As the World awaits the birth of the future Queen or King of England, the baby name Charlotte has emerged as a favorite with oddsmakers.
But if the Duchess of Cambridge is at all superstitious, she may want to revisit the dark history of Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales - and rethink the name.
Born in 1796, Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, was the only child of Prince George of Wales who became the de facto ruler as the Prince Regent. She was the granddaughter of Queen Charlotte and George III, who eventually went mad.
In James Chambers’ biography Charlotte & Leopold: The True Story of the Original People’s Princess young Charlotte is characterized as a pawn in her parents’ unhappy marriage, where her mother, Caroline of Brunswick, and father are separated and seem to bicker constantly over her custody. Despite their often public squabbles, Charlotte was known to be “a somewhat spirited and independent young woman,” according to Professor Stephen C. Behrendt, author of Royal Mourning and Regency Culture: Elegies and Memorials of Princess Charlotte.
After refusing an arranged marriage to the Dutch Prince William of Orange, Charlotte married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Cobourg. At the time she wrote that he was ‘the perfection of a lover.’ Unlike today's Prince William - who has spent much time away from Kate during their marriage in lieu of Search and Rescue Pilot duties with the Royal Air Force - Charlotte and Leopold never seemed to be apart. According to Professor Behrendt, they became known for their charitable works, attending the local church, and distributing bibles.
Original Tabloid Princess
Much like the Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte was often in the newspapers and was subjected to mounting speculation over her pregnancy. Chambers wrote that in 1817 bets were made on the gender of the expected child, and some clearly rooted for a boy. It was “calculated on the Stock Exchange," he wrote, "that a Princess would only raise the funds 2 ½ percent, [while] a Prince would send them up 6 percent.”
Charlotte’s child was to be the heir to the throne, and Britain, having suffered a multi-decade post-war recession, was prepared to finally celebrate.
But the worst of possible news came in November of 1817.
Professor Behrendt explains to OutFront:
“After an extraordinarily long and difficult labor, Charlotte gave birth to a perfectly formed - but stillborn - son. Worse still, she seemed to have gone into shock soon afterward (little surprise, given the nature of her labor) and died that same night…When Charlotte (and her child) died, the nation went into an absolute orgy of mourning that included many, many published sermons, memorial poems and testimonies, commemorative pottery, metalwork, textiles and visual art. Over and over she was memorialized as "Albion's Rose," which was eerily echoed after Princess Diana's death by Elton John's reference to her as "England's Rose." And like Diana, Charlotte was mourned in a very theatrical public funeral (conducted at night, no less, to enhance the effect of torchlight).”
Royal Baby Doctor Suicide Trend? The Predecessor to Nurse Jacintha Saldanha
Following Kate Middleton’s pregnancy announcement, Nurse Jacintha Saldanha allegedly committed suicide after she inadvertently transferred a prank radio call into the Duchess of Cambridge’s hospital suite where she was recovering from acute morning sickness.
Charlotte's male midwife, Sir Richard Croft refused to use forceps during labor even though the baby was breech. He eventually committed suicide and the death of Charlotte, her baby and Sir Croft was then on widely referred to as the ‘triple obstetric tragedy’ of 1817.
Rachel Knowles, author of the blog Regency History.net tells OutFront:
“Although other physicians confirmed that he had done everything he could, [Croft] felt responsible for not having been able to save Charlotte or her baby. When attending a woman facing similar problems to the princess, he was overcome with affliction, went to his room and shot himself. When a person’s failures are connected with the royal family, the pressure and responsibility can sometimes prove overwhelming.”
Given the tragic story of Princess Charlotte, we asked our experts about the connection. Should the Duchess of Cambridge cede to superstition and cross the potential baby name off her list with a red quill pen?
“Charlotte is a feminine form of Charles – the name of the baby’s grandfather. Princess Charlotte was extremely popular with the general public and, in my opinion, it would be a lovely tribute to the princess who never became queen and a perfectly fitting name for a future queen of England,” Knowles explained to OutFront.
Professor Behrendt added, “I don't think there's a morbid connection in the choice of Charlotte as the name for Kate's and William's daughter. Prince Charles is known to be a historian with a particular fondness for George III, and the Charlotte moniker may be more a tribute to George's wife than to his granddaughter. Charlotte is also a rather trendy name these days, along with Emma. Charlotte Bronte and Emma Woodhouse (Jane Austen's character), perhaps, although also Emma Thompson.”
Follow Jessica Reinis on Twitter: @JessicaReinis