The Tragic Childbirth Death Of Princess Charlotte Augusta Of Wales

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales was born January 7, 1796, and was the only child of George, Prince of Wales (who later became George IV) and Caroline of Brunswick. Per History, out of the 15 children her father spawned, she was the only legitimate grandchild of King George III, and therefore heir apparent. As fate would have it, she died from childbirth complications, which produced multiple tragedies and set into motion pivotal changes in obstetrics, culture, and history.

She was raised mainly by governesses, as her parents separated shortly after her birth. They educated her beyond what was expected of a princess, and her interests were politics, social justice, and law. She was blunt, opinionated, temperamental, and not at all interested in behaving like a proper princess. Princess Charlotte married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg on May 2, 1816. After two miscarriages, a baby was expected in October 1817 (via Georgian Papers Programme).

Princess Charlotte was very popular, and England was looking forward to the change she represented — restoring England's reputation (via Duchess Adelhait Fuchs). A lot was riding on the successful delivery of a male heir, so Sir Richard Croft, an accoucheur, or male midwife, with 30 years of obstetrics experience, was tasked with keeping Princess Charlotte and her baby alive. They expected the overdue baby in October, but her contractions did not start until November 3, and lasted a laborious 50 hours. Unfortunately, the baby was turned, and its head was too large to exit the womb, and the nine-pound male was stillborn. Despite chest compressions, warm water plunges, brandy plying, and mustard rubs, Croft could not revive him (via the National Trust Organization).

A triple obstetrical tragedy

Princess Charlotte was hungry and tired, which was encouraging, and was given chicken broth, toast, and barley water. After a while, she felt sick and complained of ringing ears, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, and feeling cold. Croft gave her 20 drops of laudanum in wine and water, but it was useless. On November 6, 1817, at 2:30 a.m., Princess Charlotte died at 21 years old, and tragically, Prince Leopold slept as his wife was dying because he had taken an opiate. They buried her and her son at St. George's Chapel on November 19, 1817 (via the National Trust Organization).

There are many theories surrounding how Princess Charlotte died: postpartum sepsis, pulmonary embolism, postpartum hemorrhage, or eclampsia. Dr. Croft was blamed for losing the heir and the heir presumptive, and public scrutiny led to a loss of patients, which depressed him. While performing another difficult birth, he shot himself in both temples. This triple obstetrical tragedy brought obstetrical interventionism to the forefront (via Jane Austen's World) and brought about the Victorian Era. Had Princess Charlotte not died during childbirth, there would be no Queen Victoria, no Queen Elizabeth II (via Tatler), and probably no Goth fashion.