The queen’s portrait by Allan Ramsay, who was a known abolitionist.
Queen Charlotte was a queen of all trades — a botanist, lover of music and the arts, and a founder of many orphanages — but the most intriguing part of her story is her much-scrutinized bloodline.
Some historians believe she possessed African ancestry, descended from a Portuguese royal and his Moorish mistress. If true, it would make Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the mother of two British kings and the grandmother of Queen Victoria, the British Royal Family’s first multiracial member.
Before she became queen of England, she was the princess of a tiny German municipality known as Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
Queen Charlotte was born a German princess far away from the British crown. She came into the world on May 19, 1744, as Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a northern German territory that at the time was part of the Holy Roman Empire.
In 1761, when she turned 17, Princess Sophia was betrothed — rather unexpectedly — to the King of England, George III. Her brother Adolf Frederick IV, who assumed their late father’s position as Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, signed off on Charlotte’s marriage contract with the British king.
While the couple had never before met, Princess Sophia was deemed to be the perfect match for the British heir. She was well-educated and of suitable stock, and the relative insignificance of her home territory indicated she was probably uninterested in engaging in British affairs. In fact, one of the conditions stated in their royal marriage contract was that she was to never ever meddle in politics.
King George III was 22 when he chose to marry Sophia Charlotte, who was 17 at the time.
After three days of celebrations, Princess Sophia departed Germany escorted by the Earl of Harcourt, the head of the royal delegation that had been sent to bring the new queen to England. The vessel carrying the royal party was ceremoniously renamed The Royal Charlotte in her honor and set sail across the seas.
After a nine-day voyage plagued by bad weather, Princess Sophia’s ship finally arrived in London on Sept. 8, 1761, and suddenly the once-obscure princess was on all of England’s minds and lips.
“The date of my promise has now arrived, and I fulfill it — fulfill it with great satisfaction, for the Queen is come,” wrote politician Horace Walpole in a let