Queen Adelaide (1792-1849)
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Queen Adelaide (1792-1849)

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Queen Adelaide, wife of William IV, was born in 1792, and married in 1818. She and her husband restored the popularity of the Royal Family at a time when Republicanism was sweeping over Europe. Adelaide outlived her husband as the Dowager Queen until her death in 1849.

This portrait of Queen Adelaide in Coronation robes is attributed to Sir William Beechey, a portraitist who had been painter to Queen Charlotte. Its history is unknown: it was bought by the Ministry of Works in the 1890s, and was brought into the Royal Gallery in 1956, having been presented by the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Marquess of Cholmondeley.

(2) Queen Adelaide (1792-1849)


Additional Information on
Queen Adelaide (1792-1849)

Like his predecessor George IV with Princess Caroline, the marriage of William IV was the result of a scouring round the German Protestant principalities for a suitable wife, although in his case the search was both more difficult and more pressing. It was more difficult because William was well known to be a womaniser, having had a 20-year relationship with an actress, Dorothea Jordan, which had produced ten children and because he had previously spent many years in the Navy getting syphilis three times and notably coarsening his language. It was more pressing because after the death in 1817 of Charlotte, the heir to the throne, and with his ageing brother Frederick without heirs, William unexpectedly became the next in line.

Adelaide arrived in England the next year and married William at a joint ceremony with Edward, Duke of Kent who was marrying Victoria of Saxe-Coburg. The Kents duly produced a daughter the next year, the future Queen Victoria, but sadly Adelaide did not produce a living heir although she had several miscarriages and two poorly infants who died very young. When Frederick died in 1827, and George IV's lifelong excesses caught up with him three years later, William was catapulted into the throne. He was quite untrained for the role, although any training they had received had hardly made his predecessors, the four Georges, either effective or popular as monarchs.

After the coronation, which the little Victoria was not allowed to attend because of the jealousy of the Kents, much to the disappointment of Adelaide who was very fond of her and helped her whenever possible, the new King and Queen became more and more popular. After his years in the Navy he could be said to have "the common touch" and consequently was easy amongst his people and Adelaide found a significant role with numerous charities, even appointing an almoner to help make her charity work more effective. It is said she gave away one third of her income to charity. She insisted on high standards of behaviour in those about her and cleaned up the royal court which had become very dissolute and debauched under George IV.

William began to fail in his health in 1837 and died in the middle of that year with Adelaide at his side, but she quietly mourned him and continued with her charity work until she died eleven years later in 1849 at the age of 67. She was buried next to her husband at Windsor. In spite of inheriting the crown when it was probably more unpopular than ever before, the royal couple had ensured the survival of the monarchy in England when all over Europe royal houses were being brought down.


QUOTATION

My children are dead but your child lives, and she is mine too.
- Adelaide speaking to the Duchess of Kent, and referring to her niece Vicky - the future Queen Victoria.

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