Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts: Power, Influence, and Dynasty 3031128281, 9783031128288

This book examines the lives and tenures of the consorts of the Hanoverian, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and Windsor monarchs

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Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts: Power, Influence, and Dynasty
 3031128281, 9783031128288

Table of contents :
Praise for Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts
Notes on Contributors
List of Figures
Chapter 1: Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts: Power, Influence, Dynasty
The Act of Settlement
The Perth Agreement
Change and Continuity
Further Reading
SECTION I: Hanoverian Consorts
Chapter 2: The Hanoverian Consorts: Enlightenment and Empire
Chapter 3: Caroline of Ansbach: Life and Literature
Early Life
Princess of Wales
Queen Consort
Caroline’s Library and Literary Patronage
Politics and Literary Culture
Protestantism and Dynastic Motherhood
Royal Power
Patronage and Maternal Legacy
Chapter 4: Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz: The Enlightened Nurturer
Early Years and Upbringing
Marriage and Coronation
Looks and Appearances
Domesticity, Motherhood, and Self-Fashioning
Politics and Philanthropy
Cultural Interests and Patronage
Regency Crisis and Loyalty
The Retreat: Sentiment and Civic Idealisation
Death and Legacy
Chapter 5: Caroline of Brunswick: Queen on Trial
Princess of Brunswick
Prosecuting a Queen
Defending a Queen
After the Trial
Chapter 6: Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen: The Childless Queen Mother
Birth and Childhood
From Duchess to Queen
The Reform Question
Princess Victoria
Queen Dowager
Queen Mother
Whigs and Tories
The Two Queens
Chapter 7: Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha: Prince Consort of the World
Finding a Role
Collecting and Exhibiting the World
Albert and India
Royal Tours
Albert’s Imperial Legacy
Chapter 8: The Hanoverian Consorts: Progresses, Pageants, and Performance
Royal Progresses in the Long Eighteenth Century
Arrival of the Consort
Consort and Monarch Relationships
Public Roles of Consorts
Private Roles of Consorts
Family Legacy
Section II: Windsor Consorts
Chapter 9: The Windsor Consorts: Longevity and the Modern Monarchy
Chapter 10: Alexandra of Denmark: Fashioning the Modern Consort
Early Life
Engagement and Marriage
Married Life
Queen Consort
A Queen’s Wardrobe
Chapter 11: Mary of Teck: A Dutiful Consort
Queen Mary’s Royal Background
Engagements, Marriage, and Children
Imperial Tours
Accession to the Throne, the Coronation, and the First World War
Silver Jubilee and Death of George V
Edward VIII and the Abdication Crisis
George VI and the Second World War
Deaths of George VI and Queen Mary
Chapter 12: Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon: The People’s Matriarch
The Earl’s Daughter
The Duchess of York
The Queen Consort
The Queen Mother
Chapter 13: Prince Philip: The Unlikely Moderniser
Courtship and Marriage
Marriage and Monarchy
Working Life
Remoulding the Monarchy
Leaving the Stage
Chapter 14: The Windsor Consorts: Matriarchy and Modernisation
From Maternity to Matriarchy
A Male Consort in the Windsor Matriarchy
Official Status and Duties
Chapter 15: Camilla and Catherine: The Future of the Royal Consort
The Death of Prince Philip in 2021
Consorts in a Time of Crisis
Camilla Parker Bowles
The Duchess of Cornwall
The Duchess of Cambridge
Camilla and Catherine
The Future of the Royal Consort

Citation preview

Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts Power, Influence, and Dynasty

Edited by Aidan Norrie · Carolyn Harris J.L. Laynesmith · Danna R. Messer Elena Woodacre

Queenship and Power Series Editors

Charles E. Beem University of North Carolina Pembroke, NC, USA Carole Levin University of Nebraska Lincoln, NE, USA

This series focuses on works specializing in gender analysis, women’s studies, literary interpretation, and cultural, political, constitutional, and diplomatic history. It aims to broaden our understanding of the strategies that queens—both consorts and regnants, as well as female regents—pursued in order to wield political power within the structures of male-­dominant societies. The works describe queenship in Europe as well as many other parts of the world, including East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Islamic civilization.

Aidan Norrie  •  Carolyn Harris J.L. Laynesmith  •  Danna R. Messer Elena Woodacre Editors

Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts Power, Influence, and Dynasty

Editors Aidan Norrie University Campus North Lincolnshire England, UK J.L. Laynesmith University of Reading Reading, UK

Carolyn Harris University of Toronto Toronto, ON, Canada Danna R. Messer York, UK

Elena Woodacre University of Winchester Winchester, UK

ISSN 2730-938X     ISSN 2730-9398 (electronic) Queenship and Power ISBN 978-3-031-12828-8    ISBN 978-3-031-12829-5 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-12829-5 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors, and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the ­publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and ­institutional affiliations. Cover Image by: Daniel Smith at Aspect Design This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland


This volume and the other volumes in the English Consorts: Power, Influence, Dynasty series would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of all the editors and contributors. Thank you to Aidan Norrie for inviting me to become one of the co-editors for these volumes and for their invaluable contribution to the editing and development of these volumes, and to my co-editors Elena Woodacre, Danna Messer, and Joanna Laynesmith. I am grateful for the extraordinary efforts of all the contributors who researched and wrote their chapters during the difficult circumstances of 2020 and 2021. Thank you too to the staff of the University of Toronto Libraries and Toronto Public Library for your assistance in accessing research materials during the challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you also to the editors and staff at Palgrave Macmillan and Springer Nature for their assistance in preparing the manuscript for publication. Thank you to my parents, Richard and Sue Harris, and my husband Bruce Harpham, for their love, support, and encouragement. Carolyn Harris This project has been supported by a number of grants and awards. We gratefully acknowledge the Dr Greg Wells Research Award provided by the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at the University of Warwick, which covered the costs of producing the family trees for this volume. The Department of History at the University of Warwick employed Joshua Baumring-Gledhill as a research assistant for the project, and the Institute vii



of Advanced Study at the University of Warwick funded the project’s incomparable editorial assistant, Luke Holloway, and we are grateful for this support. I also thank my valiant and indefatigable co-editors, who enthusiastically agreed to work with me on this project (a project that ended up consuming their lives for a significant amount of time), and whose insight, patience, and camaraderie have made this project much stronger than it might otherwise have been. Aidan Norrie

Praise for Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts “Spanning Hanoverians to Windsors, this fascinating and insightful collection reveals the creative agency of consorts. These finely crafted studies explore the consorts’ responses to surprisingly long-lasting assumptions about a consort’s identity and functions. Crucially, this compelling volume shows how access to an increasingly global stage and emerging forms of media opened up significant dynamics of power for consorts and established new mechanisms for both opportunity and oppression.” —Susan Broomhall, Australian Catholic University


1 Hanoverian  to Windsor Consorts: Power, Influence, Dynasty  1 Carolyn Harris Section I Hanoverian Consorts  11 2 The  Hanoverian Consorts: Enlightenment and Empire 13 Carolyn Harris 3 Caroline  of Ansbach: Life and Literature 21 Emma Jay 4 Charlotte  of Mecklenburg-Strelitz: The Enlightened Nurturer 43 Karin Schrader 5 Caroline  of Brunswick: Queen on Trial 67 Katie Carpenter 6 Adelaide  of Saxe-Meiningen: The Childless Queen Mother 89 Joseph Massey




7 Albert  of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha: Prince Consort of the World111 Charles V. Reed 8 The  Hanoverian Consorts: Progresses, Pageants, and Performance133 Paige Emerick Section II Windsor Consorts 155 9 The  Windsor Consorts: Longevity and the Modern Monarchy157 Carolyn Harris 10 Alexandra  of Denmark: Fashioning the Modern Consort165 Kate Strasdin 11 Mary  of Teck: A Dutiful Consort189 Cindy McCreery 12 Elizabeth  Bowes-Lyon: The People’s Matriarch211 Daniella McCahey 13 Prince  Philip: The Unlikely Moderniser233 Sarah Gristwood 14 The  Windsor Consorts: Matriarchy and Modernisation255 Sarah Betts 15 Camilla  and Catherine: The Future of the Royal Consort277 Carolyn Harris Index301

Notes on Contributors

Sarah Betts  is a doctoral student at the University of York, UK, working on a thesis examining cultural memories and public history of the English Civil War with a particular focus on understandings and perceptions of Royalism amidst changing attitudes towards monarchy between the 1640s and the present day. She has published multiple pieces on civil war memory, public history, and the British monarchy since the sixteenth century and is the modern monarchies Section Editor for the Royal Studies Journal. Katie Carpenter  is Lecturer in Public History at the University of Leeds. She holds a PhD in Gender History from Royal Holloway, University of London. Between 2019 and 2020, she was an AHRC Creative Economy Engagement Fellow, working with the Parliamentary Archives to produce digital content on nineteenth-­ century political history, including the Queen Caroline Affair of 1820. Paige  Emerick is a PhD candidate in History at the University of Leicester, whose thesis analyses royal visits across Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Her research builds upon a long-standing interest in the Hanoverian royal family and the monarchy’s relationship with the British public. In 2019, she was awarded a fellowship by the Georgian Papers Programme, and she has published work with the Georgian Papers Programme, the National Trust, and the University of Oxford. Sarah  Gristwood is an independent historian and biographer whose books on the sixteenth century include Arbella: England’s Lost Queen (2015), Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe xiii



(2016), and The Tudors in Love (2021). She appears regularly on television commenting on today’s monarchy for international channels such as CNN, Sky News, and BBC World, besides featuring in documentary series such as The Royal House of Windsor and Inside the Crown. She holds degrees from the University of Oxford and is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. Carolyn Harris  is an Instructor in History at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. She received her PhD in History from Queen’s University at Kingston in 2012. Carolyn is the author of Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada (2015); Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette (2015), which won the 2016 Royal Studies Journal book prize; and Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting (2017). Emma  Jay  specialises in the book history and literary history of the eighteenth-­ century British court. Since completing her DPhil at the University of Oxford, she continues to publish on the libraries of Caroline of Ansbach and other eighteenth-century royal women. Her career has spanned the higher education and cultural sectors, and she now works as a research development manager for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at King’s College London. J.L. Laynesmith  is a visiting research fellow at the University of Reading and author of the prize-winning monographs The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship, 1445–1503 (2004) and Cecily Duchess of York (2017). She has published extensively on English medieval queenship and noblewomen and is researching the politics of royal adultery in medieval Britain, 540–1140. Joseph Massey  was born and raised in Carlisle, Cumbria, and is passionate about his native county’s heritage and landscape. He studied history and history of art at Oxford, Edinburgh, and Manchester Metropolitan universities, focusing on the monarchy of sixteenth-century Scotland and Jacobean Britain. Joseph completed an apprenticeship in the Collections Management department of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and has worked or volunteered at numerous museums, galleries, and historic sites across Cumbria. Daniella McCahey  is an assistant professor in the Department of History at Texas Tech University. Her research primarily examines the history of



science in the British Empire, particularly in the context of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. Cindy McCreery  is Senior Lecturer in Modern History at The University of Sydney, Australia. She has co-edited Crowns and Colonies (2016), Royals on Tour (2018), Monarchies and Decolonisation in Asia (2020) and a special issue of the Royal Studies Journal (2018) and is co-editing a volume, Global Royal Families, for Oxford University Press. She is completing a monograph on Prince Alfred’s global voyages on HMS Galatea, 1867–1871. Danna R. Messer  is a specialist in Welsh queenship in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and the author of Joan, Lady of Wales: Power and Politics of King John’s Daughter (2021). She works for Arc Humanities Press as a Senior Acquisitions Editor and is also the Executive Editor for the Encyclopedia of the Global Middle Ages (Arc Humanities Press and Bloomsbury Academic). Aidan  Norrie is Lecturer in History and Programme Leader at the University Campus North Lincolnshire and the Managing Editor of The London Journal. Aidan is the author of Elizabeth I and the Old Testament: Biblical Analogies and Providential Rule (2023) and has co-edited several collections, including Women on the Edge in Early Modern Europe (2019; with Lisa Hopkins) and From Medievalism to Early-Modernism: Adapting the English Past (2019; with Marina Gerzic). Charles V. Reed  is a historian of modern Britain and the British Empire at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina. His first book, Royal Tourists, Colonial Subjects, and the Making of the British World, 1860–1911, was published in 2016. He is working on Queen Victoria: A Reference Guide to Her Life and Works (under contract to Rowman & Littlefield) and a second monograph tentatively titled An Empire of Justice: Britishness, Respectability, and Citizenship in Colonial South Africa, 1840–1923. Karin Schrader  is an independent scholar, specialising in European portraiture. She holds a PhD from Georg August University Göttingen with a dissertation on the German portrait painter Johann Georg Ziesenis. In recent years, her interest has focused on early modern aristocratic female iconography. Karin is especially interested in the political, dynastic, and religious connotations of portraits with emphasis on their materiality, handling, perception, and reception. She is working on the iconography of eighteenth-century Guelph princesses.



Kate Strasdin  is Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the Fashion and Textiles Institute at Falmouth University in the UK and a Specialist Visiting Lecturer in Western Fashion History at the DeTao Masters Academy in Shanghai. She is the Deputy Curator of the Totnes Fashion and Textile Museum. Her book Inside the Royal Wardrobe: A Dress History of Queen Alexandra was published in 2017. Elena  Woodacre  is Reader in Renaissance History at the University of Winchester. She is a specialist in queenship and royal studies and has published extensively in this area. Elena is the organiser of the “Kings & Queens” conference series, founder of the Royal Studies Network, Editor-­ in-­Chief of the Royal Studies Journal, and co-edits the Gender and Power in the Premodern World series (Arc Humanities Press) and the Lives of Royal Women series (Routledge).

List of Figures

Fig. 0.1 Fig. 0.2 Fig. 4.1 Fig. 4.2 Fig. 4.3 Fig. 8.1

Fig. 8.2

House of Hanover Family Tree, Daniel Smith at Aspect Design v House of Windsor Family Tree, Daniel Smith at Aspect Design vi Johan Zoffany, Queen Charlotte with her Two Eldest Sons, 1764, oil on canvas, 112.2 × 128.3 cm. (Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021) 54 Francis Cotes, Queen Charlotte with Charlotte, Princess Royal, 1767, pastel, 93.0 × 78.5 cm. (Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021) 56 Sir William Beechey, Queen Charlotte, 1796, oil on canvas, 250.8 × 159.1 cm. (Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021) 65 Princess Caroline Landing from the Admiralty Barge, after Daniel Orme, depicts the pageantry and crowds awaiting Caroline of Brunswick when she first arrived in Britain in 1795 in anticipation of her forthcoming marriage to George IV (then Prince of Wales). After Daniel Orme, Princess Caroline Landing from the Admiralty Barge (1930) (Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021) 140 Prince Albert posing in deerstalking dress, with his ghillie in behind him, in front of a backdrop of mountains and forests emphasising his love of the Scottish Highlands and outdoor pursuits. Prince Albert in Deerstalking Dress (c.1860) (Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021) 151



List of Figures

Fig. 10.1 Engagement photograph of Edward and Alexandra, 1862. (Author’s own collection) Fig. 10.2 Photograph of Queen Alexandra in a tailored yachting costume, c.1905. (Author’s own collection) Fig. 10.3 Coronation photograph of Queen Alexandra, 1902. (Author’s own collection) Fig. 11.1 William H. Burke, King George V and Queen Mary at the Red Fort presenting themselves before the crowd, Gelatin Silver Print, 1911, 205 × 255 mm, ACP: 97.25.0006, The Alkazi Collection of Photography

169 177 183



Royal consorts have played an important role throughout English (and British) history. Yet, their lives and tenures have been treated unevenly by successive generations of scholars and popular historians. This volume, along with its three companions, aims to redress this uneven treatment. As the success of the Penguin Monarchs series has shown, there is much interest in more analytical biographies of royals—for academics and interested readers alike. While the last two decades have seen the publication of a plethora of both scholarly and popular biographies on England’s consorts, there is no single, scholarly compendium wherein all the consorts since the Norman Conquest can be consulted: it is this curious lacuna that these volumes seek to fill. In bringing together an international team of experts, we have endeavoured to create a vital reference work for scholars, students, and the wider public. While all consorts held an equal position—that is, they were all spouses of a reigning monarch—their treatment by both history and historians has varied considerably. Some, like Eleanor of Aquitaine, Margaret of Anjou, Anne Boleyn, and Prince Albert, have been the subject of countless biographies, articles, and cultural works and adaptations. On the other hand, non-experts could be forgiven for not being aware of Berengaria of Navarre, Isabella of Valois, Catherine of Braganza, or Adelaide of Saxe-­ Meiningen. Certainly, the surviving evidence for the tenures of each consort differs greatly, and other factors must be examined—it is no coincidence that each of these four ‘unfamiliar’ consorts was not the xix



mother of their husband’s successor. Nevertheless, these volumes treat the consorts as equitably as possible, offering biographies that provide an insight into how each consort perceived, and shaped, their role, and how their spouse and subjects responded to their reign. While all occupying the same office, each consort brought their own interpretation to the role, and by contextualising a consort’s tenure against both their predecessors and successors, these volumes illuminate some fascinating continuities, as well as some unexpected idiosyncrasies. In putting these volumes together, numerous—and sometimes competing—factors were carefully considered. On the one hand, we erred on the side of inclusivity throughout, hence the inclusion of Margaret of France, Elizabeth Cromwell, and Dorothy Cromwell—the wives of Henry the Young King, and Lords Protector Oliver Cromwell and Richard Cromwell, respectively. There can be no doubt that these women all functioned as a consort in the ‘traditional’ sense of the term during their husband’s period in power. Conversely, we have not included Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou, or Guilford Dudley—husbands of Empress Matilda and Lady Jane Grey, respectively. There is much more to be said on the issue of monarchical succession in England: scholars especially still have yet to really come to terms with how to conceptualise the succession when it deviates from the ‘ideal’—that is, when the deceased king (yes, king) was succeeded by his eldest son. The absence of Geoffrey and Dudley here should not be taken as an endorsement of the view that their wives did not rule England: rather, we acknowledge that regardless of the political power their wives wielded, they themselves did not function as consorts to their wives. It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that they do not appear within these pages. These men certainly supported their wives—indeed, much more could be said about the ‘soft power’ they exercised—but like Sophia Dorothea of Celle and Wallis Simpson, they themselves did not serve as the consort of a reigning monarch. In addition to the biographies of the consorts, the volumes contain several thematic essays, which present cutting-edge research on specific groups of consorts, showing the value in considering them both individually and collectively. Such essays are an important corrective to older, and in some places still engrained, notions that because most consorts were women, they were only concerned with producing heirs, gossiping, embroidery, and courtly entertainments. Such views, thankfully, are no



longer in the mainstream, due particularly to the burgeoning work in the field of queenship studies. As these thematic essays, and the biographies themselves, show, a successful consort had to juggle multiple roles, including shrewd financial management, effectively overseeing diplomacy and court intrigue, dealing with political upheaval, balancing the needs of their natal family against those of the English monarchy, and of course navigating pregnancy and childbearing—all the while ensuring that they retained good relationships with their spouse and their subjects. These chapters all demonstrate—to varying degrees—that a ‘successful’ reign as monarch often correlated with a consort who was able to successfully juggle the diverse roles expected of them. The women and men whose lives are detailed in the following pages occupied a unique position at the side of their spouse. While the roles, rights, and privileges of a monarch have been understood and largely defined (although of course these have been fiercely debated and contested), the position of their consort has, and continues to be, far less regularised, and much more nebulous. These biographies show that a monarch’s consort could have a profound effect on the nation—for both good or ill—and that the role was ultimately shaped by its incumbent in ways far more significant than have been previously recognised. Aidan Norrie


Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts: Power, Influence, Dynasty Carolyn Harris

The Hanoverian, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and Windsor consorts were married to reigning sovereigns during the development and evolution of the constitutional monarchy, and their position was shaped by two pieces of parliamentary legislation passed more than three hundred years apart. Both laws were primarily concerned with succession to the throne, but the historical context for each act, and the specific clauses concerning the marriages of people in the line of succession, defined the ideal royal consort from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first century. The very existence of legislation with clauses concerning the royal consort demonstrates that this position continued to be significant as the political and cultural role of the monarchy transformed over the past three hundred years. Royal consorts were a focus of popular scrutiny, and their marriages, family lives, and public image intersected with wider debates concerning religion, philanthropy, gender roles, Britain’s place in the wider world, and press coverage of public figures.

C. Harris (*) School of Continuing Studies, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts, Queenship and Power, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-12829-5_1




The Act of Settlement In 1701, the Act of Settlement restricted the English succession to the Protestant descendants of Sophia of Hanover, a granddaughter of James VI & I through her mother, Elizabeth of Bohemia. The Act of Union of 1707 extended this legislation to Scotland, preserving the union of crowns, which had existed in Britain since James VI of Scotland succeeded to the English throne as James I of England in 1603. Although Queen Anne, who succeeded to the thrones of England and Scotland in 1702, was unwilling to allow Sophia or her children to reside in the United Kingdom during her reign to prevent a rival court from forming around the heir to the throne, Anne’s biographer Edward Gregg concludes that “every piece of evidence suggests that the princess warmly supported the Hanoverian succession.”1 Anne was a devout Protestant and the Act of Settlement would not only ensure that her successors were also Protestant but also ensure that future consorts shared the Protestant faith of her husband, Prince George of Denmark. The Act of Settlement declared that all future monarchs and consorts must not be Catholic, stating “all and every Person and Persons that then were or afterwards should be reconciled to or shall hold Communion with the See or Church of Rome or should professe the Popish Religion or marry a Papist should be excluded and are by that Act made for ever [incapable] to inherit possess or enjoy the Crown and Government of this Realm.”2 Scholarly and popular analysis of the Act of Settlement focuses on the dozens of people subsequently excluded from the throne,3 but the settlement of succession on Sophia of Hanover and her Protestant descendants also excluded a multitude of potential consorts: the Catholic spouses of Catholic relatives of the royal family. The future Queen Anne’s first cousin, Anne Marie d’Orléans, who sent a formal message to parliament asserting her claim to the throne,4 was married to Victor Amadeus, Duke of Savoy, who exercised considerable cultural and architectural  Edward Gregg, Queen Anne (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 113.  Statutes of the Realm: Volume 7, 1695–1701, ed. John Raithby (London, 1820), 636–638. 3  The United Kingdom parliament website notes that there were “over 50 Catholic claimants.” See: UK Parliament, “1701 Act of Settlement,” accessed 25 September 2021, https:// www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/evolutionofparliament/parliamentaryauthority/revolution/collections1/parliamentary-collections/act-of-settlement/. 4  James Anderson Winn, Queen Anne: Patroness of Arts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 263. 1 2



patronage in Turin. Philippe II, Duke d’Orléans, a great-grandson of Elizabeth of Bohemia, was married to Louis XIV of France’s illegitimate daughter, Françoise Marie de Bourbon. These French and Italian Catholic consorts were reminiscent of unpopular Stuart consorts: Charles I’s queen, Henrietta Maria of France, who had been impeached by the English House of Commons during the English Civil Wars in 1643, and Mary of Modena, who had fled England with her husband James II in 1688. The exclusion of Catholic dynasts and the establishment of a Hanoverian succession meant that Britain would experience an extended period without a royal consort: Sophia of Hanover was a widow by 1701 and her son, the future George I, had divorced and imprisoned his wife Sophia Dorothea of Celle due to her adultery. Caroline of Ansbach, the subject of the third chapter of this volume, married the future George II in 1705 (four years after the passage of the Act of Settlement) and was able to shape her public image as a British royal consort for decades. After 1714, she was the most prominent woman at the British court during the reign of her father-in-law, George I. Caroline’s experience as consort was very different from Stuart consorts like Henrietta Maria of France and Catherine of Braganza, who became queens consort from the moment of their marriages with little time to adjust to their new circumstances. In the early eighteenth century, succession through male preference primogeniture—with sons taking precedence over any elder sisters—was taken for granted by English MPs. After all, this system followed British common law concerning land inheritance. The Act of Settlement therefore did not explicitly mention male preference primogeniture because there was no discussion of introducing gender equality into the succession at the time. Subsequent legislation, however, codified the expectation that the queen belong to a royal house. The Royal Marriages Act (1772) required all descendants of George II and Queen Caroline, except for the descendants of princesses married to foreign princes, to receive the permission of the monarch to marry. George III supported this legislation in response to the marriages of his younger brothers to commoners.5 In the eighteenth century, the ideal British royal consort was understood to be Protestant, female, and from a reigning house that would meet with the approval of the sovereign. In the choice of spouse in a royal marriage, the 5  For more about George III’s objections to the marriages of his brothers, see: Stella Tillyard, A Royal Affair: George III and His Scandalous Siblings (New York: Random House, 2006).



expectations of the monarch took precedence over the personal inclinations of any individual member of the royal family. A royal marriage was understood to be a very different undertaking than any other marriage, and the number of acceptable royal consorts was limited by religion and royal lineage.

The Perth Agreement More than three hundred years later, existing legislation concerning royal marriage and the royal succession seemed out of step with twenty-first-­ century attitudes towards gender equality, religious equality, and freedom of marriage. In 2011, the leaders of the sixteen Commonwealth realms where Elizabeth II reigned as Head of State met with one another at that year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth, Australia, and agreed in principle to support succession reform.6 The Perth Agreement supported absolute primogeniture, which meant that the eldest child of the monarch, rather than the eldest son, would become the heir apparent to the throne and could not be displaced by a younger sibling. Succession reform in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth followed wider European trends. Absolute primogeniture had already been introduced in Sweden (1980), The Netherlands (1983), Norway (1990), Belgium (1991), Denmark (2009), and Luxembourg (2011). The wedding of Elizabeth II’s grandson, Prince William, the second-in-line to the throne at the time, to Catherine Middleton on 29 April 2011 made absolute primogeniture a topical issue in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. Their marriage raised the question of whether male preference primogeniture, which had existed throughout the history of the monarchy, would apply to future generations of royal children in the twenty-first century.7 Elizabeth II appeared to support the introduction of absolute primogeniture. In her speech at the opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth, the Queen praised the accomplishments of women in public life, stating, “The theme of this year is, ‘Women as Agents of Change’. It reminds us of the potential in our societies that is yet to be 6  See: House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, “Rules of Royal Succession: Eleventh Report of Session 2010–2012,” accessed 25 September 2021, https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmpolcon/1615/1615.pdf. 7  Philip Murphy, Monarchy and the End of Empire: The House of Windsor, the British Government and the Postwar Commonwealth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 193.



fully unlocked, and it encourages us to find ways to allow girls and women to play their full part. We must continue to strive in our own countries and across the Commonwealth together to promote that theme in a lasting way beyond this year.”8 Global press coverage of the Perth Agreement focused on the prospect of more female monarchs in the distant future,9 but the introduction of absolute primogeniture would influence the role of the consort as well. In addition to absolute primogeniture, the Perth Agreement supported other reforms and the eventual repeal of eighteenth-century legislation that had narrowed the number of people eligible to become a royal consort. The Commonwealth leaders agreed to the repeal of the Royal Marriages Act and the end of the prohibition in the Act of Settlement on marriages between people in the line of succession and Roman Catholics. While absolute primogeniture would apply to children in the line of succession born after 2011, these additional reforms would take immediate effect. Descendants of George II married to Roman Catholics would be restored to the line of succession—most notably Elizabeth II’s cousin, Prince Michael of Kent. Distant relatives of the royal family who had not requested the sovereign’s permission to marry would have their marriages made legal in the United Kingdom.10 The transition from older forms of dynastic marriage, where the sovereign had a clear interest in the marriages of their family members, to royalty having the opportunity to choose their spouses for personal reasons—in the same manner as people from a variety of other backgrounds—was complete by the time of the Perth Agreement. The circumstances of the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, who had met while attending the same university and had a relationship for several years before announcing their engagement, had little in common with Hanoverian dynastic marriages or even the marriage of William’s own parents, the future Charles III and Lady Diana Spencer, who had little opportunity to get to know one another before their wedding. 8  “A Speech by the Queen to Open the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting,” accessed 25 September 2021, https://www.royal.uk/speech-opening-commonwealthheads-government-meeting-28-october-2011. 9  For an example, see: Laura Smith-Spark, “Girls Given Equal Rights to British Throne under Law Changes,” CNN, 28 October 2011, https://www.cnn.com/2011/10/28/ world/europe/uk-monarchy/index.html. 10  “Succession to the Crown Act 2013,” https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2013/ 20/section/3.



During the more than one thousand-year history of the English (then British) monarchy, there had been only four male consorts of undisputed female rulers. Philip II, the consort of Mary I, was a sovereign in his own right, and George of Denmark, Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and Philip of Greece and Denmark, the consorts of queens Anne, Victoria, and Elizabeth II, respectively, were princes from European royal houses. Elizabeth II died on 8 September 2022, while this volume was in the final stages of production. Given that the new king Charles III, his son Prince William, and his grandson Prince George are male, it will be quite some time before the monarchy of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth is able to redress this  gender imbalance, although the changes outlined above do allow for potential consorts to come from a wider variety of backgrounds than in previous generations.

Change and Continuity The transformation in political and popular attitudes towards royal marriage and the definition of the ideal royal consort between the Act of Settlement in 1701 and the Perth Agreement of 2011 shaped key aspects of the role of the royal consort. The Act of Settlement was decided by the English parliament alone and the bill applied only to the “Government of this Realm and Ireland and the Dominions thereunto belonging”; this legislation then became one of the issues that precipitated the Act of Union in 1707 with Scotland. By 2011, sixteen realms from a Commonwealth of equal nations needed to assent to British succession reform or pass their own succession bills mirroring the British one. Due to the number of nations involved in this process, the reforms discussed in the Perth Agreement did not come into force in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth until 2015.11 One of the central themes of this volume is the engagement of successive royal consorts with the wider world in the United Kingdom, Europe, the British Empire, and the modern Commonwealth. The Hanoverian consorts travelled extensively in the United Kingdom—travels that shaped their public image and allowed them to pursue personal interests. Prince Albert and his daughter-in-law, Alexandra of Denmark, travelled throughout Europe, and they were also fascinated by India. As Duke and Duchess 11  “New Rules on Royal Succession Come into Force,” BBC, 26 March 2015, https:// www.bbc.com/news/uk-32073399.



of Cornwall and York, the future George V and Queen Mary embarked on a global Imperial tour in 1901, and subsequent monarchs and their consorts, such as Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, undertook Commonwealth tours. Everywhere they travelled in the United Kingdom and the wider world, the Hanoverian, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and Windsor consorts attracted public interest and scrutiny alike. New forms of media brought royal public engagements and speculation about royal personal lives to a popular audience. Caroline of Ansbach and Charlotte of MecklenburgStrelitz were the subjects of satirical verse and imagery. George IV’s efforts to end his marriage to Caroline of Brunswick were documented and criticised by the newly invented tabloid press.12 Images of Victoria, Albert, and their children were recognisable around the world because of the new medium of photography. News cameras documented the public engagements of the Windsor consorts, and Prince Philip supported the televising of the Queen’s coronation in 1953 and the presence of a film crew behind palace walls for the creation of the Royal Family documentary of 1969. Today, the activities of Queen Camilla and the Princess of Wales are publicised through social media and the royal family’s website. The public who consumed these new forms of media expected a relatable royal family who shared their values. George III and Queen Charlotte, and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, projected an image of domestic harmony that received widespread approval. Tabloid coverage of Caroline of Brunswick’s trial before the House of Lords emphasised how the legal dissolution of a monarch’s marriage could threaten the wider institution of marriage itself. The press encouraged women to write to members of parliament in support of the Queen, and women demonstrated and signed petitions in an effort to prevent the dissolution of the marriage.13 The ability of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) to engage directly with people from a wide variety of backgrounds through visits to working-class homes and royal walkabouts around the world endeared them to the public. 12   “A Right Royal Scandal that Spawned Britain’s Popular Press,” The Economist, 23 December 2006, https://www.economist.com/special-report/2006/12/19/a-rightroyal-scandal. 13  Connie Jeffrey, “The Royal Scandal That Helped Change British Politics: The 1820 Queen Caroline Affair,” The History of Parliament, accessed 26 September 2021, https:// thehistoryofparliament.wordpress.com/2020/06/17/the-royal-scandal-that-helpedchange-british-politics-the-1820-queen-caroline-affair/.



Public scrutiny of royal consorts intersected with wider debates concerning gender roles and changing attitudes towards marriage and family. The introduction of gender equality into the royal succession in the twenty-first century was the culmination of centuries of debate concerning the role of women in public life. Caroline of Ansbach assumed the role of an enlightenment salonniere, which appealed to elite European women of her time. Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz presented herself in her portraits as a devoted wife committed to the education of her daughters. Caroline of Brunswick rejected the constraints imposed on women of her social class and attempted to live life on her own terms, prompting official investigations into her behaviour. Adelaide of Saxe-­Meiningen, who did not have surviving children, took a motherly interest in her nieces, nephews, and stepchildren. The Windsor queens consort had a complicated relationship with the expansion of employment opportunities and legal rights for women over the course of the twentieth century. Like Queen Victoria, Queen Mary did not support women’s suffrage but clearly recognised the ability of women to assume leadership roles on committees and philanthropic initiatives, especially during wartime. Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) wrote that employment was more important for men than for women during the Great Depression of the 1930s, but during the Second World War, she gave speeches that praised women’s contributions to the war effort and reminded them that their contributions were as important as those of men.14 The First and Second World Wars clearly impacted how both Queens viewed the role of women in public life. For Prince Albert and Prince Philip, the role of consort to a female sovereign placed them in a legally subordinate position in their marriages, which was unusual for a husband in both the mid-nineteenth and the mid-­ twentieth centuries. They made efforts to promote a masculine public image through the promotion of science, technology, or physical education. Today, Albert is criticised for his efforts to impose his will on Victoria 14  In 1932, Elizabeth, then Duchess of York, wrote, “I think it is a crime for women to take jobs that men can do as well.” William Shawcross, The Queen Mother: The Official Biography (London: Macmillan, 2009), 331. In contrast, Elizabeth, as queen consort, made a radio broadcast to “the Women of the Empire” in 1943 where she stated, “your work, whatever it may be, is just as valuable, just as much ‘war-work’ as that which is done by the bravest soldier, sailor or airman who actually meets the enemy in battle.” William Shawcross, Counting One’s Blessings: The Selected Letters of the Queen Mother (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2012), 347.



and his patronising attitude towards her strong emotions, while recent obituaries of Prince Philip praised his decades of steadfast support for the Queen in her public role.15 For the Hanoverian, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and Windsor consorts, older models of intercession by royal spouses—previously accepted during the medieval and early modern periods—seemed out of place in the Protestant, constitutional monarchy outlined in the Act of Settlement. Instead, royal consorts from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries participated in philanthropy and the promotion of scientific and cultural innovation, playing a key role in bringing a wide variety of social issues and discoveries to the attention of the public. Numerous consorts supported science and conservation. Caroline of Ansbach promoted smallpox inoculation, Charlotte was instrumental to the development of Kew Botanical Gardens, Albert was the driving force behind the Great Exhibition of 1851, and Prince Philip was patron of the World Wildlife Fund. Philanthropic initiatives by royal consorts often emphasised the welfare of children and young people: from Caroline of Ansbach’s campaign in support of the Foundling Hospital in London to Prince Philip’s promotion of youth leadership and initiative through the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme. The consorts discussed in this volume are better documented than their predecessors, and they have been the subjects of numerous biographies, including the works listed at the end of this Introduction. There are few scholarly works, however, which include chapters that analyse all the British and Commonwealth royal consorts from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first century. The chapters in this volume therefore provide a fresh perspective on these significant historical figures and reveal how each generation of royal consorts responded to the legacy of their predecessors, blending tradition and innovation to the present day.

15  Compare Mark Brown, “We’re Too Nice to Albert—He was No Perfect Prince, Claims Historian: Lucy Worsley Thinks Queen Victoria’s Husband Manipulated Her So We Could Rule in All but Name,” The Guardian, 30 May 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/may/30/were-too-nice-to-albert-he-was-no-perfect-princeclaims-historian to Jill Lawless and Gregory Katz, “Philip, in Role with No Job Description, was Queen’s Bedrock,” Associated Press, 9 April 2021, https://apnews.com/article/ prince-philip-dies-queen-elizabeth-d94948b6cc0acd306251533c8a3e14f4.



Further Reading Beem, Charles, and Miles Taylor, eds. The Man Behind the Queen: Male Consorts in History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Brandreth, Gyles. Philip: The Final Portrait. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2021. Campbell Orr, Clarissa, ed. Queenship in Britain, 1660–1837. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002. Eade, Philip. Young Prince Philip: His Turbulent Early Life. London: Harper Press, 2011. Fraser, Flora. The Unruly Queen: The Life of Queen Caroline. London: Macmillan, 1997. Hedley, Olwen. Queen Charlotte. London: Murray, 1975. Hopkirk, Mary. Queen Adelaide. London: John Murray, 1946. Marschner, Joanna, ed. Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, and the Shaping of the Modern World. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017. Murphy, Philip. Monarchy and the End of Empire: The House of Windsor, The British Government and the Postwar Commonwealth. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Olechnowicz, Andrzej, ed. The Monarchy and the British Nation, 1780 to the Present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Owens, Edward. The Family Firm: Monarchy, Mass Media and the British Public, 1932–1953. London: University of London Press, 2018. Pope-Hennessy, James. Queen Mary: The Official Biography. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1959. Pope-Hennessy, James and Hugo Vickers. The Quest for Queen Mary. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2018. Robins, Jane. Rebel Queen: How the Trial of Caroline Brought England to the Brink of Revolution. London: Pocket Books, 2007. Shawcross, William. The Queen Mother: The Official Biography. London: Macmillan, 2009. Strasdin, Kate. Inside the Royal Wardrobe: A Dress History of Queen Alexandra. London: Bloomsbury, 2019. Strobel, Heidi A. The Artistic Matronage of Queen Charlotte (1744–1818): How a Queen Promoted Both Art and Female Artists in English Society. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2011. Weintraub, Stanley. Uncrowned King: The Life of Prince Albert. New  York: The Free Press, 1997.


Hanoverian Consorts


The Hanoverian Consorts: Enlightenment and Empire Carolyn Harris

Caroline of Ansbach (1683–1737), Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744–1818), Caroline of Brunswick (1768–1821), Adelaide of Saxe-­ Meiningen (1792–1849), and Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1819–1861)—the consorts of five successive Hanoverian monarchs, George II, George III, George IV, William IV, and Victoria—shared key attributes and circumstances that shaped the development of the United Kingdom’s constitutional monarchy and the public image of the royal family. In contrast to the Stuart period, where four successive royal consorts were (almost certainly) Catholic and critiqued by English and Scottish Protestants within the context of the religious conflicts of the seventeenth century,1 the Hanoverian consorts were all Protestant and their religion was important to their public image, especially 1  Anna of Denmark, Henrietta Maria of France, Catherine of Braganza, and Mary of Modena. See their chapters in: Aidan Norrie, Carolyn Harris, J.L. Laynesmith, Danna R. Messer, and Elena Woodacre, eds., Tudor and Stuart Consorts: Power, Influence, and Dynasty (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2022).

C. Harris (*) School of Continuing Studies, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts, Queenship and Power, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-12829-5_2




during the reigns of George II and George III.2 The 1701 Act of Settlement precluded a marriage between a potential sovereign and a Catholic,3 resulting in a degree of religious uniformity amongst the Hanoverian royal consorts that was unknown in the seventeenth century. While English monarchs during the Wars of the Roses and the Tudor period, as well as subsequent British monarchs from the Windsor period, sometimes chose spouses from the English or Scottish aristocracy and landed gentry, the Hanoverian consorts all belonged to reigning houses. The Royal Marriages Act of 1772 required descendants of George II (except for the descendants of princesses married to foreign royalty) to receive the sovereign’s permission to marry,4 which prevented George III’s sons from contracting legal marriages to the commoners who were their long-term partners and sometimes the mothers of their children. While a variety of different royal houses provided consorts for English monarchs in past centuries, the Hanoverian consorts were exclusively from smaller German royal, ducal, or princely houses. The requirement that a Hanoverian royal consort be Protestant and the expectation that the consort belong to a reigning house limited the potential number of possible spouses in each generation. The Hanoverian consorts had very different personalities and interests, and the success of their marriages varied greatly, but they shared a Protestant faith, German upbringing, and close familial and cultural connections to a network of European royal houses. The evolution of the British constitutional monarchy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the development of party politics, shaped the role of the royal consort. As the chapters in this section discuss,

2  See the analysis of “godly queenship” in: Hannah Smith, Georgian Monarchy: Politics and Culture, 1714–1760 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 32–37. 3  The Statutes of the Realm: Volume 7, 1695–1701, ed. John Raithby (London, 1820), 636–638. 4  “Royal Marriages Act 1772,” https://www.legislation.gov.uk/apgb/Geo3/12/11/ 1991-02-01?timeline=true.



successive Hanoverian consorts were courted by politicians in support of or in opposition to the government of the time. Both Adelaide and Albert were known for their rapport with Tory politicians when Queen Victoria had a close friendship with her Whig Prime Minister Lord Melbourne. Caroline of Brunswick was courted by radical politicians as she opposed George IV’s efforts to end their marriage. Caroline of Ansbach’s support for Sir Robert Walpole’s Whig administration attracted widespread public scrutiny. Family conflict within the House of Hanover intersected with party politics as the government was the monarch’s while the official opposition sometimes coalesced around the heir to the throne.5 For the Hanoverian consorts, political and personal conflicts were interconnected. All the Hanoverian monarchs who were the parents of surviving legitimate children experienced conflicts with their heirs. Royal consorts traditionally occupied the roles of intercessor or peacemaker during conflicts between their spouses and their children, but the Hanoverian consorts were not necessarily sympathetic to their children’s views and sometimes exacerbated family conflicts rather than helping to resolve them. Caroline of Ansbach expressed virulent dislike for her eldest son Frederick, Prince of Wales, and the frugal and respectable Charlotte was dismayed by the extravagance of her sons. The Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Windsor periods contain more examples of successful interpersonal relationships between different generations of the royal family, but the Hanoverian period created an enduring reputation for poor parenting that persists to the present day. When Harold Nicolson was researching his biography of George V, whose difficult relationship with his heir, the future Edward VIII, bore some resemblance to the family conflicts of the Hanoverian period, the Royal Librarian Owen Morshead told him that “The House of Hanover, like ducks, produce bad parents. They trample on their young.”6 The reigns of the Hanoverian monarchs took place during a period of previously unprecedented engagement between Britain and the wider 5  The most prominent example of the intersection of family conflict and party politics during the Hanoverian period is the conflict between George II and his heir, Frederick, Prince of Wales (the father of George III). As Jeremy Black observes, “Once in Britain, Frederick developed political links with opposition Whigs, being increasingly seen as a ‘Patriot Prince’, and thus as an antithesis to a Hanoverian King.” See: Jeremy Black, The Hanoverians: The History of a Dynasty (London: Hambledon Continuum, 2004), 105. 6  Peter Gordon and Denis Lawton, Royal Education: Past, Present, and Future (London: Frank Cass, 1999), 188.



world. The Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution brought about new ideas and scientific innovations, and a number of the Hanoverian consorts played key roles in the dissemination of this knowledge. Caroline of Ansbach presided over an Enlightenment salon, engaging with philosophers and authors, and accumulating a vast library. Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz’s interest in botany played a key role in the development of what is now the Royal Botanic Gardens. Prince Albert was the driving force behind the Great Exhibition of 1851 and engaged with key issues concerning the British Empire and trade with the wider world, including abolitionism and the culture and history of India. The Hanoverian consorts were often closely involved in the education of their children and set high standards for their accomplishments and academic achievement. These standards did not survive into the early twentieth century. There is a marked contrast between Prince Albert’s ambitious educational programme for his children, which resulted in his eldest daughter Victoria, the Princess Royal, speaking three languages by the age of three, and the comparative indifference of his daughter-in-law Alexandra of Denmark regarding the education of her children, which resulted in three daughters who, in the words of their nephew Edward VIII, “could just read and write, period. That was all.”7 Only in the reign of Elizabeth II, where the royal children attended school and the heir to the throne and the Queen’s adult grandchildren received university degrees, was there a revival of the interest in educating members of the royal family to the high standard that characterised the Hanoverian period. Since the Hanoverian consorts were raised at German courts and maintained correspondence and cultural connections with royalty across Europe, academic analysis of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British royal consorts often focuses on how they compared to their European counterparts rather than to each other.8 Prince Albert’s active public role and unique position as a male consort during this period discourage direct comparisons with his immediate predecessors as British royal consorts. There are fewer popular biographies of Hanoverian consorts than the  Jane Ridley, Bertie: A Life of Edward VII (London: Chatto & Windus, 2012), 241n.  An exception is Clarissa Campbell Orr, ed., Queenship in Britain, 1660–1837: Royal Patronage, Court Culture, and Dynastic Politics (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), which encompasses the late Stuart and Hanoverian queens prior to the accession of Queen Victoria. Examples of works that place Hanoverian consorts in the context of wider European queenship trends include Charles Beem, Queenship in Early Modern Europe (London: Red Globe Press, 2020); and Clarissa Campbell Orr, ed., Queenship in Europe, 1660–1815: The Role of the Consort (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004). 7 8



Tudor consorts or the subsequent Windsor consorts, and the details of their lives are therefore less well-known to the wider public.9 In late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century popular culture, Queen Charlotte and Prince Albert are recognisable historical figures, while the other Hanoverian consorts are comparatively obscure. Charlotte and Albert were the consorts of the two longest reigning British monarchs prior to the reign of Elizabeth II, with lives that intersected with political, social, and cultural changes in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The complicated dynamics of their marriages also fascinate novelists and screenwriters. Queen Charlotte is a prominent figure in Alan Bennett’s 1991 play The Madness of King George and was portrayed by Helen Mirren in the 1994 film adaptation of the same name. The 1975 BBC series Edward the Seventh (Edward the King) was the first film portrayal of Queen Victoria’s reign to depict Victoria and Albert in conflict with one another about a variety of subjects, from the size of their family to the education of their children.10 The forging of a loving marriage and successful partnership by Victoria and Albert has since been a key theme in numerous other films and TV series, including Victoria & Albert (2001), The Young Victoria (2009), and Victoria (2016–2019). More recently, speculation about Queen Charlotte’s distant African ancestry has informed portrayals of her in historical fiction, such as Lawrence Hill’s 2007 novel The Book of Negroes and the 2020 Netflix series Bridgerton. Caroline of Ansbach, Caroline of Brunswick, and Adelaide of Saxe-­ Meiningen have made far fewer appearances in modern popular culture. In films and television series about Queen Victoria, the Dowager Queen Adelaide sometimes appears as a confidante and counsellor for her niece, but her tenure as queen consort has received little attention. All of these consorts, however, were prominent in the popular culture of their own times and the decades that followed, as the chapters in this volume show: Caroline of Ansbach was the subject of both admiring and satirical verse; 9  For examples of biographies and other resources concerning the Hanoverian, SaxeCoburg and Gotha, and Windsor consorts, see the further reading list at the end of the introduction to this volume. 10  Jeffrey Richards describes Edward the Seventh (Edward the King) as “one notable exception” to the sympathetic portrayals of Queen Victoria in film. See: Jeffrey Richards, “Gender and Authority in the Queen Victoria Films,” in Rule, Britannia!: The Biopic and British National Identity, ed. Homer B. Pettey and R. Barton Palmer (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2018), 82.



Caroline of Brunswick’s efforts to challenge George IV’s attempts to formally dissolve their marriage coincided with the birth of the tabloid press; and Adelaide was closely scrutinised at the time of the Great Reform Bill of 1832. Nineteenth-century novels set in the recent past even referenced popular opinion concerning the Hanoverian consorts to establish that the setting was in the eighteenth or early nineteenth century.11 The contributions to this section illuminate how the consorts of Hanoverian monarchs influenced and were influenced by the culture and politics of their times, as well as their impact on the development of the modern monarchy. Emma Jay discusses Queen Caroline’s wide-ranging cultural interests and her book collection. Caroline of Ansbach was politically active and served as her husband George II’s regent during his absences in Hanover, becoming a popular subject for the poets of her time. In common with other Hanoverian consorts, she drew upon her German heritage and influences in her contributions to art and culture in Britain. Karin Schrader examines how Queen Charlotte, consort of George III, became a symbol of domestic, dynastic, and national integrity, as well as fidelity, fashioning her image through a variety of media including portraiture, which contrasted with the satirical caricatures of the royal family that existed in her lifetime. These images also depicted both her wide variety of scientific and cultural interests and her nurturing role as the mother of thirteen surviving children. Charlotte’s daughter-in-law, Caroline of Brunswick, had a very different public image as she became notorious for the breakdown of her marriage with the future George IV and the various official investigations of her conduct, culminating in a trial before the House of Lords on accusations of adultery in 1820. Katie Carpenter examines the political impact of Queen Caroline’s reputation, discussing how she became a symbol for the radical movement. Queen Adelaide, consort to William IV, is the most recent example of a queen consort and dowager queen who was not the mother or grandmother of the next monarch, a circumstance shared by Katherine Parr in the Tudor period and Catherine of Braganza in the Stuart period. Joseph Massey discusses how Adelaide nevertheless assumed a maternal role in 11  For one example, see Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford (London, 1853), 112, in which a shopkeeper tells his customers, “Queen Adelaide had appeared, only the very week before, in a cap exactly like the one he showed them, trimmed with yellow and blue ribbons, and had been complimented by King William on the becoming nature of her head-dress.”



the lives of a wide range of younger relatives and relatives-in-law, including her niece, the future Queen Victoria, the children of her siblings, and the children of her husband William IV from his previous relationship with the actress Dorothy Jordan. The warm personal rapport between Adelaide and Victoria helped to smooth the tensions created by their differing political views in the early years of Victoria’s reign. Charles Reed places Prince Albert within the context of the British Empire, examining his vision for the monarchy’s role in the world and how this affected Queen Victoria’s conception of her imperial position. Reed discusses the influence of German scholarly trends on Albert’s interest in the history and culture of India and how Indian objects were displayed to the British public at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Engagement with the wider world outside the royal court is also a key theme in Paige Emerick’s chapter, which looks at how the Hanoverian consorts utilised travel and public engagements to express their own identities to the public and the press. These progresses contributed to popular perceptions of royal domesticity. Both Reed and Emerick discuss the enduring impact of the Hanoverian consorts on current conceptions of royal tours and public engagements. The influence of the Hanoverian consorts continues to shape how the monarchy engages with the public in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth to the present day.


Caroline of Ansbach: Life and Literature Emma Jay

Long neglected in studies of the eighteenth century, Caroline of Ansbach (1683–1737) has come to be seen as an outstanding figure who was key to the development of early Hanoverian court culture.1 A Protestant and German princess, she started a new life in Britain when her father-in-law, the Elector of Hanover, succeeded to the British throne as George I in 1714. She pursued a remarkable range of interests and had a wide sphere of influence during her time as Princess of Wales and then Queen Consort of George II. After surveying her life, this chapter will focus on her strong interest in book collecting and literary patronage, and explore some of the ways in which she was described in contemporary literature.

1  For cultural context, see: Queenship in Britain, 1660–1837: Royal Patronage, Court Culture and Dynastic Politics, ed. Clarissa Campbell Orr (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001); Hannah Smith, Georgian Monarchy: Politics and Culture, 1714–1760 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); and Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, and the Shaping of the Modern World, ed. Joanna Marschner, with David Bindman and Lisa L. Ford (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017).

E. Jay (*) King’s College London, London, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts, Queenship and Power, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-12829-5_3




Early Life At the time of her birth in the palace of Ansbach on 1 March 1683, nobody could have predicted that Wilhelmine Karoline, later known as Caroline, would become a British queen consort. Ansbach is in modern-day Bavaria in southern Germany; in her lifetime it was a small principality belonging to the Holy Roman Empire.2 She was the daughter of Johann Friedrich, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach (1654–1686) by his second marriage to Eleanore Erdmuthe Louisa (1662–1696), whose father was Johann Georg I, Duke of Saxe-Eisenach. Her childhood was overshadowed by the deaths of both of her parents. Despite the relative obscurity of her birth, she had grand connections: through her father she was linked to the Hohenzollerns, rulers of Brandenburg, and after her father died, Elector Friedrich III engineered a marriage between her widowed mother and Elector Johann Georg IV of Saxony. Caroline therefore lived at the magnificent Dresden court for two years before her mother was widowed again. When her mother’s death in 1696 left her an orphan, her Brandenburg guardians, Elector Friedrich and his wife Sophie Charlotte, who became King and Queen in Prussia from 1701, invited her to live with them in Berlin. Her years there would prove formative, with Sophie Charlotte encouraging her protégée’s interest in art and culture and introducing her to the philosopher Gottfried Leibniz. Caroline benefited from the aspirational and competitive nature of the German princely families to which she was connected by birth or marriage. She witnessed these families expressing their dynastic ambitions through cultural and intellectual patronage—for instance, in the development of their palaces and gardens. Female patronage was particularly significant: Sophie Charlotte’s palace of Lützenburg, later renamed Charlottenburg, was the setting for philosophical conversations with Leibniz and others, as well as plays, operas, and chamber music. It was through Sophie Charlotte that Caroline came within the orbit of the Hanoverian electoral family, because Sophie Charlotte’s mother was Electress Sophia of Hanover, who was a daughter of Elizabeth of Bohemia 2  On Caroline’s life, see: Matthew Dennison, The First Iron Lady: A Life of Caroline of Ansbach (London: William Collins, 2017); and Stephen Taylor, “Caroline [Princess Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach] (1683–1737),” ODNB, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/ 4720.



(the “Winter Queen”) and a granddaughter of James VI & I. In 1704, Caroline made a fateful decision by refusing an offer of marriage from the Habsburg Archduke Karl of Austria, who would later become Holy Roman Emperor. After careful deliberation, the Lutheran Caroline concluded that she was unwilling to convert to Catholicism, which was a necessary first step for the match to take place. Her refusal of the Archduke paved the way, however, for her marriage to George Augustus, who was Electress Sophia’s grandson and Sophie Charlotte’s nephew, in 1705. It was an auspicious union: Sophia had been named in England’s Act of Settlement (1701) as the next Protestant heir to the throne if both William III and the future Queen Anne should die without issue. The combination of good connections, shrewd decision-making, and determination had given Caroline the opportunity to become a member of the prospective British royal family. Her first child, Frederick, was born in 1707, followed by Anne (1709), Amelia (1711), and Caroline (1713). An exchange of letters between Caroline and Leibniz in 1713 shows the extent of her awareness of her royal destiny, coupled with anxiety about the succession. Addressing her, Leibniz expressed the hope “that you may one day enjoy the title of Queen of England so well worn by Queen Elizabeth, which you so highly merit.”3 Caroline’s response was revealing: “I accept the comparison which you draw, though all too flattering, between me and Queen Elizabeth as a good omen.” She remarked that Electress Sophia was, like Elizabeth I, undermined by “a jealous sister with a bad temper”: Queen Anne, the modern Mary I, whose relationship with her designated Hanoverian successors was frosty at best.4 Clearly, Caroline was being encouraged to think of herself as a queen in waiting, and the comparison with Elizabeth suggested that she would somehow reign in her own right, rather than as a consort. What Caroline and Leibniz did not know at this time, however, was that Sophia was never to succeed Anne. Sophia died in 1714, and her son George Louis, Caroline’s fatherin-law, Elector of Hanover since 1698, assumed his mother’s place as heir presumptive to the British throne. When Anne died two months later, he became King of Great Britain and Ireland. 3  Margaret Sanders, ed., Intimate Letters of England’s Queens (1957; Stroud: Amberley Publishing, 2014), 198. 4  Caroline to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, 27 December 1713, in Sanders, Intimate Letters, 198.



Princess of Wales Although Caroline’s life was divided into two by the Hanoverian accession of 1714—after all, she never left Britain after that date—there were important continuities between the two phases. She kept up her interest in cosmopolitan European intellectual culture and remained in touch with relatives abroad. Nonetheless, as the new Prince and Princess of Wales, she and her husband worked hard to assimilate the Hanoverian royal family into British life and society. It was necessary for them to do so: James Francis Edward Stuart, James II’s Catholic son from his second marriage and younger half-brother to Mary II and Anne, made his own claim to the British throne and instigated the failed Jacobite rising of 1715. In this context, George Augustus and Caroline were largely successful in establishing themselves as the younger generation of firmly Protestant royalty, and public awareness of Caroline’s refusal of the future Holy Roman Emperor on religious grounds was a definite mark in her favour. The fact that her birthday fell on St David’s Day enabled the couple to play up their links with Wales. They had both learned English in Hanover, and Caroline’s language skills were praised, as was her ability to put those around her at ease. They were more approachable than the rather remote George I, who had divorced his wife Sophia Dorothea and made her a virtual prisoner at Ahlden castle in the electorate on the discovery of her adultery. The double standard was very much in evidence at the Hanoverian court, as both the King and his son took mistresses. Caroline’s significance to the royal family was heightened by the fact that George I had no queen consort, as Paige Emerick’s chapter discusses. Her visible fertility came as a relief after Queen Anne’s ultimately unsuccessful struggles with motherhood, which had threatened the Protestant succession. Caroline’s healthy family of children was in contrast to Anne’s traumatic history of miscarriages and infant deaths, with only one child, William, Duke of Gloucester, surviving infancy, before dying aged 11. Caroline experienced something of that maternal trauma herself, however, when she gave birth to a stillborn son (1716) and when her son George William (born 1717) died at three months.5 George William’s birth occasioned a rift between his parents and his grandfather, exacerbating personal and political tensions that already existed.6 The Hanoverians had an 5 6

 Dennison, First Iron Lady, 156–174.  Ragnhild Hatton, George I (1978; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 193–210.



affinity with the Whig party, but the Prince and Princess of Wales supported Robert Walpole and his brother-in-law Lord Townshend in their opposition to the Stanhope-Sunderland ministry, which they believed was putting Hanover’s foreign policy interests above those of Britain. Acting on ministerial advice and overriding his son and daughter-in-law’s wishes, the King decided that the Duke of Newcastle (who was lord chamberlain) should act as godfather to George William. The furious Prince of Wales quarrelled with Newcastle immediately after the christening, apparently challenging him to a duel. The King then expelled the Prince of Wales from St James’s Palace, forcing Caroline to choose between exile with her husband and staying with her children. She chose the former, leaving George William and his three sisters behind; the King eventually allowed the Prince and Princess to visit their children, and they were present at the baby’s deathbed at Kensington Palace. The schism in the royal family continued for three years, during which time Leicester House on London’s Leicester Square became not only George Augustus and Caroline’s home but also a rival court and a focal point for Whig and Tory opposition politicians. Even after the reconciliation and the couple’s return to St James’s, the King did not permit the three girls to reunite with their parents, housing them in apartments near to his own in the various royal palaces.7 Caroline’s last three children, William, Mary, and Louisa, were born in 1721, 1723, and 1724, respectively, and she had miscarriages in 1718 and 1725.8 She took a keen interest in her children’s education, enlisting distinguished practitioners to give them tuition: composer George Frideric Handel taught them music, for example.9 As they grew older, she supported her husband in providing suitable marriage prospects for them—one of her most important responsibilities as a dynastic mother.10 Anne and Frederick married in 1734 and 1736, respectively; the weddings of the two youngest princesses, Mary and Louisa, took place after Caroline’s death, in 1740 and 1743. Each of these unions cemented the Hanoverians’ relationships with northern European Protestant dynasties: Anne married Willem IV, Prince of Orange-Nassau, later Stadholder of the United Provinces; Frederick married Augusta of Saxe-Gotha; Mary married Friedrich, later Landgrave of  Dennison, First Iron Lady, 210.  Dennison, First Iron Lady, 184, 208–211. 9  Dennison, First Iron Lady, 158, 210. 10  They did not always agree. See: Dennison, First Iron Lady, 304–305. 7 8



Hesse-Kassel; and Louisa married Frederik, later King Frederik V of Denmark and Norway. Unfortunately, though, in the 1730s the idea of dynastic continuity was disrupted by the animosity that developed between Frederick, Prince of Wales, and his parents—a repeat of the pattern of intergenerational conflict that had been established in 1717–1720. Frederick first arrived in Britain from Hanover in 1728 and was created Prince of Wales. It was a difficult adjustment from being the representative of the dynasty in the electorate to co-existing with, and chafing against the authority of, his parents. His relationship with the King and Queen, which had never been easy, deteriorated badly, and he became linked with the Whigs who went into opposition against Walpole’s ministry after 1733.

Queen Consort If Caroline’s time as Princess of Wales led to her taking a more prominent role than she would have done if George I’s former wife Sophia Dorothea had been present, her experience of queenship was also characterised by a sense of heightened significance. George I died on 11 June 1727, and George II and Caroline were crowned on 11 October. She cut a splendid figure at the coronation in clothes that echoed the 1689 coronation robes of Mary II, who had been joint monarch with William III, and whose power had therefore exceeded that of a consort.11 Her Civil List settlement was an unprecedented £100,000 a year.12 George II’s decision to make his wife regent during his absences in Hanover (1729, 1732, 1735, and 1736–1737) signalled his trust in her and his desire to make the royal marriage a working partnership. Many contemporaries, however, reacted negatively to her active political role, especially as she made a long-term alliance with the polarising Walpole, whose survival as first minister was largely attributed to her influence—an impression that he himself sought to create.13 Her association with Walpole was so strong in the public mind that her effigy was burned alongside his in the Excise Riots of 1733. Her vice chamberlain, Lord Hervey, famously wrote in his memoirs that “her power was unrivalled and unbounded,” and portrayed a domineering Queen working in league with Walpole to manipulate and overrule the  Dennison, First Iron Lady, 233.  John, Lord Hervey, Some Materials towards Memoirs of the Reign of King George II, ed. Romney Sedgwick, 3 vols. (London: Eyre and Spottiswode, 1931), 1:34–35. 13  Dennison, First Iron Lady, 244. 11 12



King, a scenario that the contemporary opposition press delighted in exploring.14 Compelling though Hervey’s account is, we should be wary of accepting it at face value; he overstates the extent of Caroline’s influence on politics and diplomacy and understates her husband’s political skills. She was undoubtedly influential, however, a good example being her engagement with the politics and theology of the Church of England: she helped to promote several clergymen to bishoprics.15 Having been inspired by two philosophical Electresses, Sophie Charlotte and Sophia, Caroline understood the cultural and artistic value of the role women could play in the life of a court, and she devoted much time to nurturing this aspect of the royal partnership. Ambitious and versatile, she made an impact on many areas of court life, establishing a network of artists, writers, and scholars from Britain and beyond and publicly signalling her commitment to learning and culture. Voltaire, who dedicated his Henriade to her in 1728, described her in glowing terms in his Letters Concerning the English Nation (1733): It must be confess’d that this Princess, abstracted from her Crown and Title, was born to encourage the whole Circle of Arts, and to do good to Mankind. She appears as an amiable Philosopher upon the Throne, having never let slip one Opportunity of improving the great Talents she receiv’d from Nature, nor of exerting her Beneficence.16

Voltaire praised her gift of money to Mrs Clark, Milton’s daughter, who was living in straitened circumstances; her support of smallpox inoculation with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu; her protection of Pierre le Courayer, a Catholic priest and scholar who fled from France to Britain after his essays defending the validity of Anglican ordination were condemned by the French bishops; and her encouragement of the learned dispute between Leibniz and Samuel Clarke, a Newtonian philosopher and Anglican clergyman. After the latter presented her with his books in 1714, Caroline declared, “‘Here’s Dr. Clarke shall be one of my Favourites; his Writings

 Hervey, Memoirs, 1:45.  Stephen Taylor, “Queen Caroline and the Church of England,” in Hanoverian Britain and Empire: Essays in Memory of Philip Lawson, ed. Stephen Taylor, Richard Connors, and Clyve Jones (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1998), 82–101. 16  Voltaire, Letters Concerning the English Nation, ed. Nicholas Cronk (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 46. 14 15



are the finest Things in the World.’”17 Undeterred by the disapproval of his anti-Trinitarianism, she persisted in her admiration of him. In 1732 she installed a bust of him in her “Hermitage,” a philosophical grotto in the garden of the royal residence at Richmond. Caroline’s gardening programme at Richmond was one of her most important attempts to express her role of cultural patronage.18 Charles Bridgeman remodelled the grounds in the new “English” style, and the Hermitage was the first of two grottoes designed by William Kent; as well as Clarke, it commemorated Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, John Locke, and William Wollaston, thus harnessing the Hanoverian dynasty to traditions of British thought and patriotic ideas. The second, “Merlin’s Cave” (1735), contained a set of waxworks evoking the ancestral links between the Hanoverians and the Tudors; implicitly, it aligned Caroline with two previous queens who were associated with Richmond, namely Elizabeth I and Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII, who were both represented in the waxwork display. Merlin’s Cave attracted criticism from onlookers who both poked fun at Caroline’s pretensions and satirised Walpole’s Britain. Arguably, however, it is the much more popular earlier grotto, the Hermitage, which better represents the scale and breadth of Caroline’s cultural activities. The King and Queen’s relationship with Prince Frederick reached a new low in the summer of 1737 when his wife Augusta went into labour with their first child, a daughter also named Augusta. In a painful reminder of the 1717 split, Frederick moved his wife from Hampton Court, where his parents were residing, to St James’s Palace.19 Caroline’s congratulatory letter to Augusta after the birth was conciliatory: “I hope that time, and a mature consideration, will bring my son to a just sense of his duty towards his father.”20 Sadly, she was still unreconciled to Frederick when she experienced an agonising death on 20 November 1737 at the age of 54  in consequence of the umbilical hernia that she had concealed since the birth of her daughter Louisa. Her funeral took place at Westminster Abbey, where she was buried, and Handel composed a new anthem, “The Ways of Zion do Mourn,” for the occasion. 17  Diary of Mary Countess Cowper, Lady of the Bedchamber to the Princess of Wales, 1714–1720, ed. Spencer Cowper, 2nd ed. (London, 1865), 17. 18  See: Ray Desmond, Kew: The History of the Royal Botanic Gardens (London: The Harvill Press with The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, 1995), 1–19. 19  Dennison, First Iron Lady, 325–328. 20  Sanders, Intimate Letters, 204.



Caroline’s Library and Literary Patronage Caroline’s impressive library of 3000 books was installed at St James’s Palace in a new building designed by William Kent in 1737, a few weeks before she died.21 By this stage she had established herself as a British queen, but her outlook had also been profoundly shaped by the German princely courts she knew. Her friend Leibniz was Hanover’s court librarian and an important library theorist, and his belief that a library should be “universal,” representing every language and branch of knowledge, was fundamental to her approach to book collecting. Her library followed the universal model, and a handwritten catalogue of the whole collection, created in around 1741, covers a range of book subjects and book types, from divinity and philosophy to plays, operas, novels, and romances.22 The history and divinity sections were the largest, together making up about two-­ thirds of the collection. Each section contained books in various languages: the predominant language was French, which was the main language of the Hanoverian court, and about a third of the titles were in English. Most of her books were published in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: this was a modern library, the product of contemporary European print culture. As might be expected from a queen’s library, it contained many royal dedications, presentation copies, collected editions, folios, and fine bindings. The decoration of the building included a series of busts of English monarchs, starting with Alfred the Great and finishing with George II and Caroline. The British symbolism was obvious, but in its overall scope, the collection also reflected the ongoing German tradition of courtly book collecting—a tradition that was embraced by a series of women in the interconnected dynasties of Hanover, Prussia, and Braunschweig.23 The universal, representative nature of Caroline’s library prevents us from understanding it as a straightforward record of her life and opinions. However, the whole collection demonstrated her intellectual, cultural,  For more detail on the library, see: Emma Jay, “Queen Caroline’s Library and its European Contexts,” Book History 9 (2006): 31–55; Emma Jay, “Court Patronage Reconsidered: The English Literature in Queen Caroline’s Library,” Library and Information History 30, no. 2 (2014): 75–89; and Emma Jay, “Libraries and their Contents,” in Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, and the Shaping of the Modern World, ed. Joanna Marschner, with David Bindman and Lisa L. Ford (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017), 305–321. 22  BL Add. MS 11511. 23  Alessa Johns, Bluestocking Feminism and British-German Cultural Transfer, 1750–1837 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014), 25–38. 21



and dynastic aspirations, and many items were linked to her personally. The German and British parts of her life were connected through her books: some of the books that ended up at St James’s Palace were clearly Hanoverian in origin, such as the manuscript music scores by Agostino Steffani and Handel, both of whom served at different times as Kapellmeister at the Hanoverian court.24 Handel migrated to London in Queen Anne’s reign and enjoyed a lengthy association with her Hanoverian successors, composing “My Heart Is Inditing,” the anthem that accompanied Caroline’s coronation. Other items in the catalogues point to her continuing relationship with German court life, for instance, maps of Herrenhausen, the electoral summer residence, by court architect Johann Christian Böhm, and German panegyrics and birthday odes on herself and George II.25 Caroline tended to have strong opinions. While she was no scholar, she knew which books she liked, and she and her friends recommended books to one another. She sent the first volume of Alexander Pope’s English version of the Iliad to Leibniz in November 1715 with some of Samuel Clarke’s publications: “I hope that Pope’s translation, which I have also sent you, will quite make up your mind in favour of the merits of the good man Homer.”26 In the same letter, she mentioned Joseph Addison’s Cato (1713), a celebrated play about the stoical Cato of Utica. It had originally appeared without a dedication, but Addison commended it to Caroline in a poem in the same month in which she wrote her letter. She was full of praise for both tragedy and author: “I haven’t seen Addison for a few weeks. His tragedy is very beautiful, and even Cato himself would not complain about the noble and worthy feelings of a man like him, which he gave him.”27

24  John Goldfinch, “Royal Libraries in the King’s Library,” in 1000 Years of Royal Books and Manuscripts, ed. Kathleen Doyle and Scot McKendrick (London: British Library, 2013), 222. 25  BL Add. MS 11511, p. 149. 26  “J’espère que la traduction de Pope, que je vous ay aussi envoyée, vous fera tout-à-fait décider pour le mérite du bon homme Homère.” 27  “Je n’ay pas vu Addison de quelques semaines. Sa tragédie est très-belle, et Caton luymême ne se plaindroit pas des sentiments nobles et dignes d’un homme comme luy, qu’il luy a donnés.” Die Werke von Leibniz gemäß seinem handschriftlichen Nachlasse in der Königlichen Bibliothek zu Hannover. … Erste Reihe: Historisch-politische und staatswissenschaftliche Schriften, ed. Onno Klopp, 11 vols. (Hannover, 1864–1884), 11:50.



We do not know many books Caroline acquired as Princess of Wales, but an index of her English plays created in 1722 with additions up to 1729 lists over 850 of them.28 The evidence points to more rapid growth in her collection after 1727, reflecting the greater opportunities and income that were available to her as Queen. Her library was the main royal book collection at the British court, but George II was also a keen book collector, and their libraries complemented one another. He accumulated about 3000 books at Hanover, and this private library was added during his lifetime to the main Hanoverian court library, which also contained his father’s private library. It must have been at George II’s insistence that Caroline’s library at St James’s continued intact for many years after her death and was not dispersed until the reign of George III; some books were absorbed into George III’s libraries, and some duplicates were sent to Hanover, underlining the importance of Britain’s relationship with the electorate. Caroline’s library was a window onto her social world. Collecting, whether books, antiquities, or natural objects, was all the rage in the upper ranks of society, and it was a pursuit in which women were increasingly becoming involved. Royal dedications were marks of esteem, and she was a frequent dedicatee. Newton’s The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended (1728) was posthumously published and dedicated to her by John Conduitt, who was married to Newton’s niece. One method she used to augment her library was to purchase books at auctions. According to the antiquary William Oldys, when the actress Anne Oldfield died in 1730, Caroline moved fast to acquire her books, no matter the cost: “the Queen would have them at any rate.”29 She clearly had the collector’s urge to possess books with which she felt associated. She had always enjoyed the theatre, and Oldfield had played Lady Jane Grey in Nicholas Rowe’s The Tragedy of the Lady Jane Gray (1715), which was performed at Drury Lane. Rowe had dedicated the published version to Caroline, flatteringly comparing her to the martyred Protestant princess. Oldfield was subsequently introduced to George Augustus and Caroline’s circle at Leicester House.30 A catalogue recording the transfer of Caroline’s books between

 BL King’s MS 308.  “Diary of William Oldys, Esq. Norroy King-At-Arms,” Notes and Queries, 2nd ser., 11 (16 February 1861): 123. 30  Joanne Lafler, The Celebrated Mrs. Oldfield: The Life and Art of an Augustan Actress (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1989), 129. 28 29



residences contains a note detailing some items “de La collection de mrs Of[e]ilds” (from Mrs Oldfield’s collection).31

Politics and Literary Culture The divisiveness of contemporary party politics affected Caroline’s dealings with writers, and these divisions were particularly felt amongst the writers who produced imaginative literature (poetry, plays, and prose fiction) in English. Pro-Hanoverian poetry was predominantly Whiggish, building on the literary traditions that the Whigs had begun in the reign of William and Mary and designed to scotch the threat of Jacobitism.32 This Whig literary culture was embedded in the political establishment, as Whig writers tended to hold public office or receive patronage from those who did. Caroline’s literary patronage and book purchases indicate a strong (though not exclusive) interest in Whig writers. One such was Addison, a Whig MP who served as Secretary of State in 1717–1718 (albeit on the opposite side of the Whig divide from the Prince and Princess of Wales), and whose four-volume Works (1721), edited after his death by his literary executor Thomas Tickell, was in Caroline’s library. She also had a copy of Marinda (1716), a posthumously published collection of poems and translations by Mary Monck, whose father was the Whig politician and former diplomat, Robert Molesworth; in his dedication of the book to Caroline, Molesworth compared her to Mary II as an exemplar of virtuous royal womanhood.33 In the 1730s, however, the deepening rift between Caroline and Frederick meant that Whig writers could not maintain loyalty to both. Richard Savage, whose attachment to the Whig party was probably less a matter of principle than pragmatism, was a convicted murderer who had received a royal pardon through the intercession of his friends. He pursued both Caroline and Walpole for the patronage of his writings, and his annual “Volunteer Laureat” odes earned him a £50 pension from Caroline, but this was stopped after her death, perhaps because he had thrown his weight behind Frederick in his poem Of Public Spirit in Regard to Public Works (1736).  BL C.120.h.6, fol. 14v. Another note on the same page is dated 12 August 1735.  On the establishment of Whig writing, see: Abigail Williams, Poetry and the Creation of a Whig Literary Culture, 1681–1714 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005). 33  On Marinda, see: Gillian Wright, Producing Women’s Poetry, 1600–1730: Text and Paratext, Manuscript and Print (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 192–238. 31 32



As time went on and she became ever more associated with Walpole in the public mind, writers from different parts of the political spectrum created opposing visions of Caroline. The Queen who appears in the works of Walpole’s “Court” Whigs is almost unrecognisable in the writings of the Patriot Whigs, or in those of Pope and Jonathan Swift, who were Tories. Caroline had encouraged their friend John Gay when she was Princess of Wales, but when as Queen she offered him the post of gentleman usher to Princess Louisa, he refused it in disillusionment, later producing his ballad opera The Beggar’s Opera (1728), which was immediately interpreted as an anti-Walpole piece.34 Swift, who was Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, visited Caroline a few times when he was in England in 1726 and 1727, noting afterwards that he “never went once but upon command.”35 His friend Dr John Arbuthnot caught sight of Caroline reading Swift’s anonymously published Gulliver’s Travels (1726) and laughing at the episode in which the heir to the imperial crown of Lilliput (the Prince of Wales) is described as “Hobbling”: one of his shoes has a high heel and the other a low heel, indicating that he sympathises both with the Tramecksan party (the Tories) and with the Slamecksan party (the Whigs).36 Caroline sent a message to Swift via her bedchamber woman Henrietta Howard promising to send him some pumps and warning him not to wear heels the next time he came to visit. Later she archly accused him of being “the Author of a bad Book” which had angered the ministry but which she and the Prince of Wales had very much enjoyed.37 Caroline’s good humour boded well, but on her elevation to queenship Swift quickly lost trust in both her and Mrs Howard, and thereafter he and Pope published increasingly unsparing satires on the Hanoverians and Walpole. The literary response to Caroline was much larger and more conflicted than the set of works that she commissioned or influenced. Books, pamphlets, and newspapers poured from the presses, and more authors were able to survive without being dependent on traditional patronage. Ultimately, her public image was not something she was able to control, especially in the later 1730s when opposition satire came to a head. Nor 34  David Nokes, John Gay: A Profession of Friendship. A Critical Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 398–444. 35  To Lady Elizabeth Germain, 8 January 1732/33, in The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift, ed. Harold Williams, 5 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963–1965), 4:98. 36  John Arbuthnot to Swift, 5 November 1726, in Swift, Correspondence, 3:179. 37  To the Rev. Thomas Sheridan, 13 May 1727, in Swift, Correspondence, 3:208.



should we assume that court Whig writing was all the same or that its writers had much in common with one another. After attending the court celebrations at St James’s on Caroline’s birthday in 1728, royal chaplain Edward Young referred in a letter to Thomas Tickell to “ye publication of two or three Panygericks; wh I dare say you will never see.”38 Young’s rather snide comment implies a low opinion of the verses typically produced to mark royal birthdays. Yet Young himself praised Caroline in verse: in the sixth of his “Characteristical Satires,” collected as Love of Fame, The Universal Passion (1728), he had compared her to Milton’s newly created Eve. Well-connected and with a court appointment, Young could afford a joke at the expense of poets likely to remain obscure. We must turn, finally, to Stephen Duck to explore what Caroline might have thought about her role as Queen Consort and literary patron. Her controversial choice of this Wiltshire thresher as her main poetic protégé and keeper of the small library in Merlin’s Cave both revealed her interest in emerging ideas of self-taught genius and her desire to fashion her own image as the giver of “Royal Bounty” in the form of money, accommodation, and a position at court. Yet the poetic tradition of royal praise in which Duck was trained inevitably drew him back to Pope. Duck’s Poems on Several Occasions (1736), dedicated to Caroline, contains a poem “On Richmond Park, and Royal Gardens” which is conspicuously modelled on Pope’s Windsor-Forest (1713). In Windsor-Forest, written to welcome the Tory-negotiated Peace of Utrecht that ended the War of the Spanish Succession, Pope had praised the reign of Queen Anne. In “On Richmond Park,” Duck inverts Pope’s famous claim that “Peace and Plenty tell, a STUART reigns” by declaring that the landscape bespeaks the “Peace and Plenty” of the reign of “Great GEORGE.”39 Pope may have been dismayed, or perhaps amused, to see his Tory and Royalist poem put to the service of a panegyric on the Hanoverian monarchy.

