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Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen

Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen
Portrait by Sir William Beechey, c.1831
Queen consort of the United Kingdom
and Hanover
Tenure 26 June 1830 – 20 June 1837
Coronation 8 September 1831
Born (1792-08-13)13 August 1792
Meiningen, Thuringia, Germany
Died 2 December 1849(1849-12-02) (aged 57)
Bentley Priory, Middlesex
Burial Windsor
Spouse William IV of the United Kingdom
Issue Princess Charlotte of Clarence
Princess Elizabeth of Clarence
Full name
Adelaide Amelia Louise Theresa Caroline
German: Adelheid Amalie Luise Therese Caroline
House House of Saxe-Meiningen
Father George I, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen
Mother Luise Eleonore of Hohenlohe-Langenburg

Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen (Adelaide Amelia Louise Theresa Caroline; 13 August 1792 – 2 December 1849) was the queen consort of the United Kingdom and of Hanover as spouse of William IV of the United Kingdom. Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia, is named after her.[1]


  • Early life 1
  • Marriage 2
  • Queen consort 3
  • Queen dowager 4
    • Legacy 4.1
      • Cultural depictions 4.1.1
  • Titles, styles, honours and arms 5
    • Titles and styles 5.1
    • Arms 5.2
  • Issue 6
  • Ancestry 7
  • Notes and sources 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Early life

Adelaide was born on 13 August 1792 at Luise Eleonore, daughter of Prince Christian of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. She was titled Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, Duchess in Saxony with the style Serene Highness from her birth until the Congress of Vienna (1814–15), when the entire House of Wettin was raised to the style of Highness.

Saxe-Meiningen was a small state, covering about 423 square miles (1,100 km2). It was the most liberal German state and, unlike its neighbours, permitted a free press and criticism of the ruler.[2]


Wax figure of Queen Adelaide, 1830

By the end of 1811, Dorothea Jordan, but, being illegitimate, they were debarred from the succession.

Considerable allowances were likely to be voted by Parliament to any Royal Duke who married, and this acted as a further incentive for William to marry. Adelaide was a princess from an unimportant German state, but William had a limited choice of available princesses and, after deals with other candidates fell through, a marriage to Adelaide was arranged. The allowance proposed was slashed by Parliament, and the outraged Duke considered calling off the marriage. However, Adelaide seemed the ideal candidate: amiable, home-loving, and willing to accept William's illegitimate children as part of the family.[3] The arrangement was settled and William wrote to his eldest son, "She is doomed, poor dear innocent young creature, to be my wife."[4]

Adelaide married William in a double wedding with William's brother, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, and his bride Victoria, Dowager Princess of Leiningen, on 11 July 1818, at Kew Palace in Surrey, England. They had only met for the first time about a week earlier,[5] on 4 July at Grillon's Hotel in Bond Street.[6] Neither William nor Adelaide had been married before, and William was twenty-seven years her senior.

Despite these unromantic circumstances, the couple settled amicably in Hanover (where the cost of living was much lower than in England), and by all accounts were devoted to each other throughout their marriage. Adelaide improved William's behaviour; he drank less, swore less and became more tactful.[7] Observers thought them parsimonious, and their lifestyle simple, even boring.[8] William eventually accepted the reduced increase in his allowance voted by Parliament.[9]

On the Continent, Adelaide became pregnant, but in her seventh month of pregnancy, she caught pleurisy and gave birth prematurely on 27 March 1819 during the illness. Her daughter, Charlotte, lived only a few hours. Another pregnancy in the same year caused William to move the household to England so his future heir would be born on British soil, yet Adelaide miscarried at Calais or Dunkirk during the journey on 5 September 1819. She became pregnant again, and a second daughter, Elizabeth, was born on 10 December 1820. Elizabeth seemed strong but died less than three months old on 4 March 1821 of "inflammation in the Bowels".[10] Ultimately, William and Adelaide had no surviving children. Twin boys were stillborn on 8 April 1822,[11] and a possible brief pregnancy may have occurred within the same year.

Princess Victoria of Kent came to be acknowledged as William's heir presumptive, as Adelaide had no further pregnancies. While there were rumours of pregnancies well into William's reign (dismissed by the King as "damned stuff"), they seem to have been without basis.[12]

Queen consort

Portrait of Queen Adelaide painted by John Simpson in 1832.

