Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz lived a fairytale-like life. No one expected much from her, not even herself, until destiny whisked her off to become the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. This is where the fairytale ends and real life begins, however. Marked by a series of unending tragedies, Charlotte’s life as the Queen was anything but a tale of “happily ever after.”
Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz Facts
1. She Lived In The Boonies
The woman who would become Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz entered life under less-than-royal circumstances. Born on May 19, 1744, young Charlotte’s family ruled over a tiny, backwater duchy in North Germany. The land, called Mecklenburg-Strelitz, lacked the glamor of places like London or Paris. In fact, a visiting prince described Charlotte’s hometown as “little more than a village with a single street in it.”
Despite technically being a princess, Charlotte didn’t have the usual upbringing, or, as she’d soon learn, a more important requirement…
2. She Had Haters
Most people who met Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz weren’t stunned by her beauty—and that’s putting it lightly. Commentators describe her looks as somewhere between passable to downright ugly. People wrote about how her “very large” mouth and delighted in describing her nose as “flat.” Unflattering as these descriptions were, most commentators agreed that Queen Charlotte was lively and had a great sense of humor, which “supplied for these defects” (yeesh!)
3. Her Upbringing Was Surprising
Young Charlotte wasn’t especially learned. Her tutors instructed her a bit in languages, music, botany, and natural history, but the bulk of her education concentrated on household management and religion. In other words, she was basically given lessons in “How to Be a Good Housewife 101.” No one expected her to play much of a part in court—until Queen Charlotte took these expectations and turned them upside-down.
4. She Became Queen
When George III took the British throne on October 25, 1760, everyone held their breath as the newly-crowned king decided on his queen. In a move that shocked everyone, George chose unassuming, humble Charlotte to be his bride. And he didn’t do this out of ignorance, either. You see, George wasn’t looking for a political equal. He actively wanted someone who didn’t have a taste for politics and power, and he thought young, naive Charlotte was perfect for this role.
Just a year later, Charlotte, totally unprepared, became the queen of Great Britain and Ireland.
5. The Odds Were Stacked Against Her
After her family accepted George’s proposal, Charlotte left for England on August 17, 1761. Unfortunately, Charlotte didn’t speak a lick of English, so she had to learn—and fast. On the voyage to her new British digs, Charlotte brought along a harpsichord and practiced performing well-known English songs to get herself started. Even when storms battered the ship, the young queen could be heard practicing. Lesson learned: Don’t underestimate Charlotte.
6. She Was Surprisingly Sassy
The English ladies who accompanied Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz on her journey to England dropped some strong hints about her appearance, suggesting that she’d need to adopt English fashion trends to please her new husband. Upon being told to get a makeover, Charlotte saucily replied, “Let him dress himself as he likes. I’ll dress as I please.” Despite being totally unprepared, Charlotte took the whole “suddenly-becoming-a-Queen” thing in stride… well, until she actually got to England.
7. She Fainted Before The Wedding
The voyage was hard for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, but even when she hit dry land, there was no time to rest. As soon as she landed in Harwich on September 7, Charlotte rushed to London. Along the way, one of the ladies in Charlotte’s carriage revealed the truth about her crunched timeline: It turned out that Charlotte’s marriage was taking place that very day.
Upon hearing the news, the pressure and exhaustion caused poor Charlotte to faint, just as her carriage rolled up to the castle gates.
8. Her First Impression Was Terrible
Charlotte’s ladies quickly revived a miserable and exhausted Charlotte, before ushering her out to greet George and his retinue at the palace gates. The sight of her new hubby and his royal bro-squad completely freaked her out. Charlotte awkwardly tried to kneel before George, who became mortified at her clumsy attempt and stepped in to stop her from embarrassing herself any further.
With that, everyone realized that Charlotte was way in over her head. Unfortunately, it was too late for the new queen to turn back now.
9. She Turned Things Around
After the worst first date in history, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was quickly whisked away to dress for a state dinner. After getting a chance to catch her breath, Charlotte turned on her natural charm, winning over her guests. Even George, who felt more than a bit nervous about his awkward new bride, ended up telling his family that “he already felt a great affection for her.” By the end of the night, Charlotte and George were officially wed, and everyone was happy. Well, almost.
