The Poorly-Kept Secrets of Princess Amelia

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Princess Amelia was born at Windsor Castle on August 7, 1783, the youngest and 15th child of King George III and his wife, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Reportedly her father’s favorite child, who called her “Emily,” she came on the heels of the deaths of two older siblings, Princes Octavius and Alfred, both of which hit her parents hard. She also ushered in what was believed to be a “reset” for the Royal Family and the British public, which had recently seen the humiliating defeat of the American Revolution.

Even so, Amelia didn’t spent huge amounts of time with her parents in her youth. Instead, she grew up in a nursery dominated by the two sisters closest in age to her, Mary and Sophia, while their parents were increasingly preoccupied by the mishaps of their eldest siblings, then young adults. Their childhoods were further differentiated from that of their siblings by the fact that George III suffered his first bout of “madness” in 1788, a line of demarcation for the domestic life of the Royal Family.

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While George had once made noises about finding his daughters proper German husbands, he was always discomfited by the idea of marrying his children abroad following the experience of his younger sister, Caroline Matilda. In light of that and his inconsistent health, Charlotte rarely raised the subject and, for her part, she had little interest in sending away her remaining children. While the princes were able to make escapes thanks to military careers, the daughters mostly remained at home, living in an increasingly tense and claustrophobic atmosphere dictated by their father’s mental state.

Following an injury in 1798, when she was 15, she traveled to Worthing to convalesce, from where she wrote her father, “Certainly the vapour and warm sea bath are of use and therefore I hope that I shall be able to assure you that I am better.” At some point this year she began to suffer the symptoms of tuberculosis, the disease that would eventually kill her. In the meantime, she had recovered enough by 1799 to join her family for a holiday in Weymouth where she took delight in her young niece, Princess Charlotte.

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George and Charlotte’s children

The year after that, back in Worthing to tend to her intermittent illness, Amelia made the acquaintance of Hon. Charles FitzRoy, an equerry who was 38 to her 17. The young princess quickly fell in love, doing little to hide her feelings from the servants attending on her. One became so concerned that they went to Queen Charlotte to warn her that the relationship was unfolding, but rather incredibly the Queen insisted that a blind eye be turned, her primary concern being that the King not find out what his youngest and best-loved daughter was up to.

Amelia, however, had little interest in carrying on a discreet affair – she meant to marry FitzRoy. A close study of the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, however, dashed her hopes of being able to wed once she turned 25, even during her father’s reign, and she wrote:

“Nothing but the cruel situation I am placed in of being the daughter of the King and the laws made by the King respecting the marriages of the Royal Family prevents me being married to him, which I consider I am in my heart.”

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She certainly disclosed the relationship to her eldest brother, the Prince of Wales, who is believed to have given her the encouragement that when he was king he would let her wed as she pleased. Apparently the reassurance was enough to let her start using the initials “A.F.R” for Amelia FitzRoy, which she used in letters as a monogram on her silver. The brazenness of the act has led some to speculate she may have in fact gone through some sort of illegal ceremony with FitzRoy, but if she did the evidence has been buried.

Her daughter’s behavior was enough to worry the Queen so much that in the spring of 1805 she and her brother, the Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz hatched a plan to marry his son to one of her daughters. It’s unclear which daughter she had in mind, but only Amelia and her elder sister, Mary, could have been potential contenders, and given Amelia’s relationship with FitzRoy, it’s entirely possible the Queen saw this as a quick fix to separate the two. Certainly the matter was broached with the King, however his health took a turn for the worse that summer and it was eventually dropped altogether once it became clear the Duke’s son had little interest.

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In 1808 she took ill again and her overall health began a steep decline. She finally passed away on November 2, 1810 at Windsor, her place of birth just 27 years before. Her death, which affected King George deeply, is believed to have been the final nail in the coffin of his mental state – within a year the Prince of Wales would be sworn in as Prince Regent.

As for FitzRoy, he eventually married a widow named Eliza Savage in 1816; the union would remain childless. He made the rank of general in 1821 and lived until 1831.

Amelia is buried in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor.

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