At the time of their marriage, William was not heir-presumptive to the throne, but became so when his brother Bushy Park (for thirty-three years held by himself) on Queen Adelaide.[13] This act allowed Adelaide to remain at Bushy House for her lifetime. The King and Adelaide were crowned on 8 September 1831 at Westminster Abbey. Adelaide was deeply religious and took the service very seriously. William despised the ceremony, and acted throughout, it is presumed deliberately, as if he was "a character in a comic opera", making a mockery of what he thought to be a ridiculous charade.[14] Adelaide alone among those attending received any praise for her "dignity, repose and characteristic grace".[15]

Adelaide was beloved by the British people for her piety, modesty, charity, and her tragic childbirth history. A large portion of her household income was given to charitable causes. She also treated the young Princess Victoria of Kent (William's heir presumptive and later [16]

Adelaide attempted, perhaps unsuccessfully, to influence the King politically. She never spoke about politics in public; however, she was strongly Tory.[17] It is unclear how much of William's attitudes during the passage of the Reform Act 1832 were due to her influence. The Press, the public and courtiers assumed that she was agitating behind the scenes against reform,[18] but she was careful to be non-committal in public.[19] As a result of her partiality, she became unpopular with reformers.[20] Unbelievable rumours circulated that she was having an affair with her Lord Chamberlain, the Tory Lord Howe, but almost everyone at court knew that Adelaide was inflexibly pious and was always faithful to her husband.[21] The Whig Prime Minister, Lord Grey, had Lord Howe removed from Adelaide's household. Attempts to reinstate him after the Reform Bill had passed were not successful, as Lord Grey and Lord Howe could not come to an agreement as to how independent Howe could be of the government.[22]

In October 1834 a great fire destroyed much of the Palace of Westminster, which Adelaide considered divine retribution for the vagaries of reform.[23] When the Whig ministry of Lord Melbourne was dismissed by the King, The Times newspaper blamed the Queen's influence, though she seems to have had very little to do with it.[24] Influenced by her similarly reactionary brother-in-law, the Duke of Cumberland, she did write to the King against reform of the Church of Ireland.[25]

Both William and Adelaide were fond of their niece, Princess Victoria of Kent, and wanted her to be closer to them. Their efforts were frustrated by Victoria's mother, the Dowager Duchess of Kent. The Duchess refused to acknowledge Adelaide's precedence, left letters from Adelaide unanswered and commandeered space in the royal stables and apartments for her own use. The King, aggrieved at what he took to be disrespect from the Duchess to his wife, bluntly announced in the presence of Adelaide, the Duchess, Victoria and many guests, that the Duchess was "incompetent to act with propriety", that he had been "grossly and continually insulted by that person", and that he hoped to have the satisfaction of living beyond Victoria's age of majority, so that the Duchess of Kent would never be Regent. Everyone was aghast at the vehemence of the speech, and all three ladies were deeply upset.[26] The breach between the Duchess and the King and Queen was never fully healed, but Victoria always viewed both of them with kindness.[27]

Queen dowager

Portrait of Queen Adelaide painted by Sir Martin Archer Shee in 1836.

Queen Adelaide was dangerously ill in April 1837, at around the same time that she was present at her mother's deathbed in Meiningen, but she recovered.[28] By June it became evident that the King was fatally ill himself. Adelaide stayed beside William's deathbed devotedly, not going to bed herself for more than ten days.[29] William IV died from heart failure in the early hours of the morning of 20 June 1837 at Windsor Castle, where he was buried. The first queen dowager in over a century (Charles II's widow, Catherine of Braganza, had died in 1705, and Mary of Modena, wife of the deposed James II, died in 1718), Adelaide survived her husband by twelve years.

Queen Adelaide had been given the use of Marlborough House, Pall Mall in 1831, and held it until her death in 1849.[30] She also had the use of Bushey House, Bushy Park at Hampton Court.[31] After her husband's death, Queen Adelaide became a tenant of William Ward and took up residence at the latter's newly purchased house, Witley Court in Worcestershire, from 1842 until 1846. Whilst at Witley Court she had two chaplains – Rev. John Ryle Wood, Canon of Worcester[32] and Rev. Thomas Pearson, Rector of Great Witley.[33] Whilst at Witley Court she financed the first village school in Great Witley.[34]

Queen Adelaide's last public appearance was to lay the foundation stone of the church of St John the Evangelist, Great Stanmore. She gave the font and when the church was completed after her death, the east window was dedicated to her memory.[35]

She died during the reign of her niece Sudbury Hall: "I die in all humility", she wrote, "we are alike before the throne of God, and I request therefore that my mortal remains be conveyed to the grave without pomp or state…to have as private and quiet a funeral as possible. I particularly desire not to be laid out in state…I die in peace and wish to be carried to the fount in peace, and free from the vanities and pomp of this world."[36]


Queen Adelaide (1837, engraving after John Lucas)

Queen Adelaide's name is probably best remembered in the Australian state of South Australia, founded during the brief reign of William IV. The capital city of Adelaide was named after her at its founding in 1836; the Queen Adelaide Club for women is still active, and a bronze statue of Queen Adelaide stands in the foyer of the Town Hall.

