Wednesday, 20 October 2021

What if … ? Queen Charlotte and Prince Consort Leopold?

It was not until I wrote yesterday’s blog post about Shrewsbury House that I realised that had she survived, Princess Charlotte of Wales might well have succeeded her father – George IV – to the throne when he died in 1830. If she had, we might well have thought of the last two-thirds of the nineteenth century as the Chalottean era rather than the Victorian one.

Princess Charlotte of Wales.

She had married Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld in 1816, and he would no doubt have occupied a similar situation as his nephew Albert did after his marriage to Victoria, namely being the spouse of the Queen of England but not allowed to be king. (He did become King of the Belgians in July 1831 … but that is another story.)

Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

Having read about him, I somehow doubt that he would have been happy with the situation, but bearing in mind the reception Albert got, it seems unlikely that parliament would have agreed to Leopold becoming joint monarch with his wife. Probably he would have become Prince Consort, but never King Leopold.

In these circumstances, might he have accepted the throne of Belgium when it was offered to him? If so, would his son have ended up being both King of Britain and Belgium? It’s an interesting possibility that might have seriously altered the history of Europe in the latter part of the nineteenth century and early years of the twentieth.

He was certainly a believer in marrying off the members of his family to other royal families. In real life he remarried after Princess Charlotte's death (to Louise-Marie of Orléans, the daughter of Louis Philippe I of France) and his three surviving children were:

  • Leopold, Duke of Brabant (later King Leopold II of Belgium), who married Archduchess Marie Henriette of Austria in 1853.
  • Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders, who married Princess Marie of Hohenzollern in 1867.
  • Princess Charlotte of Belgium, who married Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian Josef Maria von Habsburg-Lothringen (later Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico) in 1857.

Had he had a similar number of children by 'Queen' Charlotte, there is little doubt that they would also have married into the other royal families of Europe, just as Queen Victoria's children did.


  1. Replies
    1. Ray Rousell,

      It certainly poses some interesting possibilities.

      All the best,


  2. Seems like having Leopold as King of Belgium but married to the queen of the UK makes for a much different mid and late 19th century, as the scramble for Africa would turn out differently, and surely the UK would be more involved in European power struggles. The Naval arms race against France would have a land element, and the unification of Germany would be very threatening.

    1. Lasgunpacker,

      You have pretty well summed up my thoughts about what might have happened. Perhaps the UK might have experienced unrest in 1848 like the rest of Europe (it certainly was a possibility), and having a Belgo-British King would have seen the UK much more heavily involved in European affairs during the latter years of the nineteenth century.

      One thing that would not have changed would have been the breaking of the link with Hanover, although the overturn of the Salic Law could have created a very interesting situation.

      Lots of possibilities to play with, especially for those who like alternative history.

      All the best,



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