Prince Octavius of Great Britain

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Prince Octavius
Octavius of Great Britain - West 1783.jpg
Portrait by Benjamin West, 1783
Born(1779-02-23)23 February 1779
Buckingham House, London, England
Died3 May 1783(1783-05-03) (aged 4)
Kew Palace, Kew, England
Burial10 May 1783
House Hanover
Father George III of the United Kingdom
Mother Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Prince Octavius (23 February 1779 3 May 1783) was the thirteenth child and eighth son of King George III and his queen consort, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Six months after the death of his brother Prince Alfred, Octavius was inoculated with the smallpox virus. Several days later, he became ill. His subsequent death at the age of four devastated his parents, and in particular his father. George bemoaned the death of his son, of whom he was exceedingly fond; the king's later bouts of madness would involve hallucinations of his two youngest sons.

George III of the United Kingdom King of Great Britain and Ireland

George III was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until the union of the two countries on 1 January 1801, after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death in 1820. He was concurrently Duke and prince-elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg ("Hanover") in the Holy Roman Empire before becoming King of Hanover on 12 October 1814. He was the third British monarch of the House of Hanover, but unlike his two predecessors, he was born in Great Britain, spoke English as his first language, and never visited Hanover.

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz Queen consort of the United Kingdom as the wife of King George III

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was the wife of King George III. She served as Queen of Great Britain and Queen of Ireland from her wedding in 1761 until the union of the two kingdoms in 1801, after which she was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until her death in 1818. She was also the Electress of Hanover in the Holy Roman Empire until the promotion of her husband to King of Hanover on 12 October 1814, after which she was also queen consort of Hanover.

Prince Alfred of Great Britain Member of the British Royal Family; 14th child and 9th son of King George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Prince Alfred was a member of the British Royal Family as the fourteenth child and ninth and youngest son of King George III and his queen consort, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Alfred became ill after his inoculation against the smallpox virus; his early death at the age of nearly two, along with the demise of his brother Prince Octavius six months later, was a shock to their parents. In his later bouts of madness King George would have imagined conversations with both of his youngest sons.

Contents

Life

Octavius in 1782, by Thomas Gainsborough Octavius of Great Britain - Gainsborough 1782.jpg
Octavius in 1782, by Thomas Gainsborough

Prince Octavius was born on 23 February 1779, at Buckingham House, London, England. [1] He was the thirteenth child and eighth son of King George III and his queen consort Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The prince's name derives from Latin octavus, the eighth, indicating that he was the eighth son of his parents. [2]

Buckingham Palace Official London residence and principal workplace of the British monarch

Buckingham Palace is the London residence and administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is often at the centre of state occasions and royal hospitality. It has been a focal point for the British people at times of national rejoicing and mourning.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of both England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Octavius was christened on 23 March 1779, in the Great Council Chamber at St James's Palace, by Frederick Cornwallis, The Archbishop of Canterbury. His godparents were The Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (husband of his first cousin twice-removed, for whom The Earl of Hertford, Lord Chamberlain, stood proxy); The Duke of Mecklenburg (his first cousin once-removed, for whom The Earl of Ashburnham, Groom of the Stole, stood proxy); and The Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (wife of his sixth cousin, for whom Alicia Wyndham, Countess of Egremont and Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Charlotte, was proxy). [3] [4]

St Jamess Palace Royal palace in the United Kingdom

St James's Palace is the most senior royal palace in the United Kingdom. Located in the City of Westminster, although no longer the principal residence of the monarch, it is the ceremonial meeting place of the Accession Council and the London residence of several minor members of the royal family.

Frederick Cornwallis Archbishop of Canterbury

Frederick Cornwallis was Archbishop of Canterbury, and the twin brother of Edward Cornwallis.

Archbishop of Canterbury senior bishop of the Church of England

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. The current archbishop is Justin Welby, who was enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral on 21 March 2013. Welby is the 105th in a line which goes back more than 1400 years to Augustine of Canterbury, the "Apostle to the English", sent from Rome in the year 597. Welby succeeded Rowan Williams.

King George was extremely devoted to Octavius, who was too young to cause the kinds of trouble that his elder brothers were by the year of his birth. The king was affectionate [5] and indulgent with his young children, and strove to attend their birthday parties and other events organized for their merriment; on one occasion a friend witnessed a happy domestic scene that involved George "carrying about in his arms by turns Sophia and the last prince, Octavius." [6] Another witness wrote George and Charlotte "have their Children always playing about them the whole time"; during most evenings the children were brought to their parents between 6 and 7 O'clock to play for an hour or two. [7] The king also was kept informed of his children's educational progress. [8]

Princess Sophia of the United Kingdom British princess

Princess Sophia of the United Kingdom was the twelfth child and fifth daughter of King George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Sophia is perhaps best known for the rumours surrounding a supposed illegitimate child to whom she gave birth as a young woman.

