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Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales (7 January 1796 – 6 November 1817) was the only child of King George IV of the United Kingdom (Prince of Wales for Charlotte's lifetime), and Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Charlotte married Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld on 2 May 1816 at Carlton House, London. and she died on 6 November 1817, after having given birth to a stillborn son the day before.

1796 – 1805

Birth

Charlotte was born in Carlton House, on 7 January 1796. Charlotte was the only child of George, Prince of Wales and his cousin Caroline of Brunswick. George was delighted by the birth of his daughter. Charlotte’s grandfather, King George III, was smitten with her. The people of the United Kingdom rejoiced at the news of her nativity. As of yet, the Prince of Wales was the only son of George III to produce a legitimate child.

The Princess of Wales, having been poorly treated by George, demanded better treatment after her daughter’s birth, arguing that she now deserved more reverence as the mother of an heiress. Her protests did not fare well with The Prince of Wales, who in response, left London and dictated a new will which left the baby Princess to her paternal grandparents in the case of his death. Caroline was infuriated. Charlotte was granted her own Household at birth. It was headed by a Lady Dashwood.

On 11 February 1797, the little Princess was christened Charlotte Augusta, after her grandmothers Queen Charlotte and Augusta, Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg , in the Great Audience Chamber of Carlton House by the Archbishop of Cantebury. Her godparents were her paternal grandparents and her maternal grandmother, who was represented by a proxy, The Princess Royal.

Infancy

George had been vying for an increase of his annual allowance from Parliament for quite some time (The only reason he married Caroline was because parliament wouldn't increase his allowance had he not); he hoped the birth of Charlotte would lead to another increase. When it refused to do so, George lashed out at his wife. George banned The Princess of Wales from visiting her daughter more than once a day, and she had to be supervised by a member of the baby's Household for the duration of her stay. Charlotte's governess, Lady Dashwood, died in October 1796, and was replaced in her capacity as governess by Maria, Countess of Elgin. Charlotte, as a young girl, suffered from violent mood swings (Charlotte’ violent moods are thought to be the product of a lack of parental affection.). Her mother often paraded her about to attain the public’s sympathy. Her father liked to use Charlotte to spite her mother.

The Prince of Wales visited Charlotte merely every few weeks. Her father's absence greatly upset her. In late 1797, the Princess of Wales moved into Montague Housemarker. Charlotte moved to Shrewsbury House to be nearer to her mother around the same date. Charlotte enjoyed a very close relationship with George III who played often with her, a stark contrast to her parents. Charlotte was kept away from George on the onset of his "madness" (thought to be caused by porphyria). The Countess of Elgin resigned in 1804. She was replaced by the Dowager Baroness de Clifford. Charlotte was deeply distraught at the loss of her cherished governess, whom she nicknamed “Eggy”

Charlotte had an allowance of £10 per week. She often visited stores with her governess, disguised as one of her grandchildren. She benevolently purchased toys for her playmates, the Baroness de Clifford’s grandchildren. Charlotte’s father still barely visited her, and she rarely saw the King anymore. Charlotte’s education was of relatively poor standards.

1806 - British Regency

The Prince of Wales, despite his absence, raised Charlotte under extremely strict terms (much as his father had done him).

In the summer of 1807, Charlotte experienced her first vacation. She visited Weymouth Beachmarker with the Baroness de Clifford. Princess Charlotte greatly enjoyed her visit, frolicking in the surf and playing on the beach. Charlotte’s appearance at the time of this time is described by a contemporary as almost overweight, of average height, possessing a white complexion and blue eyes. Her rowdy behaviour was thought to be unsuitable for someone of her rank and dignity, according to the same contemporary.

Charlotte was a huge fan of Mozart and was infatuated with the poet and adventurer Lord Byron, commenting "something [Byron] so very much above the common sort of beauty" when she viewed his portrait. The Prince of Wales refused to recognise that his daughter was growing up. He did not allow her to frequent anything but children’s balls and also refused to increase her meagre apparel stipend.

