Horace Walpole on Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Queen Charlotte
Queen Charlotte in 1761, Courtesy of Wikipedia

When King George III succeeded to the throne he decided it to take a wife. The wife he chose was 17-year-old Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. That was because he, his mother, and his advisors liked her because she had no experience with politics or party intrigues. In fact, when Princess Charlotte arrived in England, George III instructed her to avoid meddling in such things. Although Princess Charlotte spoke little English, she was happy to comply.

Charlotte arrived on 8 September 1761 and within six hours of her arrival, she and the King were married. Everyone was curious about the new Queen, and the famous art historian, man of letters, antiquarian, and Whig politician, Horace Walpole, wrote a letter to General Thomas Conway to satisfy his curiosity. At the time, Conway was visiting in Ireland and wanted to know everything about her. In the letter to Conway, Walpole provided some interesting tidbits. Here is his letter almost verbatim:

George III, Author's Collection
George III, Author’s Collection

The date of my promise is now arrived, and I fulfil it — fulfil it with great satisfaction, for the Queen is come. I have seen her, have been presented to her, and may go back to Strawberry. For this fortnight I have lived upon the road between Twickenham and London. I came, grew impatient, returned; came again, still to no purpose. The yacht made the coast of Suffolk last Saturday, on Sunday entered the road of Harwich and on Monday morning, the king’s chief eunuch, as the Tripoline embassador calls Lord Anson, landed the princess. She lay that night at Lord Abercorn’s at Witham, the palace of Silence; and yesterday, at a quarter after three, arrived at St. James’s.

In half an hour, one heard of nothing but proclamations of her beauty: everybody was content, every body pleased. At seven one went to court. The night was sultry. About ten, the procession began to move towards the chapel, and at eleven they all came up into the drawing-room. She looks very sensible, cheerful, and is remarkably genteel. Her tiara of diamonds was very pretty; her stomacher sumptuous; her violet-velvet mantle and ermine so heavy, that the spectators knew as much of her upper half as the king himself. You will have no doubt of her sense by what I shall tell you. On the road they wanted to curl her toupet: she said she thought it looked as well as that of any of the ladies sent to fetch her; if the King bid her, she would wear a periwig, otherwise she would remain as she was.

When she caught the first glimpse of the palace, she grew frightened and turned pale. The Duchess of Hamilton smiled — the princess said, “My dear duchess, you may laugh: you have been married twice, but it is no joke to me.” Her lips trembled as the coach stopped, but she jumped out with spirit, and has done nothing but with good humour and cheerfulness. She talks a great deal, is easy, civil, and not disconcerted.

At first, when the bridemaids and the court were introduced to her, she said “Mon Dieu, il y en a tant, il y en a tant!” [My God, there are so many, there are so many!] — She was pleased when she was to kiss the peeresses: but Lady Augusta was forced to take her hand and give it to those that were to kiss it, which was prettily humbled and good-natured. While they waited for supper, she sat down, sung, and played. Her French is tolerable: she exchanged much both of that and German with the King, the duke, and the Duke of York. They did not get to bed till two.

To-day was a drawing room: every body was presented to her: but she spoke to nobody, as she could not know a soul. The crowd was much less than at a birth-day; the magnificence very little more. The King look very handsome, and talked to her continually, and with great good humour. It does not promise as if they two would be the two must unhappy persons in England, from this event.

References:

Watkins, John, Memoirs of Her Most Excellent Majesty Sophia-Charlotte, 1819

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