Octavius was close to his nearest sister Sophia, who called Octavius "her son", [9] and went with her and their siblings, Elizabeth and Edward to Eastborne on the Sussex coast, where he could take in the fresh seaside air during the summer of 1780. [10] When he was nineteen months old, Octavius became an older brother with the birth of his younger brother Prince Alfred. Octavius was three years of age when Alfred died on 20 August 1782, and he again became the youngest surviving child. [11] Horace Walpole wrote to Sir Horace Mann that upon Prince Alfred's death, King George had declared "I am very sorry for Alfred; but had it been Octavius, I should have died too." [12] In 1820, historian Edward Holt would write of the prince's character, "Though Prince Octavius had not passed his fifth year, he was considered very docile, and possessed good-nature in such an uncommon degree, that he was the delight of all about him." [13] Biographer John Watkins added Octavius was "reckoned one of the finest of the royal progeny." [14]

Princess Elizabeth of the United Kingdom member of the British Royal Family

Princess Elizabeth of the United Kingdom was the seventh child and third daughter of King George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. After marrying the Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg, Frederick VI, she took permanent residence in Germany as landgravine.

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn Prince of Great Britain

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, was the fourth son and fifth child of Britain's king, George III, and the father of Queen Victoria.

Horace Walpole 18th-century English art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and Whig politician

Horatio Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, also known as Horace Walpole, was an English writer, art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and Whig politician.

Death and aftermath

Apotheosis of Prince Octavius in 1783, by Benjamin West The Apotheosis of Prince Octavius - West 1783.jpg
Apotheosis of Prince Octavius in 1783, by Benjamin West

Six months after Alfred's death, Octavius and Sophia were taken to Kew Palace in London to be inoculated with the smallpox virus. [13] [15] While Sophia recovered without incident, [16] [17] Octavius became ill and died several days later, around 8 o'clock PM, [18] on 3 May 1783, at Kew Palace. He was four years old. [1] [19] As was traditional, the household did not go into mourning for the deaths of royal children under the age of fourteen. [20]

Kew Palace Grade I listed historic house museum in London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, United Kingdom

Kew Palace is a British royal palace in Kew Gardens on the banks of the Thames up river from London. Originally a large complex, few elements of it survive. Dating to 1631 but built atop the undercroft of an earlier building, the main survivor is known as the Dutch House. Its royal occupation lasted from around 1728 until 1818, with a final short-lived occupation in 1844. The Dutch House is Grade I listed, and open to visitors. It is cared for by an independent charity, Historic Royal Palaces, which receives no funding from the Government or the Crown. Alongside the Dutch House is a part of its 18th-century service wing, whilst nearby are a former housekeeper's cottage, brewhouse and kitchen block – most of these buildings are private, though the kitchens are open to the public. These kitchens and Queen Charlotte's Cottage are also run by Historic Royal Palaces.

The terms inoculation, vaccination, and immunization are often used synonymously to refer to artificial induction of immunity against various infectious diseases. However, there are some important historical and current differences. In English medicine, inoculation referred only to the practice of variolation until the very early 1800s. When Edward Jenner introduced smallpox vaccine in 1798, this was initially called cowpox inoculation or vaccine inoculation. Soon, to avoid confusion, smallpox inoculation continued to be referred to as variolation and cowpox inoculation was referred to as vaccination. Then, in 1891, Louis Pasteur proposed that the terms vaccine and vaccination should be extended to include the new protective procedures being developed. Immunization refers to the use of all vaccines but also extends to the use of antitoxin, which contains preformed antibody such as to diphtheria or tetanus exotoxins. Inoculation is now more or less synonymous in nontechnical usage with injection and the like, and questions along the lines of "Have you had your flu injection/vaccination/inoculation/immunization?" should not cause confusion. The focus is on what is being given and why, not the literal meaning of the technique used.

Smallpox eradicated viral disease

Smallpox was an infectious disease caused by one of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The last naturally occurring case was diagnosed in October 1977 and the World Health Organization (WHO) certified the global eradication of the disease in 1980. The risk of death following contracting the disease was about 30%, with higher rates among babies. Often those who survived had extensive scarring of their skin and some were left blind.

