Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales; Leopold I, King of the Belgians

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© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales; Leopold I, King of the Belgians

by William Thomas Fry, after George Dawe
coloured engraving, based on a work of 1817
17 1/2 in. x 14 in. (445 mm x 356 mm)
Purchased, 1909
Primary Collection
NPG 1530

Sittersback to top

Artistsback to top

  • George Dawe (1781-1829), History and portrait painter. Artist or producer associated with 45 portraits.
  • William Thomas Fry (1789-1843), Engraver. Artist or producer associated with 62 portraits.

This portraitback to top

George Dawe established his name as a court painter through the couple's patronage. This drawing of the newlyweds gained popularity throughout Europe in its engraved form. It marks one of their first public engagements as a married couple, a visit to the Drury Lane Theatre in June 1816. The princess is shown with a wreath of white roses in her hair, a fashion she clearly preferred. After a dutiful period of public appearances, the couple retreated to their new home, Claremont House, near Esher, where they styled a life for themselves as 'Mr & Mrs Coburg' and lived in domestic bliss.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG D33526: Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales; Leopold I, King of the Belgians (from same plate)

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Cannadine, Sir David (Introduction); Cooper, Tarnya; Stewart, Louise; MacGibbon, Rab; Cox, Paul; Peltz, Lucy; Moorhouse, Paul; Broadley, Rosie; Jascot-Gill, Sabina, Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits, 2018 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA, 7 October 2018 -3 February 2019. Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia, 16 March - 14 July 2019.), p. 167 Read entry

    Princess Charlotte's parents, King George IV and Queen Caroline of Brunswick, separated a few months after her birth, their marriage having lasted only a year. Charlotte was brought up by governesses and saw little of her mother. She resisted her father's pressure to marry the Prince of Orange and instead fell in love with Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg.

    This hand-coloured engraving marks one of the first public engagements of the newly-weds in 1816. They are shown in a box at the Drury Lane Theatre, London, but are so absorbed in each other that the play cannot compete for their interest. After a period of public appearances, the couple retreated to their home, Claremont House, near Esher in Surrey, where they styled a life for themselves as 'Mr & Mrs Coburg'. Their happiness was cut tragically short when Charlotte died giving birth to a stillborn son in 1817. Public grief at her death was deeply felt. Leopold retained an important role in the British monarchy: he was an adviser to his niece, the young Queen Victoria, and arranged her marriage to his nephew, Prince Albert, in 1840.

  • Ross, Josephine, Jane Austen and her World, 2017, p. 83
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 119
  • Williamson, David, Kings and Queens, 2010, p. 141
  • Williamson, David, The National Portrait Gallery: History of the Kings and Queens of England, 1998, p. 145

Placesback to top

Events of 1817back to top

Current affairs

Princess Charlotte, only daughter of George, Prince Regent and Caroline of Brunswick, dies in childbirth, prompting widespread mourning.
Seditious Meetings Bill drives democratic societies underground.
Rising depression and discontent; Prince Regent's coach attacked at state opening of Parliament.

Art and science

John Keats begins to write his epic poem Endymion on the Isle of Wight; a rite of passage as a professional poet after deserting his medical career.
John Constable exhibits Flatford Mill, one of his most famous naturalistic landscape paintings, at the Royal Academy
John Rennie's new Waterloo Bridge opens.


Journalist William Cobbett flees to America fearing prosecution. Already imprisoned for two years for seditious libel he grew more vehemently pro-reform on his release and reduced the price of his weekly periodical the Political Register to expand its circulation and influence to all classes.
James Monroe is elected President of the United States.

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