(Sip: t. 400; 1. 116'; b.26'; dph. 11'; cpl. 126; a. 14 24-pdr. car.,
2 long 9-pdrs.)
Queen Charlotte, a ship rigged sloop built at Malden (now Arnherstberg), Canada in 1807, for the Canadian Provinoial Marine, was captured by Commodore Perry in the Battle of Lake Erie 10 September 1813 and purchased by the U.S. Navy. Badly cut-up during the engagement, Queen Charlotte was taken to Put-in-Bay and laid up until sold in 1825 to George Brown of Erie, Pa., who raised her and fitted her out as a merchant ship.
Was this Britain's first black queen?
Q ueen Charlotte died nearly two centuries ago but is still celebrated in her namesake American city. When you drive from the airport in North Carolina, you can't miss the monumental bronze sculpture of the woman said to be Britain's first black queen, dramatically bent backwards as if blown by a jet engine. Downtown, there is another prominent sculpture of Queen Charlotte, in which she's walking with two dogs as if out for a stroll in 21st-century America.
Street after street is named after her, and Charlotte itself revels in the nickname the Queen City - even though, shortly after the city was named in her honour, the American War of Independence broke out, making her the queen of the enemy. And the city's art gallery, the Mint museum, holds a sumptuous 1762 portrait of Charlotte by the Scottish portrait painter Allan Ramsay, showing the Queen of England in regal robes aged 17, the year after she married George III.
Charlotte is intrigued by its namesake. Some Charlotteans even find her lovable. "We think your queen speaks to us on lots of levels," says Cheryl Palmer, director of education at the Mint museum. "As a woman, an immigrant, a person who may have had African forebears, botanist, a queen who opposed slavery - she speaks to Americans, especially in a city in the south like Charlotte that is trying to redefine itself."
Yet Charlotte (1744-1818) has much less resonance in the land where she was actually queen. If she is known at all here, it is from her depiction in Alan Bennett's play as the wife of "mad" King George III. We have forgotten or perhaps never knew that she founded Kew Gardens, that she bore 15 children (13 of whom survived to adulthood), and that she was a patron of the arts who may have commissioned Mozart.
Here, Charlotte is a woman who hasn't so much intrigued as been regularly damned. In the opening of Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities she is dismissed in the second paragraph: "There was a king with a large jaw, and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England." Historian John H Plumb described her as "plain and undesirable". Even her physician, Baron Christian Friedrich Stockmar, reportedly described the elderly queen as "small and crooked, with a true mulatto face".
"She was famously ugly," says Desmond Shawe-Taylor, surveyor of the Queen's pictures. "One courtier once said of Charlotte late in life: 'Her Majesty's ugliness has quite faded.' There was quite a miaow factor at court."
Charlotte's name was given to thoroughfares throughout Georgian Britain - most notably Charlotte Square in Edinburgh's New Town - but her lack of resonance and glamour in the minds of Londoners is typified by the fact that there is a little square in Bloomsbury called Queen's Square. In the middle is a sculpture of a queen. For much of the 19th century, the sculpture was thought to depict Queen Anne and, as a result, the square was known as Queen Anne's Square. Only later was it realised that the sculpture actually depicted Charlotte and the square renamed Queen Square.
Hold on, you might be saying. Britain has had a black queen? Did I miss something? Surely Helen Mirren played Charlotte in the film The Madness of King George and she was, last time I looked, white? Yet the theory that Queen Charlotte may have been black, albeit sketchy, is nonetheless one that is gaining currency.
If you google Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, you'll quickly come across a historian called Mario de Valdes y Cocom. He argues that her features, as seen in royal portraits, were conspicuously African, and contends that they were noted by numerous contemporaries. He claims that the queen, though German, was directly descended from a black branch of the Portuguese royal family, related to Margarita de Castro e Souza, a 15th-century Portuguese noblewoman nine generations removed, whose ancestry she traces from the 13th-century ruler Alfonso III and his lover Madragana, whom Valdes takes to have been a Moor and thus a black African.
It is a great "what if" of history. "If she was black," says the historian Kate Williams, "this raises a lot of important suggestions about not only our royal family but those of most of Europe, considering that Queen Victoria's descendants are spread across most of the royal families of Europe and beyond. If we class Charlotte as black, then ergo Queen Victoria and our entire royal family, [down] to Prince Harry, are also black . a very interesting concept."
That said, Williams and many other historians are very sceptical about Valdes's theory. They argue the generational distance between Charlotte and her presumed African forebear is so great as to make the suggestion ridiculous. Furthermore, they say even the evidence that Madragana was black is thin.
But Valdes suggests that the way Queen Charlotte is depicted in Ramsay's 1762 portrait - which US artist Ken Aptekar is now using as the starting point for a new art project called Charlotte's Charlotte - supports the view she had African ancestors.
Valdes writes: "Artists of that period were expected to play down, soften or even obliterate undesirable features in a subject's face. [But] Sir Allan Ramsay was the artist responsible for the majority of the paintings of the queen, and his representations of her were the most decidedly African of all her portraits."
Valdes's suggestion is that Ramsay was an anti-slavery campaigner who would not have suppressed any "African characteristics" but perhaps might have stressed them for political reasons. "I can't see it to be honest," says Shawe-Taylor. "We've got a version of the same portrait. I look at it pretty often and it's never occurred to me that she's got African features of any kind. It sounds like the ancestry is there and it's not impossible it was reflected in her features, but I can't see it."
Is it possible that other portraitists of Queen Charlotte might have soft-pedalled her African features? "That makes much more sense. It's quite possible. The thing about Ramsay is that, unlike Reynolds and Gainsborough, who were quite imprecise in their portraits, he was a very accurate depicter of his subjects, so that if she looked slightly more African in his portraits than others, that might be because she was more well depicted. How can you tell? She's dead!"
Shawe-Taylor says that a more instructive source of images of Queen Charlotte might well be the many caricatures of her held at the British Museum. "None of them shows her as African, and you'd suspect they would if she was visibly of African descent. You'd expect they would have a field day if she was."
In fact, Charlotte may not have been our first black queen: there is another theory that suggests that Philippa of Hainault (1314-69), consort of Edward III and a woman who may have had African ancestry, holds that title.
