July 17, 2023 | Brendan Da Costa

Reprehensible Facts About Frederica Of Mecklenburg, The Royal Black Widow


Frederica of Mecklenburg wanted one thing: to marry her way to the Hanoverian throne, even if she left a trail of corpses in her wake. Needless to say, she made some powerful enemies along the way. These are the reprehensible facts about Frederica of Mecklenburg, the royal black widow.


1. She Was Well-Connected

Frederica of Mecklenburg was of the highest European pedigree—even if she didn’t always act like it. Born in the vaunted Altes Palais in Hanover in March of 1778, she was the fifth daughter of the eventual Grand Duke of Mecklenburg. Her royal lineage connected her to the thrones of the United Kingdom, Prussia and beyond.

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But her royally scandalous behavior knew no borders.Portrait of Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1778-1841), Queen of Hannover in red dressLouis Ammy Blanc, Wikimedia Commons

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2. She Lost Her Mother Early On

Perhaps the thing that made Frederica such a troublemaker was that she never had a good example to follow—and the reason why was devastating. Sadly, her mother passed away when she was still very young while giving birth to her ninth and final sibling.

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Her father was, of course, heartbroken over the loss but he found a suitable replacement…one that was rather close to home.Portrait of Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1778-1841), later Queen of Hanover in white dressAfter Johann Friedrich August Tischbein, Wikimedia Commons

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3. Her Father Handed Her Off

Following her mother’s passing, Frederica, along with her many siblings, moved from the Altes Palais to Herrenhausen Palace. Her poor father, too distraught over his wife’s and youngest child’s deaths, left little Frederica in the care of a governess, Frau von Wolzogen. In the meantime, the Duke went in pursuit of a new bride and mother for his brood of children.

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Carl Ludwig Friedrich (1741-1816), Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, later Carl II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in red uniformJohann Georg Ziesenis, Wikimedia Commons

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4. She Got A New Mommy

By all accounts, Frederica and her siblings took to the Governess von Wolzogen. No one could replace their mother…or so they thought. About two years after Frederica’s mother’s death, her father remarried—and his choice was mate was seriously twisted.

He tied the knot to Princess Charlotte of Hesse-Darmstadt, AKA Frederica’s aunt—her deceased mother’s younger sister!Portrait of Princess Charlotte of Hesse-Darmstadt in blue dressCharles Alexis Huin, Wikimedia Commons

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5. She Lost Another Maternal Figure

Ick factor aside, Frederica was overjoyed that her aunt had stepped in.

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To the little royal, it might have seemed like her mother had come back from the grave. But if she had, it was only temporary. About a year after Frederica’s aunt married her father, she too passed away during childbirth. Fortunately, her new sibling survived. Even if her father’s heart did not.Painting of Frederica Of Mecklenburg in white dressWoldemar Friedrich (1846-1910), Wikimedia Commons

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6. She Lost Everyone Close To Her

A step-mother wasn’t the only thing that Frederica lost in 1785 when Princess Charlotte passed away. Her eldest sister, and one of her closest confidantes, married a duke and moved away—but that wasn’t the worst part. As part of her dowry, it would seem that Frederica’s father agreed to let her governess go with her sister, leaving his other children (namely Frederica) without a mother figure.Portrait of Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1778-1841) in yellow dressJohann Friedrich August Tischbein, Wikimedia Commons

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7. She Found A New Home

Frederica’s father completely gave up on the idea of maintaining a happy family. Instead of seeking yet another bride (he was probably out of sisters to marry), he uprooted the whole family and moved them to Hesse.

