Saturday, May 23, 2015

Lady Charlotte Howe: Beautiful and Brazen

Charlotte Howe circa. 1719

Charlotte (Maria Sophia) Howe [née Sophia Charlotte Mary von Kielmansegg] was native Hanoverian born on 23 September 1703, the eldest daughter of Sophia Charlotte von Kielmansegg, and Johann Adolf, Baron von Kielmansegg. Charlotte’s introduction to the court began at an early age since both her parent’s held high positions in the Hanoverian circles. Charlotte’s father was the deputy master of the horse for George I, who at the time was the elector of Hanover, and her mother was the acknowledged illegitimate daughter of the prominent Elector Ernst August and Clara von Meysenbug, Countess von Platen und Hallermund (Kilburn). Since Charlotte’s family held such high honors in the court, it is not surprising that the family traveled to England with the future George I after the death of Queen Anne in 1714.
Not long after arriving in England, Charlotte married Emmanuel Scrope Howe, second Viscount Howe, on 8 August 1719 making Charlotte a British citizen. The Howe family was already familiar with the Hanoverian court therefore, the match would be deemed suitable for both parties . Howe’s uncle having been a minister to Hanover from 1706 to 1709 and became personally attached to the nobility when he married the illegitimate daughter, Ruperta, of Prince Rupert of the Rhine. Rumors and past historians have speculated that Charlotte’s close connect with the Hanoverian royal family was due to the fact her mother had been a mistress of George I, making her the king’s illegitimate daughter. Nevertheless, these theories have been predominantly discredited.
With the king’s help, Charlotte and her husband obtained a comfortable living. Although Charlotte brought 5,000 pounds to the marriage in addition to a 1,500 annuity, it was the 750 pound pension (eventually raised to 1,250) from the Irish Revenues secured by the king that would supplement the couple (Kilburn). The couple had a prolific marriage that resulted in six sons and four daughters. The most notable of their offspring include the infamous American Revolution commanders Richard Howe, William Howe, and George Augustus Howe, who each played major roles in the commanding of troops in North America. Their daughter, Caroline, also played a role in politics in 1777 and 1778 by helping William and George Howe try negotiate the end of the war in America (these initial negotiations ended in failure). 
In 1732, Charlotte’s husband became the governor of Barbados and took his wife with him. Unfortunately, his term as governor ended with his death in 1735, after mostly likely succumbing to tropical disease. Upon her return to England, Charlotte’s sister-in-law Mary, dowager countess of Pembroke, suggested Charlotte be appointed a Lady of the Bedchamber for Augusta, Princess of Wales (Kilburn). Despite Mary’s constant urging, Charlotte did not receive the appointment until 1745.  
Upon her husband’s death, Charlotte took over managing the family estate. The Howe family had become supporters of the Pelham ministry but did not always agree with the decisions being made. When interests clashed with those of Thomas Pelham-Holles, the duke of Newcastle and recorder (judicial officer) of the borough, Charlotte chose to make a stand against the non-borough natives trying to exert their influence on the county. After the death her son, George Augustus, third Viscount Howe, at Ticonderoga in 1758, Newcastle wanted Richard Howe, fourth Viscount Howe, to replace his brother as the representative of Nottingham in Parliament. In exchange, Richard Howe’s seat at Dartmouth would be replaced by Whig John Plumptre. Charlotte, however, had other plans. In a newspaper advertisement printed in 1758, she announced that her son, Lieutenant-Colonel William Howe, as a candidate for the Nottingham seat. Her bold intervention became a subject for debate since women rarely spoke so candidly in politics.
A copy of Charlotte's advertisement

The Howe’s influence in Nottingham politics began to diminish around the 1758 general election that marked the rise of the Smith banking family (potentially the first bank outside on London). This does not mean that Charlotte was inactive. Most of her focus was on her position at court although she did take breaks to visit Germany, once in 1763 and another in 1770. Having been born and raised in the court atmosphere, this is where Charlotte chose to remain for much of her later years. This is where she met Horace Walpole, Lady Mary Coke, and avidly defended her sons’ decisions throughout the America Revolution. Charlotte eventually passed away on 13 June 1782 in her London home on Albermale Street. He burial took place ten days later at her home at Langar.

Annual Register (1758), pg. 73.

Collins peerage of England: genealogical, biographical and historical, ed. E. Brydges, 9 vols. (1812), vol. 8, p. 164.

R. Hatton. George I: elector and king. Yale University Press, 1978.

Kilburn, Matthew. “Howe, (Mary Sophia) Charlotte , Viscountess Howe (1703–1782).” Matthew Kilburn In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman, January 2008. (accessed May 22, 2015).

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