Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Queen Charlotte, born Duchess Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (Sophia Charlotte) (19 May 174417 November 1818) was the queen consort of King George III (1738-1820).

Coronation portrait of Queen Charlotte by Allan Ramsay, National Portrait Gallery
Coronation portrait of Queen Charlotte by Allan Ramsay, National Portrait Gallery

Queen Charlotte 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 establish Kew Gardens. Queen Charlotte and King George III had 15 children, 13 of whom survived to adulthood.

Charlotte's African features have caused much interest in her ancestry. Due to royal inbreeding, which greatly diminished the gene pool, at least three to six of her family lines lead back to Margarita de Castro y Sousa (a Moorish branch of the Portuguese Royal House). An explanation contemporary to her time was that she was of Vandalic descent. The matter is still disputed.

Birth, youth, origins

Charlotte was the youngest daughter of Charles Louis Frederick, Prince of Mecklenburg-Strelitz-Mirow (23 February 1707 - 5 June 1752) and his wife, Elizabeth Albertine, Princess of Saxe-Hildburghausen and Duchess in Saxony (4 August 1713 - 29 June 1761).

She was a granddaughter of Adolf Friedrich II of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (October 19, 1658 - May 12, 1708) by his third wife, Christiane Emilie Antonie, Princess of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen (March, 1681 - November 1, 1751). Her father's elder half brother reigned from 1708 to 1753 as Adolf Friedrich III.

Queen Charlotte was of Moorish lineage and a descendant, through at least three and possibly through as many as six lines, of Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a Portuguese noblewoman who lived in the 15th century. Castro was a descendant of the 13th-century Portuguese monarch Alfonso (Afonso) III and his mistress, Mourana Gil -- who also is described as African of Moorish descent. Castro eventually became an ancestress of most northern European royals, including George III.

Charlotte, to date, is the most prominent of Castro's descendants to have been described by contemporaries as having what they believed were African features, features that were much commented on during her youth and caricatured by contemporary artists. Her physician, Baron Stockmar, noted that Charlotte had "...a true mulatto face." Sir Allan Ramsey, a noted Abolitionist, frequently painted her as Queen; his paintings are said to emphasize the Negroid resemblance. Ramsay's coronation portrait of Charlotte was sent to the colonies, and this portrayal was used by abolitionists as a de facto support for their cause.

The Queen's ancestry was promoted as Vandalic descent, as evidenced by this excerpt of a poem written for her marriage:

Descended from the warlike Vandal race, She still preserves that title in her face.

For a woman marrying the sovereign of one of the most powerful countries of the time, her own connection to kings was somewhat remote. All her ancestors up to the level of great-great-great-grandparents were solidly princes, dukes and counts (or the equivalent), but there was no reigning monarch. While her 62 closest ancestors included some reigning princes, one might observe that she was of noble rather than royal blood. Only two of her great-great-great-great-grandfathers were kings: Gustav I of Sweden and Frederick I of Denmark and Norway. Other monarchs are found in her earlier ancestry.

Marriage to George III

Styles of
Queen Charlotte
Reference style Her Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Ma'am

Charlotte's brother Adolf Friedrich IV of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (reigned 1752 - 1794) and her widowed mother actively negotiated for a prominent marriage for the young princess. At the age of 17, Charlotte was an extremely pretty young woman, and was selected as the bride of the young King George, although she was not his first choice. He had already flirted with several young women considered unsuitable by his mother, Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, and by his political advisors. He also was rumored to have married a young Quaker woman named Hannah Lightfoot, though all later claims to prove this marriage were deemed unfounded and the purported supporting documents discovered to be forgeries.

Princess Charlotte arrived in Britain in 1761, and the couple were married at the Chapel Royal in St. James's Palace, London, on September 8 of that year. Her mother-in-law did not welcome her with open arms, and for some time there was a slight tension between the two. However, the king's mother had yet to accept any woman with whom he was alleged to have been involved, therefore it seems that the young king cared little for her approval by this time.

Despite not having been her husband's first choice as a bride, and having been treated with a general lack of sympathy by her mother-in-law, the Dowager Princess of Wales, Charlotte's marriage was a happy one, and the king was apparently never unfaithful to her. In the course of their marriage, they had fifteen children, all but two — Octavius and Alfred — of whom survived into adulthood. As time went on, she wielded considerable power within the realm, although she evidently never misused it.

Interests and patronage

"Patroness of Botany, and of the Fine Arts"
"Patroness of Botany, and of the Fine Arts"

Queen Charlotte was keenly interested in the fine arts and supported Johann Christian Bach, who was her music teacher. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, then aged eight, dedicated his Opus 3 to her, at her request. The queen also founded orphanages and a hospital for expectant mothers.

