A king without an heir is always a
matter for concern but a king without so much as a queen is far worse. After
all, with no bride, there is not even the faint hope of solving your succession
woes. Of course, not having a wife was no bar to having children but they could
never take the throne.
One such queenless king was George
III, who ascended to the throne on 25 October 1760. George was not without
admirers, but the royal marriage bed remained resolutely empty. Just as a list
of likely brides was presented at Versailles in 1725 and countless other royal
houses throughout the centuries, so Parliament began to think about possible
wives for the king. The long list was drawn up, discussed and shown to George,
who waved it away. With a sigh, the politicians went back to the drawing board
and assembled a second shortlist, no doubt with much fevered mopping of brows.
One of the names on the new list was
that of Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz who was six years
younger than George and, crucially, utterly uncontroversial. Her family was
respectable if not particularly illustrious and her youth made her the ideal
candidate in the eyes of George’s mother, Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, who
did not want anyone too remarkable, lest her own influence be usurped.
Intelligent, just pretty enough, and
with her only vices apparently a love of snuff and jewels, everyone agreed that
Sophia Charlotte might well be the ideal candidate. Charlotte’s
widowed mother, Elisabeth, negotiated the match
with aplomb, smoothing the road for her daughter’s
forthcoming marriage. Sadly, Elisabeth would not live to see Charlotte marry
and died in June 1761, just prior to the future queen’s
departure for England. Even with her entourage to accompany her, to make a trip
to a new land whilst grieving for her mother must have put an enormous strain
on the young bride. She maintained her composure admirably but behind her
placid exterior, Charlotte mourned her lost mother keenly.
On the rough sea journey Charlotte
utterly charmed her escorts whilst in England, George waited for his bride with
undisguised enthusiasm, keen to meet the woman who appeared, on paper, to be
just what he was looking for. Upon her arrival at St James’s
Palace on 8 September 1761, Charlotte threw herself at George’s
feet in supplication, head bowed in deference. The king, gentleman that he was,
helped his anxious bride to her feet and gently escorted her into the palace to
meet his family.
The couple were married by Thomas
Secker, Archbishop of Canterbury and from the very beginning, they seemed
devoted to one another. This would set the store for the fifty -seven year
marriage that was to follow, their love persisting through thick and thin. For
George III there were to be no mistresses, official or otherwise; it seemed
that, in Charlotte, he had truly found his soul mate.
George presented Charlotte with a
diamond ring to be worn alongside her wedding ring; inscribed within the band
was Sept 8th 1761. Charlotte appears to have been particularly touched by the
ring and wore it from the day of her wedding to the day of her death.
Two weeks after the wedding the king
and queen attended their Westminster Abbey coronation. With their shared
dislike of being in the limelight, Charlotte and George did not particularly
enjoy the ceremony and preferred to spend their time in contented seclusion.
Certainly, they were secluded often enough to have fifteen children!
As the years passed and George began
to succumb to the mental illness that would later dominate him, Charlotte’s
devotion never lessened, She bore the exhausting toll of caring for her husband
with fortitude, turning to her unmarried daughters for company, needing someone
to show her the affection that her ill husband became increasingly unable to
The king and queen’s
marriage ended with Charlotte’s death in 1818 and the king, his
sanity gone, never knew that the wife he had once adored was dead, laid to rest
in the castle that had become his home and hospital.
Campbell Orr, Clarissa. Queenship
in Europe 1660-1815: The Role of the Consort. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2004.
Craig, William Marshall. Memoir of
Her Majesty Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg Strelitz, Queen of Great Britain.
Liverpool: Henry Fisher, 1818.
Fraser, Flora. Princesses: The Six
Daughters of George III. Edinburgh: A&C Black, 2012.
Hadlow, Janice. The Strangest
Family: The Private Lives of George III, Queen Charlotte and the Hanoverians.
London: William Collins, 2014.
Hibbert, Christopher. George III:
A Personal History. London: Viking, 1998.
Tillyard, Stella. A Royal Affair:
George III and his Troublesome Siblings. London: Vintage, 2007.
Curzon is a royal historian and blogs on all matters 18th century at A CoventGarden Gilflurt's Guide to Life. Her work has featured by publications
including BBC History Extra, All About History, History of Royals, Explore
History and Jane Austen’s Regency World. She has performed at
venues including the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, Lichfield Guildhall and Dr
Johnson's House. Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film
and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, she lives in Yorkshire atop
a ludicrously steep hill. Follow Catherine on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram.
About the Book
the glittering Hanoverian court gives birth to the British Georgian era, a
golden age of royalty dawns in Europe. Houses rise and fall, births, marriages
and scandals change the course of history and in France, Revolution stalks the
behind the shutters of the opulent court of the doomed Bourbons, the absolutist
powerhouse of Romanov Russia and the epoch-defining family whose kings gave
their name to the era, the House of Hanover.
the pomp and ceremony were men and women born into worlds of immense privilege,
yet beneath the powdered wigs and robes of state were real people living lives
of romance, tragedy, intrigue and eccentricity. Take a journey into the private
lives of very public figures and learn of arranged marriages that turned to
love or hate and scandals that rocked polite society.
the former wife of a king spends three decades in lonely captivity, Prinny
makes scandalous eyes at the toast of the London stage and Marie Antoinette
begins her last, terrible journey through Paris as her son sits alone in a
forgotten prison cell.
in the Georgian Court is a privileged peek into the glamorous, tragic and
iconic courts of the Georgian world, where even a king could take nothing for