Sunday, January 9, 2011

Charlotte and Leopold

I had read the book by Chambers entitled 'Charlotte and Leopold: The Original People's Princess'. Since then I have been fascinated by this 'forgotten princess' who was so well loved by the people of her time. And so I had read as much books as I can find and also online books published by different authors. I had also made a little trip to England and visited Claremont gardens and Windsor Castle as well as the Kensington Palace where she had resided.

 I think perhaps because she never became Queen that  her short, partly sad, and partly happy life was not really remembered by many. It will contiue to remain so..That is, except until her story is told  because she had such a remarkable personality. When I read Chamber's account  of her story and the book entitled ,"Prinny's Daughter, it felt like I was reading a fairytale gone wrong. It all started almost like how it begins in historical romances- with a very handsome hero, beautiful settings, clashes of personalities and rebellious heroine LOL. But it did not end happily ever after. Heart-breaking really. But it was still for me one of the greatest  real love story I've heard of. This is quite a long story, but  I  just wanted  this blog to perhaps give a clearer picture or a more complete idea of Charlotte and Leopold's relationship in order for people to appreciate this beautiful love story.

 King George III of England had 15 children with his wife Queen Charlotte. His eldest son George who later became King George IV had only one legitimate child and that is Princess Charlotte. She would have been Queen and her infant son would have been heir to the throne of England had she not died. Charlotte's parents cant stand each other and only married for political reasons.  She was born at the time when the royal family was very much disliked by the masses. The people seemed to see them as dissolute people. So the people put all their hopes on Charlotte at the moment of her birth.  When Charlotte  was only few months old,  her parents separated , leaving her alone as a child to a household of her own and governesses. Her father only allowed very limited visitations from her mother and she had everything but never quite felt love from her parents. She was known to be bright but only in matters that interests her. Not feeling love from her parents,  growing up,  she became difficult headstrong teenager who was quite a tomboy and somewhat untamed . It was said she was prone to extreme. When she cries or laughs it seemed unending, But she was kind and very generous just like King George III (her grandfather who was very fond of her).

There were times as a young girl she  would buy dolls for her playmates who were children of servants. She would sometimes be taken by her governess with other children and was able to go out  incognito. When she grew older she was known as being candid. She would shake hands heartily , and in a mannish way with shipsofficers and observe their ship with her usual way- feet apart and hands clasps behind her back.

I believe that inspite of her father's hatred of her mother that her father loved her. Although there are instances when he would be jealous of her popularity. But Charlotte also did somethings that were quite scandalous that perhaps gave headache to her father.

 So, in order to get her settled and perhaps out of his hands as well as get her away from England, her father wanted her to marry a prince (of orange) which she initialy agreed to. But then she met someone ( I think it was Prince August  )whom she was so smitten with and  she had hope that he would propose to her. But  Prince August either wanted someone else or he was too intimidated by her father. Which was probably a blessing since he was a known womanizer. Now during this time she met a handsome young officer at the lobby of a hotel who escorted her at her carriage. Upon learning that he's a prince and to make courteous conversation, she asked why he was not paying her a call like all  the other princes do in England. He said, he did not know such things was done. He escorted her into her carriage.  But her attention was still with prince August and the officer was soon out of her mind by the time the carriage departed. Maybe it was ambition or maybe a genuine admiration of Charlotte (as he must have known that she was quite popular with the people unlike most of the royal families and sought after by many men because of her status) this young officer perhaps fired up by a drink or two cut his visit to the opera to visit Charlotte. He stayed for 45 minutes telling her of her beauty and Charlotte who was still infatuated with Prince August was quite shock and just wish he would go away.

But after losing hope that Prince August would have her.(He returned all her gifts) . She made up her mind and wrote in a letter to a friend that she will just have to settle for the "next best thing" (the man she met at the hotel) his name-Prince Leopold or as she terrmed him 'Leo' . It is sometimes amazing how fate turns each person's life.