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Crestfallen, he handed the care of Frederica and her siblings over to their maternal grandmother, Princess Maria Louise of Hesse-Darmstadt.Portrait of Countess Maria Louise Albertine of Leiningen-Falkenburg-Dagsburg in blue dressJohann Christian Fiedler, Wikimedia Commons

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8. She Was Well-Educated, Not Well-Behaved

It’s not clear where or when Frederica picked up her bad girl streak, but it certainly wasn’t from her grandmother. Princess Maria Louise ensured that Frederica and her sisters received a strict Swiss education from the famed governess, Salomé de Gélieu. They learned French, attended various courts across Europe, and received “strong religious education”.

Which Frederica then promptly disregarded.

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Painting of  Luise (later Queen of Prussia) with her sister Frederika in white dressesLuigi Schiavonetti, Wikimedia Commons

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9. She Had To Get Married

Frederica’s father was impressed with the education that his daughters had received. He knew immediately that he had to get them married—and not just into any old royal family. The Duke of Mecklenburg recalled that Frederica’s mother had a first cousin who was, at the time, married to King Frederick William II of Prussia.

Frederica, it seemed, was going to marry a prince.

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Portrait of Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in white dressNot mentioned, Wikimedia Commons

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10. She Was A Pawn In A Plot

The Duke of Mecklenburg carefully broached the topic of marrying off Frederica and her elder sister, Louise, to the King of Prussia’s two sons. Because of the familial connection, the Prussians warmed to the offer. But there was just one problem. The strong-headed Frederica didn’t suspect that her father was setting her up.Portrait of Friedrich Wilhelm II in uniform and medalAnton Graff, Wikimedia Commons

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11. She Had A “Chance” Encounter

Frederica’s father orchestrated the meeting between his daughter and the King of Prussia to a tee. He left no room for error—and his plan worked. When Frederica encountered the King in Frankfurt-am-Main in 1793, she left a lasting impression.

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Portrait of Queen Louisa of Prussia and her sister Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz at young ageInternet Archive Book Images, Wikimedia Commons

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12. She Was Very Charming

We’ll never know exactly what Frederica did or said at the “chance” encounter with the King of Prussia. But we know the end result. The King was so captivated by the young duchesses and so impressed with their grace and charm that he agreed to move forward with the marriage arrangements.

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First impressions, however, can lie. Painting of Louise and Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz at the bust of Friedrich Wilhelm IIFriedrich Georg Weitsch, Wikimedia Commons

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13. She Married A Prince

Just two weeks after her date with destiny in Frankfurt-am-Main, Frederica found herself engaged to Prince Louis Charles of Prussia. Her father was so eager to get her married off that they wasted no time in the wedding planning. On December 26 of that same year, Frederica married her prince.

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But he was far from princely.Portrait of Prince Louis Charles of Prussia (1773-1796) in uniformEdward Francis Cunningham, Wikimedia Commons

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14. She Kept Her Family Close

Frederica’s elder sister, Louise, married the King of Prussia’s first son, the Crown Prince Frederick William. Of course, the younger duchess was overjoyed that the double-marriage would keep her and her sister close together. Sadly, however, it seems like Frederica’s sister got the better deal of the two.Portrait of Louise and Frederick William, 1794 – a year after their marriageFriedrich Georg Weitsch, Wikimedia Commons

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15. Her Marriage Stunk

Once again, there are varying accounts of Frederica’s marriage to Prince Louis. But, if Frederica is to be believed, it sounds like her prince was more of a pretender.

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While her sister’s marriage to a Prussian prince turned out quite well, Frederica’s own marriage was nothing short of a catastrophe that cast aspersions on both royal households.Portrait of Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz  with long curly hair behind her right earJohann Heusinger, CC0, Wikimedia Commons

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16. Her Husband Ignored Her

The minute their honeymoon ended, Frederica’s nightmare began. She immediately began complaining that her princely husband was, for lack of a better phrase, otherwise interested.

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She accused Prince Louis of preferring the “company of his mistresses” to her and said he utterly neglected her.

