Queen Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen was the wife of King William IV of the United Kingdom and Hanover from 1830 to 1837.
Her life was marked by tragedy and political turmoil, but she left a lasting legacy both in her namesake city of Adelaide, Australia and in the many places around the world that bear her name. In this article, we will explore the life and legacy of Queen Adelaide, from her early years in Germany to her reign as queen consort of the United Kingdom.
Adelaide was born on August 13, 1792, in Meiningen, Thuringia, Germany. She was the daughter of Georg I, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, and Luise Eleonore of Hohenlohe-Langenburg.
Baptised at the castle chapel on August 19, she was titled Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, Duchess in Saxony with the style Serene Highness.
Her godparents included her mother, the Holy Roman Empress, the Queen of Naples and Sicily, and the Crown Princess of Saxony.
Adelaide grew up in a small state that was more liberal than its neighbours, with a free press and criticism of the ruler.
At the time, there was no law that barred a female from ruling over the small duchy, and it was not until the birth of her brother, Bernhard, in 1800 that the law of primogeniture was introduced.
Marriage and Family
In 1818, Adelaide married Prince William, Duke of Clarence and St Andrews, the third son of King George III.
William was not heir-presumptive to the throne at the time but became so when his brother Frederick, Duke of York, died childless in 1827.
Given the small likelihood of his older brothers producing heirs and William’s relative youth and good health, it had long been considered extremely likely that he would become king in due course.
Adelaide and William were devoted to each other throughout their marriage, despite their unromantic circumstances. Adelaide became pregnant several times but suffered from complications during her pregnancies, including pleurisy and miscarriage. She and William had no surviving children.
Reign as Queen Consort
In 1830, on the death of his elder brother, George IV, William acceded to the throne and Adelaide became queen consort. William and Adelaide were crowned on September 8, 1831, at Westminster Abbey.
Adelaide was beloved by the British people for her piety, modesty, charity, and her tragic childbirth history. She refused to have women of questionable virtue attend her Court, and a large portion of her household income was given to several charitable causes.
Queen Adelaide left a lasting legacy in the many places around the world that bear her name. Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia, is named after her.
There are Adelaide Streets, Adelaide Avenues, and Adelaide Roads throughout the former empire. Australia has two Adelaide Rivers, in the Northern Territory and Tasmania, and an Adelaide Reef in Queensland.
In honour of the Queen’s many visits, several places in Leicestershire were named after her, including Queen Street in Measham and the Queen Adelaide Inn (now demolished) in Appleby Magna.
There is also the Queen Adelaide Oak in Bradgate Park, under which Queen Adelaide had picnicked on venison and crayfish from the estate.
Queen Adelaide’s name is also remembered in the Queen Adelaide Club for women, which is still active, and a bronze statue of Queen Adelaide stands in the foyer of the Town Hall in Adelaide.
Queen Adelaide may not be as well-known as other historical figures, but her impact is still felt today.
In addition to being the queen consort of King William IV, she also lent her name to the city of Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. But her legacy extends far beyond that.
As a patron of numerous charities, Adelaide was beloved by the British people for her piety, modesty, and charitable work.
She used a large portion of her household income to support charitable causes and refused to have women of questionable virtue attend her Court. She was also known for her tragic history of childbirth, having lost two daughters and a stillborn set of twin boys.
Despite these hardships, Adelaide remained devoted to her husband and attempted to influence him politically, though it is unclear how much of his attitudes during the passage of the Reform Act of 1832 were due to her influence.
Adelaide’s impact can still be seen in various places throughout the former British Empire. There are numerous streets, avenues, and roads named after her, as well as a hospital in Dublin and a railway station in Belfast.
In Australia, there are two Adelaide Rivers, an Adelaide Reef, and a town named Adelaide in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Her name even extends beyond Earth, as there is an asteroid named in her honour.
Despite being relatively unknown in comparison to other historical figures, Queen Adelaide’s legacy lives on.
Her contributions to charity and her impact on the places named after her are just a few examples of her lasting influence.
*Feature Image: William Beechey, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons