Drapers' shops ran out of black fabric, commemorative souvenirs were produced, and the public mourning was exceeded only by that which followed the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. “It really was as if every household throughout Great Britain had lost a favourite child”, said Henry Brougham, the radical lawyer and Whig MP.
Today Princess Charlotte is all but forgotten and the new exhibition in the magnificent surroundings of the Royal Pavilion aims to change that. The opulent palace was the seaside residence of her father George IV and she visited on several occasions.
Charlotte, the Forgotten Princess, which opens on March 10 2012 and runs until March 10 2013, will focus on the life and tragic death of the Princess through a range of exhibits including personal items such as two of her gowns, her handwritten music book, along with paintings, prints, ceramics, jewellery and glassware. It also includes a vase commemorating Princess Charlotte which was discovered in a shop in Mexico by a collector and donated to the Royal Pavilion earlier this year. (See more details under notes to editors)
The exhibition is organised by the Royal Pavilion and Museums, part of Brighton & Hove City Council, which owns and runs the Royal Pavilion.
David Beevers, Keeper of the Royal Pavilion, said: “The exhibition is about a princess who has fallen off the radar. Most people now have no idea who Princess Charlotte is – and yet her death hit Britain like a thunderbolt, the effects were extraordinary, the country closed down for virtually a week and everything was swathed in black. The closest equivalent is the outpouring of public grief after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
“The Royal Pavilion, where the Princess spent some happy times, is the perfect place to bring Charlotte’s story to life and provide an insight into the fascinating and charismatic person she was.
“For the first time in a generation, the Royal Pavilion and Museums’ extensive collection of material relating to the Princess will be displayed, along with items on loan from the Royal Collection, museums and private collections. It will highlight a fascinating royal story during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Year and enable people to learn more about the royals who stayed at the Royal Pavilion.”
Princess Charlotte was the only daughter of the Prince Regent (who later became George IV) and Princess Caroline of Brunswick. A feisty, headstrong tomboy as a child, Charlotte became very popular with the public, unlike her father, and was referred to as the Daughter of England.
She married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg Gotha and the couple were happily married for just a year and a half until tragedy struck. She gave birth to a stillborn son in November 1817 and died shortly after the birth.
Charlotte’s death and the death of her son changed the course of royal history.
Charlotte would have become Queen had she outlived her father and grandfather and Queen Victoria is unlikely to have succeeded to the throne – there would have been a ‘Charlottian’ age rather than a Victorian one.
It also lead to Charlotte’s accoucheur (male-midwife), Sir Richard Croft, who was in attendance at the birth, shooting himself three months later. There had been a media backlash after her death and Sir Richard, a nervous, sensitive man, was unable to cope with the torrent of criticism, even though the Prince Regent expressed entire confidence in Croft's ability. A day after Charlotte's death he wrote "May God grant that you nor any connected with you may suffer what I do at the moment”. As a result Charlotte’s pregnancy became known in medical history as "the triple obstetrical tragedy".
The exhibition is being held in the Royal Pavilion’s Prince Regent gallery and will replace Dress for Excess, which told the story of George IV. Exhibits in the new exhibition include a Russian-style dress which belonged to Princess Charlotte, on loan from the Royal Collection; her silver and white evening gown*, on loan from the Museum of London; a bust of Princess Charlotte, from Manchester Art Gallery; a baby's shift she wore as an infant, from the Pavilion and Museum's own collection, plus a nightshirt made as part of a layette for the baby she was expecting.
There will also be a talk and gallery tours will be available to link in with the exhibition.
*These two gowns will be on display for the first six months of the exhibition, they will be replaced in mid September for the second half of the exhibition with Charlotte's wedding gown on loan from the Royal Collection.
Charlotte, the Forgotten Princess opens at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton on March 10 2012 and runs until March 10 2013.
The Royal Pavilion
April - September 9.30am to 5.45pm (last admission 5pm)
October - March 10am to 5.15pm (last admission 4.30pm)
Admission fee payable.
The Royal Pavilion is owned by Brighton & Hove City Council
For more information visit www.brighton-hove-pavilion.org.uk or ring 03000 290902. Brighton & Hove residents can enjoy half price admission to the Pavilion with up to four accompanying children free (bring proof of residency, one item required per adult eg council tax or other utility bill.)
Notes to editors
Charlotte, the Forgotten Princess (1796 – 1817) - Factfile
Princess Charlotte first came to Brighton in 1807 aged 11, she was shown around the Royal Pavilion and danced with the Duke of Cambridge.
In 1815 she visited again on her birthday and the Prince Regent gave his consent for her to marry Prince Leopold, after she had previously refused to marry the Prince of Orange.
The bedroom she stayed in is now devoted to a display on the Pavilion's role as an Indian Military Hospital during World War One.
Prince Leopold and Princess Charlotte married in May 1816 and Charlotte died in November 1817.
After Charlotte’s death her husband became obsessed with her - he took a mistress who looked just like her, then he married Princess Louise and called their daughter Charlotte after his first wife. Leopold's friend Baron Stockmar wrote that Leopold never recovered the feeling of happiness which had blessed his short married life.
Princess Charlotte’s tomb is in St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.
Charlotte’s death left King George III without a legitimate grandchild to follow the Prince Regent, even though he had no fewer than 15 children. Newspapers began urging the king’s other sons to marry. As a result, Edward, Duke of Kent dismissed his mistress and married – and went on to have a daughter, Princess Victoria, who became Queen.
Donation of unique royal vase to Royal Pavilion and Museums
Contact the Brighton & Hove Council Press Team
(01273) 292276 or 291035 firstname.lastname@example.org