Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

John Florens | Feb 11, 2024

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Sofia Carlota (Mirow, May 19, 1744 - London, November 17, 1818) was the wife of King George III and Queen Consort of the Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and later of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1761 until her death. She was also elector consort of the Electorate of Hanover and later queen consort of the Kingdom of Hanover. She was the daughter of Charles Louis Frederick of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Prince of Mirow and his wife Princess Elizabeth Albertina of Saxe-Hildburghausen.

Queen Carlota was a patron of the arts, known to Johann Christian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart among others. She was also an amateur botanist who helped expand the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. George III and Carlota had fifteen children, thirteen of whom reached adulthood. She is the paternal grandmother of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.

Sofia Carlota was the youngest daughter of Duke Charles Louis Frederick of Mecklenburg, Prince of Mirow, and his wife, Duchess Elizabeth Albertine of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Mecklenburg-Strelitz was a small duchy in northern Germany that belonged to the Holy Roman-German Empire.

Carlota was the granddaughter of Duke Adolf Frederick II, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and his third wife, Princess Christian Emilia of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen. His father's older brother reigned from 1708 to 1753 as Duke Adolf Frederick III. On December 11, 1752, her father's older brother died without male offspring, and Carlota's older brother Adolfo Frederico succeeded him (due to his father having died six months earlier, on June 5, 1752). With him, the position of Carlotta and her family changed considerably, as they now had control of an important part of the territories of Mecklenburg.

Duke Charles' children were all born at Mirow Castle, a modest palace that could almost be considered a country house. Life at Mirow was almost identical to that of a family of simple English lower nobility in the countryside. Mornings were devoted to study and to classes in sewing, embroidery and crochet, for which the duchesses were very talented. They were brought up very carefully, having received an admirable education and were given their religious principles by their mother. They were also taught by M. Gentzner, a Lutheran pastor of great repute who had a thorough knowledge of botany, mineralogy and science.

When King George III succeeded to the throne of Great Britain after the death of his grandfather, King George II, it was felt that the time had come to look for a bride who could fulfill all the duties of her important position in a way that would satisfy the entire country. At the beginning of his search, George was very interested in Sarah Lennox, sister of the Duke of Richmond, but his mother, Duchess Augusta of Saxe-Gota, Dowager Princess of Wales, and his political advisor, John Stuart, Lord Bute, advised him against such a union and the king gave up the idea.

Colonel Graeme, who had been sent to several German courts on a fact-finding mission, spoke of the charms of character and the excellent intellectual qualities of Princess Carlotta, then seventeen years old. Although she was certainly not a beauty, the duchess's face was very expressive and showed great intelligence. She was not tall, but had a slender and rather beautiful figure. Her bright eyes lit up with good humor and vivacity, her mouth was large, she had straight white teeth, and her hair was a beautiful light brown shade.

The king announced to the council his intention to marry the princess in July 1761, as was customary, and Lord Hardwicke was sent to Mecklenburg to ask for Carlotta's hand on behalf of the king. Carlotta's brother, Duke Adolf Frederick IV of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and his mother wanted a prominent marriage for the young princess and received him with all the honors the small state was capable of showing him. The envoy returned to England a month after his departure, having completed all the necessary preliminaries and satisfied with his mission.

In late August 1761, an escort party left Germany to accompany Duchess Carlotta to England. Included in the group were the Duchess of Ancaster, the Duchess of Hamilton, both chambermaids to the Queen, mrs. Tracey, a chambermaid, Count Harcourt, who was representing the king, and General Graeme. A heavy storm caught them on the way and a thunderstorm set fire to several trees on the road the group had to pass.

Nevertheless, the group arrived safely at Cuxhaven and boarded a fleet of British yachts and warships commanded by Admiral Anson. One of the ships was a special yacht that had been renamed HMY Royal Charlotte in honor of the future Queen. The sea voyage, which normally took three days, took nine due to a storm. Instead of docking in Greenwich, where everything was ready to welcome the princess, Admiral Anson thought it best to drop anchor in the nearest harbor, Harwich, where they stayed the rest of the night on Sunday, September 6. The next morning, the group left the ship and traveled to Essex, where they rested and then made their way to London. The princess arrived at St. James' Palace on September 7 and met the king and the royal family. The next day, at nine in the morning, the wedding ceremony was held in the royal chapel, celebrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Secker.

