Why see it?
Queen Charlotte’s cottage is an early example of a cottage orné, a rustic cottage built as a country retreat, but not as a residence.
The cottage was used by the royal family in the late 18th century for resting and taking tea during walks in the gardens.
Its main attractions were its rural setting and the large paddock which was situated to the rear of the cottage.
Many exotic animals were kept in the paddock here.
Queen Caroline had kept tigers at Richmond, but George III and Queen Charlotte contented themselves with more docile pets, including oriental cattle and colourful Tartarian pheasants, which are still to be seen in this quiet area of the gardens.
From the early 1790s, kangaroos (the first to arrive in England) were kept and successfully bred in the Queen’s Cottage paddock. By the early 19th century there were 18 kangaroos.
This made the cottage a popular destination for many royal walks until 1806 when Mr Aiton, the gardener, was instructed to turn the kangaroo paddock into a flower garden.
Queen Charlotte's Cottage is an early example of a ‘cottage orne’ or picturesque cottage which suggested notions of a romantic idyll to which the real life of working people bore little relation!
This was an act which a few years later contributed to the demise of Marie Antoinette when she built her model hamlet at Versailles to affect the life a peasant.
No doubt the Queen was inspired by her gardener at Richmond, ‘Capability’ Brown, who was so influential in introducing the picturesque movements to landscapes of English aristocrats.
The cottage reflects her personal taste and interests. It was a perfect location for a modest retreat where she and the rest of the royal family could enjoy private picnics or take tea during long summer walks through the gardens. Fortunately there were plenty of servants for the kitchens from Richmond Lodge nearby!
The cottage overlooked a new menagerie, which must have delighted the growing number of royal children. It was first home to pheasants and other exotic birds, but by 1792 also contained some of the first kangaroos to arrive in Britain.