Augusta of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, Frederick-Louis, Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia, King George II of Great Britain, Prince of Wales, royal wedding, Wilhelmine of Prussia
Negotiations between George II and his brother-in-law Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia on a proposed marriage between the Prince of Wales and Friedrich Wilhelm I’s daughter Wilhelmine were welcomed by Frederick Louis even though the couple had never met.
The full plan was originally, Frederick Louis was intended to marry Princess Wilhelmine, the eldest daughter of the King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia. A marriage alliance between Great Britain and Prussia had been an ambition for many years.
However, when George II suggested that his eldest son would marry the eldest daughter of the King of Prussia, while his second daughter, Princess Amelia, instead would marry the eldest son of the Prussian king, Crown Prince Friedrich, the King of Prussia demanded that his eldest son should likewise marry the eldest daughter, Anne, Princess Royal, of the King of Great Britain.
George II was not keen on these proposals but continued talks for diplomatic reasons. Frustrated by the delay, Frederick Louis sent an envoy of his own to the Prussian court. When the King discovered the plan, he immediately arranged for Frederick Louis to leave Hanover for England. The marriage negotiations foundered when Friedrich Wilhelm demanded that Frederick Louis be made Regent in Hanover.
Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia forced his son, Crown Prince Friedrich (later known as King Friedrich II the Great) to marry Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Bevern
On March 25, 1734 in the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace, Princess Anne the Princess Royal married Willem IV, Prince of Orange. She then ceased to use her British title in favour of the new one she gained by marriage.
Frederick Louis also almost married Lady Diana Spencer, daughter of Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland and Lady Anne Churchill. Lady Diana was the favourite grandchild of the powerful Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough. The duchess sought a royal alliance by marrying Lady Diana to the Prince of Wales with a massive dowry of £100,000. The prince, who was in great debt, agreed to the proposal, but the plan was vetoed by Robert Walpole and the king. Lady Diana soon married John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford.
Although in his youth he was undoubtedly a spendthrift and womaniser, Frederick Louis settled down following his marriage to the sixteen-year-old Augusta of Saxe-Gotha on April 17, 1736.
Princess Augusta was born in Gotha to Frederick II, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (1676–1732) and Magdalena Augusta of Anhalt-Zerbst (1679–1740). Her paternal grandfather was Frederick I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, eldest surviving son of Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.
The wedding was held at the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace, presided over by Edmund Gibson, Bishop of London and Dean of the Chapel Royal. Handel provided the new anthem ‘Sing unto God’ for the service and the wedding was also marked in London by two rival operas, Handel’s Atalanta and Porpora’s La festa d’Imeneo.
In June 1737, Frederick Louis informed his parents that Augusta was pregnant, and due to give birth in October. In fact, Augusta’s due date was earlier and a peculiar episode followed in July in which the Prince, on discovering that his wife had gone into labour, sneaked her out of Hampton Court Palace in the middle of the night, to ensure that the King and Queen could not be present at the birth.
George and Caroline were horrified. Traditionally, royal births were witnessed by members of the family and senior courtiers to guard against supposititious children, and Augusta had been forced by her husband to ride in a rattling carriage while heavily pregnant and in pain.
With a party including two of her daughters and Lord Hervey, the Queen raced over to St James’s Palace, where Frederick had taken Augusta. Caroline was relieved to discover that Augusta had given birth to a “poor, ugly little she-mouse” rather than a “large, fat, healthy boy” which made a supposititious child unlikely since the baby was so pitiful. The circumstances of the birth deepened the estrangement between mother and son.
Frederick Louis’ hier, the future King George III was born on June 4, 1738 in London at Norfolk House in St James’s Square. As he was born two months prematurely and thought unlikely to survive, he was baptised the same day by Thomas Secker, who was both Rector of St James’s and Bishop of Oxford.
Frederick Louis and Augusta eventually had 9 children in total, 4 daughters and 5 sons.
Frederick was banished from the King’s court, and a rival court grew up at Frederick Louis’s new residence, Leicester House. His mother fell fatally ill at the end of the year, but the King refused Frederick Louis permission to see her
His political ambitions unfulfilled, Frederick Louis died at Leicester House at the age of 44 on March 31, 1751
In the past this has been attributed to a burst lung abscess caused by a blow from a cricket or a real tennis ball, but it is now thought to have been from a pulmonary embolism. He was buried at Westminster Abbey on 13 April 1751. He is the most recent Prince of Wales not to have acceded to the British throne.
The Prince of Wales’s epigram (quoted by William Makepeace Thackeray, “Four Georges”):
“Here lies poor Fred who was alive and is dead,
Had it been his father I had much rather,
Had it been his sister nobody would have missed her,
Had it been his brother, still better than another,
Had it been the whole generation, so much better for the nation,
But since it is Fred who was alive and is dead,
There is no more to be said!”