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Caroline of Ansbach

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Title: Caroline of Ansbach  
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Caroline of Ansbach

Caroline of Ansbach
Portrait by Jacopo Amigoni, painted in 1735
Queen consort of Great Britain and Ireland
Tenure 11 June 1727 – 20 November 1737
Coronation 11 October 1727[1]
Spouse George II of Great Britain
Issue Frederick, Prince of Wales
Anne, Princess of Orange
Princess Amelia
Princess Caroline
Prince George William
William, Duke of Cumberland
Mary, Landgravine of Hesse
Louise, Queen of Denmark
Full name
Wilhelmina Charlotte Caroline
German: Wilhelmine Charlotte Karoline
House House of Hohenzollern
Father John Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach
Mother Princess Eleonore Erdmuthe of Saxe-Eisenach
Born (1683-03-01)1 March 1683
Ansbach, Holy Roman Empire
Died 20 November 1737(1737-11-20) (aged 54)
St. James's Palace, London, Great Britain
Burial 17 December 1737
Westminster Abbey, London

Wilhelmina Charlotte Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach (1 March 1683 – 20 November 1737[1]), commonly known as Caroline of Ansbach, was King George II.

Her father, Margrave John Frederick of Brandenburg-Ansbach, belonged to a branch of the House of Hohenzollern and was the ruler of a small German state, the Principality of Ansbach. Caroline was orphaned at a young age and moved to the enlightened court of her guardians, King Frederick I and Queen Sophia Charlotte of Prussia. At the Prussian court, her previously limited education was widened, and she adopted the liberal outlook possessed by Sophia Charlotte, who became her good friend and whose views influenced Caroline all her life.

As a young woman, Caroline was much sought-after as a bride. After rejecting the suit of the nominal King of Spain, British throne and heir apparent to the Electorate of Hanover. They had eight children, seven of whom grew to adulthood.

Caroline moved permanently to Britain in 1714 when her husband became Frederick, became Prince of Wales. He was a focus for the opposition, like his father before him, and Caroline's relationship with him was strained. As princess and as queen, Caroline was known for her political influence, which she exercised through and for Walpole. Her tenure included four regencies during her husband's stays in Hanover, and she is credited with strengthening the Hanoverian dynasty's place in Britain during a period of political instability. Caroline was widely mourned following her death in 1737, not only by the public but also by the King, who refused to remarry.

Early life

Ansbach in the 17th century

Caroline was born on 1 March 1683 at Lützenburg outside Berlin, where she entered into the care of her new guardians, Frederick, Elector of Brandenburg, and his wife, Sophia Charlotte, who had been a friend of Eleonore Erdmuthe.[7]


Frederick and Sophia Charlotte became king and queen of Gottfried Leibniz.[8] Caroline was exposed to a lively intellectual environment quite different from anything she had experienced previously. Before she began her education under Sophia Charlotte's care, Caroline had received little formal education; her handwriting remained poor throughout her life.[3][9] With her lively mind, Caroline developed into a scholar of considerable ability.[8] She and Sophia Charlotte developed a strong relationship in which Caroline was treated as a surrogate daughter;[10] the queen once declared Berlin was "a desert" without Caroline whenever she left temporarily for Ansbach.[3][9]


Engraving of the royal couple and their seven children who survived infancy

An intelligent and attractive woman, Caroline was much sought-after as a bride. Dowager Electress Sophia called her "the most agreeable Princess in Germany".[11] She was considered for the hand of Archduke Charles of Austria, who was a candidate for the throne of Spain and later became Holy Roman Emperor. Charles made official overtures to her in 1703, and the match was encouraged by King Frederick of Prussia. After some consideration, Caroline refused in 1704, as she would not convert from Lutheranism to Catholicism.[3][12] Early in the following year, Queen Sophia Charlotte died on a visit to her native Hanover.[13] Caroline was devastated, writing to Leibniz, "The calamity has overwhelmed me with grief and sickness, and it is only the hope that I may soon follow her that consoles me."[13]

In June 1705, Queen Sophia Charlotte's nephew, [3][17] For her part, Caroline was not fooled by the prince's disguise, and found her suitor attractive.[18] He was the heir apparent of his father's Electorate of Hanover and third-in-line to the British throne of his distant cousin Queen Anne, after his grandmother Dowager Electress Sophia and his father the Elector.[18]

On 22 August 1705, Caroline arrived in Hanover for her wedding to George Augustus; they were married that evening in the palace chapel at [21] Over the next seven years, Caroline had three more children, Anne, Amelia and Caroline, all of whom were born in Hanover.[22]

Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk (pictured) was one of Caroline's Women of the Bedchamber in addition to being one of Caroline's husband's mistresses.

