Princess Power!

CarolineAnspach-JervasAndrea/Cara here. I recently saw a fascinating museum exhibit entitled “Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte and the Shaping of the Modern World.” These three German princesses—Caroline of Ansbach, Augusta of Saxe-Gotha and Charlotte of Mecklenberg-Strelitz—all married into the British royal family and each had a profound influence on their adopted country. Needless to say, I came away enlightened!

According to Amy Meyers, Director of the Yale Center for British Art and the organizing curator, “The princesses had sweeping intellectual, social, cultural, and political interests, which helped to shape the courts in which they lived, and encouraged the era’s greatest philosophers, scientists, artists, and architects to develop important ideas that would guide ensuing generations. The palaces and royal gardens they inhabited served as incubators for enlightened conversation and experimentation, and functioned as platforms to project the latest cultural developments to an international audience.”

George+Augustus+of+Hanover+&+Caroline+of+AnsbachOf the three, I was most familiar with Caroline of Ansbach. Orphaned at age eleven, she went live with Friederich III, Elector of Brandenberg, and the first King of Prussia. A highly intelligent and attractive woman, she thrived in Freiderich’s open-minded court, where she became friends with Gottfried Leibnitz, one of the leading intellectual giants of the 18th century. She then married George Augustus of Hanover, and when his father acceded to the British throne as George I on the death of Queen Anne, the young couple followed him to London as the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Caro-of-AnspachCaroline was very involved in politics—she and her husband were often at loggerheads with George I, and for a time they were under house arrest and forbidden to see their children, Later, she served as Regent several times during her husband’s reign George II, when he made prolonged visits to Germany. But it was as a leader in shaping the culture of her court and the country for which she has earned high accolades from historians. Lucy Wortley called her  “the cleverest queen consort ever to sit on the throne of England.”



Georg_Friedrich_Händel_3It was Caroline who compiled an extensive library at St. James’s Palace, and she surrounded herself with artists, musicians, intellectuals and men of science, encouraging a lively exchange of ideas and creativity with her patronage. A musician in her own right, she was very interested in the discipline, and George Frideric Handel was a great favorite. He composed a number of works for the royal family—one of his coronation anthems, created for the coronation of George II, has been played at every British coronation since.

Science was also of interest. Caroline had a large orrery, a mechanical device for tracking the position of the planets, at Kensington Palace. And in the field of medicine, she was instrumental in popularizing the vaccination process for smallpox in England, having contracted the disease  herself as a young woman.

Augusta Of Saxe-Gotha FamilyAugusta of Saxe-Gotha married Caroline’s eldest son, Frederick. She never became queen, as her husband died at a young age. But as the Princess of Wales, and mother of the future George III, she too had a profound influence of the social and cultural life of England. Her greatest interest was in botany, and as the dowager Princess of Wales, she greatly expanded Kew Gardens, using specimens brought back from the far-flung British colonies. She worked with the noted architect, Sir William Chambers to design several grand building for the gardens. The Chinese Pagodapagoda, built in 1761, still stand there today.
 

Like her mother-in-law Caroline and daughter-in-law Charlotte (the personal relationships with both of them with strained) Augusta was very interested in current theories on raising children, and was very active overseeing the education of future king. Other areas of social welfare drew her patronage, most notably the Foundling Hospital, which cared for London’s orphaned and abandoned children.

Queen CharlotteCharlotte of Mecklenberg-Strelitz was also a serious amateur botanist, and continued the work of expanding Kew Gardens. (The South African Bird of Paradise flower was named Strelitzia reginae in her honor.) She and King George III were also ardent lovers of music. Johann Christian Bach, the son of the legendary J. S. Bach, was her music master, and the young Wolfgang Mozart performed for the royal couple during his tour of the Britain.
 
Augusta-DowagerPrincessofWalesCharlotte was also a generous patron to craftsmen, silversmiths, and artists. In addition she founded hospitals and orphanages. She also believed in the education of women, and saw to that her daughters received a rigorous program of instruction.

The exhibit was designed to highlight the fact that though history often overlooks their contributions to shaping the intellectual, artistic and political climate of their times, the princesses were in fact very influential, and helped nurture the ideals of the Enlightenment.

So, do you have a favorite princess in history? I have to say, I think the current Princess Kate of Great Britain is a wonderful credit to the monarchy, and to the spirit of these past princesses.