10. She Bucked The Trends
Almost immediately, Charlotte’s actions as the new queen caused a scandal. She and her new husband moved out of St. James’s palace, the traditional home of English monarchs, to the humble Buckingham House. There, the two—gasp!—entertained guests and took walks without guards present. Charlotte’s preference for these simple pleasures drew scandalized looks from her courtiers, and one person, in particular, made Charlotte’s new life downright miserable.
11. Her Mother-In-Law Spied On Her
George’s mother, Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, was a total monster-in-law to poor Charlotte. Augusta hated Charlotte’s casual outlook on court life and insisted on strict, proper court decorum. This meant no more parties and no more walks without guards in tow. To ensure that Charlotte acted like a proper queen, Augusta even appointed spies as members of Charlotte’s staff.
12. Her Friend Took Advantage Of Her
Luckily, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz managed to make some friends in court, but even they caused her a ton of trouble. Juliane von Schwellenberg was a German attendant to Charlotte, and even though she treated her as a close friend and confidante, their relationship had a dark side. Schwellenberg started to screen anyone who wanted to have an audience with the Queen, which gave Schwellenberg a ton of influence in court.
Eventually, news of Schwellenberg’s shenanigans made its way back to a very displeased King George, who lashed out at his wife’s new bestie.
13. They Conspired Against Her
King George initially wanted to kick Schwellenberg out of London entirely, but Charlotte put her foot down, insisting that her friend stayed put. Their disagreement eventually made its way to Charlotte’s mother-in-law Augusta, who declared that Schwellenberg could stay. Surprised? Us too—until we learned about the English court’s seedy underbelly.
14. Her Mother-In-Law Hated Her
Rumor had it that Augusta didn’t let Charlotte’s BFF stay out of the goodness of her heart. Instead, Augusta allegedly controlled Schwellenberg like a puppet on a string. She used Schwellenberg to control Charlotte’s social life—AKA make Charlotte’s life as miserable as possible. Yeah, it’s safe to say that Augusta wasn’t a fan of Queen Charlotte. Thankfully, Charlotte had a trump card that she could use against her meddling mother-in-law.
15. She Was The Perfect Wife
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz took the phrase “an heir and a spare” and really ran with it. On August 12, 1762, she had her first kid, George IV, the Prince of Wales. After that, she basically never stopped having children. She had 14 more kids after the birth of the Prince of Wales and, in a nearly-impossible achievement for the time period, almost all of them survived into adulthood. Everything seemed to be going just fine for Charlotte—until disaster struck.
16. Her Husband Went Insane
In 1765, King George was temporarily struck with a mysterious “mental disorder.” His mother and her associates carefully monitored the ill king—while making sure to keep the full extent of the King’s illness a secret from his own wife, poor Queen Charlotte. The queen, who was beside herself with worry, was often found weeping throughout the palace.
Charlotte’s life was already shaping up to be a Bridgerton-esque soap opera—and then things got even more jaw-dropping.
17. She Could Have Reigned
Government officials knew that the king wasn’t doing so hot and they feared that if he couldn’t rule, the crown would go to his mean mother Augusta. To keep that from happening, politicians banded together to create a bill that said that if King George fell, Queen Charlotte would reign in his place. But there was a big problem with this plan. Well, actually, two big problems.
18. Her Own Family Plotted Against Her
Two of Charlotte’s own sons betrayed her. They hated the idea of their mother ruling and wanted the throne for themselves. The young men demanded that Charlotte would only be a temporary ruler, instead of the true Queen—and evidently, the little brats were convincing. But just as soon as Charlotte’s sons thought they’d rule the roost, everything changed. Their father recovered and the bill got pushed aside.
This kerfuffle tells you a lot about Charlotte’s messed up family dynamics—and unfortunately, things would only get worse.
19. She Lost Her Son
In 1782, tragedy befell Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and her family. Her young son, Prince Alfred, had always been a sickly child, but Charlotte did her best to care for him. Unfortunately, her care wasn’t enough, and his passing on August 20th broke her heart. They buried him in Westminster Abbey and, in a sweet gesture, her husband ordered the sides of Prince Alfred’s and his grandparent’s coffins removed, so that their bodies would lie close to each other.
Sadly, this wasn’t the only loss that Charlotte faced either.