As for Valdes, he turns out to be an independent historian of the African diaspora who has argued that Peter Ustinov, Heather Locklear, the Medicis, and the Vanderbilts have African ancestry. His theory about Charlotte even pops up on www.100greatblackbritons.com, where she appears alongside Mary Seacole, Shirley Bassey, Sir Trevor McDonald, Zadie Smith, Naomi Campbell and Baronness Scotland as one of our great Britons. Despite being thus feted, Charlotte has not yet had much attention, say, during the annual Black History week in Britain.
Perhaps she should get more. The suggestion that Queen Charlotte was black implies that her granddaughter (Queen Victoria) and her great-great-great-great-granddaughter (Queen Elizabeth II) had African forebears. Perhaps, instead of just being a boring bunch of semi-inbred white stiffs, our royal family becomes much more interesting. Maybe - and this is just a theory - the Windsors would do well to claim their African heritage: it might be a PR coup, one that would strengthen the bonds of our queen's beloved Commonwealth.
Or would our royal family be threatened if it were shown they had African forebears? "I don't think so at all. There would be no shame attached to it all," says the royal historian Hugo Vickers. "The theory does not impress me, but even if it were true, the whole thing would have been so diluted by this stage that it couldn't matter less to our royal family. It certainly wouldn't show that they are significantly black."
What's fascinating about Aptekar's project is that he started by conducting focus group meetings with people from Charlotte to find out what the Queen and her portrait meant to citizens of the US city. "I took my cues from the passionate responses of individuals whom I asked to help me understand what Queen Charlotte represents to them."
The resulting suite of paintings is a series of riffs on that Ramsay portrait of Charlotte. In one, a reworked portion of the portrait shows the queen's face overlaid with the words "Black White Other". Another Aptekar canvas features an even tighter close up, in which the queen's face is overlaid with the words "Oh Yeah She Is".
Among those who attended Aptekar's focus groups is congressman Mel Watt, one of very few African-Americans in the House of Representatives and who represents the 12th district of North Carolina which includes Charlotte. "In private conversations, African-Americans have always acknowledged and found a sense of pride in this 'secret'," says Watt. "It's great that this discussion can now come out of the closet into the public places of Charlotte, so we all can acknowledge and celebrate it."
What about the idea that she was an immigrant - a German teenager who had to make a new life in England in the late 18th century?
"We were a lot more immigrant-friendly in those days than we were friendly to people of colour," says Watt. "We all recognised that we all came from some place else. But there was always a sense of denial, even ostracism, about being black. Putting the history on top of the table should make for opportunities for provocative, healing conversations."
Does Valdes's theory conclusively determine that Queen Charlotte had African forebears? Hardly. And if she had African forebears, would that mean we could readily infer she was black? That, surely, depends on how we define what it is to be black. In the US, there was for many decades a much-derided "one-drop rule", whereby any white-looking person with any percentage of "black blood" was not regarded as being really white. Although now just a historical curio, it was controversially invoked recently by the African-American lawyer Alton Maddox Jr, who argued that under the one-drop rule, Barack Obama wouldn't be the first black president.
In an era of mixed-race celebrities such as Tiger Woods and Mariah Carey, and at a time when in the US, the UK and any other racially diverse countries mixed-raced relationships are common, this rule seems absurd. But without such a rule, how do we determine Charlotte's ethnicity? If she is black, aren't we all?
It's striking that on US and UK census forms, respondents are asked to choose their own race by ticking the box with which they most closely identify (though there can be problems with this: some people in Cornwall are angry that the 2011 census form will not allow them to self-define as Cornish because only 37,000 ticked that box in the 2001 census and that figure has been deemed too small to constitute a separate ethnic group). We will never know which box Queen Charlotte would have ticked, though we can take a good guess. But maybe that isn't the most important issue, anyway.
For congressman Watt's wife Eulada, along with some other African-Americans in Charlotte, the most important issue is what the possibility that Queen Charlotte was black may mean for people in the city now. "I believe African-American Charlotteans have always been proud of Queen Charlotte's heritage and acknowledge it with a smile and a wink," she says. "Many of us are now enjoying a bit of 'I told you so', now that the story is out."
But isn't her heritage too sketchy to be used to heal old wounds? "Hopefully, the sketchiness will inspire others to further research and documentation of our rich history. Knowing more about an old dead queen can play a part in reconciliation."
And if an old dead queen can help improve racial trust in an American city, perhaps she could do something similar over here. Whether she will, though, is much less certain.
Queen Charlotte: Britain’s First Royal with African Ancestry
When Meghan Markle married Prince Harry in May of this year, much was made of her biracial heritage.
But in the late 18th century Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III (1738-1820), may have been the country’s first multiracial royal. She is the grandmother of Queen Victoria and the great-great-great-great-grandmother of the current Queen Elizabeth II.
Meghan Markle in March 2018. Photo by Northern Ireland Office CC By 2.0
Sophia Charlotte, born on May 19, 1744, was the eighth child of Charles Louis Frederick, the Prince of Mirow, Germany, and his wife, Elisabeth Albertina.
Though born in Germany and a princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Charlotte was directly descended from an African branch of the Portuguese Royal House.
Her royal subjects knew nothing about her racial background. It was discovered many years after her death by keen-eyed art historians.
Portrait of the British queen consort Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Portrait painters of the royal family played down Charlotte’s African features, much to the Queen’s dismay. Sir Allan Ramsay is thought to have produced the most accurate representations. One in particular, showing the Queen in her sumptuous coronation robe, was sent out into the colonies, a subtle nod to the anti-slavery movement, which was in its beginning stages.
Here, some other facts about this most unusual woman’s life:
She had fifteen children, thirteen of whom survived to adulthood. The couple’s fourth eldest son was Edward, Duke of Kent, who later fathered Queen Victoria. Charlotte was also the mother of two future British monarchs, George IV and William IV.
Queen Charlotte with her Two Eldest Sons, Johan Zoffany, 1765.
Impressive, to be sure, but being pregnant for a good part of her marriage weighed on the Queen. “I don’t think a prisoner could wish more ardently for his liberty than I wish to be rid of my burden and see the end of my campaign. I would be happy if I knew this was the last time,” she would write in 1780 about her pregnancy with her 14th child, Prince Alfred, according to Janice Hadlow’s The Strangest Family: The Private Lives of George III, Queen Charlotte, and the Hanoverians.
Portrait of King George III and Queen Charlotte of the United Kingdom.
She was the first queen to reside in Buckingham Palace (sort of). St. James Palace was the official residence of the royal couple, but the King purchased a nearby property, Buckingham House (expanded to Buckingham Palace in the 19th century) as a private retreat for his wife.
