Caroline of Ansbach – “A beautiful Princess of great merit”

(public domain)

Caroline of Ansbach was born on 1 March 1683 as the daughter of John Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, and his second wife, Princess Eleonore Erdmuthe of Saxe-Eisenach. She lost her father when she was just three years old, and he was succeeded as Margrave by his eldest son from his first marriage, Christian Albert.1 He was still only ten years old at the time and came under the guardianship of Elector Frederick III of Brandenburg. This left no place for Eleonore, Caroline and her younger brother William Frederick. The children were sent to Berlin, while the unhappy Eleanore moved into her dower home.2 Caroline’s education was neglected, and she taught herself to write.3

In 1692, Eleonore remarried to Elector John George IV of Saxony, but it was an unhappy match. She suffered two miscarriages and a phantom pregnancy. Meanwhile, John George’s mistress gave birth to a daughter.4 It is unclear how much Caroline knew of all this. Eleonore was widowed a second time in 1694 when smallpox claimed both John George and his mistress. Eleonore was relieved, and her husband’s successor took a passing interest in her. Tragically, Eleonore died just two years after her husband. Caroline, now 13 years old, was an orphan.5

Orphan

 

(public domain)

In the autumn of 1696, Frederick III of Brandenburg wrote to Caroline. “I will never fail you as a guardian, to espouse your interests, and to care for you as a loving father, and pray your Highness to have in me the same confidence as your mother always had, which I shall endeavour to deserve.”6 Caroline had lived in Berlin before but now she was concerned for her brother. Since the death of their elder half-brother, he was now the heir-presumptive to their last half-brother, and he had returned to live in Ansbach. Caroline moved to Berlin and came under the guardianship of Frederick’s second wife, Sophia Charlotte of Hanover. Caroline quickly became her guardian’s mirror image.7

Sophia Charlotte’s mother, Sophia of Hanover, became convinced of Caroline’s suitability for her grandson, George Augustus, and had discussed this possibility with Sophia Charlotte.8 Perhaps Caroline knew of this, she turned down the possibility of an Austrian match, for an ever great price.9 Sophia described Caroline as, “a beautiful Princess of great merit.”10

Wife

On 2 September 1705, Caroline and George Augustus married at the Leineschloss in Hanover. She wore a dress of coloured silks.11 The decade before the death of Queen Anne of Great Britain was spent in the domestic sphere for Caroline. She suffered a phantom pregnancy during the first year of her marriage but on 31 January 1707, Caroline provided George Augustus with an heir. The boy was named Frederick.12 Six months after the birth of her son, Caroline contracted smallpox, and it took her nearly two months to overcome it. The damage to her appearance was considered by some to be minimal, though others found it greatly altered.13 Three daughters followed in quick succession, Anne in 1709, Amelia in 1711 and Caroline in 1713.

On 1 August 1714, life changed forever. Queen Anne of Great Britain died, and the throne passed to Caroline’s father-in-law, now King George I of Great Britain. Just a few weeks later, her husband was invested as Prince of Wales, and Caroline became the new Princess of Wales. On 13 October 1714, Caroline arrived in London. She was the first Princess of Wales since Catherine of Aragon, and since George I was divorced, she was the first lady of the land. In 1716, Caroline was again pregnant, but after a labour lasting five days, the boy was stillborn.14 On 2 November 1717, she gave birth to a boy named George William, but the child died in February 1718. In May 1718, she miscarried after being startled by a violent storm.15

At Leicester House, Caroline set up a court that rivalled that of her father-in-law, but for Caroline, it was a period of strain. She had an annual income that was less than that of leading courtiers.16 Her father-in-law was determined to gain control over his grandchildren to Caroline’s horror. Her eldest daughter Anne wrote to her, “we have a good father and a good mother, and yet we are like charity children.”17 In 1720, Caroline was pregnant again, and she wrote simply, “I fear I am with child.” The stillbirth and the short-lived George William must have still plagued her.18 On 15 April 1721, Caroline gave birth to another boy named William Augustus. Two more children would follow, Mary was born in February 1723, and Louisa was born in December 1724 when Caroline was 41.

Queen

Caroline’s recovery from Louisa’s birth took unusually long. She had suffered an umbilical rupture following the delivery, but the only one who knew was her husband, and she guarded the secret with her life. In July 1725, her 11th and final pregnancy ended in a miscarriage.19 On 11 June 1727, Caroline’s time as Queen came as her father-in-law died en route to Hanover. On 11 October 1727, she and George were crowned jointly in a service that followed the format of the coronation of King James I and Anne of Denmark.20 The court became established at St James’s Palace and Kensington Palace. After a separation of 14 years, their eldest son Frederick joined them in 1728.

(public domain)

In 1729, George departed for Hanover. He would do so again in 1732, 1735 and 1736. Meanwhile, Caroline was given the full powers of the regency. Caroline repaid his trust and was careful in her exercise of power.21 Her time as Queen allowed Caroline to spread her wings. Her regencies gave her access to the political arena, and she acquired property in her own right. She enjoyed history and began collecting and displaying items belonging to earlier dynasties. But the years had also begun to wear her down. She resorted to the occasional use of a wheelchair and put on weight, which made walking even more difficult. The umbilical rupture, where the abdominal wall behind the navel is damaged causing abdominal fat or even part of the small intestine to bulge out, caused her to have abdominal pain.22

In 1734, their eldest daughter Anne married William IV, Prince of Orange. She was 24 years old and declared that she would “marry him if he were a baboon.” The Prince was tragically physically deformed by a childhood accident, but Anne could not care less. It was a love match. Frederick was annoyed at his sister’s marriage before his own. He married Augusta of Saxe-Gotha on 27 April 1736. His relationship with his parents never recovered from their separation and when Augusta was due to give birth the following year, they immediately departed from Hampton Court to London so that they would not be present for the birth. He got his wife, neither Caroline nor George witnessed the birth of his eldest daughter, “a little rat of a girl.”23

Later that same year, Caroline’s health problems caught up with her. For 12 days, Caroline suffered. A section of her small intestine had begun to poke through her ruptured abdominal wall, and the doctors cut it away. This eliminated any possibility of her recovery. The wound began to fester, and for a week Caroline was somewhere between life and death. She began to say goodbye to her loved ones and made her will ready. She begged her husband’s to marry again after her death. He promised only to take mistresses, to which she humorously replied that that was no impediment to marriage. Over several days, Caroline was operated on and in the second week, her stomach ruptured. Caroline neither complained nor cried and only once did she request pain relief. She died on 20 November 1737. She was still only 54 years old.24

 

  1. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.22-23 (UK & US)
  2. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.23
  3. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.24
  4. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.28-29
  5. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.31
  6. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.32-33
  7. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.35
  8. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.49
  9. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.50
  10. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.51
  11. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.72
  12. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.87-88
  13. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.90
  14. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.166
  15. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.185
  16. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.186
  17. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.187
  18. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.208
  19. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.211
  20. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.235
  21. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.280-281
  22. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.292
  23. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.327
  24. Matthew Dennison – The First Iron Lady p.329-330



About Moniek 1044 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.