Queen Charlotte, the Ultimate Caregiver

By: Peggy Willms


(3 min. read)

Firstly, I am not a history scholar nor a medical professional, so give me grace.

Some of you may be familiar with the Netflix series Bridgerton. Being a sucker for all things royal, I have been obsessed. This series is based on Julia Quinn’s fictional romance novels highlighting the Regency era, commonly described as the years between 1795 and 1820. The first season was released in 2020. Season three will be released by year-end. This series is a self-proclaimed concocted backdrop yet dips its toes into the historical ruling and lives of the royal family.

This weekend, I binged Queen Charlotte, and I must say, Lady Whistleblower, the scandalous society newsletter columnist, could have published more intense rumormongering had she been privy to more of the inside scoop. However, King George III and Queen Charlotte (the previous Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Germany) did their best to restrict their exposure to their court and the public.

There are two significant themes that hover over this couple, who, by all accounts, were very much in love. Was Queen Charlotte bi-racial? Did King George have a mental illness? I will focus on the latter.

Most royal marriages are arranged, a business transaction designed to benefit at least two countries or elite families. The series shows King George III’s mother in hot pursuit of an ideal partner for her son and the country. But history leans more towards King George doing the heavy lifting to find his perfect suitor. Queen Charlotte was apparently chosen because she knew little about politics and was a Protestant.

Some say, King George III, often called the Mad King, was bipolar based on his drastic pendulum mood swings and impulsive actions. Others say he suffered from acute porphyria, a genetic blood disorder that manifests as confusion, agitation, depression, hallucinations, altered mental status, and acute psychosis[1]

In the 19th Century and prior, drastic measures were taken to “eradicate” or squash signs of any illness, nonetheless mental illness. A few examples are cold-water purging, arsenic-based liquids and lotions, shock therapy, and bloodletting (removal of blood thought to be replaced by healthier blood absent of the disease or disorder). It is unclear when Queen Charlotte realized her husband was mentally ill. Likely, she recognized some of these practices being forced upon her husband, and it rang her common sense bell, motivating her to step in and support him with less forceful and unhealthy measures.

Once she became aware of his struggles with mental health, she stepped up to the plate, taking a more hands-on approach to support her “Mad King.” She recognized early on her positive techniques were more successful than the other methods used to rid him of his “dangerous and scandalous” behavior. When she recognized the presence of anxiety symptoms or realized he had excused himself to go off and suffer an episode alone, she utilized calm speech and physical touch to improve his thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

And through this “madness,” she remained loyal to the King, managed her royal duties, and bore 15 of his children in nearly 21 years—a hero in my eyes.

As the credits scrolled on the last episode of this series, I was overwhelmed with the stress and strain that must have weighed on Queen Charlotte’s padded shoulders. Yes, she had staff; however, she chose to bear most of the burden caring for King George privately. The last thing the world needed at that time, or even in our modern time, is that the leader was mentally or physically unable to perform his duties. Secondly, of course, she was privy to staff who assisted her with childcare, but regardless of how much hands-on mothering she performed, she was still a mother, and her spouse was not fully available to support her.

In 2023, over 150 years since King George III’s ruling, we shine a brighter light on mental illness and, as a society, recognize and respect the level of intensity required to be a full-time caregiver. When you are fully responsible for the day-to-day necessities of another human, the weight is often unbearable.

Regardless of your bank account balance and regardless of how large your staff or family is, mental illness does not discriminate, nor does the high probability that someday you may be someone’s caregiver.

I believe Queen Charlotte is a prime example of an ultimate caregiver. She upheld her duties, was a devout partner, expanded her family, and did so with a positive attitude.

How would you play your royal chess pieces if you needed to support a partner with mental illness or become one who offers full-time care to another?

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537352/

Peggy Willms
                                                                     All Things Wellness, LLC

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