Episode 13: Princess Charlotte
Our friend Queen Victoria would probably not have existed without the story of a Princess that came before her—Charlotte Augusta of Wales. She was the only child of George (later to become King George IV) and Princess Caroline of Brunswick. Charlotte would have become Queen had she outlived her father and grandfather, but she died during childbirth.
Died? In childbirth? There must be more!? There is, and we tell it to you in this podcast. It’s quite a tale, beginning before Charlotte is even born.
*insert that dreamy going back in time music*
Charlotte’s father was, how shall we say, Money Sucking Royalty. And not only that, he was a playah. (yeah, we did. We promise we won’t , ever again.) Prince George attempted to marry his longtime mistress, Maria Fitzherbert, but his father ( King George III) wasn’t about to give the royal nod to that coupling. Prince George, in order to up his allowance, per the Prime Minister William Pitt, needed to marry. What’s a prince to do? He networked 1700’s style for a spouse his father AND his many mistresses would approve of.
Enter Princess Caroline. She was his first cousin and one of the last two choices (choice two being a cousin from the other side of his family tree, Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.) Prince George chose Caroline- not because she was prettier or less tied to scandal because she wasn’t that- but because his mistresses approved of her (probably because she was less of a threat).
But Princess Caroline needed, um, a little work. She arrived in Britain pretty much a hot mess. Not that Prince George was a physical catch himself. We go into some detail, but basically they got along well enough to marry, consummate the marriage and get pregnant. Once.
Charlotte was born January 7th, 1796. What was her childhood like? Well, what would your childhood be like if your parents didn’t live together, were forever quarraling, and you were left to the care of paid staff and hauled out only when your parents needed you for something? Like that.
We do spell it out a bit more, but basically she was a wild child, prone to pulling pranks and, yet, was adored by her people. They were less than thrilled with the current ruler (Mad King George, anyone?) and the next in line (Daddy Dearest) wasn’t any better. She had to be the hope of the people, right?
After an adolescence and entrée into society she pulled some whoppers in the way of impropriety. Just your average, bored teenage Princess. If reality TV was around in her day we would probably be watching Her Minxship instead of Jersey Shore. (Uh, not that we watch Jersey Shore)
Finally she meets HIM. The One. A career military man, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The path to the alter took some time, and some manipulations- but on May 2nd, 1816 the two were married in Carlton House. He was a super dreamboat, she was a popular princess; he calmed her wild ways, she gave him the political position he desired – the country was all over this!
And then the waiting game for an heir began. Within two years, and two miscarriages, she finally carries a baby for the full nine months…but then this blissful life takes a turn. Poor medical care meets a very large baby. We talk about this a great deal in the podcast, and we don’t want to spoil it for you- but Charlotte delivers a stillborn son. Hours later, she follows him in death.
Leopold and the entire country are thrown into deep grief for their beloved Charlotte.
Leopold will go on to play a crucial role in the life of Queen Victoria. Or should we say, UNCLE Leopold? His sister, Princess Viktoria, will give birth to the future Queen. And Victoria’s Albert? He can also call him Uncle Leopold.
Leopold would eventually become the first King of Belgium and marry again. His wife gave birth to a daughter whom they named Charlotte.
Time Travel with The History Chicks
Books! We recommend Charlotte and Leopold: The true story of the Original People’s Princess by, James Chambers