Queen Charlotte was never one to cause a scandal. Search for her in the history books and you will find a pious, sensible, good-humoured woman. She clung to propriety like a life-raft. Her political enemies once tried to spread a rumour that she was sleeping with the Prime Minister, William Pitt, but the gossip fizzled out instantaneously: no one would believe it.Share
With such a mistress, you would think Charlotte’s ladies in waiting and maids of honour must be paragons of virtue. You could not be further from the truth.
Almost immediately after her arrival in England to marry George III, Charlotte ran into difficulties with her staff. Two beloved servants, Mrs Haggerdorn and Mrs Schwellenberg, had accompanied her from Mecklenburg-Sterlitz and naturally had a special place in her heart.
However, jealousy began to brew between the English and German factions. Schwellenberg did nothing to help matters with her pride and overpowering manners. She insisted upon being called “Madame”, though she was nothing but a bedchamber woman. Through bullying and aggression, she rose all the way to become Mistress of the Robes in the young Queen’s household. Taking rooms right next to Charlotte’s, she ensured no one could gain access to the royal presence without her permission. From old affection and a desire to keep her countrywoman beside her, Charlotte endured it all without censure. Her husband took it less kindly.
George would have dismissed Schwellenberg and sent her back across the sea, but Charlotte entreated him in the presence of her mother-in-law to let the servant stay. Grudgingly, he conceded, provided Schwellenberg changed her behaviour. She never did. (Read more.)