CollectionThe papers of Princess Charlotte of Wales
ReferenceGEO/MAIN/49133-50176, GEO/ADD/22/1-110
TitleThe papers of Princess Charlotte of Wales, 1796-1830
Date1796-1954
DescriptionThis collection contains the papers of Princess Charlotte of Wales and has been arranged in the following series:

1. Correspondence of Princess Charlotte of Wales, 1796-1830
2. Accounts of Princess Charlotte of Wales, 1800-1805
3. Books and writings of Princess Charlotte of Wales, 1808-[1813]
LanguageEnglish
French
German
Latin
Extent6 volumes and 706 documents
LevelCollection
Admin HistoryPrincess Charlotte Augusta of Wales was born at Carlton House on 7 January 1796, the only child of George, Prince of Wales ( later George IV) and Caroline of Brunswick's ill-fated marriage, and (as the only legitimate grandchild of George III) heir presumptive to the British throne.
Shortly after the birth the Prince and Princess of Wales separated, and the Prince, not wishing Caroline to have involvement in the care and education of their child, took guardianship of their daughter (in conjunction with the monarch). Initially Princess Charlotte resided at Carlton House with her father and was regularly visited by her mother, but the Princess later moved to various other residences where her own household was established including: Montague House, Shooter's Hill, and Warwick House. Princess Charlotte was cared for by a number of governesses and attendants during her childhood including: Lady Dashwood, Frances Garth, Alicia Campbell, Ellis Cornelia Knight, Lady Elgin, Lady de Clifford, Martha Udney, the Duchess of Leeds, her preceptor John Fisher, Bishop of Exeter (later Bishop of Salisbury), and sub-preceptor George Frederick Nott. Her formal education was accompanied by dancing and music lessons, amongst others, and she became an accomplished horsewoman, but was often perceived as reckless and rebellious. She was regularly required to visit Windsor and Kew to see her grandfather, George III, grandmother, Queen Charlotte, and her unmarried aunts, Princesses Augusta, Elizabeth, Mary, Sophia, and Amelia. The Princess of Wales' contact with her daughter became increasingly restricted throughout Charlotte's life, and during the 'Delicate Investigation' of 1806 her visits were prohibited until after the trial.
Princess Charlotte had a brief attachment to Captain Charles Hesse (which was encouraged and facilitated by her mother) and is thought to have also been interested in Prince William Frederick of Gloucester, but as the future queen she was expected to marry high ranking foreign royalty. In 1813, her father (by then Prince Regent) began to consider an appropriate marriage for his daughter and decided that William, Hereditary Prince of Orange was a suitable match. However Princess Charlotte, pressured into accepting an engagement she opposed and adamantly refusing to spend time in the Netherlands after her marriage, but unable to change her father's mind and facing being sent to the remote Cranbourne Lodge in Windsor, fled to her mother's house in protest. This resulted in public sympathy for her situation and she broke off the engagement in a letter to the Hereditary Prince of Orange in 1814, and the Prince Regent, although initially frustrated finally accepted his daughter's feelings on the matter. It was also during this time that the Princess developed an attachment to Prince [?Augustus or Frederick of Prussia], but to Charlotte's disappointment the Prince was attached to another.
In 1815, the engagement to the Hereditary Prince of Orange at an end, Princess Charlotte presented another possible candidate for her hand to the Prince Regent, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Staalfeld, and in February 1816, after a meeting with Prince Leopold, the Prince Regent acquiesced to his daughter's wish. A brief engagement ensued and Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold wed on 2 May 1816, moving the following August to Claremont in Surrey. Shortly afterwards, in early 1817, Princess Charlotte became pregnant and it was during her pregnancy that she had her portrait painted by George Dawe featuring the Order of St Catherine, which was awarded to the Princess by the Empress of Russia the same year.
On 3 November 1817 Princess Charlotte's labour began and was overseen by her medical attendants: Dr. Matthew Baillie, Sir Richard Croft, and Dr John Sims. The long and difficult labour resulted in the birth of a still-born son on the 5 November, and although Princess Charlotte initially appeared to recover, due to complications she died five hours later in the early hours of 6 November. Sir Richard Croft blaming himself for the Princess's death took his own life a few months later, resulting in a 'triple obstetric tragedy'. Prince Leopold was distraught by his wife's death, Caroline, Princess of Wales (who had been living on the continent and had not seen her daughter since 1814) reportedly fainted at the news, and George, Prince Regent, grief stricken, was unable to attend her funeral held at St. George's Chapel, Windsor on 19 November 1817. A monument dedicated to the Princess was erected in the chapel where she was interred alongside her son.
Custodial HistoryThe majority of these records are believed to have been part of the original acquisition from Apsley House in 1912.
For the custodial history of GEO/ADD/22/56-88, 94-110, see the relevent Sub-Series.
ArrangementThis collection artificially amalgamates the papers of Princess Charlotte of Wales, as the original and administrative order of the majority of records within this collection are unknown.
The three Series have been created to distinguish the records within the collection, which are predominantly already physically separate. The Series 'Books and writings of Princess Charlotte of Wales, 1808-[1813]' has been created to show that these records are distinct from the correspondence and accounts within this collection.
The original order of the correspondence is unknown, and it is also unknown when the letters were brought together as a collection, assigned reference numbers, and arranged predominantly chronologically. This chronological order has been retained, with minimal intellectual rearrangement within the catalogue to maintain this order. Sub-Series levels have been created for each year for which correspondence survives, and undated letters have been given probable dates and catalogued within the relevant Sub-Series, whilst retaining their physical order. Letter enclosures have been cross- referenced with their accompanying documents (where known) and catalogued immediately following the accompanying letter to reflect the documents physical order and administrative use.
For further arrangement details see the relevent Series and Sub-Series entries.
Catalogued and arranged 2019-2020.
RepositoryRoyal Archives
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