Charlotte Augusta Matilda (DNB00)
|←Charlotte Augusta (1796-1817)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 10
Charlotte Augusta Matilda
CHARLOTTE AUGUSTA MATILDA, Princess Royal of Great Britain and Ireland and Queen of Würtemberg (1766–1828), the eldest daughter of George III and Queen Charlotte, was born at Buckingham House, London, on 29 Sept. 1766—a 'Michaelmas goose,' according to her mother's homely wit. The 'Diary' of Madame d'Arblay contains many reminiscences besides this of princess royal in her early womanhood from 1786 to 1791; and all are to the credit of her temper and disposition. She is described as writing German with perfect facility, and drawing is mentioned as one of her occupations, while music appears to have been an art 'which she even professes to have no taste for, and to hear almost with pain.' To Miss Burney she was always kind and condescending, and for Mrs. Delany she cherished a warm affection. She seems to have been loved in the quiet domestic circle of her father's court, and to have behaved as a dutiful daughter to the king himself, whose companion she was during a drive on the morning (5 Nov. 1788) when his delirium declared itself. When in July 1790 Madame d'Arblay (as she now was) paid a visit to the royal family at Windsor, she learned that the princess was betrothed to the hereditary prince of Würtemberg. Madame d'Arblay's 'Diary' furnishes a lively though respectful account of the wooing, and subsequently of the wedding, which took place 18 May 1797 at the Chapel Royal St. James's. The princess royal was not altogether unwilling to leave home; as Madame d'Arblay puts it, 'she adored the king, honoured the queen, and loved her sisters, and had much kindness for her brothers; but her style of life was not adapted to the royalty of her nature any more than of her birth; and though she only wished for power and do good and confer favours, she thought herself out of her place in not possessing it.'
If the tattle of Sir N. W. Wraxall is in any degree to be trusted, the negotiations as to this marriage had not been altogether smooth.He relates that when in 1796 overtures were first made on the subject by the Würtemberg court, George III was so prepossessed against the prince, who was suspectedof having been privy to the death of his first wife, a Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel princess, eight years previously in Russia, he would not listen to the proposal. Wraxall adds, however, that the prince sent over London to disprove the accusation, and that it was refuted to the king's satisfaction. A few months after his marriage in December 1797, Prince Frederick William Charles succeeded to the government of Würtemberg on the death of his father, Duke Frederick Eugene. He was a prince of considerable ability and tact, strengthened by experience in both the Prussian and the Russian service; and he showed extraordinary skill in apprehending the signs of the times, averting difficulties, and seizing opportunities before it was too late. A fugitive at Vienna (1799-1801), an elector of the empire (1803), king by the grace of Napoleon (1806), and a member of the Confederation of the Rhine, he ultimately contrived to make his peace with allies soon after the battle of Leipzig. At home he ruled from 1806 as an absolute monarch, having abolished the ancient Würtemberg constitution, of which in 1771 Great Britain had virtually become a guaranteeing power. The new constitution which he offered in 1815 was rejected by his estates and people, and while the discussions on the subject were in progress he died, 30 Oct. 1816. There is no evidence that Charlotte Augusta played a part in any of these transactions, which must, however, have largely added to the anxieties of her life. Her marriage with Frederick, who had had three children by his first wife, remained childless, with the exception of a stillborn daughter. During her later years the Dowager Queen of Würtemberg was much afflicted by dropsy, and her size increased abnormally. In 1827 she visited England, to obtain, if possible, relief from the skill of Sir Astley Cooper and other physicians. But her journey was made in vain, for on 6 Oct. 1828 she died, rather suddenly, at Ludwigsburg, near Stuttgart.[Annual Register for 1828. For reminiscences of the early life of Charlotte Augusta see the Diary and Letters of Madame d'Arblay, vols, iii-vi. (7 vol. edition, London, 1854). Of the career of her husband a good account is given in Pfaff's Geschichte des Fürstenhauses und Landes Wirtemberg (Stuttgart, 1839), vol. iii. pt. 2, and in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, vol. viii. For the gossip concerning the fate of his first wife see Wraxall's Memoirs of my own Time, i. 203-15; cf. Preface to his Posthumous Memoirs (2nd ed. 1836), v-viii.]