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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Princess Charlotte: How the name changed British History

The whole Kingdom was swathed in pink when Princess Charlotte of Cambridge was born. It's been 25 years since Britain welcomed the birth of a royal princess so near to the throne, Princess Eugenie of York, youngest daughter of Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, who was born in 1990.

Though Louise (born in 2003), the daughter of Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, is Princess by birth, she was given the title of a Lady and not a Princess to relieve her from the trappings of royalty, making her the only granddaughter of a reigning British sovereign to carry a non-princess title. So the birth of the Duke of Cambridge's daughter brings delight to royal watchers.

The joy became more intense when the baby's three names were revealed in the media. She is Charlotte Elizabeth Diana and will be known simply as Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. Among the three names, the public focuses on the last name because it is a name of a royal who was not born a princess but left a tremendous mark in the consciousness of the masses and who had captured the world's imagination with her unique warmth, compassion and beauty. The late Princess of Wales, Diana, whose entire adult life was almost spent in misery and distress brought by her lonely marriage to the heir of the British throne.

The memories of William's late mother still lived among her supporters and there's nothing more significant to those who continue honoring her memories than knowing her granddaughter took her name.

But for me, it's not the name Diana that made the naming of this latest addition to the British royal family something historical and significant, it's the first name itself - Charlotte.

Princess Charlotte of Cambridge
reliving history in the British monarchy

Although the British press insisted the first name of the Cambridge infant princess is given in honor of Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III, I saw it the other way around, not the Queen consort of George but their granddaughter, Princess Charlotte of Wales.

Few ever remembered maybe that the name Charlotte has a defining moment in  the timeline of the British monarchy. In 18th century, this name ultimately changed the course of British history, redrawn the line of succession of the British throne and gave the world with another story of a modern fairy tale.

Princess Charlotte of Wales was born in 1796 to the Prince of Wales, who would become King George IV, and his wife, Caroline of Brunswick. During her lifetime, she was the only legitimate granddaughter of King George III and the sole heiress to the British throne. All her paternal uncles lived an unconventional existence, either buried in debt, sired illegitimate children and lived with their commoner lovers.

Her parents did not get along ever since their wedding day and after providing the throne with a legitimate heir, they quickly separated. Caroline left Britain even before her husband could ascend the throne.

Charlotte married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield and in 1817 the couple happily announced they would be having a child. But in November 1817, Princess Charlotte died due to a difficult childbirth together with her son. The Kingdom mourned her untimely death and her father was profoundly devastated.

On the death of Princess Charlotte, Britain left with no legitimate heirs, prompting the remaining bachelor sons of King George III to look for a suitable royal bride. One of these sons was Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. He married the widowed sister of Prince Leopold, Princess Victoria.

Edward and Victoria had one child, Princess Victoria, but nine months after the birth of the princess, the Duke of Kent died. Edward was the fourth son of George III, this means that in the event his older brother, Prince William, Duke of Clarence would have no legitimate children, his only daughter, Victoria would be the next monarch.

In 1830, George IV died and William ascended the throne as William IV, he and his wife, Queen Adelaide, had no children, making his niece, Victoria, the heir presumptive. In 1837, when Victoria became of age, her childless uncle died and she mounted the British throne as Queen Victoria, but due to Salic law, she did not inherit the Hanover crown in Germany and it was given to her uncle, Prince Ernst August, Duke of Cumberland. She reigned under the royal house name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

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

Since the death of Charlotte, no daughters of the succeeding British monarchs ever carried this name and the Duke of Cambridge would be the first future British King since the death of George IV to have a daughter named Charlotte.

Even Queen Victoria avoided using the name of her cousin whose sad fate paved the way of the British line of succession to be remapped. Victoria had five daughters: Vicky, Alice, Helena, Louise and Beatrice.

Succeeding British monarchs seemed forgotten the name Charlotte too. Victoria's successor, Edward VII named his three daughters: Louise, Victoria and Maud. Edward VII's successor, George V, had one daughter named Mary, while George V's successor, George VI, had two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. The reigning Queen also avoided the name Charlotte and named her only daughter, Anne.

Although it did not represent tribulation in the British royal family (unlike the name Catherine :-P), it's still a little bit intriguing why succeeding generations of British princesses did not carry the name Charlotte. Until today.

Prince William might have chosen the name for her daughter in honor of her father, Prince Charles. Charlotte is a female French version of the name Charles.

More of the royal tragic stories in my TRAGEDIES IN THE ROYAL COURT book where I tackled an expanded version on tragic life of Princess Charlotte of Wales. You may read the description of this book HERE.


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