Queen Adelaide Road, SE20

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Remembering Adelaide Amelia Louise Theresa Caroline (August 13, 1792 – December 2, 1849) or Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen or simply Queen Adelaide was the wife of the Duke of Clarence later crowned William IV, whose patronage of the Watermen’s Almshouses in Penge helped secure a great deal of the funding. In 1840 – 1841 she agreed to contribute as patron to the Watermen’s and Lightermen’s Almshouses. And when in the mid-1840s she decided to establish a new set of almshouses to accommodate the widows of naval officers, Penge again was the chosen location. She was a popular figure and is widely credited with helping her husband abandon his profligate ways and adopt a modest lifestyle. Despite a 27 year age gap, meeting only a week before the wedding, and her husband’s many illegitimate children, theirs was a happy marriage. Now a reformed character William was expected to take the throne and provide an heir, since both his older brothers were unhealthy and with no legitimate children of their own. While he was to be crowned, no heir was to come, for although Adelaide fell pregnant many times these only ended in miscarriages, stillbirths, and two infants who died young. In 1830 William IV finally ascended to the throne with Adelaide his consort. During his short-lived reign he oversaw the passing of the Reform Bill in 1832, opening up the electorate to a middle-class for the first-time. William was against it, many believing he was influenced by his wife; and the king faced much criticism. Adelaide overcame this negativity by focusing on her religiosity and charity work, donating annually £20,000 to causes to help women and orphans in particular – and with it becoming a popular figure with developers who named many streets and even the eponymous Australian city after her. When her husband died in 1837, she became the first Queen Dowager for over 100 years. But never one for the the trappings of royal life, she was content to stay in the shadows of her her young niece Victoria. For much of her widowhood Adelaide rented out country houses, including Sudbury Hall, Belton House, Witley Court, Cassiobury House, and Bentley Priory. Whilst at Sudbury she became dangerously ill and wrote out her funeral instructions. She recovered to live another eight years but upon her death in 1849 these instructions were indeed fulfilled.

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