85 thoughts on “Princess Power!”

  1. To me, a princess was always just something from a fairy tale until princess Diana came along. I just couldn’t help but love her despite (or perhaps because of) all the drama surrounding her. Despite her youth, she managed to raise to fine boys. And princess Kate is the epitome of grace and elegance.
    What a great post! This is what I love about this blog. So many interesting subjects. I’ll be on a fishing expedition to learn more about these three princesses. I really didn’t know much about them. It will be a fun project. Thanks Andrea/Cara.

    Reply
  2. To me, a princess was always just something from a fairy tale until princess Diana came along. I just couldn’t help but love her despite (or perhaps because of) all the drama surrounding her. Despite her youth, she managed to raise to fine boys. And princess Kate is the epitome of grace and elegance.
    What a great post! This is what I love about this blog. So many interesting subjects. I’ll be on a fishing expedition to learn more about these three princesses. I really didn’t know much about them. It will be a fun project. Thanks Andrea/Cara.

    Reply
  3. To me, a princess was always just something from a fairy tale until princess Diana came along. I just couldn’t help but love her despite (or perhaps because of) all the drama surrounding her. Despite her youth, she managed to raise to fine boys. And princess Kate is the epitome of grace and elegance.
    What a great post! This is what I love about this blog. So many interesting subjects. I’ll be on a fishing expedition to learn more about these three princesses. I really didn’t know much about them. It will be a fun project. Thanks Andrea/Cara.

    Reply
  4. To me, a princess was always just something from a fairy tale until princess Diana came along. I just couldn’t help but love her despite (or perhaps because of) all the drama surrounding her. Despite her youth, she managed to raise to fine boys. And princess Kate is the epitome of grace and elegance.
    What a great post! This is what I love about this blog. So many interesting subjects. I’ll be on a fishing expedition to learn more about these three princesses. I really didn’t know much about them. It will be a fun project. Thanks Andrea/Cara.

    Reply
  5. To me, a princess was always just something from a fairy tale until princess Diana came along. I just couldn’t help but love her despite (or perhaps because of) all the drama surrounding her. Despite her youth, she managed to raise to fine boys. And princess Kate is the epitome of grace and elegance.
    What a great post! This is what I love about this blog. So many interesting subjects. I’ll be on a fishing expedition to learn more about these three princesses. I really didn’t know much about them. It will be a fun project. Thanks Andrea/Cara.

    Reply
  6. So glad you enjoyed the post, Mary! That’s what’s so endlessly fascinating about history—there are so many stories of extraordinary individuals who created extraordinary things, and we never really know about their accomplishments until we stumble across some exhibit or manuscript. Really fun!
    I totally agree with you that despite all the drama, Diana turned the modern role of princess into so much more than a figurehead And she grounded her sons in the idea of using their “platform” to be a positive force for good.

    Reply
  7. So glad you enjoyed the post, Mary! That’s what’s so endlessly fascinating about history—there are so many stories of extraordinary individuals who created extraordinary things, and we never really know about their accomplishments until we stumble across some exhibit or manuscript. Really fun!
    I totally agree with you that despite all the drama, Diana turned the modern role of princess into so much more than a figurehead And she grounded her sons in the idea of using their “platform” to be a positive force for good.

    Reply
  8. So glad you enjoyed the post, Mary! That’s what’s so endlessly fascinating about history—there are so many stories of extraordinary individuals who created extraordinary things, and we never really know about their accomplishments until we stumble across some exhibit or manuscript. Really fun!
    I totally agree with you that despite all the drama, Diana turned the modern role of princess into so much more than a figurehead And she grounded her sons in the idea of using their “platform” to be a positive force for good.

    Reply
  9. So glad you enjoyed the post, Mary! That’s what’s so endlessly fascinating about history—there are so many stories of extraordinary individuals who created extraordinary things, and we never really know about their accomplishments until we stumble across some exhibit or manuscript. Really fun!
    I totally agree with you that despite all the drama, Diana turned the modern role of princess into so much more than a figurehead And she grounded her sons in the idea of using their “platform” to be a positive force for good.

    Reply
  10. So glad you enjoyed the post, Mary! That’s what’s so endlessly fascinating about history—there are so many stories of extraordinary individuals who created extraordinary things, and we never really know about their accomplishments until we stumble across some exhibit or manuscript. Really fun!
    I totally agree with you that despite all the drama, Diana turned the modern role of princess into so much more than a figurehead And she grounded her sons in the idea of using their “platform” to be a positive force for good.

    Reply
  11. I am a British Historian and I did not know much about these ladies! How very cool to see true life heroins in the aristocracy and royalty. Thank you for posting this; I think I am going to share this with my class today as we lecture on the enlightenment era! How fitting!!!

    Reply
  12. I am a British Historian and I did not know much about these ladies! How very cool to see true life heroins in the aristocracy and royalty. Thank you for posting this; I think I am going to share this with my class today as we lecture on the enlightenment era! How fitting!!!

    Reply
  13. I am a British Historian and I did not know much about these ladies! How very cool to see true life heroins in the aristocracy and royalty. Thank you for posting this; I think I am going to share this with my class today as we lecture on the enlightenment era! How fitting!!!

    Reply
  14. I am a British Historian and I did not know much about these ladies! How very cool to see true life heroins in the aristocracy and royalty. Thank you for posting this; I think I am going to share this with my class today as we lecture on the enlightenment era! How fitting!!!

    Reply
  15. I am a British Historian and I did not know much about these ladies! How very cool to see true life heroins in the aristocracy and royalty. Thank you for posting this; I think I am going to share this with my class today as we lecture on the enlightenment era! How fitting!!!

    Reply
  16. I’m not much of a monarchist, but the one I like, or more accurately feel most sorry for, is Sophia Dorothea, the wife of George I and mother of George II. Compared to George I, Henry VIII was a model husband!

    Reply
  17. I’m not much of a monarchist, but the one I like, or more accurately feel most sorry for, is Sophia Dorothea, the wife of George I and mother of George II. Compared to George I, Henry VIII was a model husband!

    Reply
  18. I’m not much of a monarchist, but the one I like, or more accurately feel most sorry for, is Sophia Dorothea, the wife of George I and mother of George II. Compared to George I, Henry VIII was a model husband!

    Reply
  19. I’m not much of a monarchist, but the one I like, or more accurately feel most sorry for, is Sophia Dorothea, the wife of George I and mother of George II. Compared to George I, Henry VIII was a model husband!

    Reply
  20. I’m not much of a monarchist, but the one I like, or more accurately feel most sorry for, is Sophia Dorothea, the wife of George I and mother of George II. Compared to George I, Henry VIII was a model husband!

    Reply
  21. I don’t appear to think much about real-llife royalty. (I was still playing with paper dolls when George VI came to the throne, so my sister and I each had a paper-doll set starring Elizabeth and her sister Margaret as young girls. I think that was the closest I came to noticing royalty in those days
    Also, while in elementary school, I heard that Augusta told her son to “be a King!” and that was why he was “unkind” to us (the colonials). What silly stuff we tell our children. I am glad to hear that she supported the arts and science. However, I am about to beginn reading the Malloran series. If I remember correctly, Augusta doesn’t seem to do well with politics at the time George III is a young king.

    Reply
  22. I don’t appear to think much about real-llife royalty. (I was still playing with paper dolls when George VI came to the throne, so my sister and I each had a paper-doll set starring Elizabeth and her sister Margaret as young girls. I think that was the closest I came to noticing royalty in those days
    Also, while in elementary school, I heard that Augusta told her son to “be a King!” and that was why he was “unkind” to us (the colonials). What silly stuff we tell our children. I am glad to hear that she supported the arts and science. However, I am about to beginn reading the Malloran series. If I remember correctly, Augusta doesn’t seem to do well with politics at the time George III is a young king.

    Reply
  23. I don’t appear to think much about real-llife royalty. (I was still playing with paper dolls when George VI came to the throne, so my sister and I each had a paper-doll set starring Elizabeth and her sister Margaret as young girls. I think that was the closest I came to noticing royalty in those days
    Also, while in elementary school, I heard that Augusta told her son to “be a King!” and that was why he was “unkind” to us (the colonials). What silly stuff we tell our children. I am glad to hear that she supported the arts and science. However, I am about to beginn reading the Malloran series. If I remember correctly, Augusta doesn’t seem to do well with politics at the time George III is a young king.