The Queen loved the residence so much, she started spending most of her time there, and it became known as “The Queen’s House.”
She was a close friend of Queen Marie Antoinette. Charlotte was a decade older than the tragic Queen of France, yet they struck up a friendship over a shared love of music and the arts. Though the two never actually me, they corresponded frequently.
Marie Antoinette in a court dress.
Marie Antoinette confided in Charlotte during the start of the French Revolution, who readied apartments for the French Royal Family. Alas, it never came to be.
She hung out with Mozart. German composer Johann Christian Bach, son of Johann Sebastian Bach, considered her a friend, and she helped him nab the position of state musician, previously held by George Frideric Handel.
Mozart c. 1780, detail from portrait by Johann Nepomuk della Croce.
In 1764, an eight-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart arrived in Great Britain with his family, as part of their grand tour of Europe. Later, Mozart would dedicate his Opus 3 piece to the Queen.
She introduced the Christmas tree to Britain. Charlotte had the first evergreen in her house in 1800, decorating it with sweetmeats, almonds, fruits and toys.
Illuminated Christmas tree at night.
Explorers, such as Captain James Cook, would bring the Queen — something of an amateur botanist — new species of plants, which she displayed and expanded in her gardens. One such find, the South African flower, the Bird of Paradise, was named Strelitzia reginae in her honor.
8 Words you will NEVER hear the Royal Family say
She was a soft touch. The queen founded orphanages and, in 1809, became the patron of London’s General Lying-in Hospital, one of the first maternity hospitals in Great Britain. (“Lying-in” was a slang term for childbirth, back in the day, while “General” meant accepting all cases.)
Queen Charlotte in the studio of Allan Ramsay, oil on canvas, (1762).
Charlotte would provide funding to prevent the hospital from closing. As a token of their appreciation, it would be re-named the Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital, and is now one of the most respected maternity hospitals in London.
She had a dysfunctional family. In 1765, King George became mentally ill. (It’s now believed that he was suffering from porphyria, an inherited disorder stemming from the buildup of certain chemicals in the brain, but at the time the cause of his illness was unknown.)
King George III in coronation robes
There was a conflict between the Queen and their son, the Prince of Wales, over who should assume the Regency should the King be declared unfit to rule. After George descended into permanent madness in 1811, the Prince was declared Regent.
Charlotte, meanwhile, became her husband’s legal guardian, which placed her under a great deal of stress. She sank into depression and developed quite a temper — both of which led to frequent disagreements with her children.
Queen Charlotte and the Prince of Wales would reconcile in 1791, and when she died in 1818, sitting in an armchair at the family’s country retreat, her eldest son was there beside her, holding her hand.
Queen Charlotte was buried at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle — appropriately enough, the very place where Prince Harry and his bride Meghan Markle were married. She was the second longest-serving consort in British history, after the present Duke of Edinburgh.
She put the “Charlotte” in Charlotte, North Carolina. In fact, there are places all over the world named in her honor — from Queen Charlotte Sound in New Zealand, to Queen Charlotte Bay in West Falkland, to Charlottesville, Virginia.
Even Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, was originally chartered as Queens College after Charlotte, though it was renamed in 1825 after Henry Rutgers, a hero in the Revolutionary War.
Barbara Stepko is a New Jersey-based freelance editor and writer who has contributed to AARP magazine and the Wall Street Journal.
History of Queens
Long before we were Queens University, we were the Charlotte Female Institute. That was 1857, the year of our founding in downtown Charlotte. Since then, much has changed: our school is now co-ed. We offer master’s degrees. And we’re located in Myers Park, just three short miles from our original location. Also since then, Charlotte has changed around us: it's become one of the country’s fastest-growing, thriving urban centers.
Although we’ve grown, we still offer an intimate campus where high-caliber faculty have close mentoring relationships with students. As we expand academic offerings, we continue our tradition of an evolving curricula empowering each class to thrive. We embrace our increasingly diverse student body, maintaining a close-knit community that unites us as Royals.
Evolution of Name, Mission and Student Body
Queens started as the Charlotte Female Institute (1857-1891). Then we became the Seminary for Girls (1891-1896), then Presbyterian Female College (1896-1912). In 1912, we became Queens College and moved to our beautiful Myers Park campus.
In 1930, Queens linked to the Presbyterian Synod of South Carolina through a merger with Chicora College. With that partnership, we adopted Chicora’s motto: Non ministrari sed ministrare (Not to be served, but to serve). Even though the schools are no longer tied, the motto continues at Queens. You see the spirit of service in the actions of students, faculty, staff and alumni who live this motto and make it our institutional mission.
In the 1940s, we began our journey to admit men. It began shortly after World War II when men could attend, but not live on campus. Then, in 1948, Queens opened a co-ed evening college. In 1987, the process was complete: we became fully co-ed, admitting men and allowing them to live on campus.
In 2002, after nearly a century and a half of growth and change, we became who we are today: Queens University of Charlotte.
Colleges and Schools
While our curriculum evolves continually—ensuring that our students have the latest skills—it’s rooted in a strong liberal arts approach. The result is an education that’s innovative, yet timeless.
During the past twenty-five years, we have expanded our expertise and offerings to educate the next generation of leaders. In 1993, we established the McColl School of Business to join the original undergrad program, known as the College of Arts and Sciences. In 2004, we merged the nursing program with Presbyterian Hospital’s program to create the Presbyterian School of Nursing. In 2007, the Board of Trustees approved the creation of the Wayland H. Cato, Jr. School of Education. In 2008, we opened the School of Communication, later named the James L. Knight School of Communication. In 2010, we met growing demand for options in the field of healthcare by creating the Andrew Blair College of Health.
From Brick and Ivy to the Screen
Queens launched its first online degree in 2008 – the Bachelor of Science in Nursing for existing RNs, known as the RN to BSN. Five years later, we introduced several master’s degrees online, including the Master of Arts in Communication the Master of Science in Nursing , the Master of Arts in Educational Leadership and the online MBA .
A Tradition of Looking Forward
Over the past century and a half, we’ve carefully cultivated a sense of intentional balance. Queens is where big city meets small school. Where self discovery occurs amid selfless service. Where our curricula evolve to teach the latest skills while respecting our timeless liberal arts core. We’ve created a unique learning environment that doesn’t ask students to choose between these ideals and interests. We invite them to be both, be more – and in so doing, to leave their own mark on our history.
