Charlotte was born in 1715 as the daughter and ultimately the heiress of Count Anton II of Aldenburg and Wilhelmine Marie of Hesse-Homburg. Charlotte was known as lively and witty. She enjoyed going hunting, and she spent her youth at Castle Varel, which unfortunately no longer exists. At the age of 16, her father was approached with the idea of a marriage between his daughter and William Bentinck, who was the eldest son from the second marriage of William Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland. Her mother was against the marriage because she wished for her daughter to marry a German prince. Her father agreed to the match, thinking that the quiet nature of the Dutchman would have a positive effect on his daughter.
It does not appear to have been a love match, at least not from Charlotte’s side. By that time she was already in love with Albert Wolfgang, Count of Schaumburg-Lippe, who was already married to her cousin, also named Charlotte. So Charlotte dutifully married William on 1 June 1733 at Varel. Two sons were born, Antoine in 1734 and Albert Jean in 1737. By 1740 the couple was separated, and Charlotte returned to Germany and to Albert. The two began an affair which led to the births of two sons, Charles in 1739 and Guillaume in 1744. Both children were adopted.
During this time Charlotte was also embroiled in financial difficulties with her husband. After her lover’s death in 1748, she attempted to borrow money from Frederick II of Prussia and while in Berlin she made friends with Voltaire and quickly became a favourite at court, though this would not last long. Her correspondence with Voltaire would last, even after he departed for Switzerland. Charlotte decided to travel to Vienna where she joined the court of Empress Maria Theresa. She wandered the courts of Germany from 1760 to 1767 and much of her correspondence with people such as Tsar Paul I of Russia and King Stanislaus of Poland, begging for help with her ongoing financial conflict with her husband, survives.
Charlotte finally settled in Hamburg in 1767. She finally got to know her grandchildren, and she also managed to get her youngest son Guillaume to come live with her. Her legitimate children and grandchildren did not know of the real connection between her and Guillaume. She survived her husband and two eldest sons, finally dying on 5 February 1800. She left one of her surviving possessions, Castle Doorwerth to her grandson and she was buried in the church of Varel.