The Death of Prince Albert

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Irony of ironies, but the very date that Queen Victoria branded a bad omen and which holds a very fraught history within the Royal Family is in fact my birthday: December 14. I’ve never known quite what to make of that, especially since Queen Victoria was the first British monarch I took a particular interest in. But there’s a reason she hated the day – and a few reasons why she became quite superstitious about it – her husband died on December 14, plunging her into a 40-year widowhood at the age of 42.

Not only that but 10 years later, her eldest son nearly died of the same disease (Typhoid) on the very same day – when the 14th rolled around, however, he miraculously began to recover. Seven years after that, Princess Alice became the first Victoria’s children to die on, you guessed it, December 14, 1978. Even as late as 1895 the date had resonance – Mary of Teck, then Duchess of York, gave birth to her second son on December 14th of that year and her husband was afraid to tell the Queen lest she be somehow offended. She wasn’t, but she did note his birth date was “unfortunate.”

So, on this most unfortunate of days, but one on which I get to eat cake and open presents, let’s go back to the OG and take a look at Prince Albert’s death.

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Mary Adelaide of Cambridge’s Slow Walk to the Altar

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[Note: This post was up on the site for a couple hours on Monday morning, but after all the activity surrounding Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement, I yanked it to save for another day. So, for those of you who already read it, surprise! Here it is again on a calmer day :)]

Mary Adelaide of Cambridge is a bit of a forgotten figure within the British Royal Family, but she was an interesting character in her day and dynastically important. She was Queen Mary’s mother and, as such, a direct ancestor of the current Queen and her descendants. In many ways she’s an interesting parallel to her first cousin, Queen Victoria – both came about from the royal marriage push after Princess Charlotte of Wales’s death, both battled very Hanoverian appearances and both became matriarchs of their own branches of the family.

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The Private Life of Princess Augusta

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Princess Augusta bears the dubious honor of being George III’s most beautiful daughter, but that’s not exactly a high standard. She was born on November 8, 1768, the sixth child and second daughter of George and his wife, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Her birth is famous for the anecdote that her father was enormously eager for another daughter after four boys and when the waiting physician said, “I think, sir, whoever sees those lovely princes above stairs must be glad to have another,” the King was none too pleased.

“Dr. Hunter,” replied George, “I did not think I could have been angry with you, but I am; and I say, however see that lovely child the Princess Royal above stairs must wish to have the fellow with her.”

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Before Victoria: Princess Charlotte of Wales

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Today is the 200th anniversary of the day Princess Charlotte of Wales died, changing the trajectory of British history and ushering Queen Victoria not only to the throne, but into existence. When I was younger and first becoming interested in the history of the British Royal Family, Princess Charlotte was one of my favorite figures. There’s something rather stunning about her story – from her likability in the face of her family’s unpopularity to her parents’ disastrous marriage to her own seemingly happy ending that was tragically cut short. Charlotte was born to become yet another one of the UK’s queen regnant and her death led to another. There are interesting parallels between Charlotte and Queen Victoria: both were headstrong women in leadership, both married men from Coburg and both were only children who grew up unnaturally alone. It seems fitting somehow that if history intended for Charlotte to be replaced then it was by another Hanoverian woman.

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Did George III’s Daughter Have an Illegitimate Son?

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The short answer is “yes.” Princess Sophia was born to George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz on November 3, 1777. It was an easy birth – or, as Charlotte later put it, “I was taken ill and delivered in the space of fifteen minutes.” Her father wasn’t present as he was then deeply enmeshed in the crisis of the American Revolution. By March, France and Britain had broken off diplomatic relations and the war wasn’t going particularly well – even so, Sophia was allocated funds during the Parliamentary session after birth to be paid out when she married or her father died, whichever came first.

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The Almost Queen: Sophia of the Palatinate

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And so we turn now to one of my faves, Sophia of the Palatinate, a woman who, had she lived only a few weeks longer, would have succeeded Queen Anne on the throne. It is because of her that the House of Hanover was founded and she’s the line’s true matriarch, making her a direct ancestor to the current queen and the rest of today’s Royal Family.

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The Accession of George II & Caroline of Ansbach

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In June 1727, 13 years into his reign, George I cheerfully left England for Hanover, grateful as always for any excuse to leave the British behind for the order and privacy of his beloved Electorate. While abroad he was planning a trip to Berlin to see his daughter, the Queen of Prussia, where he was working to finalize a marriage between his grandson, the Crown Prince, and his eldest granddaughter, Princess Anne. He was also going to see his eldest grandson, Prince Frederick, the sole representative of the Royal Family still living in Hanover since George ascended the British throne.

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The Extraordinary Case of George I’s Wife, Sophia Dorothea of Celle

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The story of George I’s marriage to Sophia Dorothea of Celle sounds like the plot of fiction, or at the very least, as though it’s from another time. It’s a strange, barbaric tale, one which gave Great Britain its second ever divorced monarch. Unlike Henry VIII, George I never remarried, but he did found the House of Hanover. Sophia Dorothea would never be crowned queen, but her son would become George II and she is a direct ancestor of every British monarch since.

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The One Who Got Away: Charlotte, Queen of Württemberg

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George III was famously disinclined to let his daughters marry thanks to the marital follies of his siblings. And while that feeling may have been spearheaded by George, it was supported by his wife, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, particularly after George began showing signs of mental illness. Of the couple’s six daughters, only three married, but of those three, only one married before she was middle-aged. That daughter was the eldest: Charlotte, the Princess Royal.

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Prince William & the Walpole Bastard

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In the middle of all the conversation about what an unlikely choice Meghan Markle is for the British Royal Family let’s take a moment to remember the time George III’s younger brother married the illegitimate daughter of a shop girl. Notably, the marriage was one of the liaisons that prompted the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, a fairly useless piece of legislation that didn’t do anyone much good.

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