Amalie Adelheid Louise Therese Caroline or Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen was born on 13 August 1792 as the daughter of George I, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, and Luise Eleonore of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. She lost her father when she was just ten years old, and her mother acted as regent for her younger brother. Her younger sister Ida married Prince Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach in 1816, but there appeared to be no one on the horizon for Adelaide until a marriage proposal came from England.
Adelaide was not considered beautiful, but she was pleasant and amiable. With the tragic death of Charlotte of Wales in childbirth, England was in need of a royal heir. William, the Duke of Clarence, was the third son of King George III and he and Adelaide married in a double wedding with The Duke of Kent (George III’s fourth son) and Victoria, Dowager Princess of Leiningen on 11 July 1818. The race was on. Who would produce the heir?
They spent their honeymoon in Hanover, where they met with the Duke (George III’s seventh son) and Duchess of Cambridge who had also just been married. That March, both Adelaide and the Duchess of Cambridge had a child, but Adelaide’s joy was short-lived, as the little girl died a few hours after birth. The Duchess of Cambridge had given birth to a healthy boy named George. They finally returned to England that October after Adelaide suffered a stillbirth. They briefly took up residence in St. James’s Palace before moving to Bushy House the next spring.
Adelaide and William enjoyed the simple life, and Adelaide became quite popular. She was known to speak English with a distinctly foreign accent and a harsh voice. On 10 December 1820, Adelaide gave birth to a child who lived beyond birth, and she was christened Elizabeth Georgiana Adelaide of Clarence. It seemed like the race had been won, but tragically the little girl died just three months later.
She loved being around children, and her sister’s children lived with them for part of the year. The illegitimate children from William’s relationship with Dorothea Bland also visited them often. Tragically, one child was deliberately kept away from them, Princess Victoria of Kent, the daughter of the Duke of Kent. Her final pregnancy ended in the stillbirth of twin boys in 1822.
They became King and Queen on 26 June 1830, and William’s became the oldest person ever to ascend the throne at the age of 64. His health was Adelaide’s primary concern, and William was determined to live until Princess Victoria was 18 years old, to prevent a regency by her mother, whom he despised. He succeeded in that regard.
He died 12 minutes after two on the morning of 20 June 1837 as Adelaide held his hands. Adelaide collapsed after his death and lay dangerously ill. Although she recovered, the pains never fully subsided. She died on 2 December 1849 in the Priory of Bentley.
In her will, she wrote,
“I die in all humility. We are alike before the throne of God, and I request therefore that my mortal remains be conveyed to the grave without pomp or state…to have as private and quiet a funeral as possible. I particularly desire not to be laid out in state…I die in peace and wish to be carried to the fount in peace, and free from the vanities and pomp of this world.”
She was buried next to her husband in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. 1