    Reply
  24. I don’t appear to think much about real-llife royalty. (I was still playing with paper dolls when George VI came to the throne, so my sister and I each had a paper-doll set starring Elizabeth and her sister Margaret as young girls. I think that was the closest I came to noticing royalty in those days
    Also, while in elementary school, I heard that Augusta told her son to “be a King!” and that was why he was “unkind” to us (the colonials). What silly stuff we tell our children. I am glad to hear that she supported the arts and science. However, I am about to beginn reading the Malloran series. If I remember correctly, Augusta doesn’t seem to do well with politics at the time George III is a young king.

    Reply
  25. I don’t appear to think much about real-llife royalty. (I was still playing with paper dolls when George VI came to the throne, so my sister and I each had a paper-doll set starring Elizabeth and her sister Margaret as young girls. I think that was the closest I came to noticing royalty in those days
    Also, while in elementary school, I heard that Augusta told her son to “be a King!” and that was why he was “unkind” to us (the colonials). What silly stuff we tell our children. I am glad to hear that she supported the arts and science. However, I am about to beginn reading the Malloran series. If I remember correctly, Augusta doesn’t seem to do well with politics at the time George III is a young king.

    Reply
  26. I particularly enjoyed this post. Thank you. Even though I missed most of the information on Charlotte as the text didn’t wrap around the last picture on my laptop. Nevertheless I’ve always been very sorry for the women who married the Georges. They almost always had poor relationships with their in-laws, often with their husbands, and frequently with their children. Plus they suffered the ridicule of the ton and the resentment of much of the English public. Apart from that it was easy. And still they do often made very successful lives for themselves. Amazing women.

    Reply
  27. I particularly enjoyed this post. Thank you. Even though I missed most of the information on Charlotte as the text didn’t wrap around the last picture on my laptop. Nevertheless I’ve always been very sorry for the women who married the Georges. They almost always had poor relationships with their in-laws, often with their husbands, and frequently with their children. Plus they suffered the ridicule of the ton and the resentment of much of the English public. Apart from that it was easy. And still they do often made very successful lives for themselves. Amazing women.

    Reply
  28. I particularly enjoyed this post. Thank you. Even though I missed most of the information on Charlotte as the text didn’t wrap around the last picture on my laptop. Nevertheless I’ve always been very sorry for the women who married the Georges. They almost always had poor relationships with their in-laws, often with their husbands, and frequently with their children. Plus they suffered the ridicule of the ton and the resentment of much of the English public. Apart from that it was easy. And still they do often made very successful lives for themselves. Amazing women.

    Reply
  29. I particularly enjoyed this post. Thank you. Even though I missed most of the information on Charlotte as the text didn’t wrap around the last picture on my laptop. Nevertheless I’ve always been very sorry for the women who married the Georges. They almost always had poor relationships with their in-laws, often with their husbands, and frequently with their children. Plus they suffered the ridicule of the ton and the resentment of much of the English public. Apart from that it was easy. And still they do often made very successful lives for themselves. Amazing women.

    Reply
  30. I particularly enjoyed this post. Thank you. Even though I missed most of the information on Charlotte as the text didn’t wrap around the last picture on my laptop. Nevertheless I’ve always been very sorry for the women who married the Georges. They almost always had poor relationships with their in-laws, often with their husbands, and frequently with their children. Plus they suffered the ridicule of the ton and the resentment of much of the English public. Apart from that it was easy. And still they do often made very successful lives for themselves. Amazing women.

    Reply
  31. Mary, so sorry Typepad isn’t behaving for you. It looks fine on my browser. The princesses really didn’t have it easy—they came to England barely speaking the language, and yes, had to contend with the royal family. No easy thing! zthey did seem to have good relationships with their husbands, though children did prove fraught with tensions. (Poor Charlotte didn’t have much luck with her sons!) Still, they managed to develop serious interests, and promote the arts, science and social welfare. So they really do deserve credit!

    Reply
  32. Mary, so sorry Typepad isn’t behaving for you. It looks fine on my browser. The princesses really didn’t have it easy—they came to England barely speaking the language, and yes, had to contend with the royal family. No easy thing! zthey did seem to have good relationships with their husbands, though children did prove fraught with tensions. (Poor Charlotte didn’t have much luck with her sons!) Still, they managed to develop serious interests, and promote the arts, science and social welfare. So they really do deserve credit!

