Monday, February 02, 2015

Sepia Saturday 264: Queen Charlotte Islands

Vaguely interested in a fishing expedition in Canada, I've subscribed to email bulletins from a few fishing lodges. Recently one of them sent me information on the Haida Gwaii area, "known to some as the Canadian Galapagos" which puzzled me. I'm not an expert on Canadian geography but know the high spots. I'd never heard of Haida Gwaii. Turns out it's the former Queen Charlotte Islands renamed by the British Columbia Government in 2009 as part of a reconciliation act with the Haida people - all 4500 of them. 

When I saw the prompt this week, I thought of this aerial shot of the area.

I doubt that Queen Charlotte was ever aware the area was named for her - if she was, she would be well pleased. As an amateur botanist she would have loved the breath-taking landscapes of the islands. What would she think of the change to Haida Gwaii? Charlotte, history tells us, endured her share of rude surprises and jarring changes.

From Wikipedia: The King (George 3rd) announced to his Council in July 1761, according to the usual form, his intention to wed the Princess Charlotte. By the end of August 1761, a party of escorts departed for Germany to conduct Princess Charlotte to England. Arriving at St. James's Palace on 7 September, the Princess met the King and the royal family. The following day at nine o'clock, the wedding ceremony took place in the Chapel Royal and was performed by the Archbishop of CanterburyThomas Secker.[3]

She had a one day engagement and likely little choice about marrying George in the first place. Apparently she made the best of it as she continued to do with challenges throughout her life. 

So I had Charlotte on my mind when, in the December 28th New York Times Book Review, I stumbled across a review written by Andrea Wulf of a book called "A Royal Experiment - The Private life of King George", by Janice Hadlow. Of course Charlotte is front and center in the book. In the review I read that she was a dedicated mother, deeply concerned with the education of her children, in particular that of her daughters, "providing them with more thorough learning than most artistocratic girls received at that time."

Anybody who saw the film "The Madness of King George" would have some idea of how everything went to hell in a handbasket. The glorious Helen Mirren played Charlotte as an adoring wife. "Kingie" she called him in the film. "Queenie" he called her affectionately until things went bad and he suddenly declared that he had never loved his wife and was instead devoted to one of her ladies-in-waiting.  

In the film, Helen's Charlotte is blondish and blue eyed. Charlotte in person was "darkish" in complexion and some attribute this to African genes in her genetic lineage. 

Charlotte by Allan Ramsey. Oil.

Helen Mirren as Charlotte

She bore 15 children and they say was a voracious reader, so both her physical and mental lives were full. She and George attempted to have a quiet family life because the former Georges (1 and ll) were nut cases: cruel people with depression and madness running in the family. Unfortunately George lll had the same fate, as he lost his mind," incessantly talking with frantic behavior and fits". In retrospect forensic physicians say he probably suffered from porphyria, a rare inherited disorder of enzymes which is characterized by severe pain, vomiting, neuropathy and mental disorders.    

Charlotte had a close relationship with Marie Antoinette albeit by mail only. They never met in person but communicated over the years about their shared interest in the arts and music. You can imagine how Charlotte felt when news of the French Queen's beheading, almost next door, reached her.  

I guess you have to conclude that as Queen's fates go, Charlotte's wasn't so bad. She lasted a long, long time and was the second-longest serving consort (57 years, 70 days) in British royal history having been exceeded in time only by the present Duke of Edinburgh. 

In the end, having your name removed from an archipelago isn't nearly as bad as having your head removed from your neck.   

Soar overhead to Sepia Saturday for more views from above.



  1. I really enjoyed your post...a beautiful picture of Haida Gwaii islands/lakes/rivers...and then a great summary of the Queen Charlotte era, especially her life. I'd never heard much about her, and so I am further educated by your information.

  2. A fine post & the picture of Haida Gwaii is beautiful. Like Barbara, I knew next to nothing about Queen Charlotte and read the information you provided with interest. I know King George III was troubled by madness & I've heard of the movie you mentioned. I think I'll have to check & see if Netflix has it! Thank you.

  3. A stunning view! Queen Charlotte Sound at the top of the South Usland of New Zealand was also named after Charlotte, by the explorer Captain James Cook. The area also had a Maori name, Totaranui. A lot of places in NZ are now known by their original Maori names, but not the Sound. It's also a spectacular place to visit.

  4. The main photo was a great theme photo and enjoyed the discussion of the area as well as the Q.bit/