In 1817, at aged 21 Princess Charlotte, heir to the throne of Great Britain, died following a long and difficult birth to her first child, a son. Her father, George Prince Regent, was ruling in place of his father George III, whose mental deterioration has earned him the title Mad King George. Charlotte’s son was stillborn. Her father would later, on his father’s death in 1820, become George IV, ruling the country for 10 years until his own death upon which he was succeeded by his younger brother, William.
When Charlotte died, George III had urged his sons to marry and between them produce an heir. He had six surviving sons who between them allegedly managed to produce a staggering 52 illegitimate offspring, all of whom were as a result disbarred from the line of succession.
Following an unhappy marriage, during which Charlotte had been conceived quite quickly, and which had disintegrated during his wife’s pregnancy, George was without further heirs. By the time of Charlotte’s unexpected death, George and his wife had been estranged for many years, without hope of reconciliation and Queen Caroline by now beyond child-bearing.
Frederick, the famous ‘Grand old Duke of York’ of the nursery rhyme, following his failure in military conflict had been unhappily married – and separated – for many years, but had no children. He was named heir apparent of his older brother but pre-deceased him in 1827.
William, not expecting to become King, being the third son, had contented himself living with an actress for many years, producing ten illegitimate children. Following his succession to the throne, the need to produce a legitimate heir was paramount and William married. He had two daughters who died in infancy.
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, the unmarried fourth son of George III was to prove the unlikely saviour of the British throne. Following Charlotte’s death, and knowing the line of succession was in jeopardy, Edward looked about for a suitable wife. He settled on a choice of two, and took the advice of his favourite mistress in settling on the sister of Charlotte’s widower, Prince Leopald, whom she found least threatening to her position. Edward married the 32 year old widow, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld in July 1818, nine months after the death of Princess Charlotte.
On 24th May 1819, their only child, Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent was born. She was the only surviving legitimate grandchild of King George III, and born specifically to be heir to the throne. Following the deaths in quite rapid succession of Princess Charlotte, George III, George IV, William IV, Frederick Duke of York and finally her father Edward, Duke of Kent, Queen Victoria succeeded the throne in 1837 aged 18 years old.