An Adelaide based organisation, 'The Queen Adelaide Society Inc.', was inaugurated in 1981 by the late Dorothy Howie with the twin objectives of " 1) developing and promoting public awareness of Queen Adelaide, after whom our city is named, and, 2) to provide an annual donation to a South Australian children's charity."

There is a village named Queen Adelaide in Cambridgeshire, which takes its name from one of the many public houses named after the queen.[37]

There are Adelaide Streets, Adelaide Avenues and Adelaide Roads throughout the former empire; there is also Adelaide Hospital (now the Adelaide and Meath Hospital, Tallaght) in Dublin, and an Adelaide railway station in Belfast. Australia has two Adelaide Rivers, in the Northern Territory and Tasmania, and an Adelaide Reef in Queensland. The town of Adelaide (originally Fort Adelaide) in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, as well as Sir Benjamin D'Urban's short-lived colony in the same area, Queen Adelaide Province. Queen's Park, Brighton is also named in her honour. The Citadel in Port Louis, capital of the Republic of Mauritius, is named Fort Adelaide for her, the building having been started during the reign of William in 1834. In 1832 Adelaide Township was surveyed in what became the western part of Middlesex County in Ontario (now part of the municipality of the Township of Adelaide-Metcalfe). There is a small group of islands in southern Chile named Queen Adelaide Archipelago and Adelaide Island in the British Antarctic Territory.

In honour of the Queen's many visits, several places in Leicestershire were named after Queen Adelaide. They include Queen Street in Measham and the Queen Adelaide Inn (now demolished) in Appleby Magna. There is also the Queen Adelaide Oak in Bradgate Park (once home to Lady Jane Grey), under which Queen Adelaide had picnicked on venison and crayfish from the estate.

Asteroid 525 Adelaide is also named in her honour.

In 1849 there was a cholera epidemic in the East End of London. The following year, Queen Adelaide's dispensary opened in Warner Place, Bethnal Green. It moved to William Street in 1866 and by 1899 was handling 10,000 medical and dental patients a year.[38] In 1963, the funds that had set up the dispensary became Queen Adelaide's charity, which still operates today.[39]

Queen Victoria's firstborn child, Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise, took her second name from her great-aunt, who was also the child's godmother.

Cultural depictions

Queen Adelaide was played by Dame Harriet Walter in the 2009 film The Young Victoria, as a kindly but practical counsellor to the inexperienced queen. Delena Kidd portrayed her in the 2001 television serial Victoria & Albert.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

  • 13 August 1792 – 18 June 1815: Her Serene Highness Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen
  • 18 June 1815 – 11 July 1818: Her Highness Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen
  • 11 July 1818 – 26 June 1830: Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Clarence and St Andrews
  • 26 June 1830 – 20 June 1837: Her Majesty The Queen
  • 20 June 1837 – 2 December 1849: Her Majesty Queen Adelaide


Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen's arms, used from 1830.

The Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom are impaled with her father's arms as Duke of Saxe-Meiningen. The arms were Quarterly of nineteen, 1st, Azure, a lion barry Argent and Gules (Landgrave of Thuringia); 2nd, Gules, an escarbuncle Or and a shield at the centre point Argent (Cleves); 3rd, Or, a lion rampant Sable (Meissen); 4th, Or, a lion rampant Sable (Jülich); 5th, Argent, a lion rampant Gules crowned Azure (Berg); 6th, Azure, an eagle displayed Or (Palatinate of Saxony); 7th, Or, two pales Azure (Landsberg); 8th, Sable, an eagle displayed Or (Palatinate of Thuringia); 9th, Or, semé of hearts Gules a lion rampant Sable crowned of the second (Orlamünde); 10th, Argent, three bars Azure (Eisenberg); 11th, Azure, a lion passant per fess Or and Argent (Tonna in Gleichen); 12th, Argent, a rose Gules barbed and seeded Proper (Burgraviate of Altenburg); 13th, Gules plain (Sovereign rights); 14th, Argent, three beetles' pincers Gules (Engern); 15th, Or a fess chequy Gules and Argent (Marck); 16th, Per pale, dexter, Gules, a column Argent crowned Or (Roemhild), sinister, Or, on a mount Vert, a cock Sable, wattled Gules (Hannenberg); 17th, Argent three chevronels Gules (Ravensberg); and over all an inescutcheon barry Or and Sable, a crown of rue (or a crancelin) in bend Vert (Saxony).[40][41][42]

As the Duchess of Clarence, she used the arms of her husband (the royal arms with a label of three points Argent, the centre point bearing a cross Gules, the outer points each bearing an anchor Azure) impaled with those of her father, the whole surmounted by a coronet of a child of the sovereign.


