Celebrating the life of Princess Charlotte
Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, born in 1796, was the original "people’s princess". As heir to the throne of George III and the only well-regarded member of the wayward royal family, Charlotte was seen as the hope of the nation. Her premature death at the age of 21 caused an unprecedented torrent of national grief, and forever altered the course of British history and culture eventually leading to the birth and reign of Queen Victoria. Two paintings on display in the North Gallery at Petworth depict two very crucial points in the life and times of Charlotte.
The Allied Sovereigns at Petworth, 24 June, 1814
Marriage to her future husband Leopold of Saxe-Coburg was a slow burn that began in 1814 culminating in their marriage in 1816.
In the summer of 1814 a number of allied sovereigns visited London to celebrate peace following the defeat of France and the abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte. Of signicance, the Tsar Alexander I of Russia was in attendence who brought with him in his retinue, Leopold who had recently distinguished himself in the campaign against the French.
This painting, The Allied Sovereigns at Petworth, 24 June, 1814 by Thomas Phillips shows the 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751-1837) being presented by George, Prince Regent and father of Princess Charlotte, to the Tsar of Russia in the Marble Hall at Petworth.
Though Leopold and Charlotte aren't pictured in this oil painting, this event was certainly part of the same occassion that saw the two lovers meet for the first time at Pulteney Hotel in London that same summer.
The Apotheosis of Princess Charlotte Augusta, Princess of Wales
Following several miscarriages, Charlotte fell pregnant in April 1817. The nation was overjoyed at the prospect of another healthy heir to the throne but sadly their hopes were dashed.
Her contractions began on the evening of 3 November and the Princess' 50 hours of labour began. She gave birth to a stillborn son on 5 November and the early hours of the following morning Charlotte became suddenly ill and died.
The nation were heartbroken having pinned their hopes on her for stability following the troublesome reign of George III and the unwelcome prospect of George IV's reign. Shops ran out of black cloth and commemrative cups, saucers, medals and trinkets of all kinds were bought and sold.
It's apt then considering how treasured she was by the nation that her death in this painting is depected as an apotheosis, the elevation of someone to divine status.
The Apotheosis of Princess Charlotte Augusta, Princess of Wales (1796-1817) by Henry Howard depicts the Princess and her baby cradled to her chest, being welcomed by angels into heaven with female figures at her feet mourning her loss.