Elizabeth of the United Kingdom – A wish for freedom (Part two)




elizabeth united kingdom
(public domain)

Read part one here.

Life went by at a slow pace. Elizabeth purchased a cottage at Old Windsor where she delighted in the flowers in the garden. Yet, she was unhappy, and she wrote, “We go on vegetating as we have done for the last twenty years of our lives.”1 It was 1808, and she was now 38 years old. She began taking walks at 8 in the morning, “for the sake of not losing the use of my legs.”2 She was surprised to receive an offer of marriage from the exiled Duke of Orléans that year, but he was a Catholic so it could not be. Elizabeth wrote, “Without being a perfect good daughter, I never can make a good wife.”3 For a while though, she had the hope of becoming a wife and mother and secretly hoped the match would be able to go ahead.

The death of her younger sister Amelia in 1810 seemed to be the final straw for the King’s delicate health. A regency would now definitely be required. Elizabeth wrote, “Distress and misery has so long been my lot that I have no longer the power of tears.”4 The Prince of Wales became the Prince Regent on 5 February 1811. The Prince Regent was generous to his sisters and settled an additional £9,000 a year on them, plus a new carriage, a page and a footman. The sisters could also appoint a new lady each on half-duty. Elizabeth wrote of the changes, “You may depend that we do not intend doing anything extravagant or silly, we only wish to have that degree of liberty which is right… The trials of these years have made me more sedate and more willing to yield on many points that I ever was.”5

Then in early 1818 came the biggest surprise of all – a suitor. The Hereditary Prince of Hesse-Homburg asked for Elizabeth’s hand. As 48, she could hardly be expected to provide an heir, but the Prince had several brothers who could succeed him. Elizabeth wanted freedom, and her dowry could have a significant effect on Hesse-Homburg. However, Queen Charlotte was vehemently against the match, leaving Elizabeth broken-hearted after difficult arguments.  After several weeks of talking to, Queen Charlotte eventually came around. On 7 April 1818, Elizabeth – dressed in white – married her Prince in the drawing-room of the Queen’s House. The following weeks, her brothers the Dukes of Clarence, Kent and Cambridge all married in order to solve the succession crisis that had arisen following the death of the Prince Regent’s daughter in childbirth.

Bad Homburg/Photo by Moniek Bloks

Elizabeth had departed her homeland with her mother in a bad state of health. In August 1818, she wrote from Homburg, “Alas, all my letters are daggers to my heart when I read of the state of my mother.”6 The end came on 18 November 1818. Elizabeth wrote, “That the whole nation would for ever mourn the loss of a person who had… performed every duty by it, as well as by her own – and that morals, conduct and decency would be at an end.”7 The following year, the future Queen Victoria was born, but she would not know her father as he would die on 23 January 1820. This was quickly followed by the death of Elizabeth’s father King George III on 29 January. Elizabeth also suffered the loss of her father-in-law on 20 January, and she became the new Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg.

At the end of 1820, Elizabeth was finally able to see her sister Charlotte again after more than 20 years apart. She went to stay with her in Ludwigsburg over Christmas. She was shocked to find her sister obese and an invalid – she was carried everywhere in an armchair. Once back in Homburg, Elizabeth and her husband set about improving their estate, despite the mounting debts. Over the years, Elizabeth would return to Ludwigsburg several times, and the death of her sister in 1828 hit her hard. Her happy marriage came to an end on 2 April 1829 when her husband died of influenza and complications of an old leg wound. Elizabeth wrote, “No woman was ever more happy than I was for eleven years, and they will often be lived over again in the memory of the heart.”8 On 26 June 1830, her brother King George IV also died and was succeeded by their brother who now became King William IV. Elizabeth had just been on her way to England to see him.

She stayed in England quite a while and did not return to Homburg until the following summer. Now widowed, Elizabeth supported several projects in Homburg, including several charities. Her apartments in the castle of Bad Homburg became known as the English wing. She loved spending time with the children of her brother-in-law, but the family kept to themselves a lot, much to Elizabeth’s sadness. She also hardly knew her niece, Princess Victoria, despite several visits to England over the years. King William IV died on 20 June 1837, and he was succeeded by the 18-year-old Victoria.

Elizabeth invested her time with the building of a spa at Bad Homburg, and even the unpleasantness of her brother-in-law’s Philip’s morganatic marriage could not deter her. She wrote, “I will do all in my power make [the new Princess] happy, for Philip’s sake. […] I made her sit next to me to let them see how very well I was with her.”9 Elizabeth resigned herself to her old age and wrote, “I say to you with truth that no one enjoys their old age more than me, and am convinced that I have been a much happier being since the spring and summer of my life are over.”10

In early summer 1839, Queen Victoria sent her aunt a portrait of herself and Elizabeth wrote to her in thanks, “I sent it up to my sister-in-law Louise to look at as she could not come down to me… I never trouble you with letters feeling you must be rejoiced not to be plagued with them from places you know nothing about.”11 On 10 January 1840, Elizabeth died “without any suffering” at the age of 69 in her “miserable pied-à-tierre”12 in Frankfurt. She had been alone except for her lady and a maid. Her coffin was brought from Frankfurt to Homburg on a catafalque drawn by black-plumed horses. She was buried in the Hesse-Homburg family vault.

close

Subscribe to our newsletter! Join our 4,154 subscribers to stay up to date on History of Royal Women's articles!

  1. Princesses: the six daughters of George III by Flora Fraser p.226
  2. Princesses: the six daughters of George III by Flora Fraser p.226
  3. Princesses: the six daughters of George III by Flora Fraser p.228
  4. Princesses: the six daughters of George III by Flora Fraser p.247
  5. Princesses: the six daughters of George III by Flora Fraser p.262
  6. Princesses: the six daughters of George III by Flora Fraser p.309
  7. Princesses: the six daughters of George III by Flora Fraser p.312
  8. Princesses: the six daughters of George III by Flora Fraser p.351
  9. Princesses: the six daughters of George III by Flora Fraser p.366
  10. Princesses: the six daughters of George III by Flora Fraser p.367
  11. Princesses: the six daughters of George III by Flora Fraser p.368
  12. Princesses: the six daughters of George III by Flora Fraser p.368






About Moniek 1703 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.