Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, Kew Gardens

From Rachel Knowles’s Regency History blog:

“Frederick, Prince of Wales, arrived in England in December 1728 having spent his childhood in Hanover. Initially he got on well with his family and spent time at Richmond and Kew. He took a lease on Kew House, which stood opposite Kew Palace, where his sisters Anne, Caroline and Amelia were living. In 1730, he commissioned the architect William Kent to extend and remodel Kew House. The finished building was rendered and whitewashed and became known as the White House.

After his estrangement from his father, King George II, Frederick lived the life of a country gentleman at Kew with his wife, Augusta, and a growing number of children: Augusta, George, Edward, Elizabeth, William, Henry, Louisa, Frederick and Caroline Matilda, who was born posthumously. They played cricket, rowed on the river, performed plays and celebrated birthdays with fun and fireworks. Frederick gave his family astronomy lessons in the attic observatory and promoted the development of the gardens, aided by Lord Bute.

After Frederick’s sudden death from pneumonia in 1751, Augusta continued to live at Kew and under her auspices, the Royal Botanic Gardens were founded in 1759.

George III inherited the White House from his mother, Augusta, on her death in 1772. George III and Queen Charlotte used the White House as their country retreat, whilst their eldest sons, George and Frederick, moved into Kew Palace.

At Kew, the King and Queen were able to live a much more informal life than in London. The princes learned about farming and played games of cricket and football, occasionally joined by their sisters, especially Princess Augusta. They visited the royal menagerie of exotic animals and took picnics in the gardens at Queen Charlotte’s Cottage.

One source records that a one-storey building was erected on the site between 1754 and 1771 in the grounds of Richmond Lodge during the development of the New Menagerie, possibly as a dwelling for the menagerie keeper. This area now forms the western part of Kew Gardens. The cottage was then given to Queen Charlotte on her marriage to George III in 1761, and she extended the building and added an upper floor.

Another source states that the earliest mention of the cottage is not until 1771, and that it was built for Queen Charlotte as a cottage orné – a picturesque building made to look like a rustic cottage with aged window frames, poor quality bricks and a thatched roof. It may have been designed to remind Queen Charlotte of the farmhouses from her home in Mecklenburg.

Downstairs, the Queen displayed her collection of Hogarth prints on the walls of the print room, whilst upstairs was the tea or picnic room, with its beautifully floral and bamboo decorations which were painted by the Queen’s third daughter, Princess Elizabeth. Although externally the cottage is simple, inside it boasts elegant staircases and a geometric stone floor. However, the rooms are small as the cottage was never intended for the royal family to live in.

Queen Charlotte’s Cottage and grounds were given to the public by Queen Victoria in 1898. The cottage is now in the care of Historic Royal Palaces.

The King was frequently visited by the botanist Joseph Banks who fascinated him with tales of his travels, brought new seeds and plants for the gardens and in 1774, introduced him to the Tahitian warrior Omai.

After 1776, George III developed a preference for Windsor and spent less time at Kew, until 1788, when a long visit was forced upon him…”

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