There is little doubt that the first years of the young queen's marriage were not happy ones. The king was busy with his political duties and his mother, secure in the support of her favorite, John Stuart, lord Bute, could exert all the influence and authority that a mother's age, knowledge and position gave her, unlike the young and inexperienced couple. The young queen could not resist and a kind of despotism was created in the palace where her mother-in-law controlled everything she did. The king himself, greatly influenced by his mother, was not tempted to intervene and assumed that everything was going well. Carlota was no longer allowed to have intimate relations with the ladies of the palace, and it was a rule of court etiquette that all who frequented the court should not address the queen except in the company of her German servants. Card games, which Charlotte loved, were also forbidden.

Of course, there were also German and English factions among the servants, each zealously fighting for the queen's favor, dictating the terms and conditions of their service, and threatening to return to Germany if they did not receive certain privileges. The queen had as much trouble with her servants as her husband had with his insubordinate ministers.

Despite this, the marriage was a success, and on August 12, 1762, the queen gave birth to her first child, the Prince of Wales who would later become King George IV. On September 13, the queen was present in the royal chapel for the thanksgiving ceremony that took place shortly after the birth. The naming ceremony for the Prince of Wales, which took place at St. James' Palace, had great pomp and circumstance. The cradle in which the baby lay was covered in sumptuous fabrics and Brussels lace. Throughout their marriage, the couple had fifteen children, only two of whom (Octavian and Alfred) died in infancy.

Queen Carlota was particularly interested in the arts and supported Johann Christian Bach, who was her music teacher. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, then only 8 years old, dedicated his Opus 3 to her. She also founded orphanages and a hospital for pregnant women. Also, she was a botanical aficionado and helped establish what are now the Kew Gardens.

The education of women was of great importance to Carlota, and she herself saw that her daughters were better educated than young women generally were in those days.

After the onset of his illness, then treated as madness, George III was placed under the care of his wife, whom he could not visit due to his erratic behavior and occasional violent reactions. However, Carlota remained her husband's support during his mental illness - probably linked to porphyria, which would worsen in his old age.

Around this time, the king and queen moved into Buckingham House, west of St. James' Park, the present Buckingham Palace. The house that formed the basis of the present palace was built by John Sheffield, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Normanby in 1703 with a design by William Winde. Buckingham House was later sold by Buckingham's descendant, Sir Charles Sheffield, to King George III in 1761 for £21,000.

The house was originally intended to become a private refuge, mainly for Carlota, and was therefore known as The Queen's House. Fourteen of the royal couple's fifteen children were born there. St. James's Palace remained the official residence where all formal ceremonies were held.

King George III and Queen Carlota were great connoisseurs of music and admired the works of Georg Friedrich Händel. Both had a special taste for German music and gave special honors to artists and composers from this country.

In 1764, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was eight years old at the time, visited Great Britain with his family during his grand tour of Europe and stayed in the country between April and June of that year. The Mozart family was called to court on May 19 and the composer gave a concert for a very small number of people that lasted from six until ten in the evening. Johann Christian Bach, eleventh son of the great Johann Sebastian Bach, was the queen's music master at the time and he handed over complicated compositions by Händel, Bach and Abel for the boy to play. Mozart played them all without looking at the scores and those present were impressed. After the concert, Mozart accompanied the queen on the piano to play an aria that Carlota sang and played his flute for a while. On October 29, the Mozart family returned to the country to celebrate the king's fourth anniversary on the throne. As a memento of the royal favor, Mozart's father, Leopold, published six sonatas composed by Wolfgang, known as Opus 3, which he dedicated to the queen on January 18, 1765. The queen thanked him for this dedication by presenting the composer with fifty guineas.