Did Queen Charlotte Have African Ancestry?
But other historians are more skeptical. Kate Williams told The Guardian that the idea that Charlotte had African ancestry raises “interesting” implications for many royal families across Europe, suggesting that such a claim means arguing that her descendants could be classified as Black, including the present British royal family. But according to her and many historians, the generational distance between Charlotte and her possible African ancestor was so great that it made the suggestion “ridiculous.” They also said there was little evidence to show that Madragana was African.
Ania Loomba, a professor of literature at the University of Pennsylvania, who also teaches histories of race and colonialism, argued that if a person was described as a Moor or “blackamoor,” it did not necessarily mean they were Black. “The word ‘blackamoor’ in Shakespeare’s time meant Muslim. It didn’t mean Black necessarily,” she said. “Moors could be white from North Africa.”
Lisa Hilton, a writer of history books and historical fiction, had a similar argument: “We have no idea of what Mandragana looked like. She may have had Berber, Spanish, Arabic or indeed African features, but she might equally have had blonde hair and blue eyes, as after the fall of the Roman empire tribes from Northern Europe, including East Germany and Scandinavia, invaded the Moorish kingdoms. Moreover, the 500 years between Mandragana and Charlotte would suggest any African bloodline would have been significantly diluted.”
Interestingly, back in 1999, after Valdes’ research was reported on in The London Sunday Times and The Boston Globe, Buckingham Palace responded to the claim. They neither confirmed nor denied Charlotte’s possible ancestry: “This has been rumored for years and years. It is a matter of history, and frankly, we’ve got far more important things to talk about.”
Given that historians differ so widely on whether Charlotte was the first mixed-race queen in British royalty, we rate this claim as “Unproven.”
Was Queen Charlotte England’s First Black Queen?
Unless you have been living under a rock, you are quite aware that Prince Harry just married an American who can trace her historical roots to Africa.
This may seem like quite the shake-up for the British Royals, but in reality, Meghan is most likely NOT the first member of the royal family to have African lineage.
Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III (the King America gave the big eff you to), who bore the king 15 children, was thought to be of African descent.
Charlotte was thought to be directly descended from a black branch of the Portuguese royal family: Alfonso III and his concubine, a black Moor.
So who was Queen Charlotte?
Charlotte was the eighth child of the Prince of Mirow, Germany, Charles Louis Frederick, and his wife, Elisabeth Albertina of Saxe-Hildburghausen.
Charlotte was thought to be directly descended from a black branch of the Portuguese royal family: Alfonso III and his concubine, a black Moor.
In the 13th century, Alfonso conquered a little town named Faro from the Moors and he demanded the governor&rsquos daughter as a paramour. He had three children with her.
Charlotte was directly descended from this black branch of the Portuguese royal family, related to Margarita de Castro e Souza, a 15th-century Portuguese noblewoman nine generations removed, whose ancestry she traces from the 13th-century ruler Alfonso III. (Whew! Got that?)
Charlotte married George III of England on September 8, 1761. The wedding took place at the Chapel Royal in St James&rsquos Palace, in London. She was at 17 years old, and became the Queen of England and Ireland.
The Royal couple had fifteen children, thirteen of whom survived to adulthood. Their fourth eldest son was Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent, who later fathered Queen Victoria (so yes that means that today&rsquos royal family are Charlotte&rsquos descendants.)
Queen Charlotte&rsquos features, as recorded by her contemporaries, gave her an &lsquounmistakable African appearance,&rsquo but nevertheless Charlotte&rsquos African features were downplayed by artists depicting her during that time. There was one painter, however, Sir Allan Ramsay, who did not hide the Queen&rsquos real features, and was anti-slavery.
Intelligent and compassionate
Queen Charlotte was a learned character. Based on research into her letters, historians believe she was not only well read, but also had interests in arts and culture. In addition, Charlotte provided support supported to Johann Christian Bach, who taught her, as well. To continue the legacy of their relationship, Charlotte offered generosity to his wife in the years after his death.
And that&rsquos not all. At her request, a very young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, dedicated his Opus 3 to her.
Queen Charlotte was also an amateur botanist. She assisted with bringing Kew Gardens (and others) a flowering plant known as the Strelitzia Reginae, from South Africa. She also established the Charlotte Maternity hospital in London, a charitable organization which is the oldest maternity care institution in England.
Queen Charlotte died on November 17, 1818 in Surrey, at Dutch House which is now Kew Palace. She passed away in the presence of her son, the Prince Regent. She is buried at St George&rsquos Chapel, Windsor. Queen Charlotte is the great great-great grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II. She was also honored in America, with Charlotte, North Carolina being named for her.
Heads up Meghan Markle, you have some BIG shoes to fill.
Side note: the Royal Household itself, at the time of Queen Elizabeth II&rsquos coronation, referred to both her Asian and African bloodlines in an apologia it published defending her position as head of the Commonwealth.
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What 'Bridgerton' Got Right About Queen Charlotte
She's widely believed to be Britain's first biracial royal.
You've probably figured out by now that Bridgerton isn't exactly based on a true story. String quartets (unfortunately) didn't play "thank u, next" at formal balls in the 1800s, and young ladies of the time wouldn't have dared push back on their families' plans for them. There's also the fact that the Netflix series is based on a series of romance novels by Julia Quinn, who has described the process of building the Bridgerton family's world herself.
Still, there's plenty that the period drama does get right about the Georgian era of the early 1800s (thanks in large part to Quinn's heavily researched world-building and historical consultant Hannah Greig's contributions to the TV adaptation). The social season and "marriage market" were very real, as were Regency-era ladies' lack of sex education and the birth of anonymous gossip columns and scandal sheets. Another historically accurate tidbit? Bridgerton's portrayal of Queen Charlotte, who isn't actually included in Quinn's series. Here's everything you need to know about the fascinating real-life wife of King George III.
Queen Charlotte may have actually been Black.
Many historians believe that the royal, born Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1744, did indeed descend from African ancestry. Claims that Queen Charlotte was of mixed race were initially sparked by historian Joel Augustus Rogers, who wrote in 1940's Sex and Race, Volume 1 that portraits and contemporary descriptions of Charlotte "clearly [show] a Negro strain."
