Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh

Princess Mary
Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh
Cuii pec pd0024 large.jpg
Born(1776-04-25)25 April 1776
Buckingham House, London
Died30 April 1857(1857-04-30) (aged 81)
Gloucester House, London
Burial8 May 1857
St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
Spouse
HouseHanover
FatherGeorge III of the United Kingdom
MotherCharlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh (25 April 1776 – 30 April 1857) was the eleventh child and fourth daughter of King George III of the United Kingdom and his consort Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

She married her first cousin, Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, when both were 40, and was his widow in later life. In her last years, her niece Queen Victoria was on the throne as the fourth monarch during Mary's life, after her father and two of her brothers, George IV and William IV of the United Kingdom. Princess Mary was the longest-lived (at 81 years) and last survivor of George III's fifteen children; of those fifteen issue, thirteen lived to adulthood. She was also the only one of George III's children to be photographed. She died on 30 April 1857 at Gloucester House, London.

Early life

Princess Mary aged six.

Princess Mary was born on 25 April 1776, at Buckingham Palace, London.[1] Her father was the reigning British monarch, George III. Her mother was Queen Charlotte, the daughter of Charles, reigning Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

Mary was baptized on 19 May 1776, in the Great Council Chamber at St. James's Palace, by Frederick Cornwallis, The Archbishop of Canterbury. Her godparents were:

The three youngest daughter of George III, painted in 1785.
Mary at left, aged nine, with her two younger sisters Sophia and Amelia in 1785. Painted by John Singleton Copley

The King was a devoted father, finding time to regularly visit the royal nursery. Engaging in active play with his young children, he behaved quite informally in contrast to the dignified Queen Charlotte, who had more difficulty abandoning the formal behaviour expected of their class. Despite her outer reserve, however, Charlotte took a role as conscientious as her husband in their children's upbringing. For the royal princesses, the Queen carefully oversaw their welfare, education, and development of moral values. Faced with less time due to her public duties and close marriage to the King, she appointed Lady Charlotte Finch to manage the royal nursery and administer her ideas.[2]

According to Flora Fraser, Mary was considered to be the most beautiful daughter of George III; Fraser calls her a "bland beauty". Mary danced a minuet for the first time in public at the age of sixteen in June 1791, during a court ball given for the king's birthday.[3] In the spring of 1792 she officially debuted at court.[3] Around 1796 Mary fell in love with the Dutch Prince Frederick, while he and his family lived in exile in London. Frederik was a son of William V, Prince of Orange, the Dutch stadholder, and younger brother to the future King William I of the Netherlands. However Frederik and Mary never wed because George III stipulated that her elder sisters should marry first. In 1799 Prince Frederik died of an infection while serving in the army, and Mary was allowed to go into official mourning.

Mary's youngest sister and beloved companion Princess Amelia called her "Mama's tool" because of her obedient nature. Amelia's premature death in 1810 devastated her sister, who had nursed her devotedly during her painful illness.

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