Each had their own agendas and the two did initialy marry for their own selfish reasons. For Charlotte to have her freedom and ambitious Leopold to have the throne of England. And what do you know,  just like how you would read it in a romance novel, the two have a very different personality. Leopold, cautious, calculating, formal, charming, intelligent and and extremely handsome. While Charlotte, was impulsive,feisty, anxious, naive and have shocking manners but very interesting personality. Indeed she stamped, she quizzed and roared with laughter. A friend of Leopold even said, She's like "a boy in petticoats". There were conflicts in the beginning, but Leopold who was an excellent diplomat and courageous soldier, was successful in taming his wife.
He calmed her anxiousness, and gently taught her how a princess should behave. And she, who was so fast in exercising her authority when she was crossed became very submissive and attached to her husband. Charlotte's  personality and character gave flair and I think excitement to Leopold life. Slowly but surely, Leopold's ambition was supplanted by his heart and the two fell deeply in love.   One close friend of Charlotte's who visited them months after their marriage was surprised on how both seemed still very absorbed with each other, though they make sure not to neglect their visitors.
 Each one also strive to please the other. Charlotte adapted all the interest of her husband in reading and botany. She helped him learn the English Language.

 She made little tender acts of affection and did what she thinks is  a "duty of a wife' like folding his cravats and linens.. Also making sure hot water for his bath was prepared whenever he comes home from an outdoor shooting. She even prepared refreshments, which he relished knowing she made them. But her fondest habit is combing his hair. Now, these are things people who are royal at that time usually dont do!. Actually some middle class wives of today usually dont do! ...hahahaha. As for Leopold he made an effort to please her at all times. He even grew a mustache to please her. It was said that he was very kind to her. At one point Charlotte mentioned to a friend that Leopold insisted on taking her to the opera even if he was not feeling well because he knew she was excited to see it. Everytime she gets overly excited. He would just say, " Doucement ,Cherie, Doucement.." (Gently ,love, gently) So she nicknamed him, "DOUCEMENT."LOL.
And it worked most of the time... well, except whenever she was jealous  :)
In short, Charlotte also found a father in the body of her handsome 26 years old husband. It was said that they were always together. They also often visited the poor and go to church together. But people soon started complaining that the clothes of the people attending the service looked like they are attending a ball rather than a service because of the people who were curious to see the young couple. So the two decided to have their own private chapel built. Leopold wrote," Except when I go out to shoot, we're always together. And we can be together, we did not tire." They live like ordinary people in their private lives in Claremont were they prefer to stay except when they needed to be at a royal family gathering.
At one time a woman was summoned for an interview with the couple. She was being considered as a nurse for Charlotte's childbirth.  The couple, according from her testimonial, entered the room arm in arm, then briefly paused to talk to her and ask some questions. Charlotte then  gave her final instructions and said pausing briefly to say her ' dear love'(kissing leopold) and she would be expecting her on so and so date. The couple then turn to leave the room, the entire time arm in arm.

Sir Thomas Lawrence who at that time stayed at Claremont and was commissioned by Charlotte to paint her portrait (the portrait that King Leopold I took to Belgium) said of their mode of life, "is very regular. They breakfast together alone about eleven. At half past she came to sit for me, accompanied by Prince Leopold, who stayed great part of the time.  About three she would leave the painting room to get some airing 'round the ground in her low phaeton with her phonies, the prince always walking by her side...'At five she sat for Lawrence again and the whole household dined at soon after seven. After dessert, the Prince and Princess went together in the drawing room where they sat and sing together-'sitting at the pianoforte,often on the same stool...But when the company joined them, they broke off, and after coffee, everybody played cards, the Prince and Princess being always partners.'

Charlotte's labor began on the evening of November 3 1817. She died 3 days later after giving birth to a beautiful babyboy. The doctor who had made the decidion to just wait for the normal labor and delivery with a no intervention policy will later kill himself. The very anxious Prince Leopold was said never to have left his wife's side, supporting her walk during some parts of her labor, or laying beside her while she absently fondle his hair like no one was watching. After she was told that he baby did not survived, she accepted it with resignation and thinking of how devastated many in room were, she tried to comfort them by making a light comment regarding the clothing of one of the attendants and looking tenderly at Leopold said,"when do you think I can comb his hair again?"

