If you’re watching the prequel, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story you will see that one of the main locations for this historical drama is Kew and the royal country retreat known as Kew Palace. King George III, Queen Charlotte and their many children spent happy – as well as unhappy – times at Kew Palace, a small and charming historic house set within the grounds of London’s Kew Gardens.
History of Kew Gardens
We have Princess Augusta, mother of King George III, to thank for the embryonic Kew Gardens, then known as Kew Park. She established a nine-acre garden for exotic plants in 1759. Kew Gardens came into being when the Richmond and Kew royal estates merged in 1772 under the reign of George III.
Augusta employed the architect William Chambers to build architectural features within the botanic gardens, some of which are no longer in existence. These included a mosque, a Confucious temple and a Moorish Alhambra building. Thankfully, the Great Pagoda is still standing proud. Climb to the top of this Grade I listed Chinoiserie folly for some sweeping views of London. George III liked to drag his politicians up to the top, knowing they would be out of breath and easier to manipulate.
In 1773, Capability Brown created the Hollow Walk, now known as Rhododendron Dell. It’s one of the most popular corners of Kew Gardens.
Queen Charlotte and Kew Palace
The Dutch House, as Kew Palace was once known, was built for a wealthy silk trader named Samuel Fortrey in 1631.
The ceiling in the Boudoir is one of the few remaining features of the original seventeenth century house which Fortrey designed.
George III became king in 1760, aged just 22. As depicted in Bridgerton, he married Charlotte Mecklenburg-Strelitz a mere four hours after meeting her on the 8 September 1761. The couple would have a whopping 15 children over 21 years. Unlike his grandfather and sons, he never took a mistress, and the couple were happily married until his mental illness took hold of him in 1788.
The enamel portrait on Charlotte’s wrist is of George III, and it is thought that she wore this every day of her life.
Not quite as high as Golda Rosheuve’s bouffant updos in Bridgerton (for which she had to use a neck brace) this portrait shows the hairstyle Charlotte sported in her later years.
On 11 July 1818, Charlotte and George’s son Edward, Duke of Kent, married Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg in the Queen’s Drawing room. They would sire the future Queen Victoria.
Bridgerton’s Queen Charlotte Kew location was filmed at Belton House in Lincolnshire. Queen Charlotte and King George III also spent their honeymoon at Richmond Lodge. George would buy Buckingham House (now the site of Buckingham Palace) in 1762 as another family retreat.
“Mad” King George at Kew
In 1801 and 1804, King George III came to Kew Palace for treatment accompanied by Queen Charlotte and his daughters. As portrayed in Bridgerton, the treatment he received by Dr Francis Willis was mentally and physically humiliating.
This wax bust of George III is taken from an original modelled from life by Madame Tussaud.
Kew Palace, originally known as The Dutch House, was an annexe to the grander White House which was demolished in 1802. “Mad” King George III spent time here during his first bout of madness. Charlotte and her daughters lived upstairs whilst the King convalesced in the company of his doctors on the ground floor.
The dining room is where George III once tried to escape and was subsequently detained. Queen Charlotte also lay in state here in 1818. In happier, more recent times, it is also where the late Queen Elizabeth II hosted her eightieth birthday party. The dinner included Hebridean smoked salmon, Juniper roast loin of Sandringham estate venison and chocolate birthday cake with Highgrove fruit filling.
This bathtub is thought to have been used by King George III. It was discovered in a chimney opening during a renovation of the palace in 2012. In order to save the staff from bringing water over to Kew Palace (which had no water facilities), the king would bathe in the Royal Kitchens. These were built as a separate annexe in order to ensure the main house would not burn down in the event of a kitchen fire.
Where is Queen Charlotte buried?
In June 1818, Queen Charlotte was taken ill on a journey from London to Windsor. She stopped at Kew Palace to convalesce for what she thought would be a few days, but she never recovered. She died on the 17 November in her bedroom in this black horsehair chair.
This hanging hatchment, which you can see on the top floor of Kew Palace, was made for Queen Charlotte upon her death. It hung outside Kew Palace when she died.
Queen Charlotte is buried in St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle together with her husband, King George III. This royal chapel is also where her late Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret and Henry VIII are buried, to name a royal few. Queen Charlotte’s funeral cortege travelled from Kew to Windsor on 2 December 1818. On arrival at Windsor, the cobbled streets were laid with straw in order to cover up the sounds of the carriage from poor King George.
Queen Charlotte’s Cottage
In 1771, Charlotte had a cottage built for her in the grounds of Kew Gardens called Queen Charlotte’s Cottage. Like Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon at Versailles, the cottage was used as a bucolic retreat. George III and Queen Charlotte also installed a menagerie of animals including the country’s first kangaroos in the early 1790s.
Visiting Kew Palace and Queen Charlotte’s Cottage
Queen Charlotte’s Cottage is open on weekends and bank holidays only from 11.30 (latest admission is at 15.30).
Kew Palace is open daily from 11.00 with last admission at 16.00. Make sure you visit the Royal Kitchens and herb garden next door to Kew Palace.