Fremantle Stuff > People > Queen Adelaide
PERTH NAMES. Adelaide of Adelaide-terrace. By Cygnet.
ADELAIDE of Adelaide-terrace was Queen Adelaide, wife of King William the Fourth who ascended the throne of England on June 26, 1830, about the time that the first streets of Perth were being surveyed and plotted on the map. She was born in 1792, the eldest child of the Duke of Saxe Coburg Meiningen, and was christened Amelia Adelaide Louisa Theresa Caroline.
Until the age of 26 the life of the Princess Adelaide was fairly uneventful, but then occurred an event which was to change the face of Europe and the world. This was the death in childbirth of the Princess Charlotte, only daughter of the Prince Regent, and heir to the English throne. At once the succession devolved on his brother, the Duke of York, and after him, since he was unmarried, on the Duke of Clarence. This duke was also unmarried (although he had nearly a dozen illegitimate children by the actress Dorothy Jordan with whom he had lived openly for more than 20 years), and his mother Queen Charlotte, the wife of George the Third, at once set about looking for a bride for him. Her choice fell on Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Coburg Meiningen.
The choice would have frightened most young women, but not Princess Adelaide. She was described by all who knew her at the time as amiable, and amiable she must have been to agree to marry the Duke of Clarence. She was 26, he 53; his liaison with Dorothy Jordan was common knowledge, and although he had sent her out of England he still kept their brood of illegitimate children about him and, indeed, regarded them with the greatest affection; and in addition he was, to put it mildly, as mad as a hatter. To complete the incongruity of it all there was no courtship, the Princess crossing over to England at once and marrying him at Kew on the same day that the Duke of Kent was married to Queen Victoria's mother.
FOR 20 years this oddly-assorted couple lived together as man and wife in perfect harmony. In effect she stepped directly Into the shoes of Dorothy Jordan both in William's heart and at his home at Bushey Park where his actress-mistress had been the chatelaine for the previous 20 years. And in addition she practically mothered his illegitimate family, the members of which continued to live with their father and the Princess Adelaide as if no change had taken place in the household!
In quietude and simplicity William and Adelaide continued to live at Bushey Park for a dozen years when, first the death of the Duke of York, and then of the king, George the Fourth, placed them on the throne on June 26, 1830. The change in their circumstances is set down by Greville, Clerk to the Privy Council, in his diary on July 16, 1830, three weeks after their accession. "Never was elevation like that of King William IV. His life has been hitherto passed in obscurity and neglect, in miserable poverty, surrounded by a numerous progeny, without consideration or friends, and he was ridiculous from his grotesque ways and little meddling curiosity. Nobody ever invited him into their house, or thought it necessary to honour him with any mark of attention or respect; and so he went on for above 40 years." Yet, despite this, and certainly due in some measure to Queen Adelaide's restraining influence, William the Fourth made a tolerable king.
AS Queen, however, Adelaide was not to know much happiness on her own part; for from the beginning she was accused of meddling in state affairs and in particular of biassing the king against the common people. That there was not an atom of truth in all this made no difference. Politics were fought with the gloves off in those days and with very dirty hands. The refusal of the king to grant assent to some proposal of the government on one occasion caused "The Times" to come out with the headlines: "The Queen has done it all!", and the streets of London were placarded with the same caption. Returning to the palace from a drive on one occasion Queen Adelaide was set on by the mob who stoned her carriage and engaged in a hand-to-hand fight with her escort.
This kind of conduct, however, was not restricted to the mob. She was assailed more scandalously by those who surrounded her at Court, though not in so open a manner; for the lords and the ladies actually spread the calumny that she was enceinte to her Chamberlain, Lord Howe! The scandal became such a first rate joke to these "gentlefolk" that Lord Alvanley was moved to suggest to Greville that the psalm "Lord, how(e) wonderful are Thy Works!" be sung at the Sunday service. This was in 1835, and the beastly business was revived again when King William died so that Greville was sent for, in his capacity as Clerk of the Privy Council, to inform the Cabinet what was to be done after the accession of Victoria in the event of Queen Adelaide being delivered of a child!
ADELAIDE was devoted to King William to the very last, for he died in her arms; and she broke all precedent by being present at his funeral. After that she retired into private life and, with the fickleness which distinguishes all mobs, she became the idol of the English people who could not lavish sufficient praise on her and her good works. In the performance of the latter she set a good example for she set aside £20,000 per annum for distribution in charity. Her health was sadly impaired and much of her remaining life was spent on the Continent and travelling. She went to Malta, where a church costing £10,000 was erected by her; and she wintered in Madeira. She died in December, 1849, and her attachment to her "Sailor King" was again revealed when her last dying request was made. It was that she be borne to the grave by a party of sailors, which was done.
Of good looks she does not seem to have possessed any. Greville calls her "Her spotted Majesty" on one occasion. To her grief her two daughters died shortly after birth, thus paving the way for her niece, Victoria, to come to the throne.
Adelaide Street Fremantle was also named for her.
Cygnet [Cyril Bryan], 'Adelaide of Adelaide-terrace', West Australian 27 August 1938: 4.
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