More recently, a Frontline investigation by historian Mario de Valdes y Cocom traced Charlotte's ancestry via six separate lines back to Margarita de Castro e Souza, a 15th-century noblewoman whose own lineage leads back to Madragana, a mistress of King Afonso III of Portugal who many historians believe to have been a Moor of Northern African descent.
For the record, after the Frontline series was published in 1999, a spokesperson for the royal family&mdashthat is, Charlotte's great-great-great-great-granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II&mdashreportedly told the Boston Globe of Queen Charlotte's potential mixed-race heritage, "This has been rumored for years and years. It is a matter of history, and frankly, we've got far more important things to talk about."
Charlotte's rumored background influenced the casting of Bridgerton.
Bridgerton showrunner Chris Van Dusen has shared that he was largely influenced by this version of Queen Charlotte's history while seeking out actors to bring the lords and ladies of the series to life.
"It's something that really resonated with me, because it made me wonder what could that have really looked like. And what would have happened? What could she have done? Could the queen have elevated other people of color in society and granted them titles and lands and dukedoms?" Van Dusen told Collider. "That's really how our Simon Bassett, our Duke of Hastings, came to be. We get to explore it in a really interesting way. And it goes to the idea of what the show does is&mdashwe're marrying history and fantasy in a really exciting, fascinating way."
Queen Charlotte and King George III's marriage was truly a love match.
George and Charlotte were married within six hours of their first meeting in 1761, and though that may seem indicative of a union formed more for international strategy than for love, theirs is believed to have been one of the most successful and loving royal marriages up to that point. They welcomed 15 children together and doted upon each other throughout several decades of marriage, as evidenced by Charlotte's signing her letters to her husband as his "very affectionate wife and friend." They also are said to have shared a love of music, and often joined the royal band in playing the harpsichord and flute.
The pair remained married for nearly 60 years. Toward the end, as depicted in Bridgerton, Charlotte was deeply affected by King George's mental and physical illnesses. Though they lived separately during this time, Charlotte remained devoted to her husband, writing in one letter, "Our separation must be & really is equally painful to us both." Charlotte died in 1818, barely a year before her husband.
The queen actually oversaw the goings-on of London society.
Queen Charlotte was indeed very involved in the Ton's social scene. In fact, the first known debutante ball was hosted in her honor, with King George establishing the annual Queen Charlotte's Ball in 1780 to commemorate his wife's birthday.
Van Dusen, too, noted just how crucial a part of London society the queen was. "Adding Queen Charlotte afforded us an opportunity to see what true excess and decadence looked like at the time. She brings real import to the world as we get to be in some amazing spaces with her&mdashfrom Buckingham Home to St. Regis Palace," he told ET Online. "Not to mention, she was definitely very much a part of the social scene during Regency times, so having her with us was important from a historical perspective as well."
Queen Charlotte was believed to be addicted to snuff.
In Bridgerton, Charlotte, played by Golda Rosheuvel, is often shown demanding snuff from her footservants. Snuff is a form of dried, ground tobacco and, yes, Queen Charlotte is believed to have been addicted to it. Charlotte is said to have kept an entire room at Windsor Castle full of nothing but snuff and, due to her addiction, was nicknamed "Snuffy Charlotte."
The real story of Bridgerton’s Queen Charlotte: from glittering courts to tragic decline
Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz arrived in Britain as a teenager to marry King George III, and theirs would become a marriage of deep affection and domesticity, with celebrated Georgians flocking to their court. Yet hers was also a life increasingly blighted by tragedy. Following Golda Rosheuvel’s star turn as the queen consort in Netflix drama Bridgerton, Catherine Curzon shares more…
This competition is now closed
Published: January 20, 2021 at 10:29 am
Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and King George III were married for almost six decades. Following their arranged marriage, no Georgian royals were more devoted to one another, but theirs was a love story that turned into a tragedy.
Charlotte was born to the Duke and Duchess of Mecklenburg at the Palace of Mirow, in the small principality of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (now part of Germany), in 1744. Her education was mediocre, and though she learned how to manage a household, she was kept distant from the politics of royal life. Only when her brother succeeded to the dukedom on their father’s death did 12-year-old Charlotte enter court life, but Mecklenburg’s powerplays were nothing compared to the sharkpool of Georgian England.
Charlotte’s future was decided in 1760, when the 22-year-old George III succeeded his grandfather on the English throne. This unassuming, diligent bachelor needed a queen – and an heir – as a matter of urgency. Eager to ensure the line of succession, politicians included Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz on a shortlist of eligible and suitable Protestant ladies. She was reported to have no political ambitions and to be in all regards perfectly pleasant and ‘sweet-tempered’, which was exactly what George was looking for. He chose her to be his bride, thrusting the sheltered teenager into the spotlight. Charlotte was about to become queen of a land she had never visited, alongside a man whom she had never met.
The wedding of Princess Charlotte and George III
After a proxy wedding ceremony in Mecklenburg, Charlotte arrived at Harwich on the south coast of England in September 1761. Vast crowds lined the route to St James’s Palace, eager to glimpse the new queen, and by the time she arrived in London on 8 September, she was shaking with nerves. She reportedly stumbled from her carriage towards the waiting king but, as she went to throw herself at George’s feet in supplication, he caught her. It was a promising start.
That evening was a whirlwind. After dining with the royal family, Charlotte barely had time to rest before she changed into her bridal gown (a dress she would wear again two weeks later for her coronation). But at her wedding she struggled with the acres of fabric and piles of jewels seasickness on the voyage to England had caused Charlotte to lose so much weight that the gown constantly slipped from her shoulders under the weight of its priceless adornments. On her finger she wore a far simpler piece of jewellery: a diamond ring inscribed with the date, which George had given her on arrival. It was to remain Charlotte’s most precious treasure for the rest of her life.
England was charmed by its young king and queen straight away. The couple quickly settled into a steady domestic routine more akin to the upper middle classes than royalty. Charlotte spent hours studying English every day, with George encouraging her efforts, and the couple entertained courtiers by giving intimate musical concerts. Best of all for King George, when he warned Charlotte that she must never meddle in politics and must be on the lookout for glory-seekers, she was happy to obey. Unlike her mother-in-law and the late Queen Caroline of Ansbach, wife of George II, Charlotte had no interest in running the country.
