Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Georgians' German Relatives

In April, I blogged about Sophie Charlotte, the sister of George I, and her palace in Berlin. Sophie Charlotte was the wife of the first King in Prussia. They had one son, who became King Frederick William I in 1713 and married his first cousin, Sophia Dorothea, daughter of George I and sister of George II. Keeping it in the family, as I said last month.

Charlottenburg Palace garden in the snow
 George I and his successors were wise to keep in with the German royal families. The Georges weren't only Kings of Britain but also still Electors of Hanover; and Hanoverian rulers were required to marry German princesses or forfeit the right to rule. Skipping forward to the 19th century, that's why all George IV's unmarried brothers went off to find themselves German wives once it became clear that George IV would never produce another heir after the death of Princess Charlotte. (Rulers of Hanover also had to be male which is why Queen Victoria did not become Queen of Hanover. The title went to her uncle Ernest Augustus instead, and the British and Hanoverian royal houses became separate.)

Frederick William I did little to Charlottenburg during his reign.  He was succeeded by his son Frederick the Great (Frederick II) in 1740, at the age of only 28. He stayed in the Charlottenburg Palace when he came to Berlin from his beloved Potsdam, but the small (smallish!) palace that Sophie Charlotte had created was not nearly grand enough for her grandson. Frederick the Great had a huge new wing built along with stabling for his own regiment of Guards.

Charlottenburg Palace interior

Charlottenburg Palace, Oval Chamber

Charlottenburg Palace, King's study

All the Prussian royal family were mad about Chinese porcelain. Their collection was already over 2,700 pieces in 1700 and it continued to grow. The restored porcelain rooms at the Charlottenburg Palace can seem overwhelming. And they're meant to be. These were royals who wanted to make an impact on any visitor who came. My pictures can show only parts of the rooms. You have to imagine for yourself what it's like to see a room where every corner is totally over the top, just like this.  And the mirrors make it even more so.

A corner of the Porcelain Gallery, Charlottenburg Palace
A second corner of the Porcelain Gallery, Charlottenburg Palace

Detail of the porcelain gallery.  Possibly an acquired taste?

Frederick the Great wanted everything to his own incredibly high specification. He wanted porcelain to match the wall hangings and interior design of his palaces and required the royal porcelain factory to make pieces in a particular shade of blue called "bleu mourant". Apparently it was incredibly difficult and expensive to create, but he was the boss, so they managed it.  I assume he was paying the bill for all the failures.

I found only one piece of "bleu mourant" on show in Charlottenburg, dating from the 1780s, around the end of the reign of Frederick the Great (who died 1786).

Prussian porcelain in "bleu mourant", 1780s, commissioned by Frederick the Great

By comparison with the gallery full of Chinese porcelain, Frederick the Great's love of "bleu mourant" seems quite restrained.



Nicola Cornick said...

What absolutely stunning interiors, Joanna! Thank you for sharing.

I had forgotten about the Hanoverian requirement to marry only German princesses. No wonder the family tree became increasingly complicated and inbred!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Nicola. Yes, they were a funny lot. Wasn't it Frederick, Prince of Wales, who was in love with one of the Lennox girls and her family thought he would marry her and make her queen? They obviously hadn't read the rules. If he'd done so, he'd have lost Hanover. Of course, he died and never did become king, but still...

Charlottenburg is fascinating. There's a mausoleum and various other things in the gardens. We couldn't see those because of the snow. So I shall go back to Berlin, definitely.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, wrong Hanoverian. It was George III, Frederick's sone, who fell for Lady Sarah Lennox.

Shows what happens when I make comments from memory, without checking my facts. Shall try not to do so again.

Anonymous said...

And I can't even spell "son". Oh dear.

Elizabeth Hawksley said...

I love this, Joanna. What a feast for the eye. And I hadn't realized about the Hanoverian succession and German princesses. It explains why William 1V married Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen - I'd always vaguely wondered. I just couldn't see why she was so eligible a connection for a Britain on the verge of imperial expansion.

Linda Sole said...

Wonderful pictures, Joanna. I enjoyed them

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Glad you enjoyed them, Linda. I'm storing up a few more for my June blog, so please do come back to see them.

And I deleted the previous version of this, because I had more finger trouble. Must take more care...