38  The Correspondence of Edward Young, 1683–1765, ed. Henry Pettit (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), 63. 39  Pope, “Windsor-Forest,” l. 42, in The Twickenham Edition of the Poems of Alexander Pope, gen. ed. John Butt, 11 vols. (London: Methuen, 1939–1969), 1:152 (subsequent references to Pope will be from this edition); “On Richmond Park, and Royal Gardens,” in Stephen Duck, Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1736), 83.



Protestantism and Dynastic Motherhood We have seen that Caroline had personal connections with a variety of writers and collected some of their books in her library, but how did they represent her in their writings? During her time as Princess of Wales, two themes stood out. One was her rejection of the Archduke Karl on religious grounds, which British commentators viewed as the most interesting episode in her life prior to 1714. John Gay’s poem A Letter to a Lady, Occasion’d by the Arrival of Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales (1715) shows the currency of Caroline’s image as a Protestant heroine. The conceit is that Gay is with some reluctance attempting to oblige his friend, the “Lady” of the title, and gain a place at court by composing some verses on the new Princess of Wales. Taking advice from fellow place-seekers, he writes the following:        The Pomp of Titles easy Faith might shake,       She scorn’d an Empire for Religion’s sake:       For this, on Earth the British Crown is giv’n,       And an Immortal Crown decreed in Heav’n.40

Hedged with irony in a poem that distances itself from panegyric, these lines represent Caroline’s early decision as a renunciation of earthly glory bringing two types of reward: British royal status in this life and immortality in the next. The second most important theme of the literary response to Caroline when she was Princess of Wales was dynastic motherhood, as providing royal heirs was crucial to the anti-Jacobite campaign. The most influential Whiggish poetic treatment of her role as a Protestant dynastic mother was by Addison in 1714, when he penned a poem to Caroline to accompany his tragedy Cato. The contrast between Caroline and the childless Queen Anne could not be greater:         No longer shall the widow’d land bemoan        A broken lineage, and a doubtful throne;        But boast her royal progeny’s increase,         And count the pledges of her future peace.         O born to strengthen and to grace our isle! 40  “A Letter to a Lady,” ll. 133–136, in John Gay: Poetry and Prose, ed. V.A. Dearing and C.E. Beckwith, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), 1:133.



        While you, fair PRINCESS, in your Off-spring smile,        Supplying charms to the succeeding age,        Each heavenly Daughter’s triumphs we presage;        Already see th’ illustrious youths complain,         And pity Monarchs doom’d to sigh in vain.41

Addison’s prediction that Caroline’s daughters would marry into Europe’s Protestant dynasties largely proved true. His 1716 essay on Caroline in his Whig journal The Freeholder elaborated on the educative aspects of royal motherhood. Whereas the poem describes how the royal children reflect Caroline’s charming smile, the essay presents them as embodying her religious, moral, and intellectual virtues: “Not only the Features, but the Mind of the Parent is often copied out in the Offspring. … What may we not hope from such an uncommon Care in the Education of the Children of Great Britain, who are directed by such Precepts, and formed by such an Example!”42 Addison’s poem provided a reference point for Whig dynastic poetry in the early Hanoverian era, encouraging many poets to echo his prophecy. An important element of the poem is the implicit comparison it draws between Caroline and Mary II, who was a key figure in the Protestant lineage that Whig writers were tracing for the Hanoverian royal family. Although the Hanoverians were not William and Mary’s descendants in the traditional sense, the combination of the 1689 Bill of Rights, the 1701 Act of Settlement, and the 1707 Union of England and Scotland had facilitated their inheritance of the throne—and the Whigs tended to bypass Queen Anne (in the final years of whose reign a Tory ministry had gained ascendancy) in depicting George I as William and Mary’s heir. Addison’s poem challenges modern poets to celebrate Caroline just as the Royalist poet Edmund Waller sang the praises of his “Gloriana”—Henrietta Maria, Charles I’s French and Catholic consort; of course, the name “Gloriana” also evokes the memory of Elizabeth I.43 The passage recalls a previous poem of Addison’s, “An Account of the Greatest English Poets” (1694), in which he expresses regret that Waller “[came] an age too soon” and did 41  “To Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales. With the Tragedy of Cato. Nov. 1714,” in The Works of the Late Right Honourable Joseph Addison, ed. Thomas Tickell, 2nd ed., 4 vols. (London, 1730), 1:371. 42  Numb. XXI, 2 March 1716, in Joseph Addison, The Freeholder, ed. James Leheny (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), 127. 43  “To Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales,” in Addison, Works, 1:373.



not live to celebrate William and Mary’s reign. Addressing the dead poet, Addison assures him that if he had written about Mary, the result would have surpassed his portrayal of Henrietta Maria: “Thy pen had well describ’d her graceful air, / And Gloriana wou’d have seem’d more fair.”44 Mary therefore occupies a special place in the poem with Cato as Caroline’s natural ancestor. As well as continuing Mary’s role as a patron of poets, Caroline is fulfilling Mary’s frustrated hopes of motherhood.

Royal Power Caroline’s change of status in 1727 created a range of literary reactions, some of them less than positive. Swift’s Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift (1739), published after Caroline’s death, reflects on his acquaintance with her when she was Princess of Wales. He imagines how she and Henrietta Howard, now the Countess of Suffolk, might react to the news that he has died:          KIND Lady Suffolk in the Spleen,         Runs laughing up to tell the Queen.         The Queen, so Gracious, Mild, and Good,         Cries, “Is he gone? ’Tis time he shou’d.         “He’s dead you say; why let him rot;         “I’m glad the Medals were forgot.         “I promis’d them, I own; but when?         “I only was the Princess then;         “But now as Consort of the King,         “You know ’tis quite a different Thing.”45

Swift’s footnotes explain that Caroline had promised him a gift of some medals in exchange for a large quantity of Irish plaid, worth £35, and that she had also led him to expect “a Settlement in England”—in other words, the living of an Anglican parish. However, she did not keep her promises: “instead of Favour or Medals, [he] hath been ever since under her Majesty’s

44  “An Account of the Greatest English Poets. To Mr. H. S. April 3, 1694,” in Addison, Works, 1:37. 45  “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift, D.S.P.D.  Occasioned by Reading a Maxim in Rochefoucauld,” ll. 179–188, in The Poems of Jonathan Swift, ed. Harold Williams, 2nd ed., 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958), 2:501–502.



Displeasure.”46 Written from a mixture of personal disappointment and political conviction, Swift’s poem portrays a queen who is so self-­important that she cheerfully abandons the commitments she made to her former friends. The notion that Caroline enjoyed her queenly status rather too much became a staple of opposition satire. Her resemblance to Queen Dulness, the malign mother-goddess of Pope’s Dunciad (1728–1743) who encourages bad writing and brings chaos and darkness, is clearest in the 1743 four-book version. When Dulness sits on the slumbering poet laureate’s throne and takes him in her lap, a footnote observes that sleeping on the throne is not unusual: “Nor ought this, well considered, to seem strange in our days, when so many King-consorts have done the like.”47 This relationship inversion was a well-used trope in the literature of the opposition to Walpole. Another was the idea that the court was no longer a place that rewarded true learning and literary merit. In his English version of Horace’s Epistle II.i (1737), Pope made the Merlin’s Cave’s library the unworthy modern successor to Emperor Augustus’s Palatine Library: “How shall we fill a Library with Wit, / When Merlin’s Cave is half unfurnish’d yet?”48 While this opposition rhetoric continues to shape modern understandings of Caroline, it should not be taken as definitive. Even in her own day, her supporters had much to say in her defence. Pro-Hanoverian dynastic praise continued to flourish after she became Queen, but with her actual childbearing over, poets increasingly focused on her other interests. Some poems exist marking her stints as regent, but they are relatively rare and rather tentative in their treatment of her political power. Duck explored the nature and limits of that power in his The Vision (1737), written to commemorate Caroline’s death. A mourning Britannia prays that the dying Queen’s life will be spared, and carefully demarcates her two states of obedient subject and gentle ruler:         In ev’ry State her Goodness has been prov’d,         When rul’d, obedient; and when ruling, lov’d.         Securely blest, beneath her gentle Sway,         ’Tis Happiness to serve, and Pleasure to obey.49  “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift,” l. 184n.  Pope, Dunciad, B: IV. 20n. 48  Pope, Imit. Hor. Ep. II. i. 354–355. 49  Stephen Duck, The Vision. A Poem on the Death of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Caroline (London, 1737), 3. 46 47



Any notion of Caroline overstepping the bounds of queen consort is dispelled by Britannia’s description of her domestic virtues:          NOR fewer Charms adorn her private Life,         The tend’rest Mother, most submissive Wife;         Who never yet her Consort disobey’d,         By Honour, Duty, Love, and Virtue sway’d …50

What emerges clearly here is the continuing importance of Caroline’s role of motherhood as the acceptable face of queenship. Duck is less interested in the dynastic implications than in Caroline’s affective relationships with her husband and children, which are of a piece with the love she inspires in her subjects.

Patronage and Maternal Legacy During Caroline’s time as Queen, her involvement in literature and culture became a defining theme of loyal verse. The fact that Savage chose to address his “Volunteer Laureat” odes to Caroline rather than the King shows the extent to which she was becoming recognised as the focus of poetic ideas of royal patronage. In depicting her as a patron, poets re-­ adapted her image as a mother to show her providing maternal care to those in need. Savage had very personal reasons for doing so, as his own parentage was disputed. In the fourth “Volunteer Laureat” poem (1735) he juxtaposed the “maternal Queen” with his “cruel Mother,” Anne Brett, who he alleged had given birth to him as the result of a liaison with Earl Rivers.51 The building of the two Richmond grottoes, the Hermitage and Merlin’s Cave, prompted a big literary reaction, and the poems on the Hermitage were almost universally positive, welcoming the way in which the Queen had honoured a set of British philosophical worthies. Two of the poems, which may never have come to Caroline’s attention, were by women who drew strength from her example to advance their authorial ambitions. One of these was Catharine Cockburn, née Trotter, who hoped that her 1702 treatise on Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding  Duck, The Vision, 3.  “The Volunteer-Laureat. Most humbly inscribed to Her Majesty, on her Birth-Day. Number IV.  For the Year 1735,” ll. 62, 61, in The Poetical Works of Richard Savage, ed. Clarence Tracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962), 206. 50 51



might find a place in the library in Merlin’s Cave. For Cockburn, Caroline’s nurturing of Duck’s talent gave encouragement that her own petition would be kindly received. She imagined that, fired by Caroline’s commitment to learning, women would be persuaded to turn away from such pastimes as quadrille and go “[i]n search of truths sublime,” visiting “the wide realms of science.”52 The other woman poet who responded favourably to the Hermitage was Jane Brereton. Brereton compared Caroline to Elizabeth I on the basis of her learning, but then, as Duck was to do in The Vision, quickly dissociated her from any desire for power by pointing up her love for her husband:         O Queen! more learn’d than e’er Britannia saw,        Since our fam’d Tudor to the Realm gave Law.        O Wife! more happy in thy Lord alone         Than in the Pow’r, and Splendor, of his Throne.        O Mother! blest in your Illustrious Race,        The Guardian Angels of our future Peace.        O Patroness of Science! wilt thou deign         T’ accept from thy own Sex this artless Strain?53

Brereton’s later poem on Merlin’s Cave, a rare tribute amid much satire, is written under the pseudonym of “Melissa,” who proudly presents Merlin as a product of Wales (Brereton herself was Welsh). The poem is accompanied by some lines addressed to Caroline as Queen Regent which present her devotion to the arts and sciences as her defining characteristic: “Astræa and Minerva joyn / To form one finish’d CAROLINE.”54 The fact that Caroline was influencing her own children provided another connection between her roles of motherhood and cultural patronage. When she died, the scholarly Elizabeth Carter wrote two poems, one of which was addressed to Duck to acknowledge the gift of some of his verse. Carter’s poems crystallised many of the themes that had been 52  “A Poem, occasioned by the busts set up in the Queen’s Hermitage; designed to be presented with a book in vindication of Mr. Locke, which was to have been inscribed to her Majesty,” in The Works of Mrs. Catharine Cockburn, Theological, Moral, Dramatic, and Poetical, ed. Thomas Birch, 2 vols. (London, 1751), 2:574. 53  “The Royal Hermitage: A Poem. Written in the Year 1733,” in Jane Brereton, Poems on Several Occasions. … With Letters to her Friends, and An Account of her Life (London, 1744), 174. 54  “To the Queen,” in Brereton, Poems on Several Occasions, 187.



important in the literary response to Caroline. In the poem to Duck, Carter makes a dynastic prophecy, much as Addison did in 1714, looking to Caroline’s children to follow their mother’s example. However, she focuses not on the royal children’s prospects of Protestant dynastic marriage but on their continuation of Caroline’s legacy of cultural patronage and royal bounty:         YET pleas’d, the Muses through the Gloom survey,        The cheerful Glimm’rings of a rising Day,        Illustrious Offspring of a Queen, whose Name,        Till Time shall cease, must be the Boast of Fame,        Form’d by her Precept, by Example fir’d,        Shall copy those bright Virtues she inspir’d:        Like her shall patronize each useful Art,        And sooth the Anguish of the drooping Heart;        With gen’rous Pity hear the Orphan’s Pray’r,        Forbid the Sigh, and stop the falling Tear;        The mournful Graces to their Bloom restore,       And be what CAROLINA was before.55

Viewed through the lens of literary culture, Caroline’s life seems multifaceted and complex: her lively interest in book collecting is a powerful counterargument to the long-accepted notion that the Hanoverians neglected or misapplied their royal duty of literary patronage. Caroline’s obvious fertility inspired a positive, and distinctively Whiggish, poetic tradition of praising royal motherhood, and writers like Elizabeth Carter recognised the care she had taken to educate her children in the arts, as well as her encouragement of the compassionate function of the monarchy. Although loyal poets were hesitant to describe her regencies and the ways in which she made an impact on politics, they viewed her as a shining example of intellectual and cultural queenship. Whereas when she was Princess of Wales they had dwelt on her maternal virtues and compared her to (the childless) Mary II, after she became Queen they chose Elizabeth I as her counterpart in learning and patronage—a comparison that Leibniz had suggested to her many years before. Her approach to the role of Queen Consort not only established her own reputation as a cultural 55  “To Mr. Duck, occasioned by a Present of his Poems,” in Elizabeth Carter, Poems upon Particular Occasions (London, 1738), 23.



patron and educative mother but also influenced, and created opportunities for, subsequent generations of royalty. Many of her children and grandchildren had libraries; her daughter-in-law Augusta and George III’s consort, Charlotte, both Protestant and German princesses like herself, collected books. With energy and passion, she stimulated the royal library tradition in Britain, laying the ground for a big expansion of royal book collecting in George III’s reign.


Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz: The Enlightened Nurturer Karin Schrader

At the age of 17, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was the next young German princess to become queen consort of Great Britain and Ireland after Caroline of Ansbach. One may wonder what lasting impression this young princess from a minor continental principality could leave in her adopted country, a country that during the reign of her husband George III (r. 1760–1820) was a kingdom with global horizons, spanning not only the American colonies until 1783 but developing into a far-reaching empire including Australia, New Zealand, India, Canada, and the West Indies. Charlotte’s nineteenth-century biographers saw her in domestic terms as a loyal but politically inactive wife at the King’s side and the caring

K. Schrader (*) Independent Scholar, Germany e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts, Queenship and Power, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-12829-5_4




mother of her many children.1 Olwen Hedley’s biography from 1975 remains seminal, drawing on a wide range of archival sources and shedding new light on the Queen’s person.2 Recent scholarship has further reassessed Charlotte, correcting the traditional image of a primarily ‘nurturing figure’ by underlining her inherited as well as acquired cultural influences, which made her part of a wider social and cultural network outside her immediate family.3 Like her predecessor as queen consort, Caroline of Ansbach, Charlotte not only dutifully secured the succession by producing numerous offspring but also had a keen interest in philosophy, music, and science and was a great patron of the arts. Charlotte would shape her life and image as consort not so much by direct political influence but by promoting her ‘public’ and ‘private’ ideals via patronage and self-fashioning her image. She would create her own identity niches: a doting mother with a strong pedagogical influence on the upbringing and education of her daughters, a keen botanist (later honoured with the epithet ‘Queen of Botany’), and a patroness of the fine arts. The formation of both Charlotte’s ‘public’ and ‘private’ persona is best reflected in her numerous portraits. Not only did her time as a consort coincide with the heyday of British portraiture, but it was the royal couple’s patronage that promoted this fruitful development. In a period of domestic and foreign policy conflicts, marked by the loss of the American colonies, the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, following a massive social upheaval with the emergence of an increasingly critical and emancipated bourgeoisie, the monarchy was forced to adopt new means of visual representation. They had to develop new strategies of legitimation, balancing traditionally emblematic royal iconography and enlightened ideals. During her long-standing presence as consort over nearly six decades, Charlotte’s visual image was continuously adapting to these political and social changes. It was disseminated and popularised in various 1  Walley Chamberlain Oulton, Authentic and Impartial Memoirs of Her Late Majesty Charlotte, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland (London, 1819); John Watkins, Memoirs of Her Most Excellent Majesty, Sophia Charlotte, Queen of Great Britain (London, 1819); Alice Drayton Greewood, Lives of the Hanoverian Queens of England, 2 vols. (London: G.  Bell and Sons, 1909–1911). For further references, see: Clarissa Campbell Orr, “Charlotte [Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz] (1744–1818),” ODNB, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/5162. 2  Olwen Hedley, Queen Charlotte (London: Murray, 1975). 3  See: Clarissa Campbell Orr, “Marriage in a Global Context: Charlotte of Mecklenburg-­ Strelitz, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland,” in Queens Consort, Cultural Transfer and European Politics, c.1500–1800, ed. Helen Watanabe-O’Kelly and Adam Morton (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017), 109–131.



genres, such as large-scale and miniature portraits, prints, and objects of virtue but also on commercial goods like Wedgwood ceramics or Worcester porcelain.4 Against the background of her husband’s growing illness, Charlotte’s self-fashioning would underline the moral integrity of the House of Hanover, her fidelity as consort to her husband, the King, and, hence, to the British nation itself.

Early Years and Upbringing Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was born on 19 May 1744, the eighth child and youngest daughter of Duke Charles Louis Frederick of Mecklenburg (1708–1752) and his wife Princess Elizabeth Albertina of Saxe-Hildburghausen (1713–1761). Her father was a younger half-brother of the reigning Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Adolphus Frederick III (r. 1708–1752), and her mother was a distant cousin of Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha (1719–1772), her future mother-in-law. Charlotte’s eldest brother, Adolphus Frederick (1738–1794), would succeed their uncle in 1752 followed in 1794 by her brother Charles (1741–1816), who was her favourite sibling and confidant throughout her life. Charlotte’s birthplace, Mirow Castle (an apanage for the junior branch of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz), was a modest court. The family favoured a quiet and studious life. There are many ironic and disparaging contemporary comments on its insignificance as a remote backwater location in the far north of the Holy Roman Empire. One of the most famous critiques came from Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, who ridiculed that “never in my life should I have taken this for a palace” while visiting Mirow, nicknaming his remote relatives the “Mirokesen.”5 But even if the Mecklenburg duchy was not a first-rate principality, it was certainly part of a European cultural interchange, as was common even for small courts within 4  See: Michael Levey, A Royal Subject: Portraits of Queen Charlotte (London: The National Portrait Gallery, 1977); and Karin Schrader, “Between Representation and Intimacy: The Portrait Miniatures of the Georgian Queens,” in European Portrait Miniatures: Artists, Functions and Collections, ed. Bernd Pappe, Juliane Schmieglitz-Otten, and Gerrit Walczak (Petersberg: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2014), 27–37. For instance, the Victoria & Albert Museum holds a Jasperware plaque depicting Charlotte (414: 1251–1885), and the British Museum likewise holds a porcelain tankard (1887,0307, X.14). 5  Friederike Drinkuth, ed., Königin Charlotte: Eine Prinzessin aus Mecklenburg-Strelitz besteigt den englischen Thron (Schwerin: Helms, 2011), 3.



the Holy Roman Empire at that time. The duchy’s strong tradition of intermarriage with Scandinavian and German courts made it part of the cultural network of the “northern republic of letters” in the eighteenth century.6 While Charlotte’s upbringing in her early years may have been more similar to that of a daughter of the gentry than a princess from a reigning dynasty, her life changed significantly in 1752, the year of the death of both her father and uncle, followed by her brother’s succession. The family moved to the stately residence of Neustrelitz. Here, under the direction of Friedricke Elisabeth von Grabow, a wealthy cosmopolitan widow and famous poet who was known as the German Sappho, and Lutheran theologian and naturalist Gottlob Burchard Genzmer, Charlotte received a well-rounded education in a pietistic, enlightened spirit that gave her a relatively strong suitability to be a queen consort and laid the foundation for her personal lifelong interests.7 Apart from court etiquette, Charlotte was instructed in theology, history, natural philosophy, mineralogy, botany, and geography. She had knowledge of Latin and Greek and was fluent in Italian and French.8 She hardly knew any English but would learn it quickly and competently after her marriage. Educated in dancing, drawing, and singing, she was also an accomplished musician and developed a serious interest in literature. Familiar with the Enlightenment and reading Voltaire as early as 1760, she would maintain her enthusiasm for literature and poetry throughout her life. As Queen, she would copy out a number of published texts. After her death, she left a library containing over 4500 volumes in different languages.9 At the age of 16, Charlotte became a non-resident secular canoness of the imperial abbey of Herford, in the event that as a younger daughter of a minor house she might have remained unmarried, a precaution that would soon prove unnecessary. 6  Clarissa Campbell Orr, “Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen of Great Britain and Electress of Hanover: Northern Dynasties and the Northern Republic of Letters,” in Queenship in Europe, 1660–1815: The Role of the Consort, ed. Clarissa Campbell Orr (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 368–402; Campbell Orr, “Marriage in a Global Context,” 110, 113. 7  Campbell Orr, “Marriage in a Global Context,” 116. 8  See: Hedley, Queen Charlotte, 28; Drinkuth, Königin Charlotte, 10. 9  Georgian Papers Online (http://gpp.rct.uk., January 2020) RA GEO/ADD/43/6: Diaries, essays, and notes of Queen Charlotte. See also: Clarissa Campbell Orr, “Queen Charlotte, ‘Scientific Queen,’” in Queenship in Britain, 1660–1837: Royal Patronage, Court Culture, and Dynastic Politics, ed. Clarissa Campbell Orr (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), 240.



Marriage and Coronation When George III announced to the Privy Council on 8 July 1761 his intention to marry an unknown German princess, many might have wondered what caused him to choose a bride from such an obscure principality whose location, according to Horace Walpole, one had to search for on a map.10 The Georgian princes, however, had already established a tradition of marrying princesses from subordinate duchies, as demonstrated by the marriages of George II and Caroline of Ansbach as well as Frederick, Prince of Wales, and Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. Given the particular situation of the personal union between Great Britain and Hanover embodied in the Hanoverian kings, this strategy may have served to secure allegiances to the Hanoverian Electorate within the power relations of the Holy Roman Empire, while at the same time, seen from the British perspective, such a country would be politically insignificant enough to avoid diplomatic complications. Moreover, as the future queen was supposed to be royal and Protestant, the only other equivalent Electoral ruling house would have been Prussia, with which relations were strained due to the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763). The first efforts to find a bride had been hampered by the outbreak of the war and the quarrels between the young Prince and his grandfather, George II. Since his father Frederick, Prince of Wales, had already died in 1751, George III was the heir presumptive to the British throne. The old King favoured candidates such as Princess Sophie Caroline, daughter of Charles I, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, who the Prince emphatically rejected, stating that he would never marry “whilst the Old Man lives.”11 The death of George II on 25 October 1760 therefore became the date for the 22-year-old George III to advance his nuptial search in which, undoubtedly, his mother, Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, and his former tutor and royal favourite, the Earl of Bute, were driving forces. Charlotte was chosen from half a dozen eligible candidates by a process of elimination, orchestrated by the influential Münchhausen brothers Gerlach and Philipp Adolph, who held high offices in Hanover and London and were pursuing their own interests with regard to the position of the Electorate. Charlotte’s Protestant faith, the strategic location of her 10  Heidi A. Strobel, The Artistic Matronage of Queen Charlotte (1744–1818): How a Queen Promoted Both Art and Female Artists in English Society (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2011), 51. 11  Hedley, Queen Charlotte, 3–6.



homeland next to Hanover, as well as the affiliation of her family to the House of Brunswick, made her an excellent choice. Furthermore, as Mascha Hansen has observed, while beauty was not a prerequisite for the bride, Charlotte’s unimpeachable reputation and character were important qualifications.12 Considering the political conflicts that had been stirred up by his mother’s involvement in potential marriages, George III looked for a bride young enough to be malleable and politically ignorant. These attributes became evident in the report of Colonel Graeme, who went to Neustrelitz in June 1761 to negotiate the nuptials. Graeme describes the young Charlotte as no beauty but amiable, with good qualities and talents that are not very cultivated, but due to her young age “she is capable of taking any impression, or being molded into any form.”13 In August 1761 the official escort party, led by the Earl of Harcourt, brought precious engagement gifts for the young bride, including a sumptuous bracelet with the miniature portrait of the King that Charlotte cherished throughout her entire life, wearing it in all her grand portraits.14 On 7 September the young bride arrived in England and reached London in the afternoon of the following day. Within six hours of her arrival and introduction to her future husband, the marriage ceremony was performed at the Chapel Royal in St. James’s Palace on 8 September by Thomas Secker, Archbishop of Canterbury. On the occasion of the wedding, Horace Walpole gave a detailed account of the appearance of the young Queen that seems to match her engagement portrait from 1761 by Hanoverian court painter Johann Georg Ziesenis:15 She looks very sensible, cheerful, and is remarkably genteel. Her tiara of diamonds was very pretty, her stomacher sumptuous; her violet-velvet ­mantle and ermine so heavy, that the spectators knew as much of her upper half as the King himself.16 12  Mascha Hansen, “Queen Charlotte and the Character of the Monarchy,” in Anglistentag 2014 Hannover: Proceedings, ed. Rainer Emig and Jana Gohrisch (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2015), 141. 13  Strobel, The Artistic Matronage, 58. 14  See: Schrader, “Between Representation and Intimacy,” 32. 15  Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 403562, oil on canvas, 134.9 × 96.8 cm. 16  “Letter to Henry Seymour Conway, 9 September 1761,” in The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, ed. Wilmarth S.  Lewis, 41 vols. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937–1983), 38:116.



Two weeks after the wedding, on 22 September, the coronation of the royal couple took place at Westminster Abbey. Through her marriage, Charlotte was Queen Consort of Great Britain and Ireland. After the union of the two kingdoms in 1801, she became Queen Consort of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until her death in 1818. Due to the personal union with the Electorate of Hanover, she was also the Electress Consort of Hanover until the elevation of Hanover to the status of a kingdom, meaning that on 12 October 1814 she became Queen Consort of Hanover.

Looks and Appearances Charlotte’s features have been the subject of many critical remarks and speculations. Based on Walpole’s comment that “her forehead [is] low, her nose very well, except the nostrils spreading too wide; her mouth has the same fault, but her teeth are good” and her alleged descent from King Alfonso III of Portugal and his African mistress Madragana ben Aloandro, she has been called the first modern mixed-race royal.17 However, as Jeremy Black has stated, there is no real evidence for this assumption.18 Another contemporary source described her as “certainly not a beauty, but her countenance was very expressive and showed extreme intelligence; not tall, but of slight, rather pretty figure; her eyes bright and sparkling with good humour and vivacity; her mouth large, but filled with white and even teeth; and her hair really beautiful.”19 She herself seemed to be aware of her lack of beauty, being remarkably sanguine on this topic: “The English people did not like me much, because I was not pretty; but the King was fond of driving a phaeton in those days, and once he overturned me in a turnip-field, and that fall broke my nose. I think I was not quite so ugly after dat.”20 Nevertheless, her features would become iconic, displayed around the British Empire in numerous portraits, strategically  “Letter to Sir Horace Mann, 10 September 1761,” Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, 21:529. 18  Jeremy Black, George III (London: Penguin, 2020), 17. 19  Charlotte Louisa Henrietta Papendiek, Court and Private Life in the Time of Queen Charlotte: Being the Journals of Mrs. Papendiek, Assistant-Keeper of the Wardrobe and Reader to Her Majesty, ed. V.D. Broughton, 2 vols. (London, 1887), 2:9. See also: Jane Roberts, ed., George III and Queen Charlotte: Patronage, Collecting and Court Taste (London: Royal Collection, 2004), 49. 20  Amelia Murray, Recollections from 1803 to 1837: With a Conclusion in 1868 (London, 1868), 143–145. 17



employed by the crown as well as mocked by critics in caricatures. Her coronation portrait by Scottish artist Allan Ramsay, referring to the traditional state iconography employed by Caroline of Ansbach and Mary II, was her first official British image.21 Although criticised by Walpole as “much flattered and the hair vastly too light,” it became very popular throughout the following decades and was reproduced—together with the portrait of her husband—in numerous copies, satisfying the demands not only of the royal family but also of the nobility, ambassadors, and viceroys around the globe. Thus, the omnipresent visualisation of the Georgian monarchy would build a unifying symbolic realm, creating a virtual bond with the King’s subjects.22 In addition, during the 1760s, a quite distinctive emblematic shaping of the Queen’s physiognomy was popularised, emphasising her slightly tip-tilted nose in profile as well as in three-quarter-view. It started a royal ‘branding’ throughout all visual media such as prints, paintings, miniatures, or objects of virtue.23 The often very ostentatious display of the Queen’s youthful and richly adorned body served as a symbol for the fertile and prosperous British nation. The Queen’s known partiality for jewels, however, both initiated controversies over the cost of maintaining the monarchy and was the subject of satirical responses.24

Domesticity, Motherhood, and Self-Fashioning In certain respects, the royal couple had an affectionate and harmonious marriage. George called his wife “my treasure from Strelitz” while she addressed him in a letter with the “love of her who subscribes herself Your very affectionate Friend and Wife.”25 In 1785, Frances Burney observed  Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 405308.  Cassandra Albinson and Mark Hallett, “Cornucopia: Royal Female Portraiture and the Imperatives of Reproduction,” in Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, and the Shaping of the Modern World, ed. Joanna Marschner (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017), 95. 23  See mezzotints in the British Museum, acc. no. 1902,1011.3226, and National Portrait Gallery, inv. no. D9089; painting in the Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 400146; miniatures in different media in the Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 4424, RCIN 22465, RCIN 421437, RCIN 45755. 24  For Charlotte’s jewellery, see: Marcia Pointon, Brilliant Effects: A Cultural History of Gem Stones and Jewellery (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 179–199. 25  Drinkuth, Königin Charlotte, 34; Georgian Papers Online (http://gpp.rct.uk., January 2020) RA GEO/MAIN/36352–36354: Queen Charlotte to George III, 26 April 1778. 21 22



that “their behaviour to each other speaks the most cordial confidence and happiness.”26 They shared a companionable relationship and interests in science, art, music, and theatre, as well as a sincere religious faith. Although brought up a Lutheran, Charlotte conformed easily to the Church of England, as required.27 Yet, in the first years of her marriage she struggled to adapt to life in court, due to the strained relationship with her mother-in-law Princess Augusta, who interfered with her social contacts and appointed many of her household staff to report on the behaviour of her daughter-in-law.28 When the King had his first attack of mental illness in 1765, Augusta kept Charlotte unaware of her husband’s health condition to prevent the Regency Bill of 1765 from coming into force, which stipulated that Charlotte would be appointed regent if the King should be unable to rule. It was not easy for a foreign female royal consort to create her own sphere of activity. She had to support her husband officially but was not allowed to show too much of her own public profile and influence. Character and intelligence were necessary to achieve a certain balance, as the complexity of the court system required skilful negotiation between the different and often rival powers. A friendly bond between the married couple certainly could ease this. The courtly ideal of the consort was that of a nurturer and encourager, who had to secure the line of succession and care for the spiritual, social, and economic well-being not only of her family but also of her husband’s subjects.29 Fertility was one of the most important qualities expected of a royal consort, and Charlotte was incredibly lucky in having children without difficulty; she had no known miscarriages or stillborn infants. Within a year of her marriage, she had provided the throne with an heir and secured the direct line of succession. In the first twenty-one years of her marriage 26  Frances Burney, Diary and Letters of Madame d’Arblay, ed. Charlotte Barrett, 7 vols. (London: Cambridge University Press, 1958–1978), 2:392. 27  This had been specified in the first paragraph of the short marriage contract, written in Latin: “Conclusum et coventum est, quod / Matrimonium … In Regno Magnae Britanniae, propriis Person(a) / Secundum debitum Legum Angliae Tenorem, / Jura, Ritus, Ceremoniasque Ecclesio Anglicano / Quam primum commodé fieri potest, post / Dicte Principis adventum in Regnum Magnae / Britanniae celebrabitur.” TNA SP 108/554. 28  Percy H.  Fitzgerald, The Good Queen Charlotte (1899; Norderstedt: Hansebooks GmbH, 2017), 5–6. 29  See: Marschner, Enlightened Princesses, 14.



she gave birth to fifteen children: nine sons—the future George IV (1762–1830); Frederick, Duke of York (1763–1827); the future William IV (1765–1837); Edward, Duke of Kent (1767–1820); Ernest Augustus I, Duke of Cumberland and later King of Hanover (1771–1851); Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773–1843); Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge (1774–1850); Octavius (1779–1783); and Alfred (1780–1782)—and six daughters—Charlotte, Princess Royal and Queen of Wurttemberg (1766–1828); Augusta Sophia (1768–1840); Elizabeth, Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg (1770–1840); Mary, Duchess of Gloucester (1776–1857); Sophia (1777–1848); and Amelia (1783–1810). Thirteen of her children survived into adulthood. The upbringing and well-being of her children certainly determined much of her life. While her sons would be placed in separate households under the tutelage of governors at an early age and later dispatched for military service or studies in Germany, the Queen was directly involved in the upbringing of her daughters. She ensured that they would receive a thorough education. She wrote to her brother Charles on 6 July 1779, “I am of opinion that if women had the same advantages as men in their education they would do as well.”30 Charlotte placed great emphasis on the artistic and linguistic skills as well as the religious instruction of her daughters. They received music lessons from Johann Christian Bach and drawing lessons from Thomas Gainsborough, Mary Moser, and Mary Delany. Charlotte’s library included many contemporary educational treatises such as works by Rousseau, Locke, and Fénelon. According to her diary, she regularly read sermons in German and English to her daughters. Her evident love for her large family not only supported the stability of her marriage but also created the ideal of a stable domesticity that would positively influence the public image of the monarchy. However, she also tended to control her daughters’ lives, restricting their independence. Her court was called the “Nunnery,” as a number of the princesses were still living there in adulthood, unfortunate, as Flora Fraser noted, in having parents who “could not adequately oversee the implementation of the Utopian child-rearing policies they earnestly advocated.”31 By the Royal Marriages Act 1772, the King had tried to prevent his children from making ineligible marriages before they reached the age of twenty-five. His deep attachment to his daughters, however, even caused him to turn down suitable marriage  Quoted in Hedley, Queen Charlotte, 122.  Flora Fraser, Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III (London: Murray, 2005), 494.

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proposals. The Queen, meanwhile, may have been deliberately keeping her daughters unmarried, longing for their company as a surrogate for the King’s growing absence due to his ill health. In 1762, the King bought Buckingham House as the new official residence for the Queen. Known as the Queen’s House, it also became a private refuge for the royal couple, where most of their children were born and they could favour their informal domestic way of life apart from the regulated court etiquette at St. James’s Palace, which was still used for formal occasions such as levées and public audiences. At the end of the 1770s, the King also had Queen’s Lodge near Windsor Castle converted into a country residence, where the family would spend most of their time, apart from Richmond and Kew. Due to the couple’s notoriously frugal, plain, and pious lifestyle, the British court gained a reputation as one of the dullest in Europe and was widely satirised. The King’s preference for a rural lifestyle earned him the nickname “Farmer George.” The Queen, in contrast, was caricatured not only as an overly domestic, caring mother and wife but also as a penny-­ pinching housekeeper. Charlotte’s official deportment and visual representation not only had to convey the traditional princely virtues but also reveal personal character traits in terms of a new enlightened approachability, which she tried to achieve by emphasising the ideals of motherhood and education. In contrast to Caroline of Ansbach, whose iconography had been mainly focused on the establishment and consolidation of the Hanoverian dynasty, Charlotte’s self-fashioning as a pious and enlightened mother of not only her own family but the happy nation at large seemed to offer an adequate perspective. At the same time, however, this endeavour made her vulnerable to satire. As Mascha Hansen has stated, “it may have been her very aspiration to be a moral example to the nation that caused the Queen’s descent in public opinion.”32 Charlotte’s portraits often merged a formal representative setting with a subtle allusion to her private interests, transforming her into not only a proud and doting mother but also an enlightened and learned queen. These qualities were skilfully propagated in Ramsay’s full-length state portrait showing the Queen with her two eldest sons in the grandeur of a classic architectural setting while attributes such as needlework, a

 Hansen, “Queen Charlotte,” 148.




harpsichord, and a copy of John Locke’s Thoughts Concerning Education allude to her accomplishments and virtues.33 Charlotte’s ideals are best reflected in two portraits of the mid-1760s by Johan Zoffany and Benjamin West, showing the Queen with her two eldest sons, George and Frederick, and her eldest daughter Charlotte, Princess Royal. They give a seemingly informal insight into courtly domestic life, as if the viewer captures a private moment of the Queen sitting in her apartments with her children playing around her or listening to her advice (Fig. 4.1).

Fig. 4.1  Johan Zoffany, Queen Charlotte with her Two Eldest Sons, 1764, oil on canvas, 112.2  ×  128.3  cm. (Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021)  Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 404922.




This ‘private’ narrative was part of a continental process of a new enlightened approach in aristocratic portraiture, influenced by French and Dutch genre painting, alluding to Rousseau’s ideal of an unspoiled natural education and character development. Yet it was an image staged to the highest degree, aimed at conveying a new ideal of the monarchy in search of good government. Charlotte is emphasised not only as a decorous wife but also as an accomplished consort and mother. She is the role model for a cultured family, implying moral as well as dynastic legitimacy. Moreover, both portraits accentuate the different perceived roles of male and female princely education. While the rendering of the Prince of Wales in armour connotes the heroic Telemachus myth, popularised by François Fénelon’s educational fable, the focus for the young Princess Royal lies with a valuable piece of embroidered fabric, alluding to feminine domestic virtues such as industria. Attributes like a bust of Minerva, sheet music, and papers underline the Queen’s knowledge and accomplishments, while precious and exotic objects such as Flemish lace, Turkish carpets, or Chinese lacquer figures reflect the richness and prosperity of a modern global monarchy.34 Furthermore, the public display of such portraits engaged a wider audience with these ideals. In Francis Cotes’ rendering of Charlotte with her first daughter Charlotte, Princess Royal, exhibited at the Society of Artists exhibition in 1767, the Queen directly addresses the viewer via her gesture to be silent and not to disturb the sleeping child (Fig. 4.2).35 Like reproduction in print, this was a new way of circulating the royal portrait, bringing the monarch and consort in ‘direct’ contact with the public. A strategy that would be further employed during the next decades and that was quite successful, as a eulogy on Cotes’ painting shows: How on thy canvas, Cotes, with joy is seen, The tend’rest Mother, and the mildest Queen; Who can her dignity with her meekness blend, And lose awhile the Empress in the friend: Who makes humility her highest boast, For the pious Queen commands the most, The joy of Britain in her bosom lies, What inexpressive sweetness in her eyes! Maternal fondness and maternal grace,  Marschner, Enlightened Princesses, 24.  In addition to the pastel, an enlargement in oil was commissioned by the Queen. See: Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 404396. 34 35



Fig. 4.2  Francis Cotes, Queen Charlotte with Charlotte, Princess Royal, 1767, pastel, 93.0 × 78.5 cm. (Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021) Breathe in her air, and beam upon her face. With boundless charity from heaven that springs, The balm of Kingdoms, and the crown of Kings!36

In addition, the numerous commissions of family portraits showing the royal couple surrounded by their growing number of children figuratively propagated the image of the prosperous and healthy body politic.37 Whereas Charlotte’s earlier portraits saw a certain youthfulness and splendour  Quoted in Albinson, “Cornucopia,” 100.  Royal Collection Trust RCIN 400501, RCIN 401004.

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dominate, in later years her official images would favour a more unostentatious, domestic, and lyrical approach. The Queen wearing a gossamer lace cap would become the most popular and widely received emblem throughout media, emphasising maturity, domesticity, and motherhood. The epitome of Charlotte’s devotion to her family is the series of portraits by Gainsborough she commissioned in 1782 for her apartments in Buckingham House and which were publicly displayed at the Royal Academy.38

Politics and Philanthropy George III had given his bride clear advice on how to avoid the pitfalls of politics, as she recalled to her friend Elizabeth, Lady Harcourt: I am most truly sensible of the dear king’s great strictness, at my arrival in England, to prevent my making many acquaintances: for he always used to say, that, in this Country, it was difficult to know how to draw a line, on account of the politics of the Country; that there never could be kept up Society without party, which was always dangerous for any woman to take part on, but particularly so for the Royal Family, & with truth do I assure you, that I am not only sensible that He was right, but I feel thankful for it from the bottom of my Heart.39

Even if Charlotte did not show any active political ambition, it cannot be denied that, due to the closeness she shared with the King, she exchanged ideas with him, as can be seen from her diary entries. Her influence was discreet and indirect, managed subtly through the Drawing Room by dispensing appointments, making recommendations, and helping to bind the ruling elite together.40 She was well informed of the complexity of the English succession, the Westminster political system, and the current political affairs of her husband’s territories.41 Her library included a variety of books on history, such as Hume’s History of England.42  Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 4001007.  Quoted in Campbell Orr, “Queen Charlotte, ‘Scientific Queen,’” 240. 40  Marschner, Enlightened Princesses, 12. 41  See also: Georgian Papers Online (http://gpp.rct.uk., January 2020) RA GEO/ ADD/43/7: Essays on the history of the English monarchy from Edward V to Henry VII by Charlotte, Queen Consort of George III (26 November 1792) and RA GEO/ ADD43/19l: ‘Tableau de l’Europe au commencement du 19eme Siecle’ in hand of Charlotte, Queen Consort to George III [n.d. between 1800 and 1818]. 42  See letter to her brother from 10 February 1772, Landeshauptarchiv Schwerin, 4.3-2 Hausarchiv des Mecklenburg-Strelitzschen Fürstenhauses mit Briefsammlung. 38 39



Due to her origins and family ties, Charlotte was particularly interested in continental European issues, especially the situation in her homeland, Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and the Hanoverian Electorate, where her favourite brother Charles had been appointed by her husband as military governor in 1776.43 She keenly followed dynastic events and elections in the Holy Roman Empire and had a clear moral opinion regarding the extramarital affair of her sister-in-law Caroline Matilde, queen consort of Denmark, with Count Struensee. She corresponded with Marie Antoinette and was greatly afflicted by the news of the executions of the King and Queen of France.44 As early as 1789, she had expressed her concerns about the recent developments in France undermining established religion. In a letter to her brother, she noted that “the lack of principle, forgetting all duties to God and Man, and lack of Religion, is seen as the main reason for the distresses amongst our neighbours.”45 All the more important was her endeavour to present the British monarchy as an institution of moral authority. Charlotte also observed the struggles of the German states during the War of the Bavarian Succession and through her niece Louise, wife of King Frederick William III of Prussia, she was well informed about the situation in Prussia and would try to enlist Prussian support for Hanoverian interests during the French Revolutionary Wars.46 Although Charlotte maintained contacts amongst the royal houses of Europe, she would never undermine British interests or openly meddle in politics. Like her predecessors, Charlotte also met the expectations of a caring consort interested in public welfare, her charitable activities being part of the orchestrated public image of the monarchy. The German poet Anna Luisa Karsch praised her as “the young dreaming princess, full of Philanthropy and notice.”47 She was patron of several London charitable foundations such as Magdalen Hospital, a home for penitent prostitutes, St Katherine’s Hospital, an alms house for gentlewomen, and the General Lying-in Hospital, a hospital for expectant mothers, that was subsequently renamed as the Queen’s Hospital. She founded orphanages as well as a residential home for elderly gentlewomen in Bath. Her deep interest in the  Campbell Orr, “Northern Dynasties,” 377.  Hedley, Queen Charlotte, 187. 45  Quoted in Campbell Orr, “Queen Charlotte, ‘Scientific Queen,’” 249. 46  Marschner, Enlightened Princesses, 12. 47  Quoted in Strobel, Artistic Matronage, 37. 43 44



education of women is reflected in her support of a spinning school for poor working girls in Windsor and an embroidery school for girls, founded by Phoebe Wright.48

Cultural Interests and Patronage While Charlotte’s early years were dedicated to childrearing, after the death of her mother-in-law in February 1772, she was more at liberty to initiate cultural and philanthropic activities. She became a patron in the fields of education, arts, and science. Her interest may have stemmed from her early German education but was surely enhanced by engagement with the heritage and collections of her predecessors, particularly that of Caroline of Ansbach. Charlotte’s artistic patronage served as a vehicle for establishing an ideological continuity with previous queens, but at the same time intensified the interactions with her continental family. Her close kinship with the northern German and European courts, her connection with members of the Royal Society and the University of Göttingen—such as Joseph Banks and Georg Christoph Lichtenberg— and her employment of learned people like Jean-André DeLuc and Marie Elisabeth de La Fite as French readers, Charlotte Finch as royal governess, and the inclusion of Elizabeth Venable Vernon, Elizabeth Seymour Percy, and Mary Delany in her entourage shaped her household into a centre of elite sociability and made her part of the Protestant, Northern European, Enlightenment.49 Her patronage, her enlarged social connections, and her cultural and scientific interests broadened her horizons, enabling her to define new facets of her ‘public’ persona and allowing her to mentally exceed boundaries that could not be crossed physically. This new cosmopolitan approach was best reflected in her botanical collection, her collections of prints and drawings, as well as in her library. Charlotte was a keen amateur botanist and took great interest in the development of Kew Gardens. Benefitting from the expeditions of Captain James Cook and Joseph Banks, she ensured that the botanical collections at Kew were greatly enriched and expanded. The South African flower, the Bird of Paradise, was named Strelitzia reginae in her honour. In 1799, a homage to Charlotte, Queen of Great Britain, as Patroness of Botany and 48  See: Hedley, Queen Charlotte, 88–108; Frank Prochaska, Royal Bounty: The Making of a Welfare Monarchy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 1–37. 49  Campbell Orr, “Northern Dynasties,” 374.



the Fine Arts was published as a preface to Robert John Thornton’s The New Illustration of the Sexual System of Carolus von Linnaeus, which itself was dedicated to the Queen.50 In 1781, The Ladies Poetical Magazine published an elegy praising the Queen’s learned mind and virtuous conduct: Happy for England, were each female mind, To science more, and less to pomp inclin’d; If parents, by example, prudence taught, And from their QUEEN the flame of virtue caught! Skill’d in each art that serves to polish life, Behold in HER scientifick wife.51

The King and Queen strongly admired and supported German-speaking artists and composers, like Zoffany, Handel, and Mozart, and held weekly concerts with their family. Johann Christian Bach was the Queen’s music-­ master from 1764 until his death and gave her singing and cembalo lessons. However, their patronage of artists and craftsmen such as portrait painter Thomas Gainsborough, cabinetmaker William Vile, silversmith Thomas Heming, or entrepreneur Josiah Wedgwood also reflected their support of the British art and economy. Even though the royal couple shared a common taste in art and regularly attended the Royal Academy exhibitions, there were certain differences between their patronages shaped by the male and female spheres at the time. George III strongly favoured artists trained in the classic style of the art academies like Benjamin West, who received influential posts in court. His patronage was based on a preference for the Van Dyck style in the tradition of the Stuart court.52 In contrast, Charlotte showed specific interest in the decorative arts and was responsible for the interior design of Windsor Lodge and Frogmore.53 Even before the foundation of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768, she supported female portraitists such as Catherine Read and the later Academy founding members Angelica

 Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 604645.  Quoted in Campbell Orr, “Queen Charlotte, ‘Scientific Queen,’” 236. 52  Christopher Lloyd, “George III and His Painters,” in The Wisdom of George the Third: Papers from a Symposium at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace June 2004, ed. Jonathan Marsden (London: Royal Collection Publications, 2005), 84–99. 53  Roberts, George III and Queen Charlotte, 164. 50 51



Kauffmann and Mary Moser.54 In a portrait commissioned by the Queen herself, Kauffmann celebrated Charlotte as the guardian of the fine arts. It was popularised via Thomas Burke’s mezzotint Her Majesty Queen Charlotte Raising the Genius of Fine Arts.55 In later decades, the Queen’s patronage increasingly focused on female artists and less-esteemed genres, such as miniature painting, embroidery and needlepoint, botanical illustration, engraving, and wax modelling. Among the female artists she sponsored were the miniature painters Mary Benwill, Anne Foldstone Mee, and Anne Jessop; the embroiderers Mary Morris Knowle and Mary Linwood; wax modeller Patience Wright; and engraver Caroline Watson, who was appointed her official engraver in 1785.56 Her relationships with these artists were often longstanding. Especially for female artists, the Queen’s patronage could provide a gateway to professional success. She clearly transferred her interest in art to several of her children, especially the Prince of Wales, the future George IV.

Regency Crisis and Loyalty The second half of Charlotte’s life was overshadowed by the crisis caused by the King’s mental and physiological decline, beginning in October 1788 with the renewed outbreak of the metabolic disorder porphyria that would last until his death in 1820.57 The King’s derangement not only involved a certain hostility towards his wife, including sporadic accusations of her adultery and madness, but provoked a severe government crisis as the need of a regency government became evident, which led to a severe break in Charlotte’s relationship with her eldest son.58 While the political opposition under the Prince of Wales’ confidant Charles James Fox tried to gain the Prince full regency powers, Charlotte trusted in William Pitt the Younger, who favoured a regency where the Prince of Wales could only take over with the consent of parliament. Pitt prevailed and with the drafting of the Regency Bill of 1789 the Prince of Wales’ power was  Strobel, Artistic Matronage, 4.  The Royal Collection Trust holds several examples. See, for instance: RCIN 604618. 56  Strobel, Artistic Matronage, 125–177. 57  See: Arthur Burns and Karin Wulf, “George III: The Eighteenth Century’s Most Prominent Mental Health Patient,” accessed 30 December 2020, https://georgianpapers. com/explore-­the-­collections/virtual-exhibits/. 58  See: Hedley, Queen Charlotte, 165. 54 55



severely restricted, while the Queen was allowed the control of the King’s person and household. Blamed by the opposition as a ‘power monger’ who wanted to assume the regency for herself, nevertheless, after the King’s recovery in February 1789, Charlotte’s popularity increased. Due to her unwavering loyalty to her husband, she was publicly acclaimed as “a pattern of domestic virtue which cannot be too much admired.”59 Nevertheless, the physical impact on Charlotte of this stressful period is best captured in Sir Thomas Lawrence’s portrait from the same year, which revealed how much the personal crisis had affected Charlotte’s looks. It matches the account of her Assistant Keeper of the Wardrobe, Mrs Papendiek, who described her as “much changed, her hair quite grey.”60 The instability of the political situation in the 1790s and first years of the nineteenth century, the threat of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, the concern for the well-being of her sons who served in the armed forces, and the deaths of both her sister Christiane and her brother Adolphus in 1794 certainly increased her worries. Furthermore, the King’s health deteriorated over the next decade, causing the couple to live apart from 1804. After 1811, he was so mentally unstable and almost blind that he was confined to his apartments at Windsor Castle. The Regency Bill of 1811 restated the Queen’s charge of her husband’s person and household, assisted by a council. Her aim was not to negotiate power for herself in conflict with the regency of her son but to secure the option for her husband to resume his duties, should he recover. For the rest of her life, Charlotte continued her public role as a model of moral conduct. After her reconciliation with the Prince of Wales in 1791, she supported him to enhance his popularity that had suffered severely because of his high debts and his secret marriage to the Catholic divorcée Maria Fitzherbert in 1785. His marriage to Caroline of Brunswick in 1795 was supposed to help the monarchy’s reputation but ended in a scandalous separation. The King had favoured his niece as a bride for his son, and although Charlotte was unhappy with the choice in view of unfavourable reports about Caroline’s character, she accepted her as a daughter-­ in-­law. “How many unpleasant things have passed … I hear all Sides & know so many things which must not be revealed that I am most truely wore down with it,” she confided to Lady Harcourt on her son’s

 Quoted in Marschner, Enlightened Princesses, 17.  National Gallery, London, inv. no. 4257; quoted in Levey, A Royal Subject, 7.

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marriage.61 It required Charlotte’s advice and skills to protect the Prince from renewed public disregard. In 1796 the Queen’s first legitimate grandchild, Princess Charlotte of Wales, whom she called “the little beauty,” was born.62 She would tragically die in 1817 after giving birth to a stillborn son.

The Retreat: Sentiment and Civic Idealisation Against the background of the King’s progressing illness, the Queen searched for a retreat for herself. In 1790 and 1792 she purchased Little Frogmore and Great Frogmore, two estates near Windsor Castle, on which she had Frogmore House built in the midst of an idyllic landscape garden. Charlotte was actively involved in the architectural planning and commissioned both male and female artists in the decoration.63 Here, she could devote herself to studying botany and reading. In a letter to her brother Charles, she wrote: I’ve been spending the mornings in the company of my daughters at Frogmore, my little Earthly Paradise, amusing ourselves with a good read, working there around a large table in the garden under the shade of some beautiful trees, and marvelling that the time goes by much more quickly than we would have wished.64

At Frogmore, Charlotte gathered a circle of intellectual men and women, one of which was the novelist, diarist, and playwright Frances ‘Fanny’ Burney.65 The Queen’s simple way of life and her interest in welfare, schools, hospitals, and industry served as “a moral compass and conscience for the nation.”66 By 1792 she had her print and drawing collection removed from Buckingham House to Frogmore House, which was also the site of her huge botanical collection as well as a printing press to create

 Quoted in Hedley, Queen Charlotte, 193.  Quoted in Hedley, Queen Charlotte, 194. 63  Samantha Howard, “Frogmore,” in Marschner, Enlightened Princesses, 359–362. 64  Quoted in Campbell Orr, “Marriage in a Global Context,” 126. 65  Clarissa Campbell Orr, “Queen Charlotte and Her Circle,” in The Wisdom of George the Third: Papers from a Symposium at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace June 2004, ed. Jonathan Marsden (London: Royal Collection Publications, 2005), 162–178. 66  Marschner, Enlightened Princesses, 19. 61 62



pedagogical tools for her children.67 Her library led directly into the garden “so that visually and architecturally her two main loves, books and flowers, flowed together.”68 The relaxed and bucolic atmosphere of Frogmore has been well captured by artists Henry Edridge and Sir William Beechey, showing the mature Queen enjoying the open country side sitting under a tree or walking with her pet dogs (Fig. 4.3).69 Other artists, especially miniaturists, converted these descriptions into lyrical renderings of a youthful queen as the epitome of sentiment and civic idealisation.70

Death and Legacy Since 1817, Charlotte had suffered from hydrothorax causing severe respiratory problems.71 She withdrew more and more from public life and only attended family events, such as the wedding of her daughter Elizabeth on 7 April 1818 in the private chapel in Buckingham Palace. In June 1818, her health declined further, and she retired to Kew Palace. There, in her Drawing Room, the double wedding of her sons William and Edward to the princesses Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen and Victoria of Saxe-CoburgSaalfeld took place on 11 July 1818. After five months of ailing, Charlotte died on 17 November 1818, in the presence of her eldest son, the Prince Regent. She was buried on 2 December 1818 in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Her husband survived her for over a year, probably unaware of her death. After her death, nearly all of Charlotte’s books and personal possessions were sold by auction to clear her debts. Her jewels were mainly left as heirlooms to the House of Hanover. Regrettably, most of her private papers were destroyed. Of her diaries, only several notebooks from 1789 and 1794 are preserved. Whereas but a dozen letters to her husband have survived, over 300 letters to her eldest son, George IV, and over 400 letters to her brother Charles II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, remain extant, giving insight into her innermost thoughts, intellectual interests, piety, artistic endeavours, and sociability.72 As Fanny Burney  Strobel, Artistic Matronage, 33; see RCIN 1128954.  Campbell Orr, “Marriage in a global context,” 126. 69  The Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 913865 and 405423. 70  See, for example, Royal Collection Trust RCIN 421672, 421852, 422429, and 422431. 71  Hedley, Queen Charlotte, 295. 72  Mascha Hansen is preparing the edition of Charlotte’s letters to her brother. 67 68



Fig. 4.3 Sir William Beechey, Queen Charlotte, 1796, oil on canvas, 250.8  ×  159.1  cm. (Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021)



remarked on the occasion of Charlotte’s death, she was an “exemplary queen.” A consort who tried to shape her image within the scope of her options via patronage and self-fashioning, she was also an enlightened Protestant wife and mother who “will live in the memory of those who knew her best, and be set up as an example even by those who only after her death know, or at least acknowledge, her virtues.”73

73  Frances Burney, Diary and Letters of Madame d’Arblay, ed. Charlotte Barrett, 7 vols. (London, 1854), 7:268.


Caroline of Brunswick: Queen on Trial Katie Carpenter

Caroline of Brunswick, consort of George IV, faced countless “trials”— both metaphorical and literal. Throughout her life, and especially after her marriage in 1795, she often met with stark choices: acquiesce to authority and convention or fight for the treatment and lifestyle she wanted. Caroline wished to enjoy the rights and privileges of a Princess of Wales, and later a queen consort, but without restrictions placed on her free and open behaviour. This was unacceptable to her husband, who spent most of their marriage trying to be rid of her. Caroline was not the first English consort to find herself married to a man who detested her. But Caroline and George’s marriage coincided with a critical period in British history. The political and social landscape was changing. The monarchy was held to account by the public, amidst fears of a revolution prompted by economic inequality and political corruption. George, who was unpopular himself owing to his lavish lifestyle, needed a viable reason to justify a divorce from his exceedingly popular wife. Thus, Caroline was subjected to multiple formal investigations instigated by her husband, as he sought evidence that would enable him to

K. Carpenter (*) University of Leeds, Leeds, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts, Queenship and Power, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-12829-5_5




secure a divorce. In 1820, she confronted an actual trial and was prosecuted for adultery in the House of Lords. Throughout her lifetime, political and parliamentary mechanisms were employed against her, yet she refused to bow to her husband’s will. Caroline’s determination to fight against the government, the monarchy, and her husband for what she believed were her rights made her an attractive symbol to radical politicians. Her popularity presented the opportunity to mobilise the unfranchised masses against the establishment, who were largely united in their support for Caroline.

Princess of Brunswick Caroline Amelia Elizabeth of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel was born on 17 May 1768. She was the third child and second daughter of Charles William Ferdinand, a hero of the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) and Hereditary Prince of the Duchy of Brunswick. Her mother, Princess Augusta Frederica of Great Britain, was the eldest child of Frederick, Prince of Wales (George II’s eldest son), and was elder sister to George III. Caroline grew up in Brunswick, where her father and mother maintained separate courts.1 Her formal education was limited, but her mother had her learn English to increase her chances of becoming the Princess of Wales.2 During her childhood, Caroline’s vibrant personality emerged, as she displayed a pronounced boldness and strong will. Undeterred by issues of rank, she had open and familiar conversations with her servants and local peasant children.3 Her unguarded nature was also evident in her interactions with men, which gave her a reputation for being inappropriate. As an adolescent, visits to a peasant cottage prompted rumours that she had a lover, and shortly afterwards she was taken ill.4 Naturally, this stirred gossip of a secret pregnancy, though this has never been confirmed. Caroline cared little for her image and relished opportunities for attention and amusement. By the time she reached her twenties, her reputation 1  Thea Holme, Caroline: A Biography of Caroline of Brunswick (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1979), 2–3. 2  Diaries and Correspondence of James Harris, First Earl of Malmesbury, ed. James Howard Harris, 4 vols. (London, 1844), 3:155. 3  Robert Huish, Memoirs of Her Late Majesty Caroline, Queen of Great Britain: Embracing, 2 vols. (London, 1820), 1:17; Joseph Nightingale, Memoirs of Her Late Majesty, Queen Caroline, Consort of King George the Fourth, 3 vols. (London, 1820–1822), 1:32–33. 4  Huish, Memoirs, 1:18.



preceded her. In August 1794, Queen Charlotte—consort to George III—was “stupefied” to hear that Caroline had been recommended as a bride for her brother Charles, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. In a letter to him, she strongly advised against Caroline as a potential wife: They say that her passions are so strong that the Duke himself [Caroline’s father] said that she was not to be allowed even to go from one room to another without her Governess, … and that all amusements have been forbidden her because of her indecent conduct, on account of which her father and mother have spoken with pain. There, dear brother, is a woman I do not recommend at all.5

Whether or not Caroline had illicit relationships with men, her vivacious and gregarious personality was controversial for an elite European woman. As Lord Melbourne commented years later, it was remarkable that Caroline was even entertained as a potential future queen, “for the character of the Princess of Brunswick was quite notorious.”6 By September 1794, Caroline, now twenty-six, was chosen as the future bride for George, Prince of Wales, and heir to the British throne.7 George already considered himself married. He had become infatuated with Maria Fitzherbert, a Catholic woman, and had a secret wedding ceremony in December 1785. The marriage was void, however, because George had not obtained the permission of his father, as required by the Royal Marriages Act of 1772.8 In addition, Fitzherbert was a Catholic so if the marriage were lawful, the Act of Settlement of 1701 would have barred George from the throne. His decision to marry again was driven by financial need. George had a lavish lifestyle, and by 1794 his debts had accumulated to over £500,000.9 Parliament would only agree to clear his debts and increase his annual income on the occasion of his marriage.

5  The Correspondence of George, Prince of Wales, 1770–1812, ed. A.  Aspinall, 8 vols. (London: Cassell, 1965), 3:9. 6  Queen Victoria’s Journals, 12 September 1838, Lord Esher’s Typescripts, vol. 7, p. 153, http://www.queenvictoriasjournals.org/search/displayItemFromId.do?FormatType=fullte xtimgsrc&QueryType=articles&ItemID=18380912. 7  Flora Fraser, The Unruly Queen: The Life of Queen Caroline (London: Macmillan, 1997), 42–43. 8  Jane Robins, Rebel Queen: How the Trial of Caroline Brought England to the Brink of Revolution (London: Pocket Books, 2007), 14. 9  Fraser, Unruly Queen, 40.



George did not put a great deal of thought into his choice of wife, and according to modern biographer Christopher Hibbert, “he seemed to think that any German princess would do.”10 He did not seriously consider any other woman and made few enquiries about Caroline. Queen Charlotte had not repeated the warnings she had sent to her brother. While she was personally unhappy with the choice of bride, she vowed not to get involved “so that no one should say she had any hand in anything.”11 Both her son and her husband remained ignorant of Caroline’s reputation prior to the marriage. George’s latest mistress, Frances, Lady Jersey, may have influenced the decision. Jersey might have chosen Caroline precisely because of her reputation, “from a hope that disgust with a wife would secure constancy to a mistress.”12 James Harris, Earl of Malmesbury, was sent to Brunswick in November 1794 to escort Caroline back to England. Her father, the Duke of Brunswick, confided to Malmesbury that he feared for Caroline’s future. “She is not stupid but she has no judgment,” the Duke acknowledged, and asked Malmesbury to advise her daughter on etiquette.13 It was through conversations with Malmesbury that Caroline got her first taste of the expectations of her as the future Princess of Wales. Malmesbury advised her “to avoid familiarity, to have no confidantes, to avoid giving any opinion; to approve, but not to admire excessively; to be perfectly silent on politics and party; to be very attentive and respectful to the Queen; to endeavour, at all events, to be well with her.”14 As well as being diplomatic advice on maintaining harmony within the royal family, it was an allusion to the importance of to keeping women out of politics, as modelled by Queen Charlotte, who considered “medling [sic] in politics” as “equal to sin.”15 In December, Caroline received an anonymous letter, informing her of George’s relationship with Jersey. Malmesbury believed the author had intended to tempt Caroline to take a lover herself and warned her that “anybody who presumed to love her was guilty of high treason, and punished with death, if she was weak enough to listen to him: 10  Christopher Hibbert, George IV: Prince of Wales, 1762–1811 (New York: Harper & Row, 1979), 135. 11  Fraser, Unruly Queen, 44. 12  Henry Richard Holland, Memoirs of the Whig Party During My Time, ed. Henry Edward Holland, 2 vols. (London, 1854), 2:144. See also: Fraser, Unruly Queen, 43–44. 13  Diaries and Correspondence of James Harris, 3:164. 14  Diaries and Correspondence of James Harris, 3:166. 15  Olwen Hedley, Queen Charlotte (London: J. Murray, 1975), 65.



so also would she.”16 Caroline was startled to hear this warning, but she listened attentively to Malmesbury’s advice. On 5 April 1795, Caroline arrived at Greenwich, to be greeted by Jersey, who had been appointed Lady of the Bedchamber. The first meeting between George and Caroline set the tone for the rest of the marriage. Malmesbury, the only witness to the interaction, introduced Caroline to George: She very properly, in consequence of my saying to her it was the right mode of proceeding, attempted to kneel to him. He raised her (gracefully enough), and embraced her, said barely one word, turned around, retired to a distant part of the apartment, and calling me to him, said “Harris, I am not well; pray get me a glass of brandy.”

Left alone with Malmesbury, Caroline expressed her astonishment: “My God! Is the Prince always like that? I find him very fat, and not as handsome as his portrait.”17 After this disastrous first meeting, Caroline’s manners over the next few days irritated George. Malmesbury, who witnessed the couple’s first dinner together, described Caroline as “flippant, rattling, affecting raillery and wit.” The Prince later asked Malmesbury why he had not warned him about Caroline’s manners.18 A mismatch of personalities seems the main cause of their problems. George was a stickler for etiquette and polite formalities but Caroline was not. On the contrary, Caroline was open, unrestrained, and lively, which was often construed as inappropriate and rude.

Marriage The wedding ceremony at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, went ahead three days later, on the evening of 8 April. George was drunk, agitated, and on the verge of tears. Lady Maria Stuart, a witness to the ceremony, described him as “like Death and full of confusion, as if he wished to hide himself from the looks of the whole world.” Caroline, meanwhile, was in “the greatest joy possible” and characteristically talkative.19 She was  Diaries and Correspondence of James Harris, 3:189.  Diaries and Correspondence of James Harris, 3:218. 18  Diaries and Correspondence of James Harris, 3:219. 19  The Jerningham Letters (1780–1843): Being Excerpts from the Correspondence and Diaries of the Honorable Lady Jerningham and of Her Daughter Lady Bedingfeld, ed. Egerton Castle, 2 vols. (London, 1896), 1:75. 16 17



likely excited about her own prospects as a member of the British royal family; Malmesbury had noted on first meeting Caroline that she was “Vastly happy with her future expectations” as the future Queen.20 The marriage’s poor start worsened on their wedding night. According to Caroline, George drunkenly fell unconscious under the fireplace: “he passed the greatest part of his bridal-night under the grate, where he fell, and where I left him.”21 According to George, they had sex only three times: twice on their first night, and once on the second. He believed she was not a virgin, as she had commented on the size of his penis (“how should she know this without a previous means of comparison”). He claimed that she “turned my stomach” and vowed never to sleep with her again.22 After the first few weeks of marriage, Caroline found herself living an isolated and strictly controlled existence. According to Caroline, she was locked up all day in Carlton House (her husband’s main London residence) with limited company and forced to dine with Jersey, but George denied these accusations.23 Fortunately, the brief nights they spent together resulted in a pregnancy, and Caroline gave birth to a daughter, Princess Charlotte, on 7 January 1796. Whilst the couple were delighted with the birth of their daughter, George’s contempt for Caroline was evident in a will written only three days later, in which he left all his possessions to Maria Fitzherbert and bequeathed to Caroline one shilling.24 Tensions peaked in April 1796, and George wrote to Caroline at her request to outline the terms of their marriage. In a letter dated 30 April 1796, George stated that “Our inclinations are not in our power; nor should either of us be held answerable for the other, because nature has not made us suitable to each other.” At her request, he assured her that in the event of the death of Princess Charlotte, Caroline would not be obliged to engage in a “connection of a more particular nature” to conceive another legitimate heir to the throne. He closed the letter in the hope that “as we have completely explained ourselves to each other, the

 Emphasis in original. Diaries and Correspondence of James Harris, 3:153.  Charlotte Bury, Diary Illustrative of the Times of George the Fourth: Interspersed with Original Letters from the Late Queen Caroline, and from Various Other Distinguished Persons, 2 vols. (London, 1838), 1:36–37. 22  Saul David, Prince of Pleasure: The Prince of Wales and the Making of the Regency (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1998), 169–170. 23  Correspondence of George, 3:168–169. 24  Correspondence of George, 3:132–138. 20 21



rest of our lives will be passed in uninterrupted tranquillity.”25 Caroline was delighted to receive this letter. In her view, it was the license she needed to live her life on her own terms. Hopes for uninterrupted tranquillity did not last long. George resented Caroline’s popularity with the public, and confessed he would not be seen with her at the theatre, “as it could not be very pleasant to him to know the whole applause was directed to her and not to him.”26 If part of George’s motivation for getting married was to overturn his unpleasant image, the union was unsuccessful. In the first half of 1796, rumours of the couple’s marital problems reached the press. George, already unpopular with the public owing to his history of financial recklessness, emerged alongside Lady Jersey as the villain of the piece. George’s alleged ill-­ treatment of his wife made Caroline a convenient political tool for anti-­ establishment sentiments. While much of the press portrayed Caroline as the innocent victim at the hands of an oppressive husband, Whig newspapers, such as the Morning Herald, were especially hostile to George.27 When the Princess complained of continued isolation within Carlton House in late 1797, George asserted that “while she remains under my roof, the rules I have laid down are unalterable and must be adhered to.”28 In early December 1797, Caroline demanded a meeting in person with George. To his astonishment, speaking in French, she rejected his authority as husband and Prince: Monsieur, there is no point in any explanation, I have only two words to say to you. I have been two and a half years in this house. You have treated me neither as your wife, nor as the mother of your child, nor as the Princess of Wales. I advise you that from this moment I have nothing more to say to you, and that I regard myself as being no longer subject to your orders, or your rules.

