Being a princess is really stupid sometimes. For example, on an unremarkable August day in 1761, a British delegation arrived in front of the palace of Duke Adolf Friedrich of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Adolf Friedrich is pious, frugal, quick-tempered and unmarried. Although he runs a very modest household with his older sister, his dukedom is in dire need of money. And military respect. Therefore, Adolf decided to marry his younger sister, Princess Charlotte, to a British man.
Not with a Briton, of course, but with the most powerful. The newly proclaimed king, 23-year-old George III. He had German princesses search for a possible wife. His demand: she should not be interested in politics, so that she does not get the idea of interfering in government affairs. George wants a quiet, submissive woman who is as uneducated as possible. He is happy with Charlotte. And Adolf Friedrich enthusiastically signs the supply contract for Charlotte, which the British delegation hands over to him.
Just three days later, on August 17, 1761, the 17-year-old princess set off on her journey to London. It takes 22 days. At sea, her ship encounters three severe storms. At 3:30 p.m. on September 8, the bride sold to England enters St. James Palace in London and is introduced to her future husband. At 9 p.m., the two are in front of the altar.
Germans consider Charlotte an educated princess who excels in housekeeping and religion. The British don’t have much use for her. It is said that she had the level of education of a simple landed gentry and did not speak a word of English. The court creates a PR fairy tale: Charlotte, despite her youth, wrote such a sharp, witty complaint to the Prussian king about the poor performance of the Prussian army in Mecklenburg that George immediately fell in love with her clever joke.
The Germans also find nothing wrong with Charlotte’s appearance. The British find her and all her relatives downright ugly. So ugly that they look for the worst comparisons. For her, Charlotte resembles those people who have no status in their society. The slave. From Africa.
The court physician Baron Christian Friedrich Stockmar described Charlotte as “short and crooked, with a real mulatto face”. And Sir Walter Scott, the best-selling historical novelist, called Charlotte and her family “of an unhealthy color, like orangutan-like characters with black eyes and hooked noses.” Her “broad nose” and “thick lips” were also reprimanded.
George has no problems with Charlotte. The marriage is considered a happy one, the two become parents of 15 children, who in turn give birth to only four miserable grandchildren, one of whom is the future Queen Victoria. Charlotte introduces England to some continental customs that become very popular: she imports the Christmas tree and Mozart, who appears at court several times in 1764 when he is only 8 years old, makes music with Charlotte and wears some of his pieces up to her.
The last French queen, Marie Antoinette, is one of her best friends. The two never meet face-to-face, but they are avid pen pals. Charlotte experienced the revolution firsthand through Marie Antoinette and was shocked when her friend was guillotined in October 1793 at the Place de la Concorde.
And Charlotte defends her husband, who suffers from bipolar disorder and will go down in history as “Mad King George”, against all manner of medical measures and courtly intrigue. He suffered his first attack in 1765, a more severe second in 1788 and from 1810 he was completely lost to reality, one of his sons taking over the affairs of state. Once he gives a confused speech of 58 hours. For ten years he was utterly deranged, neither Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815 nor Charlotte’s death in 1818 reached him.
Surprisingly, it is precisely the disease that makes it more popular with the people. In 1786 and 1790, two mentally disturbed people – a woman who thought she was the rightful heir to the throne and a man who thought she was the Apostle Paul – attacked George III. He asks his security forces for clemency: “The poor creature is crazy. don’t hurt her. She didn’t hurt me either.” His gentleness is his triumph.
Many years later, starting in 1967, genealogist Mario De Valdes y Cocom of Belize investigated why Queen Charlotte was actually compared to African women. And why in many of her portraits she looked like a white woman with an African bone structure. The latter, however, may be due to the fact that the court portraitist Sir Allan Ramsay was a staunch supporter of the abolition of slavery and, as Valdes writes, may have smuggled a political message into his paintings.
Many generations and over 400 years earlier, Charlotte’s ancestors were actually an illegitimate son of the Portuguese King Alfonso and a Muslim woman with presumed North African roots. This son in turn married into a noble family whose past ramifications also led to Africa.
However, from Queen Charlotte these go back nine to fifteen generations and are unlikely to have left visible traces. Moreover, there is no evidence from Germany that Mecklenburg could ever have been under the rule of an African-looking duke.
However, Valdes’ thesis led to series giant Shonda Rhimes entrusting her Queen Charlotte to black actresses in the Netflix hit “Bridgerton” and in the “Bridgerton” spin-off “Queen Charlotte”. Always with the emphasis that this is about “fiction based on facts”.
Shonda Rhimes practically dreams up the idea of Valdes by visualizing her favorite utopia of an egalitarian society, bringing an interesting twist to her pastel-colored “Bridgerton” syrup. What if England actually had a black queen in the 18th century? Wouldn’t someone like Meghan have become an outsider today?
Of course, Shonda Rhimes prepares her Queen Charlotte with the usual firm Rhimes spoon, everything is shortened, embellished, romanticized and dramatized so that the much more relaxed story is bursting at the seams. Of course, the young couple is beautiful and the mad king is completely insane right after the wedding and forever. A doctor named Monro, who only entered the historical scene in 1811 and was quickly disposed of by Charlotte, is there from the start as George’s diabolical torturer. And of course Charlotte didn’t have a black noble girlfriend like in the series.
But that’s how it is when real history becomes history. Sir Walter Scott would certainly applaud Shonda Rhimes for that.
I’m Maxine Reitz, a journalist and news writer at 24 Instant News. I specialize in health-related topics and have written hundreds of articles on the subject. My work has been featured in leading publications such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Healthline. As an experienced professional in the industry, I have consistently demonstrated an ability to develop compelling stories that engage readers.