What’s in a Name?

Charlotte von Mecklenburg-Strelitz by studio of Allan Ramsay, 1762

What’s in a name? In preparation for a design charrette in Charlottesville, VA we came across Charlotte von Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the queen consort of King George III of the United Kingdom. That’s where Charlottesville got its name.

In the first twenty-one years of her marriage Queen Charlotte gave birth to fifteen children – nine sons and six daughters. In contrast to most European Royal houses George III and Charlotte had a harmonious marriage. However, during their lifetimes the British court had the reputation of being the dullest in all of Europe because of their notoriously frugal, plain, and pious life-style. Their charities, however, were legend. Hospitals such as the famous Queen’s Lying-in Hospital in London which was founded by Charlotte, orphanages, “decayed” musicians, and untold poor families could rely on their munificent patronage. Eight-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart happily fulfilled Queen Charlotte’s request and dedicated his Opus 3 to her.

Charlotte played a prominent, though reticent, role on the stage of European world history. As Queen of Great Britain and consort of George III she became an eye witness of a turbulent age. During the reign of George III (1760-1820) Great Britain developed into a far-reaching empire by colonizing Australia, New Zealand, and India, and conquering Canada and the West Indies. However, this empire also suffered the loss of the American colonies (1776) and the tremors of the French Revolution (1789), and countered Napoleon’s threatening advances with the victories at Trafalgar (1805) and Waterloo (1815).

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Charlotte was also an amateur botanist who helped expand Kew Gardens, the famous botanical gardens near London. Among many of the exotic plants Captain Cook collected for Kew Gardens on his many journeys, South Africa’s strelitzia (Bird of Paradise) specifically commemorates Queen Charlotte.

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