Queen Carlota was an amateur botanist who took a keen interest in Kew Gardens, and in the age of discovery, when travelers and explorers such as Captain Cook and Sir Joseph Banks, constantly brought back new species and varieties of plantes, the Queen ensured that the collections were enriched and increased. Her interest in botany led to the magnificent South African flower, the Bird of Paradise, being named Strelitzia reginae in her honor.

Among the royal couple's favorite artists were cabinetmaker William Vile, goldsmith Thomas Heming, landscape architect Capability Brown, and German painter Johann Zoffany, who often painted the king, queen, and children in informal scenes, such as the portrait of Queen Carlota with her children beside a dressing table.

The queen also opened orphanages and a hospital for pregnant women. The education of women was of great importance to Carlota and she made sure that her daughters were educated better than what was customary for women of the time. However, she insisted that her daughters live secluded lives near their mother and refused to let them marry until quite advanced ages for the time, which resulted in none of her daughters leaving legitimate offspring. Only his two daughters, Princess Sophia and Princess Elizabeth are said to have had illegitimate children.

In 2004, the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace displayed an exhibition on King George and Queen Carlotta's support of the arts, focusing mainly on the contrast between this couple and the early monarchs of the Hanover dynasty, comparing them favorably with the adventurous tastes of the king's father, Prince Frederick of Wales.

Until 1788, portraits of Carlota often depicted her in maternal poses with her children and the queen always looked young and happy. However, 1788 was the year that her husband became seriously ill and went insane for a brief period of time. Today it is believed that the king suffered from porphyria, a genetic disease, but at the time it was not known what the disease was. The portrait of the queen, done at the time by Sir Thomas Lawrence, marks the transition to portraits in which Carlota appears much older. In fact, the person responsible for the queen's clothing, mrs. Papendiek, wrote that she was much changed, with rather gray hair.

The French Revolution of 1789 probably increased the queen's anguish even more. Carlota and Queen Marie Antoinette had a very close relationship. Carlotta was eleven years older than the French queen, but both shared many interests, such as a love of music and the arts that both enthusiastically supported. Although they never met in person, they exchanged correspondence frequently. Marie Antoinette told Carlotta of her anguish during the revolution. Carlotta even prepared quarters in her palace, hoping that the French royal family would take refuge in England. After Marie Antoinette's execution and the events that followed, it is said that Carlota was shocked and completely overwhelmed by the thought that such a thing could happen to a kingdom, especially one so close to Britain.

After George III began to have his first attacks of madness, he was placed in the care of his wife, who was unable to visit him very often due to the king's erratic and sometimes violent behavior. It is believed that Carlota did not see him again from June 1812, although she continued to defend and support her husband throughout his illness, which is now believed to have been porphyria, and which worsened as the king grew older. While her eldest son, the prince-regent, held the real political power, Carlota was her husband's legal guardian from 1811 until his death in 1818.

The Queen died at Kew Palace, Surrey, at the age of seventy-four, in the presence of her eldest son, the Prince Regent, who was supporting her hand as she sat posing for the family portrait that was being painted at the time. The queen was buried in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Her husband died just over a year later. Carlota is the second longest-serving consort on the British throne, the only one to surpass her was the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth II's consort. In all, Carlotta was on the throne 57 years and seventy days.

Her eldest son claimed his mother's jewelry after her death, but the rest of her estate was sold at an auction that lasted from May to August 1819. Her clothes, furniture and even her snuff box were sold by Christie's. It is very unlikely that her husband knew of her death, having also come to die blind, deaf and lame fourteen months later.

Queen Carlota was played by actress Frances White in the Prince Regent series, broadcast by the BBC in 1979, and later by Helen Mirren in the 1994 film The Madness of King George, and by actress Golda Rosheuvel in 2020 in the Netflix series ''Bridgerton.''