It was the issue of family that most dominated Queen Charlotte’s life as consort the royal couple took the matter of their heir and spare very seriously indeed. Over the next 22 years (between 1762–83) Charlotte gave birth to 15 children, including their eldest son, the future George IV. All but two of her children lived to adulthood. The youngsters spent hours every day with their parents, whether playing rambunctious games with the king or being quizzed on the content of their daily lessons by the queen, who oversaw their education. Though Charlotte would remain deeply involved in her children’s lives as they grew older, she was not always welcome.
Was Queen Charlotte addicted to snuff?
Many viewers of Regency drama Bridgerton have been struck by a short scene in which Queen Charlotte snorts a substance during a meeting at her court. This is snuff, a finely-ground smokeless tobacco inhaled through the nostrils the queen was so fond of it that she earned the nickname ‘Snuffy Charlotte’.
By the 1700s snuff was considered a luxury product and mark of refinement, and Queen Charlotte had an entire room at Windsor Castle dedicated to her snuff collection.
Inside Queen Charlotte’s court
At Queen Charlotte’s court, protocol was everything. She loved tradition and clung to it rigidly, insisting that her female courtiers wear increasingly outdated court dress, and that the rules of her Drawing Rooms be observed at all times. Although the king and queen were young, they soon developed a reputation for stuffiness. But behind the scenes things couldn’t have been more different. At home Charlotte strove to recreate her loving childhood and oversaw the creation of gardens, cottages and even exotic menageries, turning her palaces, including those at Windsor and Kew, into centres of family life as well as ceremony. Entry to her inner circle (which included novelist Frances Burney and other intellectual women of the day) wasn’t won easily, but she treated her most trusted ladies-in-waiting as old friends, creating devoted bonds that lasted for decades. Queen Charlotte’s private circle was always one of domesticity, rather than politics.
Despite their dislike of show, Charlotte and George’s court glittered. The most celebrated Georgians flocked to see them and amid the rustle of silk court dresses and the flash of the most fashionable jewellery, courtiers sought to make a splash. Whether at St James’s or Buckingham House, the king and queen performed weekly musical concerts and gave entertainments, whilst official levées were held twice a week, with a third day added later. On Thursdays and Sundays, the king and queen received courtiers at Drawing Rooms, where they showed off their family. On one such occasion Charlotte dressed her infant sons in their robes of state and her little daughter in a Roman toga and had them host the Drawing Room instead. Though loyal courtiers professed to be charmed, caricaturists savaged the event. Charlotte would never repeat her playful experiment.
Queen Charlotte’s heritage
Not only was Charlotte an unpolitical queen, but it has been suggested that she may also have been England’s first (and so far, only) queen of African heritage. Historian Mario De Valdes y Cocom claims that he can trace Charlotte’s genealogy back through nine generations to Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a 15th-century Portuguese noblewoman, whom he posits was black. He notes that Charlotte’s doctors occasionally used racially pejorative terms to describe her features, illustrating his claims with portraits in which her skin tone is notably darker than that usually seen in 18th-century portraiture.
Valdes’s research has been disputed by some historians, who argue that the nine generations that divide Margarita and Charlotte render such connections moot. Some also suggest that Valdes has misinterpreted the historical evidence regarding Margarita’s ethnicity, which has implications for his theories regarding Charlotte’s heritage too. Nevertheless, it’s a subject that will no doubt continue to fascinate. Charlotte was recently played by Golda Rosheuvel, a Guyanese-British actress, in Regency drama Bridgerton.
Queen Charlotte and the decline of George III
The happy status quo of the royal marriage was violently shaken in 1788, when George experienced his first bout of mental illness. Sleepless and often violent, he made lurid accusations of adultery against Charlotte and lascivious comments about her attendants. Charlotte’s ladies-in-waiting watched in horror as their queen stopped eating and slept only a few hours a night. She tore at her hair, which began to grey prematurely, and paced back and forth for hours on end, desperately wondering what would become of her. For the first time she locked her bedroom door against the king and kept her youngest children in her chambers at night, afraid for their safety after George physically assaulted his adult son, the Prince of Wales. With court physicians apparently powerless to help, a desperate Charlotte called in the doctor Francis Willis, who had been credited with curing the madness of a courtier. It was a fateful decision.
Willis’s treatment of the king has been well documented, but Charlotte was suffering too. George was her best friend and without him, her nerves frayed to breaking. With the king straightjacketed at Kew, Charlotte was dragged into parliamentary arguments over who should rule as Regent during his illness. Her resistance to the appointment of the dissolute Prince of Wales led to an estrangement between mother and son that would last for years. Once an unpolitical queen, she suddenly found herself the target of accusations that “the Queen is really King”.
Though George experienced a recovery, his illness left a permanent blot on the marriage. Once placid and loving, Charlotte’s demeanour had been forever changed. She began to suffer from depression and developed a furious temper, often directed against the daughters. At the merest hint of George becoming unwell she moved into a locked bedroom and declined any opportunity to see him without another person present. Yet she still protected and loved the king as much as she ever had. When his final mental breakdown occurred in 1810, and the Prince of Wales came to power as Prince Regent in 1811 at the head of a glittering, glamorous court, Queen Charlotte became her husband’s devoted guardian. Yet she never visited him alone again.
The wide-eyed bride of years earlier was gone, worn down by decades of trauma. Charlotte had grown hard, forcing all but one of her six daughters to remain at home to act as her unwilling companions and coming to rely on only a few very close confidantes. She was left distraught by visits to George, who railed at her for having appointed the unyielding Dr Willis, spitting that he loved her dogs more than he had ever loved her.
For the last decade of his life the king was secluded at Windsor, where Charlotte oversaw his care and watched him fade away until he no longer recognised her. The queen’s last public appearance was in London in April 1818, after which she was set on travelling to Windsor to join her spouse. Instead ill health confined her to Kew. Robbed of the ability to walk, Charlotte could merely lay in bed and gaze out at her beloved gardens.
On 17 November 1818, as the Prince Regent and her children gathered around her, Queen Charlotte died. Only now did she make her longed-for journey to Windsor, where she was interred in St George’s Chapel. She was reunited with her beloved husband little more than a year later, when George III was laid to rest beside her.
Catherine Curzon is the author of Queens of Georgian Britain (Pen and Sword Books, 2017). Curzon also runs an 18th-century themed website: Madame Gilflurt’s Guide to Life.
