by Susan Flantzer © Unofficial Royalty 2016
Born 21 years after her eldest sibling, Princess Amelia was the sixth daughter and the youngest of the fifteen children of King George III of the United Kingdom and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. She was born on August 7, 1783, at Lower Lodge (now called Royal Lodge), in Windsor, England, the only child of George III not to be born at the Queen’s House (now Buckingham Palace). Amelia was christened on September 18, 1783, in the Great Council Chamber at St. James’ Palace in London by John Moore, Archbishop of Canterbury. She was named after her great-aunt, Princess Amelia, daughter of King George II. Her godparents were:
- The Prince of Wales (her eldest brother, later King George IV)
- The Princess Royal (her eldest sister Charlotte)
- Princess Augusta (her second eldest sister)
Amelia had 14 siblings, but her brothers Octavius and Alfred both died shortly before her birth.
- King George IV (1762 – 1830), married Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, had issue: Princess Charlotte of Wales who died in childbirth as did her child
- Prince Frederick, Duke of York (1763 – 1827), married Frederica of Prussia, no issue
- King William IV (1765 – 1837), married Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, no surviving legitimate issue, has illegitimate descendants
- Charlotte, Princess Royal (1766 – 1828), married King Friedrich I of Württemberg, no surviving issue
- Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (1767 – 1820), married Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, had issue: Queen Victoria, present British Royal Family are his descendants
- Princess Augusta Sophia (1768 – 1840), never married, no issue
- Princess Elizabeth (1770 – 1840), married Friedrich, Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg, no issue
- King Ernest Augustus I of Hanover, Duke of Cumberland (1771 – 1851), married Friederike of Mecklenburg-Strelitz; had issue
- Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773 – 1843), married twice, both in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 1) Lady Augusta Murray, had issue, marriage annulled 2) Lady Cecilia Buggin (later 1st Duchess of Inverness), no issue
- Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge (1774 – 1850), married Augusta of Hesse-Kassel, had issue, present British Royal Family are his descendants through his granddaughter Mary of Teck who married King George V of the United Kingdom
- Princess Mary (1776 – 1857), married Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester, no issue
- Prince Octavius (1779 – 1783), died in childhood
- Prince Alfred (1780 – 1782), died in childhood
George III had dearly loved his son Octavius, who had died at age four just three months before Amelia’s birth. Although George still mourned Octavius, the birth of Amelia helped to raise his spirits. The three younger sisters, Mary, Sophia, and Amelia were educated together, spending much time with Charlotte de Montmollin, their new French governess, who taught the sisters not only French but exquisite needlework. Jane Gomm joined the sisters in 1786 as an English teacher and then supervised the remainder of their education. Mary, Sophia, and Amelia lived much of the time apart from their parents sometimes with the younger brothers at Kew Palace, but most often at Lower Lodge (now called Royal Lodge) at Windsor. The three younger sisters were much less disciplined than the three elder sisters. The artist John Singleton Copley discovered this when he painted Sophia, Mary, and Amelia with the family pets in 1785. The children, the dogs, and the parrots would not cooperate. Somehow Copley managed to finish the painting, but he then returned to historical painting and never painted another portrait. The Copley painting is below.
The living conditions of King George III’s daughters came to be known as “the Nunnery.” None of the daughters was allowed to marry at the age when most princesses would marry. Perhaps this over-protection of King George III’s daughters was due to what happened to his sister Caroline Matilda when she married King Christian VII of Denmark. Christian’s mental illness led to Caroline Matilda having an affair, being caught, the execution of her lover, her exile, and her early death from scarlet fever at age 23. The story was told in several novels including Per Olov Enquist’s The Visit of the Royal Physician (1999) and in the Danish film A Royal Affair (2012). Stella Tillyard also covers Caroline Matilda’s affair in her nonfiction book A Royal Affair: George III and His Scandalous Siblings (2006). Despite what happened to their aunt, the sisters longed to escape from “the Nunnery.”