Mario de Valdes y Cocom, an independent Afrocentrist researcher, has argued that Allan Ramsay, a well-known abolitionist, painted Carlota in a way that was said to accentuate the queen's alleged mulatto appearance and that the coronation painting of Carlota done by him was sent to the colonies and used by abolitionists as a de facto support for their cause. Valdes y Cocom also claims that in addition to descriptions of the queen that reference her mulatto face (made, allegedly, by Baron Stockmar, who Valdes y Cocom wrongly says was Carlota's personal physician, Queen Carlota's features were also described as being vandalized in a poem written to celebrate her marriage (the most literal allusion, according to Valdes y Cocom):

Valdes y Cocom does not seem to notice that the Vandals were a Germanic people, native to northern Europe who migrated first to Andalusia in 409 BCE, and then to North Africa in 429 BCE (namely to Numidia, where they established the Vandal Kingdom of North Africa), and that this poem is actually linking Carlota to her Germanic ancestors, which further undermines the credulity of Carlota's supposed African origins. Furthermore, the aforementioned Vandal race that is used to describe Queen Carlotta is linked to one of the official titles of the House of Mecklenburg, that of Princeps Vandalorum, i.e. "Prince of the Vandals," a reference to the family's Slavic origins.

All these references led Mario de Valdes y Cocom to research the queen's ancestry and genealogy. Still according to the same author, one of the explanations for Carlota's supposedly black features is the possibility that she inherited them from a very distant ancestor of hers, Margarida de Castro e Souza, a 15th century Portuguese noblewoman who was, in turn, a descendant of King Afonso III of Portugal and his companion, Madragana ben Aloandro, a descendant of King David.

Critics of this theory argue that the great distance between Carlota and Madragana makes any trait the queen may have inherited irrelevant and on par with any other Germanic origin of the princess and therefore this does not serve to prove that the queen was mulatto or African. Like everyone else, besides Madragana, Carlota had 32,767 other ancestors.

Moreover, Valdez y Cocom assumed that Madragana was an African woman, but, in fact, there is only one chronicler, Duarte Nunes de Leão, who said that she was a Moorish woman. However, modern researchers believe that Madragana was either Mozarabic or Jewish.

Valdez y Cocom has also argued that at the time of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1952, an apologia was published that advocated the queen's Asian and African origins to defend her position as leader of the Commonwealth. Buckingham Palace has denied this theory.

In his honor, the following places were named:


  1. Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
  2. Carlota de Meclemburgo-Strelitz
  3. ^ Queen consort of the United Kingdom from 1 January 1801 onwards, following the Acts of Union 1800.Queen consort of Hanover from 12 October 1814 onwards.
  4. Queen consort of the United Kingdom from 1 January 1801 onwards, following the Acts of Union 1800.
  5. Queen consort of Hanover from 12 October 1814 onwards.
  6. a b Percy Hetherington Fitzgerald: The good Queen Charlotte, 1899; pág. 7
  7. Charlotte Louise Henrietta Papendiek: Court and private life in the time of Queen Charlotte, 1887; pág. 3
  8. 1 2 3 4 Charlotte // Encyclopædia Britannica (англ.)
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Kindred Britain
  10. Wurlitzer, Bernd; Sucher, Kerstin. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern: Mit Rügen und Hiddensee, Usedom, Rostock und Stralsund. — Trescher Verlag, 2010. — С. 313. — ISBN 978-3897941632.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 Fraser, Flora. Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III. — Alfred A. Knopf., 2005. — С. 16—17; 23; 116. — ISBN 0-679-45118-8.
  12. Charlotte | queen of England (англ.). Encyclopedia Britannica. Дата обращения: 17 февраля 2021. Архивировано 24 июля 2015 года.
  13. ^ a b PBS - Gli sfocati tratti razziali di famiglie famose - la regina Carlotta Archiviato il 20 maggio 2018 in Internet Archive.
  14. ^ Duarte Nunes de Leão, Crónica d'El Rei Dom Afonso III, 1600; edizione moderna: Duarte Nunes de Leão, Crónica dos Reis de Portugal, Porto, Lello & Irmão, 1975

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