Amelia (DNB00)

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AMELIA (1783–1810), princess, youngest daughter, and last and fifteenth child of George III, was born 7 Aug. 1783. Always delicate, and the successor of two delicate little brothers who died shortly before her birth, this princess was the object of most careful and affectionate concern to all around her, and was especially the pet and companion of her father (Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, iii. 25). The child understood the dignity of her position even at three years old (ibid. iii. 51, iv. 3, &c.); she would remember her sick friends in her prayers (ibid. iii. 202); yet she was childlike enough to refuse to go to bed unless Miss Burney undressed her (ibid. pp. 172 and 185), and to insist on Miss Burney and Mr. Smelt playing at phaeton-driving with her, with all the fun of a frisky horse (ibid. p. 178). The delicacy of the princess's health continuing as she grew up, she did not become so proficient in accomplishments as her sisters, though her skill at the piano was considerable, and she was comely and graceful, full of all a girl's attractiveness and charm. She was warmly disposed to be charitable, and imposed upon herself the expense of three little girls, chosen from necessitous homes, whom she educated and brought up to trade, and who were allowed, upon occasions, to visit her. One of these, Mary, the princess apprenticed to her own dressmaker, Mrs. Bingley, of Piccadilly; and on Mrs. Bingley having to inform her royal highness of the unhappy fall of the girl, the princess wrote a touching letter to her, exhorting her to consider her position and return to a virtuous life (Hone's Every-Day Book, i. 1074). As early as 1798, when the princess was only fifteen years old, she suffered from painful lameness in her knee, and her health began to break up. She went to Worthing for sea-bathing (Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, 1 Dec. 1798, vi. 178), which gave much benefit, and on a return of the malady from time to time the same remedy was tried again. In 1808, however, all means began to fail, and the princess had to pass most of her hours amidst all the restraints of an invalid. In 1809 she could occasionally take short walks in the garden. This improvement was but temporary, however, and in August 1810 her sufferings grew sharper, whilst in the October of that year she was seized with St. Anthony's fire (erysipelas), which cut off all hope, confined her to her bed on the 25th, when all the world was celebrating her father's jubilee (Annual Register, 1810, appendix, p. 406), and made it manifest that her death was rapidly approaching. The king's distress was intense. Himself part-blind then, and having only intervals of sanity, he summoned his daughter's physicians to him at seven o'clock every morning, and three or four other times during the day, questioning them minutely as to her condition. The dying princess had a mourning ring made for the king, composed of a lock of her hair, under crystal, set round with diamonds; and saying to him, ‘Remember me,’ she herself pressed it on his finger, thereby throwing him into such poignant grief that he passed into that last sad condition of madness from which he was never restored. Mercifully the princess was never informed of this terrible effect of her gift (Gent. Mag. lxxx. part ii. p. 487); and lingering a few days more, waited upon to the last by her favourite and devoted sister, the Princess Mary, she died, at Augusta Lodge, Windsor, on 2 Nov. 1810, aged 27; and was buried at Windsor, Tuesday evening, 13 Nov. 1810, with full pageantry of pages, ushers, knights, equerries, and grooms (see State Ceremonial). Her royal highness left the Prince of Wales her residuary legatee, desiring him to sell her jewels to pay her debts and realise enough for a few small legacies; but the prince gave the jewels to the Princess Mary, and took upon himself all the other charges.

The untimely death of the Princess Amelia evoked warm sympathy throughout the country, many sermons and elegies being published on the occasion, and the incident of her gift of the ring was commemorated in verse by Peter Pindar and others. The stanzas beginning ‘Unthinking, idle, wild, and young,’ were attributed to the Princess Amelia, and appeared in most publications of the day as her undoubted composition. The authorship has been questioned, however (see George III, his Court, &c., ii. 357, where the stanzas are given in full; also Gent. Mag., for 1810, and the monthly magazines).

[Gent. Mag. Supplement to, 1810, 646: ibid. 1810, 565; European Magazine, iv. part ii. p. 159; Annual Register.]

J. H.