Who was Queen Charlotte?

Georgina Dorothy

Who was Queen Charlotte? The real woman behind the Netflix series.

Dearest readers, this author wishes to impart a little wisdom and admiration for one of Britain’s little-known Queens, who recently gained international acclaim on the Netflix series 'Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story'. Intelligent, in love, devoted, a mother of 15, mixed-heritage, a German living in Britain, and the longest serving consort – Queen Charlotte was a royal woman unlike any seen before. This past weekend, two Royal Coronations were watched across global television screens. One a modern royal, 74 years of age, twice-married, father of two sons, with a love of nature, sustainability, global heritage and identity, music, sport and art. The other was a dramatised depiction on Netflix of a coronation, mentioned through the Marriage of King George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, in 1761. They were crowned just two weeks later, after a honeymoon. Like King Charles III, King George was a keen horticulturist interested in agriculture - he was nicknamed ‘Farmer George’ - growing various plants, vegetables and fruits at Kew Gardens and Windsor. George III’s wife and Queen, however, is another story entirely. A whole book, dozens, and a drama series could be written about her. But here, let’s discover a few key stories and uncover a few rumours if possible. Born Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Streliz, on 19th May 1744, Charlotte was chosen as consort to George III and married aged 17. As depicted in the Queen Charlotte series, they had never met before. However, the King was aware of this marriage, announcing his intentions to wed Charlotte to his council in July 1761. The Earl of Harcourt, among others, went to Germany with the marriage contract for Adolphus Frederick IV, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Like a reality show today, the couple were married at first sight… and it worked!
Who was Queen Charlotte?
George III and Queen Charlotte Coronation Portraits

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Who was Queen Charlotte?
Georgina at Kew Cottage

Family Life

Charlotte had been on British soil 6 hours before her wedding in St James Palace Chapel Royal on 22nd September. In under a year, a baby boy – the future King George was born! George was followed by 14 siblings – Frederick, William, Charlotte, Edward, Augusta Sophia, Elizabeth, Ernest, Augustus Frederick, Adolphus, Mary, Sophia, Octavius, Alfred and Amelia, young Princes and Princesses themselves. George and William both became kings, though, as seen in the baby race within the Netflix series, Edward was the father of the future Queen Victoria. Edward and William were married in a Double Wedding, held at Queen Charlotte’s Cottage in Kew, to Princess Victoria and Princess Adelaide. The Baby Race, depicted through a very modern family meeting held by Queen Charlotte to her adult children, showed her want of a legitimate heir as her granddaughter Princess Charlotte (George IV’s daughter) had just died aged 21 during childbirth, along with a son, from her marriage with husband Princes Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Leopold went on to marry again, having a son – Leopold II, King of the Belgians – he is discussed in ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ 2016, which depicts some actual history of Belgium’s control of The Congo. Small world! Prince George was Regent for many years, over 1811-1920, in place of his father, George III, during his bouts of ‘madness’, which researchers now believe was either a form of bipolar disorder or a blood disease called porphyria, though honestly we cannot know for sure what George suffered with. The royal couple bought Buckingham Palace as a country house close to London. This became known as ‘The Queens House’, where 14 children were born, being raised across Kew and St James’s Palace and Frogmore House in Windsor Park.
Ancestry UK

Was Queen Charlotte the first British black royal?

Many state Queen Charlotte was Britain’s first black royal. Her ancestry connects to an African branch of the Portuguese Royal Household. Thanks to the art of the time, we can see in paintings some telling facial features, though we can assume, like some magazine and press pictures today of stunning celebrities being edited, these paintings may well have also been white-washed. Sir Allan Ramsay’s portrait is possibly the most telling and informative today. He was a keen abolitionist – which helped end slavery in Britain in 1807. We can see in various paintings her wide eyes and sumptuous dresses are critical features in family portraits and her greatest paintings. Her relative Alfonso III of Portugal ‘defeated the small town of Faro from the Moors – people of North African and Andalucian descent’. Shockingly, as a prize, he demanded the youngest daughter of the town’s governor, whom he had three daughters with… their descendants led to Queen Charlotte. Golda Rosheuvel and India Amarteifio portray the Queen in Bridgerton and Queen Charlotte, the spin-off prequel, showing her stunningly accurately, with hints in the script to the social conflicts her heritage may well have caused within aristocratic circles at the time – where the trans-Atlantic slave trade was still prevalent, and sugar, cotton, tobacco and other products were still produced through horrific abuse of human life and unpaid labour. The royal couple were genuinely in love, and despite social norms of the time, George III never took a mistress or girlfriend. They were rarely apart. A scene of interpreted true history within the show is when Mozart performed at the Royal Palace, aged 8. Queen Charlotte had an influential ear for music and the arts, having also befriended Johann Christian Bach. She was incredibly intelligent, with conversations among friends that enlightened both men and women and may have helped pave a path for future gender equality. She quickly learnt English, having been a native German speaker, and shared a great interest in the sciences with her husband. Charlotte founded many hospitals and orphanages and encouraged women’s education, including for her daughters. These daughters, as shown in the film, then so enjoyed being at home with their mother, and helping their father through his sickness, that it was hinted that they never had children – the Queen encouraged them all to ‘just get on with it and make an heir’! Perhaps, when we say Queen Victoria was the Mother of Royal Europe, Queen Charlotte was the mother who bought a proper mix of DNA and culture into the Royal Family and Britain as a whole – as well as the Christmas Tree too… no, it was not Prince Albert.
Who was Queen Charlotte?
A Sir Joshua Reynolds Portrait of Queen Charlotte
Who was Queen Charlotte?

Georgina Dorothy

Georgina is a historian and Archaeologist currently completing a Masters's in Heritage Management with Historic Royal Palaces and the Queen Mary University of London. She currently hosts The Historians Magazine Podcast and has worked globally in Product Development and Visitor Experience for Museums. The Georgian Era is her favourite, with Queen Charlotte and Queen Caroline as heroines.
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