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Charlotte & Leopold - We Found Love Right Where We Are - Arranged Love Blossom

Updated: Feb 22

I'm a big fan of the forgotten figures and their stories. This is one such story.

Princess Charlotte of Wales is not the first name that comes to mind when you think of royal love stories. Usually, her tale is told quite condensed, as it serves as a preface to Queen Victoria's own life story. Prince Leopold (later King) is mentioned either in his own context, as a King of the Belgians, or as an uncle to Queen Victoria and also to her husband Prince Albert. Leopold often gets credit for engineering the match. His marriage to Princess Charlotte of Wales is rarely mentioned, and definitely out of the popular history spotlight. That doesn't seem right to me.

The story of these two is one for the ages, and here's why. Two remarkable people came together in a (self)-arranged marriage, fell head over heels in love, and due to tragedy, one party was deeply bereaved of the other. If this doesn't get Romeo + Juliet, The Notebook, Titanic, Brokeback Mountain vibes, then I don't know what does...

(putting on my trailer voice)

She was the most popular person in the British Royal family in the late Georgian times. Her pen pals and her courtships would give Bridgerton a run for its money. Her friends included top-ranking politicians and one of her suitors was shot by Napoleon's own bastard child.

She was the only legitimate grand-child of George III. Her wit, charm and humour found their way into the hearts of the nation. She is called "the original people's princess".

He was a distinguished and well-respected soldier from the German House of Coburg, who had fought in both the Russian and the French armies during the Napoleonic wars. In his youth he had rubbed shoulders with the Russian Tsar, The Emperor Napoleon, the exiled French King Louis-Philippe and of course, Prince Regent. His battles included that of Waterloo among others. One of his earlier mistresses was Boney's own step-daughter. His own child became the first and only Empress of Mexico.

N.B. Louis-Philippe, the exiled King of France was also his second father-in-law.

The 'Russian' dress worn by Princess Charlotte of Wales
The 'Russian' dress worn by Princess Charlotte of Wales

Both of these young people had dense biographies and could do a lot of historical name-dropping. Yet their time together was so precious and oft forgot. They married when she was twenty, and he was twenty six. It was almost a self-arranged marriage, because it was a union that did indeed include beneficial factors, contracts and permissions, but it was based on a personal choice. A year of blissful nuptials the couple spent delighting in each other and helping each other grow. Just when their family was about to expand, Charlotte died in childbed, plunging the monarchy into a succession crisis and her husband (as well as the country) into grief previously unknown to either. The reaction to her death across Britain is often compared to that of Lady Diana Spencer some hundred and eighty years later.

windsor castle
Windsor Castle, where Charlotte was a frequent guest of her regal grandparents George III and Queen Charlotte

Charlotte's death secured the conception of the future Queen Victoria. This death also made it possible for Leopold to be King of ...some country. He refused the Greek throne, but agreed to the Belgian one, thus begetting a royal dynasty that continues to this day.

Their time together was brief, their acquaintance and eventual courtship was much longer than their marriage. Despite this brevity, they made a positive impact on each other and one cannot help but romanticise what their future would have looked like. One's heart breaks when learning that they are buried far away from each other, too, despite Leopold's desire to be next to Charlotte for posterity. Alas, she is entombed in St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle, and he is laid to rest in his new kingdom of Belgium at the Church of Our Lady of Laeken.

These two definitely deserve more time in the spotlight. From a self-arranged marriage, to a happily-briefly-after, Charlotte and Leopold made a historical power couple.

Here are a few books on Charlotte and her Prince Charming you might find useful: The Lost Queen by Anne Stott and Charlotte & Leopold: The True Story of the Original People's Princess by James Chambers.

P.S. Charlotte and Leopold left very few marks on architecture - but one thing they did, was to establish The Royal Coburg (1818), the theatre that today is called The Old Vic.

P.S.2 While I have not yet encountered portrayals of Charlotte in film or television, Leopold has actually featured as a supporting character in two shows about Queen Victoria: The Young Victoria (2009) - played by Thomas Kretschmann; and Victoria (2016-2019) - played by Alex Jennings. The latter gives a more sympathetic portrayal, and mentions Charlotte, while the former is presented in a more brusque way.

P.S.3. I first learnt of Charlotte and her death about ten years ago, when I stumbled on a YouTube documentary called Royal Deaths and Diseases. It was incredibly fascinating and informative. Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate the required episode since. Here is another one, summarising the life and death of Princess Charlotte of Wales.

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