The legacy of Queen Charlotte has captured many. This October, Tina Andrews brings a new re-imagining of her life. You can read an excerpt from Queen Charlotte Sophia: A Royal Affair below. You might even recognize the found of a historical and well-loved bookshop that can still be found in Piccadilly, London.
Revolution had begun in France. By 1789, the French king and queen had been beheaded and England was in another financial slump. People did not want to engage in another war and they were no longer tolerant of issues such as the continuation of slavery. Charlotte felt change in the air.
Wilberforce agreed to be an advocate in the case of Anne’s slave death on the Recovery. In a speech before the House of Commons, he accused Captain Kimber of having caused the death of a slave girl by inflicting injuries on her because she had refused to dance naked on the deck of his ship. As a result of Wilberforce’s speech, Kimber was arrested and tried before the High Court of Admiralty. Even though he was ultimately acquitted, Charlotte felt some vindication for Anne.
When she visited Anne’s baby daughter Lotte-Anne at Filbert House, she gave the girl a doll and told her it was from her parents in heaven, who were at peace.
Months later, Charlotte learned Duke François died in his sleep upon his return to Mirepoix.
She also learned that John Stuart, the Earl of Bute passed away from complications following a fall on his property. George mourned him even though they had not spoken in years.
But it was the death of Sir John Wilkes which gave Charlotte the most solace. He had been a great activist for social change and America utilised many of his ideas in the formation of their government. America’s citizenry enjoyed the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion as guaranteed by their constitution. But for Charlotte, Sir John Wilkes would always represent the man responsible for some of the worst, most emotionally challenging times in her life.
And yet, his passing had not the resonance of the death which took place the following November. Charlotte was in her chambers feeling as ancient as Methuselah. She was more than aware of the physical toll having fifteen children in twenty years had taken on her 53-year-old body as each movement gave way to aches of muscle and spirit. As she rubbed the dull pain in her shoulder she momentarily glanced at her side table. There sat fourteen new leather-bound books personally delivered that day by young Mr John Hatchard, whom she had appointed as her personal bookseller after he took over her favourite bookstand in Piccadilly. William Wilberforce recommended Hatchard to the queen because of the voluminous antislavery books he unapologetically sold there. Charlotte had ordered all he had for her library.
But as she perused the various titles wondering which one she would read first, suddenly Lady Papendiek ran in emotionally distraught.
‘Your Majesty, it’s Swelly.’
Charlotte’s lady was dying. Her breathing slow and laboured. The stomach tumour had come up quickly and overtaken her in just a few months. Charlotte rushed in and sat at her side holding her hand and praying. Her tears began to flow like the Thames into the North Sea.
‘Swelly, I cannot let you go. Who will care for me? With whom shall I have adventures?’
Lady Schwellenberg opened her eyes, sensing Charlotte’s fear and grief, and held up a finger which Charlotte clutched desperately.
‘No crying, my girl. I’m going to a much better place.’
‘Charlotte, you are strong. Your strength has always amazed and prided me, child. Be who you are. You don’t need me.’
‘But I do. Please, Swelly. Don’t leave me,’ Charlotte cried. ‘You are like a sister to me.’
‘And I have loved you like a sister. Oh, the adventures we have had, you and I. Make me proud. Let Lady Papendiek and Mrs Burney show you they can be your confi dants in my stead. Let me go, my... girl... Let me go.’
Lady Johanna Schwellenberg’s chest fell for the last time.
Charlotte was inconsolable and refused all food and drink. She refused all company and gifts of condolences. She would not see George or any of her other ladies in waiting for weeks. She stopped entertaining and grew cold and sullen.
Queen Charlotte Sophia: A Royal Affair is available to preorder here, and at your local bookshop!