A Royal of Many Loves
November 17, 1818
Today is the anniversary of the death of the woman who was a patroness of the arts, an amateur botanist, a champion of Kew Gardens, and the wife of George III, Queen Charlotte.
In addition to the astounding fact that Charlotte gave birth to 15 children, she was a fascinating royal. Born in Mecklenburg-Strelitz in Germany, Charlotte was the first person in England to bring a Christmas tree indoors to celebrate the holiday season. In December 1800, Charlotte selected a yew which was brought inside Windsor Castle and festively decorated. Charlotte brought the idea for the Christmas tree from her home country of Germany.
George and Charlotte both loved botany. After his mother’s death, George gained control of Kew and Charlotte set about expanding Kew Gardens. On the property, Charlotte had a little cottage installed along with a rustic cottage garden. Her daughter Elizabeth is likely the person who painted the attic room ceiling with nasturtium and morning glory. It's very sweet.
Charlotte was quite serious in her pursuit of botany. She collected plants, and she had a personal herbarium to help with her studies. The President of the Linnean Society, Sir James Edward Smith, personally tutored Charlotte in botany, along with her four daughters.
And, George and Charlotte both became close friends with the botanical tissue paper artist Mary Delany. And in a touching gesture, at the end of Mary’s life, George and Charlotte gave her a house at Windsor along with a pension.
When plant hunters in South Africa discovered the Bird of Paradise flower, it was sent to England and named for Charlotte’s birthplace, Strelitz. The botanical name for the Bird of Paradise is Strelitzia reginae "stray-LIT-zee-ah REJ-in-ee.”
The early part of Charlotte’s reign occurred before the American Revolution, which is why so many American locations were named in Charlotte’s honor. There are eleven cities named Charlotte, with the most famous being Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s no wonder that Charlotte, North Carolina, has the nickname “The Queen’s City,” and there’s a 25-foot tall bronze statue of Charlotte outside the Charlotte airport. And, Mecklenburg County in North Carolina and Virginia are both named for Charlotte’s homeplace in Germany: Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
Charlotte died at the age of 74 at the smallest English royal palace, Kew Palace, at Kew Gardens. She had reigned for 57 years.
Today, gardeners love the Japanese Anemone Queen Charlotte. It’s the perfect plant for adding late color to the garden with light pink petals and golden-yellow centers. And it's really, really beautiful.