But her version of the scandal-plagued marriage didn’t exactly align with some of the facts.Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in blue dressJohann Philipp Bach, Public domain, via Wikimedia CommonsCould be the portrait of her sister Duchess Therese of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

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17. She Was Always Pregnant

If Frederica’s claim that Prince Louis rarely, if ever, touched her then she would have had a hard time explaining some key details. Namely, in the three tumultuous years of their marriage, she gave birth to as many children.

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Certainly, it couldn’t have been immaculate conception. And there was a much more plausible and ready explanation.Portrait of Federica von Mecklenburg-Strelitz in white dress playingFriedrich Carl Gröger, Wikimedia Commons

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18. She Was Just Covering Up

Not everyone believed that Prince Louis was at fault in the marriage. It could well have been the case that Frederica’s accusations of infidelity were an attempt to excuse or cover up her own wildly inappropriate affair. Because while Prince Louis was running around with his mistresses, Frederica was running around with someone of her own.

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Portrait of Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in yellow dressUnknown author, Wikimedia Commons

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19. She Was All About Family

If it was true that Prince Louis was neglecting Frederica, her fellow royals might have forgiven her an affair or two. But there was an even more twisted side to Frederica’s dalliance. Throughout her marriage to Prince Louis, Frederica carried on an open affair with her husband’s own uncle, Prince Louis Ferdinand. As you can imagine, this did not end well.

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Portrait of Louis Ferdinand of Prussia in blue uniformJean-Laurent Mosnier, Wikimedia Commons

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20. Her Husband Went Away And Never Came Back

Perhaps in an attempt to silence the scandal of Frederica’s and Prince Louis’ marriage, the King of Prussia sent his son away. He appointed him Chief of the Dragoons Regiment No 1, but the post would prove to be fatal to more than just Frederica’s sordid marriage. Three days before their third anniversary, Prince Louis passed away of diphtheria.

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And Frederica was now a free agent.Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in red dressFrançois Casimir Carbonnier, Wikimedia Commons

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21. She Was Young And Reckless

At just 18 years of age, Frederica found herself recently widowed…and free to do whatever she wanted. But her father-in-law, the King of Prussia, wanted to make sure that she didn’t get into too much trouble. To keep an eye on her, he provided Frederica with a modest income and moved her and her children to Schönhausen Palace, near Berlin. Of course, nothing could stop Frederica from getting what she wanted…Portrait of Friedrich Wilhelm II in blue  uniformFrédéric Reclam, Wikimedia Commons

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22. She Wanted An Upgrade

There was no way that Frederica, at her young age and with her natural charm, was going to stay widowed forever.

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She knew that she had to find a way to get out from under her father-in-law’s watchful eye. And the only way for her to do that was to find a new husband—but she wasn’t going to stop there. 

She wanted a better husband.

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With a bigger kingdom than the Kingdom of Prussia.Portrait of Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in white dressUnknown author, Wikimedia Commons

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23. She Put First-Cousins First

Once again, Frederica scoured her family tree looking for a suitable match. This time, she landed on Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge. He was the seventh son of King George III of Great Britain and, most importantly, he was her first cousin by way of his father’s sister, Queen Charlotte. Not everyone approved of the match, however.

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Prince Adolphus Frederick, Duke of Cambridge the seventh son of George IIIWilliam Beechey, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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24. She Had To Wait

In short order, Frederica and Prince Adolphus became engaged. At first Frederica’s uncle, King George III, agreed to the match, likely with a good word from his wife Queen Charlotte. However, King George III instructed the young couple to wait for a more opportune time to make their love official.

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But that time would never come.Portrait of King George III in red uniformWorkshop of William Beechey, Wikimedia Commons

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25. She Was Too Impatient

Frederica’s engagement to Prince Adolphus came to an abrupt end—under a cloud of suspicion and a swirling hurricane of rumors. As it turns out, Fredrica had been a little too randy to wait for her first-cousin’s hand in marriage. So, in 1798, instead of walking down the aisle to the wedding march, Frederica did a walk of shame.

