Augusta of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz., Dowager Princess of Wales, George II of Great Britain, George III of Great Britain, Princess of Wales, William of Cumberland
When Augusta’s first pregnancy was announced, Queen Caroline stated that she would be sure to witness the birth, to be assured that the pregnancy was indeed genuine. She reportedly wished the succession to pass to her second son, Prince William, Duke of Cumberland.
The birth of their first daughter, Princess Augusta, on July 31, 1737, took place at St James’s after Princess Augusta was forced by Frederick Louis to travel from Hampton Court Palace while in labour, in order to prevent his hated parents from being present at the birth. The delivery was traumatic: St James palace was not ready to receive them, no bed was prepared, no sheets could be found, and Augusta was forced to give birth on a tablecloth. Queen Caroline once said of her daughter-in-law and the inconveniences she had inflicted on her: “Poor creature, were she to spit in my face, I should only pity her for being under such a fool’s direction, and wipe it off.”
The circumstances of the birth of Princess Augusta led to a dispute between the Prince and Princess of Wales and the King and Queen, who were not reconciled until public opinion during the Jacobite rebellion on 1745 pressured them to. After the reconciliation, the couple became less isolated from high society, allowing courtiers to appear at both courts without giving offence. Augusta made a good impression in society life, where she was described as pretty, elegant, and a gracious hostess. On some occasions, the children of Augusta were made to give amateur theater performances for their guests, notably on January 4, 1749, when George, Augusta, Elizabeth, Edward and some of their playmates acted in the tragedy of Cato.
On March 31, 1751, Frederick Louis unexpectedly died, making Augusta a widow. Dr. Doran described her at the death of her spouse: “She had, throughout her married life exhibited much mental superiority, with great kindness of disposition, and that under circumstances of great difficulty, and sometimes of a character to inflict vexation on the calmest nature.
She was then the mother of eight children, expecting shortly to be the mother of a ninth, and she was brought reluctantly to knowledge that their father was no more. It was six in the morning before her attendants could persuade her to retire to bed; but she arose again at eight, and then, with less thought for her grief than her anxiety for the honor of him whose death was the cause of it, she proceeded to the Prince’s room, and burned all of his private papers. By this the world lost some rare supplementary chapters to the Cronique Scandaleuse!”
King George II reportedly did not show much feeling upon the death of his son and the funeral was simple. On receiving the king’s condolences, Augusta replied that she placed herself and her children upon his mercy and protection, and he was evidently touched by her widowhood and minor children, and was willing to show them consideration.
Following Frederick Louis’ death, her role as mother of the heir-apparent to the throne became a more prominent one, and she was named prospective regent by the king and the parliament, should the king die during the minority of Augusta’s eldest son, the Prince of Wales.
This caused a controversy and opposition from Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, who had expected to be given that role instead.
During the remaining years of the reign of George II, Augusta chose to live in seclusion with her children, devoting herself to their care. The few occasions when she did appear in public, the king gave her the same ceremonial role and honours previously given to the queen, and she was honored the same way by the public as well as the court.
However, Augusta suffered a loss of popularity as a widow. She was to be criticised for her manner of raising her children, as she isolated them from the outside world into a secluded family environment, seldom meeting people outside the family.
Shortly after being widowed, she began to be influenced by John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, her son’s tutor, and rumours spread that they were having an affair. This was due to her being adamant that Bute was visiting her, and not her son, during his back door visits to tutor the prince. Both were pilloried in the press.
As her eldest son came of age, the king attempted to arrange a marriage. His favoured choice was Princess Sophie Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, but Augusta refused, favouring a member of her own family, the House of Saxe-Gotha. Sophie Caoline married Friedrich, Margrave of Bayreuth, instead.
On October 25, 1760, her son succeeded his grandfather as George III. The year after his succession, he married Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Charlotte was the youngest daughter of Duke Charles Ludwig Friedrich of Mecklenburg, Prince of Mirow (1708–1752) and of his wife Princess Elisabeth Albertine of Saxe-Hildburghausen (1713–1761).
Augusta’s relationship with her daughter-in-law was not a good one. Augusta reportedly made it difficult for Charlotte to establish social contacts by referring to court etiquette. Furthermore, she initially appointed a large part of Charlotte’s court staff, several of whom were suspected of reporting to Augusta about Charlotte’s behaviour. When Charlotte turned to her German companions for friends, she was criticised by Augusta for keeping favourites, notably her close confidant Juliane von Schwellenberg.