2012)   after William Beechey (1797)
Princess Amelia
by Mirabelle Knowles (2012)
 after William Beechey (1797)
Notes
(1) Some sources state the date as 17 September.
(2) Some sources state the date as 14 November.

Sources used include:
Bell, John, La Belle Assemblée, various (1806-1831, London)
Bissett, Robert, The History of the Reign of George III (Edward Parker, 1822, Philadelphia)
Chedzoy, Alan, Seaside Sovereign - King George III at Weymouth (Dovecote Press, 2003, Dorset)
Clarke, The Georgian Era (Vizetelly, Branston and Co, 1832, London)
Hall, Mrs Matthew, The Royal Princesses of England (1871, London)
Hibbert, Christopher, George IV (Longmans,1972, Allen Lane, 1973, London)
Hodge, Jane Aiken, Passion and Principle (John Murray,1996, London)
Oulton, Walley Chamberlain, Authentic and Impartial Memoirs of Her Late Majesty Charlotte, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland (1819, London)
Purdue, AW, George III, daughters of (act.1766-1857), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, 2004, online edn, May 2009, accessed 10 Feb 2012)
Watkins, John, A Biographical Memoir of Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1827, London)

All photographs by Andrew Knowles - www.flickr.com/photos/dragontomato

25 comments:

  1. In the post about Princess Mary you said that she was George IV's favourite sister and I have read the same thing in Christopher Hibbert's book about George IV. But I have also read many times that either Pricess Sophia or Princess Amelia was his favourite.

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    1. I think that it is very difficult for us to know which sister was George IV's favourite. All his sisters were devoted to him and, knowing George, he probably declared that different sisters were his favourite at different times - he was not known for his consistency!

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    2. I never thought of that before but it sounds like something George would do.

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    3. He seems to be especially attached towards his three youngest sisters. I read that Sophia was his favourite, in fact, she was the declared favourite of at least the first five sons. I haven't yet read about Augustus and Adolphous and their particular sentiments.

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    4. According to Christopher Hibbert, Amelia was the sister he loved most NEXT Princess Mary. I'm sure the Prince was very fond of Sophia, but his affection for her cooled when she started to support his much.hated wife. As for Augustus, I've read that he formed a particularly strong rapport with his youngest sister (Amelia) and called her a "lovely creature". He also wrote a very affectionate letter to her where he basically says that she's the one he thinks most of when he's away from Windsor. I'm not saying that she was his favourite, but they were certainly extremely close.

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    5. I am inclined to think that Mary was George's favourite and that Amelia was probably the sister next closest to him, but it is very hard to say!
      The comment from 6 April 2013 below would seem to corroborate the idea that Augustus was particularly fond of Amelia.

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    6. That's exactly what I believe (I meant to write "next to Mary" in my previous comment). But I guess that it doesn't really matter. He was a kind brother to all his sisters and probably never (outwardly at least) showed any favouritism.
      Anyway, great post as always :)

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    7. Amelia was the favourit

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    8. I'm reading a book and it talks about that

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  2. Wasn't Amelia the favourite sister of both the Duke of Sussex and The Prince of Wales?

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    1. The Prince of Wales was certainly very attached to Amelia, but I am not sure that she was his particular favourite - though she may have been, at least some of the time!

      As for the Duke of Sussex, I cannot remember reading that he had a declared preference for Amelia - do you know where you read this?

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  3. I read it in an old book named "The romamce of Princess Amelia" from 1910. This is what I read; "Among some letters of the Duke of Sussex to his
    sister Amelia which found their way into General
    FitzRoy's keeping, is one written while he was on a visit to Lord and Lady Hertford inSeptember of this year, 1807.
    It breathes an air of mystery and caution not only as to Amelia's affairs, but also as to certain other family matters in which he was himself playing a secret part. The letter which we here publish shows him in the light of a warm-hearted and most affectionate brother
    entirely in the confidence of Amelia, and himself
    confiding in this favourite sister who was his junior by ten years."

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    1. Thanks for posting this - it certainly seems to suggest that Amelia was the Duke of Sussex's favourite sister.

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    2. The brothers were actually very affectionate towards all their sisters.

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    3. Yes, but it doesn't mention any particular favourtism. I have a copy of that book.

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    4. I agree that the brothers seemed to be very fond of all their sisters. It is hard to tell whether they really thought more of one over another.

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  4. I am reading this with my five year old son. We have moved to Worthing & play often in a small garden with bluebells & lovely trees. A small plaque is dedicated to the visit from Amelia. We call it Amelia woods. Now we know why she came to Worthing. We can put a face & a story to our small woodland.You never know my son might become a budding histirian.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. I am delighted to hear that Princess Amelia's visit to Worthing is being remembered. I think that a bluebell wood is a fitting memorial to this romantic Princess.

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  5. She lost favour as she got older; the King actually spent more time with Princess Sophia.

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  6. Apparently she also, romantically but imprudently, had ordered a large service of plate engraved with her and Fitzroy's entwined ciphers; the (fornicating, bigamous, adulterous) princes refused to honour this bequest out of "delicacy". Clearly the double standard was alive and well... Flora Fraser's book Princesses: the Six Daughters of George III gives quite a lot of detail on Amelia.

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    1. Yes, perhaps not the wisest thing to do. The Queen was so against the relationship that it must have been very difficult for her. How heartbreaking to have the love of your life described as an "unpleasant business".

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  7. She wasn't his "dearest" daughter -if anything at the end of her life she was estranged from her father. Her father loved all his daughters.

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