George Augustus and Caroline had a successful and loving marriage, though he continued to keep mistresses, as was customary for the time.[23] Caroline was well aware of his infidelities, as they were well known and he told her about them. His two best-known mistresses were Henrietta Howard, later Countess of Suffolk, and, from 1735, Amalie von Wallmoden, Countess of Yarmouth. Howard was one of Caroline's Women of the Bedchamber and became Mistress of the Robes when her husband inherited a peerage in 1731; she retired in 1734.[24] In contrast with her mother-in-law and husband, Caroline was known for her marital fidelity; she never made any embarrassing scenes nor did she take lovers.[23] She preferred her husband's mistresses to be ladies-in-waiting, as that way she believed she could keep a closer eye on them.[25]

The succession of her husband's family to the British throne was still insecure, as Queen Anne's half-brother [28]

Princess of Wales

The Princess of Wales, painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller in 1716

George Augustus sailed to England in September 1714, and Caroline and two of her daughters followed in October.[29] Her journey across the [22]

On the accession of George I in 1714, Caroline's husband automatically became [32]

Two years after their arrival in England, Caroline suffered a stillbirth, which her friend the Countess of Bückeburg blamed on the incompetence of English doctors,[33] but the following year she had another son, Kensington Palace without any conditions. When the baby died, a post-mortem was conducted to prove that the cause of death was disease (a polyp on the heart) rather than the separation from his mother.[38] Further tragedy occurred in 1718, when Caroline miscarried at Richmond Lodge, her country residence.[39] Over the next few years, Caroline had three more children: William, Mary and Louise.[40]

Leicester House became a frequent meeting place for the ministry's political opponents. Caroline struck up a friendship with politician Sir [42] and Leicester House played host to literary figures and wits, such as John Arbuthnot and Jonathan Swift, rather than politicians.[43] Arbuthnot told Swift that Caroline had enjoyed his Gulliver's Travels, particularly the tale of the crown prince who wore one high-heel and one low-heel in a country where the King and his party wore low heels, and the opposition wore high ones: a barely veiled reference to the political leanings of the Prince of Wales.[44]

Caroline's intellect far outstripped her husband's, and she read avidly. She established an extensive library at St. James's Palace. As a young woman, she corresponded with Gottfried Leibniz, the intellectual colossus who was courtier and factotum to the House of Hanover. She later facilitated the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence, arguably the most important philosophy of physics discussion of the 18th century. She helped to popularise the practice of variolation (an early type of immunisation), which had been witnessed by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Charles Maitland in Constantinople. At the direction of Caroline, six condemned prisoners were offered the chance to undergo variolation instead of execution: they all survived, as did six orphan children given the same treatment as a further test. Convinced of its medical value, Caroline had her children Amelia, Caroline and Frederick inoculated against smallpox in the same manner.[45] In praising her support for smallpox inoculation, Voltaire wrote of her, "I must say that despite all her titles and crowns, this princess was born to encourage the arts and the well-being of mankind; even on the throne she is a benevolent philosopher; and she has never lost an opportunity to learn or to manifest her generosity."[46]

Queen and regent

Queen Caroline, painted by Charles Jervas in 1727

Caroline became queen consort on the death of her father-in-law in 1727, and she was crowned alongside her husband at [49] Walpole secured a civil list payment of £100,000 a year for Caroline, and she was given both Somerset House and Richmond Lodge.[50] Courtier Lord Hervey called Walpole "the Queen's minister" in recognition of their close relationship.[3] For the next ten years, Caroline had immense influence. She persuaded the King to adopt policies at the behest of Walpole, and persuaded Walpole against taking inflammatory actions. Caroline had absorbed the liberal opinions of her mentor, Queen Sophia Charlotte of Prussia, and supported clemency for the Jacobites (supporters of the rival Stuart claim to the throne), freedom of the press, and freedom of speech in Parliament.[51]

Over the next few years, she and her husband fought a constant battle against their eldest son, [54] In March 1733, Walpole introduced an unpopular excise bill to parliament, which the Queen supported, but it gathered such strong opposition that it was eventually dropped.[55]