Prior to King George’s first bout with what probably was porphyria in 1788, he had told his daughters that he would take them to Hanover to find them husbands. Further bouts occurred in 1801 and 1804 and prevented talk of marriage for his daughters. Queen Charlotte feared that the subject of marriage, which had always bothered her husband, would push him back into insanity. She was stressed by her husband’s illness and wanted her daughters to remain close to her. The sisters – Charlotte, Augusta, Elizabeth, Mary, Sophia, and Amelia – continued to be over-protected and isolated which restricted them from meeting eligible suitors of their own age.
In 1798, 15-year-old Amelia developed a pain in her knee and was sent to the seaside town of Worthing for recovery. She wrote to her father, “Certainly the vapour and warm sea bath are of use and therefore I hope that I shall be able to assure you that I am better.” This was the beginning of the poor health that would plague Amelia for the rest of her short life. Amelia’s symptoms indicated tuberculosis, which usually affects the lungs, but can also affect the joints. Her pain was severe and she was determined not to complain and she had to endure painful, frightening treatments.
Limited in exposure to eligible men, Amelia and several of her sisters became involved with courtiers and equerries. In 1801, Amelia went to the seaside town of Weymouth to take a cure. Accompanying Amelia was Colonel The Honorable Charles Fitzroy, an equerry to King George III and a son of Charles FitzRoy, 1st Baron Southampton. The name “Fitzroy” was often given to illegitimate children of British kings. Fitzroy was a great-great-great-grandson of King Charles II of England and his mistress Barbara Villiers through their son Henry Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Grafton. While in Weymouth, the 18-year-old Amelia and Fitzroy, who was 21 years older, began an open romance despite the disapproval of her governess Jane Gomm. Amelia refused to hide the relationship, riding with Fitzroy and insisting on playing at his card table. Queen Charlotte learned of Amelia’s attraction to Fitzroy around 1803, but she kept it a secret from King George so as to not upset him. The Queen continually lectured Amelia about “this unpleasant business” which Amelia considered unforgivable. She was determined to marry Fitzroy, but she knew that the permission required by the Royal Marriages Act would never be given.
By 1810, Amelia was fatally ill with pulmonary tuberculosis. She was sent to the seaside at Weymouth on one last unsuccessful cure and returned in the autumn of 1810 when she was settled at Augusta Lodge at Windsor near her birthplace Lower Lodge (now Royal Lodge). The King visited her every day. Now in addition to tuberculosis, Amelia was suffering from erysipelas, an acute skin infection. Before the advent of antibiotics, erysipelas frequently resulted in death. Amelia’s case of erysipelas was particularly severe with the rash literally from her head to her toes.
Amelia made a will and left all her clothing to her maid. Everything else she left to Fitzroy with this note: “Should my cruel situation continue to separate our persons, be assured my heart is and long has been joined and united with yours. I live but for you, I love you with the purest affection, the greatest gratitude.” Amelia made one last attempt to marry Fitzroy when she asked her doctor to seek permission from her father to marry. The doctor, Sir Henry Halford, refused saying that it would “entail great wretchedness upon yourself and misery upon all the Royal Family for ages to come..this blow to the King’s peace of mind must be so heavy as to endanger the loss of His Majesty’s happiness but also of his health.” Amelia died on November 2, 1810, at the age of 27 with her sister Mary at her bedside. Mary wrote to Fitzroy, “My dear Fitzroy, Our beloved Amelia is no more but her last words to me were, ‘Tell Charles I die blessing him.'”
Amelia’s funeral took place on November 13, 1810, at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. Her sisters and mother, as was tradition, were not at her funeral, but her brothers “in floods of tears” attended as did Amelia’s ladies-in-waiting. Amelia was buried in the Royal Vault at St. George’s Chapel. Her death is partly credited to the decline in her father’s health which resulted in his final insanity and the Regency Act of 1811.
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