The Tragedy of Princess Charlotte of Wales, The British Queen That Never Was

If Princess Charlotte had lived, her first cousin, Victoria, would never become Queen of the British empire, and British history might have been very different.

But destiny has its own way of creating a different tale, sometimes strange, sometimes heartbreaking, to make a way for another story to unfold.

This is a heartbreaking story of Princess Charlotte of Wales, heiress to the British throne, but did not live long to wear the crown when doctors bungled a royal birth.

The birth of a future British Queen

King George III of Britain, whose sons were known as "royal vampires" due to the amount of scandals they brought to the crown and whose lives were defined by debts and living with mistresses, was fed up with the waywardness of all his sons especially his heir, Prince George, that he was forced to make an agreement with them.

He would pay their debts provided they will abandon their commoner lovers and find a suitable royal bride. By then, royals were not allowed to marry commoners and the monarch would never grant a marriage permission to royals whose choice of a spouse contradicts The Royal Marriages Act of 1772.

The Prince of Wales, Prince George, who by then living with a twice widowed commoner woman, Maria Fitzherbert, was heavily buried in debt due to his extravagant lifestyle, his father agreed to pay his debts provided he will settle down with a royal princess.

The Prince of Wales was forced to give up his lover and married his first cousin, Princess Caroline of Brunswick. The two could not get along, after the birth of their only child, Princess Charlotte, they separated. 

Princess Charlotte, named after her grandmother, Queen Charlotte, was born in 1796, the only legitimate grandchild of King George III, and thus, in line to become the next monarch of Britain after her father.

But a tragedy broke off soon after.

The Bright Hope for Better Days

As a future British Queen, Princess Charlotte was expected to get married to provide the throne with legitimate heirs, names of royal princes were lined up for her to choose, and her father, chose Prince William, the Hereditary Prince of Orange, however Princess  Charlotte chose a handsome German prince who was a lieutenant in the Imperial Russian Army, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Saalfeld.

Prince Leopold's sister, Princess Victoria, would marry Charlotte's uncle, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, the couple's only child would eventually become Queen Victoria in later years.

Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold's marriage was described as a happy one, they were much in love and unlike the marriages of her parents and maternal grandparents, her marriage to Leopold was not categorically arranged but based on mutual love. 

She was seen as Britain's bright hope for better days. Her father was regarded as unfit to become a king, her uncles were seen as tragedies to the monarchy and her grandfather, King George III, was began showing bouts of madness. 

Princess Charlotte was considered the only hope to invigorate the country. Britain was even more jubilant when it was announced the princess was pregnant. It was a moment of celebration as the whole nation expects to see another royal family that would give them a happy fairy tale, away from the scandalous lives of King George III's children.

But by 1817 it was all gone.

The Death of the future Queen

On November 3, 1817, Princess Charlotte went into a labor. It was a difficult journey of giving birth. Forceps were not commonly practice during the pre-antiseptic era due to high mortality rate. Despite the effort of her physicians, she gave birth to a stillborn son, two days later. Exhausted, Princess Charlotte calmly accepted the news that her son did not survive.

However, soon after, she began vomiting violently and complained a horrible abdominal pain. Her doctors were summoned to her room and was alarmed to see the princess bleeding profusely. A hot compress was applied to stop the bleeding but it did not stop. 

Before Prince Leopold could reach the birth room, Princess Charlotte was dead. Her death was rolled out as a postpartum bleeding due to trauma and exhaustion of labor. She was 21 years old.

With her death, the whole United Kingdom was in deep mourning, grieving the loss of a princess who was seen as the only light of the British monarchy ravaged with scandals.

Prince George was convulsed in grief and could not accept why his only legitimate child would pass that way, he did not attend the funeral and spent his days in mourning. His estranged wife, Princess Caroline fainted in shock hearing the death of her daughter.

By then, King George III, was already blind and suffered mental illness, he did not know that his only legitimate grandchild has died. 

Prince Leopold became inconsolable and wrote this letter: "My Charlotte is gone, from the country it has lost her. She was an admirable woman. None could know my Charlotte as I did know her, she was my delight".

Princess Charlotte and her stillborn son were buried at St. George's Chapel in Windsor on the 19th day of November 1817. Her death left the British throne without legitimate heir on the second generation, thus, a year after her death, all unmarried sons of King George III scrambled to look for a royal princess to provide the throne with legitimate heirs.

The king's third son, Prince William, Duke of Clarence, who was living with an actress, Dorothy Jordan, married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, his younger brother, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, married Prince Leopold's sister, Princess Victoria, another brother, Prince Ernst Augusts, Duke of Cumberland, married their first cousin, Princess Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

Prince Leopold resumed his military career a year later and in 1831, elected to become the King of Belgium. He remarried a year later to a French princess, but the memory of his first wife still haunted him, so much so that he named his first child, Charlotte.

The Aftermath

The tragic death of Princess Charlotte largely remapped the succession of the British throne. As she was the only child of Prince George, the heir presumptive of her father was her uncle, Prince William, Duke of Clarence. 

In 1820, King George III died, the prince regent became King George IV, he died 10 years later and the Duke of Clarence succeeded him as King William IV. He had no legitimate children with Princess Adelaide, his heir presumptive was his younger brother, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent who predeceased his brother, thus, the British throne went to Edward's only child, Princess Victoria, in 1837, upon William IV's death.

If Charlotte had lived, Queen Victoria might never become Queen, and British history might have been very different.

The Fate of Queen Elizabeth II

The current British Queen's fate is quite similar to Queen Victoria although in a different circumstance. While death paved the way for Victoria's destiny to the throne, it was abdication that prompted Elizabeth's fate to the crown.

Queen Elizabeth II

In 1936, when she was 10 years old, her paternal uncle, King Edward VIII, gave up the throne to marry a twice divorced American commoner, Wallis Simpson. He was succeeded by his younger brother, George VI who created him Duke of Windsor.

And the rest is history.

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