Caroline's entire life in Britain was spent in the South-East of England in or around London.[56] As queen, she continued to surround herself with artists, writers and intellectuals. She collected jewellery, especially cameos and intaglios, acquired important portraits and miniatures, and enjoyed the visual arts. She commissioned works such as terracotta busts of the kings and queens of England from Michael Rysbrack,[57] and supervised a more naturalistic design of the royal gardens by William Kent and Charles Bridgeman.[58] In 1728, she rediscovered sets of sketches by Leonardo da Vinci and Hans Holbein that had been hidden in a drawer since the reign of William III.[59]

Caroline's eldest daughter Anne married William IV of Orange in 1734, and moved with her husband to the Netherlands. Caroline wrote to her daughter of her "indescribable" sadness at the parting.[60] Anne soon felt homesick, and travelled back to England when her husband went on campaign. Eventually, her husband and father commanded her to return to Holland.[61]

Final years

Portrait by Joseph Highmore, 1735

In mid-1735, Frederick, Prince of Wales, was further dismayed when Caroline, rather than himself, again acted as regent while the King was absent in Hanover.[62] The King and Queen arranged Frederick's marriage, in 1736, to [65]

Frederick applied to Parliament unsuccessfully for an increased financial allowance that had hitherto been denied him by the King, and public disagreement over the money drove a further wedge between parents and son. On the advice of Walpole, Frederick's allowance was raised in an attempt to mitigate further conflict, but by less than he had asked.[66] In June 1737, Frederick 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 supposititious children, and Augusta had been forced by her husband to ride in a rattling carriage for an hour and a half 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.[68] Caroline was relieved to discover that Augusta had given birth to a "poor, ugly little she-mouse" rather than a "large, fat, healthy boy" as the pitiful nature of the baby made a supposititious child unlikely.[69] The circumstances of the birth deepened the estrangement between mother and son.[69] According to Lord Hervey, she once remarked after seeing Frederick, "Look, there he goes—that wretch!—that villain!—I wish the ground would open this moment and sink the monster to the lowest hole in hell!"[3][70]

In the final years of her life, Caroline was troubled by gout in her feet,[71] but more seriously she had suffered an [75] She asked her husband to remarry after her death, which he rejected saying he would take only mistresses; she replied "Ah, mon Dieu, cela n'empêche pas" ("My God, that doesn't prevent it").[76] On 17 November, her strangulated bowel burst.[77][78] She died on 20 November 1737 at St. James's Palace.[2]

She was buried in The Ways of Zion Do Mourn / Funeral Anthem for Queen Caroline. The King arranged for a pair of matching coffins with removable sides, so that when he followed her to the grave (23 years later), they could lie together again.[80]


Memorial to Caroline on the bank of the Serpentine, a picturesque lake in London created at her request

Caroline was widely mourned. The Protestants lauded her moral example, and even the Jacobites acknowledged her compassion, and her intervention on the side of mercy for their compatriots.[81] During her lifetime her refusal to convert when offered the hand of Archduke Charles was used to portray her as a strong adherent to Protestantism.[3] For example, John Gay wrote of Caroline in A Letter to A Lady (1714):

The pomp of titles easy faith might shake,
She scorn'd an empire for religion's sake:
For this, on earth, the British crown is giv'n,
And an immortal crown decreed in heav'n.

She was widely seen by both the public and the court as having great influence over her husband.[82] A satirical verse of the period went:[83]

You may strut, dapper George, but 'twill all be in vain,
We all know 'tis Queen Caroline, not you, that reign –
You govern no more than Don Philip of Spain.
Then if you would have us fall down and adore you,
Lock up your fat spouse, as your dad did before you.

The memoirs of the eighteenth century, particularly those of [85] Although modern historians tend to believe that Hervey, Wilkins and Arkell have overestimated her importance, it is nevertheless probable that Caroline of Ansbach was one of the most influential consorts in British history.[3]

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Queen Caroline's coat of arms: the royal arms of the United Kingdom on the dexter half next to the lion, her father's arms on the sinister half next to the unicorn

Titles and styles

  • 1683–1705: Her Serene Highness[86] Princess Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach
  • 1705–1714: Her Serene Highness The Electoral Princess of Hanover[87]
  • 1714–1727: Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales[88]
  • 1727–1737: Her Majesty The Queen[89]


Caroline County in the British Colony of Virginia was named in her honour when it was formed in 1727.[90]


The royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom are impaled with those of her father, John Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach. The arms of her father were quarterly of fifteen, 1st, per fess gules and argent, within a bordure counter-changed of the same (for Magdeburg); 2nd, argent, an eagle displayed sable, crowned or; 3rd, or, a griffin segreant gules, crowned; 4th and 5th, argent, a griffin segreant gules; 6th, or, a griffin segreant sable; 7th, argent, an eagle displayed sable (for Crossen); 8th, per pale argent and gules within a bordure counter-changed of the same (for Halberstadt); 9th, argent, an eagle displayed sable; 10th, or, a lion rampant sable, crowned, within a bordure goboné argent and gules (for Nuremberg); 11th, gules, two keys in saltire or (for Minden); 12th, quarterly argent and sable (for Hohenzollern); 13th, the field gules, the figure argent; 14th, per fess gules and argent; 15th, plain field of gules (for right of regalia); overall an inescutcheon, argent, an eagle displayed gules (for Brandenburg).[91]


Caroline's ten pregnancies resulted in eight live births. One of her children died in infancy, and seven lived to adulthood.
Name Birth Death Notes[92]
Dates in this table are New Style
Frederick, Prince of Wales 1 February 1707 31 March 1751 married 1736, Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha-Altenberg; had issue
Anne, Princess Royal 2 November 1709 12 January 1759 married 1734, Prince William IV of Orange-Nassau; had issue
Princess Amelia 10 June 1711 31 October 1786  
Princess Caroline 10 June 1713 28 December 1757  
Stillborn son 20 November 1716 20 November 1716
Prince George William 13 November 1717 17 February 1718 died in infancy
Prince William, Duke of Cumberland 26 April 1721 31 October 1765  
Princess Mary 5 March 1723 14 January 1772 married 1740, Frederick II, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel); had issue
Princess Louise 18 December 1724 19 December 1751 married 1743, Frederick V, King of Denmark and Norway; had issue