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Portrait of Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz wearing jewelsUnidentified engraver, Wikimedia Commons

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26. She Had A Baby-Daddy

Instead of twiddling her thumbs waiting for her pending nuptials with Prince Adolphus, Frederica occupied her time another prince. Namely, Prince Frederick William of Solms-Braunfels. As was likely her wont, Frederica soon became pregnant with her lover’s child…and Europe became pregnant with scandal.Black and white portrait of Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz wearing dress with pearlsUnidentified Autor, Wikimedia Commons

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27. She Angered Her Aunt

Now that she was pregnant by another man, the engagement between Frederica and Prince Adolphus ended.

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Incensed with Frederica’s infidelity, her aunt and would-be mother-in-law, Queen Charlotte, got out ahead of the story to limit the embarrassment. She claimed that her son had released Frederica from the engagement in disgrace.

But the damage was already done.Portrait of Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in yellow golden dressThomas Gainsborough, Wikimedia Commons

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28. She Took A Step Down

From her first marriage, Frederica had already developed something of a bad girl reputation.

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She clearly wasn’t shy about taking up new lovers, regardless of her marital status. That’s why most people believed that Frederica had been the one who ended the engagement, “spurning” Prince Adolphus in favor of Prince Frederick William. But there was something that Frederica hadn’t prepared for. 

Ol’ Frederick William was a serious downgrade.Portrait of Prince Frederick William of Solms-Braunfels in uniformNot mentioned, Wikimedia Commons

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29. She Married A Spendthrift Boozer

By the time that Frederica jumped into the sack with him, Prince Frederick William wasn’t exactly Europe’s most eligible royal. In fact, his reputation was far worse than hers.

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According to sources of the time, he lived a “dissipated” lifestyle. That likely meant that he was something of a philanderer and spendthrift.

He did, however, behave honorably towards Frederica.Black and white Portrait of Sophie Friederike Karoline of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in white dressPaul Joseph Bardou, Wikimedia Commons

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30. She Did The Right Thing

Frederica knew that she couldn’t give birth to Prince Frederick William’s child outside of wedlock. So, rather than further embarrass her family and cause a greater scandal, she (or likelier, her father) made sure that her baby-daddy did the honorable thing.

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In spite of her condition, she would marry a prince after all.Portrait of Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in dressAustrian National Library, Picryl

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31. She Tore Her Family Apart

Under the cover of secrecy—and with an enormous pregnant belly—Frederica eloped with Prince Frederick William. The hush-hush marriage took place in Berlin in December of 1798 but, instead of restoring Frederica’s honor, it had another, unintended effect. 

It absolutely enraged her relatives. In fact, the marriage created a rift in the family that would never truly heal.

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Berlin in December of 1798Detlef Dauer, CC BY-SA 4.0 , Wikimedia Commons

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32. Her Sister And Aunt Never Forgave Her

The whole affair caused Frederica and her sister Louise to grow apart. Once inseparable, the two practically became strangers after Frederica moved to Ansbach in Bavaria with her new husband. But it was her aunt, Queen Charlotte who was keeping a scornful eye out from England, that Frederica would ultimately have to be wary of.

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Ansbach in the 17th centuryMatthäus Merian, Wikimedia Commons

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33. She Was A Saint, He Was A Sinner

It didn’t take long for Frederica’s second marriage to fall apart. After the couple’s first child passed away, Prince Frederick William became despondent. Without a second thought, he resumed his “dissipated” lifestyle and took up heavy drinking. His behavior got to be so bad that, for once, people took pity on poor old Frederica.

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Portrait of Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in black dressGeorge Richmond, Wikimedia Commons

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34. She Fell Into Poverty

As long as Prince Frederick William supported her, it seems like Frederica didn’t mind his abhorrent behavior. But, in 1805, he abandoned his posts for undisclosed “health reasons”, the medical term being “I-can’t-put-down-the-bottle-ism”. All of a sudden, Frederica found herself in a new and strange position; she was flat broke.

