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Correspondence of Princess Elizabeth

Princess Elizabeth by William Beechey, 1797. RCIN 403412 ©

The papers of Princess Elizabeth, Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg, is a modest collection comprising principally correspondence to, from and regarding the Princess. The majority of these letters were sent by Princess Elizabeth to her eldest brother, George IV, detailing family affairs, including the declining health of their youngest sister Princess Amelia (GEO/ADD/11/144) and the deaths of George III and Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, in January 1820 (GEO/ADD/11/324-325). The collection also features a series of letters sent from Princess Elizabeth to George Villiers, a politician and favoured courtier of George III, and his wife Teresa, of whom more can be discovered in the correspondence of Princess Sophia, Princess Elizabeth’s sister.

Letter from Princess Elizabeth to her brother, George, Prince of Wales, 1795. RA GEO/ADD/11/25 Royal Archives /© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020

Princess Elizabeth was born at Buckingham House on 22 May 1770 to become the seventh child and third daughter of George III and Queen Charlotte. Christened at St James's Palace on 17 June 1770, she went on to have a notoriously sheltered upbringing alongside her sisters. Although Princess Elizabeth and her sisters longed for marriage she was compelled to decline a proposal from Louis Philippe, Duke of Orléans,  in 1808, due to her mother's disapproval and the fact that he was a Catholic. It would be ten more years before her long-held desire for marriage was fulfilled on 7 April 1818, when she wed Frederick, Hereditary Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg (1769-1829), at Buckingham House, and she could finally leave the oppressive environment of her familial home and gain more freedom. In January 1820, after the death of his father, Frederick became the Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg, with Elizabeth inheriting the title of Landgravine. Correspondence from Princess Elizabeth (written in French) to her husband between the years 1820 to 1821 can be found within the collection of the House of Hesse-Homburg. The couple lived in the Palace at Homburg and remained married, in a supposedly happy union, until Frederick's death in 1829, but, marrying later in life, their union was without issue. Elizabeth died on 10 January 1840 at Frankfurt am Main, Hesse, and was interred in the Landgraves' of Homburg Mausoleum on the 17 January the same year.

Princess Elizabeth was a charitable woman, founding a school in Hanover, and, in common with her father, possessed an interest in farming -she had her own model farm in Old Windsor. She was also a talented artist, producing a book of her own engravings (RCIN 1047678). This collection also features her Commonplace book filled with verse and copies of letters providing a fascinating glimpse into the type of material Princess Elizabeth felt worthy of preserving.