Presumably owing to her flair for the dramatic, she spoke the last word in English.29 Members of the royal family and their political advisors 25  George, Prince of Wales, to Caroline, Princess of Wales, letter, 30 April 1796, HL/PO/ JO/10/8/512, Main Papers, Parliamentary Archives, London. 26  The Political Memoranda of Francis Fifth Duke of Leeds, ed. Oscar Browning (London, 1884), 229. 27  Fraser, Unruly Queen, 94. 28  Correspondence of George, 3:375. 29  Fraser, Unruly Queen, 109.



exchanged correspondence on how to move forward.30 It was agreed that the Princess should have her own residence. George III would not allow a public separation, but Caroline was no longer obliged to spend time at Carlton House. By 1798, Caroline preferred to stay at Charlton House in Greenwich, with occasional visits to Carlton House, and later established her own household, Montague House, by Greenwich Park.31 Her daughter Charlotte remained at Carlton House under her father’s control (although Charlotte rarely saw him) and was permitted weekly visits to her mother.32 Now out of her husband’s household, Caroline did what she wanted and saw who she pleased. One close acquaintance, Lady Charlotte Campbell, recalled that Caroline made wax effigies of her husband at the dinner table—she stabbed them with pins and melted them.33 She was characteristically open about her marital breakdown, which prompted one acquaintance to note “she is really not discreet.”34 She also indulged in her love of children by making multiple local poor children her protégés and overseeing their education. One boy, William Austin, was adopted by Caroline and taken into her household in 1802, at about three months of age. Austin became the centre of the first major investigation into Caroline’s conduct: “the Delicate Investigation” of 1806. Sir John and Lady Charlotte Douglas, her close neighbours, made accusations against Caroline to the royal family. They accused her of sending them obscene letters and claimed she had confessed that Austin was her biological son. These accusations were serious enough that George III had no choice but to allow an inquiry. The Delicate Investigation comprised of four Lords, who were tasked with ascertaining if Austin was Caroline’s biological son. They took statements from each of the Douglases and members of Caroline’s household. According to Lady Douglas, Caroline had confessed to her that she was pregnant and that if the child was a boy, she planned to pretend it was her husband’s, as she had spent two nights at

 Fraser, Unruly Queen, 108–114.  Fraser, Unruly Queen, 114. 32  Holme, Caroline, 63–64. 33  Bury, Diary Illustrative, 1:294. 34  Life and Letters of Sir Gilbert Elliot First Earl of Minto from 1751 to 1806, ed. Emma Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 3 vols. (London, 1874), 3:12. 30 31



Carlton House earlier that year.35 Caroline’s flair for dramatics and inappropriate sense of humour made it entirely probable that she did say this to Lady Douglas; as a teenager she had pretended to be in labour in revenge for being banned from attending a ball by her parents.36 During the investigation, Sophia Austin, the wife of an unemployed labourer, testified that the boy was hers; this was confirmed by Caroline’s servants, who never had reason to believe she was pregnant. The commissioners of the Delicate Investigation concluded that there was no foundation for the reports that Caroline had given birth, but they expressed concern that her conduct gave “occasion to very unfavourable interpretations.”37 The Prince of Wales was enraged with what he described as “the degree of lenity” given to Caroline and expressed his wish that his father would recommend that parliament pass an act dissolving the marriage.38 The King was in a difficult position, however, since nothing illegal had been proven. In 1811, George was declared Prince Regent and he made it clear that any friend of Caroline’s would not be invited to his court.39 In 1812, Caroline’s access to her daughter was restricted to once per fortnight.40 Since establishing a separate household, Caroline had attracted a number of allies, who saw the opportunity to use her popularity as a means to further their political aims—namely, to rally the public against the Tory government. From 1812, she was aligned with the radical MP Henry Brougham. In January 1813, on Caroline’s behalf, he wrote a letter of protest addressed to the Prince Regent, which was later printed in the Morning Chronicle. The letter presented Caroline’s estrangement from Charlotte as a national concern, suggesting that it would damage the country if Charlotte, a future Queen, was separated from her mother and excluded from society.41 To George’s fury, the letter, coupled with the death of Caroline’s mother in March 1813, evoked much support and

35  Spencer Perceval, The Genuine Book. An Inquiry, or Delicate Investigation into the Conduct of Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, 3rd ed. (London, 1813), appendix b, 85. 36  Fraser, Unruly Queen, 20. 37  Perceval, Genuine Book, 9. 38  Correspondence of George, 5:408. 39  Fraser, Unruly Queen, 221. 40  Christopher Hibbert, George IV: Regent and King, 1811–1830 (London: Allen Lane, 1973), 38. 41  “The Letter of the Princess of Wales to the Prince Regent,” Morning Chronicle, 10 February 1813.



sympathy from the public.42 Jane Austen saw the letter and wrote to a friend: “Poor Woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman & because I hate her Husband.”43 As Austen’s words demonstrate, the intensity of support for Caroline seems rooted in the common dislike for George, rather than owing to her own personal qualities. In 1814, Caroline left Britain, or, as she called it, her “scene of persecution.”44 She took to travelling around Europe, favouring Italy. This departure was a pivotal moment for Caroline and Charlotte’s relationship. Unbeknownst to Caroline, in December of that year, Charlotte confided in her father some shocking details of her relationship with her mother. Most alarmingly, she accused Caroline of locking her in a bedroom with a potential suitor and telling them to “have fun.”45 The Prince Regent was outraged, and it was agreed Charlotte should never see her mother again. The depth of genuine feeling between mother and daughter is uncertain. Caroline had certainly warred with her husband over access to her daughter, but, of course, Charlotte was also a convenient pawn between the estranged couple. In May 1816, Princess Charlotte married Prince Leopold of Saxe-­ Coburg-­Saalfeld. Eighteenth months later, in November 1817, Charlotte died aged twenty-one, after giving birth to a stillborn son. Caroline reacted with grief for the loss of her daughter, but revealingly commented that Charlotte was her “last hope” at regaining any status in England.46 Although she likely had some genuine affection for her daughter, she immediately perceived the impact Charlotte’s death had on her own position. No longer tied by the bond of shared parenthood, George’s efforts to be rid of her intensified. In September 1818, the next official attempt to accumulate evidence of Caroline’s adultery was put into motion. The “Milan Commission,” as it was known, saw a deputation of investigators sent to Italy to collect testimonies against Caroline from acquaintances and former servants. They were successful in procuring a large number of  Fraser, Unruly Queen, 232–235.  Jane Austen’s Letters, ed. Deirdre Le Faye (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 216–217. 44  Royal Correspondence: Or, Letters, between Her Late Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte and Her Royal Mothre [sic], Queen Caroline of England during the Exile of the Latter (London, 1822), 11. 45  The Letters of King George IV, 1812–1830, ed. A. Aspinall, 3 vols. (Cambridge: University Press, 1938), 1:518. 46  Holme, Caroline, 185. 42 43



testimonies, but these were not immediately used in legal proceedings. The Government was acutely aware of Caroline’s popularity and was regardless keen to prevent a public scandal. Before a long-term separation agreement was reached, George III died on 29 January 1820. George IV and Caroline were now king and queen.

Prosecuting a Queen As king, George IV’s efforts to be rid of Caroline were undiminished. In February 1820, Caroline was excluded from the Anglican liturgy. Clergymen across the country were instructed not to mention the Queen in Sunday prayers for the royal family. There was also the unresolved issue of her annuity; the agreement in which she received £35,000 annually had expired on the death of George III. As questions about her role played out in public and in parliament, Caroline was contemplating her next move on the continent. She resolved to return to Britain and landed at Dover on 5 June 1820, where adoring crowds greeted her with cries of “God Bless Queen Caroline.”47 Vocal portions of the public were passionately supportive; Caroline, as a perceived victim of the corrupt regime, struck a chord with a disenfranchised public hungry for parliamentary and economic reform.48 The arrival of Caroline on British soil was an affront to the new King. George wasted no time in mobilising parliament in his plans to be rid of her. The day after she arrived, a message from the King was delivered to both Houses of Parliament, with the testimonies of the Milan Commission sealed in green bags. The House of Lords appointed a secret committee to examine the evidence. A month later, the secret committee reported that the documents contained allegations that “deeply affect the honour of the queen, charging her majesty with an adulterous connection with a  Fraser, Unruly Queen, 363.  John Gardner, Poetry and Popular Protest: Peterloo, Cato Street and the Queen Caroline Controversy (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); Thomas W.  Laqueur, “The Queen Caroline Affair: Politics as Art in the Reign of George IV,” Journal of Modern History 54, no. 3 (September 1982): 417–466; Nicholas Rogers, Crowds, Culture, and Politics in Georgian Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 248–273; John Stevenson, “The Queen Caroline Affair,” in London in the Age of Reform, ed. John Stevenson (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1977), 117–148. On the loyalist response, see: Jonathan Fulcher, “The Loyalist Response to the Queen Caroline Agitations,” Journal of British Studies 34, no. 4 (October 1995): 481–502. 47 48



foreigner.” The “foreigner” in question was Bartolomeo Pergami, who ran the Queen’s household abroad; the Committee recommended “a solemn enquiry.”49 Whilst the Secret Committee was examining the evidence, the government was trying to reach an arrangement between the King and Queen that would not spark a potentially inflammatory investigation into Caroline’s private life. It was proposed that Caroline would be granted an annuity of £50,000, provided she leave Britain permanently and surrender the title and rights of queen consort. This settlement was unacceptable to Caroline, who insisted “that the recognition of her rank and privileges as queen, must be the basis of any Arrangement which can be made.”50 This recognition was unthinkable to George. The spouses had reached a deadlock. Parliament could not intervene to break the impasse until the question of Caroline’s guilt had been resolved. George could not be granted a divorce in the usual manner, via the ecclesiastical courts, since he himself had committed adultery, and even if Caroline was guilty, they were separated at the time.51 Nor could Caroline be tried for treason. The Treason Act of 1351 put the culpability onto the man who “violated” the wife of the King or the heir to the throne—her fault lay in consenting to his treason. Since Pergami was Italian and the alleged infidelity took place abroad, he could not be found guilty of treason, and thus neither could Caroline by consent.52 Ultimately, a Bill of Pains and Penalties was decided as the best course of action. Such bills were designed to inflict punishments in cases where any alleged misconduct could not be prosecuted through the usual route. On 5 July 1820, the Bill had its first reading in the House of Lords. It began its passage through parliament as usual, but before the vote on the second reading, proceedings took the form of a trial to establish if the allegations of adultery were true. Unlike a regular trial, Caroline’s legal team was not given a list of witnesses in advance, nor was there a specification of where or when the alleged adultery took place. The key moments 49  Report of the Secret Committee, 4 July 1820, no. 335, HL/PO/JO/10/8/517, main papers, Parliamentary Archives, London. 50  1 Parl. Deb. (2nd ser.) (1820) 1148. 51  For a contemporary account of why a usual divorce was not possible, see: The Diary of Henry Hobhouse (1820–1827), ed. A. Aspinall (London: Home & Van Thal, 1947), 5–8. For a modern account, see: R.A. Melikan, “Pains and Penalties Procedure: How the House of Lords ‘Tried’ Queen Caroline,” Parliamentary History 20, no. 3 (November 2001): 315. 52  Melikan, “Pains and Penalties,” 315.



in the trial will be summarised here.53 The proceedings began with the second reading of the Bill on 17 August. Caroline sat at the bar of the House, surrounded by the peers—all of whom were required to attend. The first two days were occupied by the opening speeches of Caroline’s attorney, Brougham, and her solicitor-general, Thomas Denman. The hypocrisies of sexual politics were a theme from the beginning, which Brougham specifically highlighted in his opening speech.54 Gender and sexuality were consistent undertones throughout “the Queen Caroline affair,” as the trial and public agitation came to be known. Caroline’s trial has been perceived as a significant historical event in the examination of gendered ideals, and the affair also brought women’s issues into mainstream politics.55 The prosecution began its case on 19 August. In his opening speech, the government’s attorney-general Robert Gifford outlined the evidence against Caroline. The accusations dated back by several years. Gifford referred to witnesses as having seen Caroline sitting on Pergami’s knee, allowing him to be present whilst she bathed, and visiting him in his bedroom at night. In addition, it was pointed out that shortly after Pergami’s employment, William Austin, by now a teenager, was no longer permitted to sleep in the same room as her. Witnesses were questioned by the prosecutors, followed by a cross-examination by the Queen’s counsel, and the lords. Caroline was shocked to see the first witness called in: Theodore Majocchi, who had been in her service between 1815 and 1818. As Majocchi entered the chambers, Caroline burst out “Theodore! no! no!” before hastily leaving the room.56 After this initial incident, she often excused herself from the main trial to wait in an adjoining room playing backgammon.57 Majocchi’s testimony, given in Italian and conveyed by 53  For a detailed account of the proceedings, see: Roger Fulford, The Trial of Queen Caroline (London: Stein and Day, 1967); Melikan, “Pains and Penalties,” 311–332. 54  2 Parl. Deb. (2nd ser.) (1820) 646. 55  Louise Carter, “British Masculinities on Trial in the Queen Caroline Affair of 1820,” Gender and History 20, no. 2 (August 2008): 248–269; Anna Clark, “Queen Caroline and the Sexual Politics of Popular Culture in London, 1820,” Representations 31 (Summer 1990): 47–68; Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780–1850 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 150–155. 56  2 Parl. Deb. (2nd Ser.) (1820) 804. 57  The Private Letters of Princess Lieven to Prince Metternich, 1820–1826, ed. Peter Quennell (London: John Murray, 1937), 70.



two translators, depicted Caroline’s close relationship with Pergami. They had allegedly been alone together in intimate circumstances, such as whilst she was bathing. According to Majocchi, on a journey from Israel to Italy, Caroline and Pergami had slept in a tent together erected on the deck of the ship. Majocchi, who slept below the deck, heard “the creaking of a bench.”58 However, his statements were significantly undermined by his cross-examination by Brougham, in which he repeatedly answered, “I do not remember.”59 Over the next few weeks, the prosecution continued to call upon witnesses who gave similar suggestive descriptions of Caroline’s closeness with Pergami. Louisa Demont, a Swiss maid who had joined Caroline’s household in 1814, gave an especially damning testimony. As she had known Caroline intimately, and had been treated more as a friend than as a maid, she was one of the star witnesses against Caroline.60 Like many others, she described the very familiar relationship between Caroline and Pergami. Her testimony included witnessing Caroline partially undressed in Pergami’s company and seeing her bed with the appearance of more than one person having slept in it.61 But, like Majocchi, Demont’s credibility quickly disappeared under cross-examination. Her answers to questions were tremendously vague, and multiple times she used the phrases “I do not recollect” and “I will not swear but I do not recollect.” The defence had also acquired two letters written by Demont that undermined her testimony and character. The first letter was written to her sister Mariette Brun, dated 8 February 1818, who was, at the time of the trial, still employed by Caroline. In the letter, Demont described being offered a bribe to speak against Caroline, stating that she was “promised a high protection, and a most brilliant fortune in a short time.”62 The second letter, dated 16 November 1817, was written by Demont to Caroline, begging for forgiveness after she was fired for lying.63 It suggested that Demont was, by her own admission, a liar, and she left the witness stand largely discredited.  Fulford, Trial, 62.  Fulford, Trial, 55–74. 60  Fraser, Unruly Queen, 315. 61  Fulford, Trial, 100–117. 62  Louisa Demont to Mariette Brun, letter, 8 February 1818, HL/PO/JO/10/8/512, main papers, Parliamentary Archives, London. 63  Louisa Demont to Caroline, Princess of Wales, letter, 16 November 1817, HL/PO/ JO/10/8/512, main papers, Parliamentary Archives, London. 58 59



The prosecution summarised its case on 7 September. A strong case had been made in proving Caroline’s unusually free and intimate behaviour with Pergami, which was certainly suggestive of adultery. This was not, of course, the same as proof of adultery itself. While the viewing public and peerage were certainly shocked, the question mark over the witnesses’ credibility continued to work in Caroline’s favour.

Defending a Queen Following a three-week recess, the trial continued on 3 October. The defence opened with a speech by Henry Brougham, which took over a day and a half to deliver. During the speech, Brougham presented two letters from Caroline’s past. The first, dated 15 November 1804, was from George III to his daughter-in-law Caroline. Her defence team drew on the memory of George III, who was better respected by the public than his loathed son, to rehabilitate the Queen’s reputation. The letter, addressed to “My dearest daughter-in-law and niece,” demonstrated the deceased King’s affection for Caroline, and, in contrast to his son, his desire for Caroline to be involved in her then-infant daughter’s life.64 Secondly, Brougham presented the aforementioned letter from 1796 that George had sent to Caroline at her request, outlining the terms of their marriage. As Caroline had intended in 1796, the letter served to absolve her from the blame of the breakdown of the marriage and put the responsibility for the separation on George. It was used to this effect by Brougham, as he argued, It is a permission to live apart, and a desire never to come together again— the expression of an opinion, that their happiness was better consulted, and pursued asunder, and a very plain indication, that her majesty’s conduct should at least not be watched with all the scrupulousness and all the rigour and scrutinising agency, which has brought the present bill of Pains and Penalties before your lordships.65

The social class dimension of the trial was apparent in the choice of witnesses. While witnesses for the prosecution had primarily been Italians of low-birth, the witnesses for the defence were from the highest ranks of the 64  George III to Caroline, Princess of Wales, letter, 15 November 1804, HL/PO/ JO/10/8/512, main papers, Parliamentary Archives, London. 65  3 Parl. Deb. (2nd ser.) (1820) 207–208.



English aristocracy. Lady Charlotte Lindsay, the only female witness to speak in favour of the Queen, had spent twenty-four days with Caroline in Italy in March 1815. When asked, “Did your ladyship ever observe any impropriety of conduct between the princess of Wales and Pergami?” Lindsay responded with a simple “Never.”66 Asked by Lord Calthorpe about Caroline’s relationship with her servants, Lindsay replied: “I certainly think that her royal highness was peculiarly affable and familiar in her manner to all her servants.”67 This familiarity, Lindsay suggested, was not uncommon in foreigners who behaved more freely with their servants than the English. Given Caroline’s past behaviour, and her lack of regard for decorum, this rapport seems likely. Lindsay’s testimony was supported by further defence witnesses, such as Keppel Craven and Sir William Gell, who stated they never saw any impropriety. Fears of underhand tactics by the prosecution and the Milan commissioners were fuelled by the testimony of witnesses who claimed they had been bribed. Giuseppe Carolini, a former workman of Caroline’s, testified that an agent of the Milan commission had approached him and informed him that “Englishmen at Milan” were seeking incriminating information. He attested that the man “told me, that if I had anything to say against her royal highness (for I had been a long time in her service) to tell it to him, and he would endeavour to make me be paid.”68 These accusations were corroborated the next day when Filipo Pomi stated he was also offered a bribe: “if I had anything to say against her royal highness, I should receive a great present.”69 The trial formally ended on 6 November when the vote on the second reading was taken. It passed with a majority of twenty-eight. The supposed familiarity between Caroline and Pergami, it seems, was enough to strongly suggest adultery. On 10 November, the Bill passed its third reading with nine votes. The smaller majority was owing to continued controversy amongst the Lords on the appropriateness of using a bill of this kind to obtain a divorce. Given the small majority, the Prime Minister Lord Liverpool announced, “they had come to the determination not to proceed further with it.”70 Caroline silently wept as she left the building, still  3 Parl. Deb. (2nd ser.) (1820) 315.  3 Parl. Deb. (2nd ser.) (1820) 324. 68  3 Parl. Deb. (2nd ser.) (1820) 577. 69  3 Parl. Deb. (2nd ser.) (1820) 657. 70  3 Parl. Deb. (2nd ser.) (1820) 1746. 66 67



queen consort.71 The King, on the other hand, confided in Lord Sidmouth that “he found his body, his nerves and his spirits so shattered that he was unfit to cope with the difficulties of his station, and that he had serious thoughts of retiring to Hanover, and leaving this Kingdom to the Duke of York.”72

After the Trial On the abandonment of the bill, festivities broke out across the country. One account described “all the unmitigated extravagances of a popular triumph; public meetings, addresses, illuminations, squibs, bon-fires, and breaking of windows, together with such other ebullitions of gaiety, as his majesty the mob, when tickled, delighteth to indulge in.”73 Caroline’s political allies organised the presentation of congratulatory addresses and her attendance at a morning service at St Paul’s Cathedral, intended as a “thanksgiving” to her supporters. As she rode in her carriage to the cathedral, she was accompanied by 500 horsemen and a crowd of 50,000 people gathered along the route.74 Public opinion was a significant force in the proceedings and their aftermath. The marital strife between George and Caroline had always attracted significant press attention, but it peaked during the trial. In a much-cited article, essayist William Hazlitt wrote that the affair “struck its roots into the heart of the nation.”75 Press coverage and public opinion descended into melodrama. As Thomas Laqueur has shown, “People spoke of it as if it were theater.”76 It marked a major turning point in the history of the British monarchy, where the press and public took a frenzied interest in the intimate details of the royal family’s lives. Immediately after the trial, Caroline’s attention turned to the restoration of the rights that she was owed as queen consort. Specifically, she wanted a royal residence and household, an increased annuity, and re-­ inclusion in the liturgy. Still under the influence of Brougham, Caroline’s 71  Joseph Arnould, Life of Thomas, First Lord Denman Formerly Lord Chief Justice of England, 2 vols. (Boston, 1874), 1:140. 72  Diary of Henry Hobhouse, 40. 73  The Life and Remains of Theodore Edward Hook, ed. R.H. Dalton Barham, 2 vols. (London, 1849), 1:199. 74  Fraser, Unruly Queen, 449. 75  The Literary Examiner: Consisting of the Indicator, A Review of Books, and Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose and Verse (London, 1823), 318. 76  Laqueur, “The Queen Caroline Affair,” 448–449.



team initially took a hard-line approach. Brougham presented communications to the House of Commons, stating that she would decline any arrangement “while her name continues to be excluded from the Liturgy.”77 Just over a month later, she made a dramatic reversal. Against the wishes of her advisors, she accepted the Prime Minister’s offer of a £50,000 pension. This was in line with the £40,000 given to Queen Charlotte on her marriage to George III, which was later increased to £58,000.78 It seems Caroline was tired of the endless political and parliamentary conflict and wished to finally live her life as a queen. For Francis Burdett, a radical ally, this was because “her want of real power made her own scheme the best.”79 But this decision, whilst securing Caroline a financial settlement, resulted in the loss of support from radical circles. Brougham was furious. By accepting an offer from the government, she “destroyed her image as the victim of oppression, at one with the people.”80 Caroline reportedly wrote, “No one in fact, care [sic] for me … and this business had been more cared for as a political affair, dan as de [sic] cause of a poor forlorn woman.”81 The decision to accept the annuity was a marked departure in Caroline’s relationship with her political allies, which had previously been sustained by a mutual interest in undermining the government and the King. Her radical advisors sought to destabilise the government in a push for parliamentary reform, but Caroline, having accepted the annuity, was seen to be working with them. This decision is particularly revealing in understanding the motivations of both Caroline and her allies. Her priority was her own position, and her alliance with Whig radicals was only ever a convenience. This pragmatism, however, worked both ways. Much of the radical activity and press support was rooted in hatred for the government and the king, rather than any personal attachment to Caroline or concern for her plight. Whilst there had been bursts of celebration after the trial in support of Caroline, this enthusiasm for her cause saw a decline. Loyalist support underwent a revival of meetings, addresses, and publications. For  4 Parl. Deb. (2nd ser.) (1821) 237.  51 Parl. Deb. (3rd ser). (1840) 599. 79  Arnould, Life of Thomas, 1:143. 80  Robins, Rebel Queen, 306. See also: Holme, Caroline, 217; Melikan, “Pains and Penalties,” 327; Jason Thompson, Queen Caroline and Sir William Gell: A Study in Royal Patronage and Classical Scholarship (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), 113. 81  The Croker Papers: The Correspondence and Diaries of the Late Right Honourable John Wilson Croker, ed. Louis J. Jennings, 3 vols. (London, 1884), 1:180. 77 78



instance, John Bull, a newspaper established in December 1820, was partially motivated by a desire to drum up loyalist responses, depicting Caroline as morally corrupt.82 By the early months of 1821, Caroline’s public image had gone from an “attractive and dignified woman” to a “painted strumpet.”83 Although she originally planned to return to Europe, by 12 June she wrote to her confidant William Gell “Italie [sic] is lost for me at least for a long Period.” Part of her plans to stay in England included making a triumphant appearance at her husband’s coronation, which had been postponed due to the trial. She discussed her plans to research precedents on the queen consort’s role in the ceremony, noting to Gell, “I shall have a Consultation to assure what Right Pergatife and Privileges I have on that occasion [sic].”84 She wrote to the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, several times about her intention to attend the coronation. Liverpool, however, was unconvinced that she would actually have the courage to attend the ceremony; he wrote to the King that “the threat respecting to coronation is wholly undeserving of notice or attention.”85 If Liverpool truly believed this, he had misjudged the tenacity of Caroline’s character. On the day of the coronation, 19 July 1821, Caroline drove to Westminster Abbey, where she attempted to enter. The guards refused her entry. She tried multiple doors, but was blocked by guards at every attempt.86 According to a witness, “She was raging and storming and vociferating, ‘Let me pass; I am your Queen, I am Queen of Britain.’”87 After having doors shut in her face, she finally gave up. Nonetheless, her hopes were still not crushed. She wrote to her husband the same day, asking to be crowned the next Monday.88 Any further struggle over Caroline’s rights would no doubt have occupied the rest of the King’s reign. Caroline, however, suddenly fell ill with  Fulcher, “Loyalist Response,” 489.  Tamara L. Hunt, “Morality and Monarchy in the Queen Caroline Affair,” Albion 23, no. 4 (1991): 719. 84  Thompson, Queen Caroline, 255. 85  Lord Liverpool to George IV, letter, 30 April 1821, Letterbook of George IV’s private correspondence, GEO/MAIN/24918–24919, private papers of George IV, Royal Archives, Windsor. Accessed on Georgian Papers Online, https://gpp.rct.uk/Record. aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=GIV_PRIV%2f1%2f1. 86  Holme, Caroline, 225. 87  Joanna Richardson, The Disastrous Marriage: A Study of George IV and Caroline of Brunswick (London: Jonathan Cape, 1960), 208. 88  Holme, Caroline, 225. 82 83



a suspected bowel obstruction. She asked her doctor, “Do you think I am poisoned?”89 On her deathbed, she forgave her enemies and spoke of the children who had touched her life, including William Austin and Victorine Pergami, the daughter of her alleged lover.90 She maintained her nerves of steel to the very end, repeatedly saying “I won’t die without pain, but I will die without regret.”91 She was remarkably calm in her final moments and spoke matter-of-factly about her impending death, even when doctors did not believe it.92 She died on 7 August, aged 53. Caroline’s funeral was marked with the same controversy and chaos that shaped so much of her life. In her will, Caroline requested that her coffin be inscribed with the words “Here lies Caroline of Brunswick, the injured Queen of England.”93 Lord Liverpool wrote to Lord Sidmouth that this inscription could not be placed on her coffin “by an authority or consent of the government, nor be permitted whilst the coffin is in possession of the officers of government. What her Majesty’s executors may do afterwards, it is not our business to inquire.”94 A silver plate with Caroline’s desired inscription was made but attempts to attach it to the coffin were blocked. Lord Liverpool arranged for the funeral procession to avoid places where support for Caroline had been most intense, including the City of London, which was a hotspot of radicalism and under the purview of her ally Lord Mayor Matthew Wood. To Liverpool, and no doubt much of the government, Caroline’s death concluded years of controversy and, in his words, “the only consideration should be how we can close the business most quietly and without offence.”95 Nevertheless, crowds of supporters flocked to the streets and blocked the planned procession route; in the chaos, two men were killed. The cortege was forced to go through the City unplanned. It was Caroline’s final victory against the forces that sought to control the course of her life. Caroline’s body reached her native Brunswick later in the month, where she was interred on 25 August in the vaults of Brunswick Cathedral, with her father and brother. 89  E.A. Smith, A Queen on Trial: The Affair of Queen Caroline (Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1993), 188. 90  Robins, Rebel Queen, 313. 91  Smith, Queen on Trial, 194. 92  J.H. Adolphus, The Last Days, Death, Funeral Obsequies, &c., of Her Late Majesty Caroline Queen Consort of Great Britain (n.p., 1822), 42–43. 93  Adolphus, The Last Days, 63. 94  Smith, Queen on Trial, 197. 95  Smith, Queen on Trial, 197.



Caroline was only formally on trial once in her lifetime, in 1820. But she was tried in many other ways: in the court of public opinion, in which she mostly triumphed; in formal investigations, which usually concluded that she technically did nothing wrong, but condemned her behaviour; and in testing the limits of the restraints placed on her by her husband, as well as the rules and conventions of royal womanhood. The standards placed upon Caroline—to be silent and submissive—were not unique to her. Caroline’s distinctiveness lies in her utter inability to be crushed by the weight of monarchical expectations and notions of passive and silent femininity. She was courageous, dramatic, eccentric, loved, and hated, and it was precisely these qualities that made her an attractive symbol to the radical movement. The official trial of 1820 occupied less than a year of Caroline’s life, but it symbolised a lifetime’s worth of scrutiny and controversy surrounding the fight for the rights and lifestyle she wanted.


Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen: The Childless Queen Mother Joseph Massey

One of the central functions of a queen consort throughout history has been to provide an heir to the throne, thereby guaranteeing the royal dynasty into the next generation. The political importance of childbearing for royal women does not mean, however, that children were only treated as political commodities. In addition to the political significance of royal heirs, royal mothers also often felt real affection for their children, loving them for who they were—rather than for only what they represented. The personal and the political were inevitably intertwined, as the relationship between a royal consort and a royal child was also a relationship between a queen and her subject. If a queen consort survived her spouse to become a queen dowager, succeeded by her child (or, in Adelaide’s case, her niece), the balance of power turned, and maternal affection had to be combined with political subordination. If the queen dowager was unwilling to accept her reduced status, their personal relationship might suffer, as was famously the case with Isabella of France during the reign of her son Edward III.

J. Massey (*) Independent Scholar, UK © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts, Queenship and Power, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-12829-5_6




The life of Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, queen consort of William IV, is a clear example of this intertwining of personal and political. This chapter focuses on Adelaide’s experience—and lack of experience—of motherhood. Adelaide longed to be a mother not only to provide an heir to the British throne—though William married her during a succession crisis for that reason—but also because she loved children. Adelaide’s longing for children of her own was tragically unfulfilled, despite repeatedly risking her own health with complicated pregnancies. Instead, Adelaide directed her maternal affection towards her nephews and nieces, adopting two of her sister’s children and playing an important role in the upbringing of William’s nephews, both high up in the line of succession. Adelaide also became stepmother to William’s nine surviving illegitimate children, the FitzClarences, though their relationship was sometimes difficult. Adelaide’s relationship with the future Queen Victoria, William’s niece and heir presumptive, is the focus of this chapter. The story of Adelaide and Victoria’s relationship reveals the difficulty of being a queen consort who was not mother to the heir to the throne. Adelaide did not have any control over the upbringing of her husband’s successor, due to the strained relationship between Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, and both George IV and William IV.  Fortunately, Victoria re-established a close relationship with Adelaide after succeeding to the throne in 1837, when Adelaide, despite being childless, effectively became Queen Mother. Victoria’s increase in status, however, also changed the balance of power between them. Adelaide might have loved her niece, but she was also required to obey her sovereign. While Adelaide happily accepted her reduced status and largely retired from public life, she and Victoria came into conflict over their opposing political views. At a time when British politics was being increasingly defined by party loyalty, and as the crown’s political power was both debated and declining, Adelaide’s support for the Tories and Victoria’s support for the Whigs created an unusual situation where a queen dowager and a queen regnant became the figureheads for competing parliamentary factions. These political differences threatened to upset the relationship between aunt and niece, as Adelaide might have become a rival for the loyalty of Victoria’s subjects and the focus of opposition to Victoria’s government and policies. Such a situation was avoided, however, because Adelaide was clever enough to not encourage the Tories, remaining a devoted subject to her niece.



Birth and Childhood The birth of Princess Amalie Adelheid Luise Therese Caroline of Saxe-­ Meiningen (known as Adelheid, anglicised as Adelaide) at 11.30pm on Monday 13 August 1792 in Elisabethenburg Palace was a cause for great celebration among the people of the duchy of Saxe-Meiningen. Adelaide’s parents, Georg I, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen (1761–1803), and Luise Eleonore of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1763–1837), had already been married for nearly ten years when Adelaide, their first child, was born. Adelaide’s birth was followed by that of her sister Ida (1794–1852) and, finally, the longed-for son and heir, Bernhard (1800–1882).1 The small family were very close, but tragedy struck when Georg died of a fever on 24 December 1803. Adelaide was only eleven years old at the time. Luise Eleonore served as regent for her son, Bernhard II, until 1821.2 The duchy of Saxe-Meiningen was one of the small Saxon duchies of Thuringia, located in the centre of modern Germany. Adelaide spent the winter months at Elisabethenburg Palace, in the city of Meiningen, and the summer months at Altenstein Palace, surrounded by parklands and forests.3 Adelaide remained permanently attached to her homeland, and after her marriage she continued to visit when she was able, including two visits during her period as queen consort. Adelaide also received frequent visits from her family while living in England. Adelaide was taught reading, writing, arithmetic, French, botany, dancing, piano playing, sewing, drawing, and painting.4 She also enjoyed horse-riding and attending plays.5 Georg Karl Friedrich Emmrich, Meiningen’s Lutheran court chaplain, instilled a deep Christian faith in Adelaide that would support her throughout her life.6 Adelaide’s upbringing, however, was comparatively frugal, given Meiningen’s limited wealth and the warfare engulfing Europe in the early nineteenth century. 1  Chronik der Stadt Meiningen von 1676 bis 1834 (Meiningen: 1835), 2:133, 150–151. All translations are my own. I thank Rebecca Klarner for checking my translations from German to English. 2  G.N. Wright and John Watkins, The Life and Times of William IV (London, 1837), 864. 3  Alfred Erck and Hannelore Schneider, Adelheid: Die Meiningerin auf dem englischen Königsthron (Meiningen: Bielsteinverlag, 2004), 18. 4  Erck and Schneider, Adelheid, 13, 16, 21. 5  Erck and Schneider, Adelheid, 18; G.  Cecil White, Glimpses of King William IV and Queen Adelaide in Letters of the Late Miss Clitherow (London: R.  Brimley Johnson, 1902), 20–21. 6  Erck and Schneider, Adelheid, 19, 57, 133.



Adelaide’s childhood and adolescence coincided with a period of great upheaval in Europe, beginning with the French Revolution. Napoleon invaded Germany in 1805 and his victory led to the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine; as a member state, Meiningen had to supply the French army with troops.7 In 1813, Napoleon suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Leipzig and the Confederation was dissolved.8 Thousands of wounded soldiers camped in the city of Meiningen, dying in the streets.9 In January 1814, Adelaide and Ida called on Meiningen’s young women to provide clothes and wound dressings for the duchy’s troops, a call they renewed in April 1815 when Napoleon returned to power.10 In June 1815, Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo and Meiningen joined the German Confederation, finally able to enjoy a sustained peace.11 It is possible that the traumatic events of this period marked Adelaide for life, as she became both fearful of change and politically conservative.

Marriage Adelaide was quiet, shy, pious, devoted to her family, and suffered from poor health. She was never considered beautiful and wrote that she was “not very fond of imitating the fashions of the day.”12 As one contemporary pointed out, however, “She is really and truly good, and so perfectly natural that she is free from all the usual caprice of people in her station.”13 Her marital prospects seemed slim, until unforeseen circumstances brought her to the attention of the British royal family. On 6 November 1817, Princess Charlotte of Wales died after delivering a stillborn son, her only child. Charlotte had been George III’s only legitimate grandchild, so her death put enormous pressure on George’s unmarried sons to marry and produce potential heirs to the throne. William, Duke of Clarence (1765–1837), was George’s oldest unmarried son. At 7  Thomas Nipperdey, Germany from Napoleon to Bismarck, 1800–1866 (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1996), 3–9. 8  Nipperdey, Germany, 72–73. 9  Chronik der Stadt Meiningen, 2:184–186. 10  Chronik der Stadt Meiningen, 2:188, 193. 11  Nipperdey, Germany, 81–83. 12  RA GEO/ADD/4/176. Queen Adelaide to the Marchioness of Ely, 23 July 1831. Georgian Papers Online (http://gpp.rct.uk., May 2020). 13  Gabriele von Bülow, A Memoir (London, 1897), 178.



52, he was not an enticing prospect. He already had nine surviving illegitimate children, known as the FitzClarences, by the late actress Dorothea Jordan. William was also considered both ridiculous and unstable. It was possible, however, that he would one day become king, and even more likely that any legitimate children of his would succeed to the throne. In early March 1818, Luise Eleonore was shocked to receive a marriage proposal for Adelaide from William. Adelaide had been suggested as a suitable bride by William’s younger brother, the Duke of Cambridge, who, at the time, was scouting for potential sisters-in-law in Germany.14 Adelaide was visiting her mother’s family in Langenburg at the time of the proposal, so Luise Eleonore sent a courier to inform her and encourage her to accept. In her own words, Adelaide had to decide whether she could “give my hand to a man I do not know, about whom I know nothing but that it is a great alliance, in a distant foreign country, abandoned by all my loved ones … or stay happy with my loved ones … or find simple domestic happiness in another match.” Adelaide was torn between duty and inclination. On 26 March, Adelaide accepted the proposal as a “sacrifice” for her brother’s sake.15 Adelaide wrote William a “most satisfactory and final answer of acceptance,” and William was impressed to discover that “she has even written part of her letter in English.”16 Adelaide’s dowry was 20,000 guilders, with an additional 6000 guilders for her trousseau. William agreed to pay for Adelaide’s household himself, as well as giving her £2000 a year “for her pin money, and her daily expenses.”17 Adelaide left Meiningen on 20 June 1818, accompanied by her mother.18 They reached London on 4 July and went to Grillon’s Hotel, which had been reserved in its entirety for them. Late that same evening, Adelaide met both the Prince Regent (the future George IV) and William for the first time.19 Over the following days Adelaide met other members of the royal family and spent more time with her soon-to-be husband.20 William and Adelaide were married on 11 July, in a double wedding with Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent and Strathearn, William’s younger  Mary Hopkirk, Queen Adelaide (London: John Murray, 1946), 11.  Erck and Schneider, Adelheid, 25–26, 137–138. 16  RA GEO/ADD/4/53. William, Duke of Clarence, to the Countess of Mayo, 1818. 17  British and Foreign State Papers, 1817–1818 (London, 1837), 981–986. 18  Chronik der Stadt Meiningen, 2:205. 19  Morning Chronicle, 6 July 1818, 2. 20  Morning Chronicle, 8 July 1818, 2; 11 July 1818, 3. 14 15



brother, and Princess Victoire of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. The weddings took place at Kew Palace, in the drawing room of William’s mother, Queen Charlotte. The wedding party entered at 4pm and the service was performed by Charles Manners-Sutton, Archbishop of Canterbury, and William Howley, Bishop of London. Adelaide wore a dress of “very rich and elegant silver tissue,” with a wreath of diamonds on her head.21 Adelaide did not, however, have much time to settle in her new home. On 4 August, just over a month after her arrival in England, she and William departed from Dover for the continent.22 They arrived in Hanover, where the Duke of Cambridge was serving as regent, on 17 August. It was a destination chosen by William because it was cheaper to live there than it was to live in England.23

Children William was pleased with his new wife, writing from Hanover that Adelaide was “quite well and I trust and believe happy: I am sure she ought: she gains the hearts of His Majesty’s Hanoverian subjects as she did those of our countrymen and women.”24 William’s sister, Charlotte, wrote that “by all accounts she is the very woman calculated to suit my dear William’s taste, and he loves her very much. His letters to me are always full of her; and it does me good to see he is attached to her, and feels himself happy.”25 Adelaide soon became pregnant and all went smoothly until she caught a cold that developed into pleurisy. She was treated with several rounds of bloodletting, which caused her to go into labour two months prematurely. At 6.30am on 27 March 1819, Adelaide gave birth to a daughter, named Charlotte, who died at 1pm. Charlotte was buried in the vault of the Leine Palace chapel.26 Adelaide’s recovery was slow. Her mother and brother came to visit her in Hanover, staying for a month.27 William and Adelaide then travelled to Meiningen, where Adelaide was “overjoyed to find herself with her mother  Morning Chronicle, 13 July 1818, 3.  The Times, 6 August 1818, 2. 23  RA GEO/MAIN/45145–6. William to the Prince Regent, 23 August 1818; Philip Ziegler, King William IV (London: Collins, 1971), 125. 24  RA GEO/ADD/44/24. William to J.W. Daniell, 24 August 1818. 25  Edward William Harcourt, ed., The Harcourt Papers, 14 vols. (Oxford, 1880), 6:166. 26  Wright and Watkins, Life and Times, 482; The Times, 7 April 1819, 7. 27  Chronik der Stadt Meiningen, 2:208. 21 22



and at her native place.”28 They went to the spa town of Bad Liebenstein, where William hoped to “reestablish the health of my excellent and amiable Dutchess [sic] altogether and to land her early in September in dear old England a stronger and more robust woman than ever.”29 While there, Adelaide found herself pregnant again. In August 1819 the couple set off to return to England, but the difficult journey caused Adelaide to miscarry at ten weeks when they reached Dunkirk in September. William was disappointed by this second loss, writing that Adelaide “has again shown the same resignation and firmness,” which he hoped would be “eventually rewarded by becoming a mother.”30 After spending some time at Dover Castle to recover, the couple returned to London on 13 November 1819. They were visited by the Duchess of Kent on the following day.31 This was the first time Adelaide met the Duchess’s daughter, the five-month-old Princess Victoria. Adelaide returned the visit to the Duchess and Victoria at their home in Kensington Palace five days later.32 These visits would become regular, especially after the death of Victoria’s father, the Duke of Kent, on 23 January 1820.33 The Duchess of Kent returned to London from Sidmouth on 29 January and, for a time, Adelaide visited her every day, “as she is a comfort to the poor Widow; and Her sweet, gentle mind, is of great use to the Dutchess.”34 After the Duke of Kent’s death, Princess Victoria was left in the charge of her mother, so it was essential for Adelaide to have a good relationship with the Duchess of Kent if she was going to be involved in Victoria’s upbringing. Adelaide also tried to establish a good relationship with the FitzClarences, William’s illegitimate children. Prior to his marriage, William had made clear that he would only take a wife who accepted the FitzClarences: “unless I was really persuaded I was also serving my children I would not marry.”35 Adelaide accepted this condition and met the FitzClarences soon after her wedding. William did make one concession:  RA GEO/ADD/4/59. William to the Earl of Mayo, 27 May 1819.  Chronik der Stadt Meiningen, 2:208. 30  RA GEO/ADD/4/61. William to Lord Mayo, 17 September 1819. 31  The Times, 15 November 1819, 2. 32  The Times, 19 November 1819, 2. 33  Cecil Woodham-Smith, Queen Victoria: Her Life and Times (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1972), 1:47. 34  Harcourt, Papers, 6:224–226. 35  RA GEO/ADD/4/146. William to Sir John Barton, 9 January 1818. 28 29



he arranged for his unmarried daughters to live on South Audley Square, London, rather than living with him as they had previously.36 After William and Adelaide’s return to England, the FitzClarence girls frequently dined with them. William wrote of “the excellent conduct of the Dutchess who has received my daughters with the greatest kindness possible.”37 A FitzClarence granddaughter claimed that Adelaide treated the FitzClarences “as only a loving and gentle woman could,” loving them “with a mother’s tenderness.”38 Some FitzClarence grandchildren were even named after Adelaide. It was, at times, a tense relationship: Queen Victoria would later claim that they had “shown themselves far from grateful” towards their stepmother, but Adelaide persevered, despite being in a situation “to which few women would have submitted.”39 While living in England, Adelaide became pregnant for the third time, and soon after 5pm on 10 December 1820 she gave birth—two months prematurely—to a daughter.40 George IV suggested the name Elizabeth (rather than Georgina as the parents had wished), and William diplomatically told George that “the dear Dutchess is delighted with the name.”41 An eyewitness to the birth recorded that Princess Elizabeth was “a very small one at present; but the doctors seem to think it will thrive.”42 Elizabeth was immediately ahead of Princess Victoria in the line of succession—in the words of Sir John Conroy, comptroller to the Duchess of Kent, “our little woman’s nose has been put out of joint.”43 For the next three months, everything was idyllic. Renovations continued at Bushy House, William’s residence near Hampton Court Palace, and Adelaide was “very anxious to be there and it will be much more healthy for the child.”44 At the end of February 1821, however, Elizabeth became unwell and she died soon after 1am on 4 March of intussusception.  RA GEO/ADD/44/23. William to J.W. Daniell, 19 August 1818.  RA GEO/ADD/4/63. William to Lord Mayo, 15 November 1819. 38  Wilhelmina Kennedy-Erskine, My Memories and Miscellanies (London: Eveleigh Nash, 1904), 4–5. 39  RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) Queen Victoria’s Journals, 2 December 1849 (Princess Beatrice’s copies [PB]). Retrieved 27 May 2020. 40  The Times, 11 December 1820, 2. 41  RA GEO/MAIN/45149. William to George IV, 10 December 1820. 42  Horace Twiss, The Public and Private Life of Lord Chancellor Eldon, 3 vols. (London, 1844), 2:411. 43  Woodham-Smith, Queen Victoria, 1:50. 44  RA GEO/ADD/4/107. William to J.W. Daniell, 11 January 1821. 36 37



Adelaide fainted in William’s arms.45 Adelaide’s grief was immense, as she wrote in her diary: Great God! Already you have taken my joy back from me—imposing a hugely difficult test on us. It was Your will that I should only enjoy this happiness for such a short time; You took my delicate plant back to you—you only entrusted it to me for such a short time! She is much, much happier with you than she could have been with me, but for me it is infinitely painful and sad… All my joy is gone.46

Adelaide grieved for her beloved daughter; Princess Elizabeth was more than just a potential heir to the throne. She was buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, on 9 March. William and Adelaide commissioned a life-size sculpture of Elizabeth, a permanent memorial of Adelaide’s much loved and longest surviving child.47 It seemed possible that Adelaide, who was not yet thirty years old, would have more children. She continued to suffer from poor health, however, and miscarried twins on 8 April 1822. William despaired of “these repeated misfortunes to this beloved and superior woman,” admitting that he was “quite broken hearted.”48 In 1831, when she was 39 years old, Adelaide was unwell and “flattered myself with hopes which have unfortunately not been realised” of being pregnant; “the proof of the contrary hurt me very much.”49 In 1835, when Adelaide was 42 years old, there were rumours that she was pregnant, which one commentator described as “a death-blow to the Duchess of Kent.”50 It was, however, nothing more than a rumour. After the death of Princess Elizabeth, Adelaide turned to Princess Victoria for comfort. According to Victoria’s governess, Baroness Lehzen, Adelaide wrote to the Duchess of Kent: “My children are dead, but yours lives and she is mine too!”51 Adelaide told Victoria in later life that she had “loved you from your infancy almost as much as if you had been my own  The Times, 5 March 1821, 2.  Erck and Schneider, Adelheid, 46. 47  Royal Collection, RCIN 53354. William Scoular, Princess Elizabeth of Clarence, marble. 48  RA GEO/MAIN/24927. William to George IV, 9 April 1822. 49  Woodham-Smith, Queen Victoria, 1:81–82. 50  Lord Sudley, ed., The Lieven-Palmerston Correspondence, 1828–1856 (London: John Murray, 1943), 74. 51  Deirdre Murphy, The Young Victoria (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019), 203. 45 46



child.”52 When Victoria was told that she was her uncle’s heir, with the caveat that Adelaide might still have children who would supersede her in the line of succession, Victoria responded: “And if it was so, I should never feel disappointed, for I know, by the love Aunt Adelaide bears me, how fond she is of Children!”53 While based on genuine love and affection, Victoria’s political importance made their relationship more complicated than that between Adelaide and her other nephews and nieces. Adelaide was also very close to the Duke of Cambridge’s three children and Prince George of Cumberland, all of whom were high in the line of succession. Prince George of Cambridge lived with Adelaide in the 1830s while his father served as William’s regent in Hanover. William’s sister, Elizabeth, wrote that George “is so well off under our most perfect Queen’s protection and care that he is a most fortunate boy.”54 He later said that Adelaide “had been a second mother to him.”55 Adelaide also adopted two of her sister Ida’s children. On 11 October 1823, Ida gave birth to her fourth child, Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar, at Bushy House.56 Adelaide raised Edward herself, and as an adult he pursued a career in the British army while acting as his aunt’s companion. Adelaide also cared for Ida’s sickly daughter Louise, who died on 11 July 1832 at Windsor Castle and was buried in St George’s Chapel. Adelaide wrote that the graves of her daughter and niece at Windsor were “so sacred to me,” and that being near them “does me good … to one who has lost so much even the remains which we only preserve in our memory are a precious possession.”57

From Duchess to Queen On 5 January 1827, William’s older brother, the Duke of York, died. William would succeed to the throne if he outlived George IV.  George secured an increase in William’s parliamentary income, including an additional £6000 per year for Adelaide.58 52  Arthur Benson and Viscount Esher, eds., The Letters of Queen Victoria, 3 vols. (London: John Murray, 1908), 1:464. 53  Murphy, Young Victoria, 203. 54  Philip Charles Yorke, ed., Letters of Princess Elizabeth of England (London, 1898), 233. 55  RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 13 December 1849 (PB). 56  The Times, 14 October 1823, 3. 57  Bülow, Memoir, 232. 58  RA GEO/MAIN/45182–3. William to George IV, 13 February 1827.



In April 1827, William was appointed Lord High Admiral, the titular head of the navy.59 William’s new status required Adelaide to play a much larger role in public life than ever before. Adelaide attended and hosted receptions, balls, and dinners, with one commentator writing that she “wins all hearts by her goodness and amiability.”60 William’s position as Lord High Admiral was not to last. In July 1828 he was reprimanded by the Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, for “attempts at rendering himself independent of all authority.” William wanted to remove Sir George Cockburn from office, and when Wellington refused, William announced his resignation on 14 August.61 Adelaide briefly returned to a quiet life out of the public eye. George IV died on 26 June 1830 and was succeeded by his brother, now William IV, with Adelaide as queen consort. When Adelaide was told, she burst into tears. It was not welcome news, as she explained to her brother: “What a terrible burden belies the new name, which unfortunately has come upon me, and I want to be able to remove it again, like a piece of clothing. I am terrified when I am reminded of it.”62 Two days later, Adelaide wrote: “I cannot yet accustom myself to the long-expected event, and it will be some time before I am familiar with its reality.”63 As queen, Adelaide had an annual income of £50,000.64 An observer wrote of Adelaide’s early performance as queen consort: “She… did all this (which she hated) very well. She said the part as if she was acting, and wished the green curtain to drop.”65 As a naturally shy and retiring person who suffered from poor health, Adelaide did not enjoy her new official role, but she played her part well. William expressed his gratitude that he had ascended to the throne with a wife who “possesses every estimable quality calculated to give worth and lustre to her exalted station.”66 Adelaide was believed to have a beneficial influence on her volatile husband: “The Queen, with her attentive softness and her great good sense, watches over him in these moments of crisis,

 The Times, 26 April 1827, 2.  Bülow, Memoir, 133. 61  Jennings, Croker Papers, 1:427–429. 62  Erck and Schneider, Adelheid, 57. 63  Bülow, Memoir, 184. 64  Journals of the House of Commons 86:1 (London, 1831), cclxxxvi. 65  Charles Greville, The Greville Memoirs, 8 vols. (London, 1898), 2:8. 66  Wright and Watkins, Life and Times, 631–632. 59 60



shortens their duration, moderates, calms, and ensures a return to a decent state.”67 When preparations for William and Adelaide’s coronation finally began in July 1831, William asked that it be short and economical.68 It cost £43,159—a very cheap event compared to the £238,000 spent on George IV’s coronation—and William broke with tradition by not having a coronation banquet.69 The coronation was held in Westminster Abbey on 8 September 1831. Adelaide regretted that “all the pomp and ceremony of the coronation should be in a church, and that she had to receive the Sacrament when it was impossible to be abstracted from all worldly feelings.”70 The Duchess of Kent had demanded that Princess Victoria have her own procession as heiress presumptive, which William refused, saying that Adelaide might still have children, so Victoria could only attend as Princess Victoria of Kent, walking behind his brothers rather than immediately behind him. As a result, the Duchess of Kent and Victoria did not attend, souring relations further.71

The Reform Question Despite William and Adelaide’s initial popularity, political agitation was in the air. The Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, made matters worse by refusing to consider any reform of the electoral system.72 Adelaide’s preference for the conservative Tory party, and her hostility towards the more liberal Whig party, was widely known. It was popularly believed that Adelaide influenced her husband in political matters, but this seems unlikely. Earl Grey, the Whig Prime Minister who replaced Wellington, “satisfied himself that she has no influence over the King, and that, in fact, he never even mentions politicks to her, much less consults her.”73 Adelaide 67  Duchess de Dino, Chronique de 1831 à 1862, 2 vols. (Paris: Plon-Nourrit et Cie, 1909), 1:56. 68  Greville, Memoirs, 2:167, 169. 69  Roy Strong, Coronation: From the 8th to the 21st Century (London: Harper Perennial, 2006), 372. 70  Augustus Hare, The Story of Two Noble Lives, Being Memorials of Charlotte, Countess Canning, and Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, 3 vols. (London, 1893), 1:168. 71  Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein, My Memories of Six Reigns (London: Evans Brothers, 1957), 157; Murphy, Young Victoria, 131–133. 72  Greville, Memoirs, 2:54. 73  Herbert Maxwell, ed., The Creevey Papers, 2 vols. (London: John Murray, 1904), 2:216.



herself told a friend: “I must have my own opinion, but I do not talk to the King about it. It would only make him unhappy, and could do no good.”74 William himself denied “that the Queen was taking a decided and active part against the government and against the measures his Majesty had sanctioned.”75 On occasion, however, Adelaide did discuss politics with William. In a letter to Earl Howe, Adelaide’s Lord Chamberlain and a Tory, Adelaide wrote that William “sees everything in the right light, but I am afraid has the fixed idea that no other administration could be formed at present amongst your friends, and thinks that they are aware of it themselves. How far he is right or not I cannot pretend to say, for I do not understand these important things.”76 Adelaide did not disguise her “particular good spirits” when Grey resigned after William refused to create new peers to pass the Reform Bill in the House of Lords, and “the King’s firmness respecting the making no peers had delighted her.”77 Despite this evident political bias, Adelaide did not claim the ability to influence the King’s decisions. After Earl Howe voted against the Reform Bill in the House of Lords on 8 October 1831 (when a majority vote resulted in the bill being rejected), Grey met with William and secured Howe’s dismissal.78 Adelaide felt betrayed by her husband: “I would not believe it, for I had trusted in, and built firmly on the king’s love for me.”79 She refused to speak to Grey.80 After much wrangling, the Reform Bill was finally passed by the House of Lords on 4 June 1832. Political controversy continued to follow Adelaide. On 14 November 1834, William dismissed the Whig Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne—the last time a British monarch has dismissed a government. Although admitting that they had “no authority” to support it, The Times agreed with an anonymous source that “The Queen has done it all.”81 Adelaide, however,  White, Glimpses, 30.  Arthur Wellesley, ed., Despatches, Correspondence, and Memoranda of Field Marshal Arthur Duke of Wellington, 8 vols. (London, 1880), 8:401. 76  Wellesley, Despatches, 8:166. 77  White, Glimpses, 33. 78  Greville, Memoirs, 2:209. 79  Antonia Fraser, Perilous Question: The Drama of the Great Reform Bill, 1832 (London: Phoenix, 2014), 154. 80  Francis Bamford and Gerald Wellesley, eds., The Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot, 1820–1832, 2 vols. (London: Macmillan, 1950), 2:431. 81  The Times, 15 November 1834, 4. 74 75



said that the first she knew of Melbourne’s dismissal “was the King coming to her room and telling her the Duke of Wellington was to dine with them, for there was going to be a change of ministers.”82 Earl Grey also did not believe that Adelaide had been involved.83 Ultimately, William and Adelaide both favoured the Tories, so the King did not need to be influenced by his wife to support them over the Whigs. William did eventually agree to create new peers to ensure the Reform Bill was passed in the House of Lords (though it proved unnecessary), a measure Adelaide opposed, suggesting her influence was limited. Adelaide continued to favour the Tories for the rest of her life, which would later bring her into conflict with her husband’s successor, Queen Victoria, who favoured the Whigs.

Princess Victoria With William’s accession, Princess Victoria became heiress presumptive. Over the years, Adelaide had become concerned about Victoria’s isolation from the rest of the royal family. “In the family,” Adelaide wrote to the Duchess of Kent in January 1830, “it is noticed that you are cutting yourself off more and more from them with your child,” and they believed that Conroy “tries to remove everything that might obstruct his influence, so that he may exercise his power alone, and alone, too, reap one day the fruits of his influence.”84 Adelaide’s intervention alienated the Duchess of Kent further, and Adelaide saw her and Victoria much less frequently. The Duchess of Kent’s hostility prevented William and Adelaide from preparing Victoria for her future role. Adelaide was kept informed of Victoria’s well-being by her governess, the Duchess of Northumberland.85 The Duchess of Kent and Conroy grew hostile to the Duchess of Northumberland, however, and planned to dismiss her when Victoria turned seventeen. Only William’s intervention prevented this further withdrawal of Princess Victoria from his and Adelaide’s supervision.86 Adelaide’s lack of involvement in Victoria’s upbringing also paved the way for their future political differences, as the Duchess of Kent favoured the  White, Glimpses, 56.  Guy Le Strange, ed., Correspondence of Princess Lieven and Earl Grey, 3 vols. (London: 1890), 3:40. 84  Woodham-Smith, Queen Victoria, 1:72. 85  Flintshire Record Office, Hawarden, Wales: D-BP/D/2/9/5, 6 and 10. 86  Woodham-Smith, Queen Victoria, 1:97–99. 82 83



Whigs and welcomed Whig politicians to Victoria’s childhood home, Kensington Palace, which likely influenced Victoria’s political leanings.87 The Duchess of Kent continued to agitate William and snub Adelaide until, on 20 August 1836, William made an infamous speech expressing his hope that he would live long enough to make a regency unnecessary, putting royal authority directly into Victoria’s hands “and not in the hands of a person now near me”—the Duchess of Kent—“who is surrounded by evil advisers and who is herself incompetent to act with propriety in the station in which she would be placed.” Adelaide “looked in deep distress” and Victoria “burst into tears,” but the Duchess of Kent remained silent.88

Queen Dowager William died soon after 2am on 20 June 1837 with Adelaide “kneeling at the bedside, and still affectionately holding his hand.”89 Victoria was informed of her accession to the throne later that morning. Adelaide sent a letter to Victoria, asking if she could remain at Windsor Castle until after William’s funeral. Victoria replied “in the kindest terms, begging her to consult nothing but her own health and convenience, and to remain at Windsor just as long as she pleases.”90 Adelaide wrote again to thank Victoria for her “kind letter full of sympathy with my irreparable loss,” and signed herself “your Majesty’s most affectionate Friend, Aunt, and Subject, Adelaide.”91 Victoria’s accession freed her from her mother’s control, allowing her to re-establish a close relationship with Adelaide. It also changed the balance of power between them, as Adelaide went from being Victoria’s queen to Victoria’s subject. A few days later, Victoria wrote to ask if she could visit Adelaide to pay her condolences. Adelaide replied, “the sooner the better, for I am equally anxious to see you again.”92 Victoria and the Duchess of Kent visited on 26 June. Adelaide told them of William’s final illness and death, and Victoria wrote in her diary that Adelaide “is really a most estimable and excellent person and she bears the prospect of the great change she must  Woodham-Smith, Queen Victoria, 1:86.  Greville, Greville Memoirs, 3:375–376. 89  RA GEO/ADD/4/11, fol. 47: J.R. Wood, “Some Recollections of the last days of His late Majesty King William the Fourth.” 90  Greville, Memoirs, 3:417–418. 91  Benson and Esher, Letters, 1:74–75. 92  Benson and Esher, Letters, 1:77. 87 88



soon go through in leaving Windsor and changing her position in a most admirable, strong and high-minded manner.”93 Victoria was pleased that Adelaide accepted her new, lower status. William’s funeral and burial took place in St George’s Chapel on 8 July, with Adelaide watching from the Queen’s closet.94 Over a month later, Adelaide wrote: “I cannot yet quite comprehend the whole extent of my loss & I can hardly imagine that it is possible that the dear King dwells no longer amongst us.”95 As queen dowager, Adelaide’s annual income doubled to £100,000, and she was granted Bushy House and Marlborough House for life.96 Adelaide largely retired from court functions, choosing not to hold drawing rooms of her own or receive official addresses in person.97 This was due to ill health, as her persistent cough was “very troublesome & fatiguing.”98 For the sake of her health, Adelaide spent the winters in different places in England, as well as going to Malta in 1838–1839 and Madeira in 1847–1848. She continued to socialise with the royal family and became close with the Duchess of Kent again. Adelaide visited Victoria at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, though she wrote that “it is always a trial to my feelings” to be at Windsor, her former home.99

Queen Mother Adelaide remains the most recent queen dowager not to have been the mother of the succeeding monarch. This circumstance could have led to her being cast aside and ignored, as had sometimes been the case with previous childless queens dowager: Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s final wife, was excluded from the regency council of her stepson, Edward VI; and Catherine of Braganza, Charles II’s widow, eventually returned to her

 RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 26 June 1837 (LE).   Philip Whitwell Wilson, ed., The Greville Diary (London: William Heinemann, 1927), 1:561. 95  RA GEO/ADD/4/189. Adelaide to Lady Ely, 28 August 1837. 96  Journals of the House of Commons 86:1, 491. 97  The Times, 27 May 1839, 5. 98  RA GEO/ADD/4/200. Adelaide to Lady Ely, 15 December 1845. 99  RA GEO/ADD/4/194. Adelaide to Lady Ely, 10 September 1839. 93 94



native Portugal.100 Instead, Adelaide effectively became a second mother to Victoria at a time when Victoria was not getting along with her actual mother. Victoria talked with Lord Melbourne about Adelaide “being on such good terms with me, and having such respect for me as Queen.”101 Following established custom (a custom that came to an end when Mary of Teck attended the coronation of her son, George VI, in 1937), Adelaide did not attend Victoria’s coronation on 28 June 1838. As Victoria arrived at Westminster Abbey, Adelaide sat down to write her a letter “to assure you that my thoughts and my whole heart are with you, and my prayers are offered up to Heaven for your happiness, and the prosperity and glory of your reign.”102 When Prince Ernest and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha visited England in 1836, Ernest recalled that Adelaide “showed us the utmost friendliness, which was of great use to us in later years,” when Albert began to court Victoria.103 Albert, like Adelaide, came from the Saxon duchies of Thuringia, and they were also close relatives: Adelaide’s paternal aunt was Albert’s great-grandmother. Victoria informed Adelaide of her engagement to Albert on 14 November 1839, writing that Adelaide’s “constant kindness” assured her that Adelaide would “take much interest in an event which so nearly concerns the future happiness of my life.”104 On 10 February 1840, Victoria and Albert were married in the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace. Adelaide arrived early, rather than entering with the other members of the royal family in Victoria’s procession, due to her poor health. When Albert arrived, he chatted with Adelaide until Victoria entered. After the ceremony, Victoria “stepped hastily across to the other side of the altar, where the Queen Dowager was standing, and kissed her.”105 By contrast, Victoria only shook hands with her mother—Victoria explained that Adelaide “had been so very kind to Albert that I could not 100  Micheline White, “Katherine Parr: Wartime Consort and Author,” in Tudor and Stuart Consorts: Power, Influence, and Dynasty, ed. Aidan Norrie, Carolyn Harris, J.L. Laynesmith, Danna R. Messer, and Elena Woodacre (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2022), 153–154; Sophie Shorland, “Catherine of Braganza: The Politician,” in Tudor and Stuart Consorts: Power, Influence, and Dynasty, ed. Aidan Norrie, Carolyn Harris, J.L. Laynesmith, Danna R. Messer, and Elena Woodacre (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2022), 288–289. 101  RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 8 August 1839 (LE). 102  Benson and Esher, Letters, 1:120. 103  Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Memoirs, 4 vols. (London, 1888–1890), 1:70. 104  Benson and Esher, Letters, 1:194. 105  The Times, 11 February 1840, 5–6.



help doing so.”106 In a letter to Victoria, Adelaide later described Albert as “an excellent husband, so well calculated to make you happy and to assist you in your arduous duties by his advice”—possibly reflecting on the advice she had given as a royal consort, though Albert envisioned a larger and more overt role for himself than Adelaide had ever played.107 Over the following years, Adelaide enjoyed visiting Victoria’s growing family. Adelaide’s visits pleased Victoria, “knowing how fond she is of Children.”108

Whigs and Tories Adelaide and Victoria’s opposing political views did not seriously affect their close relationship, although they were the most common cause of friction between them. Victoria described Adelaide’s political views as “violent” and observed that, when she attended a dinner party Adelaide gave for her, there was “not one Whig… except those I brought with me.”109 Victoria’s blatant support for the Whigs and dislike of the Tories had political consequences, as the monarch still played an essential role in the formation and functioning of governments. For example, in May 1839 Victoria refused to replace any of her Whig Ladies of the Bedchamber with Tories at the request of the Tory leader, Sir Robert Peel—this became known as the “Bedchamber Crisis.” Lacking a majority in the House of Commons and feeling he could not form a government without the monarch’s support, Peel refused to become Prime Minister and the Whigs retained power.110 Newspapers, noticing Adelaide and Victoria’s conflicting political views, aligned themselves with one of the queens, depending on their own political loyalties. In November 1839, the pro-Whig Morning Chronicle claimed that Adelaide had slandered Victoria and that Adelaide “makes a parade of her Tory predilections.”111 The pro-Tory Times came to Adelaide’s defence, denying the claims of slander and asserting that it was the Whig government “through their hired agents of the Downing-­street press” who were attacking Adelaide because they hated the fact Adelaide received “spontaneous proofs of affection from the people,” while Victoria’s popularity suffered from her dependence on the Whigs.112  RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 13 February 1840 (LE).  Benson and Esher, Letters, 1:464. 108  RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 4 August 1842 (PB). 109  RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 3 and 6 July 1839 (LE). 110  Elizabeth Longford, Victoria (London: Abacus, 2011), 115–122. 111  Morning Chronicle, 21 November 1839, 2. 112  The Times, 22 November 1839, 4. 106 107



Adelaide, “greatly distressed,” wrote to Victoria to deny that she had slandered her, but Victoria replied to say she had never believed it to be true.113 In 1841, Victoria was finally forced to accept a Tory government after they won a Commons majority. Adelaide wrote an ill-thought-out letter to Victoria to “congratulate you with all my heart on having so well completed your difficult task.” Adelaide praised “the able men” of Victoria’s new government and claimed that William IV’s “anxious wishes to see Wellington and Peel again at the head of the Administration is now fulfilled,” invoking the late king to justify her Toryism. This letter made Victoria “rather angry,” even if it was “kindly meant.”114 Victoria’s evident bias against the Tories led them to look elsewhere for a royal figurehead—one they found in Adelaide. As a result, some Tory-­ leaning associations pointedly drank Adelaide’s health more enthusiastically than Victoria’s.115 This was an unfortunate consequence of each queen identifying themselves so wholeheartedly with one group of politicians, especially at a time when British politics was being increasingly defined and divided along party lines.116 It had been common in the eighteenth century for politicians who were out of the monarch’s favour to form a rival court around the heir to the throne, anticipating future ascendency when that heir succeeded.117 Adelaide, by contrast, was merely a dowager queen with no means of bringing the Tories into power. Their decision to rally around her, therefore, can be explained by the lack of an appropriate alternative in the early years of Victoria’s reign. Adelaide did not encourage the Tories in this behaviour—if she had embraced her status as a rival figurehead to the monarch, it would have ruined her relationship with Victoria. Although Victoria remained politically partisan, she eventually placed herself above overt party factionalism, which prevented a situation like this occurring again.118

 RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 23 November 1839 (LE).  Benson and Esher, Letters, 1:321–322. 115  For example, see: The Times, 28 September 1841, 3. 116  Alan Beattie, English Party Politics: Volume I, 1600–1906 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970), 37–46, 80–87. 117  Hannah Smith, Georgian Monarchy: Politics and Culture, 1714–1760 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 221–222. 118  Richard Williams, The Contentious Crown: Public Discussion of the British Monarchy in the Reign of Queen Victoria (Abingdon: Routledge, 2018), 82. 113 114



Death Adelaide remained close to Victoria and the rest of the royal family in her final years, with Victoria frequently enjoying the company of her “kind & amiable” aunt, “whom I love so much.”119 Adelaide’s health declined severely in 1849, while she was staying at Bentley Priory. Victoria was told to prepare for the worst, as Adelaide’s “weakness has become so very great, & the nights very sleepless.” She and Albert were greatly upset by this, “for we love the Queen dearly & shall deeply deplore her loss.”120 Adelaide, although only a relative by marriage, was clearly an integral member of Victoria’s family. Victoria and Albert visited Adelaide on 12 October. The previous day Adelaide had been suffering from “shivering fits and fainting,” but she improved and “was in high spirits from pleasure at the thought of seeing the Queen.”121 Victoria found Adelaide “hardly altered, for she was cheerful & lively, as ever.” She could not believe that Adelaide was dying, even as the doctors assured her she was.122 Adelaide lingered on, with Victoria visiting her for a final time on 22 November. On seeing Adelaide “so altered,” Victoria “felt much overcome. She has such a look of death in her face, [and] is so weak.”123 Adelaide died just before 2am on 2 December 1849, with her sister Ida and Ida’s children beside her.124 Victoria wrote a eulogy for Adelaide in her diary: It affected & grieved me deeply… we have lost a dear kind & devoted aunt & friend, who has been quite maternal in her affection towards us. Though I had stood in the place of her 2 children, she ever, from my earliest childhood, treated me with the greatest kindness & affection… from the moment the King died, how beautifully she behaved, understanding her place & position, never allowing herself to be made a tool of party purposes. The dear Queen was always so loving & affectionate to us both, rejoicing in our happiness, & delighting in our Children, as if they were her own!125

 RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 4 April 1843 and 23 October 1845 (PB).  RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 7 October 1849 (PB). 121  Hare, Two Noble Lives, 1:335. 122  RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 12 October 1849 (PB). 123  RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 22 November 1849 (PB). 124  The Times, 3 December 1849, 5. 125  RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 2 December 1849 (PB). 119 120



Adelaide had requested that she be buried in St George’s Chapel “without any pomp or state,” but with “as private and quiet a funeral as possible.”126 Adelaide’s funeral took place on 13 December 1849, attended by Ida and her children, Prince Albert, the Duchess of Kent, and other members of the royal family—Victoria, who was pregnant, did not attend, though she would have liked to.127 Adelaide’s body was placed beside that of William IV in the chapel vault, close to their daughter Elizabeth.128 Adelaide had not been the mother of her husband’s successor, but she had been a bridge between the two generations.

The Two Queens Adelaide was unable to provide an heir to her husband’s throne, but her love of children went beyond political necessity. Her sister Ida’s children, Prince Edward and Princess Louise of Saxe-Weimar, had no political significance in the United Kingdom, so Adelaide’s decision to raise them was purely an expression of maternal and familial love. Prince George of Cambridge was high in the line of succession, but his relationship with Adelaide was obviously a loving one. Adelaide’s relationship with Queen Victoria involved the greatest mixture of the personal and the political. Adelaide cared for Victoria from birth, even when she hoped to have children of her own who would supplant Victoria in the line of succession. The nature of their relationship, however, was inevitably political. In Victoria’s view, a harmonious relationship hinged on Adelaide’s acceptance of Victoria’s superior status once she had succeeded to the throne. Adelaide immediately met Victoria’s requirements, becoming a devoted and obedient subject. Adelaide’s decision to withdraw from the public sphere, the result of poor health and a personal dislike for such events, also meant that she was not competing with Victoria for attention or status. Adelaide and Victoria’s opposing political views, however, were a cause of friction that could have damaged their relationship. The Tories, alienated by Victoria’s hostility towards them, made Adelaide the focus of their loyalty and affection instead. The Tories did not want Victoria to be 126  Emma Sophia, Countess Brownlow, The Eve of Victorianism: Reminiscences of the Years 1802 to 1834 (London: John Murray, 1940), 199–200. 127  RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 13 December 1849 (PB). 128  The Times, 14 December 1849, 5.



politically impartial; rather, they wanted to benefit from her favour as the Whigs did.129 This explains why they chose Adelaide as their figurehead; she was a member of the royal family who was a known Tory sympathiser, as they wished Victoria to be. Had Adelaide chosen to maintain a public profile in her widowhood, courting the disaffected Tories and competing with Victoria for the loyalty and affection of her subjects, she likely would have come into more frequent, and serious, conflict with Victoria. Fortunately, Adelaide was clever enough to avoid confrontation, preserving her position as the beloved Queen Mother of Victoria’s family.

 Williams, Contentious Crown, 84.



Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha: Prince Consort of the World Charles V. Reed

In 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition at Hyde Park, Albert of Saxe-­ Coburg and Gotha (1819–1861), Prince Consort to Queen Victoria, spoke as president of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, marking the 150th anniversary of the Church of England’s missionary arm: We are not commemorating … an isolated fact which may have been glorious or useful to the country, but we are thankfully acknowledging the Divine favour which has attended exertions which have been unremitting during the lapse of one hundred and fifty years. We are met at the same time to invoke the further continuance of that favour, pledging ourselves not to relax in our efforts to extend to those of our brethren who are settled in distant lands, and building up communities and states where man’s footsteps had first to be imprinted on the soil, and wild nature yet to be

C. V. Reed (*) Elizabeth City State University, Elizabeth City, NC, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts, Queenship and Power, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-12829-5_7




c­ onquered to his use, those blessings of Christianity which form the foundation of our community and of our state.1

Albert’s dedication to projects and issues anchored in the role of ‘foreign parts,’ including the empire, in both accentuating the significance of Britain in the world and bringing the benefits of British ‘progress’ to other parts of the world, represents his most enduring legacy. When twentiethand twenty-first-century royalty toured Commonwealth nations and other former colonies, espousing and celebrating the relationship between Britain and a larger world, they nodded to Albert. As the second son of a German duke and the first British male consort in over a century, Albert had no useful blueprint for performing the role of consort and husband of a queen, let alone the queen of a country experiencing transformative social, economic, and political change, and its expanding empire.2 In addition, Victoria and Albert inherited a monarchy characterised by perceptions of excess and luxury—a remnant of the reign of George IV. Albert fashioned the role of prince consort by sponsoring initiatives, organisations, and movements that sought to make the monarchy useful to the nation and empire, attaching it to ideas of progress (in a nineteenth-century sense) both at home and abroad.3

1  Prince Albert, The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 17 June 1851, RA VIC/MAIN/Z/271/17, https://albert.rct.uk/collections/royal-archives/ prince-alberts-official-papers/the-society-for-the. 2  The most recent male consort was Prince George of Denmark and Norway, husband of Queen Anne (r. 1702–1714). Albert is the only consort in the history of the British monarchy to be recognised with the title “Prince Consort.” See: Julie Farguson, “George of Denmark: The Quiet Protestant Hero,” in Tudor and Stuart Consorts: Power, Influence, Dynasty, ed. Aidan Norrie, Carolyn Harris, J.L. Laynesmith, Danna R. Messer, and Elena Woodacre (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2022), 313–333. 3  Biographers of Albert have given limited attention to the imperial dimension of his life, though I did consult a number of those works in the writing of this chapter, including: Daphne Bennett, King Without a Crown: Albert, Prince Consort of England, 1819–1861 (New York: J.B. Lippincott, 1977); Jules Stewart, Albert: A Life (New York: I.B. Tauris, 2011); Stanley Weintraub, Uncrowned King: The Life of Prince Albert (New York: Free Press, 2000); Hermione Hobhouse, Prince Albert: His Life and Work (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1983); Helen Rappaport, Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death that Changed the Monarchy (London: Windmill Books, 2011). The most comprehensive and useful account of Albert’s relationship with empire focuses on India: Miles Taylor, Empress: Queen Victoria and India (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019), 49. This chapter leans heavily on Taylor’s work.



