Princess Amelia Sophia – Daughter of George II
Princess Amelia Sophia Eleanor of Hanover and Great Britain was the second daughter of George II and Caroline of Ansbach. The princess was born in Schloss Herenhausen, Hanover, at the Herrenhausen Palace, on 10 June 1711. As a child she was sickly, but her health improved with age, and while still a toddler, she and her family moved to the St James’s Palace in London after Queen Anne’s death in 1714. In 1722, at the age of 11, her mother, who held progressive ideas about health, had her inoculated against smallpox just like Empress Maria Theresa of the House of Habsburg had her children inoculated, including Marie Antoinette, with what was called the variolation method that involved material taken from a human smallpox pustule in the hope that a mild, but protective infection would result.
As an adult, Princess Amelia Sophia, who acquired the nickname Emily by her family, was described as being a homely person. One nineteenth century author noted that because she was homely, she was not particularly becoming in full dress. That may have been part of the reason she refused to wear it. At the time, the rules of full dress included toupees, ruffles, and powder and adamantly forbade aprons. However, her apron was something the Princess Amelia Sophia would not forgo, even at balls. This became evident when she met the celebrated dandy and fashion leader, Beau Nash who insisted on full dress, particularly for party goers at Bath. Apparently, at some point, the Princess and Nash attended the same ball, and when he saw her in her frumpy apron, he approached her, took it off, and “sent it out of his dominion.”
Although the Princess liked her apron, it was her masculine style of dress that most people remembered about her. She frequently dressed in riding fashions, which included a round hat and German style clothing. Her style was so obvious sometimes others were mistaken for her. One story about such a mistake involves the Prince of Wales and Lord Clermont when they were on the road to Bagshot. At the time, Lord Clermont was wearing a white great-coat with a flannel hood to protect his ears and neck from the cold. Apparently, passersby thought he was Princess Amelia Sophia and declared of the prince, “What a good young man the prince is, thus to be the companion of his father’s deaf old aunt, during her morning drives!”
The Princess Amelia Sophia was not particularly popular and even though she was odd and quirky she could not be excluded from parties, balls, or other events as she was a princess. After her mother died, Princess Amelia Sophia assumed her mother’s role at royal functions because her sister Anne was married and living in Holland. Horace Walpole, the English art historian, man of letters, and antiquarian, claimed that she was “meanly inquisitive” and put her nose into things that did not involve her. She also fostered family feuds: Certain eighteenth century people claimed she was highly jealous of her sister-in-law, Augusta, the Princess of Wales, and was constantly battling with her.
When not battling with her sister-in-law, Princess Amelia Sophia preferred riding or hunting to more feminine or artistic activities. She also never married, but that did not mean suitors were uninterested. She became the intended wife of Frederick the Great, and they corresponded until he married someone else in 1733. The Dukes of Grafton and Newcastle were both interested her, and the three frequently hunted together. Once she even stayed out late with them after they somehow got separated from their attendants. They went to a private house in Windsor Forest, much to the displeasure of the Queen, who, upon learning about the late night, admonished her daughter for her thoughtless and improper behavior.
Although highly accomplished, the princess was also opinionated and that sometimes caused controversy. For instance, one issue that erupted into controversy involved a deer park located in southwest London name Richmond Park. The incident began in 1751 after the Princess Amelia Sophia became ranger of the park. She closed the park to the public based on certain actions taken by her predecessor. Then to make matters worse she permitted only her select friends to enter, but even those friends had to have special permits to enter. Her closure of the park remained in force until 1758. Then, due to a series of court cases by local inhabitants, the park was reopened to the public because Charles I had allowed public access when he originally opened the park in the 1600s.
Princess Amelia Sophia also loved snuff and was well-known for using it. One anecdote about her and snuff occurred one night at a card party in Bath. A Scottish gentleman observed her snuff-box, which was open on the table near her. Without asking permission he began helping himself to its contents and did this repeatedly. At length, the Princess called one of her attendants and asked him to refill her snuff-box. He replied, “It is full already, Madam.” Her answer verbatim was “Nevre moind dat … don’t you see dat it is cantaminated.” The reproof was felt, the contents were thrown in the fire, and the Scottish gentleman quickly disappeared.
The Princess loved her father and was extremely close to him. On the day the King died, he was planning on going for a walk when his page “heard a deep sigh, immediately followed by a heavy fall.” The page rushed back to see what happened and discovered the King a heap on the floor with a gash on his forehead from hitting the bureau. The King cried out for his daughter. He then immediately expired and was laid on his bed. When news reached Princess Amelia Sophia, she ran to his room and being hard of hearing misunderstood what was said. Thinking he was alive she “ran up to the bed-side, and stooped tenderly over [him] … thinking he might wish to speak to her … but then discovered, to her horror and astonishment, that he was dead.”
The Princess was also a loyal person. She was greatly affected by her father’s passing, even years later. In fact, before she died, she predicted that she would die on or near the date of her father’s death. (He died on October 25.) A week or so before the celebration of Lord Mayor’s Day, she died at age seventy-five, a little past six on the evening on 31 October 1786, at her home. She was embalmed, lay in state at her house in Cavendish Square, and was buried in the Henry VII Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey. On Friday 10 November it was reported:
“The body of the Princess Amelia was this night brought privately to the Prince’s Chamber, and laced a little before the canopy; the room being hung, and floored with black, and lighted with wax candles; and on each side of the canopy were placed five high stands, with large wax tapers. At the head of the coffin was an elbow chair for the chief mourner, and another chair on each side for her two supporters. On either side of the corpse, close to the wall, were five stools, placed for the ten assistants; and below them, two forms for the ladies of the bedchamber. The coffin was covered with a black velvet pall, adorned with eight escutcheons; and, on the head of the coffin, the Princess’s coronet, upon a black velvet cushion.”
She was the last surviving child of George II and Queen Caroline, and, therefore, she left behind a considerable fortune. Moreover, she was economical and thrifty and inherited a large sum from her father and from her brother, the Duke of Cumberland. Her annual income, independent of her inheritances, was also far greater than her expenditures. After her death, her property was sold, and the bulk of her wealth was divided between her two nephews, Prince Charles and Prince Frederick of Hesse Kassel, sons of her younger sister, Mary of Great Britain. However, some of the British were not too happy that her wealth went to her nephews as indicated by what the Hampshire Chronicle reported:
“While we contemplate on the treasure, drained from England, being thus transmitted to a foreign state; and reflect, that in the midst of a war which tore our poor country a thousand ways, the patriotic ardor actuated the Princess of whom we speak, to add one ship to our navy, although a company of merchants set the example by giving three; how much are we to lament of such a virtue! How fatally, too are we confirmed in the contrary proof, when we consider that the accumulated wealth in question might have been applied to ease the state, by being willed to some of the numerous Princesses of our present Monarch, or to the use of the Duke of Gloucester’s offspring!”
-  The New Monthly Magazine, 1845, p. 222.
-  The Georgian Era, Vol. 1, 1832, p. 54.
-  “Anecdote of the Princess Amelia,” in the Derby Mercury, 2 November 1786, p. 2.
-  Ibid.
-  The Georgian Era, p. 44.
-  Ibid.
-  The European Magazine, Vol. 10, 1786, p. 385.
-  “Abstract or the Princess Amelia’s Will,” in Hampshire Chronicle, 13 November 1786, p 4.
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