Royal Wedding Recollections – Charlotte, Princess Royal & Frederick, Hereditary Prince of Württemberg

charlotte princess royal
A satirical image of the wedding night (public domain)

Charlotte, Princess Royal, was the eldest daughter of King George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. She was the only one of their daughters to make a timely marriage; the others remained unmarried or were married so late in life that they could no longer have children.

On 18 May 1797, Charlotte married Frederick, Hereditary Prince of Württemberg, later subsequently Duke, Elector and finally King of Württemberg. Frederick had been suggested as a husband for Charlotte in November 1795. His first wife had been Duchess Augusta of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, who had died in 1788 and had left him with three surviving children. Their marriage had been unhappy and possibly abusive, leading to Augusta having to flee with the help of Empress Catherine the Great. Frederick was then ordered to leave Russia, and he took their three children with them. Augusta was also the sister of Caroline of Brunswick, the unhappy wife of Charlotte’s brother George (the future King George IV) and a niece of King George III.

Charlotte’s father, King George III, was dismayed by Frederick’s “unpleasant qualities” and wrote, “If he will not take a gentle hint, I have no objection to his adding that after the very unhappy life my unfortunate niece led with him, I cannot bequeath any daughter of mine to him.”1 But Frederick did not give up so easily. He wrote to the King, “The eminent qualities Mme Princesse Royale, no less her virtues universally acknowledged, have given birth in me to the most lively desire to see my fate united with hers.”2 Under pressure from the Russian court, as Frederick’s sister had now married Catherine the Great’s son, a shift happened. Negotiations began for an alliance.

King George III finally gave his consent to the match, but Charlotte promptly became very ill with jaundice. She managed to recover just in time to meet her future husband on 15 April 1797. Her sister Elizabeth later wrote, “We are just come upstairs, and I can say with great truth and pleasure that nothing could go off better than the interview of this with the Prince of Württemberg. My sister is very well pleased with him, and I really think he appears delighted with her.”3 Charlotte herself later wrote that she was “almost dead with terror and agitation and affright at the first meeting – she could not utter a word – the Queen was obliged to speak her answers.”4

The wedding could now go ahead, and the Queen declared that she and no one else would dress Charlotte for the occasion. Charlotte insisted upon embroidering her own white and silver wedding dress, although according to the etiquette, she should have been wearing white and gold as she was marrying a widower. Charlotte brought a dowry of £80,000 to the marriage, which would become her widow’s jointure if she survived Frederick.

Lady’s Magazine later wrote, ‘Her Royal Highness the bride wore a nuptial habit of white, with a train or pellice of rich crimson velvet with fur trimmings.” She wore a coronet over her hair, which was arranged in ringlets. Frederick wore a suit of “silk, shot with gold and silver richly embroidered; gold and silver flaps and cuffs; under his coat the order of St Catherine; over his shoulder the blue watered ribbon insignia of the German Order of the Golden Fleece.”5

On 2 June 1797, Charlotte and her new husband left for their home in Germany. Charlotte reportedly fainted in her father’s arms upon saying goodbye. After that, however, she “sailed in good spirits.”6 Their marriage would produce just one child – a stillborn daughter.

  1. Princesses, the six daughters of George III by Flora Fraser p.157
  2. Princesses, the six daughters of George III by Flora Fraser p.157
  3. Princesses, the six daughters of George III by Flora Fraser p.160
  4. Princesses, the six daughters of George III by Flora Fraser p.160
  5. The daughters of George III by Dorothy Margaret Stuart p.30
  6. Princesses, the six daughters of George III by Flora Fraser p.162

About Moniek Bloks 2732 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.

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