Charlotte Mews, W1T

Place Name

Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (May 19, 1744 – November 17, 1818) or Queen Charlotte as she became known following her marriage to George III, did much to establish Kew Gardens as a repository for exotic plants. She was the youngest daughter of Duke Charles Louis Frederick of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a small northern German duchy in the Holy Roman Empire, and Princess Elizabeth Albertina of Saxe-Hildburghausen. When George III succeeded to the throne in 1760, he was 22 and unmarried and the 17-year-old Princess Charlotte was an obvious choice for a wife. In July the following year the King announced his intention to marry her, and a party led by the Earl of Harcourt departed for Germany to bring her to England. After a long and stormy voyage by sea, the party returned to London at 3pm on September 8 – six hours later the Princess and the King were wed at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace. Within a year the Queen had “fulfilled her dynastic obligations” giving birth to a son. News was broken to the King by the bungling Earl of Huntingdon who announced that she had given birth to a daughter – bad news for the Earl, as the King had promised £1,000 to the bearer of news that he was the father of a boy and £500 if it was a girl. Fourteen more children were to follow. Despite Charlotte being “famously ugly” (Desmond Shawe-Taylor, surveyor of the Queen’s pictures, revealed: “One courtier once said of her late in life: ‘Her Majesty’s ugliness has quite faded.’ There was quite a miaow factor at court.”) the couple were happy, sharing the same interests in both German music and horticulture. In 1762 The King and Queen moved into Buckingham House – bought by the Monarch. Charlotte loved it and it came to be known as The Queen’s House (today, it is better known as Buckingham Palace). Like her husband, a strait-laced protestant she attempted to instil a sense of duty and dignity in her off-spring – leading to huge conflicts with her eldest son, the extravagant and lazy Prince of Wales, especially over issues of the Regency following the King’s bouts of mental illness. The Queen, who was granted the Royal Manor of Richmond in 1770, was an amateur botanist, who took a great interest in Kew Gardens. Kew Palace was bought by George III in 1781 as a family home. The Queen paid for a separate dwelling the Dutch House (today’s Queen Charlotte’s Cottage), to be built in the grounds and it was here that she kept kangaroos in the rear paddock. She died at Kew Palace, in attendance was the son with whom she had so much trouble, the Prince Regent, the pair having been reconciled some years earlier.



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