When – yesterday, last month, last year? No, no, nearly two hundred years ago, in 1813.
Princess Charlotte, aged 17, was the only child of the Prince Regent, afterwards King George IV, and thus destined to become the future queen. Vivacious, wilful and irresponsible she was neglected by her father and allowed no contact with her gadabout mother. A marriage to Prince William of Orange was to be arranged, but Charlotte, after learning that she would eventually have to live six months of the year in Holland, turned against the idea. Instead she fell madly in love with Prince Augustus Frederick of Prussia, 35, tall, handsome, a dissolute man of the world and already married. These drawbacks were overlooked by Charlotte and she terminated her engagement to Prince William.
Enraged, her father, the Prince Regent, ordered that she be locked up in Carlton House under a prim governess and treated like a child until she mended her ways.
In despair, Charlotte escaped from the house and hailed the first cab she saw. “Take me to Oxford Street” she demanded, “and I’ll give you a guinea” (a lot of money in those days). This was where her mother’s house was, and she stayed there until two in the morning when a group of uncles and bishops arrived and demanded her return.
In the end she had to give in but was resolved never to marry the Little Dutchman. And later she learned that her love for Prince Frederick was unrequited.
So it was a wiser Charlotte who finally, at age 21, married Prince Leopold of Belgium, writing later that she found him the “perfection of a lover”. Their wedding caused great excitement in the country and attracted huge crowds, but when she found herself pregnant she could not accept it and regarded her condition with apprehension and foreboding. This foreboding was well-founded for both she and her baby died in childbirth.
And instead of Charlotte, another princess became queen – Victoria.