20. More Sadness Followed
As if losing one son wasn’t enough, even more tragedy befell the royal family. The year following Prince Alfred’s passing, Prince Octavius, another one of Charlotte’s sons, fell ill due to smallpox. He lost his battle with the disease on May 30, 1782. Although she had plenty of children, the losses didn’t hurt any less for Charlotte. And the tragedies weren’t just contained within her family either. Even in her own court, trouble was brewing.
21. She Had A Shaky Grip On Her Court
As time went on, Charlotte’s hold on her court grew tenuous. Between her mother-in-law filling the palace with spies and Charlotte’s inability to assert her authority, her court devolved into a hotbed of scandals and forbidden romances. Even so, Charlotte wanted to teach her kids to navigate the tricky ins and outs of court life…and as you might have expected, she went about it in the worst way possible.
22. She Was A Helicopter Parent
Credit where credit is due: Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz insisted that both her sons and daughters have the best education possible. But that’s where the praise both starts and ends. Charlotte refused to give her daughters any freedom and kept all six of them close by her side. As a result, resentment began to brew amongst the girls, and later in life, Charlotte’s controlling ways would come back to bite her.
Still, at this point, the family seemed mostly happy—until misfortune hit them once again.
23. The King Went Insane, Again
On June 11, 1788, Charlotte’s husband was hit with a sudden high fever while in Cheltenham. Fifteen days later, Charlotte and the rest of the family understood the full extent of his illness, when, in the middle of a sermon, the King began ranting and raving, while frantically grabbing at Charlotte and their daughters. Doctors rushed to heal the King, but it was too late.
24. She Tried To Hold The Family Together
The doctors immediately set to work trying to cure the King with a bit of good old fashioned bloodletting. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t work. Instead, the King seemed to grow worse with each day. Charlotte and her children began to notice, much to their horror, that the King would literally talk nonstop. Only exhaustion stopped the King and his ceaseless babbling.
Charlotte tried to hold the family together, but one dark day nearly broke her resolve.
25. He Attacked Her Son
Trying to preserve a sense of normalcy, Charlotte continued to bring the King and the rest of the family along to state functions and dinners. Tragically, the King’s illness ruined these evenings. On November 5th, the family was dining with a lord when the King suddenly rose from the table and slammed his oldest son, the Prince of Wales, against a wall, accusing him of cowardice.
Charlotte fled to her room in terror, where an attendant tried to keep her calm. Her husband soon followed, however, and Charlotte’s night of horror began.
26. He Locked Her Up
Charlotte’s attendant tried to keep the King out of her room, telling him that she was ill. Upon hearing this, the King forcibly moved Charlotte into a nearby drawing-room so that he could “take care of her.” He then ordered all his daughters into the room as well, before putting out almost all of the candles. Charlotte and her daughters sat in near darkness with the raving King until past midnight.
Finally, they convinced him that Charlotte needed to go to bed. He agreed, but on one disturbing condition.
27. He Stalked Her
Wanting to keep his wife close, George demanded that Charlotte sleep in a room right next to him. Desperate to leave her deranged husband, Charlotte agreed. Throughout the night, Charlotte could hear George through the walls, talking nonstop. And that wasn’t all. At about 1:00 in the morning, George snuck into her room to make sure that Charlotte “would not leave [him].” She managed to convince him to go back to bed.
The next day, the battle for the throne began.
28. Her Son Turned On Her
Another doctor, named Doctor Warren, soon arrived to check on the King. No one informed Charlotte of his arrival, nor was she given the chance to speak with him. When she discovered this, one thing became clear to her: someone was trying to cut her off from the King. Tragically, that “someone” turned out to be her eldest son, the Prince of Wales. Charlotte was now forced into fighting her own son for power.
29. They Fought For The Crown
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and her son began vying for control, and both had their suspicions about the other party’s ill intent towards the King. Charlotte suspected that her son wanted to take the throne by having his father declared insane. The Prince of Wales suspected that Charlotte wanted to manipulate her husband into giving her the throne. With plotting and bickering well underway, the royal family was officially in a high-stakes fight for the crown.
30. She Threatened Her Son
The Prince attempted to physically separate his mother and father, thinking that this would ruin Charlotte’s shot at the throne. However, when he attempted to force his mother to part from her husband, Queen Charlotte snapped, “Prince of Wales, do it at your own peril! Where the king is, there shall I be.” Unable to separate Charlotte and George without causing a scene, the Prince had no choice but to back down. The royal couple stayed side-by-side—for now.