Albert co-forged with Victoria a nineteenth-century global-imperial monarchy that re-shaped Britain’s relationships with its empire and the wider world. As the queen’s consort and, over the last two decades of his life, private secretary, Albert’s vision for the British monarchy’s role in the world profoundly informed how Victoria approached the duties and rituals of the monarchy—and, in turn, how the world understood the monarchy. While Albert died at the age of just 42, possibly of typhoid fever, his vision lived on as Victoria sought to honour the priorities and legacy of his life through the remainder of her long reign.4 This chapter focuses on Albert’s efforts to redefine the role of the British monarchy in the empire and the wider world. It examines the ways in which Albert sought to attach the monarchy to ideas of progress and development in a global context through his involvement in the Great Exhibition of 1851, his interest in India that informed Victoria’s own relationship with its people long after his death, and his efforts to educate his children through exposure to the empire. His design for a global-imperial monarchy played an essential role in defining not just the Victorian monarchy but the British monarchy through the twentieth century, the end of empire, and beyond. In many ways, Albert’s vision became even more important to the relationship between Britain and the rest of the world with the end of empire, as monarchy became a thread that maintained ties between Commonwealth nations and the ‘mother country’ as other political, cultural, and social connections dropped away. According to historian Walter Arnstein, Queen Victoria saw herself “far less as the head of a homogeneous nation-state than as the head of a multi-­ ethnic and multi-religious Empire” and “insisted time and again that other traditions and religions and even rulers in the Empire deserved respect.”5 Victoria and Albert possessed a privileged and unprecedented access to knowledge, people, and objects from the empire. They courted and were courted by their colonial subjects, including scholars, rulers, and chiefs, as well as colonial officials at home and abroad.6 They ‘adopted’ children and godchildren from the empire, and the royal residences were frequented by 4  Other theories explaining Albert’s death have emerged over the years. Helen Rappaport, for example, has persuasively argued that Crohn’s disease might best explain Albert’s symptoms and death. See: Rappaport, Magnificent Obsession, 292–294. 5  Walter L. Arnstein, Queen Victoria (New York: Red Globe Press, 2003), 202. 6  Taylor, Empress, 49. At the same time, as the perceived fount of justice in the empire, Victoria was a near-constant subject of petitions and audience requests, many or most of which were forwarded to or did not proceed beyond the Colonial or India Offices.



long- and short-term guests or refugees from the empire, the most famous of whom, Abdul Karim, was employed by Victoria as her munshi.7 As negotiations over what became Queen Victoria’s proclamation as Empress of India (an effort to heal wounds and encourage loyalty in the aftermath of the Indian Rebellion) demonstrate, Albert and Victoria strove to defend the equality of the Queen’s colonial subjects within the empire.8 Albert was educated in German intellectual traditions on India, for instance, which included Aryanist conceptions of common origins—that speakers of Indo-European languages in India and Europe descended from a single ‘tribe’ and were thus of the same culture and race.9 At the same time, Victoria and Albert celebrated and sought to expand the role of the monarchy in the empire, took pride in imperial expansion, and cherished war booty that they were gifted or otherwise collected. Their notions of progress were defined by a liberal and evangelical belief in the benefit of British expansion for the human race.

Finding a Role Albert was born on 26 August 1819, the second son of Ernest I (1784–1844), Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (Saxe-Coburg and Gotha after 1826) and Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (1800–1831). He was baptised Franz Albert August Karl Emanuel, though the anglicised Albert became his preferred name early on. In 1824, Louise was banished from the court after she sought companionship in the absence of her philandering husband, and the duke and duchess divorced in 1826. She would not see her children again and died of cancer in 1830. Ernest was a distant and uninvolved father. Albert’s development was informed by the absence of his parents and the presence of his older brother Ernest, their tutor Christoph Florschütz, their uncle Prince Leopold (King of the 7  A word of Persian origin used in the Mughal Empire and India to describe a teacher, secretary, writer, or other confidante. See: Shrabani Basu, Victoria and Abdul: The Extraordinary True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant (Stroud: History Press, 2017); Michael Alexander and Sushila Anand, Queen Victoria’s Maharajah: Duleep Singh, 1838–1893 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1980); Charles V. Reed, Royal Tourists, Colonial Subjects, and the Making of a British World, 1860–1911 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016), “Empire Comes Home.” 8  Taylor, Empress, 82. 9  Taylor, Empress, 51. See also: Tony Ballantyne, Orientalism and Race: Aryanism in the British Empire (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002).



Belgians from 1831), Leopold’s private secretary Baron Stockmar, Louise’s stepmother Karoline Amalie of Hesse-Cassel, and Albert’s paternal grandmother Augusta Reuss of Ebersdorf. Florschütz and others tutored the brothers in classical education, along with lessons in the sciences and modern languages, at the duke’s summer residence in Florschütz. Albert expressed an interest in science and nature and began collecting rocks and animal specimens from an early age. He spent time with Leopold in Brussels before moving on to the University of Bonn in 1837. With the increasing probability that his niece Victoria would become queen, Leopold made efforts to position Albert for a courtship with the princess. She first met Albert and his brother Ernest in 1836, and she took kindly to Albert from the beginning. Victoria, however, expressed disinterest in marriage, particularly the prospect of a husband who would make any attempt to lord over her. She succeeded her uncle, William IV, in 1837. But in the aftermath of Victoria’s controversial friendship with Prime Minister Lord Melbourne and the Bedchamber Crisis of 1839, the prospect of an appropriate match, particularly with someone who would not seek to diminish her prerogative, became increasingly appealing to the queen. Ernest and Albert would visit again that year, and Victoria promptly fell in love. Albert wrote to Baron Stockmar, “I write to you on one of the happiest days of my life, to give you the most welcome news possible … Victoria is so good and kind to me that I am often at a loss to believe that such affection should be shown to me.”10 His feelings for Victoria were reciprocated. She wrote in her journal, “To feel I am loved by such an angel as Albert, is too great a happiness to describe … I cannot say how I adore him & I shall strive to make him feel as little as possible the great sacrifice he is making.”11 They married on 10 February 1840 at the Chapel Royal, St James Palace. Victoria understood Albert’s sacrifice from the beginning. Newspapers almost immediately expressed concerns over the influence of a German prince on the Queen. The government opposed the Queen granting him a peerage, and parliament prepared a significantly reduced annual allowance of £30,000. His personal relationship with Victoria, however, grew to depths almost unknown in royal marriages, even though their sensibilities and habits were frequently in conflict. They often worked side by side, 10  “Prince Albert to Baron Stockmar, 16 October 1839,” in Letters of the Prince Consort, 1831–1861, ed. Kurt Jagow, trans. E.T.S. Dugdale (London: John Murray, 1938), 23. 11  Journals of Queen Victoria, 15 October 1839.



and Victoria grew to embrace him as a close advisor and confidant. Albert replaced Lord Melbourne as Victoria’s private secretary and helped Victoria navigate the partisan wounds created by the Bedchamber Crisis. Albert’s role became increasingly public after 1841, as he became a ruling partner with Victoria in an unofficial dual monarchy. He began to sit beside her at State Openings of Parliament and royal audiences. Albert was, as David Cannadine puts it, “fascinated by statecraft” and “determined to play a full part in the political life of his adopted country.”12 Victoria granted him the title of Prince Consort by her own authority in 1857, 17 years after she had proposed making him king consort to Lord Melbourne.13 Victoria and Albert had nine children: Victoria (1840–1901), Princess Royal and later Empress of Germany; Albert Edward, later Edward VII (1841–1910); Alice (1843–1878), later Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine; Alfred (1844–1900), later Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; Helena (1846–1923), later Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein; Louise (1848–1939), later Marchioness of Lorne and Duchess of Argyll; Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (1850–1942); Leopold, Duke of Albany (1853–1884); and Beatrice (1856–1944), later Princess Henry of Battenberg. While strict and demanding, particularly regarding his children’s educational progress, Albert was a loving and affectionate father who engaged in family life, playing games, and enjoying the company of his children.14 He had an extremely close relationship with his daughter Victoria and lamented her departure for Germany when she married Prince Frederick of Prussia. In contrast, he often came into conflict with Albert Edward over his personal and educational failures, and the Queen would blame the Prince of Wales and his scandals for his father’s death. In August 1840, parliament named Albert the regent designate in case Victoria died or became unable to rule before any of their children reached their majority. Albert sought to impose order and efficiency on the royal household and become master of it; the austere, proper ethos that is associated with the Victorian era might better be termed ‘Albertism.’ He sought to raise his children to be useful to the nation and the empire,  David Cannadine, History in Our Time (New York: Penguin, 2000), 42.  According to Lord Shaftesbury, Melbourne responded to Victoria’s proposal that Albert be made King Consort by Parliament at the time of their marriage: “For God’s sake … let’s hear no more of it ma’am: for if you once get the English people in the way of making kings, you will get them into the way unmaking them.” Weintraub, Uncrowned King, 88. 14  Weintraub, Uncrowned King, 161. 12 13



often through military service. He also brought a style of middle-class family life to the monarchy, images of which were broadly disseminated in the form of photographic cartes de visite. He renovated Windsor Castle so that it was suitable for family habitation and designed an Italian-inspired palazzo on the Isle of Wight called Osborne House. In 1852, he purchased the Balmoral estate in Scotland that would become the family’s summer retreat and commissioned a new, larger house in a Scottish baronial style. Along with instituting these changes, Albert became a patron of science and culture and a supporter of social causes. In 1840, he delivered his first public speech to the Society for the Abolition for Slavery, of which he had recently become president: I deeply regret that the benevolent and persevering exertions of England to abolish that atrocious traffic in human beings … have not as yet led to any satisfactory conclusion. But I sincerely trust that this great country will not relax in its efforts until it has finally, and for ever, put an end to a state of things so repugnant to the spirit of Christianity, and the best feelings of our nature.15

The anti-slavery movement sought to connect their cause to the young Queen, and in the empire, freed people came to associate emancipation with Victoria. Nevertheless, it was Albert who embraced the anti-slavery movement and, in doing so, imbued the cause with monarchical legitimacy.16 He wrote to his father after the speech: My speech was received with great applause, and it seems to have produced a good effect on the country. This rewards me sufficiently for the fear and nervousness I had to conquer before I began my speech. I composed it myself, and then learnt it by heart, for it is always difficult to have to speak in a foreign language before five or six thousand eager listeners.17

15  “At a Meeting for the Abolition of Slavery, 1 June 1840,” The Principal Speeches and Addresses of the Prince Consort, ed. Arthur Helps (Leipzig, 1866), 67–68. 16  This moment is dramatised in an episode of the miniseries Victoria (2017), wherein anti-­ slavery activists invite Victoria to speak. She expresses sympathy but declines the offer, which Albert in turn takes up with interest. 17  “Prince Albert to Duke Ernest I of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, 4 June 1840,” in Letters of the Prince Consort, 69.



His evangelical dedication to notions of progress, and efforts to make the monarchy useful and respectable, drove his participation in projects and organisations. He expressed concern for the growing working classes; the Society for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes, of which Albert was president, developed new model housing for working people that would later be displayed at the Great Exhibition. He expressed sympathy and appreciation for the diverse subjects over whom his wife ruled, while at the same time he sought to impose liberal and evangelical conceptions of progress on both domestic and colonial societies.18

Collecting and Exhibiting the World As president of the Society of Arts (later the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) from 1843, Albert aimed to organise exhibitions of manufactures on a continental model, first in 1847 and most famously in the Great Exhibition of 1851. In 1850, the planning committee accepted Joseph Paxton’s design for the Crystal Palace as the site of the exhibition after some controversy over the potential damage to Hyde Park’s elms. When co-organiser Henry Cole asked Albert during the planning phases about the scope of the exhibition, he responded that “it must embrace foreign productions … International, certainly.”19 Writing to Lord John Russell, Albert made his case for an altogether “International” exhibition: Half the building is in charge of Foreign authorities, half the collection the property of Foreign countries, half the Juries appointed by Foreign Governments, who have also defrayed the expenses of the foreign part of the Exhibition. It would have been wrong, therefore, in my opinion, not to have given the representatives of these Foreign nations the opportunity of taking an active part in the opening ceremony.20

18  Miles Taylor argues that Albert was influenced by German India scholars who focused less on the history of the East India Company and Christian conversion than their British counterparts. Taylor, Empress, 50. 19  Quoted in Paul Young, Globalization and the Great Exhibition: The Victorian New World Order (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 17. 20  Albert to Lord John Russell, quoted in Theodore Martin, The Life of His Royal Highness the Prince Consort, 5 vols. (London, 1875–1879), 2:360.



Expanding on the Continental concept of a national exposition, such as those organised in France starting in the 1790s (Birmingham and London hosted similar events in 1849), Albert and the commission organised the first exposition universelle, or world’s fair. As always, Albert sought to make himself and the monarchy useful to British society and human progress more generally. In Albert’s view, British greatness would benefit all. After over two years of planning, the exhibition opened in 1851 and welcomed some 6 million visitors to 100,000 exhibits from over 10,000 exhibitors between May and October. Half of those exhibits were from Britain or the British Empire, including representation from colonies and imperial holdings of the West Indies, Canada, Ceylon, India, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, West Africa, Grenada, Mauritius, Newfoundland, New South Wales, New Zealand, Nova Scotia, South Africa, South Australia, and St Helena, among others. India took up more space than the rest of the empire combined.21 Jeffrey Auerbach argues that both nationalism and internationalism existed in tension as part of Albert’s vision for the exhibition, with international engagement and participation meant largely to highlight and benefit British national production and pride.22 While Albert clearly did understand international engagement as benefitting the glory and greatness of the nation, he did not understand it to happen at the expense of the world, quite the contrary. Albert had long been fascinated by India, and the commission that he led demonstrated a commitment to featuring India in the Great Exhibition. The commission had requested that Mountstuart Elphinstone serve with them, but he declined, and they instead recruited Archibald Galloway, chair of the East India Company.23 In contrast to Auerbach’s claims, Partha Mitter and Craig Clunas relate the collection and exhibiting of items as a function of colonial knowledge gathering, as “an important adjunct of the empire, classifying and displaying the art of non- European nations in an assertion of political control over them. … Imperial policy varied from country to country: thus, the display of Indian arts

 Taylor, Empress, 54.  Jeffrey A. Auerbach, The Great Exhibition of 1851: A Nation on Display (New Haven: Yale University Press 1999), chapter 6. 23  Elphinstone to Henry Labouchere, 1 January 1849, RC/H/1/1/98; Taylor, Empress, 54; Auerbach, Great Exhibition, 112. 21 22



underscored the Raj trusteeship of the races, tribes and castes of India.”24 The official catalogue reflected Albert’s appreciation for historic Indian civilisations and the progress—and potential for extraction—presented by present-day manufacturing and production: India, vast in extent and diversified in surface, is remarkable as the cradle of one, at least, of the nations who earliest practised the arts and cultivated the sciences which characterise civilization, and from whence these travelled to the West, and perhaps, also to the East. Its present inhabitants continue to venerate the sciences which they know only by name, and practise arts of which they know not the principles.25

While it was British rule that had encouraged and sought out deindustrialisation in India, the subcontinent was presented at the exhibition as a place where the arts (including manufacturers) and sciences existed largely in the past tense. At the Crystal Palace, 30,000 square feet of space near the main entrance was dedicated to India. In the centre of the India exhibit towered a stuffed elephant, adorned with ornaments, fabrics, and a golden howdah. Also centrally located was the Ivory Chair of State gifted to Victoria by the Maharaja of Travancore. The cabinets featured fabrics, carpets, gold, and diamonds, including two from Punjab, the Daria-i-Noor (‘Ocean of Light’) and the Kooh-i-Noor (‘Mountain of Light’).26 They highlighted the tension of India as an idea in British culture, between a useful site of wealth, production, and resources, and one of Oriental exoticism and excess. Ranjit Singh, founder and maharajah of the Sikh Empire, had acquired the Kooh-i-Noor diamond as booty from his defeat of Shah Shuja, the king of Kabul, in 1813. According to Siddhartha Shah, it was an “emblem of conquest that expressed the wearer’s divinity, prosperity, and noble 24  Partha Mitter and Craig Clunas, “The Empire of Things: The Engagement with the Orient,” in A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, ed. Malcolm Baker and Brenda Richardson (London: V&A Publications, 1997), 221. 25  Official Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue: Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, 1851, 4 vols. (London, 1851), 2:857. 26  Siddhartha V. Shah, “Romancing the Stone: Victoria, Albert, and the Koh-i-Noor Diamond,” West 86th 24, no. 1 (2017): 29–46; Danielle C. Kinsey, “Koh-i-Noor: Empire, Diamonds, and the Performance of British Material Culture,” Journal of British Studies 48, no. 2 (April 2009): 391–419.



virility.”27 In 1849, Punjab was annexed by the British. With plans to gift it to Queen Victoria, the governor-general of India (the future Lord Dalhousie) demanded the diamond from the eleven-year-old maharaja, Ranjit Singh’s youngest son Duleep Singh, as part of the Treaty of Lahore. In May 1850, the Maharaja surrendered the gem at a durbar, and by July it was in the possession of the Queen. The display of the Kooh-i-Noor at the Great Exhibition represented the domestication and control of India and its princely states.28 The British public, however, were unimpressed with the diamond, and the press lampooned it in that vein. According to the Illustrated London News’s gossip column, “Town Talk and Table Talk,” visitors left the Kooh-­ i-­Noor’s exhibit feeling let down: “People seem to have formed the most extravagant notions of its size and lustre … The consequence is a daily depreciatory chorus going on all round the cage. ‘Oh! dear, is that all? is that the Kooh-i-noor? … It looks very much like a lump of glass.’”29 Albert sought to redeem the diamond by adding gas lamps to the exhibit and later commissioned a wooden cabin to block out the ample natural sunlight in the venue; the ‘freshened-up exhibit’ was opened by Albert, Victoria, and their sons, Albert Edward and Alfred, in June.30 He even endeavoured to ‘fix’ the diamond. Employing a jeweller in Amsterdam, the 190-carat Mughal-cut diamond was recut into a 93-carat ‘oval stellar brilliant’ more conducive to European tastes, the inaugural cut being made by the Duke of Wellington. Later, Victoria would reveal the altered stone as a surprise to Duleep Singh. In her presence, he would allegedly exclaim: “It is to me, Ma’am, the greatest pleasure thus to have the opportunity, as a loyal subject, of myself tendering to my sovereign the Koh-i-­ Noor.”31 While some scholars carry on the notion that Duleep Singh would later cast Victoria as ‘Mrs. Fagin,’ inspired by the thief in Charles

 Shah, “Romancing the Stone,” 29.  See: Anita Anand, Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary (London: Bloomsbury, 2015). 29  “Town Talk and Table Talk,” Illustrated London News, 7 June 1851. 30  William Dalrymple and Anita Anand, Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), 222. 31  Quoted in Shah, “Romancing the Stone,” 42. 27 28



Dickens’s novel Oliver Twist, this appears to be apocryphal.32 Beginning in the 1860s, however, Singh began to protest the Sikh settlement with the British, including the surrendering of the Kooh-i-Noor, but to no avail. He died penniless and without the diamond. Albert sought to extend the purpose of the exhibition. With support from the government, the royal commission led by Albert used the exhibition’s profits to purchase property in South Kensington, London, to establish a complex of scientific, cultural, and educational institutions that would sustain the work of the Great Exhibition. As part of a lengthy memo describing how remaining funds and resources from the exhibition would be used to institutionalise its legacy, he explained: I am assured that from twenty-five to thirty acres of ground, nearly opposite the Crystal Palace … are to be purchased at this moment for around 50,000. I would buy that ground, and place on it four institutions … I would devote these institutions to the furtherance of the industrial pursuits of all nations in these four divisions.33

From this Albertopolis emerged what became the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), the Royal Albert Hall, the National History Museum, the Science Museum, and Imperial College London. While this hub of cultural, intellectual, and scientific activity existed only in its earliest phases—and more fully in Albert’s mind—at the time of his death, it reflects the vision of the Great Exhibition. For anyone who has wandered through the V&A, the art and design successor of the South Kensington Museum, its eclecticism and organisation feel decidedly Victorian. This environment reflects Albert’s fascination with the past greatness and present potential (with the guiding hand of British rule, in many cases) of art and manufacture in the African and Asian collections. The South Kensington Museum, which opened in 1857, was, from its origins in the Great Exhibition, an orientalist and imperialist project. Gifts from the Prince of Wales’s tour of India were the subject of a special exhibition there during the 1870s. In 1879, the museum acquired most of the

32  One example of this is: Essie Fox, “Queen Victoria, the Maharajah, and the Diamond,” London Historians Blog, https://londonhistorians.wordpress.com/2017/12/01/queenvictoria-the-maharajah-and-the-diamond/. 33  “Memorandum of the Prince Consort as to Disposal of the Surplus from the Great Exhibition of 1851,” in Martin, Life of His Royal Highness Prince Albert, 2:570.



collections of the East India Company Museum.34 While collecting, curating, and exhibiting the empire was not an innovation introduced by Albert, he played an important role in developing the permanent institutes and museums that emerged from the Great Exhibition of 1851, cementing the role of the monarchy in the acquisition and display of such artefacts, and making available to a larger public what had previously been limited to royal eyes. In the Durbar Room at Osborne House, gifts from the Raj continue to be displayed to this day. While many of the artefacts presented at the museum and elsewhere were gifts, others were excavated or otherwise acquired in a colonial context—if not outright looted. Victoria received as gifts, for example, the Benin Bronzes, which an international movement is now petitioning to have returned to Nigeria.35

Albert and India Historians have long presented Conservative politician and prime minister Benjamin Disraeli’s efforts to anchor the monarchy and monarchism in British imperial culture, as evidenced by his Crystal Palace Speech (1872) and the Royal Titles Act of 1876, as an innovation. Punch cast Disraeli as the genie from Aladdin presenting Victoria the imperial crown of India with the caption “New Crowns for Old Ones!” Before this moment in the 1870s, however, Albert conceived of a new place for the monarchy in Britain and its empire (and Victoria already referred to herself as Empress as early as the 1860s).36 As his work at the Great Exhibition and in developing the cultural and scientific institutions of South Kensington suggests, Albert could be reasonably categorised as an Orientalist who was profoundly intrigued by India. Albert took a particular interest in common origins through Aryanism. At university, he was educated by leading German scholars of Indian culture and language, including August

34  Ruth Adams, “The V&A: Empire to Multiculturalism?,” Museum and Society 8, no. 2 (July 2010): 63. 35  See: Dan Hicks, The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution (London: Pluto Press, 2020). 36  On Victoria’s belief that she was empress long before 1876, see: Miles Taylor, “Queen Victoria and India, 1837–1861,” Victorian Studies 46, no. 2 (Winter 2004): 264–265.



Wilhelm Schlegel, and Albert continued to patronise such scholars and their works as prince consort.37 Developing in this milieu, and the Orientalist and evangelical traditions of his adopted country, Albert embraced the idea of foreign rule as natural to the history of the subcontinent. At the same time, his belief in common Aryan origins reflects his tendency to understand a seamless web of connection and development as possible—at least in the future. He outlined his understanding of Indian history and rule to Prince Wilhelm, future King of Prussia and German Emperor Wilhelm I, in the moment of the Sepoy Mutiny: The Indians are not a people capable of conquering independence for themselves, to say nothing of maintaining it … they remain intermingled, but without national coherence … Our supremacy rests purely upon the circumstance that we protect the different races and populations against mutual ill-usage, that we place the poorest and meanest upon the same level before the law as the most powerful, and ensure justice with unimpeachable fairness … while at the same time we do not intermeddle in any of the internal affairs, civil or spiritual, of the different populations. Oppression is out of the question.38

In this letter, he expresses a genuine belief that British rule benefitted India, maintaining fairness and peace within a heterogeneous society (e.g., by banning sati, the Hindu practice of a widow sacrificing herself on her husband’s funeral pyre) and building canals, railways, schools, and other monuments to progress. Reflecting the long-standing debates over how the Indian population ought to be educated and ruled, Albert expressed uncertainty regarding the degree to which “civilisation upon European principles is possible or practicable among them.”39

37  Taylor, Empress, 51. Taylor also identifies the German philologist and Orientalist Max Müller among this intellectual milieu. Muller was apparently a guest at the royal dinner table and was invited to travel to India with the Prince of Wales in 1875–1876 (he declined). See: John R.  Davis and Angus Nicholls, “Friedrich Max Müller: The Career and Intellectual Trajectory of a German Philologist in Victorian Britain,” Publications of the English Goethe Society 85, no. 2/3 (2016): 67–97. 38  Albert to Wilhelm, 27 July 1857, quoted in Martin, Life of His Royal Highness Prince Albert, 4:85–86. 39  Albert to Wilhelm, 27 July 1857, quoted in Martin, Life of His Royal Highness Prince Albert, 4:86.



Historians have argued that the 1857 rebellion was a breaking point in these debates, as it demonstrated the perceived failures of efforts to transform India and its people.40 Moreover, as Albert’s responses to the mutiny reveal, he was unable to see the violence, cultural insensitivity, and political abuse that the Raj wrought on the subcontinent. When mutiny and rebellion erupted across northern India in 1857, Victoria and Albert interpreted it as the consequence of military and administrative issues. They blamed the reduction in European troops and the failure of dual authority in India, and advocated for a greater role for the monarchy in making appointments to the military and civil service.41 For Albert, in his letter to Wilhelm, the move towards “civilisation upon European principles” had “been taken by Hindoos as proofs that England means to suppress their religion, and to put Christianity in its place,” and considering the concerns of caste in a Brahmin-dominated army, “we cannot be surprised at the Mutiny of the Bengal army, which attracted to itself all who were ill-­ disposed to the Government. At the same time, the fact that the people have nowhere taken part in it, shows how satisfied they are with the English rule.”42 For Albert, then, the mutiny stemmed from the limited nature of military presence in India and the rejection, by an elite minority, of the changes brought forth by British rule. The unrest appeared to represent a painful spasm in the march of progress on the subcontinent. In the aftermath of the Indian Mutiny, Queen Victoria recommended to Lord Canning, the First Viceroy of India, a new order of Chivalry to mark the transition of power on the subcontinent from the East India Company to the Crown. Canning effectively tabled the idea, but by January 1860, Albert “was working on the Order, its name, insignia, and the design of its robes, as well as the membership of the first group of knights.”43 In the aftermath of the rebellion, Albert sought to create an order that, whether he realised it or not, echoed the promises of the Queen’s Proclamation of 1858. Albert’s personal involvement in the 40  See: Nicholas B.  Dirks, Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001); and Mrinalini Sinha, Colonial Masculinity: The ‘Manly Englishman’ and the ‘Effeminate Bengali’ in the Late Nineteenth Century (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995). 41  Taylor, Empress, 71–75. 42  Albert to Wilhelm, 27 July 1857, quoted in Martin, Life of His Royal Highness Prince Albert, 4:87. 43  Jonathan Marsden, ed., Victoria and Albert: Love and Art (London: Royal Collection, 2010), 244.



design of the Star of India, which itself became an essential part of later royal visits to India, offers some insight into the role he played in imagining a new role for the monarchy. Writing to the India Secretary Sir Charles Wood, Albert described his vision for the honour: The “Eastern star” will perhaps on [the] whole be the best denomination. The Centre of the badge of the Order might then be the Queen’s image surmounted by a star & surrounded by an appropriate motto & the star of the Order might be the star surrounded by flames on a glory … The Badge to be worn suspended from a Collar which might be composed of stars, Lions and Unicorns or the sunflower, or Lotus & ordinarily from a Ribbon. The presiding Idea would be contained in the Angel’s salutation ‘Glory to God, peace on earth & goodwill towards men’—Not a bad motto for the Queen’s Govt. in India.44

Albert and Duleep Singh were among the first to be invested with the new order at the first ceremony in November 1861 at Windsor Castle. In Allahabad, Canning invested the only female ruler in India, the Nawab Begum of Bhopal, and the Nawab of Rampur—both of whom had supported the British during the mutiny.45 This investiture was one of Albert’s last public appearances, as he died six weeks later. The transition to direct crown rule was characterised by increased attention to ruling India through ‘traditional’ elites, with a greater focus on ritual.46 The use of the Star of India to recognise princes loyal to British rule in the aftermath of the mutiny reflects the complicated influence and legacy of Albert in the Indian Raj. It was the first and only British order of chivalry that emerged out of an imperial context and was awarded strictly for service to the empire, specifically in British India. That Albert and Victoria would see the proclamation and the order of chivalry as reflecting the same priorities and values reflects the limits of their privileged vantage point.

44  Collar of the Order of the Star of India, RCIN 441295, Royal Collection, London; Prince Albert to Sir Charles Wood, 16 May 1860, 29 May 1860, RA VIC/MAIN/N/23/85, cited in Marsden, Victoria and Albert, 330. 45  Three women were ultimately invested in the order: Sultan Shah Jahan, Begum of Bhopal; her daughter Sultan Jahan, Begum of Bhopal; and Mary of Teck. 46  Sinha, Colonial Masculinity.



Royal Tours In 1860, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, visited British North America, laying the last stone of the Victoria Bridge over the St Lawrence River in Montreal. He then continued his tour to the United States, while his younger brother, Prince Alfred, travelled to the Cape Colony in South Africa, tipping a truck of stones into Table Bay to ceremonially commence the construction of a breakwater.47 Albert played an essential role in planning these visits—the first royal tours of Britain’s overseas empire that were not directly connected to military service. While Albert Edward and Alfred were not the first members of the British royal family to travel to the empire, their 1860 visits began a tradition that continues to this day of royals visiting the empire (and later the Commonwealth) to inspire feelings of loyalty in the monarch’s subjects.48 Albert encouraged the Colonial Secretary, the Duke of Newcastle, to accept an invitation from the Canadian legislature for a royal visit, and Victoria to embrace Governor George Grey’s proposal for a South African visit.49 While Albert’s papers from this period were destroyed, his fingerprints can be found everywhere in the plans for the royal tours.50 Clues are revealed, for example, in a letter to the Duke of Newcastle regarding the Canada visit, wherein Albert sought to manage every detail from the prince’s travelling party to ceremonial etiquette regarding addresses. The letter begins, I return the letters in re the Canadian expedition: It will be important to send without delay the complete list of the travelling party to the governor. You will be able to make out a complete return with the assistance of Gen. Bruce who only awaits your directions & will be prepared as far as his deportment is concerned. Saddlehorses will not be needed … The rooms can be settled by the Governors on your list of persons.51

 Some of this analysis on the royal tours is based on Reed, Royal Tourists.  Queen Victoria’s father Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, for example, lived in British North America in the 1790s and became Commander in Chief of the British North American forces. 49  Ian Radforth, Royal Spectacle: The 1860 Visit of the Prince of Wales to Canada and the United States (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), 18–21. 50  Pamela Clark, the Royal Archivist at the time, revealed this disappointing news to me during my first visit to the Royal Archives. 51  Albert to the Duke of Newcastle, 8 July 1860, Ne C 12771/1, Papers of the Duke of Newcastle, University of Nottingham. 47 48



The mundane details of the letter reveal the depth of Albert’s involvement and, as always, one can rarely glean where Victoria ends and Albert begins. His influence was ever-present in her letters to colonial officials concerning the tours. The purpose of the tours was decidedly Albertian. Writing to his friend Baron Stockmar, he connected notions of progress to the monarchy and imperial expansion: “What a cheering picture is here of the progress and expansion of the British race, and of the useful co-operation of the Royal Family in the civilisation which England has developed and advanced!’”52 At a toast given at Trinity House in June 1860, Albert remarked: at the same time—a few weeks hence—though almost at the opposite poles, the Prince of Wales will inaugurate, in the Queen’s name, that stupendous work, the great bridge over the St. Lawrence in Canada, while Prince Alfred will lay the foundation stone of the breakwater for the harbour of Cape Town. What vast considerations, as regards our country, are brought to our minds in this simple fact! What present greatness! What past history! What future hopes! And hope important and beneficent is the part given to the Royal Family of England to act in the development of those distant and rising countries, who recognise in the British Crown, and their allegiance to it, their supreme bond of union with the mother country and each other!53

As part of the tour, each son inaugurated a work of engineering improvement that reflected Albert’s interest in science and technology. At the breakwater ceremony, Alfred offered a reply that could easily be read in his father’s voice: The Queen was highly gratified that one of her children should be identified with so great and useful an undertaking, and it was with much satisfaction that I found I was to be permitted to inaugurate a work which would confer such substantial and lasting benefits to South Africa.54

Elsewhere, the princes visited and inaugurated sailors’ homes, schools, museums, and other cultural and social institutions that reflected Albert’s  Martin, Life of His Royal Highness, 4:83.  “A Toast Given at the Dinner of the Trinity House, June 23, 1860,” in The Principal Speeches and Addresses of His Royal Highness the Prince Consort (London, 1862), 243–244. 54  The Progress of His Royal Highness, Prince Alfred Ernest Albert, Through the Cape Colony, British Kaffraria, the Orange Free State, and Port Natal, in the Year 1860 (Cape Town, 1861), 118. 52 53



vision of progress. They returned from the empire with gifts and artefacts. According to Victoria, Alfred returned from South Africa with “many most interesting trophies, splendid horns of all those wonderful animals, photographs, etc.”55 While Albert was undoubtedly aware of the violence and destruction of the empire, he believed British rule to be natural and good and sought to attach monarchy to what he imagined to be the benefits of that rule. The tours were as much an exercise in royal child rearing as in empire-­ building, however. For Victoria and Albert, they were about grooming children who were useful to the nation and empire. While the Prince of Wales, as heir to the throne, received treatment and attention that reflected his status, the sixteen-year-old Alfred served in the Royal Navy as a midshipman; the Xhosa chief Sandile was shocked to witness the Queen’s son swabbing the deck of HMS Euryalus.56 Royal children and grandchildren appeared in uniform. Victoria and Albert carefully selected the royal entourage, and every effort was made to ensure that their children were learning about the world, especially the empire over which they would one day lead. When the Prince of Wales returned from North America, under the “delusion that the tumultuous welcome [he experienced] was for [him],” Albert forcefully reminded him that “it was nothing of the kind. It was simply an expression of loyalty to the Queen.”57 Victoria and Albert were not always of the same mind on matters of family and state. The Queen complained of Albert’s cruelty when Alfred was sent off to the navy aged 14, and the two had different relationships with their children.58 After Albert’s death, Victoria would express reluctance to allow her children and grandchildren to undergo future tours,59 and she continued to assert her prerogative in controlling itineraries, travelling parties, and other details. The royal tour of the empire and Commonwealth became a standard practice of the monarchy. Albert and Victoria’s grandson, George V, who travelled the world in the 1880s, was 55  Queen Victoria to King Leopold I, 13 November 1860, in The Letters Of Queen Victoria, 1837–1861, ed. A.C. Benson and Viscount Esher (London: John Murray, 1911), 413. 56  Reed, Royal Tourists, 11. 57  Quoted in Richard Hough, Victoria and Albert: Their Love and Their Tragedies (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996), 157. A Punch cartoon shows an Americanised Albert Edward telling his consternated father, upon returning from North America: “Now Sir-ree, if you’ll liquor up and settle down, I’ll tell you all about my travels.” 58  Quoted in Hough, Victoria and Albert, 162 59  See: Reed, Royal Tourists, 21–22, for example.



the first and last reigning monarch to visit British India, for the coronation durbar of 1911, as Cindy McCreery’s chapter discusses. In 1952, Princess Elizabeth was on a royal tour of Kenya when she learned that her father, George VI, had died and that she had become queen. In a jet age, Elizabeth II would become a royal world traveller unparalleled in history.

Albert’s Imperial Legacy Albert’s early death in 1861 leaves us with questions about how the monarchy might have developed with his continued presence. Victoria embraced his legacy, and she sought refuge late in life in his interests, particularly India. She commissioned a multi-volume biography of Albert and other works about his life, and supported institutions and the construction of monuments that extended his legacy, most famously the Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall in Albertopolis along Exhibition Road in London. As Miles Taylor’s work reveals, however, she understood India to be vital to her husband’s memory and continued to take an interest in the Raj until her death.60 She wrote to Sir John Lawrence, Viceroy of India, in 1864, asking that he “everywhere express the deep interest the Queen takes in the welfare of her Indian subjects, and how doubly she feels this interest, as her beloved great husband took so very deep an interest in India; the Queen feels this a sacred legacy, and wishes that her dear husband’s great name should ever been looked upon with love by her Indian subjects.”61 Her interests can be found in her attention to Indian policy over these years, her gifting of Albert’s biography to Indian princes, and her embrace of Indian princes at her court. Albert’s death not only cemented his influence on the monarchy and the empire but also perhaps exaggerated it. Victoria sought to honour his legacy, and her priorities were largely dictated by that desire. Albert’s curiosity about history, art, manufacture, and the wider world meant that the monarchy was bound to become more worldly and sophisticated and, arguably, made it possible for the British monarchy to survive as a global institution into the late colonial and post-colonial periods. At the same time, his interests and service reflected a belief in British superiority, even  Taylor, Empress, 193.  Victoria to Sir John Lawrence, 26 July 1864, in The Letters of Queen Victoria, ser. 2, A Selection from Her Majesty’s Correspondence and Journals between the Years 1862 and 1878, 3 vols. (London: John Murray, 1926), 1:242. 60 61



if he did respect once-great civilisations and their present potential to make new progress with British support. His interest in collecting and exhibiting the world similarly demonstrates these complicated motivations and beliefs. Albert’s intense work over the course of only a few decades did more to re-make and re-invent the British monarchy than any other modern consort. Nevertheless, we must also acknowledge that his liberal and evangelical belief in British rule justified the existence and expansion of a destructive empire and that his curiosity and armchair scholarship resulted in the violent colonial expropriation of artefacts and other meaningful objects.


The Hanoverian Consorts: Progresses, Pageants, and Performance Paige Emerick

Reporting on the death of Queen Charlotte in 1818, The Times denounced the consort as without “any splendid or commanding endowments” and dismissed her role as “altogether domestic and unvaried; and to the historian therefore more than usually uninviting.”1 In these contemporary press critiques, stripped of agency and wielding domesticity as a criticism rather than a virtue, the role of the consort was reduced to an aesthetic extension to their royal spouse and they were therefore deemed to have made little impact on the wider cultural or political implications of the monarchy. Scholars, however, have found the Hanoverian consorts inviting to research, and most recently Clarissa Campbell Orr and Joanna Marschner have re-evaluated how they were able to shape a new court culture centred around their personal interests and artistic tastes, and in


 “Death of the Queen,” The Times, 18 November 1818.

P. Emerick (*) University of Leicester, Leicester, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts, Queenship and Power, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-12829-5_8




doing so have restored to them much of their agency.2 These significant studies have primarily been rooted within aristocratic circles at court and around London and its suburbs, and therefore have neglected to explore the impact that a consort had on wider British society. Examining the manner in which consorts participated in pageants and royal progresses around Britain establishes their personal involvement in shaping the image of the royal family and strengthening the relationships between the monarchy and the public. A comparison of the experiences of the five Hanoverian consorts—Caroline of Ansbach (1683–1737), Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744–1818), Caroline of Brunswick (1768–1821), Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen (1792–1849), and Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1819–1861)—shows the changes in the levels of performance and pageantry, the evolution from royal progresses to royal visits, and the increasing domestication of the royal family. Treating these consorts as a collective allows for an in-depth analysis of how the format of royal progresses waxed and waned over the course of nearly 150 years. Despite sharing the same role, the five Hanoverian consorts presented very different personalities, and their position within the monarchy varied, largely depending upon their marital relations. Caroline of Ansbach and Charlotte enjoyed marriages to George II and George III, respectively, that were relatively typical of dynastic unions of the time, a union that was based upon a strong partnership and successfully producing an abundance of children to secure the hereditary line. For the three later consorts, however, their experiences of marriage differed widely. Caroline of Brunswick is problematic to analyse as a consort because of her limited time in the position due to her infamous estrangement from her husband George IV and her early death just weeks after his coronation in 1821. Adelaide, meanwhile, fulfilled the role of a dutiful wife but was unsuccessful in producing a surviving heir for the dynasty. Upon William IV’s death in 1837, she became the first queen dowager for over a century, which caused some uncertainty regarding her place within the royal family. Lastly, Albert was the anomaly as he was the only male Hanoverian consort and his gender 2  Clarissa Campbell Orr, “Introduction: Court Studies, Gender and Women’s History, 1660–1837,” in Queenship in Britain, 1660–1837: Royal Patronage, Court Culture and Dynastic Politics, ed. Clarissa Campbell Orr (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), 1–52; Joanna Marschner, “Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, and the Shaping of the Modern World,” in Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte, and the Shaping of the Modern World, ed. Joanna Marschner, with David Bindman and Lisa L. Ford (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017), 1–29.



allowed him to exercise a greater role in public duties and act more independently of his spouse. As a man, Albert expected that he would share an equal role with Victoria, who would divide monarchical responsibilities between them; while Victoria did increasingly defer to Albert, she did ensure that as queen she retained constitutional authority over him.3 These variations in royal marital relations were influencing factors for the consorts that had an impact on how they conducted themselves on royal visits. With the monarchy’s political power diminishing since the Glorious Revolution of 1688–1689, it became increasingly necessary for the royal family to take on a new social and cultural significance to maintain their public popularity, and the consort’s presence on such visits was fundamental to projecting a symbolic unified familial image to the nation. Each royal visit was unique in purpose and function, and they varied from being an active promotion of the monarchy through its majesty and splendour to private retreats for health, relaxation, and family bonding. The Hanoverian consorts were able to use royal visits as an outlet for the expression of their personalities over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and they outwardly promoted the royal family as an ideal of domesticity for others to emulate, regardless of their actual private familial circumstances. This chapter provides an insight into some of the public and private activities that consorts fulfilled during their visits. Newspaper reports and visual representations of the consorts on tour are examined to demonstrate the varying ways in which their image was projected publicly. Accompanying this analysis, consorts’ first-hand accounts of their travels provide a unique understanding of how they perceived their role and their relationship with their spouse, as well as the opportunities they had to exercise their individual agency. The presence of the consort on such visits was a central factor in solidifying the domestic image of the royal family, and travel offered the opportunity for a consort to take an active role in shaping their individual royal image and that of the monarchy as an institution to a wider audience beyond London.

Royal Progresses in the Long Eighteenth Century Royal progresses have been traditionally associated with the Tudor and early Stuart periods, involving huge travelling suites and elaborate pageantry. Travel typically occurred during the summer months to escape the 3

 Jane Ridley, Victoria: Queen, Matriarch, Empress (London: Allen Lane, 2015), 37.



diseases that plagued the suburbs of London, and the royal party resided at country seats belonging to members of the nobility for a few weeks before moving on to the next county in an onward progression. This style of progress provided a vehicle for courtiers and the royal party to communicate with one another.4 Grandiose pageants staged whilst on the road and upon entering cities further allowed for the majesty of the monarchy to be projected to a provincial audience. These official welcomes became a means through which the monarchy could assert authority over its subjects, and in return, subjects could demonstrate their loyalty to the crown. By the late seventeenth century, as historians such as Hannah Smith have noted, the primary role of the court had shifted from a political to a social function, and its physical location changed to being permanently based in and around London.5 No longer did the royal party have to make regular progresses across the counties to see their courtiers, as instead the courtiers had moved to the capital. This domestication of courtiers was already prevalent in other European courts, most notably at Versailles, where the monarch consolidated a fixed area of power around themselves.6 With the strengthening of the state’s power following the Glorious Revolution, there was little need for the monarch to go on progresses to assert their power and authority, and the Act of Union in 1707 further meant that monarchs were no longer required to travel to Scotland for their coronation or to tour their second kingdom, as now the two countries were unified under one title. This decline of royal progresses in the early eighteenth century coincided with the centralisation of the court, the bureaucratisation of government, and the accession of the Hanoverian dynasty in 1714.7

4  Jayne Elisabeth Archer and Sarah Knight, “Elizabetha Triumphans,” in The Progresses, Pageants and Entertainments of Queen Elizabeth I, ed. Jayne Elisabeth Archer, Elizabeth Goldring, and Sarah Knight (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 2. 5  Hannah Smith, Georgian Monarchy: Politics and Culture, 1714–1760 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 210, 232–233, 235. 6  Jeroen Duindam, “Versailles, Vienna, and Beyond: Changing Views of Household and Government in Early Modern Europe,” in Royal Courts in Dynastic States and Empires: A Global Perspective, ed. Jeroen Duindam, Tülay Artan, and Metin Kunt (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 405. 7  For further reading on the Hanoverian succession, see: Jeremy Black, The Hanoverians: The History of a Dynasty (London: Hambledon and London, 2004); Andreas Gestrich and Michael Schaich, eds., The Hanoverian Succession: Dynastic Politics and Monarchical Culture (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2015).



In order to consolidate their dynastic claim to the British throne, George I and George II continued to base themselves in and around London to build relationships with their new courtiers. Rather than progressing around Britain, their royal visits took them back to their native Hanover for prolonged periods of time. As a result, the early Hanoverian royal family did not see much of their newly inherited kingdom, which restricted the opportunities for them to build a strong relationship with the public.8 Nevertheless, they were still able to partake in ceremonial events to showcase themselves and their family to a metropolitan audience. From the late eighteenth century, however, the monarchy under George III once again started to embrace the concept of travel within Britain and increasingly reached out to different localities. This change not only benefitted the monarch and the consort by providing an opportunity to escape the capital, often for some much-needed recuperation, but also allowed them to observe their kingdom first-hand. It was through the framework of royal visits and expected gender roles that the consorts were able to present themselves to a new, and largely provincial, audience. Being seen outside of London helped to develop a two-way relationship between the royal family and the public, which contributed to enhancing the monarchy’s popularity. The extent to which each of the consorts travelled within Britain varied, due in part to the opportunities granted by the monarch and the limitations of infrastructure and technology. As both Caroline of Ansbach and Caroline of Brunswick travelled relatively little within Britain, restricting themselves to London and its surrounding areas, the manner in which they progressed throughout the capital is examined to understand how they presented themselves to a public audience. Charlotte would venture further outside of London, but the geographical reach of her travels was concentrated in the south and south-west of England, and never reached further north than Worcester. Aided by the invention of the steam train to make journeys faster and more comfortable, Adelaide travelled more frequently and across greater distances in England, regularly extending her trips into the Midlands. As the nineteenth century continued, Albert would further expand the range of locations upon which a royal visit was bestowed, stopping at industrial towns, voyaging over the sea to Ireland, and establishing private homes at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and Balmoral Castle in Scotland. For Caroline of Brunswick, Adelaide, 8

 Smith, Georgian Monarchy, 3.



and Albert, their travels would also extend to the European continent, but in order to provide a tighter comparison of the five consorts and their relationship between travel and the British public, this chapter will not discuss these continental visits.9

Arrival of the Consort Ceremony and pageantry have always been intrinsic elements of the monarchy, which allowed it to cement its overarching position in society, project a conceived or idealised history of the nation, and provide some escapism for the population. Under the guise of pageantry, the monarchy was able to unite religious and social factors into one ceremonial event, and one example of this was the welcoming of the consort to Britain, normally in anticipation of their forthcoming arranged marriage into the royal family. The commonality between all the Hanoverian consorts was that they were all born and raised in German principalities before coming to live in Britain. For Caroline of Ansbach and Charlotte, this initial journey would be their only voyage across the English Channel, as they never returned to the continent or their ancestral homes. The arrival of the royal consort in Britain provided an occasion for pomp and regalia at the dock and a cause for celebration as this event signified a continuation of the royal line. Caroline of Ansbach landed in Margate in October 1714 with her two eldest daughters, signalling an opportunity for local festivities along the procession route and within London to celebrate the new royal dynasty, for which Handel composed a setting of the Te Deum. On riding into the capital, she was greeted with cannon fire from the Tower of London, “And at Night there were Illuminations and Bonfires, with all other publick Demonstrations of Joy.”10 The importation of a ready-made dynasty with the Hanoverian succession was intended to provide stability for the country following the uncertainty of the final years of the Stuart regime. By travelling with only her two daughters, and not her husband or father-in-­ law (who had arrived in Britain before her), or her son Frederick (who 9  For further reading on the consorts’ European travels, see: Flora Fraser, The Unruly Queen: The Life of Queen Caroline (London: Bloomsbury, 1996); Mary Hopkirk, Queen Adelaide (London: John Murray, 1946); and Stanley Weintraub, Albert: Uncrowned King (London: John Murray, 1997). 10  “London, October 15,” The London Gazette, 12–16 October 1714.



remained in Hanover until 1728), Caroline was able to simultaneously present herself as an independent woman and a matriarch of the family, and by extension, of the nation too. Given the absence of George I’s wife, Sophia Dorothea of Celle, who remained imprisoned on the continent for adultery, Caroline was free to position herself as future queen and the sole female authoritative figure in the royal family.11 In contrast, when Charlotte arrived in Harwich in 1761 and Caroline of Brunswick landed in Greenwich in 1795, images of them focused on their youth and femininity to accentuate the role they had come to fulfil: to provide a genteel quality to the monarchy and to secure the royal line of succession.12 Such images portrayed the event as a moment of celebration across the classes and signalled the universal appeal of royalty, as evidenced by the various visual representations depicting crowds of men, women, and children of different classes waving hats to greet their new (or future) queen (Fig. 8.1). The distribution of such images enabled the public to familiarise themselves with the new consort and rally support for the monarchy through perpetuating an image of stability and longevity. Although the pageantry for the consort’s arrival was primarily concentrated at the ports and in London, and the levels of celebration were relatively subdued (in comparison to coronations or weddings), such occasions simultaneously prepared the consort for the public role that was expected of them and gave the population an opportunity to see the future consort before she met with the monarch. Pageantry was not just reserved for momentous events such as the consort’s arrival or coronation, however, and could be used on a smaller scale for travel across London. These shorter visits provided the reciprocal opportunity for the consort to be seen by the metropolitan public and for the public to respond with their displays of loyalty to that individual. Caroline of Ansbach, and later her daughter-in-law Augusta of Saxe-­ Gotha-­Altenburg, Princess of Wales, ensured they were seen throughout London by sailing down the river Thames on the royal barge with their

11  Catherine Curzon, Queens of Georgian Britain (Barnsley: Pen and Sword History, 2017), 37–40. 12  Print of “Her Majesty Queen Charlotte landing at Harwich on her way to St. James’s Palace” by Joseph Collyer after Daniel Dodd, 1787–90, 1872,1109.151, British Museum, London; Reproduction of a painting of “Princess Caroline Landing from the Admiralty Barge” after Daniel Orme, 1930, RCIN 605313, Royal Collection Trust, London.



Fig. 8.1  Princess Caroline Landing from the Admiralty Barge, after Daniel Orme, depicts the pageantry and crowds awaiting Caroline of Brunswick when she first arrived in Britain in 1795 in anticipation of her forthcoming marriage to George IV (then Prince of Wales). After Daniel Orme, Princess Caroline Landing from the Admiralty Barge (1930) (Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021)

children when travelling to other royal palaces.13 This type of travel was not only a quicker and more convenient means to get across the capital, but it also ensured that the royal family was visible to the public through the splendour of the boats they travelled in and the accompanying pageantry. While this display demonstrated the magnificence of the monarchy, it also had a second but equally important function of publicly displaying the family unit at the centre of the political institution. In the early years of Hanoverian rule, it was prudent to show to the nation the longevity and 13  Christine Gerrard, “Queens-in-waiting: Caroline of Anspach and Augusta of Saxe-Gotha as Princesses of Wales,” in Queenship in Britain, 1660–1837: Royal Patronage, Court Culture and Dynastic Politics, ed. Clarissa Campbell Orr (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), 146.



stability of the new dynasty to counter any Jacobite opposition. It was therefore vital for the consort to be seen in public not only to aid their individual popularity, but also to secure the dynasty’s position. By outwardly presenting a unified and stable familial image, of which the consort was an essential and central figure, the royal family was attempting to conceal the private discord that existed between the Hanoverian parents and their children.14 The importance of showcasing this perceived family harmony allowed the monarchy to establish itself as a moral exemplar with ideals that the public could emulate.

Consort and Monarch Relationships As the eighteenth century continued, the monarch and consort started to position themselves as an idealised family unit, which helped increase the popularity of the institution and the individual monarch. This positioning took time and was achieved with some difficulty, given the infamously strained relationships within the Hanoverian family. The breakdown of familial relationships, along with George II’s infidelities, limited royal travel, and Caroline of Ansbach’s early death, hindered the creation of a harmonious royal domestic unit. The favourable change to the monarchy’s reputation instead occurred during George III’s reign, with scholars such as Linda Colley, John Barrell, and Marilyn Morris identifying the late 1780s and early 1790s as the turning point, which coincided with the start of the royal visits to Weymouth.15 Despite a hiatus under George IV, this image of domesticity and conjugal bliss continued into the nineteenth century, shown by the royal family travelling as a group more frequently and across greater distances in England, and with later occasional sojourns into Scotland and Ireland, too. The increase in travel allowed the monarchy to be increasingly visible in their kingdom and to develop a closer relationship with their subjects, which the local and national press praised at length. For those who could not see the consorts in person, the increased production and distribution of images of them travelling around the country helped to keep the  Curzon, Queens of Georgian Britain, 60.  Linda Colley, “The Apotheosis of George III: Loyalty, Royalty and the British Nation, 1760–1820,” Past and Present 102 (1984): 97; John Barrell, The Spirit of Despotism: Invasions of Privacy in the 1790s (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 105; Marilyn Morris, “The Royal Family and Family Values in Late Eighteenth-Century England,” Journal of Family History 21, no. 4 (1996): 519. 14 15



importance of the monarchy ever-present and increased the significance of the wider royal family. These printed images, both non-satirical and satirical, were an important component in crafting the domestic persona of the royal family. Satirical images of Charlotte travelling on the back of a mule with George III to Cheltenham in 1788 presented the royal couple as country farmers that added to the royal family’s reputation for mundanity.16 The modest mode of transport and dowdy clothing aimed to play on the emerging “Farmer George” rhetoric by portraying the monarch and consort as a couple of middling rank. This good-humoured satire, the removal of all royal iconography, and their characterisation as a mundane couple made George III and Charlotte more relatable to the wider public by focusing the attention on their relationship as husband and wife, rather than the eminent position they held in society. The presence of the consort was necessary to consolidate this domestic image, and by representing their marriage to the monarch as a loving partnership, even in satirical forms, it set a moral example to others through advocating their conjugal harmony. This increasing image of ordinariness through travel was interrupted, however, during the early nineteenth century as Caroline of Brunswick invoked the pomp of ceremony when travelling. Her estrangement from her husband and her restricted access to her daughter Princess Charlotte meant that she was unable to craft an image of familial unity to present publicly.17 Yet, while Caroline disrupted this progression into domesticity that previous consorts had been part of, she was able to invoke the former ceremonious nature of the monarchy in order to make a political statement and stand out as an individual. Even when travelling short distances, Caroline sought to maximise the levels of pageantry to suit her cause. When travelling to and from the Houses of Parliament during her trial in 1820, in which George IV attempted to dissolve his marriage and prevent Caroline from obtaining the title of queen consort, huge crowds lined the route to glimpse their “rightful” queen.18 By travelling in an open carriage, Caroline ensured that she could be seen by a metropolitan audience, which allowed her subjects to celebrate her and participate in 16  Etching of “The Happy Couple, or a Visit to Cheltenham” published by E. Rich, 1788, 1868,0808.5765, British Museum, London. 17  Fraser, The Unruly Queen, 75. 18  Etching aquatint of “The Queen returning from the House of Lords” by Matthew Dubourg, 1821, 1880,1113.2627, British Museum, London.



these ceremonial and public occasions. Here, she was able to turn a political event into a patriotic one by conducting herself in public separate from her husband. Marital disharmony, infidelity, and scandal were nothing new for the monarchy; it was unusual, however, for these disagreements to be played out in such a public fashion, and Caroline and George did not attempt to conceal their fractured relationship behind a veil of domesticity. Dror Wahrman has highlighted how Caroline was able to gain public support because of her gender: her struggle against the political establishment and the patriarchy resonated with the working classes who formed the bedrock of her supporters and advanced her cause and individual popularity.19 By bringing the private domestic issues of the royal family into the public sphere, along with the press’ interest in reporting the event, the public was able to take sides between Caroline and George, and boost the popularity of the individual consort, thus further fracturing the image of the royal family unit. The absence of the consort on visits was also a signifier of the changing image of the monarchy. Following the embarrassment of being excluded from George IV’s coronation service at Westminster Abbey when she was denied access to the ceremony and left banging on the doors in July 1821, Caroline fell ill shortly afterwards and died the following month. The timing of her death coincided with the King’s departure for Ireland in the first royal visit there since William III and the deposed James II & VII had fought in the Williamite–Jacobite War in 1690. News of the Queen’s death not only caused widespread uncertainty amongst the organisers about the correct protocol for the situation and the extent of mourning that should be deemed necessary, but to the newly crowned George IV it signalled his freedom from his familial ties.20 As a single man with no surviving children (his and Caroline’s only child, Princess Charlotte, had died in childbirth in 1817), George demonstrated his independence and magnificence as a monarch through elaborate public spectacles in Dublin, and shortly afterwards in Hanover and Edinburgh too. Caroline’s estrangement from her husband and her early death meant that the image of domesticity established under George III and Charlotte receded from the monarchy under George IV, and was instead replaced with elements from 19  Dror Wahrman, “‘Middle-Class’ Domesticity Goes Public: Gender, Class, and Politics from Queen Caroline to Queen Victoria,” Journal of British Studies 32, no. 4 (1993): 400. 20  Letter from Henry Addington to Lord Liverpool, 9 August 1821, 152M/C1821/ OR34, Addington Family Collection, Devon Heritage Centre, Exeter.



the elaborate Elizabethan and Stuart pageants that displayed the wealth and power of the monarchy. Without the consort as a central domestic feature, the King and, by extension, the monarchy became less relatable to the public. After nearly a decade in which there was no consort following Queen Charlotte’s death in 1818 and Caroline’s death in 1821, Adelaide was able to start rebuilding the image of domesticity through her loving marriage to William IV. The impact of regaining a queen consort in 1830 was noted at court by Henry William Paget, Marquess of Anglesey, to William IV (whilst still Duke of Clarence): “The advantages of a female Court after so long an absence of any thing of that sort, were incalculable.”21 While Paget did not explicitly state the advantages of the return of female consort, the rest of his recorded conversation with the Duke implied that there would be an increase in regional visits, along with more self-control and frugality in the monarchy with William and Adelaide at the helm. This was in stark contrast to the late George IV’s showmanship and preferred style of rule. It was hoped that the popularity of the monarchy would be restored through their modest lifestyles, family arrangements, and personal visits. Although Adelaide did not have surviving children of her own to complete this image of familial unity, her several pregnancies, her presence travelling alongside and attending public events with William, and occasionally with her stepchildren, the FitzClarences, started to re-create the domesticity of the royal family following George IV’s reign. Notwithstanding Adelaide and William’s attempts at projecting an image of domesticity through their frugal lifestyles, happy matrimony, and a medley of extended family members, it would take another generation until this familial image became firmly re-established under Victoria and Albert and their extensive brood of children. Images of Albert and his children on carriage rides on their private trips, stripped of the iconography of pageantry, were readily circulated in the press, and later Albert’s enthusiasm for photography meant such images could be created and copied more quickly.22 These intimate scenes captured through visual media demonstrated the perceived ordinariness of the royal family to the public 21  Marquess of Anglesey, One-leg: The Life and Letters of Henry William Paget, First Marquess of Anglesey (New York: J. Cape, 1961), 227–229. 22  Lithograph printed in colour with hand-colouring of “The Royal Family in Scotland, Balmoral Castle in the Distance” by Dean & Son, c.1850–6, RCIN 630228.d, Royal Collection Trust, London.



and highlighted that Albert wanted to be recognised as primarily a paternal figure. Victoria and Albert’s tactic of showcasing the royal family on their travels to local and national audiences was a return to the format of the traditional family structure that emerged under George III and Charlotte from the late 1780s. As with George III, satirical images of Prince Albert appeared during the 1840s that depicted him alongside Victoria playing with his children, with one Punch cartoon harkening back to the farmer rhetoric that had successfully humanised George III.23 Having both monarch and consort on display simultaneously, whilst engaging in ordinary activities, was instrumental in establishing the domestic nature of the royal family. By advocating their domesticity, which concurrently helped to shift the focus of the monarchy from a political institution to a social and cultural one, the public found a recognisable theme within the royal family that was relevant to their everyday lives.

Public Roles of Consorts Consorts were self-aware in terms of the influence that came with their role and the need to outwardly project a positive image of the royal family, and one way they could do this was by participating in religious and charitable events on their visits. Such actions not only accentuated their personal piety and causes they cared about but also meant they could be held up as a virtuous model. When planning to travel to Cheltenham in the summer of 1788, Charlotte wrote to her friend and courtier Mary Stopford, Countess of Courtown, to inform her of the visit and to request her to organise three pews in the local church “in order to appear like Christians & to make a good impression upon those who are there. We also intend I do assure you to be Christianlike indeed.”24 Here, Charlotte was assigned some agency in planning the visit and given specifically the more traditionally feminine tasks to oversee. She was clearly aware of the need to display her domesticity and piety to a public audience, and the choice to worship in the parish church (rather than in a cathedral or private chapel) alongside the local inhabitants of different ranks allowed for the consort and wider royal family to take on an air of ordinariness, which 23  Print of “Prince Albert the British Farmer” published by Punch, 25 November 1843, 1902,1011.9706, British Museum, London. 24  Letter from Queen Charlotte to Lady Courtown, 29 June 1788, 2019.2, The Wilson Art Gallery & Museum, Cheltenham.



would be well received by both the press and public. Newspaper reports of the royal family’s religious attendance on their travels further disseminated the importance of following a devout lifestyle to the nation.25 Adelaide similarly spent much of her time in local churches when away on her visits, highlighting her piety and setting an example for the local community. Adelaide’s piety and altruism were well known across local, national, and international communities through her prominent church-­ building throughout the British empire and her annual donation of around £20,000 from her income to charitable causes.26 Her obituary in The Times noted Adelaide’s benevolence: “She likewise contributed to almost every public charity, and to the funds of nearly all the societies engaged in the advancement of religion.”27 These actions highlighted Adelaide’s financial independence and religious preference. Smith argues that one of the main roles of a consort was to display “godly queenship” in order to promote themselves as a moral exemplar to the court and wider public, and additionally to reinforce her husband’s position as head of the nation and the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.28 While all the consorts were raised with Lutheran beliefs, their devotion to the Church of England and willingness to be seen publicly worshiping was not merely a signal of their personal piety but also a reflection of the religious, political, and constitutional circumstances within Britain. By being actively seen to be going to church and involved in charitable works when on royal visits, the consorts were conforming to and promoting religious beliefs, philanthropy, and gender roles. While the queens consort managed to carve out a role for themselves within progresses and pageants appropriate to their gender that highlighted their motherly and feminine qualities, Albert as a male consort was granted greater independence from the monarch through being given a wider range of public roles. As the first consort to visit Scotland since Mary of Modena in the late 1670s, Albert accompanied Victoria on their trip in 1842, where he was sent to visit the University of Edinburgh and other institutions independently.29 Universities in England had a long history of receiving royal visits, with Oxford hosting Charlotte (accompanied  “Weymouth,” The Times, 7 July 1789.  Hopkirk, Queen Adelaide, 171. 27  “Death of the Queen Dowager,” The Times, 3 December 1849. 28  Smith, Georgian Monarchy, 32. 29  Queen Victoria’s Journal, 5 September 1842, vol. 14, pages 107–108, VIC/MAIN/ QVJ (W) (Princess Beatrice’s copies), Royal Archives, Windsor. 25 26



by George III) in 1785 and 1786, and then Adelaide in 1835. These were inherently civic occasions, however, which followed a traditional itinerary of receiving loyal addresses, touring the public buildings, attending divine service, and hosting a dinner for the local incumbents.30 In contrast, Albert used his visit to fulfil his personal interests by engaging with the scholars on educational matters and examining their collections with enthusiasm.31 Utilising his gender opened new opportunities for Albert, which normally would have been unavailable for a female consort. As universities were accessible to men exclusively at this time, it was more befitting to send a male consort to engage in such academic discussions, which also had the dual benefit of freeing the monarch to oversee other court and ceremonial obligations and allowing the consort to become recognised as an independent member of the royal family. Tailoring the duties to the consort’s interests, in this case Albert’s thirst for intellectual knowledge (reflected in his appointment as Chancellor of the University of Cambridge in 1847), granted the consort confidence to excel in the situation, or at the least reduced some of the boredom that accompanied ceremonial duties. However, the public engagements of queens consort were not always restricted by their gender. Their elevated status meant they held a fluid position and could move easily between performing their own feminine duties and adopting a more masculine role when temporarily standing in for their spouse. As well as receiving loyal addresses, consorts could also be trusted to deputise for their husbands during military and naval reviews, and as such assumed an authoritative position. Although Caroline of Ansbach did not accompany George II on his trip to inspect Portsmouth docks in 1722, or on his regular trips back to Hanover where he reviewed the military, she instead acted as regent and both oversaw the running of court and ensured political matters were dealt with in the absence of the King.32 Her regency was even more conspicuous as George II overlooked his son Frederick, Prince of Wales, in favour of his wife—something that George III did not do when faced with the same situation. Caroline’s appointment as regent highlighted not just the fluidity of her position as consort but also her personal strength by being able to efficiently deal with 30  Edward Holt, The Public and Domestic Life of His Late Most Gracious Majesty George the Third, 2 vols. (London, 1820), 1:281–282, 288–289; “Visit of Her Majesty to Oxford,” The Morning Post, 19 October 1835. 31  “Prince Albert in Edinburgh,” Caledonian Mercury, 8 September 1842. 32  Andrew Thompson, George II: King and Elector (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011), 65, 86.



political incidents and foreign naval threats, including finalising the Treaty of Seville in 1729.33 Other female consorts were offered this more masculine role whilst on tour, including Adelaide and Charlotte, who took on their spouse’s responsibilities when inspecting dockyards. Due to William’s previous naval career, it was fitting that he and Adelaide were the selected members of the royal family frequently tasked with conducting naval reviews. Upon William being promoted to Lord High Admiral in 1827, Adelaide travelled independently to meet him in Portsmouth.34 On the journey to the dockyard, Adelaide was greeted in towns with traditional displays of loyalty befitting a monarch, including triumphal arches, waving flags, and the ringing of bells, despite at this moment being only a duchess. Years later, as queen dowager, Adelaide would receive similar local displays of loyalty when travelling around England between country retreats.35 This reaction from the public suggests that consorts, including future or past ones, were celebrated in their own right, rather than only for their partnership with their royal spouse. Just as Adelaide had reviewed the ships on William’s behalf, on his second visit to Portsmouth in May 1778, George III brought Charlotte with him and tasked her with reviewing the Princess Augusta while he inspected other ships and conversed with the admirals.36 Here, Charlotte was being treated as equal to the monarch to oversee such significant tasks. In private, however, Charlotte recounted the drudgery that royal duties enforced upon a consort. Writing to her son George, Prince of Wales (in French), she recounted how she and her ladies were “equally bored with our people … & I think another trip to Portsmouth would kill me as I have too sociable a soul to live as I do.”37 Hence, while consorts were publicly obliged to fulfil ceremonial roles to support the monarch, their private thoughts reflected that this lifestyle was not always one to be envied. There 33  Matthew Dennison, The First Iron Lady: A Life of Caroline of Ansbach (London: William Collins, 2017), 281–284. 34  “Duke and Duchess of Clarence,” Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 2 August 1827. 35  Hopkirk, Queen Adelaide, 190. 36   George III’s Journal of His Visit to Portsmouth, 2–6 May 1778, GEO/ MAIN/2944–2945, Royal Archives, Windsor. 37  “nous sommes egalement ennuyé de nos personnes … & je croi qu’un outre séjour a Portsmouth me tuerai car j’ai l’ame trop sociable pour vivre comme je fait.” Translation provided by the Royal Archives. Letter from Queen Charlotte to Prince of Wales, 6 May 1778, GEO/MAIN/36355–36356, Royal Archives, Windsor.



was little choice in the duties they were expected to fulfil, and unlike Albert visiting universities to converse with the leading scholars of the day, these duties were not usually personalised to suit the specific interests of the consort. Nonetheless, their ability to fulfil royal engagements when on official visits without complaint or mistake demonstrated the independence of the consort and allowed them to shape their own image separate from their spouse within the public domain.

Private Roles of Consorts In amongst the obligatory official public duties that royalty was expected to perform on their regional visits, consorts were still able to find time to indulge in some limited private activities, although these pursuits were often still confined to the expected gender roles of the period. George III’s preferred destination for his private retreats was Weymouth in Dorset, visiting there almost annually between 1789 and 1805, and always taking Charlotte and several of their children with him. Despite rarely engaging with the particular attractions that Weymouth had to offer such as sea bathing (which the King and their daughters frequently enjoyed), Charlotte used her free time to engage in more traditionally feminine pastimes. In her surviving diaries for the visits in 1789 and 1794, Charlotte recorded that she spent her private time sewing, reading, playing cards, and writing letters.38 Although these were perhaps somewhat limited pastimes, her dutiful recording of such activities hints at her enjoyment of them and the opportunity they provided to spend time with her family and close friends away from court duties. Externally, it appeared that Charlotte was transporting a homely atmosphere from the court at Windsor along with her on her travels. By transplanting the centre of the (relatively small) court to her rented accommodation on the seafront, Charlotte was projecting an image of comfort and gender conformity to a wider population through news reports of her daily activities while in Weymouth. The publication and distribution of news regarding Charlotte’s activities reinforced the image of the Queen as a dutiful wife and mother presiding over a domestic environment, a role with which her subjects could identify.39

38  Michael Kassler, ed., Memoirs of the Court of George III: The Diary of Queen Charlotte, 1789 and 1794 (New York: Routledge, 2015), 4. 39  “Weymouth,” The Times, 6 July 1789; “Weymouth,” The Times, 7 July 1789.



Like Charlotte, Adelaide also partook in feminine activities while on private retreats. With no royal husband issuing instructions, Adelaide spent most of her widowhood living out of the spotlight of Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace, and during the autumn and winter months rented various country houses in search of better health. Despite this preference for a quiet life, Adelaide was queen dowager and due to her royal position, she still exercised a majestic pull over the public, as evidenced by the crowds that came to see her whenever she travelled. In her country retreats, Adelaide spent her time engaging in activities such as reading and sewing, much as she did in her married years and which, on occasion, gained her a reputation for being “boring” at court.40 While staying at Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire recovering from a severe illness in the winter of 1841, Adelaide occupied herself with creating artistic gifts for her newborn great-niece Victoria, Princess Royal: “Your approbation of my little offering to my dear Godchild gives me much pleasure. It occupied me several days during my illness to make the drawing weak as I then was & it was a pleasant occupation.”41 Her unique status as a widow with a substantial annuity, while also holding the title of Queen Dowager, gave Adelaide the independence to travel where she liked and allowed her the agency to occupy her time however she chose. Whilst she was never entirely out of the public eye, and still attracted the press’ attention for travels, political views, and income, this retreat from public life and spending her days completing genteel activities was an attempt to shift the focus of public scrutiny of the royal family onto Victoria, Albert, and the new generation. Consorts also sought to use their leisure time to engage in outdoor activities, and the Scottish Highlands provided the perfect environment for Albert to partake in his favourite pastimes, namely hunting, fishing, and walking. Victoria duly noted Albert’s conquests in her journals when he came back from hunting and the pride he took in his large quantities of kills: “Albert returned before 3, having had very hard work in the moors, now & then walking in boggy ground up to his knees, but getting 9 brace of grouse.”42 Albert’s love of traditionally masculine activities was disseminated to a wider audience through paintings, prints, and photographs.  Hopkirk, Queen Adelaide, 113.  Letter from Dowager Queen Adelaide to Queen Victoria, 4 January 1842, VIC/Y2/2, Royal Archives, Windsor. 42  Queen Victoria’s Journal, 9 September 1842, vol. 14, pages 119–122, VIC/MAIN/ QVJ (W) (Princess Beatrice’s copies), Royal Archives, Windsor. 40 41



Fig. 8.2  Prince Albert posing in deerstalking dress, with his ghillie in behind him, in front of a backdrop of mountains and forests emphasising his love of the Scottish Highlands and outdoor pursuits. Prince Albert in Deerstalking Dress (c.1860) (Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021)

Images of Albert in full deerstalking attire, posing in front of mountains and forests, demonstrated that he wanted to be characterised by his favourite hobbies and portray himself as a masculine outdoors figure (Fig. 8.2).43 As this photograph of Albert hunting was reputedly kept on Victoria’s writing table, it indicates that his wife favoured this athletic image of her 43  Photograph of Prince Albert in Deerstalking Dress, c.1860, RCIN 2418623, Royal Collection Trust, London.



husband too. As a male consort, Albert was subordinate to Victoria and therefore being documented pursuing his masculine pastimes when on royal visits allowed him to demonstrate male dominance over nature. This promotion of his masculinity through visual images corresponded with the wider societal shift towards a preference for athletic and muscular masculinity in the mid-nineteenth century, recalling the portraiture of another male consort, George of Denmark, husband to Queen Anne.44 Escaping into the Highlands provided Albert with some solace to engage with his preferred hobbies and gave him the opportunity to put across his individualism as a consort to those within the travelling court and to a wider audience through the distribution of such images of himself.

