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This is the period of the New Year or Spring Festival in Asia, celebrated in China but also in Vietnam and other Asian countries but not in Japan which has a different history and gods. The number 9 is reserved for the Emperor, the Son of Heaven, who the Chinese see has the great dragon who has 9 sons, the little dragons. This image is found on walls and gates of Palaces in China and a somewhat different version in Vietnam. The number 8 is for everyone and seen as very lucky.

But in my case the 9 days refer to our imminent trip to Prince Edward Island. We will fly to Moncton in New Brunswick which is about 80 minutes from Ottawa and then drive the 2 hours across the great Confederation sea bridge to PEI. (see header image).

Here is some more history about the Island and the name of its Capital Charlottetown foundation date 1764 by British Officer Captain Samuel Holland. There was no town or village on that spot prior to that date, but at the entrance of the harbor facing the coast of New Brunswick across the strait of Northumberland, there was a small fort, Port La-Joye.

506px-Blason_ville_ca_Charlottetown.svg.png

Coat of Arms of the Capital Charlottetown, PEI

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (Sophia Charlotte; 19 May 1744 – 17 November 1818) was the wife of King George III. She was Queen of Great Britain and Ireland from her marriage in 1761 until the union of the two kingdoms in 1801, after which she was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until her death in 1818. She was also the Electress of Hanover in the Holy Roman Empire until the promotion of her husband to King of Hanover on 12 October 1814, after which she was also queen consort of Hanover (Germany). The city was name for her, being a new Queen and the Island was now part of an expanding Empire.

Queen Charlotte was a patroness of the arts and an amateur botanist, who helped expand Kew Gardens in London. George III and Charlotte had 15 children, 13 of whom survived to adulthood. She was distressed by her husband’s bouts of physical illness and insanity, which became permanent in later life and resulted in their eldest son being appointed Prince Regent in 1811.

Sophia Charlotte was born on 19 May 1744. She was the youngest daughter of Duke Charles Louis Frederick of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Prince of Mirow and his wife Princess Elizabeth Albertine of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Mecklenburg-Strelitz was a small north Prussian duchy in the Holy Roman Empire.

The children of Duke Charles were all born at the Untere Schloss (Lower Castle) in Mirow. According to diplomatic reports at the time of her engagement to George III, Charlotte had received “a very mediocre education”.

When King George III succeeded to the throne of Great Britain upon the death of his grandfather, George II, he was unmarried. His mother and advisors were anxious 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 Prussian duchy and therefore would have had no experience of power politics or party intrigues. He instructed her on her arrival in London “not to meddle”, a precept she was glad to follow.

Queen Charlotte of GB wife of George III.jpg

Charlotte spoke no English but was quick to learn the language, albeit speaking with a strong German accent. It was noted by many observers that she was “ugly”, had a dark complexion and flared nostrils. “She is timid at first but talks a lot, when she is among people she knows”, said one observer.

The King announced to his Council in July 1761, according to the usual form, his intention to wed the Princess. By the end of August 1761, a party of escorts departed for Prussia to conduct Princess Charlotte to England. Arriving at St. James’s Palace on 7 September, the Princess met the King and the royal family. The following day at nine o’clock, the wedding ceremony took place in the Chapel Royal and was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Secker.

Less than a year after the marriage, on 12 August 1762, the Queen gave birth to her first child, the Prince of Wales, who would later become King George IV. In the course of their marriage, they had 15 children, all but two of whom (Octavius and Alfred) survived into adulthood.

Around this time the King and Queen moved to Buckingham House, at the western end of St. James’s Park, which would later be known as Buckingham Palace. The house which forms the architectural core of the present palace was built for the first Duke of Buckingham and Normanby in 1703 to the design of William Winde.

King George III and Queen Charlotte were music connoisseurs with German tastes, who gave special honour to German artists and composers. They were passionate admirers of the music of Georg Frideric Handel. Both George III and Charlotte were of German origin so this is understandable. George III was also the nephew of Frederic II the Great of Prussia.

In April 1764, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, then aged eight, arrived in Britain with his family as part of their grand tour of Europe and remained until July 1765. The Mozarts were summoned to court on 19 May and played before a limited circle from six to ten o’clock. Johann Christian Bach, eleventh son of the great Johann Sebastian Bach, was then music-master to the Queen. He put difficult works of Handel, J. S. Bach, and Carl Friedrich Abel before the boy: he played them all at sight, and those present were quite amazed. Afterwards, the young Mozart accompanied the Queen in an aria which she sang, and played a solo work on the flute. On 29 October, the Mozarts were in town again, and were invited to court to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the King’s accession. As a memento of the royal favour, Leopold Mozart published six sonatas composed by Wolfgang, known as Mozart’s Opus 3, that were dedicated to the Queen on 18 January 1765, a dedication she rewarded with a present of 50 guineas.

Queen Charlotte was an amateur botanist who took a great interest in Kew Gardens. In an age of discovery, when travellers and explorers such as Captain James Cook and Sir Joseph Banks were constantly bringing home new species and varieties of plants, she ensured that the collections were greatly enriched and expanded. Her interest in botany led to the South African flower, the Bird of Paradise, being named Strelitzia reginae in her honour.

The French Revolution of 1789 probably added to the strain that Charlotte felt. Queen Charlotte and Queen Marie Antoinette of France kept a close relationship. Charlotte was 11 years older than Marie Antoinette, yet they shared many interests, such as their love of music and the arts, in which they both enthusiastically took an interest. Never meeting face to face, they kept their friendship to pen and paper. Marie Antoinette confided in Charlotte upon the outbreak of the French Revolution. Charlotte had organized apartments to be prepared and ready for the refugee royal family of France to occupy. After the execution of Marie Antoinette and the bloody events that followed, Charlotte was said to be shocked and overwhelmed that such a thing could happen to a kingdom, and at Britain’s doorstep.

Today when Islanders think of a Queen in their history it is usually Victoria, another princess of german descent, because she is associated with Canadian Confederation. Charlotte has disappeared in collective memory and has far as I know there are no statues of her in the Capital, sad really because Queen Victoria never cared much for PEI.

 

 

 

 

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