    Reply
  33. Mary, so sorry Typepad isn’t behaving for you. It looks fine on my browser. The princesses really didn’t have it easy—they came to England barely speaking the language, and yes, had to contend with the royal family. No easy thing! zthey did seem to have good relationships with their husbands, though children did prove fraught with tensions. (Poor Charlotte didn’t have much luck with her sons!) Still, they managed to develop serious interests, and promote the arts, science and social welfare. So they really do deserve credit!

    Reply
  34. Mary, so sorry Typepad isn’t behaving for you. It looks fine on my browser. The princesses really didn’t have it easy—they came to England barely speaking the language, and yes, had to contend with the royal family. No easy thing! zthey did seem to have good relationships with their husbands, though children did prove fraught with tensions. (Poor Charlotte didn’t have much luck with her sons!) Still, they managed to develop serious interests, and promote the arts, science and social welfare. So they really do deserve credit!

    Reply
  35. Mary, so sorry Typepad isn’t behaving for you. It looks fine on my browser. The princesses really didn’t have it easy—they came to England barely speaking the language, and yes, had to contend with the royal family. No easy thing! zthey did seem to have good relationships with their husbands, though children did prove fraught with tensions. (Poor Charlotte didn’t have much luck with her sons!) Still, they managed to develop serious interests, and promote the arts, science and social welfare. So they really do deserve credit!

    Reply
  36. Yes, Sue, that’s what I remember from the Malloren series, too. If I remember correctly, the books implied that Augusta was heavily influenced by Bute, and not for the better. Of course, that might be just the Mallorens’ viewpoint.

    Reply
  37. Yes, Sue, that’s what I remember from the Malloren series, too. If I remember correctly, the books implied that Augusta was heavily influenced by Bute, and not for the better. Of course, that might be just the Mallorens’ viewpoint.

    Reply
  38. Yes, Sue, that’s what I remember from the Malloren series, too. If I remember correctly, the books implied that Augusta was heavily influenced by Bute, and not for the better. Of course, that might be just the Mallorens’ viewpoint.

    Reply
  39. Yes, Sue, that’s what I remember from the Malloren series, too. If I remember correctly, the books implied that Augusta was heavily influenced by Bute, and not for the better. Of course, that might be just the Mallorens’ viewpoint.

    Reply
  40. Yes, Sue, that’s what I remember from the Malloren series, too. If I remember correctly, the books implied that Augusta was heavily influenced by Bute, and not for the better. Of course, that might be just the Mallorens’ viewpoint.

    Reply
  41. Mary, it happens on my browser too, but if you use your mouse to highlight the text it stands out from the photos and you can read it just fine.

    Reply
  42. Mary, it happens on my browser too, but if you use your mouse to highlight the text it stands out from the photos and you can read it just fine.

    Reply
  43. Mary, it happens on my browser too, but if you use your mouse to highlight the text it stands out from the photos and you can read it just fine.

    Reply
  44. Mary, it happens on my browser too, but if you use your mouse to highlight the text it stands out from the photos and you can read it just fine.

    Reply
  45. Mary, it happens on my browser too, but if you use your mouse to highlight the text it stands out from the photos and you can read it just fine.

    Reply
  46. I was never into princesses, even as a child, so this is all new to me. All 3 of these ladies sound so interesting, but it seems like Caroline blazed the trail for the other two. I would love to sit down for dinner with any one of them.

    Reply
  47. I was never into princesses, even as a child, so this is all new to me. All 3 of these ladies sound so interesting, but it seems like Caroline blazed the trail for the other two. I would love to sit down for dinner with any one of them.

    Reply
  48. I was never into princesses, even as a child, so this is all new to me. All 3 of these ladies sound so interesting, but it seems like Caroline blazed the trail for the other two. I would love to sit down for dinner with any one of them.

    Reply
  49. I was never into princesses, even as a child, so this is all new to me. All 3 of these ladies sound so interesting, but it seems like Caroline blazed the trail for the other two. I would love to sit down for dinner with any one of them.

    Reply
  50. I was never into princesses, even as a child, so this is all new to me. All 3 of these ladies sound so interesting, but it seems like Caroline blazed the trail for the other two. I would love to sit down for dinner with any one of them.

    Reply

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