Family Legacy Across the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, consorts consolidated the increasingly domestic image of the royal family when travelling. Both public duties and private retreats allowed the consorts to outline their central position in the royal family, provided opportunities to demonstrate their agency, and express their personalities to a wider audience. Despite Caroline of Ansbach’s limited travel around Britain, as the first Hanoverian consort she fulfilled her role in carving out a position at court, patronising the arts, and invoking the pomp and ceremony of monarchy on appropriate occasions. These activities helped to buttress the Hanoverian claim to the throne and the monarchy’s role in society. After decades without a consort and now with a secure dynasty on the throne, Charlotte took part in an effective rebranding of the monarchy’s image by drawing upon the resources she had available to her—specifically, her loving marriage to her husband and her abundance of children. By physically transporting this family group around the country, even if only to limited regions mainly in the south and south-west of England, it was the first time that the public outside London were given an opportunity to see the Hanoverian royal family for themselves. Participating in ordinary activities alongside official royal duties helped to humanise the consorts and in turn boost both their individual and collective family’s popularity.  Barbara Gribling, The Image of Edward the Black Prince in Georgian and Victorian England: Negotiating the Late Medieval Past (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2017), 104; David A.H.B. Taylor, “‘The Rising Sun Gains Advantage’: The Iconography of George of Denmark as Royal Consort,” Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies 37, no. 2 (2014): 245–257. 44



This family group was unavailable for Caroline of Brunswick to draw upon due to her poor relationship with her husband and limited access to her daughter. Instead, to support her position, she returned to the traditional pomp and ceremony of monarchy that the institution had relied upon for centuries. After another period without a consort, Adelaide attempted to re-create the familial image of the monarchy, which George III and Charlotte had established, through utilising the resources available to her: her strong marriage to William and her close relationship with her stepchildren and royal nieces and nephews. Although this approach was reasonably successful, it would require a fully formed domestic unit under Albert, Victoria, and their children to be able to promote this image more widely on their tours of Britain. Despite his gender, Albert found himself subordinate in hierarchal and household position to his wife, so instead he used the opportunities that travel presented to indulge in his personal interests and create a public image of himself separate from the monarch. The consort travelling as part of the wider family group was thus important in solidifying the image of domesticity and shifted away from the traditional levels of pageantry that had accompanied the royal individuals in previous centuries. The wide variety of locations across Britain visited by the consorts, including country retreats, spa towns, seaside resorts, and cities, reflect advances in the infrastructure of transport that enabled members of the royal family to travel further and with greater ease and comfort. With the advent of train travel in the nineteenth century, both Adelaide and Albert were able to travel much further and more frequently than previous consorts, stopping in industrial cities and smaller towns along their route. Through the multitude of places visited, the consorts were able to develop personal preferences in terms of regions to visit, as evidenced by extended or repeated trips to these specific areas. The scope of visits allowed for some privacy away from the political spheres of London and Windsor and provided time for the consorts to indulge in their individual interests away from the strict confines of court etiquette. Often these interests conformed to the traditional gender roles of the period, which strengthened the image of the consort as devoted to, and supportive of, their spouse. The consorts’ actions, alongside visual representations and press reports of their visits, furthered the emerging image of the royal family as a domestic unit that would prevail into the following centuries.45

 Edward Owens, The Family Firm: Monarchy, Mass Media and the British Public, 1932–53 (London: University of London Press, 2019), 2; Michael Billig, Talking of the Royal Family (London: Routledge, 1992), 86. 45


Windsor Consorts


The Windsor Consorts: Longevity and the Modern Monarchy Carolyn Harris

The royal consorts of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries are remarkable for their longevity. From 1901 to 2021, there were just four consorts to reigning monarchs: Princess Alexandra of Denmark (1844–1925), consort to Edward VII from 1901 to 1910; Princess Mary of Teck (1867–1953), consort to George V from 1910 to 1936; Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (1901–2002), consort to George VI from 1936 to 1952; and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (1921–2021), consort to Queen Elizabeth II from 1952 to 2021. The long lives and tenures of these consorts as spouses and parents of monarchs expanded their duties and public image over multiple reigns, especially as the three queens consort outlived their husbands by quite some time. All four of these consorts served as important symbols of continuity during periods of unprecedented political, cultural, and social change. Their experiences as grandparents and great-grandparents endeared them to the wider population and made them topical figures, as the global life expectancy increased from 46 to 68 years between 1950 and 2019 and

C. Harris (*) School of Continuing Studies, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts, Queenship and Power, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-12829-5_9




demographics shifted to include 703 million people over the age of 65 around the world by 2019.1 These trends toward increasing life expectancies and an older population are expected to continue over the course of the twenty-first century. The multigenerational royal family reflects the composition of families from a variety of backgrounds in the present, and the experiences of long-lived royal consorts have become part of wider societal conversations about how to remain healthy, active, and engaged with the wider world for as long as possible in later life. Over the course of their long lives, Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother), and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, became some of the best-documented historical figures of the past one hundred and twenty years. In addition to writing correspondence and receiving written media coverage of their public engagements, they were all photographed and filmed extensively and were the focus of speculation and interest concerning their private lives. All four consorts travelled outside the United Kingdom: Alexandra spent long periods visiting family members in Denmark, Russia, and Greece, while Mary, Elizabeth, and Philip embarked on tours of the British Empire and Commonwealth. They attracted global media coverage and were seen by more people around the world than any previous series of royal consorts.2 These royal consorts were not passive subjects of the new forms of press coverage and public scrutiny. They carefully crafted their image through fashions, patronages, travels, speeches, and writings. They engaged with new technologies and experimented with a role behind the cameras as well as in front of them. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Alexandra was an enthusiastic amateur photographer who created albums that provide a personal and visual history of the royal family at the time.3 Today, Catherine, Princess of Wales, who worked as a photographer for her family’s party supply business prior to her marriage, frequently takes

1  See: United Nations, World Population Ageing 2019: Highlights (ST/ESA/SER.A/430), accessed 16 September 2021, https://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/ publications/pdf/ageing/WorldPopulationAgeing2019-Highlights.pdf. 2  For the global role of the modern monarchy, see: Robert Hardman, Queen of the World (London: Penguin Random House, 2018); and Philip Murphy, Monarchy and the End of Empire: The House of Windsor, the British Government and the Postwar Commonwealth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). 3  See: Frances Dimond, Developing the Picture: Queen Alexandra and the Art of Photography (London: Royal Collection, 2004).



official photographs of her children, which are then released to the public on special occasions.4 The media scrutiny experienced by these royal consorts was intensified by their perceived status as outsiders to conventional royal life, as they contributed new perspectives that would help to modernise the monarchy. While the Hanoverian consorts were all members of German princely and ducal houses who shared a language and certain cultural influences, Queen Alexandra and the subsequent Windsor consorts all came from very different backgrounds and expanded the definition of the ideal royal consort. Scandinavian royal marriages were significant during the premodern period: James III of Scotland married Margaret of Denmark in 1469 and added the Orkney and Shetland islands to his kingdom, and both James VI & I and Queen Anne married Danish royals. By the nineteenth century, however, Queen Victoria was concerned about the political implications of marrying her heir to a Danish princess, given that Germany and Denmark were in conflict concerning the duchies of Schleswig-­Holstein. The wider public, in contrast, embraced the arrival of a Danish princess and increasingly romanticised the reigns of Danish monarchs in England prior to the Norman Conquest.5 Mary of Teck was descended from the German reigning house of Württemberg and had a network of German relatives and continental cultural influences that would have been familiar to the Hanoverian consorts. Her paternal grandfather, however, had entered a morganatic marriage and she was not considered a suitable consort for continental princes. Her childhood in the United Kingdom and status as the daughter of Queen Victoria’s cousin, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, became more significant to her role as consort to the future George V. Queen Mary’s British identity, underscored by George V’s decision to change the dynasty’s name from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor in 1917, and her public engagement with working-class families, helped to endear her to the wider public.6 George V and Queen Mary also set key precedents concerning how the royal family might connect with people from different backgrounds across the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. 4  For royalty and photography, see: Claudia Acott Williams, The Crown in Focus: Two Centuries of Royal Photography (London: Merrell Publishers, 2020). 5  See: Andrew Wawn, The Vikings and the Victorians: Inventing the Old North in NineteenthCentury Britain (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2002). 6  Paul Ward, Britishness Since 1870 (London: Routledge, 2004), 27.



While members of the English aristocracy and landed gentry married into the royal family during the Wars of the Roses and the reign of Henry VIII, the marriage of the future George VI and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-­ Lyon (the daughter of the Scottish Earl and Countess of Strathmore) in 1923 reflected the unique circumstances of the early twentieth century. The First World War, and the collapse of the German, Austrian, and Russian reigning houses, prompted George V to encourage his children to choose spouses from the British aristocracy rather than continental royal houses.7 Elizabeth appealed to the public due to her Scottish identity and her experience interacting with people from all walks of life since childhood. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark and his marriage to the future Elizabeth II in 1947 appeared to signal a return to the tradition of members of different royal houses marrying one another, instead of choosing spouses within their own countries. Philip, however, did not experience a conventional royal upbringing in a stable family and a royal court. He fled Greece with his family as an infant following political unrest. His Mountbatten uncles then played a key role in his upbringing after the breakdown of his parents’ marriage and his mother’s institutionalisation in a sanatorium. When Philip married Princess Elizabeth, the British elite viewed him as an outsider—even though he had been educated in the United Kingdom and served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. Lively popular debate concerning the suitability of the match ensued.8 The perception of Alexandra, Mary, Elizabeth, and Philip as young outsiders who brought fresh perspectives to the royal family contrasted with their later status as elderly public figures who represented continuity in changing times. These views were influenced by portrayals of all four consorts in historical novels, films, and television series. In the 1975 television miniseries Edward the Seventh (Edward the King), Deborah Grant portrayed a young Princess Alexandra of Denmark turning cartwheels and 7  Kenneth Rose notes, “After the privy council meeting in 1917 which established the House of Windsor and renounced German titles, the King wrote, ‘I also informed the Council that [Mary] and I decided some time ago that our children would be allowed to marry into British families. It was quite a historic occasion.’” Kenneth Rose, King George V (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1983), 309. 8  See: Edward Owens, “Love, Duty and Diplomacy: The Mixed Response to the 1947 Engagement of Princess Elizabeth,” in Royal Heirs and the Uses of Soft Power in NineteenthCentury Europe, ed. Frank Lorenz Müller and Heidi Mehrkens (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 223–240.



making her own clothes, juxtaposed against the comparative formality of the British court. Even in the face of declining health and an unfaithful husband, the older Alexandra, played by Helen Ryan, retains her sense of humour, playfully disrupting one of her husband’s rounds of golf. The widowed Queen Alexandra was also portrayed sympathetically by Maggie Smith in the 1999 film, All the King’s Men. Queen Mary has been represented in film and television as both a young queen consort and an elderly mentor to her granddaughter, Elizabeth II, characterised by a strong sense of duty at every age. Miranda Richardson depicted Mary as a concerned but distant mother and a dedicated wartime consort in the 2003 television drama The Lost Prince, while the 2019 Downton Abbey film placed George V and Queen Mary at the pinnacle of the interwar British aristocracy. While Queen Elizabeth is best known to the public today as the Queen Mother, screenwriters usually focus on her marriage and the emotional support that she provided for her husband, George VI. She is portrayed as a supportive consort in numerous films and series, including Bertie and Elizabeth (2002), The King’s Speech (2010), and Hyde Park on Hudson (2012). The most extended film portrayal of Queen Elizabeth as Queen Mother is Sylvia Syms’s performance in the 2006 film The Queen, which focuses on the aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and also features James Cromwell as an irascible, ageing Prince Philip. The most well-known—not to mention the most controversial—depiction of Prince Philip as a royal consort is by Matt Smith, Tobias Menzies, and Jonathan Pryce in the Netflix series The Crown (2016–). The series focuses on Philip’s perceived discontent and frustrations with his role as consort, rather than his wide range of scientific and philanthropic interests. The Crown is also notable for providing a fictional portrayal of three generations of royal consorts: Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and Prince Philip—though Elizabeth II’s mother and grandmother are often reduced to the role of the voice of tradition, leaving out the complexity of their past experiences as royal consorts.9 Despite the wealth of primary source material concerning these consorts and the public’s familiarity with their images through the media and numerous popular culture portrayals, there is relatively little academic analysis of how the lives of these figures impacted the development of the modern 9  For more information about the historical events and figures that inspired The Crown, see: Robert Lacey, The Crown: The Official Companion, 2 vols. (New York: Blink Publishing, 2017–2019).



monarchy. The larger themes of the period—including the evolution of the constitutional monarchy, the transition from the British Empire to a Commonwealth of equal nations, the growth of the mass media, and the impact of the First and Second World Wars on British and Commonwealth society—are the subject of academic study, which intersects with the biographies of senior members of the royal family. The lives and individual perspectives of twentieth- and twenty-first-century British and Commonwealth royal consorts, however, are more often the focus of popular biographies.10 The chapters in this section all discuss how the consorts of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries constructed their public images and how they were perceived by the public in the United Kingdom and the wider world. The authors also discuss the contributions of all four consorts to the development of the modern monarchy and the example they have set for future royal consorts. Kate Strasdin discusses how Queen Alexandra created a distinctive public image through her slender figure and wardrobe. With her tailor-made costumes and her popularisation of sportswear as everyday dress for women, Alexandra projected an image of self-control, contrasting with her husband Edward VII’s reputation for gambling, womanising, and consuming enormous meals. While Alexandra faced strong pressure from her mother-in-law, Queen Victoria, to project an exclusively British image through her fashions, she introduced Danish royal motifs in her coronation robes, highlighting her heritage and close relationship with her parents and siblings. Queen Mary is closely associated with a devotion to royal duty and public service in the popular imagination, and Cindy McCreery explores how George V and Queen Mary navigated political, economic, and social unrest in addition to significant tensions within their own family. Mary travelled extensively throughout the British Empire and Dominions and McCreery’s chapter explores how she was perceived during the 1901 royal tour and the 1911 Delhi Durbar. Both Mary and Alexandra were popular figures as widowed dowager queens, as these chapters show. The emergence of Queen Elizabeth as “the People’s Matriarch” is the theme of Daniella McCahey’s chapter. There have been numerous royal scandals over the course of Elizabeth’s many decades in the royal family as Duchess of York, Queen Consort, then Queen Mother, yet she remained popular throughout her life, particularly as a symbol of the British war 10  For examples of both academic studies and popular biographies concerning the Windsor Consorts, see the further reading list following the Introduction to this volume.



effort during the Second World War. Through her talents for public relations and her long life, she succeeded in making the royal family seem a relatable and stabilising force for the British nation. The role of a male royal consort in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries is a key theme in Sarah Gristwood’s chapter about the long and eventful life of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Gristwood observes that Philip faced challenges similar to those of male consorts in past centuries, but his role was that of a modernizer during the early years of the reign of Elizabeth II, responding to the challenges of the late twentieth century. Like the Queen Mother, his longevity contributed to his reputation as a figure of stability and continuity within the royal family. Sarah Betts brings together the experiences of Queen Alexandra and the subsequent Windsor consorts in her chapter, examining how their longevity shaped the representative and operational structure of the monarchy in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Alexandra, Mary, and Elizabeth all served as important transitional figures at the beginning of new reigns while Philip occupied a unique role in a seemingly “feminised” and matriarchal monarchy. Betts also examines the political role occupied by the Windsor consorts, including their places in regency bills and their duties as counsellors of state. In the epilogue to this volume, Carolyn Harris discusses Queen Camilla and Catherine, Princess of Wales, the respective spouses of Charles III and William, Prince of Wales, the new king and the heir to the throne. During the last years of the reign of Elizabeth II, as in the reign of Queen Victoria, there were two generations of adult heirs to the throne with spouses and children of their own. Both Camilla and Catherine experienced press scrutiny and criticism when they first became known to the public in association with their husbands, as there were few precedents for a divorced woman or the daughter of self-made millionaires to become the consort of a future monarch. Today, however, Camilla and Catherine are accepted and admired as senior members of the royal family. The Windsor period has seen a gradual expansion of the definition of the ideal royal consort, allowing for a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and approaches to public engagements. This process will undoubtedly continue as the monarchy evolves over the course of the twenty-first century.


Alexandra of Denmark: Fashioning the Modern Consort Kate Strasdin

The life of Queen Alexandra is not obscure. Her biography is not one that was neglected with the passing decades and was recorded in a number of publications both during her own lifetime and posthumously. Living as she did at the height of interest in modern image making, photographic portraits of Alexandra abound and so she is physically visible as well. What is perhaps surprising, given the degree of her public popularity for most of the second half of the nineteenth century, is her absence from the general public consciousness today. Alexandra often appears to have been relegated to the role of a footnote in the chronicles of her husband Edward VII.1 Alexandra treads a line between relative general anonymity that is

1  Before his accession, his formal title was the Prince of Wales, and within his family circle he was often referred to as Bertie, but for clarity I shall refer to him throughout as Edward.

K. Strasdin (*) Falmouth University, Penryn, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts, Queenship and Power, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-12829-5_10




perhaps surprising given the degree to which she was so publicly celebrated during her lifetime, and a much broader popularity amongst royal historians and those interested in monarchy. The visual record places her in the role of the stereotypical nineteenth-century privileged white female, bound into her corsets and court dresses in sepia-toned cartes de visites—a shorthand for the conventional female consort depicted on coronation biscuit tins and commemorative ceramics. This myopic view has marginalised Alexandra and contributed to certain unchallenged preconceptions of nineteenth-century womanhood: that her lack of formal education made her foolish, when in fact she demonstrated a clear understanding of political difficulties; that she was superficially interested in her appearance above all else, when accounts show that she would often dress incognito in order to ride the tube and visit hospitals to drink tea with the nurses and patients.2 As a historian specialising in material culture studies with a particular focus on dress, my approach to Alexandra’s life through the lens of her clothed body affords a shift in focus.3 This chapter, therefore, is a biography of the woman through her wardrobe, the image and reality of her self largely disseminated through dress. From her relatively quiet upbringing in Denmark to the radical increase in attention as a prominent member of the British royal family, this chapter will consider how she navigated her place as princess, wife, mother, and consort. Alexandra became adept at using dress to both communicate in public life and to protect herself from it, aware in an age of popular print media that her image was a powerful tool. Taking surviving garments and examining them alongside additional records, it is an opportunity to reposition Alexandra’s experiences at the heart of monarchy and to shine a light onto her particular experience as Princess of Wales and queen consort.

Early Life Alexandra Caroline Marie Charlotte Louise Julia was born on 1 December 1844 at the Yellow Palace in Copenhagen, the second child and first daughter of Louise of Hesse-Kassel and the Danish Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Gluckburg. She was often called “Alix”  Georgina Battiscombe, Queen Alexandra (London: Constable & Co, 1969), 3, 223, 286.  See my wider research in: Kate Strasdin, Inside the Royal Wardrobe: A Dress History of Queen Alexandra (London: Bloomsbury, 2017). 2 3



in her family circle, a nickname that Queen Victoria and her children also adopted after Alexandra and Edward’s betrothal. As one of six eventual siblings and living a life of relative obscurity as a minor relative of the Danish royal family, Alexandra’s relaxed upbringing sat in stark contrast to the strict education and training experienced by her future husband. Alexandra had a close relationship with her immediate family, and these ties remained strong throughout her life; conversely, Edward’s relationship with his parents was distant and often strained.4 Her childhood was a carefree experience with none of the proscriptive expectations that typified some British aristocratic traditions. She was not shielded from life but involved herself in the daily activities of the city of her birth: “The children were well known around Copenhagen and were often seen walking in the city … strolling through the old market where the women wore colourful national costumes.”5 Alexandra’s father was an officer in the Danish army and as such their domestic circumstances were not lavish. Alexandra and her closest sister, Dagmar—known in the family as Minnie—grew up together in their modest surroundings, “sharing a sparsely furnished bedroom, helping one another with their dressmaking and the few lessons they were taught.”6 The references to both the dressmaking and the paucity of their formal education would come to define many aspects of Alexandra’s life. Her sewing skills were a positive attribute in the eyes of her future mother-in-law. On a visit to the Queen before her marriage, Victoria asked why Alexandra always wore a jacket to breakfast: “Well,” said Alexandra, “I like them; and then, you see a jacket is so economical! You can wear different skirts with it, and I have very few gowns, having to make them all myself. My sister and I have no lady’s maid, and have been brought up to make all our own clothes.”7 It was exactly this kind of pragmatism that endeared Alexandra to the widowed Queen and gave her hope that she was the right kind of wife for her wayward son. In 1852, Alexandra and her siblings underwent a monumental change of status. The then King of Denmark, Frederick VII, was childless, and Alexandra’s father was chosen as heir and became first in line to succeed to the Danish throne. Although Frederick’s closest male relative was 4  Richard Hough, Edward and Alexandra: Their Public and Private Lives (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1992), 9, 24. 5  Coryne Hall, Little Mother of Russia (London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 1999), 6. 6  Hough, Edward and Alexandra, 8. 7  Quoted in David Duff, Alexandra, Princess and Queen (London: Collins, 1980), 47.



Alexandra’s maternal uncle, Prince Frederick of Hesse-Cassel, his open sympathy for Germany was not popular in Denmark. Prince Christian was the only member of his family who had remained loyal to Danish causes and had fought with distinction in the Danish army during the Schleswig War from 1848 to 1850.8 Alexandra was now the eldest daughter of the heir to the Danish throne, and her marital opportunities underwent a similarly radical shift. Before his death in 1861, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s beloved consort, had drawn up a shortlist of potential brides for his problematic eldest son Edward, and following Albert’s death it was this list to which Victoria deferred. Alexandra’s Danish roots did not suit the British royal family politically, given the bad blood between Prussia and Denmark, but in all other respects she fulfilled their requirements, according to the file that Prince Albert began to compile that he labelled “Bertie’s Marriage Prospects.”9 Within this he gathered attributes of the various European princesses, relying on his eldest daughter Victoria (nicknamed Vicky), to report back to him. The verdict was that Alexandra of Denmark was not too loud and not too opinionated—she was “a pearl not to be lost,” according to the Prince Consort.10 Following Albert’s death, Victoria had her doubts and would have preferred a Germanic bride. She raised her concerns with Vicky, who had married into the Prussian royal family, and the correspondence between mother and daughter revealed much. On 16 April 1862, the Queen wrote to her daughter, “Your account of the family is certainly as bad as possible, and that is the weak point in the whole affair, but dearest Papa said we could not help it.”11 Queen Victoria’s bias was driven by years of prejudice against the Danish monarchy amid its past conflicts with Prussia, but her implicit trust in Albert’s decisions held out and an informal meeting between the young Alexandra and her son Edward was arranged.

8  Battiscombe, Queen Alexandra 8. See also: Inger-Lise Klausen, Alexandra Af Wales: Prinsesse Fra Danmark (Copenhagen: Lindhardt og Ringhof, 2001), 18. 9  RA VIC/Z462/101–2. 10  Roger Fulford, ed., Dearest Mama: Letters Between Queen Victoria and the Crown Princess of Prussia, 1861–1864 (London: Evans Brothers, 1968), 164. 11  Fulford, Dearest Mama, 53.



Fig. 10.1  Engagement photograph of Edward and Alexandra, 1862. (Author’s own collection)

Engagement and Marriage The engagement was to be relatively short, formally announced in November 1862 with the wedding to follow in March 1863 (Fig. 10.1). These few months left little time for Alexandra and her family to prepare the all-important trousseau that accompanied every bride to her new home. Given the financial precarity of Alexandra’s father, it was agreed that her Danish family would pay for her linens, nightwear, and undergarments, while Victoria would pay for the more substantial elements of her wardrobe, including a range of the fashionable and generously proportioned gowns typical of the early 1860s. Victoria had earlier taken a very proactive role in the preparations of her daughter Princess Victoria’s marriage in 1857 to the Prussian heir, Prince Frederick William.12 Her 12  Princess Victoria and Prince Frederick William were nicknamed Vicky and Fritz within their family.



daughter later recalled in a letter to her mother: “How well I remember all the trouble you took about mine, and how it touched me that you should see into each little detail yourself.”13 The Queen’s insistence to “see into each little detail” might also be read as interfering, and this was something that Alexandra had to manage as a nineteen-year-old prospective bride. Lady Walburga Paget, who was married to the British ambassador in Copenhagen and whose correspondence with Vicky had been instrumental in bringing the Danish Princess to the attention of Victoria and Albert, acknowledged in her memoirs, “The Queen with her wonderful forethought and knowledge, made all the arrangements for the marriage.”14 To stand up to so indomitable a force as Queen Victoria was undoubtedly the first of many challenges for Alexandra. She certainly deferred to the Queen’s advice on many sartorial matters, at least in these early days and on at least one occasion asked specifically about the composition of her future wardrobe. Lady Augusta Bruce, one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting, responded to Alexandra’s query about gowns for her trousseau: “three or four trains and grandes toilettes will, the Queen thinks, be sufficient.”15 Queen Victoria was surprisingly influential in matters of fashion during the early years of Alexandra’s marriage, and a comparison of the two women’s wardrobe accounts demonstrates that there were almost twenty suppliers that they both used, presumably on advice from the experienced Queen.16 The frequent interjections of Queen Victoria did not mean that Alexandra was a passive bystander in the planning of her wedding. She in fact took an active part in the decision-making and resulting commissions for her wardrobe. The order for the Danish hand-worked linens was given to the establishment of Levysohn in Copenhagen, a commission that won the firm an encouraging degree of public interest as Sarah Tooley, one of Alexandra’s first biographers, described: Danish ladies flocked day by day to the establishment of Mr Levysohn where the bridal lingerie was on view. Each article was embroidered with the bride’s initials below a representation of the English crown. No machine was  Royal Archive—RA Z31/45, V to QV, 8/29/77  Lady Walburga Paget, Scenes and Memories (London: Smith, Elder & Co, 1912), 97. 15  RA/Z/463/123 16  Queen Victoria’s Office of Robes accounts are in The National Archives at Kew. Queen Alexandra’s Wardrobe Accounts are held in the Royal Archive at Windsor Castle. 13 14



allowed to touch these fairy-like garments and several hundreds of women and girls were employed on the fine stitching and embroideries.17

Alexandra was joined in her endeavours by Queen Victoria’s cousin, Princess Mary Adelaide, whose daughter Mary would eventually marry Alexandra’s son, the future George V: “The friends spent many happy hours together selecting and planning the trousseau,” the results of which were finally assembled and displayed in a room adjacent to St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in the days preceding the wedding.18 Alexandra’s wedding dress, a subject of great anticipation, was not without controversy. Alexandra had been given a Brussels lace dress by Leopold I of Belgium. She had fully intended to wear the garment, which showcased the most famous and highly prized export of Belgium, but it was vetoed by Queen Victoria. She was insistent that Alexandra should wear a gown of British manufacture, a cause close to Victoria’s own heart since her own wedding dress had been made in England and had been covered in the best British bobbin lace made in East Devon. An ivory silk moiré dress was ordered from Mrs James of Hanover Square, over which tiers of Devon bobbin lace would be arranged. This dress survives and is part of the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection held at Hampton Court Palace. It consists of a separate skirt and bodice. The large lace flounces were removed, and these are held separately by the Royal Collection Trust. Whilst outwardly compliant, the evidence of the garment itself suggests some degree of rebellion from the young bride. Attached to the inner lining of the skirt is a piece of fine Brussels lace serving no apparent purpose. There are no written notes to account for its presence and so it is possible to speculate that this may have been a deliberate act on the part of Princess Alexandra to ensure that at least a small part of the Brussels lace dress she had intended to wear found its way into her all-British ensemble. At 8.00am on 10 March 1863, the bells around Windsor began to peal, and at 11.30am the ceremony took place at St George’s Chapel. A young Danish princess had taken her place as the new Princess of Wales.

 Sarah Tooley, The Life of Queen Alexandra (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1902), 46.  Tooley, Life of Queen Alexandra, 23.

17 18



Married Life Almost overnight, Alexandra was catapulted into a whirl of society that she had never before encountered. The public appetite for a young and beautiful princess to fill the pages of the popular press was enormous, especially given that Queen Victoria had mostly abandoned a public role following the death of her husband. Edward and Alexandra would fill that regal void. Public scrutiny would come to define Alexandra’s life as Princess of Wales and from the very outset her movements became the subject of intense debate. Setting up home in Marlborough House, the newlywed royals entered the whirl of the London Season, the first function that Alexandra attended being the London Corporation Ball at the Guildhall.19 The Times reported: “The Princess wore a rich but simple white dress, with the coronet and brooch of diamonds given her by her Royal husband but with the superb City necklace of brilliants. She looked, if possible, even younger than on her marriage day—quite girlish, in fact, in her simple white attire.”20 Edward and Alexandra’s marriage had been so widely anticipated and reported upon that such simplicity at these grand functions made an appealing picture. Here was the purity of the bride whose image was disseminated far and wide in newspaper accounts, a fresh young addition to a monarchy that had dipped in popularity with Victoria’s retreat from public view and descent into black mourning attire.21 From the very outset of her induction into the British royal family, Alexandra realised that her public image was important. Her role was in many ways a silent one, since women in Alexandra’s position were not expected to make public speeches beyond the niceties of civic duties. The creation of her popular persona therefore had to be realised through her appearance. Queen Victoria became concerned about the extent to which Edward and Alexandra were socialising in the first months of their marriage, believing that the young princess was failing to curb the extravagances of her 19  For the entirety of their married life, Marlborough House was their official residence in London. Their favourite home, which they built to their own requirements, was Sandringham. They moved into Buckingham Palace when Edward ascended the throne, and after her husband’s death Alexandra returned to Marlborough House, although she preferred the quiet of the Sandringham estate. 20  The Times, June 9 1863, 10c. 21  See, for example, Chap. 5, “Reporting Royalty,” in John Plunkett, Queen Victoria: First Media Monarch (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).



husband in the way that her mother-in-law had hoped. Victoria wrote of her anxiety to her daughter Vicky soon after the marriage: “I fear Bertie and she will soon be nothing but two puppets running about for show all day and night.”22 These concerns extended to their sartorial reputations as well. Victoria and Albert had often been critical of Edward’s preoccupation with fashion. Albert wrote to his daughter Vicky, claiming that Edward “took no interest in anything but clothes and again clothes.”23 Victoria cautioned her son and daughter-in-law against the frivolity of fashion, warning them that it was not a regal enough concern, in response to which Edward wrote from Paris, “You need not be afraid, dear Mama, that Alix will commit any extravagances with regard to dress … I have given her two simple ones as they make them here better than in London; but if there is anything I dislike it is extravagant or outré dresses—at any rate in my wife.”24 Alexandra received £2500 a quarter from the privy purse according to the wardrobe accounts dating from the 1890s, from which she paid for her clothing, the salaries of her dressers, pensions for former members of her household, gifts, and miscellaneous expenses.25 Edward occasionally advanced funds to her for additional costs but appears to have had no real say in her sartorial choices: Alexandra, for instance, chose to wear the Order of the Garter sash on the wrong side because she thought it looked better. Edward’s reassurances, therefore, did not reflect the high degree of agency that Alexandra enjoyed in crafting her public image through her appearance. Before many months of their marriage had passed, Queen Victoria received the happy news that Alexandra was pregnant. If the Queen hoped that this would slow their social engagements, however, she was to be disappointed. The Princess of Wales continued her public life much as before, to the Queen’s great anxiety. Order books held by Henry Poole & Co, the tailor Alexandra patronised for her riding habits, list a number of alterations made to her jackets during the latter half of her pregnancy, pencilled notes requiring jackets to be let out to accommodate her changing shape. Queen Victoria expressed her anxieties over Alexandra’s  Fulford, Dearest Mama, 236.  Quoted in Hough, Edward and Alexandra, 33. 24  Quoted in Philip Magnus, King Edward the Seventh (London: John Murray 1964), 105. 25  All of the earlier wardrobe accounts outlining her spending and Privy Purse allowances from 1862 to 1897 were lost during the London Blitz. 22 23



unsuitable activity in a letter to Vicky, dated 11 July 1863: “There are no hopes and I sometimes have my fears and misgivings about it altogether.”26 The survival of such records shines a light onto a hidden history of royal womanhood in Alexandra’s lifetime, namely the reality of pregnancy and childbirth. Photographs of the young princess at this time show her swathed in capacious lace shawls, obscuring any possible hint at her pregnancy, and likewise there are few written acknowledgements of this significant part of her life. Written recognitions of physical changes are few and far between amongst members of the royal family, although there is a reference to Queen Victoria advising her eldest daughter Vicky about corsets during pregnancy.27 Despite the fact that the 1860s were dominated by pregnancy and childbirth for Alexandra, there is little in the way of surviving material culture or indeed written accounts to mark such formative experiences, the contemporary anxieties about the pregnant body and codes of morality forcing a general reticence in the middle and upper classes to acknowledge the condition in public contexts. Like her sister Dagmar, Alexandra was also to display a lifelong determination to present herself as ever youthful and slim, surviving garments attesting to the very slight change in her waist measurements over almost half a century. Queen Victoria’s gloomy predictions about the unwonted vivacity of Alexandra’s social life at so delicate a stage appeared to be vindicated when, in January 1864—two months before her expected delivery date— Alexandra went into premature labour while watching her husband play ice hockey at Windsor. Few preparations had been made and members of the royal household were dispatched at speed to the local draper’s establishment, Caley’s of Windsor, to purchase the necessary clothing for a newborn infant. Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, nicknamed “Eddy,” was born on 8 January. Alexandra would prove to be a fonder and more informal mother than Queen Victoria had been, and the lack of discipline present in the Marlborough House nursery proved endlessly frustrating to the regal grandmother. Edward and Alexandra ultimately had six children: Prince Albert Victor (1864–1892); the future George V (1865–1936); Princess Louise, later Duchess of Fife (1867–1931); Princess Victoria (1868–1935); Princess Maud, later Queen of Norway (1869–1938); and Prince Alexander John, who was born in 1871 but  Fulford, Dearest Mama, 246.   See: Hannah Pakula, An Uncommon Woman (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1996), 114. 26 27



lived for only twenty-four hours. Alexandra’s frequent pregnancies did, however, bely a shift in marital relations between her and her fond but wandering husband. Poor decision-making saw him caught up in scandals that included a notorious divorce case and a gaming debacle, occurrences that horrified Victoria and made Edward a subject of intense popular scrutiny. It was during this time of marital turmoil that Alexandra proved able to capitalise on her individual public popularity, due in no small part to her outward appearance. A survey of her formal garments worn on occasions where her clothing was described in the Court Circular indicates that throughout the 1860s and early 1870s, white was a colour that she wore more often than anything else. She liked stronger colours—in fact her biographer Sarah Tooley noted, “Blue is her favourite colour and was much used for her dresses and bonnets at one time”28—but for these grand public appearances, white predominated. The association of white with purity and the image of the bride was at its zenith in the mid-­ nineteenth century. This was an aesthetic that Alexandra had already used to good effect as a newlywed Princess in 1863, but it is possible that she consciously chose to present herself in white at this time as a reminder of her innocence and her own unblemished reputation. Certainly, she remained hugely popular even as her husband’s activities became a subject of popular gossip. Edward and Alexandra’s wedding in 1863 coincided with the boom in affordable cartes de visite, the small albumen prints that were such a popular phenomenon in the 1860s especially. Photographic studios sold between 300 and 400 million prints in England alone between the years 1861 and 1867.29 Records of the Copyright Office of the Stationers’ Company list dozens of professional photographers who captured and sold Alexandra’s likeness to an enthusiastic public audience.30 The dissemination of these cards was part of a popular visual currency, a shared connection between monarchy and the people that helped to cement the popular perception of Alexandra as somehow accessible. If she was using dress as a means to convey, non-verbally, some of the realities of her life as young wife and mother, then it is possible to read much into one of the surviving garments from this period, a fancy-dress  Tooley, Life of Queen Alexandra, 61.  Annie Rudd, “Victorians Living in Public: Cartes de Visites as 19th-Century Social Media,” Photography and Culture 9, no. 3 (2016): 195–217. 30  Frances Dimond, Developing the Picture: Queen Alexandra and the Art of Photography (London: Royal Collection, 2004), 183. 28 29



costume worn to a widely anticipated and reported event. The Waverley Ball was billed as one of the entertainments of the 1871 season. Held at Willis’s Rooms on 6 July to raise money for the completion of the Sir Walter Scott Monument in Edinburgh, the aristocratic guests were invited to attend as a character from one of Scott’s much-loved novels. The Times reported on 7 July, “The ball room at midnight presented a most gay and picturesque spectacle … graced by the presence of Their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales.”31 Alexandra had chosen to attend dressed as the romanticised figure of Mary, Queen of Scots. The legend of Mary was not a straightforward one in Victorian Britain. Jane Elizabeth Lewis has examined the phenomena of Mary’s mythologisation, part of what she describes as a “fiction of Britain,” the construction of an imagined past peopled with gallant figures often captured by artists who developed a particularly heroic narrative: “Many canvases captured a lady of ethereal loveliness, one who—when not occupied with her needle or the feeding of her doves—was usually to be found enduring some distress with every flounce, rosette and sausage curl in place.”32 This endurance of distress may have resonated with Alexandra at this point in her life. By 1871, Alexandra had withstood the barrage of negative press surrounding Edward’s (illicit) activities, suffered a serious illness that had resulted in chronic pain and loss of mobility, was becoming increasingly deaf from an inherited genetic condition, and lived through six pregnancies. She was a very different princess from the young girl who had arrived in England in 1863, living with a new set of realities while under permanent scrutiny from both her formidable mother-in-law and an increasingly sophisticated popular press. To dress as Mary, Queen of Scots, was to offer herself as a long-suffering and much maligned royal woman, one whose treatment at the hands of the English monarchy was the stuff of legend. The gown itself was an ornate confection of mulberry velvet trimmed with paste gems, all of the accoutrements of faux-Tudor decadence but constructed along the nineteenth-century imagination of it. She was dressed as a Queen, as essentially herself, but simultaneously as “other.” Perhaps the aesthetic that is most closely associated with Alexandra as an established member of the British royal family from the 1870s and beyond is her neatly tailored body (Fig.  10.2). Of the many surviving  The Times, July 7, 1871, 3.  Jane Elizabeth Lewis, Mary Queen of Scots: Romance and Nation (London: Routledge, 1998), 173. 31 32



Fig. 10.2  Photograph of Queen Alexandra in a tailored yachting costume, c.1905. (Author’s own collection)

photographs of her that were purchased avidly in their millions, there are many that capture her penchant for the straight and unfussy lines of a wool or linen tailor-made costume. Women had ventured into the more masculinised domain of such a garment for decades, but it was customarily in the context of sport. The riding habit was a garment that could be read in ways that suited the young Princess of Wales, “Though masculinised in many ways, the tightly-moulded habit displayed the horsewoman’s form to advantage.”33 There are many portraits that depict the horsewoman clad in a plain riding habit from the mid-eighteenth century, and by the middle of the nineteenth century, it was fashionable for the elite to appear at regattas in vaguely nautical ensembles. These fashions remained strictly within the boundaries of these sporting spaces, however, and were not deemed appropriate for everyday wear. In one of her few truly innovative 33  Alison Matthews-David, “Elegant Amazons: Victorian Riding Habits and the Fashionable Horsewoman,” Victorian Literature and Culture 30, no. 1 (2002): 193.



contributions to fashion, Alexandra began to break down this particular dress code when she chose serge yachting costumes, tailored jackets, and tweeds to populate her daily wardrobe. Alexandra and Edward had taken their honeymoon on the Isle of Wight and it was here that she placed her first order with a local draper by the name of John Redfern. Alexandra’s patronage of Redfern and his skill at tailoring for women saw his star rise and the firm became one of the leading fashion houses of its day, opening branches in London, Paris, and New York. Alexandra also patronised some of the more established tailors for her riding habits, her first purchase of which is recorded in the business records of Henry Poole and Co in the days after her wedding. Both the Prince and Princess of Wales were customers of the Savile Row tailor, their details outlined on pages facing each other in the company ledgers. Where Alexandra’s measurements barely altered during the years of her custom at Henry Poole, Edward’s underwent regular amendment, his increasing girth marked in the crossings out at regular intervals, the new and larger measurement written alongside.34 Alexandra’s preference for the simplicity of a tailor-made costume compared with more traditionally elaborate daywear flew in the face of her mother-in-law’s preferences. Queen Victoria found her daughter-in-law’s slender figure troubling. She equated it with frailty, underscored by her premature births and sickly children.35 It is possible to equate Alexandra’s unchanging silhouette, recorded so starkly in the records of Henry Poole and Co, alongside her husband’s growing one as an indicator of control. During the 1870s and 1880s, when Edward was the epitome of excess, Alexandra presented an unchanging and predictable public persona. As Edward’s waistline expanded, so Alexandra’s remained the same and she presented the evidence of her controlled and seemingly unchanging body through a series of garments that accentuated those very aspects of her body that Queen Victoria found so discomfiting. Once more, dress afforded her a silent assertion of self. If Alexandra and Edward’s marriage had suffered a strain in the years after their children were born, not least with the string of well-publicised mistresses he maintained, their union did reach a point of acceptance as the years passed. Letters from Alexandra to her sister Dagmar, who became Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia in 1881, reveal a “deep affection for

 Henry Poole & Co Measurement Ledger, no number.  Fulford, Dearest Mama, 226.

34 35



Bertie.”36 A companionship of sorts seems to have unified Edward and Alexandra. Dividing their time between Marlborough House and Alexandra’s favourite residence of Sandringham in Norfolk, the Prince and Princess of Wales remained united. By 1889, the family entered a new phase in their life when their eldest daughter, Louise, was married to the Duke of Fife. Two years later their adored eldest son, Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, announced his engagement to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck. Their happiness was short-lived. In late 1891 the young prince was taken ill with influenza which in turn developed into pneumonia, and he died at Sandringham on 14 January 1892, less than a week after his twenty-eighth birthday. Alexandra was heartbroken. As at other key moments in her life, the Princess of Wales used dress to convey certain aspects of her self. After the period of full mourning expected of her, Alexandra retreated into the colours of half mourning for the rest of her life. All of the surviving garments from this point onwards attest to the casting off of the once bright colours that had previously populated her wardrobe to be replaced with lilacs, greys, pale yellows, and white. Managing both her public image and her private grief, she recognised that to wear black indefinitely would not have been a wise decision, having witnessed first-hand how unpopular Queen Victoria’s descent into perpetual mourning had been. Instead, her palette was muted, displaying the effects of loss but expressed in a subtle enough way that meant she retained her reputation as a popular and fashionable princess in spite of her private sadness. Her official biographer Sarah Tooley wrote, less than ten years after Eddy’s death, “Of late years she has preferred silver, gray and pale shades of heliotrope.”37

Queen Consort On 22 January 1901, Queen Victoria died at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. She had ruled for over sixty years, and her death heralded long-­ anticipated change for the Prince and Princess of Wales.

36  Danish National Archives, letters from Alexandra to her sister Minnie (as she affectionately called Dagmar), 1862–1885, 4555, Centralarkiv for Oktoberrevolutionen, Moskva, Boxes 102–104. 37  Tooley, Life of Queen Alexandra, 161. Heliotrope, a shade of purple, was popular at the time.



As a measure of how Alexandra intended to approach her role as queen consort, analysis of her coronation gown and robes is illuminating. As preparations for Edward VII’s coronation began to gather pace, Alexandra’s proactive ambitions were recorded by the new King’s equerry, Lord Esher: “It is queer, her determination to have her own way. As Princess of Wales she was never, so she says, allowed to do as she chose. ‘Now I do as I like’ is the sort of attitude.”38 He records that she refused to be called a consort in official correspondence and photographs, and that “Queen” was sufficient for her title.39 Her assertive new voice was initially directed towards the coronation itself and the role she would play in the ceremony. Sweeping aside entreaties about precedent and protocol, Alexandra wrote to Lord Esher, “I know better than all the milliners and antiquaries. I shall wear exactly what I like and so will all my ladies!”40 Certainly, the intent of both Edward and Alexandra was to present a spectacle. Edward had always been a showman, and he wanted to demonstrate to the Empire that his reign heralded a new century and a new beginning. The eighteen months of planning time that had been agreed upon meant that Alexandra could commit herself to a carefully choreographed approach to the creation of her coronation gown and robes. In June 1901, Alexandra began to consider the design of her golden coronation gown, which she wished to be made in India, and called on the assistance of Mary, Lady Curzon. Mary recorded the meeting in a letter to her husband: This afternoon the Queen sent for me and I went to see her at Marlborough House and absolutely nothing could exceed her kindness—kissed me!—patted me—admired me! And wished to see me again. I brought her a black and silver piece of embroidery to shew her and she wants me to order a similar dress for her Coronation pageants—one is to be black and silver, another mauve and gold with great train. She said she would leave it all to me which I don’t much like—but I shall do my very best to get her something beautiful embroidered at Delhi.41

38  Reginald Esher, Journals and Letters, Volume 1 (London: Nicholson & Watson, 1934), 373. 39  Esher, Journals and Letters, 279. 40  Esher, Journals and Letters, 318. 41  Quoted in John Bradley, Lady Curzon’s India: Letters of a Vicereine (London: George Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1985), 107.



A month later she wrote again from London, “I am waiting here for Queen’s command. Charlotte Knollys has written she wished to see me about ordering Coronation dress in India.”42 Mary Curzon was the young Vicereine of India and was therefore perfectly placed to oversee a commission of such significance, however daunted she felt at the prospect. Letters that passed between Queen Alexandra’s private secretary, Charlotte Knollys, and Mary Curzon herself reveal the extent to which Alexandra was planning the appearance of her regal body for the most significant public appearance of her life. Early in the process, Knollys wrote, “The Queen has instructed me to write and say that she thinks the dress for the Coronation would look very well net embroidered in gold and silver with rose, shamrock and thistle. Could you therefore have a design made and send it to Her Majesty to look at. It must not be ‘too conventional’ or stiff but something in the ‘flowery’ style of your dress.”43 Alexandra was demonstrating her canny approach to dress that she had mastered over a lifetime of public scrutiny, recognising the level of expectation attendant upon her appearance. There was, however, an ulterior motive to the gown’s design taking place far from British shores that extended beyond the Queen’s interest in the Indian sub-continent. Two letters written by Charlotte Knollys to Lady Curzon between August and October 1901 stress the importance of discretion: “Private My Dear Lady Curzon, The Queen wishes me to write and ask you not to tell anyone in England about the dresses ordered in India, or else they will be wanting to have some also, whereas HM would like to have something original for her Coronation dress.”44 A week later she wrote again, “I do not think the Queen has the slightest objection to letting it be known in India that her Coronation dress is to be made there. She only thought (entre nous) that if the London Ladies got hold of it they would be wanting to copy hers.”45 Having spent more than forty years in the company of the “London Ladies,” Alexandra was under no illusions about the likelihood of achieving originality should she have handed her commission to local makers. In order to ensure that she  Quoted in Bradley, Lady Curzon’s India, 117.  Nicola Thomas, “Embodying Imperial Spectacle: Dressing Lady Curzon, Vicereine of India, 1899–1905,” Cultural Geographies 14, no. 3 (2007): 388. 44  Lady Curzon Papers (LCP), British Library, East India Papers, F306/35 No 71, 3 August 1901. 45  LCP, British Library, F306/35 No 76, 9 August 1901. 42 43



would appear in Westminster Abbey uniquely attired, the dress had to be created far from prying eyes. The velvet coronation robes were another matter. The original design was drawn by the avant-garde artist Frederick Vigers, incorporating nationally symbolic elements across the surface of the robe. This design in itself formed a departure from traditional approaches to the styling of a queen consort who was not supposed to have royal emblems displayed on the robe, but rather wear a plain velvet robe trimmed along its borders in gold and ermine.46 She was determined on her course, however, and the crown and star, amongst other symbols of monarchy, were embroidered across the surface of the velvet by the Ladies Work Society.47 The liberal scatter of gold embroidered crowns across Queen Alexandra’s robe bears a striking resemblance to the monarchical emblems of her homeland, Denmark, and the Danish royal family. The Danish custom was to wear a red silk robe covered across its entirety with gold embroidered crowns, and it is perhaps significant that the new Queen chose to recreate this decorative tradition in her own ceremonial robe. The often-complicated relationship between Queen Victoria and Alexandra’s Danish family meant that Alexandra was rarely permitted to acknowledge her cultural heritage in her sartorial life. After decades of championing British wares and bearing British emblems, the aesthetic influences embedded in her coronation robe could at last celebrate Denmark.48 The coronation did not proceed as planned because Edward fell ill in the weeks preceding the ceremony in June. After a period of recovery, the coronation finally took place on 9 August 1902 and was the theatrical spectacle that both Edward and Alexandra had anticipated. Alexandra’s golden gown was a triumph, not least because of the technological 46  For example, the coloured lithograph of William IV’s consort Queen Adelaide in 1831 shows her plain coronation robes. National Portrait Gallery, https://www.npg.org. uk/collections/search/portrait/mw42108/Queen-Adelaide-Princess-Adelaide-of-SaxeMeiningen. 47  For details of the robe, see: Zillah Halls, Coronation Costume, 1685–1953 (London: London Museum, 1973), 53. 48  For details of Danish coronation robes, see: Katia Johansen, Royal Gowns (Copenhagen: Rosenborg Palace, 1990), 30, 39, 55; and Katia Johansen, “Magnificence des Rois Danois: Costumes de Couronnement et Habits de Chevaliers,” in Fastes de Cour et Ceremonies Royales, ed. Pierre Arizzoli-Clémentel and Pascale Gorguet Ballesteros (Paris: Réuniondes Musées Nationaux, 2009), 140–145.



Fig. 10.3  Coronation photograph of Queen Alexandra, 1902. (Author’s own collection)

additions to Westminster Abbey that enhanced the effect of her embodied regality (Fig. 10.3). The anonymous New York Times correspondent E.A.D. reported rapturously on the moment of anointing, “When the tottering Primate, who almost fainted in the act, placed the diadem on the head of him whom he had just anointed in the name of the Lord to be ‘a Captain over his inheritance,’ electric lights suddenly blazed in the sanctuary behind which the bones of St Edward repose.”49 It was a premeditated and carefully choreographed piece of drama by a couple who had long recognised the  E.A.D., The New York Times, 10 August 1902, np.




importance of such public gestures. The effect was a powerful one, as Lady Jane Lindsay recalled: “When the Queen appeared it was like a vision coming through the dark archway of the screen. I never saw anything more beautiful.”50 E.A.D. summed up his assessment of the new Queen thus, “No wonder the whole nation admires her, for surely a younger looking woman of her years was never seen, or a more graceful one. She is endowed with that natural grace and instinctive knowledge of the fitness of things which the most laboriously acquired manners can never equal.”51

Queen Alexandra became Queen at the age of fifty-eight. In spite of the hyperbolic descriptions of her youthfulness, her age was starting to show. The rheumatic fever of her younger years had left her with a permanent limp and she was, by 1902, profoundly deaf. The public occasions at which she had so excelled now became something of a trial. She wrote movingly to her daughter-in-law Mary using the pet name that the family adopted, “You my sweet May are always so dear and nice to me—and whenever I am not quite ‘au fait’ on account of my beastly ears you always by a word or even by a turn towards me make me understand.”52 The largest number of Alexandra’s surviving garments date to the period of her queenship and indicate this change of status in a uniquely different aesthetic. Where previously Alexandra’s clothing had been distinctive for its lack of ornament, her surviving gowns from 1902 onwards are richly embellished from neck to ankle. Heavily sequinned and embroidered, they all, without exception, shimmer. Photographs show that in private she still preferred the simplicity of tailoring but her public garments glittered. As Queen she would appear queenly and be the most recognisable person in the room. A famous anecdote written by one of her ladies-in-waiting substantiates this sartorial articulation of status. Lady Antrim had been deputised to approach the Queen, as the period of mourning for Queen Victoria was approaching its end, to ask if the ladies of the court might cast off their mourning for an upcoming ball, “Refusing to give a ruling (‘such 50  Mary Meynell, Sunshine and Shadows Over a Long Life (London: John Murray, 1933), 10. 51  E.A.D., The New York Times, 10 August 1902, np. 52  Royal Archive, Queen Alexandra to Princess of Wales, 21 Jan 1908.



questions bore me intensely’), Alexandra guessed that her ladies would stick cautiously to black, as indeed they did, while she herself appeared in stunning white, gleaming with jewels, like a solitary star in the night sky.”53 This was, of course, a powerful sartorial statement, staking her claim to shine as the most important woman in the room. There is, though, the possibility of another, more pragmatic, motive to the new-found glitter of her formal wear. If she appeared appropriately regal in gold and silver, she was also unobtainable. Her royal body was a vision to admire from afar and her gowns were therefore a form of silken armour to shield her from unwanted conversations. Deafness itself was a barrier and so she dazzled onlookers with her appearance in a bid to deflect closer attention. Alexandra’s life took on a regular pattern of civic responsibilities, a blend of the public and private that she and Edward had shaped throughout their marriage, reinvigorating the institution of monarchy through both an adherence to etiquette and an embracing of modernity and the common touch. It was a combination that won them popularity and as Alexandra progressed into her sixties, she was no less feted a public figure. In 1908, The Daily Telegraph published what was to be the hugely popular Queen Alexandra’s Christmas Gift Book, the recreation of a family photograph album with the images taken by the Queen, keen photographer that she was. It invited the public into her world, offering them a view of her domestic life. She continued to bear Edward’s indiscretions with fortitude and even humour, nicknaming her stout husband “Tum Tum” and dissolving into gales of laughter at the sight of his equally plump younger mistress Alice Keppel sitting next to him in the garden.54 The King and Queen holidayed together sometimes, and other times apart. They both tolerated and infuriated each other. Edward’s kingship was considered to be vastly more successful than many contemporary commentators had predicted but it was to be relatively short-lived. After less than ten years as monarch, Edward’s years of excess finally caught up with him. A cold turned into a severe bronchial illness and he died on 6 May 1910.55

53  Elizabeth Longford, Louisa, Lady in Waiting: The Personal Diaries and Albums of Louisa, Lady in Waiting to Queen Victoria and Queen Alexandra (London: Jonathan Cape, 1979), 79. 54  Battiscombe, Queen Alexandra, 209. 55  For an account of his final weeks and Alexandra’s presence, see: Ridley, Bertie, 448–460.



Widow Queen Alexandra’s wardrobe accounts tell a story of their own in the years that followed her husband’s death. There are no longer any orders placed with Parisian couture houses and the supplier’s invoices fall into the category of drapers and larger department stores, a generic and less sartorially specific list. Cecil Beaton recalled seeing Alexandra during those few public duties she still attended in her later years in spangled and embroidered coats: “the fact that she wore them during the day removed her from reality and only helped to increase the aura of distance that one associates with the court.”56 The truth was that Alexandra found such public occasions increasingly difficult and preferred to live a more private life than she had ever managed before. In 1911, when Edward had been dead for less than a year, Queen Mary wrote that her mother-in-law was “hopeless and helpless.”57 Alexandra despised her agedness and in a letter to her friend Lord Knutsford, implored him to “Think of me as I used to be, now I am breaking up.”58 She no longer wished to clothe her public body and so her spending largely concentrated on those garments that she wore in private with the occasional spangled jacket for public appearances. Queen Alexandra died after a short illness at Sandringham on 28 November 1925 and was buried next to her husband in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where they were married over sixty years earlier.

A Queen’s Wardrobe Following her death, Alexandra’s wardrobe was dispersed far and wide, the flotsam and jetsam of a royal life cast adrift and landing on diverse shores. The virtual re-assembly of that wardrobe has shed new light on Queen Alexandra’s life, one that has been documented so minutely either through contemporary visual culture or the biographer’s pen. Although the general public’s recognition of Alexandra as a public figure and consort is slight, her contribution to the British monarchy, in particular the dissemination of a public “royal” self, is far-reaching. Her acknowledgement that dress could contribute hugely to public perceptions meant that she chose her wardrobe carefully to suit the occasion that she was  Cecil Beaton, The Glass of Fashion (London: Weidenfield & Nicolson, 1954), 76.  Royal Archive, Queen Mary to Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, 7 May 1911. 58  Quoted in Battiscombe, Queen Alexandra, 302. 56 57



attending. Whether it was a shamrock embroidered emerald dress for a state visit to Ireland or a pared back tailor-made costume for the opening of a hospital, Queen Alexandra was able to construct a popular public persona that was appropriately matched to the time of day and the type of event. This kind of approach to royal style is taken for granted in a world of 24-hour digital media, but during the second half of the nineteenth century, it was a sartorial strategy that was still very much in its infancy. Through the lens of material culture study, the analysis of Queen Alexandra’s clothing enriches her biography and draws on the sartorial element of her life over which she retained complete control and which she used to such good effect to disseminate the image of her public royal body.


Mary of Teck: A Dutiful Consort Cindy McCreery

On a wet Glasgow day in September 1934, a regal lady launched her namesake “without a hitch.”1 Today, as the grand ocean liner RMS Queen Mary did for much of the twentieth century, Queen Mary sails on in public memory as a solid, reliable if now old-fashioned vessel, her life intertwined with five generations of British monarchs: she married into the royal family in the reign of Queen Victoria and lived into the reign of Elizabeth II. Yet, Queen Mary remains an enigma. Today, we recognise Mary as an important British consort—even if we sometimes struggle to separate fact from fiction. Her reputation is formidable but inconsistent: the product of many contributors within and beyond the royal family, each with an agenda of their own. The Mary described by her eldest son, the former Edward VIII, appears in some ways quite foreign to that described by her husband George V; the woman described by her Aunt Augusta


 “‘Queen Mary’ named and launched,” The Times, 27 September 1934.

C. McCreery (*) The University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW, Australia e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts, Queenship and Power, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-12829-5_11




differs from that described by Margaret Wyndham and other former staff members.2 This plurality of assessments reflects the complexity of Mary’s own personality and its development over time, the widely varying value she placed on individual relationships, as well as the sensibilities of the other person. She was capable of both deep intimacy (as with Aunt Augusta) and extreme coldness (as with the Countess of Airlie, who, despite years of service and friendship, Mary had dismissed by another staff member.)3 But family members were not always more complimentary than former staff—in general, more robust, confident individuals enjoyed her company more than shy and sensitive types. National pride also coloured reports of Mary. British and, to an extent, dominion and colonial press reports remained more deferential than American accounts.4 As Mary herself left relatively few detailed reflections on her life—especially once she became queen—we rely mainly on others’ interpretations. In assessing Mary’s role as George V’s consort, we find that Mary’s actions speak louder than her (few) words, and that, even more than for other British consorts, Mary subsumed her full intellectual and emotional potential in order to do her duty as queen. Mary’s significance for the royal family—and indeed the nation—is made clear by the fact that, unusually for a consort, an official biography was commissioned within weeks of her death; James Pope-­Hennessy’s lengthy and thoughtful volume remains the standard account today. Nevertheless, attention to a range of primary sources highlights her more varied contemporary reputation.

Queen Mary’s Royal Background Family connections determined Mary’s individual perspective and royal career. In December 1891, Prince Albert Victor, the eldest son of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and thus second in line to the British throne, 2  Edward, Duke of Windsor, A King’s Story: The Memoirs of H.R.H. The Duke of Windsor K.G. (1951; London: Prion Books, 1999); Philip Ziegler, King Edward VIII (New York: Knopf, 1991); Kenneth Rose, King George V (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1983); James Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary: The Official Biography (1959; London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2019); James Pope-Hennessy, The Quest for Queen Mary, ed. Hugo Vickers (London: Zuleika and Hodder & Stoughton, 2018). 3  Pope-Hennessy, Quest, 115. 4  See, for example: “Queen Mary,” Brisbane Courier, 21 June 1911; “Queen Mary and the Poor,” Wanganui Chronicle (Wanganui, New Zealand), 25 November 1910; and “The Hard Road Queen Mary Travelled to the Throne,” New York Times, 22 May 1910.



proposed to Mary, born Victoria Mary but known as May in her family, on the strong recommendation of his grandmother Queen Victoria. Victoria, while certainly delighted with Mary’s personal qualities—her pretty if not beautiful person, pleasant and sensible manner, and deference and loyalty to the royal family—was most swayed by her status as the daughter of a British princess and the only daughter of the Queen’s first cousin, Princess Mary Adelaide. Mary Adelaide was the sister of the Duke of Cambridge, the longtime commander-in-chief of the British Army, and the daughter of Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, the youngest son of George III. Mary Adelaide married the handsome Prince Francis of Teck, a member of a distinguished, if not fully royal, German princely family, in June 1866. Francis’s father (Prince Alexander, son of the Duke of Wurttemberg) had effectively downgraded his family’s royal status by marrying a countess, Claudine Rhédey von Kis-Rhéde, rather than a princess. This ‘morganatic’ marriage thereby ensured that not only Alexander’s and his wife’s children (such as Francis) but also their descendants (such as Mary) were of lesser royal status. When combined with Francis’s lack of wealth, his own family were viewed as second-class citizens within most continental European royal circles—though not, significantly, at Queen Victoria’s court. Francis and Mary Adelaide’s three sons pursued professional careers in the British Army to support themselves, while their only daughter Mary, with no dowry, was long seen as having very limited marriage prospects.5 Francis of Teck’s lack of regular income coupled with Mary Adelaide’s unthinking extravagance left the family in considerable financial stress and increasingly dependent on loans from Mary Adelaide’s relatives, as well as wealthy benefactors such as Baroness Burdett-Coutts. But such assistance had its limits. Following an 1883 family ultimatum, Francis and Mary Adelaide were forced to decamp with sixteen-year-old Mary for two years to Florence, long a refuge for impoverished European elites.6 This adventure taught Mary the importance of financial security, of creating and ­preserving a family home, as well as introducing her to a wider range of European art and culture. She later spent her happiest hours arranging collections of paintings, objets d’art, and furniture across numerous royal residences, with particular attention to acquiring—even at great (and indeed unjustified) cost—items with a royal pedigree. Mary also 5  Mary’s brothers were: Adolphus (Dolly), Duke of Teck (later Cambridge) (1868–1927); Prince Francis (Frank) (1870–1910); and Alexander (Alge), Earl of Athlone (1874–1957). 6  Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary, 112.



developed a reputation, which has perhaps since been exaggerated, for quietly pressuring the owners of objects that she desired to part with them by either selling the objects to her or, better yet, giving them to her!7 While the Teck family remained close, and continued to live in great comfort, underlying tensions shaped Mary’s overriding concern to preserve her ‘royal’ family’s history and status—but also to avoid waste. Her niece by marriage, the Marchioness of Cambridge, recalled with amusement the extent of Mary’s frugality: I loved the way that when she sent or brought you flowers they always came from her own vases. She never bought flowers at the florist. She’d go round picking them out of the vases in her rooms, so that often they were dead the day after she brought them.8

Mary Adelaide’s chronic, excessive tardiness, her obesity and vivacity, as well as Francis’s bouts of rage at his wife and children (understood now, but not then, as symptoms of a significant, undiagnosed illness) deeply affected Mary. In response, she became punctilious about timekeeping, ate sparingly, and later passively accepted her own husband shouting at both herself and their children, especially once he became king.9 Mary Adelaide’s insistence on showing off her daughter in society backfired as well. The more her gregarious mother pushed Mary to sparkle in society, the more Mary withdrew, so that the once confident and even showy young girl developed chronic shyness with strangers, though she remained lively within her own family circle. She was a tomboy with companions such as Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein and bossed her younger brothers around.10 Mary Adelaide, however, urged her children to help those in need, instilling a firm commitment to hands-on charitable activity in her daughter and a lifelong association with institutions such as the London Needlework Guild (renamed Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild in 1914), which created and distributed hand-made clothing to the poor, and the Royal Cambridge Asylum (later the Royal Cambridge Home for Soldiers’ Wives).11 Like the vast majority of elite girls, Mary was educated privately  Rose, George V, 284–285.  Rose, George V, 245; Pope-Hennessy, Quest, 267, 144. 9  Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary, 140, 143–144. 10  Princess Marie Louise, My Memories of Six Reigns (London: Penguin Books, 1959), 156. 11  Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary, 69–70, 590. 7 8



at home, attending neither school nor university. She supplemented lessons from two bright women, her mother and her Alsatian governess Hélène Bricka, with a lifelong commitment to self-improvement through private study as well as discussions with experts, particularly in the arts, where she cultivated relationships with London museum and gallery directors and curators. Mary grew up priding herself on her Englishness: a view she maintained firmly all her life. This identity did not stop her from carrying out a long and lively correspondence and—up until the First World War—family visits with numerous German royal relatives, in particular her maternal aunt Augusta, Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.12 In public, Mary’s insistence on order, self-discipline, and correct behaviour, and her dislike of small talk, struck many observers in England. What remained hidden from most was her natural vivacity and sense of humour, which are most evident in her letters to people beyond Britain, namely her Aunt Augusta in Germany and her friend Emily Alcock in America. Mary lamented her shyness—“I wish I were not such a snail in its shell”—but felt powerless to change.13

Engagements, Marriage, and Children Despite Mary’s independent streak, natural high spirits, fierce temper and even, on occasion, self-centred behaviour, such as her habit in later life of not visiting friends or former staff members who were ill or dying due to her strong dislike of illness, she never wavered in what she saw as her duty to her family and nation.14 As for many elite young women of her time, this meant being guided in her choice of husband by her family. Queen Victoria’s primary concern in selecting Mary was helping her grandson. While attractive and good-natured, Albert Victor was long regarded as a deeply problematic heir due to his extreme lethargy and lack of either ambition or self-discipline. For Victoria, Mary’s good sense, self-discipline, and commitment to the royal family were seen as the best hope to improve him, and indeed from the earliest days of their engagement, Mary was directed to organise and motivate her lacklustre fiancé, known as Eddy within the family. Margaret Wyndham served as Mary’s Woman of the Bedchamber from 1938 to 1951. Mary once told her, “My father-in-law  Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary, 82–83, 97, 113.  Rose, George V, 34; Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary, 141, 368. 14  Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary, 78–79; Pope-Hennessy, Quest, 256–257. 12 13



was always saying to me ‘See that Eddie does this, May’ or ‘Make sure Eddie does that, May’ so that I got so worried I went to my mother and said ‘you really think I can take this on?’ ‘Of course you can’ she replied.”15 Such a daunting task was made redundant by Albert Victor’s sudden death six weeks later during an influenza pandemic in January 1892. Mary’s marital hopes were dashed, but soon recovered most fortuitously, when Albert Victor’s younger brother George was strongly encouraged to take Mary as his own fiancée. They married a few weeks after her twenty-sixth birthday. In most people’s eyes, Mary thus snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, and their wedding on 6 July 1893 was celebrated with particular joy by the royal family and a relieved nation. The future of the direct line of succession looked more secure now that the new heir to the throne was safely married. The likely character of the next reign appeared brighter. George, who had served for years as a naval officer, was free of his brother’s lassitude and has been widely seen by contemporaries and historians alike as making both a better king and husband to Mary than Albert Victor would have.16 George’s extensive naval experience had brought him into contact with people of different classes in both Britain and overseas, contrasting with the more sheltered upbringing of his brother and wife. George and Albert Victor entered the navy as cadets in 1877, and from 1879–1882 sailed around the world with HMS Bacchante and the Detached Squadron. Albert Victor then left naval service, but George stayed on, reaching the rank of captain by 1892, when he left active duty behind following Albert Victor’s death.17 George consequently proved more comfortable speaking (albeit brusquely) with ordinary people than Mary, who tended to remain silent, in public—a trait both she and her audience deeply regretted. Travel had not, however, broadened George’s mind, and he retained great ignorance about foreign cultures and languages, unlike his more cul­ tured spouse. Despite Mary’s love of theatre, art, and overseas travel, she deferred to George’s preference for quiet evenings at home. Especially following his accession to the throne in 1910, Mary put George’s needs before anything  Pope-Hennessy, Quest, 113–14.  Rose, George V, 102; Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary, 246; Frank Prochaska, “Mary [Princess Mary of Teck] (1867–1953),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, https:// doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/34914. 17  Rose, George V, 8–15, 18–22, 25. 15 16



else.18 This was perhaps less to do with love than duty. Some contemporaries even speculated, after her death and in private, that in her youth Mary had fallen in love with a man, apparently John Hope, the future Earl of Hopetoun, known to Mary and George as Hopie, who she could not marry. According to her former lady-in-waiting Margaret Wyndham, this disappointment allegedly exhausted Mary’s capacity to love by the time of her engagement.19 In any case, for Mary, George’s role as the future British monarch remained his most important feature. Throughout their marriage and after his death Mary saw her primary role as supporting the reigning monarch—to the exclusion of the rest of her family and personal feelings.20 This approach involved not only accepting George’s dull interests (his main passions were shooting and collecting stamps) but also the overbearing presence of his adored mother Queen Alexandra and his unmarried sister Princess Victoria, both of whom tended to belittle Mary for her morganatic family and ‘dull’ manner. Mary’s letters to George reflect devotion coupled with frustration at their mutual difficulty in communicating. She wrote: I sometimes think that just after we were married we were not left alone enough and had not the opportunity of learning to understand each other as quickly as we might otherwise have done, and this led to so many little rubs which might have been avoided.21

In turn, George expressed his love for his wife in his letters more easily than in person: I have tried to understand you and to know you, and with the happy result that I know now that I do love you darling girl with all my heart, and am simply Devoted to you … I adore you sweet May, I can’t say more than that.22

Mary—like everyone else—saw it as her duty to quickly produce heirs to the throne, and children soon followed the wedding: Edward (known as David), the future Edward VIII, was born in 1894; Albert (known as Bertie), later George VI, in 1895; Mary, later Princess Royal and Countess  Pope-Hennessy, Quest, 142, 163; Rose, George V, 301.  Pope-Hennessy, Quest, 114. 20  Rose, George V, 300–301, Pope-Hennessy, Quest, 142. 21  Rose, George V, 27. 22  Rose, George V, 33–34. 18 19



of Harewood, in 1897; Henry, later Duke of Gloucester, in 1900; George, later Duke of Kent, in 1902; and finally John in 1905. John’s epilepsy and, apparently, autism became apparent from the age of 4, and he lived mostly with his nurse in a cottage on the Sandringham estate until his death aged 14.23 His siblings lived with their parents at Sandringham and London, but as adolescents the boys were sent to the navy or to boarding school, while Princess Mary remained at home until her marriage at the relatively late age of 24, helping her mother with correspondence, charitable activities, and court duties. George and Mary parented somewhat differently from each other and their own parents. The future Edward VIII recalled how relaxed and even fun his mother was with her young children when his strict father was not present. Mary was also much quieter than her husband, who, though he certainly loved his children, insisted on strict obedience and regularly shouted, sometimes scaring them.24 While trying to shield her children from George’s wrath, Mary generally followed his disciplinary lead.25 In deliberate contrast to their own affectionate but lackadaisical mothers, George and Mary stuck strictly to a daily routine that allowed little spontaneous family interaction. They spent very little ‘quality’ time with their young children, other than Mary’s scheduled hour before dinner, which her eldest son remembered with pleasure. In turn, they failed to notice when an overworked nursemaid began physically abusing their two young sons.26 The relationship between British monarchs and their heirs was frequently strained, and this was particularly true of George V’s relationship with the future Edward VIII.  For George and Mary, the situation was worsened by the fact that their relationship with their other five children grew increasingly distant as they grew older. This circumstance was due to physical as much as emotional distance. Once their sons left home, they naturally spent less time with George and Mary and became less amenable to parental directives. No doubt to compensate for their lack of influence over their sons, the couple kept their only daughter under close supervision at home until her marriage, but this left her increasingly anxious. Despite their best intentions, George and Mary’s children grew up not  Rose, George V, 281; Pope-Hennessy, Quest, 257, 301.  Pope-Hennessy, Quest, 237–39. 25  Rose, George V, 58. 26  Windsor, King’s, 1; Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary, 391–393. 23 24



really knowing or understanding their parents very well—and vice versa, which would have profound consequences for the succession.27 Just as Mary and George struggled to communicate fully and freely with their children, so too they struggled to communicate with each other, relying on letters to re-assure one another, of their mutual affection and gratitude. George’s letters testify to his growing appreciation of Mary’s moral support as well as practical assistance, a role that was acknowledged by the King’s advisers and, later, his physicians. Mary’s anxiety about her husband’s view of her may well have spurred her to further devote herself to the King, at the expense of time with her children and friends.28

Imperial Tours On 22 January 1901, Queen Victoria died and her eldest son ascended the throne as Edward VII.  As the new King’s only surviving son, George became heir apparent and Duke of Cornwall, although he was not made Prince of Wales until November. George and Mary threw themselves into their public duties as British royalty, demonstrating their remarkable leadership qualities from the beginning of the new reign. Barely two months after Queen Victoria’s death, in March 1901, they undertook an almost eight-month-long global voyage in HMS Ophir. Originally conceived as a visit to open Australia’s new federal parliament in Melbourne, the tour soon ballooned into an imperial extravaganza, involving lengthy visits not only to all of the major Australian states, but also to New Zealand, Canada, Sri Lanka, Singapore, South Africa, Mauritius and more, where George personally thanked both colonial governments and soldiers for their contributions to the ongoing Boer War.29 The trip involved numerous lengthy ocean crossings in poor weather, where Mary suffered terribly from seasickness. Mary prepared carefully for  Rose, George V, 309–310; Pope-Hennessy, Quest, 115, 128.  Rose, George V, 33–35, 46; Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary, 417. 29  Cindy McCreery, “Views Across the Decks of HMS Ophir: Revisiting the 1901 Imperial Royal Tour,” Royal Studies Journal 5, no. 1 (2018): 54–81; Jane Connors, Royal Visits to Australia (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2015), 28–43; Phillip Buckner, “Casting Daylight Upon Magic: Deconstructing the Royal Tour of 1901 to Canada,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 31, no. 2 (2003): 150–189; Judith Bassett, “A Thousand Miles of Loyalty: The Royal Tour of 1901,” New Zealand Journal of History 21, no. 1 (1987): 125–138; Phillip Buckner, “The Royal Tour of 1901 and the Construction of an Imperial Identity in South Africa,” South African Historical Journal 41, no. 1 (1999): 324–348. 27 28



the tour, reading about the history and society of each of the places she was to visit. (Indeed, the Duke of Gloucester recalled his mother’s initial fury that he did not read the copious material she gave him from her Ophir voyage to prepare for his role as Governor-General of Australia in 1945.)30 The visit was hailed as a success in boosting dominion and colonial support for the empire, with Mary impressing Australians as a gracious future consort, much to her own delight.31 In Canada, too, Mary was welcomed warmly. This was the first British royal tour to feature a married royal couple since the travels of Princess Louise and her husband Lord Lorne, Governor-General of Canada from 1878 to 1883, and the novelty of having the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York visit was greatly appreciated, with numerous addresses to the Duke adding a special welcome to “your gentle consort.”32 Mary’s maternal role was celebrated by many, including imperialists who celebrated her as the mother of future sovereigns. The loyal address presented by the women of Toronto expressed their “earnest hope and prayer that your children and your children’s children may live long and successively reign over a greater and lesser Britain, an Empire on which the sun never sets.”33 Mary was also admired for her kind attention to the many children who greeted her on the tour. Other observers, however, while admiring the Duchess’s devotion to duty, wondered at her self-sacrifice in leaving her own young children behind. An Australian newspaper reported: Sydney mothers have felt much sympathy with the Duchess of Cornwall and York over her separation from her children, and have discussed the matter very much amongst themselves. One of their number was at last moved to open her heart to Her Royal Highness on the subject. ‘Six months is such a long time,’ she said. ‘We wonder how you can bear it, but we cannot help admiring the courage which enables you to go about with a smiling face.’

