The local girl who became Queen of England

Allan Ramsay - Queen Charlotte (Royal Collection)
Queen Sophie Charlotte of Mecklenburg Strelitz
The region around Schloss Leizen is famous for its history of nobles; dukes, duchesses, princes and princesses. In fact there are over 2000 castles, stately homes and manor houses in Mecklenburg Vorpommern, of which our home, Schloss Leizen is one. In one such palace, only 17 miles from Germany For Kids, a girl was born and raised, who went on to become the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland.

Only a short drive from Schloss Leizen is the small town of Mirow, also in the Mecklenburgische Seenplatte (Mecklenburg Lake District) it is surrounded by lakes, indeed it is possible to canoe from our nearby lake the Müritz  through the secluded waterways of the National Park direct to Mirow. On an island (the Scchlossinsel) near the centre of this quiet and tiny town are the two former palaces of the Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. It is here where Sophie Charlotte, in the “lower” castle was born on the 19th July 1744.

Mirow Schloss
Schloss Mirow
Though her father was duke and she herself a princess and despite the fact that the family’s standard of living was considerably higher than their local subjects, they were in fact a minor noble family, with a much less grand life than the King of England. She was schooled in Botany, the Arts and French.

in October of 1760 when Sophie Charlotte was 17 years old, 700miles away in London a young man she had never met was being crowned King George III. The new king and his mother were keen that he be married as soon as possible. As was customary at the time marriages were often arranged, partly to find someone suitable to the role of queen and partly to strengthen noble family ties and alliances. The Prince himself set conditions that his new queen should be relatively simple and not wish to meddle in the world of politics.

The King’s advisors set about a process of selecting prospective new Queens for George, most candidates hailed from Germany as the British Royal family descend directly from German noble families themselves. Finally only three potential brides remained, neither of whom knew their potential new life ahead of them, finally, only 9 months after his coronation George announced he would be married and a team of Escorts let by Earl Harcourt was sent to  rural Northern Germany to make arrangements with the Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz to allow his daughter to become Queen Consort to the King of England!

They arrived in this area on the 14th August 1761, only three days later, accompanied by her brother and the Escorts, princess Charlotte left quiet Mirow, not yet able to speak any English, on her way to a completely different life as Queen of Britain and Ireland and wife to one of the most important men in the world.

It took only 5 days to reach the North Sea Port of Cuxhaven where a small Fleet was waiting for her, however the sea journey was not to be so simple, sea conditions were bad and it took two weeks to complete the voyage to Harwich where they made land on the 8th September. The very next day she arrived at St James Palace in London where she met her future husband for the first time.

Despite not having known each other previously it is said that theirs was a successful and loving marriage, indeed they produced many children. As King George wished she generally did not meddle in political affairs, however this did not mean she did not have a profound influence on British culture, check out our interesting facts below.

Sadly King George III is now best known for his mental illness, suffering his first bout in 1780, from which he recovered, but then from 1811 his condition was permanent and incurable. The story of his illness and his family life is portrayed in the well known film “The Madness of King George“, the role of Queen Charlotte being played by Award-Winning Actress Helen Mirren, who acts in the film with a German accent.

Queen Charlotte by Sir Thomas Lawrence 1789
Queen Charlotte by Sir Thomas Lawrence 1789
 Queen Charlotte died at Kew Palace on 17th November 1818 and is buried in St George’s Chapel at Windsor castle, her husband died a year later. She was the second longest serving consort (wife or husband of a ruling monarch) for 57 years and 70 days, only the current Duke of Edinburgh has served longer.

Being so close to Schloss Mirow we visit often as part of our program of regional trips, our young guests get a rare opportunity to visit the birthplace of a British Queen well away from the fuss and crowds of tourists in major cities.

Interesting facts about Queen Charlotte

  • Buckingham Palace, now the main residence of the Queen and British Royal Family was bought as Queen Charlotte’s home (known as the Queen’s House), formerly the home of the Duke of Buckingham.
  • The Christmas Tree was brought to the British Isles by Queen Charlotte. She was the first person in England to bring a tree into the house during the festive period and the originally German tradition grew from there.
  • She was the grandmother of Queen Victoria
  • She introduced the Pomeranian dog to the English-speaking world, they used to be very fashionable, Queen Victoria kept many.
  • Queen Charlotte and King George III had 15 children! However only 13 survived to adulthood.
  • Queen Charlotte as an amateur botanist was very involved in the development of the much loved Kew Gardens in West London.
  • Some refer to her as Britain’s first Black Queen due to her very distant Portuguese Ancestors who themselves had African heritage.
  • Many town, place and street names in Britain and English-speaking countries are named after Queen Charlotte, where you see a Charlotte Street it was most likely named in her honour.

Buckingham Palace, London - April 2009
Buckingham Palace in London, bought for Queen Charlotte
Pomeranian Dogs.
Pomeranian Dogs.

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