It is also somewhat poignant if not surprising that Leopold due to his skills, charms,  wisdom and good judgements in politics did go places and still ended up a King (which he probably never would have been had Charlotte lived, he would probably only be a Queen consort like Prince Albert)...Quite poignant that he  became King without Charlotte by his side.

After Charlotte's death in childbirth, the people of England went into public mourning, the Prince Regent  was prostrated with grief, and Leopold was devastated.

  I had often read romances but I imagine that if Jane Austen will write a tragedy this is how it would be...especialy that part after Charlotte died and Leopold walked round and round the park with charlotte's miniature clutch in his hand. How he would go late at night in Charlotte's room where she was lying and would stay there for a long time. Stockmar mentioned in his memoir that 'life seemed to already lost it's value to him.' And that he was worried as Prince Leopold never had any means of expressing his grief. The Prince also asked from that time on for Stockmar to promise that he will always be with him. ANd Stockmar said in his memoir, that he was always there for the prince support, he ate with him, talk with him and even slept on the same room when Leopold cannot sleep and wanted to talk. And he was there to hear him on those nights groan with grief. When his old tutor had visited at that time Leopold just embraced him and sobbed. It is true, that Leopold never fully recovered.  According to an early biographer,  he has changed, 'as if  he has lost his heart.' and according to an old Stockmar  that he had never again  fully recovered the happiness that blessed his brief marriage.

  Leopold said, "My Charlotte is gone from the country—it has lost her. She was a good, she was an admirable woman. None could know my Charlotte as I did know her! It was my study, my duty, to know her character, but it was my delight." Charlotte of Wales was buried at the royal vault in St. George's Chapel in Windsor, England. Before she died she had asked for one final wish-that her husband Leopold would be buried beside her when his time comes. Leopold must have been told this as he instructed to make space for him when she was buried. He repeated this request shortly before he died asking Queen Victoria permission to be buried in England. Sadly, it was never realized.

A little more than a month after her death, the pregnant portrait of Charlotte that she has commissioned from Lawrence just a month before she gave birth was delievered on Leopold's birthday(Dec 16). Charlotte had intended it to be a birthday present, It is her last present to him.  The entire household burst into tears and Prince Leopold  who was always calm and formal was greatly affected he could not keep his tone normal. When he became King according to a biographer of Charlotte of Mexico, King Leopold was torn by powerful emotions everytime he would look at this painting.  Perhaps he wondered how his son with her would have looked like or how his life with her would had been like.

 Anyway, aside from naming his daughter Charlotte, many doesn't know that he also "married" a woman (Caroline Bauer) who looked exactly like Princess Charlotte, a year before he married Queen Louise-Marie. He saw her in a play. The following day, he sent his chamberlain to ask permission to call. And the following day, he visited and proposed marriage to her . He told her that day that his heart was inclined to her at the first sight because she looks like his departed wife and that this inclination has already grown into a passionate love that day! It is somewhat of a departure to his character of being cautious and reserved. Perhaps years of grief and longing had taken it's toll.  He asked her to go to Germany and there he told her that he hope of having with her, again the happiness taken away from him so soon. Several times he would ask her of her feelings for him and if there are anyone she loves more than him. He hid her from everyone except Stockmar . And perhaps he would have kept her if there were no new opportunity that arose from Greece, and then Belgium.  But other things came into play. He cannot marry her publicly because of his potential future ,and he cannot make her his mistress as it would be disrespectful to Stockmar  who was her cousin. Above all she was not Charlotte. Even though it was said that they looked like twins and the same temperamental personality. Leopold  perhaps saw the difference almost instantly. Perhaps it is the reason most of the times he just go to visit her and ask her to either read to him or play the piano as he "drizzle". So it really didn't work.
After Charlotte died also , Charlotte's uncles (sons of King George III )all rushed to marry and have children because Charlottes father (George IV) do not plan on getting married again or having children. But too many children were born died one after the other... Leopold introduced her sister Victoire to one of the Charlotte's Uncles, Edward... They married and had a daughter.  She was given the name Alexandrina Victoria. She would later be known as Queen Victoria. When she was born, Leopold found it difficult to look at her. Perhaps because she's half hanover like Charlotte and half Coburg like himself.. Just like his and Charlottes baby would have been.  I think that's why she was very special to Leopold. He sees her as the child he and charlotte could have had. They certainly would look very similar.

