Princess Charlotte Augusta Hanover of Wales
- Born: 7 Jan 1796, Carlton House, London, England
- Marriage: King Leopold I George Christian Frederick of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld of the Belgians on 2 May 1816 in Carlton House, London, England
- Died: 6 Nov 1817 at age 21
- Buried: St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire, England
Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales (7 January 1796 \endash 6 November 1817) was the only child of the ill-fated marriage between George IV (at the time Prince of Wales) and Caroline of Brunswick.
She was born at Carlton House in London, her birth being something of a miracle as George IV later claimed that he and his wife had sex no more than three times in the whole of their marriage. By the time she was a few months old, Charlotte's parents were effectively separated, and her mother's time with her was severely restricted by her father.
She grew into a headstrong and difficult teenager, and fell out with her mother when Caroline decided to go into continental exile. Following an ill-fated attempt to wed her to Prince William of Orange (later William II of the Netherlands) which she broke off after he made a drunken exhibition of himself at Ascot races, she spent much of her time restricted to Cranbourne Lodge at Windsor, Berkshire from July 1814 to January 1816 while Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld lobbied the Prince Regent and the British Parliament for the right to court her.
Charlotte married Prince Leopold George Christian Frederick of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (to whom Parliament had granted a £50,000 per year annuity for his own life, which would survive his wife) on May 2, 1816, at Carlton House. Contemporary accounts describe their marriage as happy and contented, and they lived at Claremont, a wedding gift from the nation. Charlotte confided that her husband was "the perfection of a lover."
After two miscarriages in the early months of their marriage, she conceived a third time in February 1817. Although healthy at the beginning of the pregnancy, medical staff took extra precautions; medical practice at the time was bloodletting and a strict diet of reducing her food intake, which only served to weaken Charlotte.
On the evening of 3 November, her water broke and labour commenced. After a 50-hour labour at Claremont, she delivered a stillborn 9-pound son there on 5 November 1817. The second stage of labour had lasted 24 hours. Initially after delivery Charlotte seemed to do well, but after several hours she became restless, had difficulty breathing, and her pulse became fast and feeble. Five and a half hours after the delivery she died, presumably from a concealed post-partum haemorrhage.
Two generations gone \emdash gone in a moment! I have felt for myself, but I have also felt for the prince regent. My Charlotte is gone from the country \emdash it has lost her. She was a good, she was an admirable woman. None could know my Charlotte as I did know her. It was my study, my duty, to know her character, but it was also my delight.
(Prince Leopold 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 a 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, Windsor 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 Rising 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 - and most, if not all, of his daughters were either sterile or past childbearing. The death resulted in a mad dash towards matrimony by most of her bachelor uncles (the marriage of her uncle Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent, produced the eventual heir\emdash Queen Victoria). Her 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 fathering further children anyway.
Prince Leopold, who would later become the first King of the Belgians, married again with Louise-Marie of Orléans and had two sons and a daughter, who was named Charlotte in honour of his first wife. Charlotte would later become empress-consort of Mexico.
Titles and styles
For her marriage in 1816, the Prince Regent granted Charlotte personal arms \emdash 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 \emdash Charlotte was the daughter of the Prince Regent.
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 December 16, 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.
An obelisk to her memory stands in Red House Park in Great Barr, Sandwell, England.
The Chapel at Windsor Castle shows her crypt, with Princess Charlotte's hand emerging from beneath a shroud.
Charlotte married King Leopold I George Christian Frederick of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld of the Belgians, son of Francis Frederick Anton Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Countess Augusta Caroline Reuß of Ebersdorf and Lobenstein, on 2 May 1816 in Carlton House, London, England. (King Leopold I George Christian Frederick of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld of the Belgians was born on 16 Dec 1790 in Coburg, Upper Franconia, Bavaria, Germany, died on 10 Dec 1865 in Laeken, Brussels, Brussels, Belgium and was buried in Royal Crypt of the Church of Notre-Dame de Laeken, Laeken, Brussels, Brussels, Belgium.)