The Death of Princess Charlotte 1796-1817

Prince George (later King George IV) and Princess Caroline’s daughter, Princess Charlotte, tragically died shortly after the birth of her still-born son on 6th November 1817. As the original ‘people’s princess’, we thought we would take a look at how the media of the day reported this sad news.

Princess Charlotte Memorial Ring, Black enamel mourning band, dated 1817, commemorating the death of Princess Charlotte.
Princess Charlotte Memorial Ring, Black enamel mourning band, dated 1817, commemorating the death of Princess Charlotte.

On Wednesday, 5th November 1817 Claremont House, at 10pm, issued the following bulletin.

At nine o’clock this evening, her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte was delivered of a still-born male child. Her Royal Highness is doing extremely well.

Caroline, Princess of Wales, and Princess Charlotte by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1801. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Caroline, Princess of Wales, and Princess Charlotte by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1801. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017.

The London Gazette gave a more detailed account of the events leading up to her death.

Her Royal Highness, the Princess Charlotte Augusta, daughter of his Royal Highness the Prince Regent and consort of his Serene Highness Prince Leopold of Saxe-Cobourg was delivered of a stillborn son at 9 o’clock last night, and about half past twelve her Royal Highness was seized with great difficulty of breathing, restlessness and exhaustion, which alarming symptoms increased till half past 2 o’clock this morning, when her Royal Highness expired, to the inexpressible grief of his Royal Highness the Prince regent, of her illustrious consort, the Prince Leopold and of all the Royal family.

Princess Charlotte c1816 by Charlotte Jones. Courtesy of the Royal Collection
Princess Charlotte c1816 by Charlotte Jones. Courtesy of the Royal Collection

At 6 o’clock on 6th November, Claremont House issued this statement.

I had hoped to have sent you very, very different tidings; and yesterday, when I despatched my last letter to you, I felt confident that my next would have announced the commutation of our wishes, in the birth of a future heir or heiress. However, I will endeavour to write all I have heard, as well as the general grief and consternation will allow me. Monday in the night, or about 3 on Tuesday morning, her Royal Highness was taken ill, and expresses were sent off to the great Officers of State, the Archbishop of Canterbury immediate attendance, Earl Bathurst, Lord Sidmouth, the Lord Chancellor, Mr Vansittart, together with the Archbishop and Bishop immediately attended.

Dr Baillie and Dr Croft were the medical attendants. During the whole of Monday, the labour advanced slowly, but without the least appearance of danger. Princess Charlotte showed uncommon firmness and the utmost resignation. Towards evening, as the labour lingered, it was deemed advisable to send for Dr Sims, who arrived in the middle of the night. Nothing could be going better, though too slowly and the excellent constitution of the Princess gave every assurance that she would not be too much exhausted by the delay. No language, no panegyric can be too warm for the manner in which Prince Leopold conducted himself. He was incessant in his attendance and no countenance could more deeply express the anxiety he felt. Once or twice he exclaimed to the medical attendant that the unrepining patient endurance also a deep affliction at her sufferings being so lengthened.

About six o’clock yesterday, the labour advanced more rapidly, and no apprehensions were entertained of any fatal results; and the child was ascertained to be still living. At nine o’clock her Royal Highness was delivered of a male child, but still-born. Throughout the whole of this long and painful labour, her Royal Highness evinced the greatest firmness, and received the communication of the child being dead born with much resignation and saying that it was the will of God.

Prince Leopold exclaimed to the medical attendants as soon as the intelligence was communicated to him ‘Thank God, thank God, the Princess is safe’. The child was perfect, and one of the finest infants brought into the world.

The Princess was composed after her delivery, and though of course much exhausted, every hope was entertained of her doing well. This pleasing intelligence being communicated to the great officers of State who left Claremont about 11 o’clock.  

It was reported that although exhausted the Princess took some gruel, but expressed difficulty in swallowing it, she also complained of feeling very chilly and a pain in her stomach. The nurse, Mrs Griffiths was concerned and summoned the doctors to return.

A little after 12, a change was observed in her Royal Highness, her quiet left her, she became restless and uneasy and the medical attendants were alarmed. Expresses were sent off, I believe to the Officers of State stating the change that had taken place. From half past 12 restlessness and convulsions increased till nature and life were quite exhausted, and her Royal Highness expired at half past 2 this morning. Prince Leopold was with her Royal Highness at this agonizing moment.

Princess Charlotte of Wales c.1817, by Joseph Lee. Courtesy of the Royal Collection
c.1817, by Joseph Lee. Courtesy of the Royal Collection

Featured Image

The Funeral Ceremony of Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Wales and Saxe Coburg. In St. Georges Chapel, Windsor. the 19 of November 1817.  published 1 Feb 1818 Courtesy of the Royal Collection RCIN 750746

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6 thoughts on “The Death of Princess Charlotte 1796-1817

  1. Such a sad story. Honestly, when my daughter had an emergency C-section in August, I was reminded of Princess Charlotte. I’m so grateful we were not dealing with the obstetrical practices of 200 years ago.

    The images in your post are lovely!

    Like

    1. Sarah Murden

      Congratulations to your daughter and yes, there have been huge advances in medicine making childbirth so much better and safer for women. It must have been a dreadful for poor Princess Charlotte.

      Like

  2. artandarchitecturemainly

    I find her entire story rather tragic. King George IV had only one legitimate child and that was Princess Charlotte. Imagine having parents who didn’t want to live together and didn’t want to spend time with their daughter. No wonder the young princess grew up feeling unloved and a bit wild.

    Hopefully at least her marriage provided some happiness, before death ended it all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sarah Murden

      Thank you so much for your comments and yes, it was a very sad story, we can only hope that her marriage gave her some brief happiness.

      Like

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