George III's generation
George III is often remembered as the “mad king” or the “king who lost America”.
Prior to the appalling periods of mental illness that he suffered in his later years, he’d been incredibly well educated and had developed a passion for arts, music and sciences. Not only was he an active patron of artists and scientists but he was also an enthused practitioner.
George III was particularly keen on architecture. He employed the architect William Chambers to teach him architectural practice and to design exotic buildings for the gardens at Kew including, most famously, the pagoda which still stands today.
Queen Charlotte grew up in the very rural and somewhat domestic court of Duke Charles Louis Frederick of Mecklenberg-Strelitz.
Like her husband, George III, Charlotte was highly educated and always keen to take on further studies and hobbies.
During her husband’s periods of mental illness, she remained loyal and attentive to his needs, monitoring his care and making suggestions to his doctors. However, after 1804, the King became extremely violent and for her safety, the couple had to live apart for the rest of their lives.
Queen Charlotte, George III and Kew Gardens
Charlotte was a keen amateur botanist and took particular interest in the plants and flowers being imported by Joseph Banks.
Banks introduced the Bird of Paradise flower to Kew in 1773. He named it Streletzia Regina in honour of Charlotte who came from Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
George III and Charlotte continued the development and improvement of the gardens at Kew that were begun by his father and mother.
George IV was Prince Regent for nine years throughout his father’s illness. When he finally became King in 1820, he was heavily in debt due to his incredibly lavish lifestyle. However, he did not curb his excessive spending and this weakened the authority he had with Parliament.
George IV visited Hanover in 1821, the first monarch to do so since the 1750s.
Frederick shared the same extravagant lifestyle as his brother George IV and was constantly in debt because of his passion for gambling, both on horses and cards.
He married his cousin, Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia, but they soon separated and had no children. Frederick, like many of his brothers, fathered several illegitimate children.
As the third son, William IV never expected to reign but both his older brothers died before him without any legitimate heirs.
William spent 20 years living with his mistress, the actress Mrs Jordan before marrying Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen in 1818. He was known as the ‘Sailor King’ as he had joined the Royal Navy at the age of 13 and worked up through the ranks until he retired from active service in 1790.
Charlotte, Princess Royal
As a child, Charlotte was educated in modern foreign languages, history, geography, music, art and embroidery. Charlotte had a particular liking for history and spoke French and Italian fluently.
Charlotte was keen to be married but her father, George III, was absolutely set against his daughters marrying either a Catholic or a commoner, which left very few eligible men. George III reluctantly agreed to let Charlotte marry Prince Frederick of Württemberg, a 42-year-old widower.
George III, Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Charlotte, Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
George III and Queen Charlotte at Kew © The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
George IV © National Portrait Gallery