The Royal Marriage Race of 1818

The series of royal weddings that took place in 1818 illustrates one of the more undignified showings of family duty the House of Hanover ever put forth – which is really saying something. The year was precipitated by the death of Princess Charlotte of Wales in childbirth on November 6, 1817. She left behind a widower, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, no children, and a plethora of middle-aged uncles.

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Princess Charlotte of Wales

Charlotte was the only offspring to result from the disastrous union of her parents, George, Prince of Wales and his first cousin, Caroline of Brunswick. The couple famously despised each other, living together only long enough to secure the succession through the birth of one child and separating when Charlotte was an infant. Her father, the eldest son of George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, had been first in line for the throne since birth and by 1817 was ruling as Prince Regent due the King’s mental health issues.

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The tomb of Princess Charlotte at Windsor Castle

However, with the Prince Regent at 55 and his only child dead, the 11 other children of George III and Queen Charlotte still living found themselves of renewed dynastic importance. The royal couple’s attitudes towards the personal lives of their children was abnormal at best. Their sons were largely left to their own devices once they reached maturity, which saw most of them join the military, take up mistresses and embroil themselves in society scandals. With the exception of the Prince of Wales who, for obvious reasons, was expected to marry and beget legitimate heirs, the other royal Hanoverian brothers showed little interest in marrying until their pocket books dictated a need for a dowry or an increased Parliamentary allowance.

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