Thursday, 6 November 2014

Charlotte of Wales and the Scramble for Successtion

This blog follows on from yesterday when I wrote about the line of succession.  197 years ago yesterday, the Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Prince of Wales, gave birth to a still-born son.  197 years ago today, the unlucky princess died.  She was a darling of the nation, and there was wide-spread grief at the news of the young heiress to the throne.  The King, George III, was elderly and had been insane for some years.  His seven surviving sons were all unpopular, in late middle age, and had not produced a legitimate heir between them.  The youngest of his five surviving daughters was forty, so it seemed unlikely that any of them would produce an heir.  It looked like the throne would pass to the German Karl II, Duke of Brunswick, who was the grandson of the King's sister.

You can read about Princess Charlotte and her life, the events after her death, and the childhood of Queen Victoria in Becoming Queen by Kate Williams, and I wrote a review of that book here on the blog.

After the death of Charlotte, the Dukes, sons of the King, all set about finding wives and producing an heir to the throne.  An account of this is found in Royal Dukes by Roger Fulford, which I have read and enjoyed.  I shall explain something about this by looking at the Royal Succession at the beginning of 1821, just three years after the tragic death of Charlotte.  You will see quite a change.

King George III had died in 1820 and been succeeded by his son, now George IV, and, perhaps, the most unpopular monarch England has ever had.  He had been married to his cousin, Caroline of Brunswick, the mother of Princess Charlotte, but had separated from her a few weeks after their wedding, and they never divorced.  First in the line of succession was:

1.  Frederick, Duke of York, brother of the King.  He had been married for thirty years to Frederica of Prussia, but they were childless and had separated some years before.

2.  William, Duke of Clarence, brother of the King.  He had been in a long term relationship with Dorothy Bland, better known as Mrs Jordan.  They had had ten children, and they were part of his household.  These children have many living descendants among the aristocracy of the United Kingdom, including a certain David Cameron, Prime Minister.  He hastily married Adelheid of Saxe-Meiningen to produce an heir.

3.  Princess Elizabeth of Clarence, his daughter.  Alas, she soon died, aged only three months.  The Duke of Clarence produced no other daughters.

4.  Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent, daughter of the King's brother, Edward, Duke of Kent.  The Duke of Kent, who had been living with his mistress, hastily dumped her and married Victoire of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the sister of Princess Charlotte's widower Leopold (later King of the Belgians).  He died before his daughter was a year old.  She is better known to us as Queen Victoria.

5.  Ernest, Duke of Cumberland, the King's brother.  He was the most wicked of the wicked uncles, and was rumoured to have murdered his valet, fathered a child by his sister Sophia, and his wife was rumoured to have murdered her second husband.  He was already married when Princess Charlotte died, to his first cousin.  He later became King of Hanover.

6.  Prince George of Cumberland, his son.  He later became King of Hanover, and became blind as a child.

7.  Augustus, Duke of Sussex, the King's brother.  He had married and had two children, but his marriage was contracted without the permission of the King, and so was not legal, his two children being classed as illegitimate.

8.  Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, the King's brother.  He quickly married after the death of Princess Charlotte, and eventually had three children, the youngest of whom was the mother of Queen Mary.

9.  Prince George of Cambridge (does that name sound familiar?), his son.

10.  Charlotte, Princess Royal, Dowager Queen of Wurttemberg, the King's sister.

11.  Princess Augusta, the King's sister.

12.  Elizabeth, Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg, the King's sister.  She had also married after Princess Charlotte's death, although she had already been betrothed when Charlotte died.

13.  Mary, Duchess of Gloucester, the King's sister.

14.  Princess Sophia, the King's sister.

15.  William, Duke of Gloucester, son of George III's brother.  He was married to number 13.

16.  Princess Sophia of Gloucester, his sister.

17.  Karl II, Duke of Brunswick, grandson of George III's oldest sister.

18.  Wilhelm of Brunswick, his brother.

19.  Wilhelm I, King of Wurttemberg, his father's sister's son.

20.  Princess Marie of Wurttemberg, his daughter.

In all, in just over three years, the sons of George III had managed to marry and produce four children between them, and two more were to follow.  The succession was secured.  Had they not done so, things would have been very different, as my next post shall demonstrate.

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