31. She Protected The King
Think Charlotte’s son can’t get any worse? Oh, just wait. The Prince immediately took full control over King George’s health. At first, he let his mother visit, but over time, he began to strictly control all information about the King’s health, frustrating Charlotte’s attempts to find out what was happening to her own husband. The closest Charlotte could get was sending in a doctor who was loyal to her. His findings, however, were incredibly disturbing.
32. He Accused Her Of Lying
This is where Queen Charlotte’s story takes a quick turn into the world of feuding doctors. Charlotte had a doctor who acted on her behalf and said that the king was clearly insane, while her treacherous son had a doctor who argued that his dad was peachy-keen. The two doctors simply couldn’t see eye-to-eye. And over time, their disagreement transformed into a plot to destroy Queen Charlotte’s reputation.
33. She Performed A Clever Political Maneuver
By 1789, a new bill put an end to Doctor Fights: Regency Edition. After parliament filed some paperwork, the King was declared insane and the Prince of Wales took the throne. Thankfully, Charlotte wasn’t left out in the cold. The bill allowed her to control the King, his court, and their younger children. Charlotte took this chance to get back at her jerk of a son. She blocked the Prince of Wales from seeing his own father. Boy, bye!
34. The King Slowly Recovered
The Prince of Wales made daily demands to see the King, and eventually, Charlotte made the mistake of caving. While her son visited her husband, the Prince realized that King George was actually recovering. Most kids would be happy that their dads weren’t debilitatingly insane—but most kids aren’t the Prince of Wales! He was deeply unhappy at the idea of his father’s recovery.
After all, if his dad got better, he’d lose his opportunity to rule as Regent. And so, after leaving his parents’ home, the Prince began plotting to keep his crown, no matter the consequences.
35. Her Son Plotted Against Her Husband
Determined to take power for himself, the Prince of Wales made several more attempts to prove the King insane. Each time, Charlotte saw right through her son and his amateurish plots, stopping several of them in their tracks. One time, Charlotte even called her own child out on his brazen grabs for power. Pretty soon, the strain on their relationship was just too much. Charlotte and the Prince went from mother and son to sworn enemies.
36. She Made Mozart Famous
One of Charlotte’s many passions was music, and she loved to patronize musicians that she found talented. This is just what she did when the now-famous Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart visited her court in April 1764. Mozart was just eight years old, but already had immense talent. He perfectly sight-read highly difficult pieces of music, and even accompanied Charlotte for an aria. She gave him her royal favor as a result. In later years, Mozart dedicated a collection of six sonatas known as Opus III to Charlotte.
37. The Family Grew Further Apart
Later on, Charlotte’s second eldest son, Prince Frederick, got himself into some hot water. A colonel had challenged him to a duel, and Frederick had come within inches of losing his life. However, because Frederick had supported his brother, the Prince of Wales, over his mother, Queen Charlotte, during their fight for power, Charlotte seems to have held a grudge against Fred. When she heard that he’d nearly died, she barely batted an eye. Ice cold, Charlotte.
38. She Forgave Her Son
But as time wore on, it became clear that Charlotte and the Prince of Wales couldn’t keep fighting—for the King’s sake, if nothing else. So, in March of 1791, after two long years of family feuds, Charlotte extended the olive branch to the Prince of Wales. Mother and son were finally reconciled—but of course, because the royal family always has to be a complete gong show, another tragedy would put their newly-healed relationship to the test.
39. Her Husband’s Health Declined
As time wore on, King George’s health continued to deteriorate. While he managed to stay lucid for long periods of time, he had frequent fits that left him bedridden. In February 1801, the King suffered a particularly bad attack that left Charlotte a nervous wreck. As the Queen tended to her husband, her son, the Prince of Wales, tenderly wiped his father’s royal brow.
Just joking—he abandoned his ailing father and started jockeying for power yet again. By the time the King recovered, Charlotte and her son were on the outs once again.
40. She Feared Her Husband
By 1804, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz began to fear her husband, even when he was lucid. George often broke out into fits where he babbled uncontrollably, which frightened Charlotte. She began to refuse to see him alone—she slept and dined separately from him, and always made sure at least one of her daughters was with her when he wanted to see her. As the rift between them grew wider, the rest of their family began breaking apart too.