In 2004, the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace staged an exhibition illustrating George and Charlotte's enthusiastic arts patronage, which was particularly enlightened in contrast to that of earlier Hanoverian monarchs; it compared favorably to the adventuresome tastes of the king's father, Frederick, Prince of Wales. Among the royal couple's favored craftsmen and artists were the cabinetmaker William Vile, silversmith Thomas Heming, the landscape designer Capability Brown, and the German painter Johann Zoffany, who frequently painted the king and queen and their children in charmingly informal scenes, such as a portrait of Queen Charlotte and her children as she sat at her dressing table.

The queen also was a well-educated amateur botanist and helped establish what is today Kew Gardens.

The education of women was a great importance to the queen, and she saw to it that her daughters were better educated than was usual for young women of the day.

Husband's illness

After the onset of his illness, then misunderstood as madness, George III was placed in the care of his wife, who could not bring herself to visit him very often, due to his erratic behavior and occasional violent reactions. However, Charlotte remained supportive of her husband as his mental illness, now believed to be porphyria, worsened in old age.


The queen died in the presence of her eldest son, the Prince Regent, who was holding her hand as she sat in an armchair at the family's country retreat, Dutch House in Surrey (now known as Kew Palace). She was buried at St. George's Chapel, Windsor. Her husband died two years later.

Ancestral studies postulating "African features"

Queen Charlotte's family connection to Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a Portuguese noblewoman who lived in the 15th century, and through her to the 13th-century Portuguese monarch Alfonso (Afonso) III and his mistress, Mourana Gil, described as African of Moorish descent, has been mentioned above. Critics of this research argue that Castro's distant perch in the queen's family tree makes any presumed African ancestry highly negligible, and no different from that held by any other member of any German princely house at that time. However, Charlotte, to date, is the most prominent of Castro's descendants to have been described by contemporaries as having what they believed were African features, features that were much commented on during her youth.

The idea of her African features being inherited is based on the genetical material from several lines of one's ancestry combining and concentrating in that one individual. Such an occurrence usually requires closer ancestors with similar features, and those genes coming from the both sides of one's parentage. We know (e.g from knowledge about most recent common ancestor) that each person has ancestry in all parts of the planet. As both of Charlotte's parents undoubtedly were descended from a number of African ancestors, her broader features and darker coloring could be explained by a foremother in 15th century. However, a much more credible explanation to anyone's African features would be a parent being of visible African blood.

Another story of an African child born to European royals is that of a daughter of Louis XIV and Maria Theresa of Spain.

Queen Charlotte's Maternity Hospital

Queen Charlotte’s Maternity Hospital in London, England has been in existence since 1739, making it the oldest maternity hospital in the United Kingdom. Queen Charlotte's son, the Duke of Sussex, persuaded her to give her name to the hospital, which was a charitable institution at the time.

Titles, Style, Honours & Arms


  • 1744-1761: Duchess Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
  • 1761-1800: Her Majesty Queen Charlotte of Great Britain and Ireland
  • 1801-1818: Her Majesty Queen Charlotte of the United Kingdom


Name Birth Death Notes
HM King George IV 12 August 1762 26 June 1830 married 1795, Princess Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel; had issue
HRH The Prince Frederick, Duke of York 16 August 1763 5 January 1827 married 1791, Princess Frederica of Prussia; no issue
HM King William IV 21 August 1765 20 June 1837 married 1818, Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen; had issue. Also had ten illegitimate children by the actress Dorothy Jordan.
HRH The Princess Charlotte, Princess Royal 29 September 1766 6 October 1828 married 1797, Frederick, King of Württemberg; no issue
HRH The Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent 2 November 1767 23 January 1820 married 1818, Princess Viktoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld; had issue (HM Queen Victoria)
HRH The Princess Augusta Sophia 8 November 1768 22 September 1840  
HRH The Princess Elizabeth 22 May 1770 10 January 1840 married 1818, Frederick, Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg; no issue
Ernest Augustus I, King of Hanover 5 June 1771 18 November 1851 married 1815, Princess Friederike of Mecklenburg-Strelitz; had issue
HRH The Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex 27 January 1773 21 April 1843 (1) married in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act 1772, The Lady Augusta Murray; had issue; marriage annulled 1794
(2) married 1831, The Lady Cecilia Buggins; no issue
HRH The Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge 24 February 1774 8 July 1850 married 1818, Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel; had issue
HRH The Princess Mary 25 April 1776 30 April 1857 married 1816, HRH Prince William, Duke of Gloucester; no issue
HRH The Princess Sophia 3 November 1777 27 May 1848 never married; had an illegitimate son by General Sir Thomas Garth
HRH The Prince Octavius of Great Britain 23 February 1779 3 May 1783  
HRH The Prince Alfred 22 September 1780 20 August 1782  
HRH The Princess Amelia 7 August 1783 2 November 1810  

Named in her honor


Preceded by:
Caroline of Ansbach
Queen Consort of Great Britain
Succeeded by:
Act of Union creates the United Kingdom
Queen Consort of Ireland
Preceded by:
Queen Consort of Great Britain and Ireland
Queen Consort of the United Kingdom
Succeeded by:
Caroline of Brunswick
Preceded by:
New Kingdom
Queen Consort of Hanover

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