Object of the Month – December 2023

Costume and Textiles Collections at Saffron Walden Museum

Museum staff and volunteers are currently auditing this section of the museum’s collections, having moved them to our external store on the Shire Hill Industrial estate last year, to provide better storage conditions for them.

Volunteer Sarah Copping chose these shoes as a fascinating example from this collection:

These white satin slippers decorated with silver braid and sequins, lined with white kid leather, are said to have been worn by Princess Charlotte (1796-1817), daughter of George IV in the early 1800s. They have a handwritten inscription on the sole of one of the shoes, which tells her story:

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales was the only child of George, Prince of Wales (later George IV), and his wife, Caroline of Brunswick. Her parents disliked each other instantly and soon separated. Charlotte was largely cared for by governesses and servants and only allowed limited contact with her mother, who eventually left the country.

Her father pressured her to marry William, Hereditary Prince of Orange (later King of the Netherlands), she initially agreed, but the engagement was later called off. She went on to marry Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (later King of the Belgians). Charlotte had been expected to ascend the British throne after the deaths of her mentally ill grandfather, George III, and her unpopular father (George IV), but she died in childbirth at the age of 21, predeceasing them both, temporarily causing a succession crisis.

The Princess was buried, her son at her feet, in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, on 19 November 1817. A monument by the sculptor Matthew Cotes Wyatt was erected, by public subscription, at her tomb. The context of Charlotte’s death significantly changed obstetric practice, saving the lives of many babies and their mothers.

For more about December’s object of the month, come and visit the museum in December to see it in person

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