Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A new princess for Britain

On July 19, 1822 at the Monbrillant Palace in Hanover, the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to her second child, a daughter. Six days short of her 25th birthday, the former Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel was the first of the young Royal Duchesses to give birth to a second healthy child, thus another heir to the British throne.
Less than a decade earlier, succession to the throne seemed a bit shaky due to the lack of young heirs. This was largely due to the inability of George III's sons to find acceptable wives who would bear healthy and legitimate children. In 1795, the future George VI, married his first cousin, Caroline Caroline of Brunswick. But the marriage was not a success, and he preferred the companionship of other women. Caroline gave birth to a daughter, Charlotte, nine months later in January 1796. Princess Charlotte of Wales became second in line to the throne. She was the couple's only child, and the future Queen Charlotte. However, she did not have any legitimate first cousins. Prince Frederick, the Duke of York, and his wife, Frederica of Prussia, whom he married in 1791, did not have any children, and the couple lived largely separate lives throughout most of their marriage. The Duke of Clarence had 11 illegitimate children. Ten of these children were the result of a long term relationship with an actress, Dorothy Jordan.
Next in line to the throne was Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. He was very happy with his mistress, Julie St. Laurent, but they had no children.
Prince Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, was married. In 1815, he married his first cousin, Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who had eight children by her first two marriages, but no surviving children by her third husband.
Prince Augustus, Duke of Sussex, had gone through a marriage ceremony with Lady Augusta Murray in 1793, but the marriage was not valid because it was in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act. Dynasts needed permission of the Sovereign to marry. Augustus did not have this permission. Lady Augusta was an earl's daughter, and not considered suitable as a royal duchess. The couple did have two children, Augustus and Augusta, who had the surname D'Este, but were not considered legitimate, and, thus, could not inherit the throne.
The youngest of George III's surving sons, Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, was unmarried.
In 1816, Princess Charlotte of Wales married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Saafeld, a German prince with little money but a lot of ambition. It seemed to be a love match, and the nation rejoiced when Charlotte became pregnant. She suffered two miscarriages before becoming pregnant in February 1817. On November 5, she went into labor, and two days later, she gave birth to a stillborn son. Princess Charlotte died the next day,
Charlotte was George III's only legitimate grandchild. Her death meant that something had to be done so Parliament ordered George III's unmarried sons to find wives or lose their allowances. As most of the princes lived lavishly and had debts, they knew they could not lose their appanages. The Dukes of Clarence and Kent dumped their mistresses, and found wives. The Duke of Clarence married Princess Adelheid of Saxe-Meiningen, who became Adelaide in the UK. Kent's wife, Victoire, the widowed Princess of Leiningen, was the sister of Princess Charlotte's husband, Leopold. Both marriages took place at Kew in July 1818.
Prince Adolphus fell in love with Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel, and they were married several weeks before the Clarences and the Kents.
So now, the royal dukes -- twice the ages of their brides -- had married in accordance with the Royal Marriages Act. But who would win the Royal Succession stakes.
The Duchess of Cambridge was the first to pass the post. On March 24, 1819, she gave birth to a son, who was named George. Five days later, the duchess of Clarence gave birth to a daughter, Charlotte, who lived for only a few hours. Next up was the Duchess of Kent, who on May 24, 1819, gave birth to a daughter, Alexandrina Victoria. And - much to the surprise of other family members, the Duchess of Cumberland gave birth to a son, George, in Berlin three days after the birth of the Kent princess.
The succession now seemed secure. Unfortunately, the Duchess of Clarence gave birth to several more children, none of whom survived infancy. The Duke of Kent died only nine months after the birth of his daughter. The Duchess of Cumberland would have no further issue. Only the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would have more than one child. Prince George was born in 1819. Augusta arrived three years later, and the youngest, Mary Adelaide, was born in 1833.
Princess Augusta was born in Hanover because her father served as Viceroy. She was baptised on August 16, 1822, according to the rites of the Anglican church, and she was given the names Augusta Caroline Charlotte Mary Sophia Louise. The baptism took place at the Palace of Montbrilliant in the presence of the baby's parents and members of the duchess' family: Their Serene Highnesses Caroline Landgravine of Hesse, Louisa Princess and Landgravine of Hesse, Frederick William, Prince and Landgrave of Hesse and Louisa Princess of Nassau Usingen.
The little princess had a long list of sponsors at her baptism: The Duke of York, Queen Charlotte of Württemberg (a daughter of George III), Princess Augusta (a daughter of George III) ,the Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg (the former Princess Elizabeth, daughter of George III), the Duchess of Gloucester (Princess Mary, daughter of George III who was married to her cousin, Prince William, Duke of Gloucester), Princess Sophia (daughter of George III) the Electress of Hesse, the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (the Duchess of Cambridge's sister) , Charlotte Louisa Landgravine of Hesse, Caroline Landgravine of Hesse, Princess Louisa, Landgravine of Hesse and Princess Louisa of Nassau-Usingen.
Although Princess Augusta of Cambridge would live for most of her life outside the United Kingdom, she remained very much a British princess.

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