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Portrait of  Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in brown dressFranz Krüger, Wikimedia CommonsPortrait of  Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1778-1841), Queen of Hanover or Frederica Wilhelmina of Prussia (1796-1850)

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35. Her Sister Wouldn’t Help Her Out

In her new found poverty, Frederica turned to her former brother-in-law, Frederick William III, her sister Louise’s husband. As the widow of a Prussian prince—married or not—she believed that she was still entitled to an annual pension from the crown. But the bad blood between Frederica and her family persisted and they declined her request.

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Thankfully, help came from the unlikeliest corner.Frederick William III of Prussia in uniformUnidentified painter, Wikimedia Commons

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36. She Had An Easy Out

As bad as her reputation was, Frederica was beginning to look like a saint compared to her husband. Even her own brother-in-law, William Christian, Prince of Solms-Braunfels, could see that the marriage was no good. So, he made the unprecedented offer to support Frederica in divorcing his rapscallion brother.

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But her reaction shocked him. Portrait of Wilhelm, Prince of Solms-Braunfels in a black suitUnidentified painter, Wikimedia Commons

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37. She Wanted To Avoid More Scandal

Frederica’s brother-in-law had just given her the “out” she needed but, inexplicably, she decided to stay in her marriage and penury. It’s possible that Frederica wanted to avoid the scandal a divorce would have caused, even if she was not at fault. Or, she may have been afraid that, as a once-widowed, once-divorced bachelorette, she would never find another husband.

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She almost certainly wasn’t staying for love.Sculpture of Crown Princess Louise of Prussia & Frederica of Mecklenburg-StrelitzDaderot, Wikimedia Commons

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38. Her Father Meddled In Her Affairs

In 1813, Frederica’s father, the Duke of Mecklenburg, re-entered the scene. There’s no conclusive proof, but it looks like the Duke resumed his surreptitious matchmaking schemes in order to save his daughter from her terrible marriage. This time, he set his sights on his nephew, Prince Ernest Augustus—another one of Frederica’s first-cousins.Portrait of Charles II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in red uniformRoyal Collection of the United Kingdom, Picryl

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39. She Charmed Another Prince

Clearly, the Duke knew his daughter’s type. When Frederica met Prince Ernest Augustus “by chance” the two immediately hit it off. In no uncertain terms, the Duke let Frederica know that he expected her to divorce her husband and take up with Prince Ernest Augustus.

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So, Frederica asked her brother-in-law if his original offer still stood.Portrait of Charles II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in brown suitAdolph Scharenberg, Wikimedia Commons

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40. Her Husband Fell Suddenly (Suspiciously) Dead

Fortunately for Frederica, everyone (including her dissipated husband) wanted the disastrous marriage to end. With all parties agreed, it was just a matter of signing the papers—but fate had another twist in store.

Unexpectedly and rather conveniently, Prince Frederick William dropped down dead as doornail.

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And all of the eyes in the room turned to Frederica.black and white portrait of : Princess Luise von Mecklenburg-Strelitz and her sister Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz wearing similar clothesJ. F. Bolt/Johann Friedrich Tielker A. Karcher/Johann Friedrich Tielker, Wikimedia Commons

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41. She Might Have Done It

Many believed that Prince Frederick William’s expiration was a little too convenient for Frederica. And there was open speculation that she had poisoned her late-husband. But the rumors weren’t enough to scupper her new engagement plans. Less than five months after becoming a (black) widow for the second time, Frederica became engaged.

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And Queen Charlotte was ready for her this time.Portrait of Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in blue dressAllan Ramsay, Wikimedia Commons

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42. She Ran Afoul Of Her Aunt Again

Not only was Frederica’s new fiancé her first-cousin, but Prince Ernest Augustus also happened to be the brother of Prince Adolphus. And, most concerningly, the son of Queen Charlotte. Not to be had twice by her niece, Queen Charlotte openly voiced her opposition to the marriage even as the King gave his royal consent.

