Two centuries after her death, Queen Charlotte of Great Britain, consort of King George III, is a pop-culture phenomenon.
The lavishly coiffed, gossip-hungry breakout star of the Netflix hit “Bridgerton” is about to get her own prequel series — thanks in large part to the widespread belief that Charlotte was, secretly, England’s first mixed-race queen.
According to showrunner Chris Van Dusen, Charlotte’s racial heritage inspired producer Shonda Rhimes to use color-blind casting for their 1813 Regency romance. A steamy streaming success was born.
Lost in the buzz was one small detail: the truth.
The notion that Charlotte was biracial is “a farrago of nonsense,” historian Andrew Roberts told The Post. In his new book “The Last King of America” (Viking), out now, the queen plays a major role.
“The thing that surprises me is the number of historians who – perhaps just because of the cultural cringe factor – don’t want to denounce it as obvious rubbish,” Roberts said.
The claim is rooted in a single online article by researcher Mario de Valdes y Cocom, published on the website for PBS’s “Frontline” in 1997 and boosted when Meghan Markle joined the royal family.
Cocom’s material included “not a single citation or note to support his string of absurd assertions,” Roberts said. Historian Lisa Hilton has painstakingly debunked Cocom’s argument.
“Each of the four pieces of evidence Cocom comes up with” — such as a broad-nosed early portrait of the queen and a dubious “Moorish” ancestor 17 generations back in her bloodline – “is frankly more laughable than the last,” Roberts said.
And the bogus fame Charlotte has gained as a supposedly biracial role model has overwhelmed the even more fascinating reality.
“It’s such a sad missed opportunity,” Roberts mused. “She really had a hell of a story.”
Born in 1744 in a tiny North German province, Princess Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was only 17 when George settled on her as his bride. The young king, then 23, had refused to marry while his late and hated grandfather, King George II, was alive. In 1761, with his coronation looming, George needed a well-bred, properly Protestant queen – fast.
‘It’s such a sad missed opportunity. She really had a hell of a story.’historian Andrew Roberts on the real-life Queen Charlotte
“Of the eight available German princesses, Charlotte was literally the last choice,” Roberts said. But after George eliminated the other contenders – one for her “strong philosophical views,” one with an obnoxious mother, another for being “stubborn and ill-tempered” – “Charlotte got the call-up.”
Her mother died as she was packing her trousseau, and the orphaned princess sailed to England alone. “Everybody was seasick on the journey, but she’s learning how to play ‘God Save the King’ on the harpsichord,” Roberts said.
She made it to London on her wedding day and first laid eyes on her husband-to-be six hours before the ceremony. In the chaos of her departure, the wrong measurements had been sent to the royal dressmakers; Charlotte marched down the aisle in a jewel-encrusted gown so ill-fitting that “the spectators knew as much of her upper half as the king himself,” writer Horace Walpole tittered.
Speaking not a word of English, she said her vows in German: “Ich will,” she promised.
“They go to bed together, two virgins who’ve only just met,” Roberts said, “and afterwards, fall in love with one another. She just pulls it all off, brilliantly.”
George and Charlotte bonded over a passion for music — they loved attending concerts and playing duets together — and their keen interest in the sciences. He was fascinated by agriculture, writing farm-journal articles on manure use and crop rotation; she adored botany, establishing elaborate gardens and tending exotic plants. He taught her English, although she never lost her German accent.
“And they obviously hit it off physically,” Roberts noted. Within a year, Charlotte gave birth to son George, the first of their 15 children – and they happily shared a bed for decades, shocking the court.
“That was considered by the aristocracy to be a pretty bourgeois thing to do,” Robinson said.
Even after decades of marriage, lady-in-waiting Fanny Burney observed that the king “was all fondness and tactile affection” for Charlotte, “giving her frequent pecks on the cheek.” When court painter Sir Joshua Reynolds accompanied George on a short trip, he was struck by the sovereign’s ebullient return home: “He seized the Queen, whom he had met at the door, round the waist, and carried her in his arms into the room,” Reynolds wrote.
“It’s a proper love match,” Roberts said. “And so it was all the more tragic when he began to suffer bouts of bipolar disorder that made him abusive and violent.”
Modern medical researchers have diagnosed George’s condition as recurrent manic-depressive psychosis. Today, he would be treated with lithium and other medications. But in his day, “the King’s Malady” had no remedy.
“By 1804, they were living separately,” Roberts said. Charlotte withdrew from public life, and in 1810 George descended into a world of delusion he never escaped. When she died of congestive heart failure in 1818, George was unaware. Pneumonia killed him 14 months later.
“It’s an unusual and rather lovely love story,” Roberts said.
“And I can’t help thinking that the true story is even more extraordinary than the fictional one.”
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