Mary (1723-1772) (DNB00)

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MARY (1723–1772), princess of Hesse, fourth daughter of George II by Queen Caroline, born at Leicester House on 22 Feb. 1722-3, was married to Frederic, hereditary prince, afterwards landgrave, of Hesse Cassel, by proxy, the Duke of Cumberland representing the prince, in the Chapel Royal St. James s, on 8 May 1740, and afterwards to the prince in person at Cassel, apparently at the end of June. Bielfeld, who saw her at a fancy dress ball at Herrenhausen in the following October, describes her as tall, and handsome enough for a painter's model (faite à peindre). Horace Walpole characterises her as 'the mildest and gentlest of her race, and her husband as a boor and a brute, who treated her 'with great inhumanity,' In 1754 she was separated from him in consequence of his conversion to the Roman catholic faith, and thenceforth resided ordinarily with her children at Hanau. On the invasion of Hesse Cassel by the French in 1757 she fled with her father-in-law, the Landgrave William VIII, to Hamburg, where they were at first in such straits that Pitt anticipated the meeting of parliament by a remittance of 20,000l. to provide for their immediate personal expenses. In the following year a life annuity of 5,000l. was settled on the princess. On the death of her father-in-law, at Rinteln, 1 Feb. 1760, she became regent of Hanau, which she ably administered. She died at Hanau on 14 Jan. 1772, and was buried in the protestant church, now the Marienkirche, on 1 Feb. The news of her death reached London on 25 Jan., and eclipsed the gaiety of the town, not a few ladies of fashion staying away from the opening of the Pantheon on the 27th for want of mourning. She left the bulk of her property to her two younger sons, Charles and Frederic, who also succeeded to her pension and lived to immense ages. Her eldest son, William, succeeded his father as landgrave in 1785.

The princess figures in a group of George II's children belonging to the Duke of Devonshire.

[London Gazette, May 1740; Gent. Mag. 1754 p. 527, 1755 p. 330, 1757 p. 374, 1760 p. 102, 1772 p. 44; Grenville Papers, i. 206; Chatham Corresp. i. 244; Bedford Corresp. ed. Russell, ii. 337; Liber Hibern. pt. vii. 86; Hoffmeister's Historisch-genealogisches Handbuch; Röth's Geschichte von Hessen-Cassel, 335 et seq.; Vehse's Geschichte der Höfe der Haüser Baiern, Würtemberg, Baden und Hessen, v. 184–6, 217–21; Bielfeld's Lettres Familières, 1763, pp. 209–10; Horace Walpole's Letters, ed. Cunningham, ii. 49; Journal of the Reign of George III, ed. Doran, i. 2; Ann. Reg. 1772, p. 68: Almanach de Gotha, 1772; art. George II.]

J. M. R.