Blurred Identity Boundaries in Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz’s Wardrobe: Tradition, Modernity, Refashioning and Progressive Non-Conformity By Celia Reyer
Guest blog post by Celia Reyer
Part 3 of 3
A contributing factor to Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz’s lack of bold wardrobe choices during the 18th century could be related to the fate of her dear friend and pen-pal, Marie Antoinette. Reportedly, her death utterly devastated Charlotte.
Both Queens entered their reign as teenage brides without hailing from the country of their rule. With marriage between members of the royal family truly being a form of unification of countries, naysayers often plotted against or ridiculed any outsider within court and political circles. This led to additional pressures for any decisions made, including those related to the wardrobe.
In Charlotte’s case, she was highly scrutinised for her dress, plainness and general appearance. Setting herself apart from splendid temptations, she and her like-minded husband King George III settled into a simple life at Kew Palace.
Away from the glam, she chose to be comfortable in her own skin and on the formal appearance front, she had a distinct opinion of how traditional dress should look Evolving with the fashion calendar was not a consideration of Charlotte’s. The following personal statement demonstrates her independence, almost resembling rebellion:
“Let him dress himself [King George III]… I shall dress as I please.” 1
Her dress choices were in stark contrast to her friend Marie Antoinette’s. While both were ridiculed, Charlotte stayed ‘under the radar’, so much so, that she was mocked for keeping safe compared to the heightened atmosphere surrounding the extravagance of Marie Antoinette. Both Queens also shared the desire to stay true to their own identity. “Even more than Marie Antoinette, Queen Charlotte became an active agent in dress politics…” 2
Despite never meeting in person, the two friends greatly respected each other’s dress choices and yet chose to cloth themselves in such remarkably different ways.