from The Lady's Magazine (1792)
Princess Charlotte Augusta Matilda (29 September 1766 - 6 October 1828) was the eldest daughter of King George III and Queen Charlotte. She was known by her title, the Princess Royal.
Birth of the Princess Royal
Princess Charlotte Augusta Matilda, the Princess Royal, was born on 29 September 1766 at Buckingham House, the fourth child and eldest daughter of King George III and Queen Charlotte. She was christened on 27 October by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Queen Charlotte was an advocate of vaccination and accordingly, on 12 December 1768, the young Princess was inoculated against smallpox, along with her brother, Prince William.
A strict regime
Queen Charlotte was a very dominant character and imposed a strict regime upon her family. They woke early, ate plain food and were never allowed out of her sight when they were out walking, invariably in pairs. The older Princesses ate breakfast with their parents at eight o’clock and then settled down to their studies, superintended by Lady Charlotte Finch.
|Queen Charlottefrom Memoirs of Her Late |
Majesty Queen Charlotte by WC Oulton (1819)
Their education included modern foreign languages, history, geography, music, art and embroidery. Charlotte had a particular liking for history and spoke French and Italian fluently. She also became skilled at copying engravings and her copies of some Ridinger etchings of wild animals were displayed in her closet at Frogmore.
Alleviating the boredom
This repetitive lifestyle was sometimes interspersed by outings and longer visits. These included several sojourns with Lord and Lady Harcourt at Newnham as well as visits to the Royal Academy, Oxford University, Blenheim and the Egham Races. Sometimes Charlotte and her sisters were entertained by plays, either privately at home or at the theatre, or by musical concerts, such as those patronised by King George III in commemoration of Handel in 1784.
When the King went to Cheltenham to take the waters in 1788, the Queen, Charlotte and her sisters went too. When the King visited Weymouth in 1789 to recuperate from his severe bout of incapacitating illness, the royal family visited the seaside town as well. When the King decided to visit Weymouth, summer after summer, the Princesses went too. At the seaside, the Princesses had a little more freedom and enjoyed sea-bathing and sailing.
|Gloucester Lodge today where George III and his family stayed|
on their visits to Weymouth
On 25 October 1769, at the age of three, Charlotte appeared at her first drawing room at St James’ together with her brother, the Prince of Wales, aged seven.
Then, on 18 January 1782, she appeared at her first Court Ball. A drawing room was held to celebrate the Queen’s birthday and the ball that followed was opened soon after nine o’clock by the Princess Royal dancing the first minuet with her brother, the Prince of Wales.
|George, Prince of Wales, later George IV|
from Memoirs of Her Late Majesty
Queen Charlotte by WC Oulton (1819)
Unfortunately, Charlotte suffered a mishap. Somehow the fringe of her petticoat became entangled with her buckle and she lost her shoe. The music stopped whilst she recovered from this accident, leaving the poor Princess exceedingly embarrassed. The shoe was quickly replaced but the incident was not forgotten; some verses were penned to commemorate the event:
Character“The Princess lost her shoe,
Her Highness hopp’d
The fiddlers stopp’d
Not knowing what to do.”
Charlotte was shy and lacking in confidence and this sometimes made her appear arrogant and remote. She was of a somewhat managing disposition and, as the Queen tended to hold her responsible for her sisters, this made her unpopular with them as she was inclined to tell tales and stir up trouble.
Charlotte was very insecure and hated being teased and she felt that her mother did not love her as much as her sisters. She described herself as “absolutely a slave” rather than a daughter and complained bitterly about her mother’s violent moods and outbreaks of temper.
|Princess Charlotte Augusta Matilda|
from A Biographical Memoir of Frederick,
Duke of York and Albany by John Watkins (1827)
In 1787, an attorney named Thomas Stone made a brief stir by writing to the Queen asking for the Princess Royal's hand in marriage. He then appeared at St James', asking to be introduced to the Princess and declaring his love for her. On examination, he was pronounced insane and confined in Bethlem Hospital.
Charlotte was very keen to be married and asked her brother, the Prince of Wales, to find her a husband. The King was absolutely set against his daughters marrying either a Catholic or a commoner, which left very few eligible persons. Prince Peter of Oldenburg was touted as a possibility, and her sisters even teased her by referring to her as “the Duchess of Oldenburg” but nothing came of it.
In 1796, Prince Friedrich William, the Hereditary Prince of Württemberg, made Charlotte an offer of marriage. The King was very reluctant to give his consent. Firstly, Prince Friedrich’s father was a Catholic and secondly, the Prince’s first wife – Charlotte’s cousin and sister to Caroline of Brunswick - had died in suspicious circumstances in Russia.
|Princess Royal meets the Hereditary Prince of |
Württemberg for the first time
Published by Laurie and Whittle (1797)
© British Museum
However, Charlotte was set on the match and succeeded in gaining her father’s consent. The couple met on 15 April 1797 and they were married on 18 May in the Chapel Royal in St James’ by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Charlotte wore a dress of white and gold made by her mother, with a scarlet mantle and a crimson velvet coronet with a broad band and a large plume of diamonds. She wore the Order of St Catherine on her breast.
The Queen immediately held a drawing room so that people could pay their respects to the royal couple and on 23 May, she gave a grand fete at Frogmore in honour of their marriage. On 2 June, the couple left for Stuttgart.
Prince Friedrich was very overweight and Charlotte was plump and so the pair was ridiculed in the cartoons of the day.
Life in Württemberg
In December 1797, Friedrich succeeded as Duke of Württemberg and made peace with the French Republic. He was made Elector in 1803 and King in 1806. It is doubtful whether Queen Charlotte ever forgave Charlotte and her husband for supporting Napoleonic France, although Württemberg switched allegiance in December 1813.
Charlotte enjoyed her new freedom and status and spent her time reading, especially religious and historical works, writing letters and drawing. In the Palace at Stuttgart, there were cabinets which demonstrated Charlotte’s taste and skill in enamel painting.
Friedrich William was impetuous and violent but loved justice, and Charlotte seems to have been genuinely attached to him. Sadly, their only child was stillborn, but Charlotte was much loved by Friedrich’s children from his first marriage.
Hereditary Prince of Württemberg
Print by Tomkins after Schweppe (1796)
© British Museum
After her husband’s death on 30 October 1816, Charlotte resided in the Palace of Louisburg, but visited Deinach in the Black Forest every summer, a place which was renowned for its mineral waters.
Final illness and death
In 1827, Charlotte travelled to England, hoping to find a cure for dropsy and taking the opportunity to visit her family. On her return journey, her ship was caught in a storm, but she remained calm, saying:
“I am here in the hand of God as much as at home in my bed.”
She died at Ludwigsburg, Württemberg, on 6 October 1828 (1) of an apoplectic seizure, and was buried next to her husband on 12 October.
(1) The date of death is from Purdue's article on the daughters of George III (details below). Wikipedia gives the date as the 5 October.
Sources used include:
Chedzoy, Alan, Seaside Sovereign - King George III at Weymouth, (Dovecote Press, 2003, Dorset)
Hall, Mrs Matthew, The Royal Princesses of England (1871, London)
Hibbert, Christopher, George IV (Longmans,1972, Allen Lane, 1973, 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