Was a sixteen year old German teenager who came to England to marry the mad King George III actually of black heritage? If she was, this means that her descendants, including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, Prince William and young Prince George also have a drop of black blood.
This question has intrigued historians and royal watchers for many years. Queen Charlotte (1744 – 1818) is not a very well know member of the British monarchy, even though she gave birth to thirteen children who survived to become adults. These children became members of royal families across the whole of Europe. The idea that Queen Charlotte had black blood comes from the fact that she was descended from the royal family of Portugal, one of whose kings, in the thirteenth century, is said to have married a black Moorish princess named Madragana.
So the black heritage is very remote indeed. In fact, with its adventurous past, filled with explorers and merchant adventurers who sailed to the remotest parts of the world, it’s very likely that almost all English people could trace their heritage back and find African or Indian blood. And after all, black people have lived in Britain since the beginning of recorded history, probably starting with members of the Roman legions.
As a maritime nation, English ports would have been filled with sailors from all countries, and as the old song goes, “You know what sailors are!” It’s very likely that there were multi-racial marriages and liaisons in England since the dawn of time.
So, back to Queen Charlotte. Portraits of her, especially those by Sir Allan Ramsey, do show features which could possibly be considered African. Curly dark hair, brown eyes, thick lips and a broad nose; these things don’t really add up to much, but during her lifetime Queen Charlotte was mentioned as looking negroid or mulatto by several commentators and courtiers. Sir Allan Ramsey was himself an anti slavery campaigner, and so his portraits may have been less idealised than those of other court painters such as Sir Joshua Reynolds, who perhaps depicted the queen as more European than she actually looked – we will never know. However her own medical practitioner described her as being small of stature, crooked, and as having a mulatto face.
What does seem clear is that Queen Charlotte was a good wife to King George III, who sadly became ill and eventually went mad. She bore him sixteen children, three of whom died young, and so more than did her royal duty. She was by all accounts a cheerful, good tempered woman who shared with her husband a deep love of music. The multi-racial royals loved peace and quiet rather than pomp and circumstance, and enjoyed nothing more, it seems, than living a happy family life. Weymouth, Kew and Windsor were favorite places for the royal family to find a place a little removed from the public gaze.
The story of this family is fascinating, with the poor princesses in particular being involved in scandals and misalliances, one even giving birth to an illegitimate child. A multi-racial couple? Perhaps, and it is an intriguing thought, but principally, like so many other couples, their concerns were with the day to day routines of their duties, their interests, and their family.