Her Royal Highness, The Princess Charlotte, by Lawrence, 1832
Her Royal Highness, The Princess Charlotte by Sir Thomas Lawrence, engraved by William Fry, 1832.
Princess Charlotte (1796-1817) was the only child of the Prince of Wales (later George IV) and his wife Princess Caroline of Brunswick. Her parents separated shortly after she was born and Prince George limited Charlotte's contact with her mother. When Charlotte became a teenager discussions began to take place over who she should marry. Prince George favored William, Hereditary Prince of Orange, but Charlotte did not like the prince and resisted. Eventually Charlotte fixed on Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield and they were married on May 2, 1816. She suffered two miscarriages, but was able to carry her third pregnancy to term. Unfortunately, the labour did not go well and after fifty hours of labour Charlotte finally gave birth to a stillborn son. Shortly afterwards she began vomiting and hemorrhaging. Her physician, Dr. Richard Croft, was unable to stop the bleeding and she was dead by morning. The tragedy was deeply mourned by the country and caused a shift in obstetric practices. At the time obstetricians fell into two different camps, one side favored intervention during a troublesome labour the other side was opposed to it. Croft had been a member of the non-intervention camp and had chosen not to use forceps. Tragically, the lives of both mother and child might have been spared if forceps had been employed to shorten the labour. Public outrage led to the abandonment of outdated obstetric ideologies and the adoption of safer practices.
Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830) was the premier portrait painter of his time. He remained at the top of his profession until his death. Lawrence was self-taught and received his first commission in 1790 when he was contracted to paint Queen Charlotte's portrait. The following year he became an Associate of the Royal Academy. Three years later, in 1794, he was elected a full member and in 1820 he became president of the Academy. Lawrence was also a Fellow of the Royal Society. Prince George became one of his chief patrons in 1810. Despite his popularity and royal patronage he was often in debt. Lawrence never married.
William Fry (1789-1843) was a prolific engraver and enjoyed steady employment. He occasionally exhibited his works at the Suffolk Street exhibitions. Most of his engravings were done in stipple. This engraving of Princess Charlotte was one of four engravings that Fry did for Fisher's National Portrait Gallery.
- Naomi Bean