The Death of Princess Charlotte and Britain’s Succession Crisis

The year 1817 marked a significant year in the history of the House of Hanover for it was a year that would mean the demise or the continuity of the British Royal Family. On November 6,1817, Princess Charlotte, the only legitimate child of George, Prince Regent, passed away. While his younger brothers were not without spring, the problem is all of they lack legitimate heirs to the line of succession.

On May 2, 1816, Princess Charlotte married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, much to the excitement of the British crowd. After a miscarriage shortly after their wedding, Princess Charlotte’s pregnancy was announced in April 1817, rousing the interest of the public and even betting shops set up books on what would be her child’s sex. Such was the impact of Charlotte’s pregnancy that even economists predicted that giving birth to a daughter would raise the stock market’s value by 2.5 percent while a son would raise to 6 percent.

She started labor on November 5, 1817, Baron Stockman, Prince Leopold’s physician, noting how outdated the British medical team that attended Charlotte. The boy born of Charlotte was stillborn. No sooner, the princess suffered from stomach pain and started to vomit. She died soon after midnight. While the postmortem was inconclusive as to what caused the princess’ death, many blamed her male midwife, Sir Richard Croft. The princess’ father, the Prince Regent, nevertheless did not blame him, although Croft committee suicide three months after while attending a childbirth.
The entire United Kingdom mourned the princess’ passing for it had “lost  a favorite child.” But the effect of her death did not just took a heavy blow emotionally but triggered a succession crisis to the House of Hanover. Since 1810, her grandfather, King George III, has been suffering from porphyria. 

Her father was already estranged from her mother, Caroline, so there was no chance for the Prince Regent of ever fathering an heir. George III’s younger sons had illegitimate children that they were barred from inheriting the throne, so Parliament forced the brothers to look for a suitable wife. Between 1817 and 1818, they willingly obliged. The Duke of Clarence married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen but they, too, were unlucky at childrearing since Adelaide suffered several miscarriages later on and their two surviving daughters died young. The next son, the Duke of York also married but did not have a child. Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent, meanwhile, left her mistress Madame de Saint Laurent and proposed to Leopold’s younger sister, Victoria Maria Louisa, the widow of the impoverished Prince Emich Carl of Leiningen. They were married in Coburg in 1818. They hurried back to London in 1819 just shortly before Victoria was due for labor to make sure their baby would be born in the British. While Edward died shortly afterwards, Victoria would become Queen.

In 1820, King George III died and was succeeded by King George IV who ruled until 1830. He was followed by the Duke of Clarence who was crowned as William IV. Victoria reigned from 1837 until 1901, an era that saw British at the zenith of its economic, political and military might.