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Queen Charlotte, however, would have her say.Portrait of Ernest Augustus, King of Hanover in military uniformEdmund Koken, Wikimedia Commons

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43. Her Aunt Practically Slapped Her

Upon Frederica’s arrival in England, Queen Charlotte refused to receive her. Considering the fact that Frederica was not just her soon-to-be daughter-in-law but also her niece, the snub had the same shocking effect as a slap across the face.

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But, in addition to the Adolphus-affair, Queen Charlotte had good reason to rebuff her niece. Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in multi colored dressWorkshop of Joshua Reynolds, Wikimedia Commons

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44. Her Aunt Had “Respectable” Sources

Frederica’s reputation as a royal rebel had reached Queen Charlotte’s ears. Allegedly, the Queen had “received information from many respectable quarters” that led her to believe that Frederica was not a good match for her son. Whatever information she had, she shared with Prince Ernest Augustus.

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But it wasn’t enough to break Frederica’s hold over him.Portrait of Ernest Augustus I of Hanover in golden uniformGeorge Dawe, Wikimedia Commons

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45. Her Guest List Was Short One Queen

In a clear display of her disapproval, Frederica’s all-powerful aunt refused to attend her marriage in May of 1815. To add insult to the injury of getting snubbed on her wedding day, Queen Charlotte practically banished Frederica and Prince Ernest Augustus from England.

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Unfortunately for Frederica, Queen Charlotte was just getting warmed up.Portrait of Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in blue dressThomas Lawrence, Wikimedia Commons

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46. She Couldn’t Get Paid

On numerous occasions after their marriage, Prince Ernest Augustus sought an increase to his royal allowance, likely at the behest of Frederica. But each time, the British Parliament turned down his request. Frederica had to suspect that her vindictive mother-in-law was behind the repeated denials for a respectable allowance.

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Portrait of Ernest Augustus, King of Hanover in red uniformRoyal Collection, Wikimedia Commons

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47. She Finally Got What Was Hers

Finally, in 1818, Frederica managed to escape Queen Charlotte’s wrath—because the vengeful queen went to her grave. With her mother-in-law out of the way and after the birth of their son George V of Hanover, the couple sought and received an increase to their allowance. But, for all of her previous sins, Frederica had to suffer.

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King George V of Hanover as a boyThomas Lawrence, Wikimedia Commons

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48. Her Son Was Blinded

After more than a decade in quasi-exile, Frederica returned to England with her husband and son. And it wasn’t long after that when tragedy struck. An undisclosed accident left Frederica’s son blind. Desperate for a cure, she returned to Germany to find the best doctors.

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Instead, however, she found something far more valuable.Ernest Augustus wearing the robes of a KnightArtist: G.E. Madeley (fl.1826–1841, date of death unknown). Photograph by User:Dr_pda, Wikimedia Commons

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49. She Became Queen

While in Germany, Frederica’s brother-in-law King William IV, passed away without any children of his own. Because of the laws of succession, his British crown passed to his niece, Queen Victoria, while the Hanoverian crown passed to, of all people…her husband. Somehow, after all of her marriages and affairs, Frederica became the regent of her homeland, Queen of Hanover.

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Sadly, her reign was short-lived.Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz as a queen of HanoverAlexander Schäfer (active 1832-1860), Wikimedia Commons

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50. Her Story Ended Where It Began

In 1841, at the age of 63, Frederica became ill and, after a long life of scandal and blood grudges, succumbed to her illness. There is, perhaps, some comfort in the idea that she drew her last breath in the same place in which she drew her first—the Altes Palais. And, unlike Frederica herself, her widower did not remarry.

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Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, queen of Hannover in black dressUnidentified painter, Public domain, Wikimedia Commons

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