Researching Dido Elizabeth Belle, I stumbled across a tantalizing historical debate regarding Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Charlotte was Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, and subsequently Queen of the United Kingdom and Hanover, through her marriage to “mad” King George III. The controversy relates to Charlotte’s heritage and speculations she had black ancestry.
Mario de Valdes y Cocom, historian of the African diaspora, is the chief, modern-day proponent of this theory. He contends the German-born Charlotte’s lineage can be traced to Portugal’s King Afonso III and his possibly Moorish lover, Madragana. Valdes y Cocom clarified in The Sunday Times exposé, “Revealed: the Queen's black ancestors”:
There are contemporary references to Charlotte’s African-like features, too; for example, Christian Friedrich, Baron Stockmar wrote she possessed a “true mulatto face.” These characteristics are clearly noticeable in portraits by Allan Ramsay, a prominent abolitionist, and, by marriage, the uncle of Dido Elizabeth Belle.
Though intriguing, I’m hesitant to suppose Charlotte’s African heritage, or lack thereof, can be definitively confirmed-the historical evidence is too subjective.
Still, if Britain’s royal family is considering bringing some African ancestry to its lineage, they should consult me; I’ve got just the girl…
Anyway, these are some portraits that arguably suggest that she had African ancestry. For more paintings of Charlotte (including several where she appears unambiguously Caucasian), visit the National Portrait Gallery in London’s website. So, what’s your opinion?
For more information, check-out:
FRONTLINE The Blurred Racial Lines of Famous Families: Queen Charlotte
The Guardian “Was this Britain's first black queen?”
The History Bitch
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