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.
George III is one of the more famous British monarchs in history, but not for reasons he would have liked. He is known, first and foremost, for being the king that lost America. He is also known for being “mad.” If you are somewhat more familiar with his reign or the time period, then perhaps you also associate his many children with him – he and his wife, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, would have 15 in all between the years 1762 and 1783.
It’s unfortunate, too, because George had all the makings of a great king. He ascended the throne in 1760 at the age of 22 when his grandfather, George II, died after a 23-year reign. He was the third monarch in the House of Hanover, a house that existed in England because the Stuarts died out (not counting, of course, its Catholic members) and the country was forced to reach far up the family tree to find this German offshoot, descended from James I through his daughter, Elizabeth. Reviews of the Hanoverians were mixed and so, too, were the Hanoverians’ opinions of the English.
But George was well-positioned to change that: The first generation to be born in England and not Hanover, he was young, healthy, conscientious and followed a strict moral code. Had the ball bounced another way, his reign could very well have unfolded as a success. For while popular culture might remember him first for his mental illness, the general consensus among scholars has been that, whether his fault or not, the monarchy steadily lost power over the course of his reign, and its close relationship with national morality and values became even more intertwined – a fact his descendants could likely have done without.