41. Her Family Turned On Each Other
Charlotte’s treatment of the King caused him to greatly resent her. Their once amicable relationship turned sour, and even hostile. In response, Charlotte’s children began forming their own factions, supporting either Charlotte or the King. The resulting infighting left the family in tatters as sibling turned against sibling. A few years later, a family tragedy marked the final blow for the royal family.
42. She Lost Her Youngest Child
In 1810, Princess Amelia, the youngest of Charlotte’s children and the favorite of the king, lost a two year battle with measles and ill health. Her passing devastated Charlotte, the King, and the rest of their family. King George, recognizing that Amelia’s passing had left him completely unable to rule, officially declared the Prince of Wales as the new de facto ruler of England.
Meanwhile, Charlotte remained the King’s guardian. Her children, though, were a different matter.
43. Her Family Fell Apart
Now that Charlotte’s daughters were older, they began distancing themselves from their mother. Between her helicopter parenting and the King’s insanity, the princesses were more than ready to be independent. The Prince of Wales suggested that they should all have their own estates, to which the princesses excitedly agreed. Just like that, Charlotte’s family fell apart, and an aging Charlotte was left with just the company of her mad husband.
44. She Cared For Her Crazy Husband
As George’s condition worsened, Charlotte found herself reluctant to visit him. In fact, her first visit to him, following his announcement that the Prince of Wales would be Regent, wasn’t until June 1812. Charlotte found his behavior erratic, and he often lashed out at her with extreme, unpredictable reactions. Still, she continued to support him as best as she could, and even formed a sort of peace with her eldest son in the process.
45. Her Heritage Is Debated
On the 2020 TV show Bridgerton, Queen Charlotte looks a little different than you might have imagined. Instead of casting a porcelain-skinned performer, the show-runners opted for Guayanese-British actress Golda Rosheuvel. Depending on who you ask, this wasn’t color-blind casting. Some historians have argued that Charlotte had African or Moorish heritage on the Portuguese side of her family tree.
46. She Declared Her Son An Enemy
Back when Charlotte was still feuding with the Prince of Wales, there was a brief period where it looked like King George might just recover. But did mother and son make up? Oh, absolutely not. In the middle of a party celebrating the King, the Prince of Wales officially went scorched-earth on his own mother. He publicly accused Charlotte of “siding with his enemies,” and “disgracing all her children.”
Angered and betrayed, Charlotte fought fire with fire. A few months later, she shaded her son with an iconic insult. She invited him to a concert, but added that since it was only for people who had supported her and the king, he “may not wish to come.” Call the burn unit. Man down.
47. She Befriended Marie Antoinette
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Queen Marie Antoinette of France never met face-to-face, but they frequently exchanged letters, resulting in the two becoming great friends. During the French Revolution, Charlotte became one of Marie Antoinette’s closest confidants, and Charlotte even arranged apartments for the French royal family to stay in, should the French Revolution take a nasty turn. When Charlotte learned of Marie Antoinette’s beheading, she was completely distraught.
48. She Continued Her Political Work
When Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz wasn’t caring for her husband, she worked by the Prince of Wales’s side. The Prince had a falling out with his spouse, so Charlotte stepped in, taking on jobs that the Prince’s spouse would normally handle. As she grew older, however, she found herself often stymied by her ill health, and as a result, her popularity began to wane. The end of her reign was approaching.
49. Her End Was Touching
1818 was a terrible year for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. At her advanced age, her health quickly declined and she soon became bedridden with fever. It was obvious that Charlotte wouldn’t be able to hang onto life for much longer. On November 17, 1818, she gathered her children to her bedside and, at 1:00, departed this world, while smiling and holding her eldest son’s hand. Despite their many fights, it looks like these two eventually found peace.
50. Her Husband Never Knew
By the time Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was gone, the King had more or less become completely mad. Without Charlotte’s care, he deteriorated rapidly. He went deaf, blind, and lame. 14 months later, he too left this world. In a tragic twist, the King never truly understood that Charlotte was gone forever. His mind had deteriorated so much that he couldn’t comprehend that his wife would never again be by his side. It was a truly tragic ending to their roller-coaster story.