The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge named their daughter Charlotte. It’s not a big shock – the name has been one of the favourites with the bookmakers almost since Kate announced she was expecting back in September. And one of the reasons it’s always been such a popular pick is that it’s a modern name with a lot of royal history.
It was perhaps most famous – until now – as the name of the consort of King George III. And the fact that she was linked to a famous Royal George isn’t the only thing she has in common with the newest princess in the land. She, too, had a May birthday arriving on the 19th May 1744 and starting life as Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. She married George III on September 8th 1761 just months after his accession to the throne.
Queen Charlotte immediately set about doing what all dutiful consorts did in the 18th century – filling her royal nursery. She went on to have fifteen children (nine boys and six girls) and was a popular figure. She died on November 17th 1818 and is buried in St George’s Chapel at Windsor.
But she wasn’t the first queen with the name. Her predecessor as consort was known as Caroline, but her full name was Wilhelmina Charlotte Caroline, and she was the queen from 1727 until her death in 1737.
Queen Charlotte went on to have a daughter with the name herself. Her first girl, born on September 29th 1766, was christened Charlotte Augusta Matilda. On 22 June 1789, Charlotte became Princess Royal, the title that may one day belong to Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. She married The Hereditary Prince Frederick of Wurttemberg in 1797. They became Grand Duke and Duchess just weeks later on the death of her new father-in-law. Charlotte’s husband was made King of Wurttemberg in 1805 making her a queen. This royal Charlotte died in 1828.
It was also the name chosen for the girl many believed would one day inherit George III’s crown. In 1795, their eldest son, the future George IV, married Caroline of Brunswick. Although the couple hated one another, at first sight, they did their royal duty and produced an heir almost nine months to the day after their marriage. Despite the fact, their child was a girl everyone knew she would be in line for the throne as her parents could barely stand to be in the same room as one another by then. She was named Charlotte after her paternal grandmother and grew up to be hugely popular.
In 1816, she married Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and when the couple announced they were expecting a baby there was an outpouring of happiness that easily matched the excitement which greeted William and Kate’s pregnancy news. But this Charlotte experienced a very difficult labour and died soon after giving birth to her stillborn son on 6 November 1817. There was national mourning – shops in London ran out of black cloth – and one of her doctors so widely pilloried that he ended up taking his life.
Another possible future queen was called Charlotte – she was the daughter of George IV’s brother, the future William IV, by his young wife, Adelaide. She was born on 27 March 1819 but died soon after her birth. Both these princesses called Charlotte would have taken precedence in the line of succession to who eventually claimed the throne, their cousin Victoria.
Victoria didn’t use it for any of her five daughters quite possibly because she was so busy using Victoria for most of them. Her eldest son used it as a middle name for his youngest girl who was Maud Charlotte Mary Victoria and who ended up as Queen of Norway after her husband was offered that country’s throne in 1905. And thanks to Charlotte of Wales the name became popular in the Belgian Royal Family as well.
Her widower, Leopold, went on to become King of the Belgians and he and his second wife named their only daughter Marie Charlotte, in memory of the lost Princess of Wales. The celebrated World War One king, Albert I, called his only daughter Marie-Jose Charlotte – she became the last Queen of Italy. Her brother, Leopold III, called his only daughter Josephine Charlotte, and she went on to be Grand Duchess of Luxembourg. Meanwhile, Leopold’s son Albert II named his daughter Astrid Josephine-Charlotte and right now she is working to support the current Belgian monarch, her brother Philippe.
The Earl of St Andrews, eldest son of The Duke of Kent, named his first daughter Marina Charlotte but it is over a century since it was given to such a high-born princess. And whatever its royal history so far, Charlotte is now the name associated with William and Kate’s daughter. Make way for a new chapter in the royal history books titled Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Cambridge.
Photo credit: After George Dawe [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons