Saturday, November 19, 2011

Princess Charlotte's Funeral

Princess Charlotte of Wales left life tragically, on November 6th, 1817.  Having been bled for medical reasons over the course of several days while pregnant, she weakened and died of postpartum bleeding after childbirth.  She was only 21, and recently married to Prince Leopold.  Her death impacted many, with businesses closing down for weeks.

In The Edinburgh Annual Register (vol 19), which Sir Walter Scott edited, Charlotte is referenced in association with a couple of the notable obituaries of the day (Eminent Characters Deceased):

‘The Rev. C. M. Cracherode, M.A….During the last year he spent several months at Worthing, in Sussex, where he resided in the mansion which had been for a short time occupied by the lamented Princess Charlotte of Wales….

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles left the shores of England for his new station, in November 1817, having been detained at Falmouth by contrary winds long enough to receive the melancholy intelligence of the death of the lamented Princess Charlotte, whose friendship, together with that of her illustrious consort, he had the distinguished gratification to enjoy; and his first public act, on his arrival in his new government, was the forwarding of an address of condolence to his Majesty, on that most mournful event.’

In addition to the emotion surrounding her death, a religious controversy developed, which is recorded in the journal of Lord Henry Cockburn, and involves an event which occurred on November 19, 1817:

‘...Shortly after this we were thrown into an uproar by a point of Calvinistic orthodoxy. Moved by the sad and unexpected death of the Princess Charlotte, which had melted all hearts, every clergyman in Edinburgh, except one, following the universal example, had religious service in his church on the 19th of November 1817, the day of her funeral, which was what we call a week-day—that is, not a Sunday. This, in Scotland, was not in obedience to the Royal proclamation, which we sons of Calvin always despise, but solely from natural decency and piety. Addressing their flocks on such an occasion, of course they all introduced the poor Princess, her virtues and her fate; and this in most cases probably amounted to a funeral sermon. But the Reverend Andrew Thomson maintained that all such sermons are repugnant to the presbyterian system, and dangerous in themselves from their tendency to degenerate into sycophantish eulogy: and perhaps he was right in this. But most clearly he was wrong in bringing discredit on his party, by being the only minister who shocked the universal feeling by acting on this principle on this occasion. Several of his brethren entreated him to yield.' Sir Harry in particular remonstrated and implored. But a useless personal battle, in which his will was on one side and all the world on the other, had always irresistible charms to Thomson. So he stood out; and while crowds rolled into every other church, the gates of his were closed, and he himself was made happy by being universally abused. On the following Sunday he preached on death, and alluded to the recent calamity, in a manner that disarmed those that heard him; and for the edification of those who did not, he published a pamphlet, demonstrating that everybody was wrong except himself. Possibly they were: but it seems odd how notices of striking deaths, which is so common on Sundays, and was so even in Thomson's own practice, should be so bad on every other day...’

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