Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Royal Wedding of 1736

A portrait of Augusta of Saxony-Gotha from the time of her wedding in 1736
Credit: National Portrait Gallery

Royal weddings have a way of drawing the attention of many dreaming of romance and a prince charming. Depending on the couple, millions of people watch today on televisions from all around the world. We in modern times are spared no detail to small of these affairs, almost every second of the happy couple's day is filmed and photographed. 

Who made the bride's dress? What crown will she wear? Those marrying into the British royal family or 'Firm' as they call it now, have a particular set of pressures to consider. Media attention focuses on the smallest of details and familial relationships are inevitably put under duress, not to mention security concerns.

Yes, for those at the heart of this week's Royal Wedding, that of H.R.H. Prince William of Wales to the lovely Miss Catherine Middleton, there are many different details to be concerned about. While the spotlight will fall on Kate Middleton this Friday, she is not the first royal bride to negotiate a complicated set of rules and customs in the run up to her big day. However, she is probably hoping for a more peaceful married life than some of her predecessors.

Beheadings are out, so she can relax a bit...

But that's where similarities end. Nothing of this weeks celebration can compare with the experiences of Augusta of Saxony-Gotha, daughter in law of George II.

At the end of April 1736, Augusta of Saxony-Gotha arrived in London to marry Frederick, Prince of Wales, eldest son of George II. Augusta and Frederick did not enjoy the luxury of an 8 year courtship – Augusta had met Frederick’s father on one of George II’s visits to Hanover and this was sufficient to seal the deal.

She had been chosen because the provisions of the Act of Settlement (1701) made it imperative for members of the royal family to marry Protestants to retain their inheritance rights. George II’s relations with some of the major protestant powers, like Prussia, were strained and therefore brides had to be sought from lesser German princely families.

Her first meeting with her future husband was a few days before the wedding. Augusta found herself in a foreign country, knowing virtually nobody and with little idea of what to expect.

"Her parents had told her that there would be no need to learn English as they assumed that after twenty years of rule by German princes, everyone in Britain would now be speaking German."

(Boy, was she in for a surprise.)

The wedding itself took place in the Chapel Royal in St James’s palace and featured a new work composed for the occasion by the royal family’s favourite composer, George Frederick Handel. Prints of the ceremony were produced and circulated widely – commemorative memorabilia is nothing new. Augusta, however, had little say in the decoration of the venue. Just as this year, Easter was very late in 1736 so there was little time between Easter services on 25 April and the wedding on 27 April to do much to the Chapel Royal.

Some two hundred seventy-five years after Augusta’s marriage, Catherine Middleton faces similar difficulties in her new role. She, at least, has had the chance to get to know her future husband in advance. Augusta’s marriage as many colonial weddings was not for love but for politics.
Her major task was to help perpetuate the royal line by providing an heir. It just so happens that this heir, the future King George III, born in 1738, would find himself in the most bitter fight with patriots wanting nothing more to do with royalty of any kind.

King George III died blind, deaf and mad at Windsor Castle on January 29, 1820. 

I invite you to read more about King George III, for there is a great story behind this man so few of us in America had regard for, but was dearly loved by his people of Great Britian. 

To learn more about his parent's wedding please take the link below as,

You are Invited to a Royal Wedding!

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