Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Black Queen

Detail of Allan Ramsay’s
Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1761-1762)
Researching Dido Elizabeth Belle, I stumbled across a tantalizing historical debate regarding Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Charlotte was Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, and subsequently Queen of the United Kingdom and Hanover, through her marriage to “mad” King George III. The controversy relates to Charlotte’s heritage and speculations she had black ancestry. Mario de Valdes y Cocom, historian of the African diaspora, is the chief, modern-day proponent of this theory. He contends the German-born Charlotte’s lineage can be traced to Portugal’s King Afonso III and his possibly Moorish lover, Madragana. Valdes y Cocom clarified in The Sunday Times exposé, “Revealed: the Queen's black ancestors”:
Although she is chronologically distant from Afonso III and his mistress, there is a surprising genealogical proximity between the two women and six lines of descent can be traced between them. What also contributed to the perceptibility of her African heritage was the highly inbred pattern of princely German marriage alliances.
There are contemporary references to Charlotte’s African-like features, too; for example, Christian Friedrich, Baron Stockmar wrote she possessed a “true mulatto face.” These characteristics are clearly noticeable in portraits by Allan Ramsay, a prominent abolitionist, and, by marriage, the uncle of Dido Elizabeth Belle.

Though intriguing, I’m hesitant to suppose Charlotte’s African heritage, or lack thereof, can be definitively confirmed-the historical evidence is too subjective.

Still, if Britain’s royal family is considering bringing some African ancestry to its lineage, they should consult me; I’ve got just the girl…

Anyway, these are some portraits of Charlotte. What’s your opinion?

Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz by Allan Ramsay (1761-1762)

Queen Charlotte with her Two Children by Allan Ramsay (c. 1765)

Portrait of Queen Charlotte by Esther Denner (1761)

Queen Charlotte by Thomas Frye (1762)

Queen Charlotte and the Princess Royal by Francis Cotes (1767)

Portrait of Queen Charlotte by Sir Thomas Lawrence (c. 1789-1790)
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