At the time Queen Vctoria was only eight months old, her father died and her mother was left almost penniless. So Leopold helped support his sister and his niece. They loved to visit Claremont. And as Victoria grew she considered Leopold ( as she told him in a letter) as her second father since she never can remember her own. Leopold writes to her constantly and gave her advise--- 1st as a princess and then as Queen. And Leopold wrote to her many times that a princess must not lack guidance. He even send his personal confidante and friend advisor, Stockmar, to her to help her during her reign as Queen. He wrote to her many times about Charlotte and how she was a model princess . Also according to Leopold , Queen Victoria resembles Charlotte physically. There was a visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert Early in Queen Victoria's reign  to Belgium,  where it was observed that Leopold instead of being happy to see the couple  had such sad look in his eyes.  Perhaps, he saw in Victoria and Albert's relationship, the happiness he and  Charlotte had and a reminder of those enchanted times. Or what could have been, that had Charlotte lived it would have been Charotte and him on the throne with their family, instead of Albert and Victoria. Charlotte as a Queen and him as a King. Queen Victoria may have failed to get Albert to become King.. But Charlotte was so very popular with the people and the parliament at that time, more so than Queen Victoria.   It was very possible they would allow her demand- (during her marrige, Charlotte would tell everyone that it would be impossible to for her to reign without her husband by her side. And that if they wont allow him to be King she would refused the throne and just settle with her husband in a cottage)

When Prince Albert died, King Leopold I attended the funeral inspite of being ill ( he died few years later). He alluded to Queen Victoria that it is very similar to how he felt when Charlotte died. 
Queen Victoria wrote, "The poor fatherless baby of eight months s now the utterly heartbroken and crushed widow of forty-two! My LIFE as a HAPPY one is ENDED! The world is gone for ME!... Oh! to be cut off in the prime of life--to see our pure, happy, quiet, domestic life, which ALONE enabled me to bear my MUCH disliked position, CUT OFF at forty-two--when I HAD hoped with such instinctive certainty that God never WOULD part us, and would let us grow old together --is TOO AWFUL, too cruel!"

In my personal opinion, I  think that the sad life and absence of love during Charlotte's childhood, had made her pour out all the love in her heart very generously. She wanted to give it  to someone, and Prince Leopold being her husband became the recepient of that love. Leopold on his part was probably all too aware of this great love and devotion  he had never known before nor since , that he had no recourse but to return the love with same passion. We might wonder why he was not the same with his second wife inspite of her devotion and love to him. I think part of it is- Charlotte chose Leopold for who he was. Although the marriage got her freedom from her father,  she had nothing to gain from Leopold by status, or wealth. There was nothing that Leopold could possibly given her but love. Leopold on the other hand had been handed it all- a future in throne of England and what he probably did not expect- the love and devotion of a passionate woman whom he fell deeply in love with and someone who gave him a challenge and active spirit.
Stockmar summed up it well by saying," My master is the best of all husbands in all of the four quarters of the globe, and his wife bears him an amount of love ,the greatness of which can only be compare with the English national debt."

I am not sure why but Charlotte and Leopold's love story reminded me of Victoria and Albert (only shorter version)    as well as  Astrid and Leopold's. How strange is that?  Why do these things end in tragedy?

Note: The blog was written focusing on the lovestory alone. There were too many details in this story to write a book. :)