Very unusually for Mary, on this occasion she divulged her mechanism for coping with the long separation from her children:  Pope-Hennessy, Quest, 177.  Mary to Bricka, 17 May 1901, in Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary, 359. 32  “From the Archbishop of St. Boniface, Winnipeg,” in Joseph Pope, The Tour of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York Through the Dominion of Canada in the Year 1901 (Ottawa: S. Dawson, 1903), 219. 33  “Address from the Women of Toronto,” in Pope, Tour, 114. 30 31



Touched by this sympathy, the Duchess said she would let the speaker into a secret. In Her Royal Highness’s private cabin on board the Ophir is a phonograph, which contains records of many of the childish sayings and last messages. There is also a cinematographe. [sic] By turning the handle the Duchess can see her children at play wherever she has the opportunity to do so.34

It was India—which George and Mary visited twice, in 1905–1906 and 1911—that most captivated Mary. She had become interested in India years before, when the poet Edwin Arnold presented her with volumes of his own ‘Indian’ poetry, and her visits to India only furthered her delight in its art and culture. In India she indulged her love of paintings and objets d’art and later theatrically declared to a lady-in-waiting, “When I die India will be found written on my heart.”35 The high point was the Delhi Durbar of 1911, inspired by earlier coronation durbars of 1877 and 1903 but distinguished, this time, by the presence of the newly crowned Emperor and Empress of India, George V and Queen Mary. This event involved a series of lengthy and wearisome public audiences out of doors in front of thousands of people, carefully recorded in photograph albums kept by Queen Mary among others.36 Despite the exhausting schedule, William Burke’s photograph shows Mary displaying her trademark sangfroid and self-discipline (Fig. 11.1). The Empress of India sits ramrod straight, dressed in ermine robes, crown, and diamonds, seated on a throne side by side with her husband, looking out impassively from the Red Fort at the crowd of thousands. Despite the distractions of this tremendous sight and the proximity of the child attendants (young Indian princes) who sit and stand just behind and to either side, the image focuses on Mary and George, emphasising Mary’s importance as one half of the imperial couple. Yet for all the power and truth in this photograph, it was not the only way Mary’s image at the Durbar was represented. A similar photograph, taken perhaps just moments before or after the first, depicts Mary and George with heads  Grafton Argus and Clarence River Advertiser, 17 June 1901.  Emily Hannam, “Gifts from the East,” Country Life, 9 May 2018, 145; Eastern Encounters: Four Centuries of Paintings and Manuscripts from the Indian Subcontinent (London: Royal Collection Trust, 2020); Pope-Hennessy, Quest, 113. 36  Rose, George V, 134–136; Queen Mary’s Album, vol. 15, RCIN 2303457, Royal Collection Trust, https://www.rct.uk/collection/themes/exhibitions/splendours-of-the-­ subcontinent-four-centuries-of-south-asian-paintin-7/queen-marys-album-volume-15. 34 35



Fig. 11.1  William H. Burke, King George V and Queen Mary at the Red Fort presenting themselves before the crowd, Gelatin Silver Print, 1911, 205 × 255 mm, ACP: 97.25.0006, The Alkazi Collection of Photography

turned around, looking curiously in the direction of the photographer behind them. They appear more ordinary and less regal, and it is perhaps not surprising that this image was incorporated into a postcard advertisement for a New York Fur dealer, with Mary and George’s gaze suggesting that they were listening to the sales pitch printed on the other side of the card: “I search the whole world for Furs to please my customers.”37 As with the famous Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House in the 1920s and the ocean liner in the 1930s, Queen Mary’s name and image in 1911 conjured up an association with unrivalled luxury, comfort, and elegance that exerted a powerful impression on people within as well as beyond Britain 37  Versions of both photographs are in Queen Mary’s Album, vol. 15, Royal Collection Trust, https://www.rct.uk/collection/themes/exhibitions/splendours-of-the-­subcontinent-fourcenturies-of-south-asian-paintin-7/queen-marys-album-volume-15.



and its empire. But Mary herself had no control over this image and its commercial and ideological exploitation. However much British press conventions preserved the dignity of Mary’s image at home, in the wider world, more varied, if still biased images circulated. American newspaper coverage of British and European royalty was particularly brash, aware that readers were hungry for ‘juicy’ details of royal life. Throughout her life, the New York Times’s coverage of Mary was much more light-hearted, breezy, and even critical than that of British newspapers. This commentary allowed Mary to appear as a human (even a flawed human) rather than an idol. In an article on the 1911 Delhi Durbar, for example, the correspondent noted that her refusal to ride an elephant risked ruining the grandeur of the ceremony: She is a purposeful woman, and she may be able to overturn the tradition of the centuries and substitute a carriage or a motor car for the elephant, but naturally her obstinacy is causing much anxiety, and the outcome of the deliberations will be eagerly awaited.38

Readers may not have been surprised to learn that in the end Mary got her way, and neither Mary nor George rode an elephant in Delhi. Due to the geographical sweep of the British Empire, as well as the international fame of the British monarchy, Mary probably received more—and more varied—press attention than other queens and empresses consort in Europe prior to the First World War. Other European queens travelled, of course, but less widely than Mary, and consequently they tended to be mentioned most often in their own or neighbouring kingdoms’ newspapers, which usually expressed deference to ruling dynasties.

Accession to the Throne, the Coronation, and the First World War Despite Mary’s personal delight and sense of connection with India, it was in Britain that Mary proved most influential as royal consort, and in front of crowds in many ways as ‘foreign’ to the king and queen as their ‘native’ subjects in India. George and Mary faced the death of Edward VII (6 May 1910) and George’s accession to the throne, and their coronation (22 June 1911), with outward calm but inward turmoil. Mary dreaded the  “The Queen and the Elephant,” New York Times, 29 October 1911.




coronation but was delighted by the cheering crowds. Afterwards she described her ‘intense relief’ in a letter to her Aunt Augusta: the great and solemn Ceremony of Thursday is well over … it was an awful ordeal for us both especially as we felt it all so deeply and taking so great a responsibility on our shoulders–To me who love tradition & the past, & who am English from top to toe, the service was a very real solemn thing & appealed to my feelings more than I can express—Everything was most perfectly & reverently done.39

George and Mary would draw on the support they gained from the coronation ceremony in the tumultuous years that followed.40 In the early days of his reign, George V faced criticism over his supposedly partisan role in the controversial 1911 Parliament Bill (which reduced the power of the House of Lords), which left him bruised and determined to prove his impartiality to all his people. As Frank Mort demonstrates, in 1912 and 1913, and in response to further extraordinary political and social challenges, George and Mary pioneered a new way of interacting with ordinary working-­class British people.41 At the suggestion of the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, worried by the disruption caused by industrial strikes, and closely guided by both George V’s Private Secretary Lord Stamfordham and friend Lord Derby, the King and Queen undertook a series of unprecedented visits to affected areas in South Wales, Yorkshire, and Lancashire. The royal couple’s willingness to meet working people in the streets or in their homes, wearing serviceable clothes rather than the sumptuous ermine robes seen at the Delhi Durbar (or at ceremonial occasions in London), delighted locals and the government. Mary’s interest in  local working-class women and children was noticed and greatly appreciated. After visiting Mrs Morris’s cottage near Bury, the Queen commented what “a nice, clean, pretty little house it is,” and asked Mrs Morris the name of her infant daughter. The proud mother replied “‘We thought of calling her Freda. But we may now alter our minds’ she added with a significant smile.”42 While these appearances seem formal, brief, and stage-­ managed in comparison with later royal walkabouts, they greatly exceeded  Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary, 442.  Queen Mary to Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, 25 June 1911, quoted in Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary, 442. 41  Frank Mort, “Safe for Democracy: Constitutional Politics, Popular Spectacle, and the British Monarchy 1910–1914,” Journal of British Studies 58, no. 1 (2019): 109–141. 42  The Observer, 13 July 1913. 39 40



any previous royal efforts, and press reportage “positioned royalty and the people in a new, more personal and intimate relationship.”43 The First World War, and then the Russian Revolutions of 1917, further shocked the royal family out of any complacency about popular loyalism.44 Well before the end of the war dethroned many of their European relatives, anti-German feelings in Britain caught their attention. George V responded in 1917 by effectively anglicising not only the British dynasty’s name (from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor) but also that of their Anglo-German relations (e.g. ‘Battenberg’ was changed to ‘Mountbatten’). Just as George had asked Mary to drop one of her given names on becoming queen (she went from ‘Victoria Mary’ to ‘Mary’), he now urged her family to adopt a new name, Cambridge, in place of Teck. Furthermore, direct correspondence with as well as future visits to German relatives abruptly ended. The nation came before family tradition, and Mary’s identity was re-cast as wholly British. George and Mary sought to help the war effort, and defuse the numerous industrial strikes, by providing practical as well as moral support to both the civilian and military population. While anxious about George’s health, particularly after a horse accident in France left the King badly injured, Mary supported her husband’s multiple visits to the western front (and joined him on a visit there in 1917), and her two elder sons’ military and naval service.45 Most importantly, at home Mary pioneered a new role for the consort as an active and committed patron of national schemes to support the war effort, establishing the Queen’s Work of Women Fund and serving as patron of the Central Committee for Women’s Training and Employment. Such work went far beyond the efforts of previous royal women to assist during the Boer War of 1899–1901, and brought Mary into contact not only with many poor families but also with radical labour reformers like Margaret Macarthur and Margaret Bondfield. These experiences broadened Mary’s awareness of poverty in Britain and gave her direct exposure to the struggles faced by millions of ordinary Britons. It is telling that a Queen so proud of her royal status and heritage, with so sheltered a background and shy in manner as Mary, proved increasingly adept at meeting ordinary people in their home environments. Over  Mort, “Safe for Democracy,” 141.  On their shocked response to the murder of the Russian Imperial Family, see: Marie Louise, Memories, 146–147. 45  Rose, George V, 182. 43 44



time, Mary increasingly enquired into the causes, not just the symptoms, of their poverty and sought pragmatic, effective solutions to them. Yet there were limits to Mary’s flexibility and broadmindedness, and she, like her husband, never reconciled herself to the campaigns by women, especially elite women, to gain the right to vote or to pursue professional careers.46 The First World War left Mary and George, as well as their nation, exhausted and, in many ways, demoralised. Relief at the Armistice was soon replaced with anxiety about the nation’s and the world’s political, economic, and social problems. Renewed industrial and political discontent in Britain, tensions over proposed independence in Ireland as well as the women’s suffrage campaign all increasingly worried the King and Queen. Despite their own political and social conservatism, George and Mary were determined to present themselves publicly as neutral conciliators in the tense post-war environment. For example, they went out of their way to meet and welcome the first Labour government in 1924. Although this government was short-lived, the experience boosted the King and Queen’s reputation as caring, impartial monarchs who supported all their people.47 Mary increasingly appeared in public, and in the British and international press, as a symbol of stability, calm and stoic endurance—a rare survivor among reigning European royalty. Photographs show a remarkably consistent image of Mary wearing a long, often pale dress, ropes of large and costly pearls, no-brim ‘toque’ hats, standing erect and still, a slight smile on her face but above all a keen and perceptive gaze.48 Such images convey a sense of stasis. Much was made of Mary’s continued appearance in full-length skirts and old-fashioned designs long after women’s hemlines were raised, with one courtier joking about her impact on French crowds during a State visit in 1914: The Queen had a wonderful success. The Paris mob went mad about her, and it was rumoured that her out-of-date hats and early Victorian gowns would become next year’s fashions!49 46  Frank Mort, “Accessible Sovereignty: Popular Attitudes to the British Monarchy During the Great War,” Social History 45, no. 3 (2020): 328–359; Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary, 492–493. 47  Mort, “Safe for Democracy,” 115–117, 121; Prochaska, “Mary.” 48  Frederick Ponsonby, Recollections of Three Reigns (London: Odhams Press, 1951), 301. 49  Quoted in Rose, George V, 80.



Yet Mary’s own preferences here remain unclear. Biographers note that her husband quashed her own experiments with large-brimmed hats and bright colours, and it is possible that advisers encouraged Mary’s conservative sartorial choices to consolidate her reputation for quiet elegance. On the other hand, beyond her husband, few if any individuals dared suggest changes to either her dress or behaviour. Mary swiftly made her displeasure known to staff she considered impertinent.50 By the time of her husband’s death in 1936, Mary was well past middle age (68) and, as a creature of habit, unlikely to make radical changes to her personal style.51

Silver Jubilee and Death of George V In 1935, George V celebrated his Silver Jubilee, and much attention was paid to Queen Mary’s role in supporting both the monarch and the nation over the past tumultuous twenty-five years, including the King’s serious illness in 1928. As a newspaper in Dunedin, New Zealand, opined, “Such devotion we have not seen in any wife.”52 Less than a year later, and following increasing bouts of ill-health, George V died on 20 January 1936, aged 70. Commentators again paid tribute to this remarkable royal partnership, describing “the Queen who shared so lovingly and ostentatiously in his zealous and selfless work of service for his subjects” and noting that in the king’s speeches and messages he “invariably associated his gracious Consort with himself—sometimes with the homely but singularly impressive touch ‘My wife and I.’” The Queen’s particular contribution was “the welfare and contentment of the people’s home life.”53 These tributes indicate the extent to which Mary was viewed by contemporaries not just as a devoted royal wife and mother or even a queen, but rather as a valuable partner, who by supporting the King supported the nation. At the same time, by celebrating her role as a traditional helpmeet with conventional feminine interests in “the people’s home life,” such assessments downplayed the innovative nature of Mary’s contribution to the role of consort. Instead of just supporting charitable endeavours or the working classes from afar, Mary pioneered a new, more direct  Pope-Hennessy, Quest, 121.  Rose, George V, 80, 301; Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary, 430–431; Pope-Hennessy, Quest, 118, 121. 52  “The Queen’s Part,” Evening Star, 6 May 1935. 53  Francis Burgess, “Queen Mary—Mother of the People,” Saturday Review, 8 February 1936, 171–172. 50 51



and large-scale royal commitment to social reform, working with a wide range of individuals to achieve meaningful change. Her successor as consort, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, lacked Mary’s interest in extensive committee work. Yet, as Daniella McCahey’s chapter shows, during the Second World War, Elizabeth’s courageous public appearances in war-­ torn London continued Mary’s work in demonstrating the royal consort’s willingness to support not only the King but also his people with unstinting energy, concern, and care.

Edward VIII and the Abdication Crisis Mary deeply mourned her husband’s death, but observers noted her stoicism and commitment to the monarchy. The death of George V provided her with an opportunity to forge a new, closer relationship with their eldest son, now Edward VIII. Mary immediately threw her public support behind the new monarch, although his irregular private life greatly worried her. Years of distance and parental disapproval over David’s ‘fast’ lifestyle, and in particular his succession of relationships with older married women, had taken their toll, however, and the new King and his mother found it literally impossible to discuss the complex dilemma he now faced. Following months of uncertainty and personal anguish at the knowledge that the woman he now loved (not only a commoner and an American but soon-to-be twice divorced) would never be allowed to become queen, the King took the shocking decision to abdicate the throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson. Edward VIII’s abdication was the central crisis of the British monarchy in the twentieth century and of the royal family on a personal level. As with earlier and later cataclysms, Mary never wavered, at least not in public. Mary made clear her complete support for her second son George VI and, albeit only privately, her anger at what she saw as her eldest son’s betrayal of his country, his father, brother, and family— including herself. When she wrote to the former Edward VIII in 1938 that “It seemed inconceivable to those who had made such sacrifices during the war that you, as their king, refused a lesser sacrifice,” she expressed her belief that not only must a monarch always put his duty to the nation before personal feeling but so must his own family.54 The 54  Queen Mary to Duke of Windsor, 5 July 1938, quoted in Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary, 575.



abdication divided the country, but as Frank Mort has shown, Queen Mary’s stoic stance was admired by many ordinary subjects, including many women, who wrote letters to the King and government figures. As Mrs J.F.  Buckley put it in a letter to the Prime Minister’s wife Lucy Baldwin, “the people who come best out of this tragedy … [are] H.M. Queen Mary and Mr Baldwin.”55 According to the former king, his mother would never speak of the abdication with him again. Their relationship remained strained for the rest of her life, though they continued to correspond, saw each other occasionally, and Mary did sometimes express sympathy for his wife, for example, during Wallis’s hospitalisation in 1951. The letter cited above continues “My feelings for you as your Mother remain the same, and our being parted and the cause of it, grieve me beyond words. After all, all my life I have put my Country before everything else, and I simply cannot change now.”56 The abdication crisis thus crystallised for Mary—and for Britain—the true extent of her service to the nation. Not just during her eldest son’s abdication in 1936 but from the moment that she accepted Albert Victor’s marriage proposal in 1891, Mary had put the welfare of the British monarchy before her own personal feelings or the feelings of her husband and children. While she never publicly disagreed with George, Mary did sometimes privately ask courtiers to pass on her advice as if it was their own.57 Mary paid an extremely heavy price for her stoicism, but her actions have been credited with saving the monarchy during the abdication crisis.

George VI and the Second World War Mary continued to demonstrate extraordinary fortitude and devotion to duty throughout her second son’s reign. She took the unprecedented step for a Dowager Queen of attending George VI’s coronation in order to demonstrate the continuity of the monarchy. She also continued her keen interest in the new heiress presumptive to the throne, her granddaughter Princess Elizabeth, and regularly took her and her younger 55  Frank Mort, “Love in a Cold Climate: Letters, Public Opinion and Monarchy in the 1936 Abdication Crisis,” Twentieth Century British History 25, no. 1 (2014): 30–62; Baldwin Papers, vol. 243/42 J.F. Buckley to Lucy Baldwin, 13 December 1936, in Mort, 48. 56  Queen Mary to Duke of Windsor, 5 July 1938, quoted in Ziegler, Edward VIII, 385. 57  Rose, George V, 301–302.



sister Princess Margaret on educational and cultural outings in London. But Mary took a backseat to George VI and his popular consort Queen Elizabeth in public life. With their two young daughters and close family life, the new King and Queen provided a marked contrast to both the elegant bachelor Edward VIII and their parents, the ever-formal George and Mary. Mary’s departure from Buckingham Palace in 1936 to Marlborough House was followed by a further, more drastic move to the countryside following the outbreak of the Second World War. At the insistence of George VI, and much against her own wishes, Mary was evacuated, with more than fifty staff, from London to Badminton, the country estate of her niece and former companion, the Duchess of Beaufort. Despite regular visits to Sandringham and other country estates, Mary remained much more attuned to urban than rural life. She is said to have responded “Oh that’s what hay looks like, is it, I never knew that” when her niece pointed out the unfamiliar crop.58 As she had during the First World War, Mary threw herself into war work, focusing primarily on local agriculture and forestry projects on and near the estate. She assumed this role unskilfully and sometimes overenthusiastically, as when she mistook farm equipment for junk and had it removed for salvage. Her regal status and formal manner pre-empted discussion or refusal, and even her confident niece avoided directly criticising Mary’s passion for removing ivy and even trees from the Beaufort estate. Away from London and court life, she missed her place in the spotlight, even as she greatly enjoyed her comparatively relaxed interactions with local people and the allied servicemen, she insisted on granting lifts in her motor car. Her reputation for stoicism was furthered by her calm response to air raids, a serious car accident and, worst of all, the death of her fourth son George, Duke of Kent, in a military aircraft accident in 1942. Mary kept busy, as ever, continuing to knit and be read to even during moments of ‘rest,’ in the process exhausting her ladies-in-waiting, who were expected to read aloud for long periods of time. But her royal influence in London was nevertheless diminished by her long absence, and on her return to the capital after the war she lived quietly at Marlborough House with relatively few visitors.59

 Pope-Hennessy, Quest, 303.  Pope-Hennessy, Quest, 303, 112–121, 141, 146.

58 59



Deaths of George VI and Queen Mary Mary lost her second son, George VI, to lung cancer and thrombosis in early 1952, noting sadly to Princess Marie Louise that she had lost three sons very suddenly, without being able to see them as they passed.60 Mary put aside her grief at the death of her son and displayed her support for the monarchy and its new incumbent, her granddaughter Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II.  A famous photograph captured ‘three queens’ (Mary, her daughter-in-law Elizabeth, and granddaughter Elizabeth II) wearing black veils and grim but stoic expressions at George VI’s funeral.61 In the last months of her long life, in an act that demonstrated the depth of her support for the monarchy, and her belief that family feeling must take second place to national duty, Mary insisted that Elizabeth’s coronation not be delayed by the mourning period which would follow her own approaching death. At 85, Mary sensed her end was near. While she no longer went out in London, she retained her great interest in reading about art and India. She died on the evening of 24 March 1953.62 Her wish was granted and the coronation of Elizabeth II took place on schedule, nine weeks after Mary’s funeral. Mary’s funeral saw huge crowds line the streets of London to watch her final journey to Westminster Hall and then Windsor, demonstrating their ongoing affection and respect for Queen Mary. Her sister-in-law Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, said simply, “We have lost the rock in our family.”63 In her will, Mary bequeathed her possessions to Elizabeth II.64 The monarch, unlike the rest of her family, was exempt from the heavy death duties that so diminished the fortunes of British elites at the time. Whether as proof of her affection for her eldest granddaughter or to simply save money, in death as in life Mary put the monarch and the British monarchy first.

 Marie Louise, Memories, 238.  “The grief-stricken family of the late King George VI of England at this funeral,” accessed 15 September 2020, https://www.gettyimages.com.au/detail/news-photo/the-­ grief-­stricken-family-of-the-late-king-george-vi-of-news-photo/613461264?adppopup=t rue. 62  Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary, 620–621. 63  Marie Louise, Memories, 238. 64  Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary, 620. 60 61



Legacy While their individual interpretations of her vary, observers agree that Queen Mary was in a class of her own. Princess Marie Louise commented that “the late Queen Mary stands out by herself”; the diarist Henry ‘Chips’ Channon declared her “magnificent, humorous, worldly, in fact nearly sublime, though cold and hard. But what a grand Queen”; her official biographer James Pope-Hennessey concludes that “by undeviating service to her own highest ideals, she had ended by becoming, for millions, an ideal in herself.”65 Others close to the Queen, such as her surviving sons and former ladies-in-waiting, were less charitable, and indeed her death may have come as somewhat of a relief to those who resented her stern disapproval and exhausting demands. But in newspapers in Britain, the empire, and around the world, Queen Mary continued to fascinate readers long after her formal role as consort ended with George V’s death in 1936. Even today, in Britain and the former empire, her name graces not only a new ocean liner but also colleges, hospitals, a university, and even a mountain. In many ways, Queen Mary was the ideal royal consort: devoted, hardworking, dignified, courageous, yet always prepared to remain in shadow so as not to overshadow the monarch. It was a performance that—on the whole—delighted the British public and the empire and which set a standard for both her successors as royal consorts—her daughter-in-law Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and her granddaughter’s husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, as well as other members of the royal family. In particular, Mary encouraged her royal relatives to engage fully with social welfare projects, a tradition that has done much to shore up public support for the British monarchy to the present day.

65  Marie Louise, Memories, 238; Henry Channon, Chips: The Diaries of Sir Henry Channon, ed. Robert Rhodes James (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1967), 473; Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary, 622.


Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon: The People’s Matriarch Daniella McCahey

When Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother died in 2002, journalists covering her death highlighted her popularity with the British public. Remembrances from her friends, family, household, and acquaintances also focused on her enduring popularity. Consistent popularity with the public is never a given for members of the royal family, yet Elizabeth retained her darling status from her marriage to the future George VI in 1923, when she was dubbed “the smiling Duchess,” until her death, by which time she was known as “the Queen Mum.” Her successful mix of “dignity with flashes of the common touch”1 has even led some to credit her with “saving the monarchy.”2 During the abdication crisis in 1936 and 1  A.W.  Purdue, Long to Reign?: The Survival of Monarchies in the Modern World (Cheltenham: The History Press, 2011), 207. 2  Warren Hoge, “Britain’s Queen Mother Marks 100th Birthday,” The New York Times, 5 August 2000.

D. McCahey (*) Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts, Queenship and Power, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-12829-5_12




later public royal scandals of the 1990s, her image was that of a charming and relatively wholesome maternal figure on whom the public could depend. She maintained this reliable stature until her death. The Queen Mother’s public image was connected to both the circumstances of her birth and her longevity, which gave the monarchy stability during periods of turmoil. Her marriage was part of a shift within the customs of the royal family when it became expected for the children of the monarch to seek their spouses from among the British upper classes rather than foreign reigning dynasties. She was the first non-royal consort of an English monarch since the sixteenth century. As the daughter of a Scottish earl, Elizabeth moved within a greater variety of social classes than royal princesses of her time and was therefore much more sociable among a wider array of people. As revealed by her selected published correspondence, she regularly communicated with people from diverse backgrounds throughout her life. She had a keen ability for public relations and has even been called “the most successful member of royalty to collaborate with image-makers since she first entered public life.”3 She used this skill to simultaneously humanise the institution of the monarchy while still reinforcing its grandeur. The resulting widespread public admiration throughout her life served as a boon to an institution that, throughout the twentieth century, was often seen as out-of-touch, scandal-ridden, and even obsolete.

The Earl’s Daughter Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon was born on 4 August 1900, the second youngest of Claude Bowes-Lyon and Cecilia Cavendish-­ Bentinck’s ten children. In 1904, Elizabeth’s father became the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. Elizabeth spent most of her childhood moving between St Paul’s Walden Bury, her parents’ home in London, and Glamis Castle in Scotland. Elizabeth received much of her education at home, like most aristocratic girls of this period, yet her childhood was far from sheltered. The recollections of her contemporaries are filled with  Rosalind Brunt, “The Family Firm Restored: Newsreel Coverage of the British Monarchy 1936–45,” in Nationalising Femininity: Culture, Sexuality and Cinema in World War Two Britain, ed. Christine Gledhill and Gillian Swanson (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996), 144. 3



anecdotes of visits to the villages and homes of estate-workers, “where all the villagers knew and loved Elizabeth,” as well as the interactions with the guests of her parents and older siblings.4 Biographer David Sinclair also attributed her ease with people of all backgrounds to her childhood: because of her father’s responsibility to his tenants, “Elizabeth grew up to appreciate and respect people who lacked the advantages of high birth … having throughout her young life mixed naturally with people below her own class.”5 Scottish aristocrat Sir Fitzroy MacLean emphasised that “the Highlands of those days had fewer of the social barriers which were so constraining in England.”6 As such, she had an “early experience of mixing with Scottish children from all walks of life.”7 Although most of her learning was achieved at home, under the tutelage of multiple governesses, Elizabeth spent time in day schools as well, attending the Pianoforte School and later, Misses Birtwistle’s Academy in London. She prepared for the Oxford Preliminary Examinations, of which, in 1914, she passed in seven subjects.8 At sixteen, she sat for the junior exam of the Oxford Local Examinations Board. The Oxford and Cambridge Schools examination boards, established in 1873, allowed those unlikely to proceed to university to receive formal educational and professional qualifications, and set GCSE and GCE advanced level examinations until 1995.9 Elizabeth failed to receive a Certificate, frustratedly writing, “To hell with all such people as the Oxford Examiners.”10 These exams represented the end of her educational endeavours and she remained generally dismissive of formal education for the rest of her life.

 Hugo Vickers, Elizabeth, The Queen Mother (London: Arrow, 2006), 20.  David Sinclair, “Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother: How She Brought the Crown Closer to the People,” The Times, 4 August 1980. 6  James Hogg and Michael Mortimer, The Queen Mother Remembered: The Intimate Recollections of Her Friends, 1900–2002 (London: BBC Books, 2002), 19. 7  Hogg and Mortimer, The Queen Mother Remembered, 18. 8  Grania Forbes, My Darling Buffy: The Early Life of the Queen Mother (London: Headline, 1997), 65. 9  “Oxford and Cambridge Schools Examination Board,” Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/194956/Oxfordand-Cambridge-OC.pdf. 10  Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon to Beryl Poignand, 26 April 1916, in William Shawcross, ed., Counting One’s Blessings: The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), 41–42. 4 5



World War I commenced on Elizabeth’s fourteenth birthday and made an indelible mark on her early life. Four of her brothers served in action: Fergus was killed in 1915 at the Battle of the Loos, and Michael was taken prisoner at Roeux in 1917. Additionally, Glamis Castle, where Elizabeth lived for the duration of the war, was converted into a convalescent hospital, receiving soldiers who had been treated at the Dundee Infirmary. During this period, Elizabeth assisted her mother to help improve the spirits of the convalescing soldiers. She sought to make them “feel at home”11 by knitting clothes for the local battalion, running errands, collecting the post, playing music, and assisting with nursing. This opportunity to volunteer in her own home also was an early exercise in serving and interacting with people almost exclusively less privileged than she. Elizabeth’s official biographer, William Shawcross, observed that “many of the men had never seen such a place as Glamis.”12 Elizabeth was frequently present among these men and endeared herself to them. In 1916, she wrote to her governess, “I go to the Ward every evening now. They are very nice.”13 In 1917, she wrote again of her affection for these visitors: “Just back from a nerve racking and terrible experience-­bidding good-bye to FOURTEEN men! It really makes me weep & a lump in my throat.”14 This nursing adjacent work placed her on common ground with many royal ladies; many European senior royals served in some type of nursing position during World War I, such as Eleonore Reuss of Köstritz, Tsaritsa of Bulgaria, and Grand Duchesses Olga Nikolaevna, Tatiana Nikolaevna, and Olga Alexandrovna of Russia. British princesses Princess Alexandra of Connaught and Princess Louise of Battenberg served as nurses throughout the war, and George V’s daughter Princess Mary began a nursing course at Great Ormond Street Hospital in 1918, working shifts in the Alexandra Ward. Many other aristocratic ladies, like Elizabeth’s mother, organised and patronised convalescent

 William Shawcross, The Queen Mother (New York: Knopf, 2009), 59.  Shawcross, The Queen Mother, 53. Additionally, in her own correspondence, she wrote about drinking a toast with a “most delightful Corporal,” and writing a poem for “dear Sergeant Little.” Shawcross, ed., Counting One’s Blessings, 29, 41. 13  Letter from Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon to Beryl Poignand, 20 October 1916, in Shawcross, ed. Counting One’s Blessings, 41–42. 14   Letter from Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon to Beryl Poignand, 26 November 1917, in Shawcross, ed. Counting One’s Blessings, 49. 11 12



homes, and their daughters who were too young to nurse, like Elizabeth, visited hospitals and engaged with wounded soldiers.15 Though the children of the British monarch were traditionally expected to find spouses among the children of royal families within Europe, the devastation and upheaval caused by World War I, and the Russian Revolutions of 1917, undermined this practice. George V, in line with his wider efforts to promote a more ‘democratic’ British state divorced from the norms of ‘totalitarian’ regimes, changed his surname from the Germanic Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the English-sounding Windsor. He also encouraged his children to seek spouses among the British aristocracy.16 Queen Mary allegedly confided to a courtier that Prime Minister David Lloyd George “had told the King that foreign brides would not be tolerated: they would have to find suitable matches among the British aristocracy.”17 As George V recorded in his diary, “May and I had decided some time ago that our children would be allowed to marry into British families.”18 His preference was widely known. Indeed, when Princess Mary announced her engagement to Viscount Lascelles in 1921, The Daily News reported: “There is only one other engagement which could give greater pleasure, and that is the announcement of the Prince of Wales’ betrothal to an English woman.”19 The New York Times reported, “It is assumed since during the war the King altered the style of the royal house … that the days of marriages with foreign Princes was over.”20 This shift in expected marriage partners was extremely rapid. When Princess Louise, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, married John Campbell, Lord Lorne (the heir to the Duke of Argyll) in 1871, it had been a far more surprising announcement, opposed by her brother, the future 15  See: Coryne Hall, Princesses on the Wards: Royal Women in Nursing through Wars and Revolutions (Cheltenham: The History Press, 2004). 16  Heather Jones, “A Prince in the Trenches? Edward VIII and the First World War,” in Sons and Heirs: Succession and Political Culture in Nineteenth-Century Europe, ed. Heidi Mehrkens and Frank Lorenz Müller (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 236; Andrezj Olechnowicz, “Britain’s ‘Quasi-Magical’ Monarchy in the Mid-Twentieth Century?,” in Classes, Cultures, and Politics: Essays on British History for Ross McKibbin, ed. Clare V.  J. Griffiths, James J.  Nott, and William Whyte (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 82. 17  Forbes, My Darling Buffy, 178. 18  Quoted in Shawcross, The Queen Mother, 113. 19  Quoted in “Princess Mary Engaged To Wed Lord Lascelles,” New York Times, 23 November 1921. 20  “Princess Mary Engaged To Wed Lord Lascelles,” New York Times, 23 November 1921.



Edward VII, even though it was well-received by the wider public.21 This rapid shift was unique to the British royal family, although George V’s fourth son, Prince George, the Duke of Kent, wed Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark in 1934. For royalty on the continent, it remained usual practice to find one’s spouse within the royal families of Europe until the past few decades. Elizabeth “came out” into society in 1918 and began attending social events. She was formally presented to the King and Queen on 6 July 1920, the first year that traditional court presentations resumed after the war. Two days later, she attended a Royal Air Force Ball, where she first encountered her future husband, Prince Albert, nicknamed Bertie, then the Duke of York, and the second son of George V and Queen Mary. Elizabeth wrote, “I danced with Prince Albert who I hadn’t known before, he is quite a nice youth.”22 When Albert first danced with Elizabeth at the RAF Ball, he appeared to fall for her immediately, requesting an introduction from his equerry, James Stuart, who had also pursued a serious friendship with her. Before long, Albert and Stuart visited Glamis Castle together. Not long after this first visit, Albert proposed to Elizabeth. She refused, but the two continued their correspondence. He paid a second visit the following year and wrote to his mother, “It is delightful here & Elizabeth is very kind to me … The more I see her the more I like her.”23 At the same time that Albert was courting Elizabeth, she was developing a friendship with his sister Princess Mary, whom she met through their mutual involvement in the Girl Guides movement. Elizabeth served as a bridesmaid at Princess Mary’s wedding on 28 February 1922. In March 1922, Albert proposed to Elizabeth once more. Again, she refused, although she did “hope that we can go on being friends.”24 Though an aristocrat, Elizabeth did not come from a family of courtiers. Her father generally disliked the idea of life at court and even said, “If there is one thing I have determined for my children, it is that they shall never have any sort of post about the court.” Elizabeth too was nervous 21  Lucinda Hawksley, The Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria’s Rebellious Daughter (London: Chatto & Windus, 2013), chapter 2. 22  Letter from Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon to Beryl Poignand, 13 July 1920, in Shawcross, ed. Counting One’s Blessings, 82. 23  Quoted in John W. Wheeler-Bennett, King George VI: His Life and Reign (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1965), 148. 24  Letter from Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon to Prince Albert, 18 March 1922, in Shawcross, ed. Counting One’s Blessings, 99.



about the prospect of life in the spotlight, “afraid never, never again to be free to think, speak and act as I feel I really ought to.”25 Then, following months of further correspondence and socialisation, and encouraged by Queen Mary, in early January 1923, Prince Albert proposed once more. Elizabeth accepted in mid-January and her wedding was scheduled for the following April. It remains an open question as to why Elizabeth finally accepted his proposal after multiple refusals. Some biographers have pointed to the removal of Albert’s primary rival for her affections, his former equerry, James Stuart, who moved to Oklahoma in early 1922.26 Others speculate that she was won over by his persistence and kindness.27 Still others have suggested that she made the decision largely on impulse, or out of a sense of duty to her country.28 Nevertheless, it seems that Elizabeth and Albert had deep and lasting feelings for each other.

The Duchess of York In their announcement of Elizabeth and Albert’s engagement, The Times noted that there was “but one wedding to which the people look forward with still deeper interest—the wedding [of Albert’s older brother the future Edward VIII] which will give a wife to the Heir to the Throne and the British peoples.”29 Nevertheless, “Few Royal Engagements have been as popular than that of the Duke of York to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-­ Lyon.”30 Not long after her engagement, Elizabeth gave a lengthy personal interview to the press, including the highly circulated Evening News. The relative candour of this future member of the royal family endeared her to the public, in a period where the personal lives of the monarchy were usually kept extremely private. Through her interview, she not only humanised herself but also the family that she was entering, disclosing details about Albert’s proposal (“he proposed in the garden at Welwyn”),31 25  Quoted in John Ezard, “A Life of Legend, Duty and Devotion,” The Guardian, 31 March 2002. 26  Forbes, My Darling Buffy, 159; Shawcross, The Queen Mother, 135. 27  Forbes, My Darling Buffy, 199. 28  David Sinclair, Queen and Country: The Life of Elizabeth the Queen Mother (London: Dent, 1979), 56. 29  Quoted in Wheeler-Bennett, King George VI, 152. 30  The Life and times of King George VI, 1895–1952 (London: Odhams Press, 1952), 30. 31  Welwyn, Hertfordshire was the nearest village to her parent’s home at St Paul’s Walden Bury, where Elizabeth was living when she accepted Albert’s proposal.



the engagement ring (“It is to be made of sapphires”),32 and her state of mind (she was “so very happy”).33 Although it is unclear how the royal family regarded her openness with the press and public, especially since she never repeated this type of interview, George V greatly favoured his son’s choice of bride. Even if her decision to speak to the press may not have met with royal approval, the wedding was otherwise a public relations coup for the royal family. The pair were married on 26 April 1923 in Westminster Abbey in an event designed to lift public spirits after the First World War. Theirs was the first royal wedding to be partially filmed, and the footage was then broadcast on newsreels.34 The film narrative also emphasised their class differences. Though it identifies Elizabeth as “the youngest daughter of the Earl of Strathmore,” it narrates her lower status by comparing the Duke leaving the palace with “Lady Elizabeth leav[ing] her modest home in Bruton St.” Very little of the ceremony actually appeared on film, in favour of footage of cheering crowds as the couple left the church and returned to the palace.35 At the wedding ceremony, Cosmo Gordon Lang, Archbishop of York, gave the address, again highlighting her connections with people of all classes: “in your Scottish home, [you] have grown up from childhood among country folk and friendship with them has been your native air.”36 Elizabeth continued to meet with public approval when she laid her bridal bouquet at the recently built Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in honour of her brother Fergus, beginning a tradition for royal brides that continues today.37 After their wedding, the Duke and Duchess of York’s popularity with the public continued to grow. Within five years, they had travelled around the world, including Northern Ireland, East Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, acting as public relations ambassadors for the British Empire. 32  Quoted in Fred Barbash, “Britain’s Queen Mother Is Dead at 101,” Washington Post, 31 March 2002. 33  Quoted in Edward Owens, The Family Firm: Monarchy, Mass Media and the British Public, 1932–53 (London: University of London Press, 2018), 49. 34  Cele C.  Otnes and Pauline Maclaran, Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015), 255. 35  The Royal Family, “The Queen Mother marries the future King George VI at Westminster Abbey,” uploaded 11 December 2007. 36  Quoted in Shawcross, The Queen Mother, 178. 37  “Royal Wedding 2018: Bouquet laid on tomb of unknown warrior,” BBC News, 20 May 2018.



The Duke of York, whose combat service at the Battle of Jutland in 1916, disposed him to public approval,38 and the Duchess, who had also been deeply touched by the war, drew on her experiences to relate to the public. For example, in her travels, she attempted to meet with men who had stayed at Glamis during the war or otherwise had roots in Scotland.39 Throughout her life, she continued to stress her links with the Scottish diaspora, becoming, for example, the Royal Patron of the American-­ Scottish Foundation and taking opportunities to meet with Scottish emigrants on her visits abroad.40 In 1926, the couple welcomed their first child, Princess Elizabeth, followed in 1930 by another daughter, Princess Margaret. Elizabeth was the King’s first granddaughter, and third in line to the throne after her father and uncle. The Duke and Duchess of York were part of a healthy, photogenic young family, giving the royal family an air of wholesomeness and domesticity, in stark contrast to the image presented by the bachelor Prince of Wales. Elizabeth deserves much of the credit for this image. In fact, Elizabeth’s public-facing cheeriness earned her the nickname “the smiling Duchess.” In his abdication speech, Edward VIII even cited his brother’s “one matchless blessing, enjoyed by so many of you, and not bestowed on me—a happy home with his wife and children.”41 In the ordinariness of their family, they were, in the words of historian Philip Williamson, “extraordinary, the perfect family with blissful homes lives.”42 This family, if not an exact reflection of many similar young families throughout the empire, could be one that young Britons could aspire to for themselves. Elizabeth also became an active partner in many of her husband’s favourite causes. Shortly after becoming Duke of York, the Prince developed an interest in industrial working conditions and frequently toured mines, railroads, and factories. He even developed an industrial philosophy, predicated on the idea that “the country is richest which nourishes 38  Miriam Magdalena Schneider, The “Sailor Prince” in the Age of Empire: Creating a Monarchical Brand in Nineteenth-Century Europe (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 283. 39  Shawcross, The Queen Mother, 280. 40  Shawcross, The Queen Mother, 467. 41  Edward VIII, “Abdication Address,” 12 December 1936. 42  Philip Williamson, “The Monarchy and Public Values, 1910–53,” in The Monarchy and the British Nation, 1780 to the Present, ed. Andrzej Olechnowicz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 231.



the greatest number of happy people.”43 After his wedding, this interest in industrial welfare continued. The Yorkshire Post reported in 1928: “Throughout the country he is fast becoming a leader in something more than name in the ranks of industry … Without show, formality, fuss or bother, he has deliberately and consistently made personal contact with men of all classes connected with productive enterprise.”44 He also became well known for establishing a set of camps where wealthy and working-­ class boys would mix, which were widely praised as “few royal charities made such a visible, and lasting, contribution to working-class welfare.”45 These experiences gave him a thorough knowledge of working-class conditions and made him a familiar figure to those who would soon comprise the bulk of soldiers and industrial labourers during World War II.46 Elizabeth also had a public history of supporting British industry: for her wedding, “her train was made of machine-made lace, rather than the handmade lace [Queen] Victoria had sponsored, reflecting changed times and attitudes toward industrialization.”47 Additionally, she was a formidable patroness herself, focusing on charities for women and children, complementing her husband’s interest in working-class men and boys. The couple both had an interest in and a long experience in promoting the mixing of social classes, giving them some ease and rapport with Britons of varying backgrounds. After the death of George V in 1936, Elizabeth’s life was thrown into disarray. She had enjoyed a close relationship with her father-in-law. At the same time, with one fewer senior member of the royal family, she had increasing demands on her time. Most consequentially, there was the impact of the new King Edward VIII’s relationship with American divorcée Wallis Simpson. Princess Mary and Prince Albert had made non-­ traditional choices by marrying within the British aristocracy, but the Church of England forbade divorced persons to re-marry in the church at this time. Edward VIII’s romantic partner was considered entirely unsuitable, particularly for the man who was the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. It soon became clear that his ministers would not  Quoted in Wheeler-Bennett, King George VI, 167.  Quoted in Wheeler-Bennett, King George VI, 168. 45  Frank Prochaska, Royal Bounty: The Making of a Welfare Monarchy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995). 192. 46  Owens, The Family Firm; Charles Douglas-Home and Saul Kelly, Dignified and Efficient: The British Monarchy in the Twentieth Century (Brinkworth: Claridge Press, 2000), 129. 47  Otnes and Maclaran, Royal Fever, 255. 43 44



permit him to both marry Simpson and remain king. When Edward chose the former, Elizabeth was dismayed. She wrote to her mother-in-law of being “overcome with horror & emotion”48 and prayed that “[Edward] see reason, and not abandon his people. I am sure that it would be a … horrible position for us.”49 She complained to her sister Mary that she and the Duke of York were “feeling very despairing and the strain is terrific.” Further, in a rare expression of her feelings towards Simpson, she wrote, “Mrs Simpson is not fit to be Queen, she is not fit to be the King’s morganic wife. The Crown must be above all controversy.”50 Finally, she wrote to Edward and implored him to “Be kind to Bertie” and wished that he could realise “how hard it has been for him lately … I am terrified for him.”51 Her previously warm relationship with her brother-in-law compounded what she saw as a betrayal of her family and of his responsibilities: “It’s a terrible, bitter blow when somebody you love behaves like that.”52 The Abdication Crisis would force her husband onto the throne.

The Queen Consort After Edward VIII signed the Instrument of Abdication on 10 December, the Duke of York became George VI, a name that he assumed to ease the transition and emphasise the continuity of the monarchy from the reign of his father. On 12 December, speaking to his Privy Council, the King committed himself to his new position, mentioning Elizabeth’s new role: “With my wife and helpmeet by My side, I take up the heavy task which lies before me.”53 The former king Edward VIII, now the Duke of Windsor, left England that same day. In the souvenir programme for George VI’s coronation, which took place on 12 May 1937, there is no mention of Edward VIII, even in his new capacity as the Duke of 48  Letter from the Duchess of York to Queen Mary, the Queen Mother, 17 November 1936, in Shawcross, ed. Counting One’s Blessings, 224. 49  Letter from the Duchess of York to Queen Mary, the Queen Mother, 20 November 1936, in Shawcross, ed. Counting One’s Blessings, 225. 50  Letter from the Duchess of York to May Elphinstone, 6 December 1936, in Shawcross, ed. Counting One’s Blessings, 227–8. 51  Letter from the Duchess of York to King Edward, VIII, 23 November 1936, in Shawcross, ed. Counting One’s Blessings, 226. 52  Quoted in Shawcross, The Queen Mother, 385. 53  Quoted in The Coronation of Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, May 12th 1937 (London: Odhams Press Limited, 1937), 12.



Windsor—a stark omission given that the ceremony was originally scheduled to be his own. After becoming king and queen, the royal couple’s primary task was to create a narrative of continuity and stability for the monarchy, as well as to assure the public that they were not a poor substitute for the charming Duke of Windsor. Queen Elizabeth was at the centre of this campaign, placed in contrast to the Duchess of Windsor.54 Another way to reassure the public was an attempt to replicate the success of their travels early in their marriage, by embarking on a public relations tour, beginning with the British Isles. In a symbolic effort to quell Nazi aggression with a show of Anglo-French friendship, in July 1938, they visited France. They next crossed the Atlantic. Their 1939 trip to Canada was vital for showing that after the Statute of Westminster in 1931, which legally recognised the (de facto) independence of dominions in matters of foreign policy and established a separate Canadian Crown, the King and Queen would be received as the reigning monarch and consort of Canada before the outbreak of World War II.55 During the well-received trip to Canada, they spent a few days in the United States, meeting with President Franklin Roosevelt at Hyde Park on Hudson, where they attended a local Anglican church, and visited the British and Canadian Pavilions at the New York World’s Fair. They were also faced with the daunting task of convincing the American press that they deserved their positions. Since the American press had fervently covered the relationship between Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, many in the United States were sympathetic to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. For example, in 1936, the New York Journal reported that King Edward was “very deeply and sincerely enamoured of Mrs Simpson” and “his love is a righteous affection.”56 Fortunately, the American public embraced the King and Queen, an about-face that many credited to Elizabeth’s charm.57 Their visit also had political advantages. In the face of greater political turmoil in Europe, the successful visit of the first reigning British monarch on American soil emphasised Anglo-American friendship and solidarity in  Brunt, “The Family Firm Restored,” 142.  Philip Murphy, Monarchy and the End of Empire: The House of Windsor, the British Government, and the Postwar Commonwealth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 29–31. 56  Quoted in Sinclair, Queen and Country, 28. 57  Shawcross, The Queen Mother, 479. 54 55



the face of potential future threats. In fact, one could credit the Queen with much of the royal family’s success, as her former Woman of the Bedchamber, Lady Jean Rankin, did: Queen Elizabeth’s support at the time of the abdication showed the world that there was a strength and purpose, and a strong family on the throne, with a new atmosphere. The previous members of the Royal Family didn’t have great charm, though they were nice enough people … She has had an enormous influence on the popularity of the monarchy today.58

Elizabeth’s great ability to endear herself and her family to the public proved to be extremely useful for the remainder of her life. The outbreak of World War II furthered the prestige and strength of the royal family by giving them a clear role in the war effort.59 During the war, Elizabeth continued to humanise the monarchy and demonstrate a sense of comradery with the British public. First, reminiscent of Elizabeth’s personal tragedies during World War I, she and the King were touched by loss when his brother George, the Duke of Kent, died in a plane crash in 1942. Second, despite Buckingham Palace being a regular target for air raids, the King and Queen insisted on staying in the United Kingdom and spending time in London. They continued visiting industrial sites and bombed homes, adhered to food rationing policies, ordered the bathtubs at the Palace to be marked for water conservation, and Elizabeth followed the example of Queen Mary’s activities during World War I.60 Elizabeth hosted knitting and sewing parties, took shooting lessons, and fundraised for the Red Cross. In these tasks, Sarah Bradford, one of George VI’s biographers, noted that she demonstrated “a talent for public relations that amounted to genius.”61 On 13 September 1940, the Luftwaffe bombed Buckingham Palace, blowing out several windows, damaging portraits, and piercing the interior of the Royal Chapel. This attack was one of nine successful bombings  “Lady Jean Rankin,” in Hogg and Mortimer, The Queen Mother Remembered, 162–163.  John Cannon and Ralph Alan Griffiths, The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Monarchy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 611. 60  Judith Rowbotham, “‘How to Be Useful in Wartime’ Queen Mary’s Leadership in the War Effort 1914–1918,” in Monarchies and the Great War, ed. Matthew Glencross and Judith Rowbotham (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 191–222. 61  Sarah Bradford, The Reluctant King: The Life and Reign of George VI, 1895–1952 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989), 328. 58 59



of the palace. Queen Elizabeth famously declared, “I am glad we have been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face.”62 She toured bombing damage at East and West Ham later that day. In fact, “Often the King and Queen would appear unannounced in some heavily bombed district within a few hours of the end of a raid.”63 Their visits to bombed regions, wounded servicemen, and munitions factories were filmed by newsreels, which captured footage of cheering crowds greeting them wherever they went.64 Elizabeth always wore elegant clothing during these visits, reasoning that anyone visiting her would wear their nicest clothes and she wished to match their respect.65 It is possible, however, that some recordings of delight were staged for popular consumption, as historians have noted that in a visit to Southampton in 1940, “much of the route had been unlined, and the royal party passed almost unnoticed.”66 Yet despite possible exaggerations of her popularity, she was remembered as a popular figure during this time. The Queen was admired for her refusal to leave Britain, despite the danger: “I wouldn’t leave without the king, and the king will never leave.”67 She saw the importance of demonstrating solidarity with the British people in this time of hardship and danger, writing sardonically to Prince Paul of Yugoslavia in early December 1939 that “I am living here alone & am the only member of the family in London!! Keep the old flag flying. Hooray!”68 In a 1939 broadcast, she again drew on her own experience of privations due to the war, specifically citing her daughters’ move from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle for the war’s duration, to build solidarity with her listeners. She said, “The King and I know what it

62  Sarah Lyall “Britain’s Beloved ‘Queen Mum,’ A Symbol of Courage, Dies at 101,” New York Times, 31 March 2002. 63  The Life and Times of King George VI, 1895–1952 (London: Odhams Press, 1952), 102. 64  Jeffrey Richards, “The Monarchy and Film, 1900–2006,” in The Monarchy and the British Nation, 1780 to the Present, ed. Andrzej Olechnowicz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 266. 65  Purdue, Long to Reign?, 180. 66  Andrzej Olechnowicz, “‘A Jealous Hatred’: Royal Popularity and Social Inequity,” in The Monarchy and the British Nation, 1780 to the Present, ed. Andrzej Olechnowicz (Cambridge University Press, 2007), 287. 67  Lyall “Britain’s Beloved ‘Queen Mum’.” 68  Letter from Queen Elizabeth to Prince Paul of Yugoslavia, 6 December 1939, in Shawcross, ed. Counting One’s Blessings, 286.



means to be parted from our children and we can sympathize.”69 The King too used this rhetoric of unity and solidarity between his family and those of his subjects in his VE-Day broadcast: “The Queen and I know the ordeals which you have endured throughout the Commonwealth and Empire. We are proud to have shared some of these ordeals with you.”70 And beyond their words, the public could see not only the humanitarian efforts of the King and Queen but also Princess Elizabeth’s service in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service towards the end of the war in 1945. The idea that the royal family experienced some of the same privations and perils as the people also aided in entrenching the institution of the monarchy in the affections of the people.71 After the war, the royal family embarked on a tour of Southern Africa, where, as Queen Elizabeth wrote to one of her sisters, “even the old Nationalist Boers, reared to hate England, gave us a very hearty welcome,”72 despite the “many serious racial problems.”73 When they returned, in July 1947, the King and Queen announced the engagement of their daughter, Princess Elizabeth, to Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, and the couple were married in November of that year. The following year, Queen Elizabeth became a grandmother, when Princess Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, Prince Charles, in November 1948. Queen Elizabeth was an important influence on Charles’ early life and the two remained close for all of her life. In the days following her death in 2002, Charles, Prince of Wales, recalled, “She seemed gloriously unstoppable, and ever since I was a child I adored her … She was quite simply the most magical grandmother you could possibly have and I was utterly devoted to her.”74 In the meantime, the King’s health was beginning to fail due to lung cancer. This decline meant that Queen Elizabeth had more public duties than ever as she kept some engagements that

69  “The Queen’s Broadcast, 11 November 1939,” in Shawcross, ed. Counting One’s Blessings, 283. 70  George VI, “VE-Day Broadcast,” 8 May 1945. 71  Douglas-Home and Kelly, Dignified and Efficient, 153. 72  Letter from Queen Elizabeth to May Elphinstone, 26 April 1947, in Shawcross, ed. Counting One’s Blessings, 399. 73  Letter from Queen Elizabeth to Queen Mary, 21 February 1947, in Shawcross, ed. Counting One’s Blessings, 395. 74  Quoted in “Charles returns for second tribute,” BBC News, 9 April 2002.



normally would have been fulfilled by the King.75 At the end of January 1952, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip set out on a Commonwealth tour. They were in Kenya when they heard the news of George VI’s death in his sleep on 6 February 1952, aged 56.

The Queen Mother Although George VI had been ill for years, Queen Elizabeth’s widowhood at the age of just 51 still came as somewhat of a shock, particularly for someone whose role was largely determined by her position as the spouse of the monarch. She withdrew to Scotland briefly, where she purchased the Castle of Mey. She began to resume some official duties during the summer of 1952, and by autumn, she was frequently taking part in official engagements, often in the company of Princess Margaret. Elizabeth II’s coronation was scheduled for 2 June 1953. It was the first British coronation to be televised, continuing the trend of revealing more aspects of royal life and traditions to the public. Queen Elizabeth’s official biographer, William Shawcross, argued that this event brought “pride that she and the King managed to take an institution in crisis and restore it to its place at the centre of popular imagination and esteem.”76 It was perhaps suitable that she emphasised her status as an integral part of Elizabeth II’s life when she chose the title “The Queen Mother”—a choice that also discouraged confusion between herself and her daughter, who otherwise both would have been called “Queen Elizabeth.” The Queen Mother believed in the virtues of the British Empire, but in the 1950s, Britain was transitioning away from its historic imperial function. The United Nations, as well as the colonies themselves, pushed for either independence or for more power to be given to the countries. India had already gained independence in 1947, and the Queen Mother was the last British queen consort to hold the title of Empress (consort) of India. In 1949, the Commonwealth of Nations was born, comprised of former colonies that wanted to maintain ties to the British monarchy. In 1953, the British government, working to find alternatives to full independence, created a federation out of their colonies in Southern and Northern  Margaret Saville, H.M. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother: The Illustrated Story of the Queen Mother’s Life from Childhood (London: Pitkins, 1950), 40. 76  Shawcross, The Queen Mother, 678. 75



Rhodesia and Nyasaland, with the idea that it would eventually become a self-governing dominion. Though the federation ultimately failed, in June 1953, Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother embarked on a tour of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, her first of many overseas tours as a widow. In 1959, she visited Kenya, where she had previously visited with her husband as Duchess of York, and had a generally warm reception personally, despite an increasingly tense and violent political situation in the region at the latter end of the Mau-Mau Revolution (1952–1960). Through the social upheaval of the 1960s, the Queen Mother’s constant royal duties meant that she had become a symbol of stability and continuity for the monarchy. Her wide range of interests and patronages, especially of women’s causes, contributed to the “extent to which the monarchy had been woven into British life.”77 Now in her sixties, she began travelling abroad more than ever, both privately (France was a favourite destination) and in her official capacity. One thing remained constant: just like when she was younger, many marvelled at her ability to engage with persons from diverse backgrounds. For example, the Duchess of Grafton, a frequent travelling companion, recalled, “She always gets to know the people on either side of her … Occasionally, before the meal starts, she would be told by the host, ‘So and so is a communist,’ and she always said, ‘But I love communists,’ and would proceed to get on particularly well with them.”78 Indeed, on her 85th birthday, one biographer remarked, “Most of the population of Britain lives in the permanent illusion that they have met her personally.”79 According to a long-time member of her household, “It was impossible to feel shy in her presence.”80 British writer Harold Nicolson even remarked on her “astonishing gift for being sincerely interested in dull people and dull occasions.”81 Her apparent sociability with people of all backgrounds continued to be one of her greatest strengths in terms of her long-lasting popularity.

 Shawcross, The Queen Mother, 734.  “The Duchess of Grafton,” in Hogg and Mortimer, The Queen Mother Remembered, 89–90. 79  Quoted in Fred Barbash, “LONG LIVE THE QUEEN MUM!,” Washington Post, 5 August 1995. 80  Marion Crawford, The Little Princesses: The Story of the Queen’s Childhood by Her Nanny, Marion Crawford (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1950), 8. 81  Quoted in Prochaska, Royal Bounty, 216. 77 78



In the late 1960s, the royal family came under closer public scrutiny.82 This attention was not only due to the increasing social and political turmoil in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth but also due to the growing public access to the private lives of the royal family. In 1969, the BBC aired a documentary, Royal Family, which had been commissioned by the Queen. As Sarah Gristwood’s chapter on the Duke of Edinburgh discusses, the programme showed the day-to-day activities of the royal family, attempting to combat the perception that they were outdated. The documentary, which has not been broadcast in its entirety since 1972, had an enormous viewership and whetted the public’s appetite for details from the personal lives of the royal family. This appetite was further increased by the messy public divorce of Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-­ Jones, Earl of Snowdon, in 1976. Through the 1980s, the Queen Mother continued with her official duties, and her patronage list included over 300 organisations. She also dedicated her time and money to expensive hobbies. Though the Queen Mother had always enjoyed horseracing, after being widowed, she began pursuing this passion in earnest. She tried to be involved in every aspect and not only owned horses and attended the races, but she also read race coverage and had race results radioed to her at Clarence House. She developed a rapport with trainers, managers, and even “the people who work in the stables—the jockeys and the stable lads.”83 She had a massive art collection that mixed the Masters with modern avant-garde work.84 She regularly threw parties at her Windsor residence, Royal Lodge, where pricey champagne and gin flowed freely. She delighted in fashionable clothes and hats and was known for being extremely well dressed. When Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret gifted her a fur coat for her eightieth birthday, she raved about it in her letters.85 After she died, it was reported that she left an £8 million debt, although her estate could cover its cost. Such fiscal irresponsibility may seem cause for scandal, but it was treated lightly compared to the tawdrier scandals that followed her daughter Princess Margaret and some of her grandchildren’s lives. This contrast was even 82  Anthony Taylor, ‘Down with the Crown’: British Anti-Monarchism and Debates about Royalty since 1790 (London: Reaktion Books, 1999). 83  “Michael Oswald,” in Hogg and Mortimer, The Queen Mother Remembered, 190–191. 84  John Cornforth, Queen Elizabeth: The Queen Mother at Clarence House (London: New York: Michael Joseph, 1999). 85  Letters from the Queen Mother to Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret, 5 August 1980, in Shawcross, ed. Counting One’s Blessings, 575–576.



noted by the press in her lifetime: in 1980, the London Times hypothesised that the Queen Mother was “the most popular royal personage of all time,” and noted how “none of the criticism of the Royal Family which has become increasingly fashionable has ever attached itself to the Queen Mother.”86 The author mostly attributed her popularity to her lifetime of public service. The 1990s was another period of turmoil for the British Royal family. Anne, Princess Royal, had married Mark Phillips in 1973, and their marriage ended in divorce in 1992. Charles, Prince of Wales, had married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, but divorced in 1996. Andrew, Duke of York, who had married Sarah Ferguson in 1986, also divorced in 1996. The press, which had been so generous in its coverage of the Queen Mother, made life difficult for the younger generation and provided frenzied coverage of these messy divorces.87 When Diana, Princess of Wales, died in 1997, the monarchy again faced widespread criticism when they initially mourned privately at Balmoral Castle. Through these events, “the Queen Mother’s standing and the affection in which she was held helped the family to recover some public esteem.”88 In fact, as one Manchester woman stated succinctly, “She’s unblemished, unlike some of the other royals.”89 The Queen Mother managed to find a balance between the regal and familiar that both humanised her and saved her from public disapproval. The Queen Mother’s life and legacy were widely celebrated at her centenary in 2000. Soon afterward, she experienced several health problems, breaking her collarbone in November 2000 and fracturing her pelvis a year later. Her last public appearance reminded onlookers of her redoubtable connections to modern British history when, on 22 November 2001, she attended the recommissioning ceremony for the Ark Royal, saying: “I’m so happy to be once again onboard Ark Royal. You see, I launched her and her predecessor. So, it’s wonderful to feel that now she’s going to be at sea and guarding our shores just as in the days of yore. She’s a wonderful

 Sinclair, “Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.”  Taylor, Down with the Crown, 236. 88  Brian Groom, “Royal who kept at bay red-blooded radicals,” Financial Times, 30 March 2002. 89  Quoted in Fred Barbash, “Britain’s Queen Mother Is Dead at 101,” Washington Post, 31 March 2002. 86 87



ship … Captain, splice the main brace.” Her last line was met with laughter and applause.90 On 9 February 2002, after two decades of poor health, Princess Margaret died. The Queen Mother attended her daughter’s funeral on 15 February 2002. She died in her sleep on 30 March 2002 at the Royal Lodge, Great Windsor Park, with Elizabeth II at her bedside. She was 101, and remains the longest-lived consort in British history. Her funeral was held on 9 April at Westminster Abbey. Over a million mourners lined the path between Westminster Abbey and St George’s Chapel at Windsor, where she was buried alongside George VI and Princess Margaret, despite predictions that an uptick in republicanism would keep the numbers low.91 Afterwards, the wreath that had lain atop her coffin was placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, in a gesture that echoed her wedding-day tribute.92 After the Queen Mother’s death, many tributes and histories credited her with stabilising the monarchy during the abdication crisis, although “the Queen Mother’s former subjects will be more likely to remember her as the sprightly Queen Mum who seemed almost a part of everyone’s family.”93 Both of these remembrances ultimately stem from the Queen Mother’s mastery of public relations. She maintained the dignity of the royal family, in sharp contrast to the scandals and tell-all books surrounding her relatives, but also, through her ability to connect to people of all classes, made the royal family appear relatable and relevant. She embodied the mythology of the idea that the “national family transcends class division because it is composed essentially of individual families, of which the royal family is only the most exemplary,”94 and “reconciling a studied aloofness with appropriate gestures of populism, making the world’s least ordinary of families seem, when necessary, ever so ordinary.”95 In her lifetime, which spanned the twentieth century, she served as a stabilising force for the monarchy, even in periods when it was otherwise turbulent. This 90  “HMS Ark Royal Recommissioning Ceremony—22nd November 2001,” ArkTV, uploaded 8 July 2014. 91  Torin Douglas, “Public mood takes media by surprise,” BBC News, 9 April 2002. 92  “Mourners visit Queen Mother’s vault,” BBC News, 10 April 2002. 93  Iyer, Pico “A Ma’am for All Seasons,” Time International, 8 April 2002. 94  Brunt, “The Family Firm Restored,” 146. 95   Fred Barbash, “Britain’s Queen Mother Is Dead at 101,” Washington Post, 31 March 2002.



was despite being of ‘common’ birth herself. As Lord Byers summed up, quoting a Cockney woman: “She is really just like everyone else, but much better.”96 In this way, while Lady Diana Spencer may have been the “People’s Princess,” Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, another Earl’s daughter, truly was the People’s Matriarch.

96  Brian Groom, “Royal who kept at bay red-blooded radicals,” Financial Times, 30 March 2002.


Prince Philip: The Unlikely Moderniser Sarah Gristwood

The marriage of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was the longest royal marriage in British (and English) history, and one of the most successful: a partnership that, for more than seven decades, maintained its personal integrity. The marriage saw Prince Philip confront the contradictions inherent in the position of a male consort and rise above them successfully enough to play a significant role in re-shaping the British monarchy. From his honeymoon in 1947, Philip wrote to his new mother-­ in-­ law Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother about his marriage: “My ambition is to weld the two of us into a new combined existence that will not only be able to withstand the shocks directed at us but will also have a positive existence for the good.”1 The traditional vow he made to his wife at her coronation declared that: “I, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, do become

1  William Shawcross, Queen Elizabeth: The Queen Mother (London: Pan Macmillan, 2010), 631.

S. Gristwood (*) Independent Scholar, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts, Queenship and Power, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-12829-5_13




your liege man of life and limb.”2 He kept his word while standing where only a handful of men in British history have stood before him: two steps behind a reigning queen, and not finding the position easy. His life and influence, which remain good fodder for newspaper columns and colourful television programmes, have, as yet, received comparatively little academic study. 3 Future debate might as aptly centre on the field of gender studies as of British history: exploring the degree to which the problems Prince Philip faced reflect the gender-based expectations that even today might plague the partner of any prominent woman. Many of the difficulties of Philip’s position—establishing a role for himself and overcoming concerns about his influence on his wife—were experienced by other husbands of British queens regnant. Nonetheless, he was the only male consort to have had to sacrifice for the role a distinct, viable career of his own. The only male consort, moreover, to have had to justify not only his own but also his spouse’s position: the only one who could not take monarchy as a given. Early in his wife’s reign, the Duke declared that the royal family were fighting an election every day. According to Martin Charteris, Baron Charteris of Amisfield and the Queen’s Private Secretary, Philip played a leading role in fighting that successful campaign.4 He was in many ways an anomalous figure: born into the heart of the European royal network yet regarded as an arriviste by the British establishment; a one-time moderniser later identified in the public mind with an ultra-conservative stance. But his advocacy of the modern medium of television; his promotion of a more accessible, less exclusive, image for his wife; and his own interest in science and technology, all played a key role in remoulding the monarchy in the twentieth century.

2  Robert Phillimore, The Ecclesiastical Law of the Church of England, 2 vols. (London, 1873–1876), 1:1068–1069. 3  Honourable exceptions include: Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska, “Prince Philip: Sportsman and Youth Leader,” in The Man Behind the Queen: Male Consorts in History, ed. Charles Beem and Miles Taylor (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 223–239; and Edward Owens, The Family Firm: Monarchy, Mass Media and the British Public, 1932–53 (London: University of London Press, 2019). 4  Ben Pimlott, The Queen: Elizabeth II and the Monarchy (London: Harper Collins, 2001), 380.



Childhood Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-­ Sonderburg-Glücksburg, was, like his wife, a great-great-grandchild of Queen Victoria. His mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, was a granddaughter of Victoria’s third child, Princess Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse-­ Darmstadt. His father, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, could likewise boast extensive connections throughout the intricate web of European royalty via the Glücksburg dynasty of Denmark that “colonised royal Europe.”5 Andrew’s paternal grandfather, a minor prince with German and Danish ancestry who had unexpectedly been named heir to the Danish throne, became Christian IX of Denmark in 1863. That same year, Andrew’s father, Prince William of Denmark, was invited to become King George I of Greece soon after his aunt Princess Alexandra of Denmark married the future Edward VII at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. By the time of Philip’s birth, on the island of Corfu on 10 June 1921, however, the Greek royal family was in crisis. George I had been assassinated in 1913; his eldest son and successor Constantine I (Philip’s uncle) had been deposed in 1917. Constantine made a brief return to power in 1920, but in 1922 was forced to abdicate. National humiliation over the crushing defeat of Greek armies at the hands of Turkey found an outlet in public hostility towards the royal family; and Prince Andrew, who had played an active part in the campaign as a military commander often at odds with both his superiors and his subordinates, was particularly vulnerable. On 2 December 1922, a court martial backed by the new revolutionary government sentenced him to banishment for life. Along with his parents and four older sisters, the baby Philip was evacuated by a British warship.6 Alice and Andrew’s marriage did not long survive the strain of exile. They settled in Paris, but from 1930 Andrew led a peripatetic existence centred around the French Riviera, while Alice was placed in a mental institution. Philip, barely nine, would see little of his mother for the rest of the decade and all four of his sisters would marry within eighteen months: all to German princes, three of whom would go on to actively espouse the Nazi cause. When his sister Cecile was killed in a plane crash in 1937, 5  Philip Eade, Young Prince Philip: His Turbulent Early Life (London: Harper Press, 2011), 1 6  Eade, Young Prince Philip, 39.



sixteen-year-old Philip attended her funeral and was photographed surrounded by Nazi uniforms, an image that would repeatedly re-emerge to haunt him. When later asked about this early end to any semblance of a stable childhood, Philip told Gyles Brandreth: “I just had to get on with it. You do. One does.”7 Philip always reacted against any suggestion of self-pity. But his cousin and biographer, Alexandra, Queen of Yugoslavia, described the adolescent Philip as being like “a huge hungry dog without a basket.”8 Child psychologist Oliver James suggested to biographer Philip Eade that Philip “would have developed what psychologists call a ‘highly defended’ personality … he’s basically in survival mode.”9 Crucially for his future role, Britain’s royal family might also be said at times to require a “survival mode” as it struggled to re-model its image and maintain a valid role for itself, through the huge social changes of the twentieth century. Philip spent his teenage years at school in Britain, and largely in the care of his mother’s Mountbatten family.10 But the conventional, simplified narrative—one strongly promoted by his uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten— ignores the fact that Philip’s upbringing was strikingly international. Sent to a progressive American kindergarten in Paris, his mother suggested to the headmaster that his future might well lie in the United States.11 His character-building education at Gordonstoun in Scotland was preceded by a year at Salem, Germany, established by Gordonstoun’s founder, Kurt Hahn. Though Philip’s European background would come to be seen as problematic, his international outlook (so at odds with his later image as a xenophobe) may well have been of service to Princess Elizabeth, who at the time of Philip’s proposal had never left British shores.

7  Gyles Brandreth, Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Royal Marriage (New York: Norton, 2005), 43. While Brandreth notes that his book was “not ‘authorised,’” he was given considerable assistance by Prince Philip and his staff, as were Tim Heald and Basil Boothroyd before him. Tim Heald, The Duke: A Portrait of Prince Philip (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1991); Basil Boothroyd, Philip: An Informal Biography (London: Longman, 1971). 8  Alexandra, Queen of Yugoslavia, Prince Philip: A Family Portrait (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1960), 60. 9  Eade, Young Prince Philip, 68. 10  As with the royal family’s adoption of the name Windsor, the Battenbergs changed their name during the First World War at George V’s instruction, amid popular anti-German sentiment. 11  Eade, Young Prince Philip, 53.



Courtship and Marriage In 1939, thirteen-year-old Princess Elizabeth accompanied her parents to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth where Philip, 18, was a cadet. They had already met on a few family occasions but it was here, as he helped to entertain the royal party, that her interest in him really began. Philip’s first naval commanding officer, Captain Baillie-Grohman, would recall him saying, “My uncle Dickie [Mountbatten] has ideas for me: he thinks I could marry Princess Elizabeth.” Taken aback, the Captain asked if he was fond of her: “Oh yes, very,” he replied, “I write to her every week.”12 The point matters because it affects the placement of their match on the sliding scale between the dynastic royal marriages that were standard throughout history, and the more personal romantic arrangements, which have only recently become the norm. In January 1941, the diarist ‘Chips’ Channon recorded cocktail party gossip that Philip “is to be our Prince Consort, and that is why he is serving in the Navy.”13 But he was still a “neutral foreigner.”14 Lord Mountbatten had to pull strings to get him to sea, where he served with distinction: mentioned in despatches after the Battle of Cape Matapan; the youngest first lieutenant in the Royal Navy; once saving his ship in a night-­ time bombing raid by the inventive use of a decoy.15 Christmas leave 1943 was spent at Windsor, watching a seventeen-year-old Elizabeth sing and dance through the annual family pantomime as Aladdin. Weeks later, Channon wrote that, one day, “a marriage may well be arranged.”16 George VI and Queen Elizabeth had doubts about the marriage, including Elizabeth’s youth, Philip’s raffish reputation, and perhaps also the over-active role Lord Mountbatten seemed to be playing in the affair. Philip himself would write to Mountbatten urging, “Please, I beg of you, not too much advice in an affair of the heart, or I shall be forced to do the wooing by proxy.”17 There was debate over whether Philip would really 12  John Pearson, The Ultimate Family: The Making of the Royal House of Windsor (London: Michael Joseph, 1986), 81. 13  Chips: The Diaries of Sir Henry Channon, ed. Robert Rhodes James (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967), 287. 14  Eade, Young Prince Philip, 131; Pearson, Ultimate Family, 81. 15  Andrew Marr, The Diamond Queen: Elizabeth II and her People (London: Pan Macmillan, 2012), 97–98. 16  Chips, 386. 17  Philip Ziegler, Mountbatten: The Official Biography (London: Collins, 1985), 308.



be, as Mountbatten put it, “an additional asset” to a royal family depleted by death and desertion—or the reverse.18 But after meeting Philip in 1944, Sir Michael Duff wrote to his cousin, Lady Desborough, that he seemed just right “to perform the role of Consort” and, at twenty-four, was “ripe for the job.”19 Concerns were raised about the foreignness of a putative consort by the press and the British elite. Correspondence between George VI and Philip’s cousin George II of Greece reflected the fact that the match potentially had diplomatic implications.20 George II, forced into exile during the War and restored in 1946, represented a potential problem. Philip’s Greek associations could be invoked to suggest either the fallibility of a royal house or, conversely, an association with royal authoritarianism. While the Greek royal family would see Philip, in biographer Ben Pimlott’s words, as having “won the jackpot” when eventually he became engaged to Elizabeth, in Britain, Philip’s connections seem to have been regarded only as a potential problem.21 Philip’s German links were a particularly sensitive issue in the post-war 1940s (though the same issue had plagued Prince Albert a century before). Besides complaining he was “no gentleman,” some courtiers claimed to see in Philip “a Teutonic strain.”22 His future mother-in-law was said to refer to him as “the Hun.”23 This union would be one of the rare examples of a significant international marriage made by a member of the British royal family throughout the twentieth century, after matches with British spouses had been identified as early as the 1920s as the sort most likely to win popular enthusiasm.24 Mountbatten, with the assistance of Labour MP and journalist Tom Driberg, embarked on an active campaign to persuade the press that Philip was, in Mountbatten’s words, “more English

18  The Killearn Diaries, 1934–1946: The Diplomatic and Personal Record of Lord Killearn, Sir Miles Lampson, High Commissioner and Ambassador, Egypt, ed. Trefor E. Evans (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1972), 311–312. 19  Richard Davenport-Hines, Ettie: The Intimate Life and Dauntless Spirit of Lady Desborough (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2008), 355. 20  Pimlott, The Queen, 96; Eade, Young Prince Philip, 154. 21  Pimlott, The Queen, 99, 123. 22  Pimlott, The Queen, 104, quoting from the unpublished diary of Sir John ‘Jock’ Colville. 23  Brandreth, Philip and Elizabeth, 232; Eade, Young Prince Philip, 181. 24  Sarah Bradford, George VI (London: Penguin, 2011), 132.



than any other nationality” (and also that he had “nothing whatever to do with the political set-up in Greece”).25 In a poll conducted by the Sunday Pictorial on 5 January 1947, 40% of the paper’s correspondents opposed the potential marriage, but 55% of respondents looked upon it favourably as a love match. The romantic narrative would be the main thrust of the official publicity, and the strategy was largely successful. As one teenage girl told the Sunday Pictorial, “a happy queen is a good queen.”26 Elizabeth herself was patently in love, and the consensus among palace insiders, the press, and the public alike would come to be that Philip shared her genuine affection. As Philip’s mother later wrote to Queen Mary in 1947, they “seem very devoted to each other.”27 When Philip was invited to Balmoral in the summer of 1946, Buckingham Palace was forced to issue a denial of press stories that the couple were already engaged. Secretly, indeed, they were. Mountbatten had for several years been attempting to arrange Philip’s naturalisation as a British subject. That winter, he made sure it went ahead. Technically, the Act of Naturalization of 1705 meant that as a descendant of Sophia, Electress of Hanover, Philip was already and always had been a British subject.28 But either Mountbatten was unaware of this fact, or possibly—and probably correctly—felt that public opinion required a definite move. To become a less controversial consort for Britain’s heiress, Philip would renounce his name, royal rank, nationality, and, in the end, also his Greek Orthodox faith. Princess Elizabeth’s parents asked her to delay an announcement until after her twenty-first birthday. On 10 July 1947, official news came from Buckingham Palace that “with the greatest pleasure” the King and Queen announced the betrothal of their dearly beloved daughter to “Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, RN,” to which the King “has gladly given his consent.” The wedding was set for 20 November in Westminster Abbey. In the austere aftermath of war, there were qualms expressed by British political figures about whether a large public ceremony was really appropriate. A number of Labour MPs successfully sought to limit how much of the cost of a big wedding should come out of the public purse, despite  Pimlott, The Queen, 100; Eade, Young Prince Philip, 183–186.  Owens, The Family Firm, 281–284. 27  Ingrid Seward, My Husband and I: The Inside Story of the Royal Marriage (London: Simon and Schuster, 2017), 72. See also: Eade, Young Prince Philip, 185, 192, 198–199, 216; Brandreth, Philip and Elizabeth, 347. 28  Eade, Young Prince Philip, 184–189. 25 26



Driberg’s assurances that Philip was “something of a socialist himself.”29 (In 1946, after one argumentative dinner, he had to write assuring the Queen that he was not really “an exponent of socialism.”30 Once consort, however, his role would require him to abstain from expressing any such views.) The income the young couple would receive from the Civil List would continue to be a matter of sometimes acrimonious debate.31 But public opinion favoured a more lavish royal wedding that would serve as an opportunity for public celebrations. The Daily Express received six letters in favour of a gala event for every one against; though the less deferential Daily Mirror found its readers less enthusiastic.32 Opinion polls showed approval for the public wedding rising from 40% to 60% between July and November.33 As former Prime Minister and Conservative Leader of the Opposition Winston Churchill told the House of Commons, it would be “a flash of colour on the hard road we have to travel.”34 Crowds flocked to see the display of wedding presents and stood fifty thick to watch the wedding day procession. Elizabeth’s Norman Hartnell dress was embroidered with hopeful symbols of spring. For the marriage, George VI created Philip HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. Philip’s three surviving sisters were not invited to the ceremony because of their husbands. The problem of potentially divisive allegiances, factions, and in-laws would have been recognisable to female royal consorts through the ages. But the question is whether Philip’s maleness, and the assumed ascendancy of any husband over any wife, made them matter more.

Marriage and Monarchy Elizabeth’s first pregnancy was announced on 4 June 1948, and George VI’s formerly hostile Private Secretary Alan “Tommy” Lascelles noted that Philip had “after all put the heir to the throne in the family way all

 Pimlott, The Queen, 127; Eade, Young Prince Philip, 193.  Eade, Young Prince Philip, 194. 31  Pimlott, The Queen, 128–132. 32  Owens, The Family Firm, 286. 33  Pimlott, The Queen, 133. 34  Alison Weir, Kate Williams, Sarah Gristwood, and Tracy Borman, The Ring and the Crown: A History of Royal Weddings, 1066–2011 (London: Hutchinson, 2011), 122. 29 30



according to plan.”35 Prince Charles was born on 14 November in Buckingham Palace. When, almost a year later, Philip was ordered to the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet based in Malta, Elizabeth joined him, her time there the closest to a normal life she would ever know. She returned to Clarence House to give birth to Princess Anne on 15 August 1950. Philip had been promoted to command of the HMS Magpie but, at this crucial moment in his very promising naval career, it came to an abrupt end. The visible deterioration in George VI’s health meant that Elizabeth, with her husband, was expected to take on more of his duties. In the autumn of 1951, they took the place of the King and Queen on a gruelling tour of Canada and a visit to Washington, DC.  The tour saw the royal couple develop an approachable image suitable for a modern royal couple. They joined in a square dance in Ottawa, an image of which became a popular Canadian Christmas card design, but the tour also, not for the last time, saw Philip having to urge his wife to show a more smiling face. He himself was the more popular figure with the Canadian press: a “man of action” driving the royal train and appearing on the bridge of a Canadian destroyer.36 The following year Elizabeth, with Philip at her side, would replace the King on his long-planned six-month tour of the Commonwealth, beginning with a short stay in Kenya. It was in Kenya that, on 6 February 1952, Prince Philip’s equerry Michael Parker received word that George VI had died. When given the news, Philip looked, Parker said, “as if you’d dropped half the world on him.”37 Philip took his wife out into the garden to tell her that she was now Queen. When, the next day, an outwardly composed Elizabeth II landed at London airport, her husband stood back to allow her to greet her Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the tarmac: a sign of the way things were to be from now on. Churchill announced a New Elizabethan Age amidst huge public optimism, but Philip was thrown into gloom by his change in circumstances.38 The new Queen did what she could to alleviate his situation. She announced that her husband was to have “place, pre-eminence and 35  From the Nicolson Papers, quoted in Sarah Bradford, Elizabeth: A Biography of Her Majesty the Queen (London: Penguin, 2002), 131. 36  Eade, Young Prince Philip, 246. 37  Heald, The Duke, 99. 38  Eade, Young Prince Philip, 256; Brandreth, Philip and Elizabeth, 223–224.



precedence” after her “on all occasions and in all meetings, except where otherwise provided by Act of Parliament.” She ended the custom whereby a spouse had to bow or curtsy when the sovereign entered a room. As Sarah Betts’s chapter details, the Queen had the 1937 Regency Act amended so that, should it be necessary, Philip, rather than Princess Margaret, would act as regent for Prince Charles until he was of age.39 In 1957, she would create him a Prince of the United Kingdom. But such gestures could only go so far to address Philip’s changed role once Elizabeth succeeded to the throne. Before the Queen’s accession, whatever they did was done together and Philip told Basil Boothroyd, “I suppose I naturally filled the principal position. In 1952 the whole thing changed very, very considerably.”40 Jeremy Paxman claims that, when Philip asked people what he was supposed to do when his wife acceded to the throne, “They sort of looked down and shuffled their feet.”41 After it happened, Philip said later: “I was told ‘Keep out’ and that was that.”42 There were, he recalled, “plenty of people telling me what not to do … I had to find a way of supporting the Queen, without getting in the way.”43 He had no ally in Elizabeth’s first prime minister: Churchill confided that he neither liked nor trusted Philip, and only hoped he would do the country no harm.44 Given chairmanship of his wife’s Coronation Committee, Philip asked how “some features relevant to the world of today” could be introduced into the ceremony.45 Since he often “interpreted the outside world to the Queen” it is possible, though not provable, that he was behind Elizabeth’s decision to allow television cameras inside Westminster Abbey.46 It was certainly Philip who persuaded the Queen to, for the first time, give her Christmas Day message on television as well as radio in 1957.47 Prince

 Eade, Young Prince Philip, 263  Boothroyd, Philip, 49. 41  Jeremy Paxman, On Royalty (London: Penguin, 2007), 234. 42  Brandreth, Philip and Elizabeth, 224. 43  Eade, Young Prince Philip, 258; Brandreth, Philip and Elizabeth, 215, 246. 44  Marr, Diamond Queen, 164. 45  Roy Strong, Coronation: A History of Kingship and the British Monarchy (London: Harper Perennial, 2006), 472–473. 46  Pimlott, The Queen, 268. 47  Marr, Diamond Queen, 188. 39 40



Albert had similarly been “told what he could not do” at Victoria’s court.48 But he had married a reigning queen who had already been crowned: to find a precedent for Philip’s role in Elizabeth’s coronation ceremony, they had to look back to Queen Anne’s husband, Prince George of Denmark. There was suspicion that Mountbatten, at least, wanted to see his nephew as a king consort.49 Nevertheless, in later life, Philip would dismiss any question as to whether he would have liked to be a king.50 It was as Duke of Edinburgh that he rode beside his wife in the Gold State Coach to Westminster Abbey where, instead of processing beside her to be crowned after the monarch, as a female consort would be, he knelt before her after she was invested to pay homage. Queens consort, Beem and Taylor write, “played quasi-public roles as sharers of their husband’s thrones.”51 This would not be the case with Philip. As Beem and Taylor put it: “Unlike the role of queen consort, which functions as a recognized and integral facet of monarchy, the male consort has been a much more ambiguous, contested and de facto form of male public role.”52 Indeed, Philip was often quoted as saying, “Constitutionally I don’t exist.”53 Comparisons were, however, repeatedly drawn between Philip and Prince Albert, who did end up playing an overt role in the official aspects of his wife’s queenship. Philip read extensively about Albert before his marriage but by 1972, when he corresponded with the republican MP Willie Hamilton, he recognised the difference between them. He had agreed to answer in writing Hamilton’s eighteen questions (though protesting, “I have no role or function whatever in the constitution or government of this country”). Invited to compare his position with Prince Albert’s, he replied, “Times, circumstances and personalities are entirely different … The Prince Consort acted more or less as Queen Victoria’s Private Secretary. Today

48  Karina Urbach, “Prince Albert: The Creative Consort,” in The Man Behind the Queen: Male Consorts in History, ed. Charles Beem and Miles Taylor (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 145–146. 49  Brandreth, Philip and Elizabeth, 221. 50  Boothroyd, Philip, 52. 51  Charles Beem and Miles Taylor, “Introduction: The Man Behind the Queen,” in The Man Behind the Queen: Male Consorts in History, ed. Charles Beem and Miles Taylor (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 3. 52  Beem and Taylor, “Introduction,” 3–4. 53  Boothroyd, Philip, 25.



things are very different,” and he listed the three Private Secretaries who now deal with the Queen’s official and government business.54 To Gyles Brandreth he would expand the point: “Queen Victoria was an executive sovereign … But after Victoria the monarchy changed. It became an institution. I had to fit in with the institution.”55 However, biographer Tim Heald argues: “Different circumstances, different problems, and yet fundamentally their situation is identical. They have both had to reconcile a dominant personality with a supportive function … The consensus among those I have consulted is that the Duke has pulled this off.”56 Not, however, without personal difficulty. With the new Queen already the mother of two, the question of the family surname arose: of whether, as Philip’s uncle Mountbatten unwisely boasted, the House of Mountbatten now sat on the throne. The decision was taken that the Queen and her descendants should keep the name of Windsor, causing a wounded Philip to famously curse that he was “Nothing but a bloody amoeba, I am the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.”57 In one sense, Charles Beem argues, Philip was reduced to a single function: to further a dynasty that does not bear his name. Thus, the reign of Elizabeth II completed a process begun in the twelfth century under the Empress Matilda: “with the near-total disposal of the male counterpart to female kingship.” Against that, Beem describes Elizabeth herself as “also a woman who has responded to conventional expectations of her gender,” eager to foster the impression, “that her husband is supreme in the domestic sphere of their family life.”58 Later, when the Queen was perhaps more secure in her role, she was able to make more acknowledgement of her husband’s position. At the beginning of February 1960, before Princes Andrew and Edward were born (in 1960 and 1964, respectively), Cabinet agreed that while the royal family would continue to be styled as the House of Windsor, the surname of descendants of the Queen who were not designated His or Her Royal Highness would be Mountbatten-Windsor. She also allowed him to take the lead in family matters. As Brandreth put it: “Elizabeth wore the crown,  Willie Hamilton, My Queen and I (London: Quartet Books, 1975), 234–239.  Brandreth, Philip and Elizabeth, 215. 56  Heald, The Duke, 252. 57  Eade, Young Prince Philip, 259–260; Brandreth, Philip and Elizabeth, 219. 58  Charles Beem, The Lioness Roared: The Problems of Female Rule in English History (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 175–177. 54 55



but Philip wore the trousers.”59 As Charles Reed’s chapter details, Victoria had taken a similar line to help Albert with what historian Clarissa Campbell Orr calls “the inherent emasculation of being a prince consort.”60 For his first two decades as consort, Andrew Marr notes, Philip was “relevant, pungent and popular,” often voted the most popular member of the royal family.61 Philip told Basil Boothroyd, “You can’t go through life desperately wanting to be somebody else, wanting to do something else all the time.”62 And he insisted to Heald, “I have certainly never felt ‘frustrated’ in any way. The point has always seemed to be to find ways to use my position to be constructive.”63 Growing up understanding the hierarchy inherent in royal bloodlines may have helped him to accept his wife’s superior status, and made his ultimate accommodation to his role easier for him than it has proved for several subsequent British royal spouses. Nonetheless, to have carved himself a place as, specifically, a male consort represents a formidable achievement, against considerable odds.

Working Life It is a truth universally acknowledged (by biographers, royal commentators, and Philip himself) that the Duke of Edinburgh’s single most important professional function, the one without which the rest would be meaningless, was that of support for the Queen. He acted effectively as his wife’s impresario, encouraging her to show a more approachable face in public: clowning behind the television cameras, even, to make her break into a smile. Prince Albert similarly promoted Victoria’s public presence and press coverage, and Karina Urbach has noted other parallels: interests in science, technology, and industry; the way in which Albert’s more international “mental map … widened the geographical reach of the monarchy.”64 Though the majority of the Queen’s speeches were written

 Brandreth, Philip and Elizabeth, 248.   Clarissa Campbell Orr, “The Feminization of the Monarchy 1780–1910: Royal Masculinity and Female Empowerment,” in The Monarchy and the British Nation, 1780 to the Present, ed. Andrzej Olechnowicz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 96. 61  Marr, Diamond Queen, 168, 170. See also: Zweiniger-Bargielowska, “Prince Philip,” 225–226. 62  Boothroyd, Philip, 225. 63  Heald, The Duke, 180. 64  Urbach, “Prince Albert,” 150. 59 60



by her private secretaries, she reviewed and changed the drafts in consultation with Philip who, notoriously, wrote his own speeches. Beyond that function, however, the formidable list of his commitments—to charities, international bodies, scholarly institutions, and regiments—is far too extensive to chronicle here. Some of these activities—such as his long and active presidencies of the International Equestrian Federation, the Automobile Association, and the British Amateur Athletics Board; and his patronage of the British Trust for Ornithology and of Voluntary Service Overseas—reflect his personal interests. So too does the internationally recognised Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme, which he co-founded with Kurt Hahn in 1956. Aimed at helping young people develop mental and physical strength, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award has seen two and a half million recipients in the UK alone and has been expanded to 144 nations. An appendix listing Philip’s involvements and offices in Brandreth’s book runs to seven pages, with his long list of appointments with the armed services firmly in line with royal tradition.65 He was, until his retirement, one of the hardest-working royals, patron of some 850 organisations—more, even, than are sponsored by the Queen. The pattern of life and work set up in the 1950s was the one that endured until Philip’s retirement in 2017: a portfolio of what Heald calls “honorary jobs of a largely ceremonial nature; one-off assignments and events on his own, usually involving some talking; a few pet schemes, enterprises and interests; leisure; and holding the Queen’s hand” (this last being always “the first essential”).66 Much may have happened over the years, but “essentially the changes have been gradual, the landmarks illusory and the mixture as before.”67 Perhaps seventy years’ familiarity has bred contempt, for the real scope of his work has been under-regarded in recent years. Philip could jokingly describe himself as, second to the Queen herself, “The world’s most experienced plaque-unveiler.”68 Andrew Marr notes that he never had “a mechanism … He was condemned by the job he had taken on to be forever a commentator, a speech-maker … occasionally a chairman—but never an executive.”69 But there was also the successful management and  Brandreth, Philip and Elizabeth, 369–376.  Heald, The Duke, 111; see also 2. 67  Heald, The Duke, 120. 68  Prince Philip: 70 Years of Service. 69  Marr, Diamond Queen, 169. 65 66



development of the royal family’s estates (Sandringham and Balmoral are, unlike Buckingham Palace and Windsor, the Queen’s personal property); the authoritative role in the international debate on conservation and ecology; and the organisation of interfaith conferences. The Commonwealth Study Conferences (taking place since 1956) seemed to verge on the political and, as such, risked stepping beyond what was considered to be his role.70 Philip—said Rupert Murdoch, as reported in Woodrow Wyatt’s diaries—had always been “mad keen about the Commonwealth”: a passion he shares with his wife.71 The early years of Elizabeth’s reign saw him as the voice of concern that British industry was in decline: “Gentlemen, I think it is about time we pulled our fingers out,” he said, memorably, in 1961.72 Many of his concerns were prescient. He was very early to inveigh against the dangerous effects of diesel fumes.73 One of the handful of books written or co-written by him is Survival or Extinction: A Christian Attitude to the Environment.74 Happy to use his position for what he saw as the good, he (like his son Charles in the years ahead) made no bones about writing to ministers with his views. He looked at his role “as a job, and I imagine I do it at much the same pressure that I would do any other job.”75 The process is progressive: “You get involved and then you get more involved.”76 From November 1953, when the Queen and Philip embarked on a six-­ month, thirteen-country, 40,000-mile Commonwealth tour, he helped make the monarchy more visible on the international stage than any of its predecessors. Robert Hardman notes that, particularly in the early years when travel was more difficult, he “undertook much of the heavy lifting” on his wife’s behalf.77 He could be dispatched solo to represent the Queen at events inappropriate for the monarch herself—such as the Shah of Iran’s extravagant 1971 celebrations to mark 2500 years of the Persian empire— or else too time-consuming. His 1962 two-month tour of South America  Heald, The Duke, 176.  Philip Murphy, Monarchy and the End of Empire: The House of Windsor, the British Government, and the Post-war Commonwealth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 165. 72  Marr, Diamond Queen, 168. 73  Boothroyd, Philip, 169, 171. 74  Heald, The Duke, 257. 75  Boothroyd, Philip, 43. 76  Boothroyd, Philip, 167. 77  Robert Hardman, Queen of the World (London: Century, 2018), 507. 70 71



saw him insist on flying himself to many of the destinations. (He had received his pilot’s licence in May 1953, a month before the coronation.) Famously, he was venerated as a divine being by the Tanna people of Vanuatu.78 Equally as famous, his trips provided the press back home with a series of notorious ‘gaffes,’ which he himself dubbed “dontopedalogy”: the art of putting one’s foot in one’s mouth.79 Some of these comments reflect attitudes that were commonplace in his youth but are unacceptable today. They may also reflect his attempt to lighten a formal atmosphere, or act as the personal safety valve of a man often frustrated by the boundaries imposed by his position. He admitted that in speaking off the cuff he was “[s]kating on very thin ice, and I go through occasionally.”80 Nevertheless, it has been noted by Hardman among other observers that his supposed insults, causing a furore back home, seemed actually to cause little or no offence in the countries concerned.81 Indeed, he was often taken more seriously on the world stage than on the domestic one. Lord Buxton, former head of the World Wildlife Fund, told Heald that the Prince, typically seen as a “cantankerous old so-and-so” at home, is perceived abroad as “Mr Environment” and “a very exceptional world leader.”82 Though less likely to be recognised today, his huge list of patronages and activities, which on a personal level perhaps compensated for his lack of official role, constitute also a significant contribution to British and Commonwealth organisations in the mid to late twentieth century.

Remoulding the Monarchy Prince Philip’s most enduring contribution to British life may prove to be his central part in shaping a monarchical model fit to carry the royal family into the twenty-first century. Republican Willie Hamilton wrote, “The Duke’s role as a foil to Court feudalism, stuffiness and ‘apartness’ has been invaluable to the Monarchy at its present stage of entrenchment.”83 Ben Pimlott wrote of Philip’s vision of “popular monarchy” (derived in part  Eade, Young Prince Philip, xii.  Pimlott, The Queen, 268. 80  Boothroyd, Philip, 202–203. 81  Hardman, Queen of the World, 59, 433–434, 438–441. 82  Heald, The Duke, 202. 83  Hamilton, My Queen and I, 165. 78 79



from his antecedents “in an unpopular one”).84 And the Prince advised Boothroyd, “I think you might like to discuss the changes in ‘style’ and ‘function’ since the last reign, and what—if any—influence I have had on them.”85 He once told a television audience in the United States that most European monarchies had been destroyed by their “most ardent supporters. It was the most reactionary people who tried to hold on to something without letting it develop and change.”86 But he would tell Brandreth that he modernised “not for the sake of modernising, not for the sake of buggering about with things … [but because] I’m anxious to get things done. That’s all.”87 Philip’s insistence on bringing the monarchy more in tune with the modern era included not only reforming some of the more arcane practises of the Royal Household, such as the powdering of footmen’s wigs, but instituting regular luncheon parties at the Palace for a range of people the Queen would not usually meet. The changing times gave a moderniser both opportunity and necessity. By the end of the 1960s, some opinion polls were finding the monarchy to be an out-of-touch anachronism.88 (Others suggested a greater variety of popular opinion.89) There was certainly an increasing awareness of a need to sell it to the people: a “distinct wind of change at the Palace,” as a BBC memo put it.90 The need was all the greater with inflation making the royal finances less secure: Philip notoriously told an American TV audience that “the Firm” would soon “go into the red.”91 Philip once appeared on the TV current affairs programme Face the Press, expressing his hopes for “a two-way relationship” with the medium. He had already collaborated on several scientific films, besides being central to the authorisation of the 1966 Kenneth Clark documentary Royal Palaces of Britain.92 Then came the 1969 film Royal Family: a  Pimlott, The Queen, 267.  Boothroyd, Philip, 223. 86  Boothroyd, Philip, 50. 87  Brandreth, Philip and Elizabeth, 225. 88  Hamilton, My Queen and I, 55. 89  Andrzej Olechnowicz, “‘A jealous hatred’: Royal Popularity and Social Inequality,” in The Monarchy and the British Nation, 1780 to the Present, ed. Andrzej Olechnowicz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 291–293. 90  Peter Dimmock, General Manager Outside Broadcasts, Television to C P Tel, 14 February 1968, “State visit of President of Italy 16 July 1968,” T16/186/8, BBC/WA. 91  Marr, Diamond Queen, 221. 92  Marr, Diamond Queen, 235. 84 85



fly-on-the-­wall documentary that, with Philip’s active support, gave the BBC unparalleled access to the royals at work, home, and play.93 This documentary was riskier. Philip’s belief was that if the public could see the family, “as individuals, as people, I think it makes it much easier for them to accept the system.” He distrusted any “remoteness or majesty” in the people’s view of their monarchy.94 The BBC spent seventy-five days shooting forty-three hours of film, with one of the best-known clips showing Philip manning a Balmoral barbeque. Airing in black and white on the BBC on 21 June 1969, Royal Family was seen by some 23 million viewers, with another 15 million watching on ITV in colour the following week, and subsequent broadcasts around the world. The republican-leaning New Statesman declared that the programme had “added a decade or two to the life of the British monarchy.”95 Others, however, felt that as Walter Bagehot famously said in Queen Victoria’s reign, it was a mistake to “let in daylight upon magic.” Even David Attenborough, then controller of BBC2, told director Richard Cawston that the loss of mystique could ultimately kill the monarchy.96 It is arguable that the film did indeed let the genie out of the bottle, and the Queen never, since the 1970s, gave permission for the programme to be shown in its entirety. Royal Family, in the opinion of historian Jane Ridley, marked Philip’s “high point of influence in modernising the monarchy. After that of course he’s very important—but much less in the public eye as an independent figure.”97 His impatience with the hesitancy of his son Charles’s courtship of Lady Diana Spencer looks, in hindsight, disastrous.98 It helped to push Charles into a marriage that, ironically, harked back to the outmoded days of arranged alliances. Philip seems to have felt a certain empathy for both Diana and Andrew’s former wife Sarah Ferguson—like him, incomers to the royal family—though when it became decisively clear neither were prepared to fall in line as he had done, he displayed considerable hostility towards them. The inquest into Diana’s death would be presented with evidence of her thanking “Dearest Pa” for his “honest and heartfelt”  Heald, The Duke, 3.  Pimlott, The Queen, 386. 95  Marr, Diamond Queen, 238. 96  Paxman, On Royalty, 247. 97  Prince Philip: 70 Years of Service. 98  Brandreth, Philip and Elizabeth, 312. 93 94



letters and his urgent desire to heal her estrangement from Prince Charles.99 But it also heard Mohamed Al-Fayed declare his belief that Philip (with Charles) had plotted to have Diana killed, corroborating his QC’s words that the Duke was “not only a racist but a Nazi” with the photograph of him attending his sister’s funeral.100 The court found there was no evidence whatsoever for such an allegation—that it could be mooted at all, however, was extraordinary. Less than three months after Diana’s death, in November 1997, the Queen and Prince Philip celebrated their Golden Wedding. The Queen’s speech declared that her husband had, “quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.”101 It is possible that the lessons learnt by the whole royal establishment from Diana’s life and death came to make Philip’s modernising role within it less necessary. The late 1980s and 1990s saw a major overhaul of the royal finances; it saw, too, the institution of the Way Ahead Group, charged with steering the royal family through troubled times. One of the Group’s more significant decisions was that the Queen should pay tax. Philip inevitably played a significant part, but his fingerprints were not all over the process in the way they might once have been. As his daughter Anne, Princess Royal, put it, Philip relished “the idea of change. This is not a life which is designed to do much of that, and certainly not very rapidly.”102 He was, moreover, out of tune with the Murdoch media age.103 In a book published in 2006, Philip told Jeremy Paxman “it is absolutely extraordinary what has happened in the last thirty years.” In an era when any appearance in the media “will be one of criticism … I’ve retreated—quite consciously—so as not to be an embarrassment.”104 Perhaps the times had overtaken him. A vision that seemed radical in the 1950s looked unhelpfully conservative in the very different climate of the 1990s. Arguably, Philip’s most significant decision was knowing when to remove himself from the fray. 99  Sally Bedell Smith, Elizabeth the Queen: The Woman Behind the Throne (London: Penguin, 2012), 365–366. 100  Seward, My Husband and I, 277–278. 101  Elizabeth II, “A speech by The Queen on her Golden Wedding Anniversary,” The Royal Family, accessed 5 May 2020, https://www.royal.uk/golden-wedding-speech. 102  Prince Philip: 70 Years of Service. 103  Olechnowicz, “‘A jealous hatred,’” 309. 104  Paxman, On Royalty, 236–237.



Leaving the Stage The celebrations for Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee in 2002 saw the Queen, speaking at Westminster on 30 April, declare that “[c]hange has become a constant; managing it has become an expanding discipline.”105 The thinning of the ageing Queen’s circle—the deaths of her mother and sister— probably made her husband’s support in personal terms more necessary than ever. But as a dominant influence on her monarchical style, he had been effectively written out of a job. At the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, a decade later, the Duke was admitted to hospital in the midst of the celebrations. Five years later he announced his retirement from public life, and for the next four years, appearances in the news were rare. In later years he became notable for what Andrew Marr described as “the gimlet stare and suspicious bearing of a man’s man cast adrift in a world of progressives and wets.” Marr describes the former innovator “closing off” from the press, feeling himself increasingly “mauled and misunderstood.”106 Prince Philip died on 9 April 2021, some two months short of his hundredth birthday, having spent the year of the COVID-19 pandemic isolating with the Queen at Windsor Castle. Coronavirus restrictions meant that his funeral eight days later, in St George’s Chapel within the Castle, could be attended by only thirty people, with the Queen seated alone; though a colourful military presence and a ceremonial procession beforehand provided a spectacle for television audiences around the world. Most of the mourners were members of the British royal family, but three represented the German families of Philip’s sisters. His death came at a challenging moment for the monarchy. Just a month earlier, the explosive television interview given by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to Oprah Winfrey saw the royal establishment branded as archaic, unfeeling, and racked with institutional racism (though Prince Harry was careful to make known that the most damaging remark, about the colour of baby Archie’s skin, had not come from either Philip or the Queen). Fallout from that interview, coupled with the imminence of Elizabeth’s ninety-fifth birthday on 21 April, led to widespread debate about the future of the crown. The exhaustive newspaper coverage of Prince Philip’s death, and of his legacy, became a part of that discussion. 105  Elizabeth II, “Full Text of the Queen’s Jubilee Speech,” BBC, accessed 25 May 2020, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1959753.stm. 106  Marr, Diamond Queen, 6–7, 374–375.



Commentators around the world declared this the end of an era; a view more reflective of his roots in the royal houses of Europe than of his modernising role.107 But among the queries as to who would now assume his position within the house of Windsor, tribute was paid to his readiness to play second fiddle to his wife; a readiness unusually advanced for their day.108 From the start of the Queen’s reign, the ultra-masculine Philip fulfilled, as his most important duty, the traditionally feminine role of providing his spouse with emotional support. David Cannadine wrote that any male consort has “the wrong job for his sex, or the wrong sex for his job.”109 (Philip described himself, together with Prince Bernhard, husband to Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, as “male queens.”110) The most paradoxical of consort princes, he devoted his considerable energies to bolstering what will remain—in the advisory, admonitory, consolatory nature of its function—a feminised constitutional monarchy; a monarchy, as Cannadine puts it, largely divested of its “macho and mystical male roles.” His legacy will, inevitably, be subsumed into that of Elizabeth II: his reputation rising or falling with hers. His great achievement was ensuring the security of her reign. Their marriage could be seen as probably the last example, in Britain, of a traditional alliance between royal houses, but Philip’s position as a male consort forced him actively to confront traditional expectations of gender-based roles. The success with which he did so represents—for the British monarchy and perhaps even beyond it—a bridgehead into the twenty-first century.

107  See, for example: “The Guardian View on Prince Philip’s Funeral: An Era is Ending,” The Guardian, 16 April 2021; and Alan Cowell, “Prince Philip’s Funeral Marks the End of an Era for U.K. Royal Family,” The New York Times, 16 April 2021. 108  Caroline Davies, “Philip’s death leaves Prince Charles as patriarch of royal family,” The Guardian, 12 April 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/apr/12/philipdeath-leaves-prince-charles-patriarch-royal-family; “Editorial,” The Observer, 11 April 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/apr/11/observer-view-on-legacy-ofprince-philip. 109  David Cannadine, The Pleasures of the Past (London: Collins, 1989), 13. 110  Trond Norén Isaksen, “The Prince Who Would Be King: Henrik of Denmark’s Struggle for Recognition,” in The Man Behind the Queen: Male Consorts in History, ed. Charles Beem and Miles Taylor (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 241.


The Windsor Consorts: Matriarchy and Modernisation Sarah Betts

Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 significantly changed the face of the British monarchy, re-configuring its central operational unit of sovereign and consort. Alexandra of Denmark became the first consort since Prince Albert’s death in 1861, and first queen consort since 1837. The British monarchy’s wider role had transformed over the course of the nineteenth century: open executive political power was increasingly transferred to elected ministers, with royalty becoming more symbolic and ceremonial.1 Because of this transformation, as well as contemporary academic fashions, scholarship has somewhat neglected the twentieth-century monarchy as an “irrelevance” or archaic “background,” with studies of individual monarchs becoming largely the purview of popular history writers and 1  Edward Owens, The Family Firm: Monarchy, Mass Media and the British Public, 1932–53 (London: University of London Press, 2019), 9–11.

S. Betts (*) University of York, York, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts, Queenship and Power, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-12829-5_14




enthusiast audiences.2 Some recent scholarship has attempted to address this lacuna, but the specific roles of the consorts during this period have not yet attracted much scholarly analysis.3 Earlier research on medieval and early modern monarchies that overlooked the role of “the King’s wife” is rapidly being replaced by scholarship that demonstrates studying consorts is “essential” to analysing “dynamics of family structure, kingship and statecraft.”4 Despite their roles being loosely and unofficially defined, and dependent on individual circumstances, the study of queens consort “as a category” has yielded some “general principles,” such as natal pedigree, production of heirs, marital relations, participation in the ceremonies and operations of court politics, and authority to act as regent, which affected a queen’s perceived suitability for, and success in, the role of consort.5 This chapter will consider how far some of these “principles” are applicable to the relatively unexplored careers of twentieth-century British consorts within modern, democratising socio-political contexts. The gradual de-politicisation of monarchical power in Britain since the late seventeenth century inevitably changed both representational ideals and the practical influence of the ruling family. Earlier royal representations emphasised fecundity to promote dynastic prestige and stability, but from the eighteenth century onwards, as Paige Emerick’s chapter shows, representations became increasingly “domestic,” working with both the 2  Matthew Glencross, Judith Rowbotham, and Michael D.  Kandiah, “Introduction,” in The Windsor Dynasty, 1910 to the Present: ‘Long to Reign Over Us’?, ed. Matthew Glencross, Judith Rowbotham, and Michael D. Kandiah (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 1–2; Owens, The Family Firm, 7; Elena Woodacre and Cathleen Sarti, “Editorial: What is Royal Studies?,” Royal Studies Journal 2, no. 1 (2015): 13–20. 3  Glencross, Rowbotham, and Kandiah, eds., The Windsor Dynasty; Owens, The Family Firm; Kate Strasdin, Inside the Royal Wardrobe: A Dress History of Queen Alexandra (London: Bloomsbury, 2017). 4  Lois L. Huneycutt, “Queenship Studies Comes of Age,” Medieval Feminist Forum 51, no. 2 (2016): 10–13. 5  Huneycutt, “Queenship Studies,” 13; Adam Morton, “Introduction: Politics, Culture and Queens Consort,” in Queens Consort, Cultural Transfer and European Politics, c.1500–1800, ed. Helen Watanabe-O’Kelly and Adam Morton (London: Routledge, 2016), 3–4; Helen Watanabe-O’Kelly, “Afterword: Queens Consort, Dynasty and Cultural Transfer,” in Queens Consort, Cultural Transfer and European Politics, c.1500–1800, ed. Helen Watanabe-O’Kelly and Adam Morton (London: Routledge, 2016), 231–247.



“natural” and “political” bodies of the monarch as head of state, presenting the royal family as an “accessible” composition of genetic and interpersonal relationships, and a symbolic and aspirational “national” ideal.6 As royal power “softened,” scholars have observed an apparent “feminisation” of the monarchy, with the regnant monarch increasingly taking on roles that had traditionally been seen as part of the remit of the king’s wife.7 This chapter will therefore consider where a consort fits in a model of monarchy increasingly founded upon queenly roles during Victoria’s reign, once the widowed matriarch was followed by a succession of kings. What new significance did this model give to the roles of those kings’ wives? What place could a queen’s husband hold in this context?

From Maternity to Matriarchy Producing heirs was of primary significance in consorts’ careers—securing personal influence and investing a stake in their marital dynasty and its (often alien) kingdom. Because childbearing was so central to queenly identity, and because of shorter life expectancies and greater obstetric risks, representations of successful consorts in the pre-modern period were entwined with images of nurturing, virtuous, pre-menopausal mothers of young children. Consort power associated with maternity, however, could be “nullified” in widowhood by failure to “establish” “as matriarch for the upcoming generation.”8 Modern life expectancies changed this youthful image of queenship. All three twentieth-century British queens consort were mothers, but all finished childbearing before their husbands’ accessions. 6  Sarah Betts, “What’s in a Name?: Dynasty, Succession and England’s Queens Regnant,” in The Routledge History of Monarchy, ed. Elena Woodacre, Lucinda H.S. Dean, Chris Jones, Russel E. Martin, and Zita Eva Rohr (London: Routledge, 2019), 480, 492; Simon Schama, “The Domestication of Majesty: Royal Family Portraiture, 1500–1850,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 17, no. 1 (1986): 183. 7   Clarissa Campbell Orr, “The Feminization of the Monarchy, 1780–1910: Royal Masculinity and Female Empowerment,” in The Monarchy and the British Nation, 1780 to the Present, ed. Andrzej Olechnowicz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 74–76, 101–107; Frank Prochaska, Royal Bounty: The Making of a Welfare Monarchy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 280–283. 8  Sarah Betts, “Matriarchs of the Royal House of Stuart: Negotiating Personal and Dynastic Ambition, Motherhood and Adversity (1613–1662),” in Royal Mothers and their Ruling Children: Wielding Political Authority from Antiquity to the Early Modern Era, ed. Elena Woodacre and Carey Fleiner (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 55, 72.



Though famed for her eternally youthful appearance, upon Edward VII’s accession, Alexandra became Britain’s oldest new consort. Already grandmother to six, she was clearly past further pregnancy and was a well-­ established and popular public figure. Unlike generations of Hanoverians, Edward and Alexandra maintained an affectionate relationship with their heir. The Prince and Princess of Wales were part of their circle, court, and image. When they represented the crown abroad, their children were left in their grandparents’ care. Thus, when widowed, Alexandra, the first Queen Mother since the death of Charles I’s widow Henrietta Maria in 1669, added another layer to the monarchy’s familial structure. Unlike Henrietta Maria, a controversial figure who retired to her native France, the news that Alexandra would not permanently return to Denmark but “ever look upon England as her home” was welcomed.9 George V allowed her to remain at the monarchy’s principal seat, Buckingham Palace, apparently flying her own “special flag of the Queen Mother” for a couple of months before vacating it for the new King and Queen.10 Her principal residences became Marlborough House in central London, and Sandringham, granting her physical proximity to, and easy emotional intimacy with, her son. Actively adopting the title of “The Queen Mother,” Alexandra rhetorically placed herself at the heart and helm of a humanised familial institution, reaching out with a published and disseminated “Letter to the Nation” following Edward’s death.11 Later sold on charity postcards, it represented her as the “heartbroken” mother of both family and “nation” through the “irreparable loss” of “best friend, father and Sovereign,” and as a vessel of royal dynastic continuity now entrusting subjects and son to each other via a personal request: I confide my dear son into your care, who I know will follow in his dear father’s footsteps … show him the same loyalty and devotion you showed his dear father. I know that both my dear son and daughter-in-law will do their utmost to merit and keep it.12 9  Betts, “Matriarchs of the House of Stuart,” 74–75; “Queen Alexandra to Live in England,” The Yorkshire Post, 24 May 1910, 6. 10  “The Queen Mother’s Flag,” The Belfast Weekly News, 30 June 1910, 6. 11  “The Queen Mother,” The Aberdeen Daily Journal, 11 May 1910, 5; Strasdin, Inside the Royal Wardrobe, 122–123. 12  “King’s Coronation Letter,” The Birmingham Daily Mail, 10 February 1911, 7; “Queen Alexandra: Touching Letter to the Nation,” Brighton Gazette, 11 May 1910, 1.



Increasingly stricken by deafness and the loss of contemporary companions and social stature, Alexandra significantly withdrew from public view.13 She never completely nor officially retired, however, patronising charities, being seen as an influential advisor to her son in international diplomacy, and becoming a leader in women’s war work.14 She regularly and prominently appeared at public events of monarchical, national, and familial significance.15 Popular until her death, she was mourned as an exemplary queen consort, “a symbol of peace amid storm, of coolness amid wroth, and of ministering tenderness amid suffering.”16 Her funeral combined both a private service at Windsor and a “return to the public” of royal familial ritual, the most “elaborate” funeral of a consort in nearly two centuries, including a public lying-in-state in Westminster.17 Mary of Teck was not a grandmother when she became queen, but she was a mature woman entering her mid-forties, with six children aged four to fifteen. She brought no international alliance or wealth to her marriage with the future king in the 1890s, but was sensible and practical in her outlook. Born and raised predominantly in Britain within the extended royal family circle, she was familiar with both its personalities and its developing constitutional role, and was considered a steadying influence upon her husband. At her husband’s side throughout his reign in an apparently happy marriage and, already past the preoccupations of childbearing, Mary was able to preside full-time over family and nation during tumultuous periods of war, European revolutions, and British royal “re-branding.”18 Judith Rowbotham has argued convincingly that Mary was central to “modernis[ing] and strengthen[ing] the British Monarchy as an institution” during the War. With her flair for practical organisation and public  Strasdin, Inside the Royal Wardrobe, 149–151.  Judith Rowbotham, “‘How to be Useful in War Time’ Queen Mary’s Leadership in the War Effort, 1914–1918,” in Monarchies and the Great War, ed. Matthew Glencross and Judith Rowbotham (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 216, 222. 15  “King’s Maundy Bounty,” The Westminster Gazette, 20 April 1916, 9; “Wedding Scenes of Splendour,” The Shields Daily News, 26 April 1923, 1. 16  “The Queen Mother Passes Away,” Aberdeen Press and Journal, 21 November 1925, 6. 17  Matthias Range, British Royal and State Funerals: Music and Ceremonial Since Elizabeth I (London: Boydell Press, 2016), 279–280. 18  Betts, “What’s in a Name?,” 485; Owens, The Family Firm, 13, 16; Matthew Glencross, “George V and the New Royal House,” in The Windsor Dynasty 1910 to the Present: ‘Long to Reign Over Us’?, ed. Matthew Glencross, Judith Rowbotham, and Michael D.  Kandiah (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 47–49. 13 14



relations, she filled a virtually uncontested female leadership role on the national stage.19 Self-styled leader of the Home Front, she took on the traditionally feminine roles of wife and mother in the national family, encouraged and endorsed her daughter’s fundraising and morale-boosting efforts, and took the lead in launching a National Relief Fund in the name of her (serving) “dear son” and heir, the Prince of Wales.20 Through war and beyond, Mary set the industrious “benchmark” for royal charitable and public activities, and together the sovereign couple closely supervised their children as they came of working age.21 While Mary’s earlier image as a mother had something of a matronly, unemotional air, it was softened by advancing age, familiarity and rapport with the public, and grandparenthood. George and Mary were regularly photographed with their grandchildren and took care of Princess Elizabeth (the future Elizabeth II) when her parents were abroad. Mary’s well-­ cultivated representation as the institution’s operational backbone and matriarchal heart became essential during the crisis following George’s death in 1936. Echoing Alexandra, Mary published a “Message to the Nation” fostering emotional and emotive dialogue with her people, discussing her personal grief and “heart,” and likening it to the affection in which the realm at large held her husband by thanking them for condolences and long-­ term “loyalty and love.”22 Personal reference to her “dear son” the new King also highlighted her own transition to the role of Queen Mother. Unlike Alexandra however, she emphasised her own role within both the mortal family and working institution of monarchy, the joint dedication of she and George to “serv[ing] … this great land and Empire” throughout their reign (along with “forty-two years of happy married life”), and the hope and expectation of maintaining a public role. Although George had died at Sandringham, Mary issued her message from Buckingham Palace, the crown’s principal seat.23 Edward VIII’s middle-aged bachelorhood rendered Mary’s position as Queen Mother unusual. With no new queen sharing the limelight, the  Rowbotham, “‘How to be Useful in War Time,’” 191–192, 201–203.  Rowbotham, “‘How to be Useful in War Time,’” 208–211, 219; Prochaska, Royal Bounty, 180. 21  Prochaska, Royal Bounty, 193–194. 22  “Queen Mary’s Message: Publication to Aid Charity,” The Daily Independent, 29 February 1936, 6. 23  “Queen Mary’s Message to the Nation,” The Scotsman, 30 January 1936, 11. 19 20



papers were free to proclaim her as “leader of an Empire’s womanhood … Royal Consort without a peer, the ideal helpmate and partner of a sovereign, the wise mother and revered mentor of the new King.”24 Despite speculation that she would be officially “The Queen Mother” like Alexandra before her, she remained predominantly “Queen Mary.”25 Following Edward’s decision to marry twice-divorced Wallis Simpson, Mary became a key “actor,” behind the scenes in dialogue with the private individuals involved, and in public where she became an emotive and reassuring symbol of monarchical continuity and national service.26 The Duchess of York, who often distinguished between the personal “family” and the “Family” as referring to the symbolic and functional dynastic unit of monarchy, wrote to her mother-in-law that following George V’s death, the Family, as a family, will now revolve around you. Thank God we have all got you as a central point … a united family is the strongest thing in the world, & so important.27

Throughout 1936, the Duchess reiterated the strength of “family feeling” long fostered by Mary, comparing it with increasing trepidation to the attitude of Edward VIII, and imploring her to influence the King’s return to the fold by hosting a traditional Family Christmas.28 When abdication came, Elizabeth wrote again to sympathise with her “Darling Mama” and to assure her that, we are sustained & encouraged more than I can say by your wonderful example of dignity and wisdom … a beacon of light to all the poor bewildered people … with your leadership we must all combine to [re-stabilise] the country.29  “The Queen Mother,” The Midland Daily Telegraph, 21 January 1936, 8.  “‘Mary, The Queen Mother’: Probable Title in New Prayer Book,” The Daily Mail, 23 January 1936, 11; “Not To Be Called ‘Queen Mother,’” Belfast Telegraph, 27 January 1936, 9; “The Queen Mother,” Evening Sentinel, 21 January 1936, 9. 26  King’s Counsellor: Abdication and War: The Diaries of Sir Alan “Tommy” Lascelles, ed. Duff Hart-Davis (London: Orion, 2020), 108, 112, 428; Betts, “What’s in a Name?,” 486; Counting One’s Blessings: The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, ed. William Shawcross (London: Pan Macmillan, 2013), 224–225, 229; Baldwin Papers: A Conservative Statesman, 1908–1947, ed. Philip Williamson and Edward Baldwin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 413–415, 424–425; Owens, The Family Firm, 189–195. 27  Betts, “What’s in a Name?,” 486–487; Counting One’s Blessings, 216–217. 28  Counting One’s Blessings, 220–222, 225, 229. 29  Counting One’s Blessings, 229. 24 25



This sentiment was echoed in the public sphere. It was consciously nurtured, as Edward Owens has argued, by “an astute public relations campaign … [by] royal household, the media, and the old queen herself,” in order to smooth the transition of the crown from the expected King, a popular Prince of Wales whose reign had been so eagerly anticipated, to his less charismatic brother.30 Again, Mary issued a “Message to the Nation and Empire,” thanking her people for their “sustaining” “sympathy and affection” and “praying” to “maintain and strengthen” “the loyalty and unity of our land and Empire” by speaking of her “distress” at her son’s abdication, before commending the new King to the people, asking them “to give him the same full measure of generous loyalty” previously extended to his predecessors. She then specifically endorsed the new consort, adopting a maternal tone whilst subtly reminding the nation of her own success in the role: With him I commend my dear daughter-in-law, who will be his Queen. May she receive the same unfailing affection and trust which you have given to me for six and twenty years.31

Officials and the media repeatedly reminded the public of Queen Mary’s personal suffering and stoical fortitude as a stable figurehead at this time of national crisis, reinforcing the Firm’s domesticated, familial image by emphasising the private pathos and public spectacle of her matriarchal role.32 Mary’s attendance at the 1937 coronation was an innovation, but one calculated to consolidate her role as an icon of tradition and stability. It  Owens, The Family Firm, 189.  “Queen Mary’s Message to the Nation and Empire,” Birmingham Gazette, 12 December 1936, 1. 32  “Queen Mary—Truly a Queen Mother to her People,” The Bystander, 16 December 1936, 427; “Beloved Queen Mother,” Ballymena Observer, 18 December 1936, 5; “The Abdication and the Accession,” The Citizen, 19 December 1936, 4; “The Queen Mother: Her Courage and Dignity in the Time of Crisis,” The Sphere, 19 December 1936, 556; “Queen Mary Cheered: Crowds Gather at Duke of York’s Home,” The Scotsman, 11 December 1936, 10; “Royal Family: Ex-King Dines With Mother and Brothers,” The Scotsman, 12 December 1936, 13; Owens, The Family Firm, 141–144. 30 31



was assumed that her presence would be highly visible, conveying a senior level of involvement, potentially recycling her robes and ceremonial significance from her role at her parents-in-law’s coronation in 1902, and hosting her own box, prominently overseeing the proceedings, and chaperoning her granddaughters.33 Local and national establishment reminded the public that the royal matriarch would be a pillar of support and a model “pattern” of sovereignty and experience. After the ceremony, she appeared in official photographs flanking the King with his wife, and at the centre of the royal family on the Buckingham Palace balcony, “presenting” them as the monarchy’s new executive core.34 Mary later took more of a backseat but remained a public figure for the royal family. When George VI died in 1952, she was too frail and grief-­ stricken to attend the funeral, yet led a much-publicised royal delegation to “pay homage” at his Lying-in-State, and was spotted, a “tragic silver-­ haired figure,” bidding a final farewell from her window as the coffin passed.35 Behind the coffin in the State Carriage, the new queen, Elizabeth II, the newly widowed Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, and Mary, Princess Royal, all “bowed towards Queen Mary,” paying homage to her as matriarch.36 Mary’s role in “moulding” the new Queen’s “character” and education was emphasised by commentators and Elizabeth II herself, and it was expected that both Mary and her daughter-in-law would follow the precedent she set in 1937 by attending the coronation, though Mary ultimately died before it took place.37 Her death was greeted with significant public recognition, and her publicly funded funeral encompassed 33  “Queen Mary to Attend Coronation,” Yorkshire Observer, 18 January 1937, 1; Owens, The Family Firm, 193; Betts, “What’s in a Name?,” 286; The Magpie, “Historic Purple Robe May be Worn By Queen Mary at Coronation,” Aberdeen Press and Journal, 1 February 1937, 3. 34   Jane Howard, “The Queen Mother,” Littlehampton Gazette, 7 May 1937, 9; “Enthusiasm and Gaiety at Eyemouth,” The Berwickshire News, 18 May 1937, 5; Owens, The Family Firm, 188–193. 35  “Former Edward VIII Salutes Late George VI: Queen Mary and Duke of Windsor at Catafalque,” The Northern Whig and Belfast Post, 14 February 1952, 1; “Queen Mary, Duke of Windsor at Bier,” Yorkshire Observer, 14 February 1952, 1; “Royal Family’s Moving Last Farewell’s to Revered Sovereign,” The Northern Whig and Belfast Post, 16 February 1952, 1. 36  “Royal Family’s Moving Last Farewell’s to Revered Sovereign,” The Northern Whig and Belfast Post, 16 February 1952, 1. 37  “The Life Story of the Second Queen Elizabeth of England from the Nursery to the Throne,” Belfast Telegraph, 6 February 1952, 6; Betts, “What’s in a Name?,” 495; “London Notes: Queen Mary’s Recovery,” The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury, 8 May 1952, 2.



lying-in-state at Westminster Hall and a large and lavish memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral.38 David Cannadine described George VI as “dependent on,” “supported and sustained by three generations of firm and formidable Windsor women” (his mother, wife and daughter), “ideal … [for] the emasculated job” of modern kingship in a dynasty and era where “matriarchy ruled.”39 Certainly, marital felicity with Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was at the heart of George’s public image and private life.40 Although their accession was not then expected, marriage propelled Elizabeth into a life of regal duties largely within the domesticated image of moral example and Christian service promoted by her parents-in-law. Vivacious and charismatic, Elizabeth’s addition to the monarchy was, as Frank Prochaska argues, timely and “propitious” for strengthening a post-war institution “more dependent on its female members for its popularity than even it realized,” “relieving” pressure on the Queen and Princess Mary by redistributing numerous royal patronages, particularly women’s and children’s causes.41 Her daughters’ births aroused great public interest, furthering her profile and the maternal and nurturing warmth of her personal image. After the abdication, the image of the happy, wholesome, homely, and intimate family foursome was repeatedly and forcefully presented as the antidote to the outgoing King’s failings.42 George VI was “a good man,” “almost a replica of his father,” Elizabeth, another “Queen Mary … ideal mother and the model wife,” antithesis of “shocking” Mrs Simpson.43 Elizabeth’s motherly image, already that of a warm and involved parent, became increasingly focused upon her personally rearing her daughters rather than fertility and production of heirs.44 Her apparent authority in dressing the princesses secured a maternal, domesticated reputation as leader of “juvenile fashions.” She usually chaperoned her daughters’

 Range, British Royal and State Funerals, 279–280, 284.  David Cannadine, History in Our Time (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 65–66. 40  “The Passing of a Beloved Sovereign,” The Clitheroe Advertiser and Times, 8 February 1952, 5. 41  Prochaska, Royal Bounty, 192. 42  Owens, The Family Firm, 142–143, 203. 43  Hannen Swaffer, “Hannen Swaffer Asks… What Sort of King,” John Bull, 19 December 1936, 8. 44  Betts, “What’s in a Name?,” 488. 38 39



public appearances and superintended their education.45 As with Mary, wartime leadership was hugely formative to the development of Elizabeth’s queenly image, both as a vital emotional crutch for the King and in consolidating her own public persona. The couple embraced gas masks and rationing, toured munitions factories and bomb sites, and very publicly refused to flee the Blitz, becoming leading “symbols of national resistance.”46 The Queen actively presented herself as a typical, if model, empathetic wife and mother, personally broadcasting to the nation’s women and solidifying the family’s domesticated reputation as “nice homely people.”47 With a keen eye for media presentation, Elizabeth commissioned photographs of her daughters’ domestic pursuits in 1940, releasing the album as Our Princesses at Home, sharing her maternal joys with her subjects on an approachable, almost neighbourly level.48 In 1952, Elizabeth began a tenure as Queen Mother that lasted into the twenty-first century. Issuing a message from Buckingham Palace following George’s death, Elizabeth spoke of her personal “sorrow” and the comfort she drew from the “sympathy and affection” of the nation and Commonwealth before “commend[ing] to you our dear daughter” and appealing for the subjects’ previously manifested “loyalty,” “devotion,” and “love” for the new monarch. Significantly, like Mary, she emphasised her own role in endeavouring with her husband “throughout [their] married life … to fulfil with all our hearts” the duties of monarchy, and that continuing these was her “only wish.”49 She had no intention of retiring from public life, which was news widely and joyfully received. One journalist wrote that this gave “a warm feeling of assurance,” as the pattern of Royalty as we have known it … will not be too radically changed … [She] has earned a very special place in the social life of the country … We need her … fitting words of comfort, encouragement and praise.50

 “The Queen Sets Fashions,” Littlehampton Gazette, 7 May 1937, 9; Gyles Brandreth, Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Marriage (London: Century, 2005), 106–107. 46  Prochaska, Royal Bounty, 221–223, 230–231; Owens, The Family Firm, 221, 253, 269–271. 47  Owens, The Family Firm, 216–219, 223–224, 259–262. 48  Lisa Sheridan, Our Princesses at Home (London: John Murray, 1940). 49  Counting One’s Blessings, 447. 50  Constance Noville, “London Letter: Welcome Words from the Queen Mother,” Northern Daily Mail, 20 February 1952, 2. 45



With an already well-established motherly image, and needing to differentiate herself from her daughter, “the Queen Mother” became her official and regular title, one overwhelmingly and specifically associated with her. Her close relationship with Elizabeth II had long been central to their respective public images, and as Owens observes, “linking” mother and daughter had been common during the War.51 This relationship remained highly visible in their public personas, and following Queen Mary’s death in 1953, the Queen Mother was—for the Queen and the public alike—the undisputed matriarch of the reigning branch of the House of Windsor.52 Her death in 2002, after eight decades as a senior royal, her grandsons’ “vigil of the Princes” during her lying-in-state (imitating that of George V’s sons), and the particular ceremonial of her funeral, cemented the impression that only now, in her seventies and her Golden Jubilee year, was Elizabeth II truly head of the Family.53

A Male Consort in the Windsor Matriarchy The end of the Queen Mother’s 1952 “Message” appealed for her subjects’ essential “protection and love” for her daughter, “in the great and lonely station to which she has been called.”54 This rhetoric echoes contemporary likening of the young Queen to her Tudor predecessor, Elizabeth I, but as Elizabeth II herself pointed out, this comparison was crucially flawed by overlooking her husband and children.55 As Charles Beem and Miles Taylor observe, regnant queens could use their status to “play” the king, but it was harder for their husbands “to inhabit a female gendered position while maintaining a public role commensurate with their status as the husband of a reigning monarch.”56

 Owens, The Family Firm, 243.  Betts, “What’s in a Name?,” 487. 53  Range, British Royal and State Funerals, 317. 54  Counting One’s Blessings, 447. 55  Betts, “What’s in a Name?,” 495–496. 56  Charles Beem and Miles Taylor, “Introduction: The Man Behind the Queen,” in The Man Behind the Queen: Male Consorts in History, ed. Charles Beem and Miles Taylor (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 2–4. 51 52



For Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, this situation was compounded by circumstance. Firstly, the ‘emasculated’ role of the British constitutional monarchy by the mid-twentieth century had led to an increasing focus upon the more traditionally “feminine” aspects of sovereignty. Royal military leadership had also become more symbolic, and by the 1950s, a woman could more acceptably fill these roles, sometimes even herself in uniform. There was thus little left in the sovereign–consort remit of public duties that Elizabeth was “unable or unwilling to perform” herself.57 Second, the monarchy’s representation as a model national “Family Firm” was one more suited to incorporating women, who could bear heirs within the established dynastic image, rather than men, who could sire alien princes to supplant it—hence the Family’s, and the government’s, interventions to formally establish the ruling dynasty as “Windsor,” headed by the Queen, rather than allow the monarchy’s future generations to take her husband’s name (and lead).58 Third, in 1952, Philip faced the unprecedented situation of having his two immediate predecessors, both popular and prominent in public, and highly influential within the family, still living. Although Queen Mary died soon after, the Queen Mother remained a powerful presence for the next fifty years, somewhat diminishing the scope and significance of Philip’s apparent role. This extended to perceptions of the family itself, particularly in relation to the upbringing of Prince Charles. Charles always enjoyed a (much-publicised) warm relationship with his grandmother—in contrast to the supposedly more remote and strained one with his parents. From sitting with her at his mother’s coronation to public displays of grief at her death, she has often been seen as more influential in mentoring the next king than his father.59

 Beem and Taylor, “Introduction,” 4.  Betts, “What’s in a Name?,” 489–490. 59  Brandreth, Philip and Elizabeth, 331–334; Matthew Glencross, Judith Rowbotham, and Michael D. Kandiah, “Epilogue: The Rise of ‘The Queen,’” in The Windsor Dynasty 1910 to the Present: ‘Long to Reign Over Us’?, ed. Matthew Glencross, Judith Rowbotham, and Michael D. Kandiah (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 261. 57 58



Finally, it has been argued recently that the institutional identity or “branding” of the monarchy has, over her record-breaking long reign, become increasingly invested in, and entwined with, the personal image of Elizabeth II.60 This has been particularly the case since the recovery from an image “crisis” of the 1990s, partly caused by the cracking of the wholesome “family firm” image following her children’s marriage breakdowns and the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Elizabeth’s public image has grown warmer, and her relationship with her grandchildren as they have reached adulthood has been especially prominent. The deaths of both her own mother and Diana eliminated the possible candidates for an alternative matriarchal figure, lending credence to the notion that she is a significant presence in raising the monarchy’s future generations. In a “brand” so focused upon the Queen, there seemed little role for Philip. Philip played a significant part, however, in the monarchy’s public work and operations throughout his marriage until his retirement in 2017. He was an essential facet of his wife’s public image, and an integral support in her private life, along with those of the wider family. In 1952, Elizabeth’s handsome, war veteran husband added to her “fairy-tale” glamour and, naturally, he helped establish and develop her maternal and then matriarchal image by fulfilling a consort’s most basic and principal dynastic role: fathering heirs. Like his mother-in-law, Philip also joined the family at a particularly helpful moment—when the number of members of the royal family available for regular and high-profile duties was relatively limited. Despite initially continuing his naval career, he assumed duties for “the Firm” even before George VI’s terminal illness.61 When George died, and the media focused on his bereaved wife, mother, and daughters, Philip hosted visiting royalty and walked alongside his uncles- and cousin-in-law at the funeral.62 Throughout his life he took familial duties seriously, attempting to advise and support his children in their personal lives, and reaching out to Diana as a fellow royal “in-law.”63 Following Diana’s death, as Elizabeth’s dual matriarchal role of “Queen and Grandmother” was invoked, Philip provided their grandsons with 60   Betts, “What’s in a Name?,” 494–496; Glencross, Rowbotham, and Kandiah, “Epilogue,” 259–260. 61  Brandreth, Philip and Elizabeth, 230–232, 249; Counting One’s Blessings, 406. 62  “Queen’s Busy Day,” The Northern Whig and Belfast Post, 14 February 1952, 1. 63  Jonathan Dimbleby, The Prince of Wales: A Biography (London: Little, Brown, 1994), 484–485; Brandreth, Philip and Elizabeth, 349–352.



emotional support more quietly, not speaking in public, but walking behind the coffin with them in a gesture of solidarity.64 His family—particularly the younger generations—have emphasised his centrality to the family experience and the Queen’s ability to perform well in her job. Official retirement did not remove him from the public image of the royal family’s private life, as demonstrated by his presence at the Queen’s side in images released during the COVID-19 pandemic; at the intimate wedding of their granddaughter Princess Beatrice; receiving Wedding Anniversary cards from their great-grandchildren; and in the (only) photograph on her desk during her Christmas Broadcast. As always, her “strength and stay all these years,” “owed” “a debt greater than he would ever claim or we shall ever know.”65

Official Status and Duties Though always lacking a clearly defined “job” or constitutional role, the key difference between Philip’s consortship and those of his female counterparts was the lack of official title automatically dictated by law and custom. In Britain, the king’s wife is always “the Queen,” even if she remained uncrowned. Since the Act of Settlement precluded queens eschewing the ceremony on the grounds of confessional difference, only Caroline of Brunswick was uncrowned; the others, all already married by their husbands’ coronations, were crowned within those ceremonies.66 The twentieth-­century coronations were presented, and received, as dual inaugurations of joint reign, and all three twentieth-century queens consort played highly visible and significant roles in the proceedings.67 With previous coronations distant memories, the 1902 coronation was an opportunity to re-imagine the splendour and visuals of the ritual for contemporary contexts, and broadly set the pattern for those that followed.68 As Kate  Brandreth, Philip and Elizabeth, 359.  “A Speech by The Queen on her Golden Wedding Anniversary,” The Royal Family, 20 November 1997, accessed 15 January 2021, https://www.royal.uk/golden-wedding-speech. 66  Matthias Range, Music and Ceremonial at British Coronations: From James I to Elizabeth II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 5. 67  Roy Strong, Coronation: From the 8th to the 21st Century (London: Harper Perennial, 2005), 472–473. 68  Strong, Coronation, 470–474; Anna Keay, The Crown Jewels: The Official Illustrated History (London: Thames and Hudson, 2012), 145–147. 64 65



Strasdin’s chapter shows, Alexandra took her part very seriously in terms of both personal image and spiritual significance. Employing British and Imperial workmanship and materials, she also utilised continental styles to incorporate contemporary fashions and referenced traditional aesthetics of her native Danish Monarchy, including a “double-arched” coronation crown.69 For the spiritually and ceremonially vital moment of her anointing, she specifically requested that the oil come into direct contact with her body.70 The coronations of Alexandra’s successors followed the precedent set by her splendid and high-profile role, and the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond centrepiece of her crown became almost a signature consort feature, being passed down to both Mary and Elizabeth for their coronation crowns. Both were sensitive to the importance of balancing the traditional and contemporary, and they saw the significance of emblematic coronation displays in establishing their personal role and image, as well as that of the wider Institution. Mary apparently envisioned her crown (paid for personally) would become the future traditional/official consort’s crown, but this plan was abandoned once she decided to attend her son’s coronation. As the ultimate symbol of her own queenship, and as a mark of respect to the solemnity of the coronation rites, she wore it herself. Elizabeth’s 1937 dress, as befitted her motherly image, was matched by her daughters’ “miniature versions.”71 The entrenched cultural acceptance of the king’s wife’s legal status and title was demonstrated in 1936 when a morganatic marriage between Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson was suggested as a potential compromise. The idea the king could marry in a private capacity where his wife would be unrecognised as queen was “without any Constitutional foundation” in Britain. Morganatic marriages were considered a decidedly “continental” (especially “German”) device to enable specific royal individuals to circumvent laws banning mixed-rank marriages, non-existent in Britain, where whoever the king married “necessarily” became queen.72 Changing this would require specific British (and Dominion) parliamentary consent  Strasdin, Inside the Royal Wardrobe, 130–136; Keay, The Crown Jewels, 147.  Strasdin, Inside the Royal Wardrobe, 126. 71  Keay, Crown Jewels, 139–143, 147, 157–160, 170. 72  J.A. Spender, “King, Cabinet, and Commonwealth,” Birmingham Gazette, 5 December 1936, 6; “The King,” Northern Daily Mail, 7 December 1936, 4; “The Royal Crisis: A Morganatic Marriage,” The New Ross Standard, 11 December 1936, 4; “King’s Wife Is Queen,” Weekly Telegraph, 12 December 1936, 9. 69 70



and legislation, which was not forthcoming, due to concerns of irrevocably degrading the monarchy, for if “the King’s wife ought to be Queen … any circumstance … [preventing this] should make it inadvisable for her to be associated with him as his wife.”73 Even those unconcerned about the monarchy, such as Labour’s Ellen Wilkinson, opposed the move, believing it would undermine the hard-won and under-recognised rights of married women.74 The accession of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952 highlighted the contrasting lack of established law and custom regarding regnant queens’ husbands. Elizabeth and Philip’s public image was romantic and “domestic” in the developing dynastic tradition Elizabeth’s parents and grandparents modelled.75 There was considerable (mostly positive) speculation about Philip’s potential role and title during Elizabeth’s coronation and reign.76 Although later created “Prince of the United Kingdom” in 1957, Philip received neither title nor personal coronation during her coronation in 1953. The official role he played in the ceremony’s planning, however, was instrumental in its televising, and on the day he was prominent, escorting the Queen, leading the homage, and appearing on Buckingham Palace’s balcony.77 The couple were celebrated jointly, and baby boys born that day were named “Philip” just as girls were named “Elizabeth.”78 Philip’s role has been compared to that of Queen Anne’s politically benign husband, George of Denmark, but there were key differences.79 Most significantly, whereas George at Anne’s accession had no living offspring, Philip had two heirs already, and realistic prospects of more.80 The ability to act on behalf, or in place, of the sovereign, particularly in the event of a future minority succession, was one of the few roles traditionally

73  “The King,” Northern Daily Mail, 7 December 1936, 4; “Dominions’ Anxiety,” The Leeds Mercury, 9 December 1936, 7. 74  Ellen Wilkinson, “Morganatic Marriage Would Be a Setback for British Women,” Daily Herald, 9 December 1936, 10. 75  Owens, The Family Firm, 273–330 76  “Prince Philip,” The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 5 November 1954, 4; Owens, The Family Firm, 368. 77  Owens, The Family Firm, 340–348, 356; “The Bride and Groom and the Palace Balcony,” The Sphere, 29 November 1947, 24–25. 78  “Coronation Day Triplets and Twins,” The Yorkshire Observer, 3 June 1953, 10. 79  John Gore, “The Monarchy Under a Queen,” The Sphere, 23 February 1952, 306; Beem and Taylor, “Introduction,” 1–2, 7. 80  Betts, “What’s in a Name?,” 491–494.



possible for English consorts, and one considered suitable for Philip despite lack of consecration with a formal “reigning” consort title. Historically, “ad hoc” regency legislation provided for minority succession (or periods of sovereign absenteeism). The desire to transform the monarchy into an efficient, business-like operation fuelled attempts to formalise systems for operating royal power for both short-term and perpetual use. Victoria’s government had provided for a potential regency under Albert during their child’s minority, but thought it unnecessary when she travelled to Europe, as modern communications meant she was easily contactable and could return relatively quickly. Edward VII’s children were adults and he likewise travelled only to Europe. George and Mary’s 1911 Indian Durbar, however, prompted speculation that, given their absence’s extended time and distance, a regent might be appointed, potentially Queen Alexandra.81 Ultimately, the trip initiated the creation of “Counsellors of State,” people eligible to be appointed to deputise for the reigning monarch, eligibility later formally assigned to the consort, and the first four adults in the line of succession.82 Including the sovereign’s “husband or wife” provided a permanent, though limited, role for the consort enshrined in constitutional law. George V’s accession had necessitated a Regency Act as his children were underage. In a minority succession, Mary would assume personal guardianship, and the functional duties of sovereignty, and be titled “Regent,” so long as she remained UK-domiciled and neither became, nor married, a Roman Catholic. She was not empowered to alter the line of succession or disestablish the Anglican Church. Mary’s regency would be inaugurated and formalised by swearing a legislatively prescribed “Regency Oath.” The Regency Act 1910 clearly indicated confidence in Mary personally. George VI’s accession also required regency legislation for potential minority succession. However, this provision was more general, intended to serve as the standard for future generations. George V’s serious illnesses in 1928 and 1936 had highlighted the potential consequences of increasing life expectancies, suggesting physical or mental incapacity of a still-­ living monarch was worth contingency planning for. The new Act formalised the Counsellors of State and provided mechanisms for establishing (and potentially retracting) regency to cover incapacity. Guardianship of the monarch’s person was separated from the exercise of  “Will there be a Regency,” Western Daily Press, 6 April 1911, 7.  Betts, “What’s in a Name?,” 485–486.

