Adolf Friedrich IV of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Charles II of England and Scotland, Dukes of Richmond and Lennox, Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, King George III of the United Kingdom, kings and queens of the United Kingdom, Lady Sarah Lennox, royal wedding, Sophie Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
George III (George William Frederick; June 4, 1738 – January 29, 1820) was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from October 25, 1760 until the union of the two countries on January 1, 1801, after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death in 1820. He was concurrently Duke and Prince-elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg (“Hanover”) in the Holy Roman Empire before becoming King of Hanover on October 12, 1814. He was a monarch of the House of Hanover, but unlike his two predecessors, he was born in Great Britain, spoke English as his first language, and never visited Hanover.
In 1759, George was smitten with Lady Sarah Lennox (14 February 14, 1745 – August 1826). Lady Sarah was the most notorious of the famous Lennox sisters, daughters of Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond. Her father was the son of Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond and 1st Duke of Lennox, the youngest of the seven illegitimate sons of King Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland and only son by his French-born mistress Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth. Richmond married Lady Sarah Cadogan (1705–1751), daughter of William Cadogan, 1st Earl Cadogan, on December 4, 1719 at The Hague, Netherlands.
After the deaths of both her parents when she was only five years old, Lady Sarah was brought up by her elder sister Emily in Ireland. Lady Sarah returned to London and the home of her sister Lady Caroline Fox when she was thirteen. Having been a favourite of King George II since her childhood, she was invited to appear at court and there caught the eye of George, Prince of Wales (the future King George III), whom she had met as a child.
When she was presented at court again at the age of fifteen, George III was taken with her. Lady Sarah’s family encouraged a relationship between her and George III. Lady Sarah had also developed feelings for Lord Newbattle, grandson of William Kerr, 3rd Marquess of Lothian. Although her family were able to convince her to break with Newbattle, the royal match was scotched by the King’s advisors, particularly John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute. It was not normal at the time for monarchs to have non-Royal spouses. Lady Sarah was asked by King George III to be one of the ten bridesmaids at his wedding to Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
George abandoned his thoughts of marriage to Lady Sarah. “I am born for the happiness or misery of a great nation,” he wrote, “and consequently must often act contrary to my passions.” Nevertheless, attempts by the King to marry George to Princess Sophie Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel were resisted by him and his mother; Sophie married Friedrich, Margrave of Bayreuth, instead.
The following year, at the age of 22, George succeeded to the throne when his grandfather, George II, died suddenly on October 25, 1760, two weeks before his 77th birthday. The search for a suitable wife intensified. His mother and advisors were eager to have him settled in marriage.
The 17-year-old Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz appealed to him as a prospective consort partly because she had been brought up in an insignificant north German duchy, and therefore would probably have had no experience or interest in power politics or party intrigues. That proved to be the case; to make sure, he instructed her shortly after their wedding “not to meddle,” a precept she was glad to follow.
Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (Sophia Charlotte; May 19, 1744 – November 17, 1818) was the youngest daughter of Duke Charles Ludwig Friedrich of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1708–1752; known as “Prince of Mirow”) and of his wife Princess Elisabeth Albertine of Saxe-Hildburghausen (1713–1761). Mecklenburg-Strelitz was a small north-German duchy in the Holy Roman Empire.
Charlotte had received “a very mediocre education”.:16 Her upbringing was similar to that of a daughter of an English country gentleman. She received some rudimentary instruction in botany, natural history and language from tutors, but her education focused on household management and on religion, the latter taught by a priest. Only after her brother Adolph Friedrich succeeded to the ducal throne in 1752 did she gain any experience of princely duties and of court life.
The King announced to his Council in July 1761, according to the usual form, his intention to wed the Princess, after which a party of escorts, led by the Earl Harcourt, departed for Germany to conduct Princess Charlotte to England. They reached Strelitz on August 14, 1761, and were received the next day by the reigning duke, Princess Charlotte’s brother, at which time the marriage contract was signed by him on the one hand and Earl Harcourt on the other.
Three days of public celebrations followed, and on August 17, 1761, the Princess set out for Britain, accompanied by her brother, Adolph Friedrich IV, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and by the British escort party. On August 22, they reached Cuxhaven, where a small fleet awaited to convey them to England. The voyage was extremely difficult; the party encountered three storms at sea, and landed at Harwich only on September 7. They set out at once for London, spent that night in Witham, at the residence of Lord Abercorn, and arrived at 3:30 pm the next day (September 8, 1761) at St. James’s Palace in London. They were received by the King and his family at the garden gate, which marked the first meeting of the bride and groom.
At 9:00 pm that same evening, within six hours of her arrival, Charlotte was united in marriage with King George III. The ceremony was performed at the Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace, by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Secker. Only the royal family, the party who had travelled from Germany, and a handful of guests were present.
A fortnight later on September 22, both were crowned at Westminster Abbey. George remarkably never took a mistress (in contrast with his grandfather and his sons), and the couple enjoyed a happy marriage until his mental illness struck.
They had 15 children—nine sons and six daughters. In 1762, George purchased Buckingham House (on the site now occupied by Buckingham Palace) for use as a family retreat. His other residences were Kew Palace and Windsor Castle. St James’s Palace was retained for official use. He did not travel extensively and spent his entire life in southern England. In the 1790s, the King and his family took holidays at Weymouth, Dorset, which he thus popularised as one of the first seaside resorts in England.