Princess Charlotte and Claremont

Princess Charlotte and Claremont

First things first, [easyazon_link identifier=”B07KYMR2YD” locale=”US” tag=”austauth0d-20″]A Season Lost[/easyazon_link] is finally published! One of the key themes readers will find during the series is childbirth: maternal mortality rates were high, which gives this strange quality to an impending birth. It might be cause for great happiness, or it might result in the loss of the mother, and/or the child. In A Season Lost, three of Elizabeth’s sisters give birth, and the experience impacts each of their lives in different ways.

Childbirth also brings me to the topic of today’s post, Princess Charlotte. The only daughter of the Prince Regent (later George IV) and his wife, Caroline of Brunswick, Charlotte was the heir to the British throne. She married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld in 1816, and — underlining how dangerous it was even for a princess with the best medical care of the time available to her — gave birth to a stillborn boy after a long and arduous labor in November, 1817, and died following the birth.

Princess Charlotte

The nation went into mourning, and history changed. If Charlotte had lived, we would have seen a Charlottian era, rather than a Victorian one. Her death sent all of the sons of George III on a royal heir race; they all discarded their mistresses and made proper marriages. The “winner,” so to speak, was the Duke of Kent and Strathearn, whose daughter, Alexandrina Victoria, would inherit the throne.

During their brief marriage, Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold did seem to have happiness. They moved in to Claremont, a mansion that today should be considered just outside of London. The house is now a school, and is not usually open to the public, but I had a chance to visit during Heritage Open Days, and thought I would share some pictures and video for the remainder of my post.

Claremont Landscape Garden

Although the house itself is closed to the public, a large portion of its grounds, the landscape garden, is now owned by the National Trust and open to visitors. Some of the biggest names in landscape architecture have worked on them over time, including Sir John Vanbrugh, William Kent, and Lancelot “Capability” Brown.

Service entrance

Interestingly Capability Brown also did the architecture for the current house itself, which is more of a rarity for him. It led to some interesting features melding the landscape with the house, such as this sunken service entrance, which contains a circular area where carts making deliveries could be turned around.

Circular area to turn delivery carts
Claremont’s exterior, amidst the landscape

As you might expect, the house is very nicely situated in the landscape, on rising ground, although it otherwise has a pretty stock neo-classical Georgian exterior.

Claremont exterior
One of the rooms at Claremont; possibly a drawing-room originally

The house is in extremely good repair and strangely a lot of the original features remain (it’s now Grade I listed, so that helps). They’ve basically just sort of plunked a school down in the midst of these grand old rooms.

I believe this had been Princess Charlotte’s bedroom.
Ceiling detail in the bedroom
Another grand room turned classroom.
The ballroom
Ballroom fireplace and wall sconces

This detail shot of the ballroom gives an example of how many of the old architectural features are still intact. Can you imagine going to school in a place like this?

Air vent

The house remained in royal hands for a time after Charlotte’s death, and Victoria did spend some time here. Her influence can be seen in certain spots, like the ceiling in what had been the dining room, where a vent removed the smells of food (which Victoria disliked).

Staircase hall at Claremont

Victoria also liked the cantilevered staircase here so well that she modeled the one at Osborne House on it.

Staircase hall at Osborne House

Even some of the service areas in the basement were open to see, including the very non-service plunge pool, which I of course found interesting after a whole trip last year of learning about bathing and taking the cure.

Plunge pool in the basement

I had some transit issues in getting out to Claremont (there was a rail strike on that day), but I’m really glad I was able to make things work and see the house. It was interesting to see a country house converted over to a school, and to have a better context for Princess Charlotte’s life. It was also a chance to see a lot of architectural features from the Regency and early Victorian (before they lost their minds on neo-gothic) eras.

I’ll have more on Regency architecture and the Duke of Kent in my next post, when we’ll take a visit to Sidmouth. But for now, I’ll leave you with a 360 video walkthrough of Claremont:

 

21 Responses to Princess Charlotte and Claremont

  1. I’m so late getting to this! This was a very interesting post. You have no idea what historical discussion and frantic internet search as question after question popped up after I so innocently asked my Mr Encyclopedia For Brains better half a question about Prince Leopold’s desire to get his nephew Albert to marry Victoria. I mean he was ‘this close’ to the great power by being married to Charlotte, the heir. Oh but the discussion didn’t end there. I had to go and bring up the Franco-Prussian war. What a rabbit hole. Thank you! And it boggles the mind to think if she had survived to become Queen at sometime in their future.

    The peek into and around Claremont was fascinating…yes, I would’ve loved going to school in a place like that. Is my thought correct that Britain’s youth are instilled with a deep respect and appreciation for their heritage, even historic buildings?

    • And I’m late in replying! So glad to hear you enjoyed the post and it sparked some curiosity! It’s really so fascinating everything that was at play within that family.

      I’m not sure about Britain’s youth. It was certainly in very good condition which presumes the kids aren’t getting up to graffiti and whatnot. But then again I do feel like they’re just generally better about appreciating heritage there…the National Trust as an organization endlessly fascinates me, that it looks after both great houses and other buildings of historic interest, but also critical landscapes. I learned this last time I was there that they are the only organization that cannot have things taken from them by eminent domain. Somehow they got that through Parliament way back when and so once they have ownership of a property it’s protected for good. I think that’s so amazing. And then there’s grade listing where listed buildings can’t be torn down or have their exteriors altered…even if a building gets so dilapidated that it falls down, the only thing you can build in its place is a replica!

      • This is fascinating info regarding the National Trust, Sophie. Thanks for commenting back. I’d forgotten just everything I’d said, and had to go back and reread it. I hope your winter is treating you and yours happily.

  2. Thanks Sophie for your very interesting post. I believe princess Charlotte would have made her mark had she had her chance. Congratulation on your latest release.

  3. That’s so sad about Princess Charlotte. I’ve read a lot about her father, and his relationship with his wife, but I never thought to read on about what happened to her. Was she more like her mother or her father? I can’t think which would even make her a better monarch. Maybe she was like her grandfather šŸ™‚

    Thank you for the amazing images!

    • I don’t know as much about her in terms of who she was most like, personality-wise. She did seem to be a surprisingly decent human to have come out of that mess of a marriage, and apparently the Prince Regent was devastated over her death. She would have been older than Victoria when she inherited the throne, so I think even the additional maturity would have made a difference. Thanks for your comment, Summer!

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