Princess Frederica Charlotte, Duchess of York

Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia was born in Charlottenburg, on 7 May 1767. She was the only daughter of Frederick William II of Prussia and his first wife and double first cousin Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Lüneburg. On 29 September 1791 at Charlottenburg Palace, she married Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, the second son of George III and a cousin of hers. There was a second marriage at Buckingham Palace on 23 November. The new Duchess of York received an enthusiastic welcome in London, but the marriage was not a happy one, and the couple soon separated. They had no surviving children. The Duchess, styled "Freddie" to her friends, retained the estate, Oatlands, and spent the majority of the rest of her life here. Much of the foundation stone for the original palace came from Chertsey Abbey which fell into ruins after the dissolution of the monasteries. It was acquired by Henry VIII in 1538 as a home for his affianced wife, Anne of Cleves, though it was later used for his wedding to Catherine Howard. The palace remained as a Royal household for nearly many years. James I's wife Anne of Denmark employed Indigo Jones to design an ornamental gateway from the Privy Garden to the Park. Charles used it for his queen's residence, employed John Tradescant the elder for its gardens, and was later imprisoned here by the army in 1647. After the King's execution the palace was sold and demolished, leaving a single house. In 1790, Oatlands, now extended and remodeled, was leased from the Crown by the Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany in anticipation of his upcoming marriage. Shortly thereafter, in 1794, the mansion was burnt down and the was rebuilt in the Gothic style of the period. After the death of the Duchess of York, the whole property was sold. It was bought by Edward Hughes Ball Hughes and again remodeled. In 1856, the estate was broken up and the house became a hotel known as the South Western (later Oatlands Park) Hotel. Life at Oatlands provided the privacy craved by the Duchess, and she shared her home with many animals. Despite these companions, however, she seems to have lead a somewhat lonely existence, as recorded by vistors to her home:
A fire happened at Oatlands yesterday which damaged some of the art buildings. The king had been there, and brought back a little dog belonging to the Duchess of York, who seemed more anxious abt. her animals than abt. the house. She has 18 dogs. The king observed that affection must rest on something. When there were no children, animals were the objects of it. The Diary of Joseph Farington, June 8, 1794 The Duchess's life is an odd one; she seldom has a female companion, she is read to all night and falls asleep towards morning, and rises about 3; feeds her dozens of dogs and her flocks of birds, &c., comes down two minutes before dinner, and so round again. Right Honourable John Wilson Croker, LL.D. F. R. S., Secretary to the Admiralty, 1818
The Duchess died, on 6 August 1820, in Oatlands Park, Weybridge, Surrey, and was buried in Weybridge Old Church. In 1822 York Column, in Weybridge, was erected in her memory. The funds were raised by public subscription and it remains a testament to the popularity of this generous benefactress. The inscription reads: This column was erected by the inhabitants of Weybridge and its vicinity on the 6th day of August 1822 by voluntary contribution. In token of their sincere esteem and regard for her late Royal Highness the most excellent and illustrious Frederica Charlotte Ulrica Catherina, Duchess of York. Who resided for upwards of thirty years at Oatlands in this parish, exercising every Christian virtue and died, universally regretted, on the 6th day of August 1820. Ye poor, suppress the mournful sigh, Her spirit is with Christ on High, In those bright realms of heavenly peace, Where charity shall never cease, Her deeds of mercy and of love, Are registered in courts above. Princess Frederica Charlotte plays a pivitol role in the Beau Brummell detective series by Rosemary Stevens. Much about her life and the daily life at Oatlands can be learned and speculated on, here. Historical information from