Like all the daughters of George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Princess Mary’s life was a little bit tragic and a little bit mundane. Born in April 1776, Mary was the first of her parents’ children to arrive in the middle of the American Revolution. Ten other children preceded her in the royal nursery, but few of them would be able to match Mary in confidence or spirit, both of which may very well have stemmed from the fact she was early on considered the most attractive of her siblings.
Few dynamics within the Royal Family are as strange as that between the monarch and heir. Never was this more abundantly clear than when George I came over from Germany in 1714 and established the House of Hanover. From that day on, a reliable tension has nearly always existed and arguably strains of it have been felt as late as the 20th century. To-date, the most chilling example of it has to be the relationship between George II and Caroline of Ansbach with their eldest son, Frederick, the Prince of Wales.
As all bets indicate that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be named the Duke and Duchess of Sussex when they marry this May, it seems as good a time as any to look at the last prince to hold this title and the two rather memorable marriages he made. To-date this title has only had one creation, though its second has garnered speculation for years. There was discussion when the Queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward, became engaged that the title would be bestowed on him at his wedding, and it came up again in the lead up to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding in 2011, but the best intel has always said it was long ago set aside as Harry’s.
Before George IV married Caroline of Brunswick and embarked on one of the most disastrous and humiliating royal matches in British history, he took another wife, one of his own choosing. The problem was that she was Catholic, and not of the Stuart variety, but rather a nice Englishwoman who was only noble adjacent. Neither her social position nor her financial situation made her a viable contender for a royal marriage, and the prince who fell in love with her was none other than the heir to the throne.
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 of 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.
[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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.