Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Antique Image of the Day: A Dutch Toy, 1814

Image from The British Museum

A Dutch Toy!!!-Or, a pretty Play-thing for a Young Princess!!! Huzza

Titled as the above line reads, this satirical print depicts Princess Charlotte of Wales (1796-1817), only child of the Prince Regent (later King George IV) and Caroline of Brunswick.  

In this scene, Princess Charlotte is seated enthroned under a canopy.  She wears the "Prince of Wales' Feathers."  In her hands, she's holding a pantin (a jointed puppet), pulling the string so that the figure's legs and arms are extended.  The pantin is holding a flag inscribed surmounted by an orange.  The flag reads, "Orange Boven."  Meanwhile, the puppet looks at the princess pleadingly.

What's behind this hand-painted engraving?

Princess Charlotte, like many a princess before her (especially one who was thought to be Queen one day) was essentially being told who she should marry.  She preferred Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (Uncle of Queen Victoria as well as Prince Albert, Victoria's consort).  Meanwhile, George preferred his daughter to marry the Prince of Orange, and, soon, Orange and Charlotte were engaged.

Charlotte wrote:

No arguments, no threats, shall ever bend me to marry this detested Dutchman.

Eventually, George gave in for the sake of his only (legitimate) child and his only hope of having one of his own continue on the throne after he died.  Princess Charlotte broke off her engagement in a letter of June 16th, giving as reasons, that 'from recent circumstances:

I am perfectly convinced my interest is materially concerned with that of my Mother, and that my residence out of this Kingdom would be equally prejudicial to her interest as to my own.

That Charlotte did this only increased her popularity more.  Though this print suggests that Princess Charlotte had a thing for the Marquis of of Lansdowne (not to be confused with the Baron Lensdown), she really only liked Leopold.  

George IV consented to this and Charlotte and Leopold were married May 2, 1816.

But, she died.  

Charlotte passed away after giving birth to a stillborn son.  She complained, "They've made me tipsy," and was found dead after bleeding terribly.

Had she lived, she would have been Queen after the death of her father and Leopold would have been Prince Consort.  After the death of George IV, the throne went to his brother, William IV, and, then, to his niece, Queen Victoria who married Prince Albert as her consort.  Leopold really pushed for the marriage of the two cousins (Victoria didn't mind, she fancied Albert) so that at least ONE Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha at the side of the British Queen--a role which escaped him in his own life.  Still, he did okay, becoming King of the Belgians.  So, don't cry for him.

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