King George III and Queen Charlotte, who ruled Great Britain from 1760 to 1820, are best known for losing the American colonies and suffering from mental illness. But they also left behind a large and influential family of 15 children, whose lives and fates shaped the course of British history and culture.
The eldest son, George IV, became king in 1820 after serving as regent for his father for a decade. He was a lavish spender and a notorious womanizer, who married Princess Caroline of Brunswick only to pay off his debts and then separated from her after producing an heir. He also had many illegitimate children with his longtime mistress, Maria Fitzherbert.
The second son, Prince Frederick, was the Duke of York and the commander-in-chief of the British army. He was involved in a scandal when his mistress was accused of selling military commissions. He also married Princess Frederica of Prussia, but they lived apart for most of their marriage.
The third son, William IV, became king in 1830 after his brother’s death. He was known as the “Sailor King” for his naval career and his fondness for the sea. He had 10 illegitimate children with his mistress, Dorothea Jordan, before marrying Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen. He died without any surviving legitimate heirs, paving the way for his niece, Queen Victoria, to inherit the throne.
The fourth son, Prince Edward, was the Duke of Kent and the father of Queen Victoria. He married Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld in 1818 and died shortly after his daughter’s birth in 1819. He was a reformer and a supporter of education and abolitionism.
The fifth son, Prince Ernest Augustus, was the Duke of Cumberland and later became the King of Hanover. He was unpopular and controversial for his conservative views and his involvement in several scandals. He married his first cousin, Princess Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who was previously married to his brother Frederick.
The sixth son, Prince Augustus Frederick, was the Duke of Sussex and a patron of the arts and sciences. He married twice in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act and had several children who were not recognized as royal. He was also a supporter of religious tolerance and social reform.
The seventh son, Prince Adolphus, was the Duke of Cambridge and a military leader. He served as the viceroy of Hanover for 20 years and married Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel. He had three children who married into other royal families.
The eighth son, Prince Octavius, died at age four from smallpox.
The ninth son, Prince Alfred, died at age two from smallpox.
The tenth son, Prince William Henry (not to be confused with William IV), died at age three months.
The eldest daughter, Charlotte Augusta Matilda (not to be confused with Queen Victoria’s daughter), was the Princess Royal and married King Frederick I of Württemberg. She had no children and was unhappy in her marriage.
The second daughter, Princess Augusta Sophia, never married and remained close to her father. She had a secret romance with a clergyman named Brent Spencer but never acknowledged it publicly.
The third daughter, Princess Elizabeth, married Frederick VI, Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg. She had no children and devoted herself to charitable causes.
The fourth daughter, Princess Mary Adelaide Wilhelmina Elizabeth (not to be confused with Queen Mary), married William IV’s illegitimate son George FitzClarence. She had five children who were not considered royal.
The fifth daughter, Princess Sophia Matilda (not to be confused with Queen Victoria’s daughter), never married but had a secret illegitimate child with her father’s equerry Thomas Garth. She suffered from poor eyesight and ill health.
The sixth daughter, Princess Amelia Maria Charlotte Augusta Louisa Jemima (not to be confused with Queen Victoria’s daughter), died at age 27 from tuberculosis. She was her father’s favorite child and he never recovered from her death.
These 15 children left behind a complex and fascinating legacy that influenced not only Britain but also Europe and the world. Their stories have been revived in popular culture by Netflix’s series Bridgerton, which features Queen Charlotte as a prominent character.