The Death of Princess Charlotte, a guest post by Jo Beverley

The death of Princess Charlotte in childbirth in November 1817 was a huge event


Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales and Leopold

in Regency times and it’s key to for my April book, The Viscount Needs a Wife, and for the one I’m writing now for 2017, Merely a Marriage.

I write my Company of Rogues books along a time line that started in 1814, and though I’ve gone slowly I’ve always wondered how to handle Charlotte’s death.

It could hardly be background wallpaper, especially as the effects lingered well into 1818.

People sometimes think that death in childbirth was common in the past. It was more common than now, but not so much so that the death of a young, healthy woman and her baby was taken in stride. The nation was plunged into a genuine and almost manic mourning that bears some resemblance to the reaction to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Cruel nature was clearly the prime villain, but Queen Charlotte was blamed as well, for not supervising the birth. The poor woman was in her seventies and not well, but she was castigated for not rushing from Bath to the birth. Remember, however, that no one expected anything other than a normal, healthy birth. Why the grandmother, not the mother? Charlotte’s mother, Caroline of Brunswick, estranged wife of the Regent, was living in Italy. And in any case, if she’d travelled to England she probably wouldn’t have been allowed near her daughter, as that had been the Regent’s policy from the first.

Th Regent was given some unspecified blame, but he was a man and childbirth wasn’t men’s business. Except for doctors, and man-midwives.

Charlotte was attended in the later months by two prominent and fashionable “man-midwives” and they were generally blamed, though it seems that the baby was in a bad position for birth, which is no one’s fault. Today, Charlotte would have had a C-section and all would have been well. As it was, she laboured for days and did eventually deliver a dead son. At that point Charlotte was not expected to die, but perhaps exhaustion played a part, or there might have been a lot of blood loss. Of course, there were no blood transfusions then, and if there had been, without blood type matching, it would have been perilous.

The men — the husband Prince Leopold, and the father, the Regent — benefitted from an outpouring of sympathy, which the Regent certainly needed, as he’d become increasingly unpopular during the post-war depression.

The general and republican-minded unrest, subsided under the pressure of mourning. Court mourning plunged the aristocracy into black, and nearly everyone in the nation wore sober colors, black arm bands and similar signs of grief. Not to do so was to declare oneself a Republican, but also a heartless person, because this was a tragedy, royal or not.

Despittvnawnewsm3e the tone of Regency fiction, men in the Regency were allowed and expected to give in to their emotions. Leopold stayed with the coffin between Charlotte’s death on November 6th and her state funeral on the 19th. The Regent fled to Brighton, supposedly in an emotional collapse. This annoyed his ministers, as all government staggered to a halt without him. As he lingered there, worry increased that he might follow his father into insanity.

Difficult times, and against this backdrop, widowed Mrs. Kitty Cateril realizes that life is chancy and she shouldn’t waste it.When she’s offered a chance at a peculiar marriage of convenience, she takes it.

The Viscount Needs a Wife is a Romantic Times Top Pick and has a starred review
from the Library Journal. “…combining graceful writing, and impeccably researched historical setting, and intelligent, well-matched protagonists into a superbly satisfying love story.” It will be on sale in print and e-book on April 5th.Tdyalmodsm2

Jo is offering the prize of a copy of her book Too Dangerous For a Lady to a commenter. Leave a comment, and I’ll enter you into the raffle!  Thanks, Jo.

Read more about Jo’s April book, The Viscount Needs a Wife.

24 Commentsto The Death of Princess Charlotte, a guest post by Jo Beverley

  1. Jolynn says:

    I love reading your books (both of you!). Can’t wait to download these on my Kindle.

  2. DMac says:

    I like how you’ve used the true historical incident to spark the motivation for your heroine! I think it was brave of women to get married and get pregnant, child-bearing seems like it was such a risky business.
    Poor Princess Charlotte would probably have been better off with a regular mid-wife instead of the high-falutin’ doctors. One of them committed suicide afterwards, out of guilt.

  3. Donna Maloy says:

    What an interesting post. I had no idea the royal tragedy impacted the whole nation like that. The parallel you draw to the death of Princess Diana makes so much sense. Thank you for both the post and a chance to win one of your delightful romances.

    • aliciarasley says:

      I wonder about Queen Caroline (Princess then), barred from seeing her daughter most of her life, and then in her death too. Prinny could be ruthless.

  4. Theresa says:

    Hi, Jo and Alicia,
    I didn’t know that politics played a role in whether people chose to wear armbands. That surprised me! You would think people could rise above politics at such a time, but really, even today we fail to do so. But your heroine found a good way to handle the mourning! Carpe diem!

  5. Josie Bonham says:

    A fascinating article. I like the sound of the books.

  6. This is why I have never had the hots for experiencing time travel.

  7. Wow. What fascinating information. Thank you for sharing this.

  8. I was struck by the fact that she labored for days. Death by torture from one’s own body, something all too common for women throughout history. Sometimes, women died from the complications of delivery, not the actual event itself. For example, Thomas Jefferson’s wife died months after she’d delivered their baby, but the damage was caused by childbirth.

    Probably no one thought a princess–the heiress to the throne– could die from something so common as childbirth.

    Looking forward to reading your book, Jo!

    • aliciarasley says:

      I remember reading that the first physician to successfully perform a Caesarian (both mother and baby lived) was James Barry– actually a woman who lived as a man so that she could practice medicine. Never had children herself, apparently.

  9. Waving hi! This is a fabulous book, where the research and history is unobtrusive but so much a part of the story–just my kind of read.

  10. Charlotte King says:

    The lives of historical figures draw one in and fascinate..thank you for the book

  11. Deborah Lawson says:

    Love the article! I haven’t read the Company of Rogues books yet, but they’re definitely on my TBR pile.

  12. Serene Rosenthal says:

    Very interesting. Can’t wait to read it!

  13. Sandy Raven says:

    Great article, Jo! And nice website Alicia!

  14. Kathy Wheeler says:

    Jo Benerley books pulled me in years ago! I was not aware of most of this history and find it fascinating. I always have said had we not been in this country or had this medical technology my son and I both would have died at birth. Thank God for progress.

  15. Sandy Loyd says:

    I love reading books by Jo Beverley. This new one looks like an awesome read. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Nancy says:

    Charlotte’s death set off a wild scramble among royal dukes and Princes for brides and legitimate issue. GEorge IV’s wife didn’t die until after his coronation but he didn’t bother considering remarrying. The Duke f Clarence married quickly as did the Duke of Kent . Kent’s mistress of twenty years had never had a child while Clarence had about a dozen with the actress. But it was Kent who had a daughter who lived– he himself died a week before his father.
    Clarence became William IV . Though his illegitimate children thrived, the legitimate ones died.
    Charlotte’s death changed history.Leopold went on to be named King of Belgium ( IIRC) and Kent’s daughter became Queen Victoria.
    George had a number of children but remarkably few grandchildren. When Ambassador Rush went to England in December of 1817, the court was still in mourning. He didn’t see the Regent until February,

    • aliciarasley says:

      It does seem almost ordained, doesn’t it, the princess dies, and that means that Victoria years later became queen. A woman was destined to reign!

  17. Liz Kales says:

    Looks like a fascinating story set in a fantastic period of history!

  18. aliciarasley says:

    Thanks, everyone, for visiting and commenting! Jo wants to give a free book to one of the commenters who entered the raffle, and that goes to Donna Maloy! Donna, can you email me ( with your address?