Listen: Hannah Greig, historian and etiquette advisor to new Netflix show Bridgerton, joins us to talk about the historical detail that can be found in the drama – and the inspirations behind it, on this episode of the HistoryExtra podcast:
From balls to Bridgerton: a brief history of debutantes and the social season
Featuring ball gowns, eligible bachelors and a chance to meet royalty – the world of the debutante certainly seems like a glamourous one. But what was life really like for these young women chosen to be presented to society? Carolyn Harris explores…
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Published: February 19, 2021 at 5:39 pm
On 17 July 1958, Sandra Seagram, the last debutante presented to the royal family at Buckingham Palace, curtseyed to the Queen Mother and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Queen Elizabeth II was unwell and unable to attend the historic ceremony. Seagram was a 20-year-old Canadian and a great-granddaughter of Joseph Emm Seagram, the founder of the Seagram Whiskey distillery in Waterloo, Ontario, which became the largest owner of alcoholic beverage lines in the world. The Canadian Press reported that Seagram, whose mother and grandmother had also been presented at court, was one of “forty Canadian debutantes presented along with some 200 other Commonwealth girls”.
In March of that same year, Fiona MacCarthy was one of 1,400 debutantes presented in groups of four or five hundred to the queen and Prince Philip. In her memoir, Last Curtsey: The End of the Debutantes, MacCarthy wrote: “Impossible to be there and not be conscious of the long line of our predecessors, going back to the late eighteenth-century ingénues led in by their powder-haired aristocratic mothers to curtsey to Queen Charlotte at her birthday feast.” The Scottish debutantes made their curtsey to the monarch at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh on 3 July 1958.
The tradition of the social season lasted nearly 180 years, officially lasting from the reign of George III to the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. During this time, young women from wealthy or well-connected families made their formal debut in society by curtseying to the monarch. After this formal presentation at court, the debutantes participated in the season, a series of social occasions where they might form lasting friendships with other elite young women and meet equally wealthy and well-connected husbands. A debutante was considered especially successful if she became engaged after a single season – but by the 20th century, most debutantes participated in at least two social seasons and pursued accomplishments and charity work before their eventual marriages.
What is a debutante and who could become one?
The term debutante or ‘deb’ (from the French debutante, meaning ‘female beginner’) is used to refer to a young woman (typically of an aristocratic or wealthy family background) who is of an age to be presented to society as part of a formal ‘debut’ (possibly at a debutante ball and as part of a season of social events). Ages of debutantes vary across history, but generally fall between 16 and 18 years of age.
What did debutantes wear?
MacCarthy recalled that: “Preparations for the Season had gone on for several months before the presentations.” Debutantes spent a few months in a finishing school prior to their presentation, learning a foreign language and perfecting their dancing, deportment and the all-important royal curtsey. A new wardrobe was essential. MacCarthy recalled that every debutante needed: “a minimum of six dance dresses, of which one must be white for the Queen Charlotte’s Ball in May. Two or three of the dresses needed to be long and relatively formal, for the grander balls in London the others could be short, for dances in the country. Debs also needed several day dresses in silk or chiffon, suitable for Ascot, Henley, the Fourth of June at Eton. Further necessities were shoes and gloves and handbags and especially hats…”
While a debutante might have a custom-made gown for her presentation at court and her own debutante ball, by the 1950s, debutantes and their mothers often selected the rest of their wardrobe at fashionable London department stores such as Harrods.
Once the season began, there were months of almost constant social functions such as luncheons, teas and debutante balls (the latter including the Queen Charlotte’s ball, named for the queen consort of George III, at which the guest of honour – usually a member of the royal family – cut a six-foot-tall cake). The dates of these events had to be chosen carefully to avoid conflicting with one another. When the London season came to an end in mid-summer, there would be country house parties and dances, and a Scottish season in the autumn. Not all debutantes participated in the entire season, and those visiting London from overseas might return home soon after the presentation at court. For young women who participated in the entire season, there would be nearly constant social events from March until October and opportunities to make new friends and meet potential husbands.
When was the first debutante ball?
The presentation of aristocratic young women to the monarch at the English court is a tradition that dates from at least the reign of Elizabeth I (1558–1603), who chose her ladies-in-waiting from prominent families. The structure of the social season that endured until 1958, however, emerged in the reign of King George III in response to the changing relationship between the royal family and society. The Georgian monarchs were the target of satirical press coverage that emphasised King George III’s and Queen Charlotte’s frugality, and the future King George IV’s extravagance. George III countered this bad press by creating the court circular to publicise the work of the royal family and becoming involved in more philanthropic work. In 1780, Queen Charlotte presided over the first Queen Charlotte’s Ball, which not only celebrated the queen’s birthday but raised money for the Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea hospital, one of the oldest maternity hospitals in Europe.
As Kristen Richardson notes in The Season: A Social History of the Debutante, “King George III and Queen Charlotte expanded and nurtured a newly codified social season”. The debut of young women into elite society became closely associated with the philanthropic work of the royal family. A formal court presentation became the high point of a London social season of balls, parties and sporting events that lasted from Parliament’s Easter session break to adjournment and the start of grouse shooting season in the countryside in August.
Who could become a debutante?
The social background of the debutantes presented at the British court slowly began to expand during the reign of Queen Victoria. An 1859 etiquette manual by James Hogg, The Habits of Good Society, stated that in addition to members of the aristocracy: “The wives and daughters of the clergy, of military and naval officers, of physicians and barristers can be presented. These are the aristocratic professions … The wives and daughters of merchants or men in business (excepting bankers), are not entitled to presentation. Nevertheless, though many ladies of this class were refused presentation early in this reign, it is certain many have since been presented, whether by accident, or by a system of making the Queen more accessible…”
The wealthiest American heiresses in the late 19th and early 20th centuries aspired to presentation at the British court, where they might meet landed aristocrats seeking wives with independent fortunes. Since only a woman who had been presented at court herself could recommend a debutante for presentation, aristocratic women with titles but few financial resources sometimes accepted payments from wealthy families on both sides of Atlantic to facilitate a debutante’s presentation at court – thereby expanding the number of young women presented.
While the social background of an acceptable debutante expanded, the rituals at court became increasingly formalised in the 19th century – as Fiona MacCarthy notes: “By 1837, when Queen Victoria ascended the throne, the term ‘debutante’ was in general use and young girls would be summoned to Queen Victoria’s drawing rooms, then held in St. James’ Palace, to make their entrée to society. The dress code was at this point the elaborate long white court dress with ten-foot train, mystical white veil, the ostrich feather headdress, elbow-length white gloves.”
