Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales
The Princess Charlotte Augusta, Princess of Wales (Charlotte Augusta)
(January 7, 1796
– November 6, 1817)
was the only child of the ill-fated marriage between George
IV (at that time the Prince
of Wales) and Caroline
She was born at Carlton House in London, her birth being something of a miracle as George IV later claimed that he and his wife had sex no more than three times in the whole of their marriage. By the time she was a few months old, Charlotte's parents were effectively separated, and her mother's time with her was severely restricted by her father.
She grew into a headstrong and difficult teenager, and fell out with her mother when Caroline decided to go into continental exile. Following an ill-fated attempt to wed her to the drunken Prince Willem of Orange (later William II of the Netherlands), she was restricted to Cranbourne Lodge at Windsor, Berkshire from July 1814 to January 1816 while Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg lobbied the Prince Regent and the British Parliament for the right to court her.
Marriage, childbirth and death
Charlotte married Prince Leopold (to whom Parliament had granted a £50,000 per year annuity for his own life, which would survive his wife) on May 2, 1816, at Carlton House. Contemporary accounts describe their marriage as happy and contented, and they lived at Claremont, a wedding gift from the nation. After two miscarriages in the early months of their marriage, she conceived a third time. Although healthy at the beginning of the pregnancy, medical staff took extra precautions; medical practice at the time was bloodletting and a strict diet, which only served to weaken Charlotte. After a 50-hour labour at Claremont, she delivered a stillborn son there on November 5, 1817, dying of post-partum haemorrhage and shock early the next morning .
Two generations gone—gone in a moment! I have felt for myself, but I have also felt for the prince regent. My Charlotte is gone from the country—it has lost her. She was a good, she was an admirable woman. None could know my Charlotte as I did know her. It was my study, my duty, to know her character, but it was also my delight.
- (Prince Leopold to Sir Thomas Lawrence)
The obstetrician, Sir Richard Croft, who had correctly diagnosed a transverse lie of the baby during labor and failed to use a forceps, committed suicide. Thus this single pregnancy resulted in a triple death. The Princess was buried in St. George's Chapel, Windsor with her son at her feet. Her death was mourned nationally, on a scale similar to that which followed the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, although in An Address to the People on The Death of the Princess Charlotte (1817), Percy Bysshe Shelley made the point that while her death was very sad, the execution the following day of three men incited to lead the Pentrich Rising was the greater tragedy.
Charlotte's death left the Prince of Wales without any direct heirs, and meant that her paternal grandfather George III of the United Kingdom had no legitimate grandchildren from his twelve surviving children--and most, if not all, of his daughters were either sterile or past childbearing. The death resulted in a mad dash towards matrimony by most of her bachelor uncles (the marriage of her uncle Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent, produced the eventual heir—Queen Victoria). Her father, even after the death of his wife, made no attempt to remarry or father any more children. Given his poor health by the time his estranged wife died in 1821, he may not have been capable of fathering further children anyway.
In 1815 the Royal Berkshire Regiment (amalgamated in 1994, but to be de-amalgamated and merged along with the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment in the Prince of Wales Division announced in restructuring plans on December 16, 2004) was titled the Princess Charlotte's of Wales Regiment when, on their return to England from service in Canada, the 49th (Hertfordshire) Regiment were assigned to guard the royal family in residence. Princess Charlotte, on seeing these polished men in their new uniforms, with scarlet coats and white breeches, pleaded that the regiment be made "hers", and later the title was officially granted.