Octavius has the distinction of being the last member of the British royal family to suffer from smallpox. [15] [21] On 10 May, he was buried alongside his brother Alfred at Westminster Abbey. [13] Their eldest brother, when King George IV, ordered their remains transferred to St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on 11 February 1820, at about 3 o'clock. [1] [22]

According to Queen Charlotte, Octavius's death was unexpected; she wrote to a friend who faced a similar tragedy that "twice have I felt what you do feel, the last time without the least preparation for such a stroke, for in less than eight and forty hours was my son Octavius, in perfect health, sick and struck with death immediately." [23] The prince's death had a marked effect, both mentally and physically on Queen Charlotte, who at the time was pregnant with her youngest child, Princess Amelia. [24]

Octavius's death devastated his father; [25] Walpole wrote "the King has lost another little child; a lovely boy, they say, of whom their Majesties were dotingly fond." [12] Shortly afterward, King George said "There will be no Heaven for me if Octavius is not there." [5] [8] The day after his son's death, the King passed through a room where artist Thomas Gainsborough was completing the finishing touches on a portrait of the family. The King asked him to stop, but when he found out that the painting was of Octavius, allowed the painter to continue. When this same painting was exhibited a week later, Octavius's sisters were so upset that they broke down and cried in front of everyone. [19] Three months after Octavius's death, his father was still dwelling on his son, writing to Lord Dartmouth that every day "increases the chasm I feel for want of that beloved object [Octavius]." [8] In later years, King George imagined conversations with his two youngest sons. [25] During one of the king's bouts of madness in 1788, George mistook a pillow for Octavius, who by that time had been dead for five years. [26]

Portraits

Several portraits of Octavius survive. Five portraits of him alone and one with his brother Alfred are housed in the Royal Collection of the United Kingdom. The first is the more famous painting by Thomas Gainsborough in 1782, which is part of a series of paintings of the younger royal children. The second one is after the 1782 portrait by Gainsborough (see above) and is dated to about 1782 or 1784. The third portrait is by Benjamin West and was painted shortly before Octavius's death. Furthermore, among these five portraits, there are two enamels, both after Gainsborough's 1782 portrait; one is by William Bone and the other one is by an anonymous master. The sixth and last portrait represents the apotheosis of Octavius and Alfred (see above) and was painted by West. Another portrait, this time of Queen Charlotte, features Octavius. Painted in 1779 by West, this is both a portrait of the Queen and her children, who are featured in the background. Prince Octavius is at the centre of the group, wearing baby clothes and riding in a little phaeton. He is pulled along by Prince Ernest and pushed by Prince Adolphus.

Two other portraits are housed by the National Portrait Gallery in London. The first is an 1817 engraving by Samuel Freeman, after Gainsborough. The second is another engraving, entitled The Apotheosis of the Princes Octavius and Alfred and of the Princess Amelia, published in 1820 by Robert Hicks.

Three more portraits, less known are housed variously overseas. The first one is by West and is housed by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. It was painted in 1783 and measures 59.21 x 41.43 cm. Two more engravings after Gainsborough are scarce throughout the United States.

Titles and styles

Ancestry

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References

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 Weir 2008, p. 300.
  2. Watkins 1819, p. 270.
  3. Sheppard 1894, p. 59.
  4. Sinclair 1912, p. 102.
  5. 1 2 Cannon 2004.
  6. Hibbert 2000, p. 98.
  7. Hibbert 2000, pp. 98-99.
  8. 1 2 3 Hibbert 2000, p. 99.
  9. Fraser 2004, p. 70.
  10. Fraser 2004, pp. 65-66.
  11. Fraser 2004, pp. 65, 70, 76-79.
  12. 1 2 Walpole 1891, p. 363.
  13. 1 2 3 Holt 1820, p. 256.
  14. Watkins 1819, p. 291.
  15. 1 2 Panton 2011, p. 359.
  16. Baxby 1984, p. 303.
  17. Papendiek 1887, p. 270.
  18. "St. James's, May 6". The London Gazette (12437): 1. May 1783.
  19. 1 2 Fraser 2004, p. 77.
  20. Fritz 1982, p. 305.
  21. Carrell 2003, p. 392.
  22. "Royal Burials in the Chapel since 1805". College of St. George. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 30 August 2011.
  23. Baxby 1984, p. 304.
  24. Watkins 1819, p. 292.
  25. 1 2 Black 2006, p. 156.
  26. Hibbert 2000, p. 280.
  27. Genealogie ascendante jusqu'au quatrieme degre inclusivement de tous les Rois et Princes de maisons souveraines de l'Europe actuellement vivans [Genealogy up to the fourth degree inclusive of all the Kings and Princes of sovereign houses of Europe currently living] (in French). Bourdeaux: Frederic Guillaume Birnstiel. 1768. p. 5.

Bibliography