Name Birth Death Notes
Princess Charlotte of Clarence 27 March 1819 27 March 1819
Princess Elizabeth of Clarence 10 December 1820 4 March 1821


Notes and sources

  1. ^ Rodney Cockburn, South Australia What's in a Name? Adelaide: Axiom Publishing. 3rd Edition. Reprinted 2002 Pg 3.
  2. ^ Allen, pp.64–65
  3. ^ Ziegler, pp.118–121
  4. ^ William writing to George FitzClarence, 21 March 1818, quoted in Ziegler, p.122
  5. ^ Ziegler, p.124
  6. ^ Allen, p.59
  7. ^ Ziegler, pp.123, 129
  8. ^ Dr. William Beattie, quoted in Ziegler, p.130, and Princess Lieven and Lord Camden, quoted in Ziegler, pp.156–157
  9. ^ Ziegler, p.129
  10. ^ Ziegler, p.127
  11. ^ Ziegler, pp.126–127
  12. ^ Ziegler, p.268
  13. ^ Greville, p.52
  14. ^ Allen, p.131
  15. ^ Baroness von Bülow, quoted in Allen, pp.131–132
  16. ^ Greville, p.67
  17. ^ Ziegler, p.175
  18. ^ Allen, pp.114, 126 and Ziegler, pp.83, 199
  19. ^ Ziegler, pp.187, 210–211
  20. ^ Ziegler, pp.216–221
  21. ^ Ziegler, pp.198, 238
  22. ^ Ziegler, pp.237–238
  23. ^ Ziegler, p.250
  24. ^ Ziegler, pp.256–257 and the Duke of Wellington, quoted in Allen, p.179
  25. ^ Sir Herbert Taylor, the King's secretary, writing to Sir Robert Peel, 15 July 1835, quoted in Ziegler, p.276
  26. ^ Allen, pp.223–224
  27. ^ Allen, p.225
  28. ^ Ziegler, p.286
  29. ^ Ziegler, p.289
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ Wardle, Terry Heroes & Villains of Worcestershire 2010 The History Press p9
  33. ^ Wardle, Terry Heroes & Villains of Worcestershire 2010 The History Press p108
  34. ^ Wardle, Terry Heroes & Villains of Worcestershire 2010 The History Press p10
  35. ^
  36. ^ The National Trust (1982; repr. 1994) Sudbury Hall pp.29–30
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^ Queen Adelaide (1830-1837) FOTW Flags Of The World website: British Royal Standards, House of Hanover 1714–1901, Retrieved 16 December 2010.


  • Allen, W. Gore (1960). King William IV. London: Cresset Press
  • Greville, Charles (2005). The Diaries of Charles Greville (Edward and Deanna Pearce, eds.) London: Pimlico. ISBN 1-84413-404-0
  • Ziegler, Philip (1971). King William IV. London: Collins. ISBN 0-00-211934-X
  • Matthias Blazek: „Adelheid – Prinzessin von Sachsen-Meiningen", in: Matthias Blazek, Wolfgang Evers: Dörfer im Schatten der Müggenburg. Adelheidsdorf 1997, p. 9 ff.
  • Matthias Blazek: „Adelheid von Sachsen-Meiningen / Namenspatin von Adelheidsdorf und Adelaide – Spätere Königin von England bleibt kinderlos und ist wohl nie im Celler Raum gewesen", Sachsenspiegel 45, Cellesche Zeitung, 10 November 2012
  • Alfred Erck, Hannelore Schneider: „Die Meiningerin auf englischem Thron", in: Meininger Heimatklänge, Meininger Mediengesellschaft (Hg.), Ausg. 12/1999
  • Alfred Erck, Hannelore Schneider: Die Meiningerin auf englischem Königsthron. Ein Frauenschicksal während der ersten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts. Bielsteinverlag, Meiningen 2005 ISBN 3-9809504-0-9
  • Marita A. Panzer: Englands Königinnen – Von den Tudors zu den Windsors. Pustet, Regensburg 2001 (Sonderausgabe: Piper Verlag, München 2008) ISBN 978-3-492-23682-9
  • Alvin Redman: Auf Englands Thron: Das Haus Hannover – The House of Hanover. London 1960, München 1961
  • David Williamson: The National Portrait Gallery History of the Kings and Queens of England. London 1998 ISBN 978-1-56852-279-1

External links

  • Biography (German)
  • Archival material relating to Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen listed at the UK National Archives
  • Queen Adelaide Society (City of Adelaide, South Australia)
Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen
Cadet branch of the House of Wettin
Born: 13 August 1792 Died: 2 December 1849
British royalty
Title last held by
Caroline of Brunswick
Queen-consort of the United Kingdom
Title next held by
Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
as Prince consort
Queen-consort of Hanover
Succeeded by
Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

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