Charlotte Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin was born on 4 December 1784 at Ludwigslust as the daughter of Frederick Francis I, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. She was one of three surviving siblings, and her elder sister Louise Charlotte became the maternal grandmother of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort. She was known to have been intelligent, but her formal education was unfortunately neglected. She was later described as having had a temper, great imagination and being unreliable. She was also kind and generous.
In 1804, her first cousin, the future Christian VIII of Denmark, the son of her father’s sister Sophia Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, visited Germany to stay at his uncle’s court. He fell in love with the sensuous Charlotte Frederica at first sight. He told her, “You have an angel’s face, little Charlotte Frederica.” To which she responded, “Yes, and a scruffy body and a hellish temper!”1 They were married on 21 June 1806 at Ludwigslust. They took up residence at Amalienborg in Copenhagen. Their first son was stillborn the following year, but on 6 October 1808, she gave birth to a son who lived.
Charlotte Frederica did not fit into the stiff Danish royal court, and she liked spending money to such an extent that her husband was forced to apologise for her behaviour. In just three months, she had spent her entire allowance for the next three years. He also told her, “You buy all kinds of weird dresses and hats, and if you were beautifully dressed, I could understand. But you look like something from the lost goods office.”2 During one particularly dull evening, she asked the servants to bring in snow. The servant presented her with a pyramid of round snowballs on a fine silver tray. Proclaiming a snowball fight, Charlotte Frederica threw one at her sister-in-law Princess Juliane Sophie who screamed and jumped to shake off the remaining snow. Her husband was not amused and promptly dragged Charlotte Frederica home.
In 1809, Charlotte Frederica was accused of having a relationship with her singing teacher, the composer Edouard du Puy. They often practised operas, and sometimes they were found holding one another, which he often waved away by saying it was an act from an opera. A chambermaid later claimed to have seen a black-haired man in her bed. Her husband began divorce proceedings, which became final om 31 March 1810. She was initially banished to Horsens, and she was forbidden from seeing her son again. She was sent a new portrait of him every year. She continued to spend excessively and blamed her husband for her current situation. During her time at Horsens, she focussed on music and poetry, embroidery. She continued to proclaim her innocence and described herself as a victim of slander and intrigue. She also continued to correspond with her former husband. Du Puy was banished from Denmark.
Charlotte Frederica always hoped that she would be free once her son became King, saying, “When my son has become King and can decide for himself, he will get me out of my prison, and then I will not forget you (the people).”3 She lived in Horsens until 1829 and then moved to Rome, where she settled in the Palazzo Bernini under the name Mrs von Gothen, and she became a Catholic.
She died in Rome on 13 July 1840 at the age of 55, and she was buried in the Teutonic Cemetery in Vatican City, where her grave was recently opened and was strangely found empty in the search for a missing girl. Her son funded the monument on her grave.