Debutantes spent months practising their formal curtseys, left knee locked behind the right knee and slowly descending while facing forward without the slightest wobble.
Debutantes around the world
The practice of elite young women entering society through a formal debutante presentation soon spread around the world. In the wider British empire, debutantes were presented to the Viceroy, Governor, or, after the Dominions achieved self-government, the Governor General. In Canada, Governor Lord Elgin held a levee in Bytown (now Ottawa) in 1853 where debutantes were presented. As James Powell of the Ottawa historical society notes: “By the time of Confederation [in 1867], the presentation of debutantes to the Governor General was in full swing with ‘drawing rooms’ held in the Senate chamber on Parliament Hill.” In Australia, the Governor and later the Governor General presided over debutante presentations both in the capital and in more distant regions. Historian Berenice Wright wrote: “If that person [the Governor or Governor-General] visited an outlying area, they [the communities] would quite often rustle up a Debutante Ball.” In the wider British empire and Dominions, the dress code was more relaxed than at Buckingham Palace formal court dress was neither expected nor required.
The United States became independent from the British crown after the American Revolutionary Wars (1775–83), but it retained the tradition of debutante presentations. At George Washington’s presidential levees in Philadelphia and later in Washington DC, which attracted critical scrutiny because of their similarity to a royal court, debutantes were presented to the president and first lady. Debutante events continued to take place in Washington DC into the 20th century. The future first lady Eleanor Roosevelt found the experience of coming out into society uncomfortable, especially because she made her debut just a year after her beautiful and confident cousin, Alice Roosevelt, the daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote: “I knew I was the first girl in my mother’s family who was not a belle, and… I was deeply ashamed.”
American debutante presentations were not restricted to political circles. Individual American cities, communities and organisations developed their own debutante traditions. High school proms began to take place in the 1920s and expanded in popularity after the Second World War. In High School Prom: Marketing, Morals and the American Teen, Ann Anderson notes: “Debutante balls signified wealth and class in a country that applauds the former and is decidedly uneasy about the latter… Prom is the democratic debutante ball.”
As the 20th century progressed, however, the presentation of debutantes at court appeared increasingly out of step with the changing times and the royal family had less interest in presiding over these ceremonies. King George V and Queen Mary dutifully accepted the curtsey of debutantes, only pausing the tradition in 1921 because of the Coal Strike, but in 1936, the new King Edward VIII did not have the patience for the multi-hour ceremony. As Anne de Courcy explains in Debs at War: How Wartime Changed Their Lives, 1939–1945: “Halfway through the presentations … the King got his aide to announce that the rest ‘could consider themselves presented’ and left to play golf with Wallis Simpson.” King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) suspended presentations of debutantes at court during the Second World War. The Queen Charlotte’s Ball continued to take place throughout the war but by 1944, the attendees had to bring their own food and drink because of food shortages and rationing.
Even before the food shortages brought about by war, some of the debutantes themselves began to critique the discomfort that came with presentations at court and the subsequent social season. The long hours of waiting to be presented without food or drink, and the requirement to leave outerwear in the waiting cars or carriages regardless of the weather, had the potential to turn the presentation into an ordeal for the debutantes and their families. Deborah Mitford critiqued her dance partners at the subsequent social events, writing: “I have never seen anything like the collection of young men, all completely chinless.” For the families of eligible young women, the social season was expensive at a time when many of the landed aristocracy were struggling to hold on to their country estates. The young women themselves had more opportunities as the 20th century progressed. There was press coverage of ‘bluestocking debs’ in the 1950s who planned to attend university after the social season rather than seek an early marriage.
When Elizabeth II succeeded to the throne in 1952, both the young queen and her husband Prince Philip took an interest in modernising the monarchy, supporting the televising of the coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey in 1953. Public engagements and philanthropic initiatives brought members of the royal family into contact with people from a wide variety of social classes and these more accessible royal occasions meant the presentation of an exclusive group of young women from wealthy families at court appeared especially anachronistic. Prince Philip considered the Queen Charlotte’s Ball “bloody daft” and did not understand why presentations of debutantes should continue to be held at Buckingham Palace. The queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, had a different critique of debutante presentations at court, commenting that “we had to put a stop to it… every tart in London was getting in”. With the end of formal debutante presentations at court in 1958 and the final Queen Charlotte’s Ball in 1976, garden parties, which had existed since the reign of Queen Victoria, became increasingly significant as events where the royal family could engage with men and women from all walks of life.
The end of the presentation of debutantes at court in the United Kingdom hastened the end of formal ceremonies for debutantes elsewhere in the Commonwealth. In Canada, Vincent Massey, the first Canadian born Governor General, presided over the last formal presentation of debutantes, at a charity ball at the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa on 24 January 1958. In Australia, the debutante tradition developed into an inclusive rite of passage. The first Aboriginal debutante ball took place in 1968 when 16-year-old Pearl Anderson danced with Australian prime minister John Gorton. Modern Australian ‘deb balls’ traditionally take place in Year 11 of secondary school – but these events have been postponed in recent months because of the 2020–21 Covid-19 pandemic.
Do we still have debutante balls today?
In recent decades, there has been a revival of interest in the presentation of debutantes. Historical dramas including Downton Abbey and Bridgerton have depicted wealthy young women making their debut in society in the presence of members of the royal family. The Queen Charlotte’s Ball was revived in the 21st century by former debutante Jenny Hallam-Peel. In the absence of the monarch, the modern debutantes curtsey to the birthday cake itself and the event has been used to fundraise for a variety of charities.
Debutante balls continue to exist around the world and attract an international elite with an interest in networking and building future careers. Although the traditions associated with debutante presentations at court appear to belong to a bygone era, the idea of making a formal debut in society and marking a clear transition from childhood to adulthood continues to have appeal in the 21st century.
Dr Carolyn Harris is an instructor in history at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and the author of three books: Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette and Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting
Remembering the Past
Charlotte has a rich history steeped in the discovery of gold and the pride of Scots-Irish settlers. While many of the historic old buildings have made way to shining banks and other new structures, and their history is relegated to a small plaque, there are still fantastic ways to uncover the history of the city.
Whether you're a long-time resident or a newcomer to Charlotte, take the time to learn a little about the city you're in by visiting some of the amazing museums, like the Wells Fargo History Museum, or take the Liberty Walk tour, and discover 15 important sites in the evolution of the city.