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Princess Charlotte: 200 Years On

Published on 06/11/17

On 6 November 1817 Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, granddaughter of George III, and the only child of the Prince Regent, died in tragic circumstances in the Mansion at Claremont. Had she survived, Charlotte would have become Queen of the United Kingdom.

The entire country was awash with grief following Charlotte’s death 200 years ago today, but in 2017 we have almost forgotten her.

History Guide, Pamela Rider, unravels the story of the much loved Princess:

When Charlotte was born in 1796 her grandfather George III was King, but often suffering from bouts of "madness". Thus her father, George IV, was appointed Prince Regent. It was important to have an heir to the Hanoverian succession so a marriage was arranged between the Prince Regent and his cousin, Caroline of Brunswick. Upon meeting, the couple took an instant dislike to each other and the marriage lasted only for a few weeks. However a child was conceived and was named Charlotte Augusta after her two grandmothers.

With parents who were not on speaking terms, and only allowed to see her mother with the Prince Regent's permission, Charlotte's childhood was not very happy. Despite this, she was a cheerful, friendly soul who was a daredevil on horseback, and soon became very popular. When she drove out in her carriage she was enthusiastically cheered in contrast to her father who was hissed and booed!  Everyone was looking forward to the day when she would be Queen.

Her marriage in 1816 to the extremely handsome German, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld was a great success. The crowds which gathered in London for the wedding were the largest ever for a royal occasion. They had their honeymoon at Oatlands, which belonged to the Prince Regent's brother, the Duke of York, and is now Oatlands Park Hotel. After a short time in London, where they were feted everywhere they went, they moved to Claremont to enjoy a peaceful domestic life.

The whole country was delighted with the news that Charlotte was expecting a baby in October 1817 and daily bulletins on the Princess’s health during her pregnancy were given out. But October became November and still no baby! Three weeks late and with Leopold by her side, Charlotte finally went into a labour which lasted for 50 hours. Sadly her son was stillborn. Charlotte was upset but resigned to it and Leopold left her to get some sleep. During that night in the early hours of 6 November she complained of pain and suddenly died. She was 21 years old. Britain had lost two heirs to the throne and Leopold had lost his wife, son and his position as the future Prince Consort to a Queen.

Her death changed British history and sparked a succession crisis as all George III's other children now had to marry in order to produce an heir. The Duke of Kent married Leopold's sister and Princess Victoria, Charlotte's cousin, was born. It is amazing to think Queen Victoria would not have reigned if Charlotte had not died on that night 200 years ago at Claremont.

  • Click here for more information on the history of Claremont.