81 82



royal functions. Binding Counsellors of State to dynastic succession formally established the monarchy as a multi-generational and legally mechanical “Family Firm,” but, significantly, the role and rights of “performing” monarchical “functions” automatically included the sovereign’s spouse. During regency, the consort’s position was different. The Regency Act 1937 further tied “royal functions” to the bloodline, specifying “The Regent” to be the first person “of full age” in the succession order, putting the same disqualifications upon becoming regent as for inheriting the throne, and stipulating that a regent be replaced if someone higher in the succession came of age during the regency. But the consort’s familial role was recognised. Upon minority succession, the sovereign’s surviving “mother” would be a personal “guardian,” unless the sovereign had a spouse “of full age.” For incapacity regency, the sovereign’s spouse was specified as one of six officials—the others being the (next adult) heir to the throne, Lord Chancellor, Speaker of the Commons, Lord Chief Justice, and Master of the Rolls—at least three of whom had to legally declare the Sovereign’s capacity or incapacity in writing. This specifically integrated notions of the monarchy as both private family and public body, recognising, in primary position, the consort’s rights within such an institution. Despite lack of other formal recognition, as Elizabeth’s husband, Philip was automatically eligible to be Counsellor of State, to be her guardian were she to be incapacitated, and to have a legally mandated role in declaring her level of capacity. But though intended to be a generic formula for the future, the 1937 Act specifically granted a minor ruler’s guardianship to their surviving “mother.” If Philip were widowed during his heir’s minority, guardianship would rest with the Regent, his sister-in-law, Princess Margaret. This unusual and, to the 1950s mind-sets, “unnatural” situation inspired new regency legislation to accommodate a more “appropriate” arrangement.83 The Regency Act 1953 was not intended for perpetuity but specific to Philip, naming him as both Regent and guardian for any children he might have with the Queen who inherited the throne

83  “Princess Margaret Strongly Favours Proposed Regency Act Change,” The Northern Whig and Belfast Post, 24 July 1953, 1; “Regency Acts to be Changed,” The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury, 23 July 1953, 5; “Regency Acts Changed,” The Liverpool Echo, 4 November 1953, 12.



underage, and in the event of Elizabeth’s incapacity while “no child or grandchild” of theirs were eligible to be Regent. Alongside this major amendment for Philip, a personal, and widely approved, amendment was made for the Queen Mother, renewing her personal eligibility to serve as an extra Counsellor of State. The 1937 legislation didn’t accommodate a sovereign’s surviving parent in this role, so while following the 1937 Act in linking royal functions to the dynastic succession, the 1953 Act carved out exalted, though specific, places for George VI’s and Elizabeth II’s consorts in the royal family’s private life and public operations. This recognised the Queen Mother’s expertise and popularity, continued devotion to public duty, and close relationship with her daughter, as well as Philip’s marital and paternal rights within his own family as a rank within the royal family, separate from his subordination as the Queen’s subject and commensurate with contemporary notions of domestic gender roles (also reflected later in the name change for non-­ reigning descendants).84 Philip’s official retirement never removed his eligibility to be Counsellor of State, Elizabeth’s personal guardian, or to declare her incapacitated—all rights automatically his as a spouse. His death certificate listed his occupations as “Naval Officer,” “Prince,” and “husband of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, The Sovereign.”85 Philip’s retirement was a move peculiar to modern times, arising from the reconfiguration of royal life as service and duty (something more recognisable as a “job”) rather than merely right and privilege. Retirement has become a culturally expected facet of old age, but it was more conceivable for Philip than for his predecessors, or his wife, who assumed the title and mantle of queenship at her coronation and retained it for life. The “work” side of his consortship was a practical, supporting role rather than a consecrated calling or anointing. From a general “feminisation” of monarchical function and representation and the relative lack of place and permanency within established ceremonial for a male consort, to Elizabeth II’s promotion of her own natal dynastic identity over her husband’s, nationalistic matriarchy seems increasingly the hallmark of the Windsor monarchy.  Betts, “What’s in a Name?,” 494.  Dylan Donnelly, “Prince Philip’s Rarely Used Birth Name Features on Official Death Certificate,” Express Online, 6 May 2021, https://www.express.co.uk/news/royal/1432390/ prince-Philip-news-greek-name-death-certificate-Philippos-royal-family-old-age-ontaccess06.05.2021. 84 85



As Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska argues, however, Philip’s role and image must be considered in the context of evolving concepts of gendered ideals, of masculinities increasingly defined not just as hierarchical relationships with women and domestic power structures, but within broader “all-male settings” that transcend class and generational boundaries. Philip’s public image was constructed around his naval service, enthusiasm for innovation, sportsmanship, and patronage of youth causes.86 The regency amendments and concession regarding his descendants’ private family name were not merely nods to a patriarchal norm, but an acknowledgement of his fulfilment of a modern domesticated masculine role as an involved and loving husband and father.87 Before his wife’s accession, Philip’s mother-in-law repeatedly wrote to him about his potential to provide “inspiration,” “example & leadership” in the “complex” landscape of modern life, on both an “individual” and “married couple” basis. The monarchy, the then-consort wrote to her intended successor, “work[ed] as a team,” a corporate family, “each going their own way … [but] contribut[ing] towards the common pool.”88 Theirs was leadership through exemplary “ordinariness,” part of a broader scheme of modernising ideals of royalty and consortship. As the Windsors cultivated emotional rapport through relatability with contemporary family values, Owens contends, genuine “love” and personal fulfilment became the primarily publicised expectations for a royal marriage. Concurrently came increasing expectations that royal love should be found organically amongst British subjects, rather than arranged from a pool of foreign royalty. Philip may have been a foreign prince, but he was Elizabeth’s personal choice and presented as a love match.89 His image was anglicised and, in preparation for their official engagement, he resigned his foreign titles and obtained naturalisation as a British citizen in his own right (though this was in fact unnecessary, due to his eligibility via the Sophia Naturalisation Act of 1705). Throughout over seventy years of 86  Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska, “Prince Philip: Sportsman and Youth Leader,” in The Man Behind the Queen: Male Consorts in History, ed. Charles Beem and Miles Taylor (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 224–228; “A Young Man of Destiny,” Western Mail and South Wales News, 10 July 1947, 4; “A Review of 1947,” The Rugby Advertiser, 26 December 1947, 8; “Sailor Who Became Queen’s Consort,” The Standard, June 1953, 6; Louis Wulff, “First Gentleman of the Jet Age,” Lancashire Evening Post, 10 June 1953, 4. 87  Gerald Pawle, “The Man at the Queen’s Side,” Western Mail, 1 June 1953, 19. 88  Counting One’s Blessings, 401, 406, 422. 89  Owens, The Family Firm, 45–90, 273–330.



marriage, Philip provided what his son described as “the most remarkable, devoted service” to “Queen,” “family,” “country,” and “Commonwealth,” in private life as husband and domestic patriarch, in home and estate management at private and crown properties, in patronage work both together and individually, and in public ceremonial.90 Retirement highlighted the blurred lines between Philip’s “two (consort) bodies” as his “ordinary” public work was passed on to younger generations, but his royal domestic, legal, and emotional role as the spouse of a still-working and ever-sovereign queen continued. In this capacity he was indispensable and irreplaceable within the monarchy until his death in April 2021. The longest serving consort in English history, he was respected as an integral part of both his own family and the public face of the monarchy. Pandemic restrictions kept his funeral a relatively small, private (though televised) affair at Windsor, and his coffin was topped not by a crown but by a sailor’s cap, yet still he was mourned in a similar way to his three Windsor predecessors: as model consort and beloved national figure.

90  “Prince Philip: Charles Says Dear Papa was Very Special,” BBC, 10 April 2021, https:// www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-56702886.


Camilla and Catherine: The Future of the Royal Consort Carolyn Harris

The Death of Prince Philip in 2021 On 17 April 2021, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was laid to rest in St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Following the social distancing regulations in the United Kingdom at the time, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, just thirty family members and close friends attended the funeral. The attendees were seated apart, except for those who belonged to the same household. These unusual circumstances created a poignant image of the past and future of the royal family during the last years of the reign of Elizabeth II. A photograph of the Queen seated alone in the chapel, masked and in mourning, captured both the stark reality of the pandemic and the profound loss experienced by the sovereign.1

1  Louis Lucero II, “Seeing the queen alone adds a painful note for many watching from home,” New York Times, 17 April 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/17/world/ europe/queen-elizabeth-prince-philip-funeral.html.

C. Harris (*) School of Continuing Studies, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts, Queenship and Power, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-12829-5_15




The Queen and Prince Philip enjoyed the longest royal marriage in British history.2 When Elizabeth travelled abroad on Commonwealth tours, she was almost always accompanied by her consort. Philip’s declining health and his retirement from public life in 2017 resulted in fewer public appearances during the last decade of his life. Observers often noted that the Queen appeared “lonely” without him, most notably at the National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral on the final day of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012.3 The Queen returned to public engagements after Philip’s death, but the loss of her consort continued to dominate her media coverage during the final months of her reign. The presence of a royal consort supporting the monarch has become central to the public image of the monarchy. The death of Prince Philip drew popular attention to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge,  and the eventual transition to a new reign. Following the death of Elizabeth II on 8 September 2022 and the succession of her eldest son as Charles III, Camila became queen, and her daughter-in-law Catherine became Princess of Wales, ushering in a new era for the British monarchy. The calm, supportive demeanour of both Camilla and Catherine at Prince Philip’s funeral received widespread praise from commentators in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. Camilla’s support for her grieving husband was noted with approval in the press and placed in the context of their long relationship.4 Catherine, meanwhile, appeared as a peacemaker within the royal family, speaking with her brother-in-law, Prince Harry, and attempting to reunite him with William.5 The brief conversation between the two brothers was significant as the funeral occurred 2  Rachel Dinning, “Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip: 8 Milestones in Their Marriage,” History Extra, 20 November 2020, https://www.historyextra.com/period/20th-century/ queen-elizabeth-prince-philip-milestones-marriage-relationship/. 3  “Diamond Jubilee Celebrations: Queen to cut a lonely figure at Church Service,” NBC News, 5 June 2012, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/diamond-jubileecelebrations-queen-cut-lonely-figure-church-service-flna813825. 4  Sophie Harris, “Camilla uses ‘comforting hand-pat’ as Prince Charles ‘overcome by grief’ at Prince Philip’s funeral,” The Daily Express, 18 April 2021, https://www.express.co.uk/ life-style/life/1424502/camilla-duchess-of-cornwall-prince-charles-body-languageprince-philip-funeral-expert. 5  Oli Smith, “Kate acts as peacemaker uniting Prince William and Harry in conversation after funeral,” The Daily Express, 18 April 2021, https://www.express.co.uk/news/ royal/1424456/kate-middleton-news-prince-william-prince-harry-royal-feud-princephilip-funeral-vn.



just weeks after Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, discussed their departure from their roles as senior members of the royal family in a controversial interview with Oprah Winfrey. While the rapprochement between William and Harry did not seem to last, Catherine made additional conciliatory remarks regarding Harry, Meghan, and their children later that year. In June 2021, she told an American journalist at the G7 summit in Cornwall that she “can’t wait” to meet her niece Lilibet and “I wish her all the very best.”6 Catherine’s image at that time contrasted with reports that relations between Harry and his father and brother remained strained in the months immediately following Prince Philip’s death. Although Prince Philip’s funeral unfolded before news cameras and was discussed extensively on social media and in the tabloid press, the roles of supportive partner and family peacemaker would have been recognisable to English and British royal consorts over the past millennium. Both Camilla and Catherine emphasised continuity in their public responses to Philip’s death. In a September 2021 BBC documentary, Camilla expressed admiration for Philip and acknowledged the influence he had on her conception of the role of royal consort, stating, “I saw the way he supported the Queen, and not in a flashy sort of way but just by doing it and following along behind. It’s something that I’ve learned by watching him.”7 At the funeral in April 2021, Camilla wore a silver bugle-shaped brooch8 in recognition of her role as honorary Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles—a military patronage that she received from Philip in an outdoor ceremony in July 2020, during one of his last public appearances.9 The brooch quietly symbolised Camilla’s commitment to the philanthropic and military patronages passed to her by her father-in-law. 6  Max Channon, “Duchess Kate gives update on niece Lilibet during G7 visit in Cornwall with Jill Biden,” Wales Online, 11 June 2021, https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/uknews/duchess-kate-gives-update-niece-20793999. 7  Lanford Beard, “Why Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip Were ‘One of the Most Remarkable Couples the World Has Ever Seen,’” People, 23 September 2021, https://people.com/royals/queen-elizabeth-prince-philip-love-story-told-by-royal-family-members/. 8  Olivia Petter, “The Poignant Story Behind the Brooch Camilla Wore to Prince Philip’s funeral,” The Independent, 18 April 2021, https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/ royal-family/camilla-brooch-prince-philip-funeral-b1833178.html. 9  Chloe Foussianes, “Prince Philip Attends Rare Engagement, Passes Down Military Role to Duchess Camilla,” Town and Country, 22 July 2020, https://www.townandcountrymag. com/society/tradition/a33392664/prince-philip-duchess-camilla-rifles-military-role/.



While Camilla’s comments and sartorial choices emphasised continuity in public service, Catherine emphasised the consort’s role within the family circle. Throughout her marriage to William, Catherine has expressed herself through her photography, and her photographs of her family are often released to the public on official occasions. Following Philip’s death, Catherine shared a photograph from 2018 of the Queen and Prince Philip with their great-grandchildren, and Philip driving a carriage with his great-­ grandson, Prince George, the third-in-line to the throne  at the time.10 Released to complement William’s tribute to his grandfather, these images depicted the monarch’s consort as a key influence over the royal family and a source of support in the private sphere. Through their tributes to Philip, Camilla and Catherine illuminated the two central aspects of the role of the royal consort while emphasising their own commitment to assuming these roles within the royal family. For both Camilla and Catherine, the private and public aspects of the role of royal consort came together during the COVID-19 pandemic, with both women drawing upon their own experiences to connect with a wider audience.

Consorts in a Time of Crisis The positive press coverage of Camilla and Catherine in the aftermath of Prince Philip’s death, funeral, and memorial tributes  in 2021 followed praise of their efforts at public engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic. In their responses to the pandemic, Camilla and Catherine created continuity with previous royal consorts who had occupied the role in times of crisis, including Queen Mary during the First World War and Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) during the Second World War. When both Charles and William contracted COVID-19 in the spring of 2020, Camilla and Catherine empathised publicly with the challenges faced by the wider public, in a similar manner to the Queen Mother who, as Daniella McCahey’s chapter discusses, famously responded to the bombing of Buckingham Palace with the statement, “I am glad we have been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face.”11 While there was widespread criticism of political figures who vacationed 10  Annie Goldsmith, “Kate Middleton and Prince William open up about losing Prince Philip,” Town and Country, 19 August 2021, https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/tradition/a37349344/kate-middleton-prince-william-prince-philip-death-response/. 11  Robert Tombs, The English and their History (New York: Knopf Doubleday, 2015), 712.



abroad while most people remained in their homes, and who ignored social distancing regulations  by hosting private parties, the royal family largely escaped these critiques in the press. Camilla and Catherine instead sought to connect with the public through their roles as the spouses of COVID-19 survivors, as public figures who worked from home, and as parents or grandparents of young children who experienced separation from established routines, extended family, and social circles. On 7 July 2020, Camilla guest edited The Emma Barnett Show on BBC Radio 5 Live and gave an extended interview from Clarence House, discussing her personal experiences during the pandemic, in addition to publicising the work of her charitable patronages. Her words resonated with other people of her generation as she described herself as someone who “really hated the internet” but learned to embrace video calls to remain connected with family, friends, and work.12 While Camilla shared light-­ hearted anecdotes during the programme—such as appreciating the opportunity to spend time at home wearing jeans or taking up online ballet classes with “the Silver Swans” to exercise and socialise from home— she also described how difficult it was to maintain social distancing with her grandchildren. Sympathising with listeners who had experienced extended family separations, Camilla explained what it was like to see her grandchildren outdoors, stating, “You’re so excited because you haven’t seen them for three-and-a-half months and your first reaction is to run up and hug them, and you have to sort of put up your hands. It’s a very odd feeling, I shall look forward to the day when I can give them a huge hug again.”13 Amidst Camilla’s discussion of her own experiences during the pandemic were also interviews with people who inspired her philanthropic initiatives, including the mother of a woman killed by her husband who shaped Camilla’s own efforts to aid survivors of domestic violence.14 The programme therefore revealed the various facets of Camilla’s role as a royal consort, from her efforts to assist vulnerable women to her separation from her own grandchildren. As the mother of three young children, Catherine received favourable press coverage by discussing the challenges of educating them at home 12  Helen Thomas, “Duchess of Cornwall ‘Can’t Wait to Hug’ Her Grandchildren,” BBC News, 7 July 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-53278186. 13  Thomas, “Duchess of Cornwall,” BBC News, 7 July 2020. 14  Valentine Low, “Camilla’s Moving Moment on the Emma Barnett Show with mother of woman killed by husband,” The Times, 8 July 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ ballet-jeans-and-dogs-camilla-opens-up-about-life-in-lockdown-8pn5wn96p.



during pandemic related  school closures. In a television interview with ITV on 7 May 2020, she commented, “It is difficult … It’s hard to explain to a five- and a six-, nearly seven-year-old what’s going on. But the schools have been great in supporting them as well. Hard times, but we’ve got the support out there, I think.”15 Catherine’s media interviews combined the public and private dimensions of her role as a royal consort, as she not only connected with other parents who were helping to educate their children at home but took the opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of educators as well. William and Catherine also gave online interviews together, speaking of the challenges they faced during the pandemic as parents, including keeping their three children to a regular routine.16 When Catherine and her family did attract criticism during the crisis, palace sources endeavoured to counter this commentary by referencing Catherine’s role as the mother of young children. For example, when William and Catherine visited an illuminated Christmas-themed walking trail on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk with their children in 2020, they attracted criticism for appearing to ignore the region’s social distancing regulations—spending time in a group larger than six by socialising with William’s uncle and aunt, Edward and Sophie, Earl and Countess of Wessex, and their children.17 A palace source stated, “As anyone with young children will know, there were moments on the 90-minute walk where it was difficult to keep the two family groups apart, particularly at bottlenecks on the trail.”18 The public were invited to empathise with William and Catherine as parents of young children who had not been

15  Harmeet Kaur, “Prince William and Kate are homeschooling their kids and video chatting with family during the pandemic—just like us commoners,” CNN, 7 May 2020, https://edition.cnn.com/2020/05/07/uk/prince-george-duchess-kate-lockdown-trnd/ index.html. 16  Russell Myers, “Coronavirus Crisis: Wills & Kate on How They Cope: We Felt Mean Not Telling the Kids It was Easter Hols,” The Daily Mirror, 18 April 2020, 7. 17  Rebecca English and Andrew Levy, “A right royal bubble-buster: William and Kate and their children mingle with Edward and Sophie’s family as a group of NINE on night out at Sandringham attraction—despite rule of six,” The Daily Mail, 21 December 2020, https:// www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9077177/William-Kate-mingle-Edward-Sophiesfamily-group-nine.html. 18  Jack Royston, “Prince William and Kate Middleton Accused of Flouting COVID Rules at Christmas Event,” Newsweek, 22 December 2020, https://www.newsweek.com/ prince-william-kate-middleton-accused-flouting-covid-rules-sandringham-christmas-eventluminate-1556563.



able to meet with their extended family in nearly a year, a situation shared by families across the United Kingdom and the wider world. Over the course of Catherine’s marriage, critiques of her light schedule of public engagements compared to past spouses of the second-in-line to the throne, such as the future Queen Mary, were also countered by reminders of Catherine’s role as the mother of young children. While previous generations of royal parents might prioritise public engagements and overseas tours over the daily care of their children and still receive widespread public approval, William and Catherine presented themselves to the public as busy working parents, eager to carve out as much time as possible in their schedules for their children. Similarly, Catherine’s upbringing outside of royal circles was emphasised at controversial moments during the pandemic. In March 2021, Catherine briefly visited a memorial to Sarah Everard, who was kidnapped and murdered by a London Metropolitan Police officer. Catherine’s appearance—amidst the mourners before the cameras and without a mask—prompted debate on social media, with some characterising Catherine’s presence at the memorial as a photo opportunity. A palace source again raised the image of Catherine as a working mother with experience of life outside the royal family, stating, “She wanted to pay her respects to Sarah and her family. She remembers what it felt like to walk around London at night.”19 Although there were moments of criticism and controversy, efforts to connect with the public during the pandemic generated primarily positive press  coverage for both Camilla and Catherine in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth. The Guardian, a newspaper that is often critical of the monarchy, declared on 16 January 2021, “From her Reading Room book club to her Strictly Come Dancing cameo, the profile of the Duchess of Cornwall has never been higher.”20 The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) discussed “Camilla’s Pandemic Profile” that same month.21 Royal commentator Katie Nicholl stated in an interview with 60 Minutes 19  Maria Pasquini and Simon Perry, “Kate Middleton Makes Private Visit to Memorial for Sarah Everard: ‘She Wanted to Pay Her Respects,’” People, 13 March 2021, https://people. com/royals/kate-middleton-visits-sarah-everard-memorial/. 20  Caroline Davies, “‘Technophobe’ Camilla clicks with Zoom and finds favour under Covid,” The Guardian, 16 January 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/ jan/16/technophobe-camilla-clicks-with-zoom-and-finds-favour-under-covid. 21  Janet Davison, “Why the Queen let it be known she’s had the COVID-19 vaccine,” CBC, 24 January 2021, https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/royal-fascinator-queen-elizabeth-covid-19-vaccine-governor-general-julie-payette-resignation-1.5875617.



in Australia, “In the same way that the Duke of Edinburgh was always the one who would help resolve family issues. He was the patriarch of the family. I see [Catherine] stepping into that role. Trying to keep things together.”22 This positive press contrasted with the more critical coverage of their spouses. William did not disclose that he tested positive for COVID-19 in April 2020, “which raised questions about palace secrecy,”23 while a series of fictional portrayals of Charles’s first marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales (1961–1997), in television and film focused negative scrutiny on Charles’s past behaviour.24 Harry’s critical remarks about his father and brother,25 and a “cash-for-honours” scandal involving donations to Charles’s charities, also attracted criticism.26 Camilla and Catherine largely escaped this negative scrutiny, and press coverage of both women emphasised how they had successfully expanded their public profile during the pandemic.27 The widespread popular perception of Camilla and Catherine as established members of the twenty-first-century royal family contrasts with the critical scrutiny that they both received when they began relationships 22  Ellie Abraham, “Kate Middleton Taking On Prince Philip’s Role as ‘Glue’ of Royal Family, Claims Royal Expert,” The Independent, 25 May 2021, https://www.independent. co.uk/life-style/royal-family/kate-middleton-prince-philip-william-b1853312.html. 23  Mark Landler and Livia Albeck-Ripka, “Prince William had Covid-19 in April but kept it a secret,” New York Times, 11 March 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/01/ world/prince-william-had-covid-19-in-april-but-kept-it-a-secret.html. 24  For an example of British press scrutiny of the impact of popular culture portrayals of Diana on Charles’s reputation, see: Emily Andrews, “Palace Outrage at Netflix’s The Crown as Prince Charles’ friends launch a blistering attack on the TV drama and accuse producers of ‘trolling on a Hollywood budget’ ahead of the fourth series’ launch,” The Daily Mail, 14 November 2020, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8949675/Prince-Charlesfriends-launch-blistering-attack-Netflixs-Crown.html. 25  For examples, see: Caroline Davies, “Prince Harry appears to criticise way he was raised by his father,” The Guardian, 14 May 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/ may/13/prince-harry-royal-family-like-being-in-the-truman-show and Graham Duggan, “Love, money and betrayal: are Harry and William at war?” CBC, 6 October 2021, https:// www.cbc.ca/documentaries/the-passionate-eye/love-money-and-betrayal-are-harry-andwilliam-at-war-1.6201623. 26   Jack Royston, “Prince Charles Loses Third Staff Member As Cash-for-Honours Scandal Grows,” Newsweek, 16 September 2021, https://www.newsweek.com/ prince-charles-third-resignation-prince-foundation-charity-cash-honors-1629668. 27  Camila Tominey, “Kate at 39: A Royal To Be Reckoned With,” The Daily Telegraph, 9 January 2021, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/royal-family/2021/01/09/kate-39-royalreckoned/. The article was reprinted in Canada’s National Post newspaper with the headline, “Confident Kate Comes Into Her Own as Royal,” The National Post, 9 January 2021, A2.



with direct heirs to the throne. Prior to Elizabeth II’s reign, neither Camilla nor Catherine would have been considered suitable for the role of future queen consort. Early press coverage of both women presented them as outsiders whose ability to adjust to royal life would be hampered by issues like marital history (in the case of Camilla) or social class (in the case of Catherine). These critiques intersected with more general scrutiny of women in public life. The lifetimes of Camilla and Catherine have witnessed tremendous social and cultural change, as reflected in changing attitudes towards the role of women in the family and the workforce. Since Camilla and Catherine both spent their childhoods and a significant part of their adult lives outside the royal family and were not born into the British aristocracy, they brought different perspectives to their roles and were expected by the public to act in a more relatable manner to the wider population in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. The transformation of Camilla and Catherine from controversial outsiders to accepted members of the royal family broadened the definition of the ideal royal consort and allowed a wider cross section of the public to identify personally with members of the royal family. Both Camilla and Catherine have advocated for vulnerable women and children throughout their marriages, emphasising the shared experience of motherhood. Their experiences outside of royal and aristocratic life have enhanced their ability to make the royal family more relatable to the wider public in the twenty-­ first century and gain positive press coverage.

Camilla Parker Bowles Camilla Rosemary Shand was born on 17 July 1947 at King’s College Hospital in London, the eldest of the three children of Major Bruce Shand and Rosalind Cubitt. Although Camilla was not a member of the titled aristocracy, her family was part of the British upper class and had close connections to the royal family. Her maternal great-grandmother, Alice Keppel, was famously the last mistress of Edward VII.28 Camilla had a happy and comfortable childhood, enjoying horseback riding and long walks in nature. As biographer Gyles Brandreth wrote, “the Shands, without question, belonged to the upper class. The Shands had position and 28  Olivia Hosken, “Who Is Alice Keppel? Camilla’s Ancestor was Mistress to King Edward VII,” Town and Country, 24 November 2020, https://www.townandcountrymag.com/ leisure/arts-and-culture/a34659540/alice-keppel-camilla-ancestor-mistress/.



they had help—help in the house, help in the garden, help with the children. They were gentry.”29 Camilla attended Dumbrells School in Ditchling from the age of five, and then became a weekly boarder at Queen’s Gate school in London at the age of eleven, in 1958. Camilla spoke about her experiences at Queen’s Gate when she unveiled a plaque there in 2016, recalling with characteristic self-deprecating humour, “I wish I could say I was a head girl, or even a prefect or captain of games—I was none of those … I did leave when I was sixteen, I didn’t go on to the sixth form. I think in those days we weren’t encouraged to go to university. I think the very, very clever girls went on but nobody seemed to give us much inspiration to go on.”30 Instead, Camilla attended finishing school in Switzerland, where she learned to ski and practised French. Camilla made her debut in society in 1965 at the age of seventeen and met her future first husband, twenty-­ five-­year-old Andrew Parker Bowles, an officer in the household cavalry, at her “coming out” party in London, and they began an on-again, off-again relationship after they met again at a dance in Scotland in 1966.31 Camilla famously met Charles in the summer of 1971 when she was twenty-three and he was twenty-two. According to legend, which Camilla dismissed in a conversation with Brandreth by laughing and shaking her head,32 Camilla introduced herself to Charles at a polo match with the words, “My great-grandmother was the mistress of your great-great-grandfather, so how about it?”33 Charles and Camilla instead met through a mutual friend, Lucia Santa Cruz, who made the remark, “Now you two be very careful, you’ve got genetic antecedents.”34 Charles was attracted to Camilla’s warmth, confidence, and sense of humour, and they began a relationship that continued until December 1972. Although Camilla moved in upper-class circles and shared a variety of interests with Charles and other members of the royal family—including skiing and spending time in the countryside—she was not 29  Gyles Brandreth, Charles and Camilla: Portrait of a Love Affair (London: Random House, 2005), 105. 30  Penny Junor, The Duchess: Camilla Parker Bowles and the Affair that Rocked the Crown (New York: Harper Collins, 2018), 42. 31  Junor, The Duchess, 7–9. 32  Brandreth, Charles and Camilla, 46. 33  Sally Bedell-Smith, Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life (New York: Random House, 2017), 67. 34  Jonathan Dimbleby, The Prince of Wales: A Biography (London: Little, Brown, 1994), 182; Junor, The Duchess, 9.



considered a suitable future queen consort at the time because she was not a member of the titled aristocracy and she had past relationships. Patricia Knatchbull, Countess Mountbatten, the daughter of Charles’s great-uncle and mentor Lord Mountbatten, explained to Brandreth, “With hindsight, you can say that Charles should have married Camilla when he first had the chance. They were ideally suited, we know that now. But it wasn’t possible. Camilla had a ‘history’ and the Prince of Wales couldn’t marry a girl with ‘history.’ He really couldn’t. It just wasn’t on.”35 Royal biographers also emphasise that even if Camilla had been a suitable royal bride, their circumstances in 1973 precluded a marriage.36 At twenty-five, Camilla was ready to get married and had long been interested in Andrew Parker Bowles. In contrast, twenty-four-year-old Charles was focused on his naval career. In 1973, Charles departed the United Kingdom for an extended period of service aboard the HMS Minerva, and Camilla became engaged to Andrew Parker Bowles. On 4 July 1973, Camilla married Andrew in the Guard’s Chapel in London. They had two children: Thomas (born 1974) and Laura (born 1978). At the time of Camilla’s wedding, Charles wrote to  Lord  Mountbatten, “I suppose the feeling of emptiness will pass eventually,”37 but they remained close friends and Charles was one of Thomas’s godparents. When Charles reached the age of thirty, which he had once stated was “a good age for a man to get married,” he faced increasing pressure from his family and the public to marry a suitable future queen consort.38 On 29 July 1981, thirty-two-year-old Charles married twenty-year-old Lady Diana Spencer, a member of the British aristocracy without known past relationships. Camilla attended the wedding with her sister Annabel and son Thomas, while her husband Andrew played a role in the ceremony, commanding the Household Cavalry as escort to the newlyweds. Charles and Diana had two sons: Prince William (born 1982) and Prince Harry (born 1984). Following the breakdown of their marriage, Charles and Diana would recall Camilla’s role in the early years of their marriage differently. Andrew  Brandreth, Charles and Camilla, 162.  Robert Lacey, Royal: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (London: Little, Brown, 2002), 268. 37  Brandreth, Charles and Camilla, 185. 38  Douglas Keay, Royal Pursuit: The Palace, the Press and the People (London: Severn House, 1983), 213. 35 36



Morton’s 1992 biography of Diana, which was written with the cooperation of the Princess, describes “the ever-present shadow of Camilla,” whom Charles frequently telephoned and relied on for emotional support.39 By contrast, friends of Charles emphasised that Charles and Camilla had little contact in the early years of his marriage as Diana was uncomfortable around Charles’s social circle. In a 1994 television interview, Charles told Jonathan Dimbleby that he did not resume his relationship with Camilla “[u]ntil [the marriage] became irretrievably broken down, [Diana and I] both having tried” and described Camilla as “a friend for a very long time—and will continue to be a friend for a very long time.”40 Dimbleby’s biography of Charles dated his second relationship with Camilla from 1986. Charles and Diana separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996. Charles’s interview with Dimbleby prompted Andrew Parker Bowles to end his marriage to Camilla. They had been unfaithful to one another during their marriage, but the public scrutiny of Camilla’s relationship with Charles was the immediate catalyst for a divorce.41 Camilla and Andrew’s divorce was finalised in 1995 and Camilla moved to Ray Mill house near Lacock. The public were aware of Charles’s intimate relationship with Camilla prior to the Dimbleby interview because of the Morton book and a private phone conversation between Charles and Camilla from 1989 that was leaked to the press in 1993. The press and public largely sympathised with Diana, even though Diana had her own extramarital relationships. Both Charles and Diana spoke to the press about their marital problems, with Diana famously stating in a controversial 1995 BBC interview with Martin Bashir, “There were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”42 Camilla did not grant interviews about her divorce or personal life and remained out of the public eye at the time, concentrating on her own family. Her mother died in 1994 after a long struggle with osteoporosis and her son was arrested in an Oxford nightclub for possession of cannabis and ecstasy the following year.43

 Andrew Morton, Diana: Her True Story (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), 201.  Caroline Graham, Camilla: Her True Story (London: Blake, 2001), 223. 41  Junor, The Duchess, 127. 42  Danica Kirka, “The Diana Interview: A Look at the Pivotal Moment in Time,” Associated Press, 21 May 2021, https://apnews.com/article/prince-harry-europe-arts-and-entertainment-85c05b4106e37c9ece2384b31a04294d. 43  Junor, The Duchess, 129, 136. 39 40



Even when she was rarely seen in public, Camilla was the focus of intense public scrutiny. Negative commentary about Camilla focused not only on her marital infidelity and that of Charles but her age and appearance compared to Diana. The day after the Dimbleby interview aired, Diana appeared in public in an off-shoulder black dress, and photographs of the princess were printed alongside images of Camilla in unflattering clothing and windblown hair with headlines such as “The Thrilla He Left to Woo Camilla.”44 Feminist analysis of this press coverage describes the process of “The Croning of Camilla” in which the press portrayed Camilla—just one year older than Charles but a dozen years older than Diana—as resembling an old crone and a horse, and implying that the intimate lives of older women were somehow grotesque.45 This scathing press coverage provoked a wider debate about how older women and their personal lives were perceived in society. Feminist author Germaine Greer stated in 1995, “The really shocking thing has been the ageism, the sexism towards women shown by the press. People have been so rude about her, going on about her looks: ‘What a dog’ and so on. We’re not all young, thank God!”46 Feminist critiques of the negative press coverage concerning Camilla’s age, appearance, and public image prefigured her eventual acceptance as a relatable figure, at a time of increased life expectancies and more tolerant attitudes towards divorce and remarriage. Although polling data indicated gradual public acceptance of Charles and Camilla’s relationship in the summer of 1997,47 Camilla kept a low profile in the immediate aftermath of Diana’s death on 31 August 1997 in a car accident, and the global outpouring of mourning that followed. Charles and Camilla gradually began to appear in public together in 1999, and Camilla assumed her first charitable patronage as President of the Royal Osteoporosis Society in 2001. These efforts to quietly accustom the public to a relationship that had once been clandestine and controversial 44  Brittany Wong, “The Day Princess Diana and Her ‘Revenge Dress’ Shocked the World,” The Huffington Post, 12 March 2021, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/ princess-diana-revenge-dress_n_5b3514a2e4b0b5e692f5cf6b. 45  Lauren Rosewarne, “The Croning of Camilla: A Sexual Political Analysis of Media Criticism of Camilla Parker Bowles,” Australasian Political Science Conference, 2005. https://laurenrosewarne.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Rosewarne_APSA1.pdf. 46  Charlotte Eager, “Some Brits Take Heart From Prince Charles’ Affair,” Chicago Tribune, 22 January 1995, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1995-01-22-9501220193story.html. 47  “Parker Bowles Gaining Favour Among British,” The Globe and Mail, 15 July 1997, A2.



received mixed responses. The author and diarist Kenneth Rose wondered what this increased public profile for Camilla was intended to achieve, writing in his diary on 5 August 2000: “If, as the Prince has announced on more than one occasion, he has no intention of marrying Camilla, why does he take her to official events, such as the stay at Holyrood as Lord High Commissioner? It is surely unusual for a member of the Royal Family to be accompanied by his maîtress-en-titre, except on private travels. He seems to want her to be recognized as his mistress.”48 The increased role of Camilla in Charles’s public life made the question of an eventual marriage more urgent. On a personal level, Camilla’s elderly father Bruce Shand was concerned about the continued irregularity of his daughter’s relationship with Charles and made clear that he expected them to marry, explaining to the Prince, “I want to meet my maker knowing my daughter’s all right.”49 On 10 February 2005, Clarence House announced the engagement of the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles.

The Duchess of Cornwall On 9 April 2005, Charles and Camilla were married in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall, followed by a service of prayer and dedication at St George’s Chapel and a wedding reception at Windsor Castle. The wedding received critical coverage in the press because of the numerous mishaps that occurred during the planning and on the day itself. The intended venue for the civil ceremony was Windsor Castle, but the location was changed to the Guildhall as a civil wedding at Windsor Castle would result in the royal residence legally becoming a wedding venue for other couples for at least the next three years. The ceremony had to be postponed for twenty-four hours to allow Charles to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II.  Camilla suffered from sinusitis on her wedding day and a few members of the public booed the newlyweds.50 The inclusion of prayers of

48  The Journals of Kenneth Rose, ed. D.R. Thorpe, 2 vols. (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2018–2019), 2:344. 49  Junor, The Duchess, 188. 50  Kayla Keegan, “Charles and Camilla’s Wedding Involved Way More Drama Than Most People Realized,” Good Housekeeping, 15 November 2019, https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/a22349187/prince-charles-and-camilla-wedding-young/.



penitence at the service of prayer and dedication revived the discussion of Charles’s infidelity during his first marriage.51 If Camilla had been considered an unsuitable royal bride in the early 1970s, before her first marriage, her status as a divorcee who had been the long-time companion of the Prince of Wales appeared to make her position as the spouse of a future king even more controversial. There was greater societal tolerance of divorce and remarriage in 2005 than in 1936, when Edward VIII abdicated to marry the twice-divorced Wallis Simpson, but Charles’s position as the future Supreme Governor of the Church of England made the marriage a focus of public scrutiny and questions were raised about whether this union undermined his position as a future monarch. When Charles and Camilla’s engagement was announced, Rose wrote in his diary, “It certainly will not strengthen the monarchy,” and “Press comment extends from the mildly approving to the vindictively hostile.”52 The announcement of a civil ceremony and the eventual titles of Duchess of Cornwall then Princess Consort for Camilla appeared to confirm that Charles and Camilla’s marriage would differ from the unions of previous heirs to the throne. The Times reported at the time of Charles and Camilla’s engagement, “Mrs. Parker Bowles will be known as Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall. When Prince Charles eventually succeeds his mother, she will become the Princess consort.” After more than a decade of marriage, however, all mention of Camilla as a future princess consort rather than queen consort was removed from the Clarence House website and there was widespread speculation that Camilla would eventually become queen. On 5 February 2022, the day before the 70th anniversary of her accession to the throne, Elizabeth II made an official statement where she expressed a “dearest wish” that Camilla would one day be known as queen consort. When Charles III succeeded to the throne on 8 September 2022, Camilla became queen, a status confirmed in the new King’s first televised address where he stated that Camilla was now his Queen Consort in recognition of her public service in the seventeen years since their marriage. Following the controversial circumstances of Charles and Camilla’s relationship and wedding, Camilla gradually became one of the central 51  Christopher Morgan and Nicholas Hellen, “Charles Must Apologize for Adultery, Says Top Bishop,” The Sunday Times, 27 March 2005, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ charles-must-apologise-for-adultery-says-top-bishop-slwvh6sps86. 52  Thorpe, The Journals of Kenneth Rose, 2:391.



figures within the royal family. Camilla’s age, which the tabloid press had once mocked, helped her to relate to older people in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. Her decades of life experience outside the royal family allow her to connect with women from a variety of social backgrounds and to advocate for vulnerable women and children. Camilla is patron or president of over 100 charities with a focus on health, literacy, supporting the elderly, empowering women, and helping victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.53 While some of these causes have long been the focus of royal philanthropy, Camilla’s work on behalf of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, recognising the need to “pull back the shroud of silence,” reflects the changing attitudes towards women and their roles in the family and society over the course of her lifetime.54 Camilla’s very presence in the royal family was a feminist statement to some observers. Canadian journalist and author Elizabeth Renzetti observed in 2005, “She can be queen in the hearts of all the fiftysomething women around the world who might ditch their plastic-surgery gift certificates and Spanx, secure in the knowledge that some middle-aged men actually like middle-aged women’s bodies.”55 Even Camilla’s fashion sense received more favourable reviews in the press as a wave of “Camilla chic” followed her wedding to Charles, bringing tweed skirts and riding boots into fashion.56 During a visit to Canada, a member of the public described Camilla as “charming and personable.”57 By the time Charles’s eldest son Prince William married Catherine Middleton in 2011, Camilla’s senior role in the royal family was widely accepted by the public and her profile would continue to expand in the second decade of the twenty-first century.

53  “HRH The Duchess of Cornwall,” https://www.princeofwales.gov.uk/biographies/ hrh-duchess-cornwall. 54  “A Speech by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall to the CHOGM Women’s Forum,” 18 April 2018, https://www.princeofwales.gov.uk/speech/speech-hrh-duchess-cornwallchogm-womens-forum. 55  Elizabeth Renzetti, “Channeling Camilla,” The Globe and Mail, 5 March 2005, L1. 56  Stefanie Marsh, “A touch of down home Camilla chic,” The Times, 3 November 2005, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/a-touch-of-down-home-camilla-chic-zft7mdq9p3p. 57  Rosie DiManno, “Camilla Finds Roots and Fans at Dundurn Castle,” The Toronto Star, 5 November 2009, https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2009/11/05/dimanno_ camilla_finds_roots_mdash_and_fans_mdash_at_dundurn_castle.html.



The Duchess of Cambridge On 29 April 2011, Prince William and Catherine Middleton were married at Westminster Abbey. The choice of the location followed twentieth-­ century royal tradition, as William’s great-grandparents and grandparents—the future George VI and Queen Elizabeth and the future Elizabeth II and Prince Philip—were married there in 1923 and 1947, respectively. The presence of European royalty and Commonwealth Heads of Government and Governors General among the 1900 guests reflected William’s place in the succession as second-in-line to the throne  at the time.58 There were additions to the guest list, however, that reflected how William and Catherine’s union bore more similarities to the marriages of members of the wider public than any previous royal union. They invited people whom they had previously dated as well as friends from the University of St Andrews, where they had met and lived together in a student flat during the early years of their relationship. The guest list also included the proprietors of shops and pubs where William and Catherine spent time during visits to the Middleton family home in Bucklebury.59 Public opinion concerning Catherine was almost universally positive at the time of her wedding and she received glowing press coverage. After the royal scandals of the 1990s, the wedding of William and Catherine appeared to symbolise a new beginning for the royal family. Like Camilla, however, Catherine experienced intense press scrutiny prior to her engagement, and her transition to royal life provoked debate concerning the class system in the United Kingdom, the public image of the royal family, and the example that she set for other women of her generation. Catherine Elizabeth Middleton was born on 9 January 1982, the eldest of the three children of Michael Middleton and Carole Goldsmith, a former airline dispatcher and stewardess, respectively, who eventually started a children’s party supply company called Party Pieces. While Michael was the grandson of wool manufacturing heiress Olive Lupton and inherited part of a trust established by her father for her descendants, Carole’s origins were working-class, antecedents that would be heavily scrutinised by 58  Lee-Anne Goodman, “Queen’s wedding toast brims with wit,” The Globe and Mail, 10 April 2005, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/queens-wedding-toastbrims-with-wit/article1116685/. 59  Simon Walters and Amanda Perthen, “Invasion of Kate’s Bucklebury Bunch,” The Mail on Sunday, 27 February 2011, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1361070/KateMiddletons-Bucklebury-Bunch-Royal-wedding-Berkshire-village-affair.html.



the press.60 Like Camilla, Catherine would not have been considered a suitable future queen consort in past centuries. Although Michael and Carole Middleton became self-made millionaires through their online business, they were considered middle-class in the United Kingdom, a description of their social position that rarely appeared in Commonwealth press coverage of Catherine and the Middleton family. There had not been a marriage between someone so close to the throne and a woman from a middle-class background since the future James II & VII married the already-pregnant Anne Hyde in 1660. Although societal attitudes had changed by the twenty-first century, there were persistent rumours during William and Catherine’s relationship that the Middletons, especially Carole, were considered unsuitable by William’s social circle. When William and Catherine’s relationship briefly ended in 2007, members of the press suspected that Catherine’s mother had undermined her daughter’s chance to marry a prince by chewing gum in front of the royal family.61 This coverage prompted a wider debate about the place of social class in twenty-first century British society and the subtle social cues that continue to designate members of the upper classes, including language and manners.62 In common with Elizabeth Woodville during the Wars of the Roses and Anne Boleyn in the Tudor period, there was speculation that Catherine was a social climber with ambitious relatives. The press declared that the British upper class had nicknamed Catherine and her sister Philippa “the wisteria sisters,” after a decorative plant with a tendency to climb, and there were articles presenting Catherine’s relationship with William as the triumph of the “upper Middleton class,” whose ambitious mothers were determined to see them succeed.63 60  For more about Catherine’s family and education, see: Katie Nicholl, Kate: The Future Queen (New York: Weinstein Books, 2013) and Claudia Joseph, Kate: Kate Middleton, Princess in Waiting (New York: Harper Collins, 2009). 61  “Kate’s Mum: The Rise and Fall of Carole Middleton,” The Week, 16 November 2010, https://www.theweek.co.uk/people-news/9869/kates-mum-rise-and-fall-carole-middleton. 62  Kim Murphy, “Failed romance a lesson in class,” Los Angeles Times, 18 April 2007, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2007-apr-18-fg-class18-story.html. 63  Laura Collins and Louise Hannah, “As Kate Re-Emerges More Tanned and Confident, A New Middleton Girl Takes a Bow,” The Daily Mail, 27 May 2007, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-457874/As-Kate-emerges-tanned-confident-new-Middletongirl-takes-bow.html; and Tina Gaudoin, “How Duchess Kate Imploded the Class System and Gave Rise to a New Kind of Brit,” Town and Country, 29 July 2015, https://www. townandcountrymag.com/society/tradition/a3476/how-kate-middleton-imploded-thebritish-class-system-and-heralded-the-rise-of-a-brand-new-social-stratum/.



In a single generation, the educational and professional expectations for British women from wealthy families had undergone a transformation. Diana left secondary school without qualifications while Camilla earned a single O-Level (modern-day GCSE). By contrast, Catherine graduated from the University of St Andrews with a degree in the history of art, writing her undergraduate dissertation on the photography of Lewis Carroll.64 Catherine’s education was clearly important for her family. She attended independent schools throughout her childhood, including St Andrew’s School, Downe House School, and Marlborough College, where she became captain of the field hockey team. Societal change concerning women’s education and professional aspirations informed some of the earliest criticism of Catherine Middleton. While Camilla’s decision not to attend university and to work intermittently in temporary secretarial positions until her first marriage was not unusual in the 1960s, Catherine’s apparent focus on her relationship with William, rather than a career, seemed old-fashioned in the twenty-first century. She first attempted to start an online children’s clothing line, then worked as an accessory buyer for the Jigsaw clothing brand before becoming a photographer for her parents’ company.65 Royal biographers have speculated that Catherine’s apparent lack of long-term employment was a matter of concern for the palace.66 Her priorities were more widely scrutinised in the context of changing  attitudes towards women balancing personal and professional lives. British economist Alison Wolf observed, “A good (and expensive) private school, good grades, a good university and a good degree had produced someone with an evident willingness, indeed enthusiasm, for life as a supportive wife.”67 Although William and Catherine quickly resumed their relationship in 2007, they did not become engaged until 2010 and Catherine was nicknamed “Waity Katie” by the press, implying that she had few aspirations beyond marriage to William. These types of critiques still occasionally appear in biographies of the younger members of the

64  Anne Quito, “Kate Middleton is about to debut as an art curator,” Quartz, 18 February 2018, https://qz.com/quartzy/1210212/kate-middleton-is-about-to-debut-as-an-art-curator/. 65  “Kate Middleton Quits Her Day Job at Party Pieces,” The Huffington Post, 24 January 2011, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/kate-middleton-quits-her-_n_813044. 66  Christopher Andersen, William and Kate: A Royal Love Story (London: Gallery Books, 2011), 264. 67  Alison Wolf, The XX Factor: How the Rise of Working Women Has Created a Far Less Equal World (London: Allen Lane, 2013), 16.



royal family. Historian Robert Lacey wrote in a 2020 book that Catherine was determined to lead William “in handcuffs to the altar.”68 The marriage of William and Catherine received a wave of positive press coverage, increasing the public profile of the monarchy among younger people. Catherine’s public image, however, was critiqued by high-profile female authors in both the United Kingdom and Canada. While Camilla had seemed unpolished during her relationship with Charles, some claimed that Catherine appeared too controlled and perfect during her public appearances as Duchess of Cambridge. In 2013, Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall, analysed Catherine’s image in a public lecture, stating, “Kate Middleton, as she was, appeared to have been designed by a committee and built by craftsmen, with a perfect plastic smile and the spindles of her limbs hand-turned and gloss-varnished.”69 Mantel’s comments were gleefully taken up by the press and prompted a rebuttal from British Prime Minister David Cameron, who stated, “We should be proud of [Catherine], rather than make these rather misguided remarks.”70 Catherine’s fashions, which are usually admired today, were also a focus of critique in the early years of her marriage. Photographs of her skirts and hair blowing upwards in the wind during Commonwealth tours prompted advice that she should use curtain weights in her hems and adopt a different hairstyle.71 Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, doubted that she would be a fashion icon on the level of her late mother-­ in-­law, Diana. In a discussion about fashion and fiction at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2015, Atwood stated, “[She is] watching her back. I think she probably has people who pretty much tell her what is appropriate for her to wear. I don’t think she’s become the fashion plate that Diana was, and I think she’s probably doing that advisedly,” comments that were defended by the leading Canadian women’s magazine, Chatelaine.72 The 68  Robert Lacey, Battle of Brothers: William, Harry and the Inside Story of a Family in Tumult (New York: Harper Collins, 2020), 202. 69  Hilary Mantel, “Royal Bodies,” London Review of Books, 21 February 2013, https:// www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v35/n04/hilary-mantel/royal-bodies. 70  “Cameron Defends Kate Over Mantel Comments,” BBC News, 19 February 2013, https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-21502937. 71   Patricia Treble, “Will Kate Ever Learn to Avoid ‘Marilyn Monroe’ Moments?”, Maclean’s, 11 April 2016, https://www.macleans.ca/society/will-kate-ever-learn-toavoid-marilyn-monroe-moments/. 72  Rachel Giese, “Margaret Atwood is Right About Kate Middleton: She’s No Fashion Plate,” Chatelaine, 9 April 2015, https://www.chatelaine.com/style/margaret-atwood-is-rightabout-kate-middleton-shes-no-fashion-plate/.



transition from a private person to a future queen was a complicated one for Catherine as she made efforts to blend traditional expectations of royal women with the changing role of women in the twenty-first century. After ten years of marriage and three children—Prince George (born 2013), Princess Charlotte (born 2015), and Prince Louis (born 2018)— the degree of press criticism directed towards Catherine during her long relationship with William has largely been forgotten. The marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018 introduced a new royal spouse as the target of scrutiny and the wider conversation about British press coverage of the royal family shifted from a focus on social class to a focus on race. Numerous articles compared the positive coverage of Catherine to the criticisms of Meghan within the context of similar issues such as pregnancy, motherhood, and public engagements. When Harry and Meghan moved from Kensington Palace to Frogmore Cottage on the Windsor Castle estate, there was speculation about conflict between Catherine and Meghan. In her 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan deplored the widespread rumours of a feud between herself and her sister-­in-­law, stating, “they really seemed to want a narrative of a hero and a villain” and described Catherine as “a good person.”73 This interview, and a subsequent episode of the mental health advocacy documentary The Me You Can’t See, featuring and co-produced by Prince Harry, made clear that the central conflict within the royal family was between Harry and his father and brother, rather than their spouses. While Harry and Meghan have started a new life in California, where they do not represent the royal family in their public appearances, Catherine has slowly increased her profile over the course of her marriage, working closely with other members of the royal family, including Camilla.

Camilla and Catherine The longevity of twentieth- and early twenty-first-century royal consorts meant that, from the reign of George V to the reign of Elizabeth II, there were often multiple generations of the royal family undertaking public engagements at the same time. As Sarah Betts discusses in her chapter on the Windsor consorts, George V’s widow Queen Mary was active 73  “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Make Stunning Claims in New Interview,” CNN Transcripts, 8 March 2021, http://www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/2103/08/nday.01.html.



throughout the reign of her son George VI, and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was a beloved public figure until her death in 2002, the same year as her daughter Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. The royal consorts were photographed together on key royal occasions such as christenings, weddings, and funerals, but they pursued different philanthropic interests and usually engaged with the public on separate occasions associated with their charities, patronages, and overseas tours. In contrast, Camilla and Catherine often undertake joint philanthropic engagements, emphasising their shared interest in the welfare of vulnerable women and children, innovative use of twenty-first-century technology to connect with the public, and the continuity represented by multiple generations of consorts. The united front presented by Camilla and Catherine in their public engagements during the COVID-19 pandemic prompted discussion of how these women came to successfully inhabit the roles of royal consorts when numerous other women who married into the royal family in recent decades ultimately stepped back from royal duties or saw their marriages end in divorce.74 Camilla’s admirers have praised her sense of humour and her efforts to create a positive rapport with the press in spite of the negative coverage that she received when her relationship with Charles first came to public attention. Prince Philip’s biographers, Ingrid Seward and Gyles Brandreth, respectively, noted that Philip approved of Catherine because he was “relieved to find her such a level-headed girl” and “she’s a little bit more of an old-fashioned girl,” content to support William in his public role rather than compete with him for press attention.75 The ability to complement rather than outshine their spouses in their public role, to present a sympathetic and relatable image to the public, and to withstand intense press scrutiny until new royal spouses became the focus of this 74  In January 2020, both the Queen’s grandson Peter Phillips and nephew the Earl of Snowdon announced the end of their respective marriages. That same month, Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, famously stepped back from their duties as senior members of the royal family and left the United Kingdom for Canada and then the United States. 75  See: Emily Ferguson, “Prince Philip’s subtle dig at Princess Diana as late Duke praised ‘level-headed’ Kate,” The Express, 15 July 2021, https://www.express.co.uk/news/ royal/1461944/kate-middleton-news-princess-diana-popularity-celebrity-status-princephilip-royal-family; and Myriam Toua, “Prince Philip adores Kate Middleton because she’s ‘more old fashioned’ than Meghan Markle,” The Express, 22 November 2020, https://www. express.co.uk/news/royal/1362960/prince-philip-adores-kate-middleton-old-fashionedmeghan-markle-royal-family-EVG.



attention was central to the transition of both Camilla and Catherine from outsiders to senior members of the royal family. Camilla and Catherine have succeeded in connecting with the public by sharing personal experiences that overlap with wider societal trends— whether social distancing from friends and family during a pandemic or supporting their spouses in difficult circumstances. In the private sphere, both Camilla and Catherine have maintained spaces where they can achieve a degree of distance from the rigid structure of royal life. Camilla retained Ray Mill House after her marriage, keeping the home as a private retreat away from her official life. Catherine remains close with her family and continues to vacation with her parents and spend part of the holiday season with them. In public, however, they have avoided making critical comments concerning their lives behind palace doors. They have carefully presented themselves as not only senior members of the royal family but also as relatable figures who draw upon their own experiences to connect with people from a variety of social backgrounds. Royal consorts in subsequent generations will likely seek to achieve a similar balance.

The Future of the Royal Consort If Prince George shares the longevity of his great-grandparents, he may be the sovereign who leads the monarchy into the twenty-second century. The evolution of the monarchy over the next eighty years and beyond is difficult to predict, and prominent scholars and commentators have expressed doubt that the monarchy will survive in the United Kingdom and especially the Commonwealth for long after the reign of Elizabeth II. Once married into the royal family, the consort of a future monarch, male or female, will face greater media scrutiny and a busier schedule of public engagements than many of their predecessors, but perhaps a diminishing amount of overseas travel. In 2021, there were just eight working members of the royal family  apart from the Queen’s elderly cousins: Elizabeth II; Charles and Camilla; William and Catherine; Anne, Princess Royal; and Edward and Sophie, Earl and Countess of Wessex. The death of Elizabeth II on 8 September  2022, while this book was in the final stages of production,  reduced that number to seven.  The twenty-first-­ century royal family will be much more streamlined than in the past, an approach also taken by other European royal houses, which allows junior members of the royal family to pursue their own careers and limits the



impact of any controversial behaviour within the extended royal family on the reputation of the monarchy as an institution. Perhaps the most enduring legacy of the transformation of Camilla and Catherine from controversial future consorts to respected members of the royal family is the end to the practice of marriage between British and European royal houses, more than a century after George V expanded the definition of the ideal royal consort by allowing his children to marry into the British aristocracy. Despite a few headlines around the world declaring “Prince George’s future wife is born” when Princess Leonor of Sweden was born in 2014, there is little contact between British and European royalty outside of official engagements. The great-grandchildren of Elizabeth II do not have foreign royalty among their known godparents, and they have few opportunities to socialise with other royal children of their own generation. In the post-Brexit United Kingdom, a marriage between Prince George and a European princess might prove as contentious as the prospect of a divorced or untitled consort in previous generations.


A Addison, Joseph, 30, 32, 35–37, 41 Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, queen consort to William IV attendance at the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, 105 attitudes towards political reform and the Reform Act 1832, 100–102 coronation, 100 death, 108 education and upbringing, 91–92 funeral and burial, 109 health, 90, 92, 104, 108 illness, 94–95, 99, 104, 108 income and jointure, 93, 98, 99, 104 marriage negotiations, 93 miscarriages, 95, 97 motherhood and pregnancies, 90, 94–97

political views in conflict with those of Queen Victoria, 19, 106–107, 109–110 relationship with husband, 99–100, 101, 102 relationship with Queen Victoria after her accession, 90, 103–110 relationship with Queen Victoria prior to her accession, 90, 95, 97–98, 100, 102–103 relationship with the Duchess of Kent, 90, 95, 100, 102–104 religious views, 91, 97, 100, 105, 146 support for the Tory party, 100–102, 106–107 wedding, 93–94 widowhood, 104, 150

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.


© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 A. Norrie et al. (eds.), Hanoverian to Windsor Consorts, Queenship and Power, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-12829-5




Adolphus (Dolly), Duke of Teck (later Cambridge), 191 Adolphus Frederick IV, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, 45, 64, 69 Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Prince Consort to Queen Victoria British Empire and, 16, 119–121, 123–126, 130–131 compared to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, 9, 245 1851 Great Exhibition, 9, 16, 19, 111, 113, 118–122 intellectual interests, 122 marriage to Queen Victoria, 7, 17, 115–116 masculinity, 151, 152 relationship with his children, 7, 16, 17, 116 relationship with Queen Adelaide, 105–106 wedding, 105, 115 Albert Victor (Duke of Clarence and Avondale), 179, 193, 194, 207 Albertopolis, 122, 130 Alexander (Alge), Prince of Teck, later Earl of Athlone, 191n5 Alexandra of Denmark, queen consort to Edward VII carte de visite, 166, 175 childhood, 167 coronation, 180–184 death, 186 fancy dress, 175–176 marriage, 172, 173, 178 motherhood, 16, 174–175, 179 Princess of Wales, 172–174, 179 as Queen Mother, 186, 258, 260, 261 relationship with husband, 162, 172–173, 175, 178–179, 186 tailoring, 177–178 wardrobe dispersal, 186

wedding, 171 wedding dress, 171 widowhood, 258 Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, 29, 52, 116, 121, 127–129 Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse-­ Darmstadt, 116, 235 Amelia, daughter of George II and Caroline of Ansbach, 23, 52 Anne, daughter of George II and Caroline of Ansbach, 23 Anne, Queen of Great Britain, 2, 23, 112n2, 152, 159 Arthur, Duke of Connaught, 116 Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, Princess of Wales, 25, 45, 47 Augusta, Duchess of Mecklenburg-­ Strelitz, 193 Austin, William, 74, 79, 86 B Bach, Johann Christian, 52, 60 Beatrice, Princess Henry of Battenberg, 116, 269 Bedchamber Crisis, 106, 115, 116 Beechey, William, 64, 65 Bentley Priory, 108 Berlin, 22 Bowes-Lyon, Lady Elizabeth, see Elizabeth (Bowes-Lyon), queen consort to George VI Brereton, Jane, 40 Brougham, William, 81, 83, 84 Buckingham House (Queen’s House), 53, 57, 63 Buckingham Palace, 104, 150, 172n19, 208, 223, 224, 239, 241, 247, 258, 260, 263, 265, 271, 280 Burney, Frances, 50, 63, 64 Bushy House, 96, 98, 104


C Camilla (nee Shand, and Parker Bowles), Duchess of Cornwall, queen consort to Charles III charity work, 298 children, 287, 288 COVID-19 Pandemic, 280, 281, 283, 298 Duchess of Cornwall, 291 early life, 285–286 family, 278–281, 285–287, 292 marriage to Andrew Parker Bowles (1973), 286, 287 marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales (2005), 163, 291 public engagements, 163, 278, 280, 298 public image, 278, 289, 291 relationship with Charles, Prince of Wales, 286, 288, 289, 291 royal tours, 298 Canada, 43, 119, 127, 128, 197, 197n29, 198, 222, 241, 292, 296, 298n74 Caroline, daughter of George II and Caroline of Ansbach, 47 Caroline of Ansbach, queen consort to George II arrival in Britain, 138–139 birth, 22 coronation, 26 cultural interests and patronage, 18, 27–34 death, 28 early life at German courts, 22–23, 30 library, 29–32 marriage, 23 motherhood, 23–25, 35–37, 39–41; depiction of in literature, 32–34, 37–41


political influence, 15, 25–27, 41, 147 refuses an offer of marriage from the future Holy Roman Emperor, 23, 24 regency, 18, 26, 38, 41, 147 Caroline of Brunswick, queen consort to George IV arrival in Britain, 71 death, 85–86 declining popularity, 84–85 early life, 68–69, 73 first meeting with the Prince of Wales, 71 funeral, 86 liturgy, inclusion in, 77 marriage, 71–72, 140 press coverage, 73, 75–76, 83–85 radical movement and, 18, 75, 84, 87 relationship with her daughter, Princess Charlotte, 72, 75, 76, 142 separation, 73–74 wedding, 71–72 Carter, Elizabeth, 40, 41 Catherine (Middleton), Duchess of Cambridge, Princess of Wales charity work, 284, 298 children, 281–283 COVID-19 Pandemic, 280–283, 298 early life, 283, 293–295 education, 295 family, 163, 278–283, 285, 294, 299 marriage to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, 5, 293 public engagements, 280, 283, 298 public image, 283, 295–297 relationship with Prince William, 292, 295–296



Charles II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, 64 Charles III, King of the United Kingdom birth, 225, 241 children, 6, 287 early life, 225 marriage to Camilla Parker-Bowles (2005), 290–291 marriage to Diana Spencer (1981), 5, 229, 250–251, 287 public image, 289 relationship with Camilla Parker-­ Bowles, 286–290 relationship with grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, 267 succession, 291 Charles Louis Frederick, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, 45 Charlotte, Princess of Clarence, 94 Charlotte, Princess of Wales, 41 Charlotte, Princess Royal, Queen of Württemberg, 52 Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, queen consort to George III appearance, 48–50 arrival in Britain, 48, 57 birth, 45 caricature, 50 character, 43–44, 53 collections, 52, 59–61, 63–64 coronation, 49, 50 correspondence, 64 cultural patronage, 59–61 death, 64 domestic life, 52–57 education, 46 marriage to George III, 48 motherhood, 51–53 portraits, 8, 50, 53–57 in print culture, 50 reading, 52, 63

religious views, 13–14, 46 upbringing, 46 wedding, 48 Clarence House, 228, 241, 281, 290, 291, 299 Clarke, Samuel, 27, 28, 30 Cockburn, Catharine, 39, 40 Cole, Henry, 118 Conroy, Sir John, 1st Baronet, 96, 102 Coronations 1911, 130, 201 1952, 130 1937, 105, 262, 263, 270 1902, 182, 263, 269 Counsellors of State, 163, 272, 273 Court circular, 175 Curzon, Mary, 181 Curzon-Howe, Richard, Earl Howe, Lord Chamberlain to Queen Adelaide, 101 D Delany, Mary, 52, 59 Delhi Durbar (1911), 162, 199, 201 Denmark, 4, 6, 158–160, 166, 168, 182, 216, 225, 235, 258 Diana, Princess of Wales, 161, 229, 268, 284 Dresden, 22 Duck, Stephen, 34, 38–41 E Edward VII, King of the United Kingdom coronation, 180, 201 death, 201 marriage, 215 as Prince of Wales, 190, 197 relationship with parents, 157


Edward VIII, King of the United Kingdom abdication, 206, 219 accession, 201, 258 and morganatic marriage proposal, 191, 270 as Prince of Wales, 219, 291 and Wallis Simpson, 206, 220, 222, 270, 291 Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, 93, 127n48 Elizabeth I, Queen of England, 23, 28, 36, 40, 41, 266 Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom coronation, 209, 226, 242, 263 death, 6, 299 Diamond Jubilee (2012), 252 and funeral of Prince Philip, 277 and gender roles, 244, 266 Golden Jubilee (2002), 252 Golden Wedding Anniversary (1997), 251 marriage, 160, 233, 271 and Perth Agreement (2011), 4–6 relationship with daughter-in-law, Queen Camilla, 291 relationship with grandmother (Queen Mary), 161, 207–209, 260, 263 relationship with mother (Queen Elizabeth), 161, 226, 228, 230, 266 succession, 130, 209, 226, 241 Elizabeth (Bowes-Lyon), queen consort to George VI birth, 212 and comparison with Wallis Simpson, 222 coronation, 221, 270 death, 211, 225, 230, 266, 298 as Duchess of York, 218–220


and First World War, 214–215 funeral, 230 as a grandmother, 225 marriage, 161, 222 popularity, 211–212, 217–218, 223–225, 227–231, 298 as Queen Mother, 161, 211–212 and Second World War, 8, 223–226, 265 wedding, 218 Elizabeth, Princess of Clarence, 96–97, 109 Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, 105, 114 F Fénelon, François, 52, 55 First World War, 160, 193, 201–205, 208 Fitzherbert, Maria, 62, 69, 72 Florschütz, Christopher, 114, 115 Fox, Charles James, 61 Frederick, Prince of Wales, 15, 15n5, 26 Friedrich III, Elector of Brandenburg, later King in Prussia, 22 G Gainsborough, Thomas, 52, 57, 60 Gay, John, 33, 35 Genzmer, Gottlob Burchard, 46 George I, King of Great Britain, 3, 21, 24, 26, 36, 137 George II, King of Great Britain, 13, 14, 15n5, 18, 21, 23, 26, 31, 47, 134, 137, 141, 147 death, 31, 47



George III, King of Great Britain caricature, 18 coronation, 49 death, 77 defence of Queen Caroline, 81 domestic life, 7, 53, 56 marriage, 13, 47, 50–51, 57 mental illness, 51, 61–62 patronage, 32, 53, 60 relationship with children, 52–53 and Royal Marriages Act (1772), 3, 14, 52 wedding, 48 George IV, King of the United Kingdom coronation, 85 death, 99 marriage, 15, 18, 67, 71–74, 78, 84 regency, 61–62, 75 wedding, 71–72 George V, King of the United Kingdom coronation, 201–202 death, 205–206, 210, 220 Delhi Durbar (1911), 199–201 illness, 205, 272 marriage, 159, 194–195 relationship with children, 196–197 Silver Jubilee (1935), 205 wedding, 194 George VI, King of the United Kingdom birth, 195 coronation, 105, 221–222 death, 130, 209, 226, 241, 263 domestic image, 264 funeral, 209, 263 marriage, 160, 161, 211 and the marriage of Elizabeth II, 237–238, 240 and Second World War, 223–225 succession, 220–221 wedding, 218, 293 George, Prince, Duke of Kent, 196, 208, 216, 223

George of Denmark, consort to Queen Anne, 6, 112n2, 152, 243, 271 Grabow, Friedricke Elisabeth von, 46 Great Exhibition of 1851, 9, 16, 19, 111, 113, 118 Grey, Charles, Earl Grey, Prime Minister, 100–102 H Hampton Court, 28, 96 Handel, George Frideric, 25, 28, 30, 60, 138 Hanover, 3, 15, 18, 21, 23, 24, 26, 29, 31, 47–49, 83, 94, 98, 137, 139, 143, 147 Hanoverian succession, 2, 21, 22, 239 Harcourt, Elizabeth, Countess of Harcourt, 57 Harcourt, George Simon, Earl of Harcourt, 48 Helena, Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, 116 Henrietta Maria of France (queen consort to Charles I), 3 Henry, Duke of Sussex (Prince Harry), 287, 297, 298n74 Hermitage, the, 28, 39, 40, 40n52 Hervey, Lord, vice chamberlain to Queen Caroline, 26, 27 HMS Ophir, 197–199 Howard, Henrietta, 33, 37 I Ida of Saxe-Meiningen, Duchess of Saxe-Weimar, 91, 92, 98, 109 J James Francis Edward Stuart, 24 Jersey, Frances, Lady, 70–73 Johann Friedrich, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, 22


K Karl, Archduke of Austria, later Holy Roman Emperor, 23 Kauffmann, Angelica, 60–61 Kensington Palace, 25, 95, 103, 297 Kew Palace, 53, 64, 94 Knollys, Charlotte, 181 Koh-I-Noor Diamond, 270 L La Fite, Marie Elisabeth de, 59 Lamb, William, Viscount Melbourne, Prime Minister, 15, 69, 101, 102, 105, 115, 116 Lawrence, Thomas, 62 Leibniz, Gottfried, 22, 23, 27, 29, 30, 41 Leicester House, 25 Leopold I, King of the Belgians, 114 Leopold, Prince, Duke of Albany, 116 London, 9, 25, 30, 47, 48, 58, 94–96, 119, 122, 130, 135–139, 152, 153, 173, 178, 181, 206, 208, 209, 212, 213, 223, 224, 241, 283, 285–287 Louisa, daughter of George II and Caroline of Ansbach, 25, 28 Louise, Princess of Saxe-Weimar, 109 Louise, Princess, Duchess of Argyll, 116 M Magdalen Hospital, 58 Male consorts, 6, 16, 112, 146, 147, 152, 163, 233, 234, 243, 245, 253, 266–269, 274 Malmesbury, James Harris, Earl of, 70 Margaret, Princess, Countess of Snowdon, 208, 219, 226, 227, 228, 230, 242, 263, 273


Maria Feodorovna, Empress of Russia (Princess Dagmar of Denmark), 167, 178 Marie Louise, Princess of Schleswig-­ Holstein, 192, 209, 210 Marlborough House, 104, 172, 174, 179, 180, 208, 258 Mary II, Queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 36 Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, Princess, Duchess of Teck, 159 Mary, daughter of George II and Caroline of Ansbach, 23 Mary of Teck, queen consort to George V and the abdication crisis, 206–207 and the accession of Elizabeth II, 209 children, 195–196 coronation, 201–202 death, 209 Delhi Durbar (1911), 162, 199–201 early life, 191–193 engagement to Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, 179, 190–191, 193–194 First World War, 193, 203, 259–260 funeral, 209 and the funeral of George VI, 209, 263 as a grandmother, 207–209, 260, 263 legacy, 210 marriage to the future George V, 194 as a mother, 195–197, 206–207 and the 1937 coronation, 105, 207, 262–263 as Princess of Wales, 195–197 as queen dowager, 205–209 Second World War, 208 Silver Jubilee (1935), 205 travel, 194, 197–201



Mary, Princess Royal, Countess of Harewood, 195–196 Meghan (Markle), Duchess of Sussex, 252, 279, 297, 298n74 Merlin’s Cave, 28, 38–40 Middleton, Catherine, see Catherine (Middleton), Duchess of Cambridge, Princess of Wales Milan Commission, 76, 77, 82 Molesworth, Robert, 32 Monck, Mary, 32 Moser, Mary, 52, 61 Mountbatten, Lord Louis, 160, 203, 236–239, 243, 244, 287 N Napoleonic Wars, 44, 62, 92 O Oldfield, Anne, 31, 32 P Pageantry, 134, 135, 138–140, 142, 144, 153 Papendiek, Charlotte Louisa Henrietta, 62 Parker Bowles, Camilla, see Camilla (nee Shand, and Parker Bowles), Duchess of Cornwall, queen consort to Charles III Peel, Sir Robert, 2nd Baronet, Prime Minister, 106, 107 Percy, Charlotte (née Clive), Duchess of Northumberland, 102 Philip, Prince, Duke of Edinburgh, consort to Elizabeth II anglicisation, 239 birth, 235 charities and patronages, 246 childhood, 235–236 controversies, 161, 248

and the COVID-19 pandemic, 252 courtship of Princess Elizabeth, 237 death, 252 and Diana, Princess of Wales, 250–251, 268 and the dynastic name, 244 engagement, 239 family background, 160, 235–236 fatherhood, 240–241, 244, 250–251 funeral, 252, 257 interest in science and ecology, 247 male consort’s role, 163, 234, 241–245, 253, 267, 273–274 modernising influence, 242, 248–251 naval service, 237, 241 1953 coronation, 7, 233–234, 242–243 overseas tours, 241, 247–248 public perception of, 9, 160–161, 238–239, 245, 248, 251, 253 Regency Act 1953, 242, 273–274 retirement (2017), 246 wedding, 239–240 Pitt, William the Younger, 61 Pope, Alexander, 30 Pope-Hennessy, James, 190 Q Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, 200 Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild, 192 Queen’s Hospital, 58 R Ramsay, Allan, 50, 53 Redfern, John, 178 Reform Act 1832, 18 Regency Regency Act 1811, 62 Regency Act 1910, 272



Regency Act 1937, 273 Regency Act 1953, 273 Regency Bill 1789, 61 Richmond Lodge, 53 Rowe, Nicholas, 31 Royal Academy of Arts, 60 Royal Family documentary (1969), 7 Royal Marriages Act 1772, 3, 14, 52, 69 Royal visits British Empire and Commonwealth; Australia, 4; Canada, 127; India, 1905-6 Royal Tour of India, 199; India, Delhi Durbar (1911), 162, 199; New Zealand, 197; 1901 Royal Tour of British Empire (HMS Ophir), 6, 162; South Africa, 127 The United Kingdom and Hanover; Cheltenham, 142; Derbyshire, 150; Ireland, 137, 143; within London, 137; Portsmouth, 148, 148n37; in the seventeenth century, 13; Scotland, 137, 141, 146; Weymouth, 141

Singh, Duleep, Maharajah, 121, 122, 126 Society for the Abolition for Slavery, 117 Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 111 Society of Arts, 118 Sophia, Electress of Hanover, 2, 3, 22, 23, 27, 239, 275 Sophie Charlotte, Electress of Brandenburg, later Queen in Prussia, 22, 23, 27 South Kensington Museum, 122 Spencer, Diana (Princess of Wales), 5, 229, 231, 250, 287 death, 229 Star of India, 126 Stockmar, Baron, 115, 128 Stuart, John, Earl of Bute, 47 Swift, Jonathan, 33

S St Katherine’s Hospital, 58 St. James’s Palace, 48, 53, 139n12 Chapel Royal, 48, 71, 105, 115 Savage, Richard, 32, 39 Scotland, 2, 6, 36, 136, 146, 219, 226, 236, 286 Second World War, 8, 160, 162, 163, 206–208, 220, 222, 223, 280 Sepoy Mutiny, 124 Simpson, Wallis, Duchess of Windsor and comparison with Queen Elizabeth, 222 and morganatic marriage proposal, 159 and objections to marriage, 222

U United States of America (USA), 127, 222, 236, 249, 298n74

T Tory political party, 15, 25, 34, 36, 75, 100–101, 106–107, 110 Treason, 70, 78

V Victoire of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Duchess of Kent relationship with Queen Adelaide, 95, 97, 102, 104 relationship with William IV, 90, 100, 102, 103 relationship with Queen Victoria, 105 wedding, 94–95 Victoria, Princess Royal, Empress of Germany, 16, 150



Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom Bedchamber Crisis, 106, 115, 116 and the British Empire, 113–114, 123, 125 coronation, 105 and death of Queen Adelaide, 108 domestic image, 7, 144–145, 153 and the Kooh-i-Noor diamond, 120–122 marriage, 8–9, 17, 115–116, 135 political views in conflict with those of Queen Adelaide, 106–107, 109–110 relationship with Queen Adelaide after her accession, 103–104, 105, 106–107, 108–110 relationship with Queen Adelaide prior to her accession, 95, 97–98, 100, 102–103 relationship with Queen Alexandra, 167, 168, 170–174, 178, 182 succession, 103, 115 upbringing, 95, 102–103 wedding, 105, 115, 171 Voltaire, 27, 46 W Walpole, Horace, 47–50 Walpole, Robert, 15, 25, 26, 33 Wellesley, Arthur, Duke of Wellington, Prime Minister, 99, 100, 102, 107, 121 West, Benjamin, 54, 60 Westminster Abbey, 28, 49, 85, 100, 105, 143, 182, 183, 218, 230, 239, 242, 243, 293

Whig political party, 15, 25, 26, 32–36, 41, 73, 84, 90, 100–103, 106, 110 William III, King of England, Ireland, and Scotland, 143 William IV, King of the United Kingdom accession, 99, 102 death, 103 funeral and burial, 104 as Lord High Admiral, 99, 148 marriage negotiations, 92–94 political views, 100–102 Reform Act (1832), 101–102 relationship with the Duchess of Kent, 90, 100, 102–103 wedding, 93–94 William, Duke of Cambridge, Prince of Wales birth, 287 children, 282–283, 297 marriage to Catherine Middleton, 5, 293, 296 relationship with Catherine Middleton, 5, 294–296 Windsor Frogmore, 60, 297 Queen’s Lodge, 53 St George’s Chapel, 97, 98, 171, 186, 230, 252, 277, 290 Windsor Castle, 53, 62, 63, 97, 98, 103, 104, 117, 126, 150, 170n16, 171, 186, 224, 252, 290, 297 Z Ziesenis, Johann Georg, 48 Zoffany, Johann, 54, 60