On 25 October 1810, King George began to act strangely; his favourite daughter Princess Amelia of the United Kingdom was on her deathbed. When she died on 2 November, George attacked the Prince of Wales and shot a "menancing glare" at Queen Charlotte. By 4 November, George was restrained. George III, having been deemed mentally unfit to rule, had his authority exercised by his son, the Prince of Wales, acting as regent. Politically, the Prince Regent supported the Tories, while Charlotte often publicly sided with the Whigs, causing more tension between father and daughter. Charlotte urged her father to appoint a Whig administration in 1811, but he did not do so; on one occasion she broke down in tears after hearing the Regent denounce the Whigs in a speech.

Death

Charlotte married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld in Carlton House on 2 May 1816. After two miscarriages in the early months of their marriage, she conceived for the third time in February 1817. Although she was healthy at the beginning of the pregnancy, medical staff took extra precautions; medical practice at the time was bloodletting and a strict diet that reduced her food intake, which only served to weaken Charlotte.

On the evening of 3 November, her water broke and labour commenced. After a fifty-hour labour at Claremont House, she delivered a stillborn 9-pound son on 5 November 1817. The second stage of labour had lasted 24 hours. Initially following delivery, Charlotte seemed to do well, but after several hours she became restless, had difficulty breathing, and her pulse grew fast and feeble. Five and a half hours after the delivery, she died, presumably from an undetected post-partum haemorrhage, on 6 November.

Prince Leopold wrote to Sir Thomas Lawrence:

The obstetrician, Sir Richard Croft, who had correctly diagnosed a transverse lie of the baby during labour but failed to use forceps, was distraught. Three months later, he shot himself during another woman's childbirth. Thus, Charlotte's single pregnancy is known in medical history as “the triple obstetrical tragedy”.

The Princess was buried in St. George's Chapel, Windsormarker with her son at her feet. Her death was mourned nationally, on a scale similar to that which followed the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997. On the other hand, in An Address to the People on The Death of the Princess Charlotte (1817), Percy Bysshe Shelley argued that while her death was very sad, the execution the following day of three men incited to lead the Pentrich Risingmarker was the greater tragedy.

Charlotte's death left the Prince of Wales without any direct heirs and meant that her paternal grandfather, George III, had no legitimate grandchildren from his twelve surviving children; all of his daughters were either sterile or now past childbearing age. The death resulted in a mad dash towards matrimony by most of Charlotte's bachelor uncles: the marriage of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn to Leopold's sister Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld eventually produced the heir, Queen Victoria. Charlotte's father, even after the death of his wife, made no attempt to remarry or father any more children. Given his poor health by the time his estranged wife died in 1821, he may not have been capable of becoming a father again.

Prince Leopold, who would later become the first King of the Belgians, remarried, to Louise-Marie (1812-1850) of Orléans, and had three sons and a daughter. The girl was named Charlotte in honour of his first wife and would later become Empress Carlota of Mexico.

Ancestors




Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

  • 7 January 1796 – 2 May 1816: Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales
  • 2 May 1816 – 6 November 1817: Her Royal Highness Princess Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Duchess in Saxony


Arms

For her marriage in 1816, the Prince Regent granted Charlotte personal arms — those of the kingdom, difference by a label argent of three points, the centre point bearing a rose gules. The label of three points is usually reserved for the children of a monarch — Charlotte was the daughter of the Prince Regent.

Legacy

Regiment

In 1815 the Royal Berkshire Regiment (amalgamated in 1994, but to be de-amalgamated and merged along with the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment in the Prince of Wales Division announced in restructuring plans on 16 December 2004) was titled the Princess Charlotte's of Wales Regiment when, on their return to England from service in Canada, the 49th (Hertfordshire) Regiment were assigned to guard the royal family in residence. Princess Charlotte, on seeing these polished men in their new uniforms, with scarlet coats and white breeches, pleaded that the regiment should be made "hers", and later the title was officially granted.

Princess Charlotte also gave her name to the 5th Dragoon Guards; her widower Prince Leopold was later Colonel of the Regiment.

Memorial

An obelisk to her memory stands in Red House Parkmarker in Great Barrmarker, Sandwell, Englandmarker.

The Chapel at Windsor Castlemarker shows her crypt, with Princess Charlotte's hand emerging from beneath a shroud.

References

Further reading



External links and references




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