  1. ^ a b Over the course of Caroline's life, two calendars were used: the Old Style Julian calendar and the New Style Gregorian calendar. Hanover switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar on 19 February (Old Style) / 1 March (New Style) 1700. Great Britain switched on 3/14 September 1752, after Caroline's death. Unless otherwise indicated, dates before September 1752 are Old Style. All dates after September 1752 are New Style. All years are assumed to start from 1 January and not 25 March, which was the English New Year.
  2. ^ a b c Weir, pp. 277–278.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Taylor.
  4. ^ Arkell, p. 5.
  5. ^ Arkell, p. 6; Van der Kiste, p. 12.
  6. ^ Arkell, p. 6; Hichens, p. 19.
  7. ^ Arkell, pp. 6–7.
  8. ^ a b Hichens, p. 19.
  9. ^ a b Van der Kiste, p. 13.
  10. ^ Hanham, p. 279.
  11. ^ Arkell, p. 18.
  12. ^ Arkell, pp. 9–13.
  13. ^ a b Van der Kiste, p. 14.
  14. ^ Arkell, p. 18; Fryer et al., p. 33; Hichens, p. 19; Van der Kiste, p. 15.
  15. ^ Hanham, p. 281.
  16. ^ Hanoverian envoy Baron Philipp Adam von Eltz, quoted in Quennell, p. 19.
  17. ^ Arkell, p. 19; Van der Kiste, p. 15.
  18. ^ a b c Fryer et al., p. 33.
  19. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 17.
  20. ^ Van der Kiste, pp. 18–19.
  21. ^ Arkell, pp. 38–39; Van der Kiste, p. 21.
  22. ^ a b c Fryer et al., p. 34.
  23. ^ a b Hichens, p. 21.
  24. ^ Arkell, pp. 70, 149.
  25. ^ Fryer et al., p. 36.
  26. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 30.
  27. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 28.
  28. ^ Arkell, p. 57.
  29. ^ Arkell, pp. 64–66; Van der Kiste, p. 36.
  30. ^ Arkell, p. 67; Hanham, p. 285; Van der Kiste, p. 38.
  31. ^ Hanham, p. 284.
  32. ^ Fryer et al., p. 34; Hanham, pp. 286–287.
  33. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 60.
  34. ^ Arkell, p. 102.
  35. ^ Hanham, p. 289; Hichens, p. 23.
  36. ^ Arkell, pp. 102–105; Van der Kiste, p. 64.
  37. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 66.
  38. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 67.
  39. ^ Arkell, p. 112; Van der Kiste, p. 68.
  40. ^ Fryer et al., p. 37.
  41. ^ Quennell, pp. 79–81; Van der Kiste, pp. 72–73.
  42. ^ Arkell, pp. 125–126.
  43. ^ Arkell, pp. 135–136.
  44. ^ Arkell, p. 136; Van der Kiste, p. 82.
  45. ^ Arkell, pp. 133–135; Van der Kiste, p. 83.
  46. ^ Voltaire's "Eleventh Letter: On Smallpox Inoculation" in Philosophical Letters, Or Letters Regarding the English Nation (1733/4).
  47. ^ Hanham, p. 292; Weir, pp. 277–278.
  48. ^ Arkell, p. 154.
  49. ^ Black, pp. 29–31, 53 and 61.
  50. ^ Arkell, p. 147; Van der Kiste, p. 93.
  51. ^ Van der Kiste, pp. 104–105.
  52. ^ a b Van der Kiste, p. 119.
  53. ^ Arkell, pp. 167–169.
  54. ^ Van der Kiste, pp. 126–127.
  55. ^ Arkell, pp. 197–203.
  56. ^ Arkell, p. 67; Van der Kiste, p. 41.
  57. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 124.
  58. ^ Arkell, pp. 247–249; Van der Kiste, pp. 101–102.
  59. ^ Arkell, p. 245; Van der Kiste, p. 123.
  60. ^ Arkell, p. 212; Van der Kiste, p. 134.
  61. ^ Van der Kiste, pp. 135–136.
  62. ^ Van der Kiste, pp. 139–140.
  63. ^ Arkell, pp. 258–259; Van der Kiste, p. 148.
  64. ^ Quennell, pp. 285–288; Van der Kiste, pp. 150–152.
  65. ^ Arkell, p. 264; Quennell, p. 291; Van der Kiste, p. 52.
  66. ^ Arkell, pp. 272–274; Van der Kiste, p. 154.
  67. ^ Arkell, p. 279; Van der Kiste, p. 155.
  68. ^ Arkell, p. 278; Van der Kiste, p. 156.
  69. ^ a b Van der Kiste, p. 157.
  70. ^ Quennell, p. 295.
  71. ^ Arkell, pp. 229–230; Van der Kiste, p. 108.
  72. ^ Arkell, p. 225; Van der Kiste, p. 136.
  73. ^ Van der Kiste, pp. 161–163.
  74. ^ Arkell, p. 289; Van der Kiste, p. 161.
  75. ^ Arkell, p. 289; Van der Kiste, p. 162.
  76. ^ Arkell, pp. 290–291; Quennell, p. 323; Van der Kiste, p. 162.
  77. ^ Jones, Emrys D. (2011). "Royal ruptures: Caroline of Ansbach and the politics of illness in the 1730s". Medical Humanities 37 (1): 13–17.  
  78. ^ The circumstances of Caroline's death led Alexander Pope, an opponent of the court and Walpole, to write the epigram: "Here lies, wrapt up in forty thousand towels; the only proof that Caroline had bowels." (Warton, p. 308).
  79. ^ "George II and Caroline". Westminster Abbey. 
  80. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 164.
  81. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 165.
  82. ^ Arkell, p. 149; Van der Kiste, p. 102.
  83. ^ Arkell, p. 149; Quennell, pp. 165–166.
  84. ^ Quennell, pp. 168–170.
  85. ^ Quoted in Van der Kiste, p. 165.
  86. ^ e.g. Letter to Caroline from a Viennese bishop, quoted in Arkell, p. 8.
  87. ^ e.g. Arkell, pp. 27 ff.
  88. ^ e.g. copies of London Gazette, 1714–1727.
  89. ^ e.g. Letter from Berlin to Prussian envoy Wallenrodt, 7 October 1727, quoted in Arkell, p. 160.
  90. ^ Wingfield, p. 1.
  91. ^ Boutell, pp. 245–246; Willement, p. 104.
  92. ^ Weir, pp. 277–284.


Further reading

External links

Caroline of Ansbach
Born: 1 March 1683 Died: 20 November 1737
Royal titles
Title last held by
Prince George of Denmark
as prince consort
Queen consort of Great Britain and Ireland
Title next held by
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Title last held by
Sophia of the Palatinate
Electress consort of Hanover
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