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The Brighton Museum Press Office has just announced that a new exhibition on the short life of Princes Charlotte, is to be held in the sumptuous surroundings of her father’s seaside pleasure place/folly, The Royal Pavillion at Brighton. She was, of course, George IVs only legitimate child and heir presumptive to the English throne until her premature death in childbirth in 1817. As the Press Release reminds us:

A feisty, headstrong tomboy as a child, Charlotte became very popular with the public, unlike her father, and was referred to as the Daughter of England. She married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg Gotha and the couple were happily married for just a year and a half until tragedy struck. She gave birth to a stillborn son in November 1817 and died shortly after the birth. Charlotte’s death and the death of her son changed the course of royal history. Charlotte would have become Queen had she outlived her father and grandfather and Queen Victoria is unlikely to have succeeded to the throne – there would have been a ‘Charlottian’ age rather than a Victorian one.

The exhibition will be held for a year, from March 10th 2012 until March 10th 2013 in the Prince Regent Gallery. This is the Pavilion’s new exhibition space and was where some of the items in the Dress for Excess exhibit were on show( my last post on that exhibit will hopefully be published next week!). The exhibit will focus on the life and tragic death of the Princess through a range of exhibits including personal items such as two of her gowns, her handwritten music book, along with paintings, prints, ceramics, jewellery and glassware

Allow me to quote David Beevers, Keeper of the Royal Pavilion:

“The exhibition is about a princess who has fallen off the radar. Most people now have no idea who Princess Charlotte is – and yet her death hit Britain like a thunderbolt, the effects were extraordinary, the country closed down for virtually a week and everything was swathed in black. The closest equivalent is the outpouring of public grief after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

 “The Royal Pavilion, where the Princess spent some happy times, is the perfect place to bring Charlotte’s story to life and provide an insight into the fascinating and charismatic person she was.

 “For the first time in a generation, the Royal Pavilion and Museums’ extensive collection of material relating to the Princess will be displayed, along with items on loan from the Royal Collection, museums and private collections. It will highlight a fascinating royal story during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Year and enable people to learn more about the royals who stayed at the Royal Pavilion.”

We have discussed the life, wedding and death of this poor Princess and her admiration for Sense and Sensibility before, here. The press release tell us that viewing the exhibition will be an opportunity to see some of the most important surviving items of clothing associated with Princes Charlotte:

Exhibits in the new exhibition include a Russian-style dress which belonged to Princess Charlotte, on loan from the Royal Collection;(which can be seen in the portrait below-jfw),

(Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, George Dawe, 1817, copyright National Portrait Gallery, London).

Her silver and white evening gown, on loan from the Museum of London;

a bust of Princess Charlotte, from Manchester Art Gallery; a baby’s shift she wore as an infant, from the Pavilion and Museum’s own collection, plus a nightshirt made as part of a layette for the baby she was expecting.  These two gowns, above, will be on display for the first six months of the exhibition, but they will be replaced in mid September

for the second half of the exhibition with Charlotte’s wedding gown, above, on loan from the Royal Collection. 

It sounds fascinating, and you know that the Royal Pavillion, with its over-the-top Chinoiserie decoration is one of my favourite places. This new exhibition will be a powerful draw to Brighton, yet again, though I’m doubtful I will be able to get there to see it in person this year due to other commitments. If any of you do go please let us know your thoughts!

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