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Great Britain's: Queen Charlotte

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  • wergifts2
    Great Britain s Mixed-Race Queen: Charlotte (wife of George the 3rd) With features as conspicuously negroid as they were reputed to be by her contemporaries,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 7, 2006
      Great Britain's Mixed-Race Queen: 
      Charlotte (wife of George the 3rd)

      With features as conspicuously negroid as they were
      reputed to be by her contemporaries, it is no wonder
      that the "black" community, both in the U.S. and
      throughout the British Commonwealth , have rallied
      around pictures of Queen Charlotte for generations.

      They have pointed out the physiological traits that so obviously
      identify the ethnic strain of the young woman who, at first
      glance, looks almost anomalous, portrayed as she usually
      is, in the sumptuous splendour of her coronation robes. 

      Queen Charlotte, wife of the English King George III (1738-1820),
      was directly descended from Margarita de Castro y Sousa,
      a black branch of the Portuguese Royal House.


      The riddle of Queen Charlotte's African ancestry was
      solved as a result of an earlier investigation into the
      black magi featured in 15th century Flemish paintings.

      Two art historians had suggested that the black magi
      must have been portraits of actual contemporary people
      (since the artist, without seeing them, would not have
      been aware of the subtleties in colouring and facial
      bone structure of quadroons or octoroons
      which these figures invariably represented)

      Enough evidence was accumulated to propose that
      the models for the black magi were, in all probability,
      members of the Portuguese de Sousa family.
      (Several de Sousas had in fact traveled to the
      Netherlands when their cousin, the Princess
      Isabella went there to marry the Grand Duke,
      Philip the Good of Burgundy in the year 1429.) 

      Six different lines can be traced from English Queen
      Charlotte back to Margarita de Castro y Sousa, in a
      gene pool which because of royal inbreeding was
      already minuscule, thus explaining the Queen's
      unmistakable "African" appearance.

      Queen Charlotte's Portrait 

      The "Negroid" characteristics of the Queen's portraits
      certainly had political significance since artists of that
      period were expected to play down, soften or even
      obliterate "undesirable" features in a subjects' face. 
      Sir Allan Ramsay was the artist responsible for the majority
      of the paintings of the Queen and his representations of
      her were the most decidedly African of all her portraits. 

      Ramsey was an anti-slavery intellectual of his day.

      He also married the niece of Lord Mansfield, the English
      judge whose 1772 decision was the first in a series of
      rulings that finally ended slavery in the British Empire.

      It should be noted too that by the time Sir Ramsay
      was commissioned to do his first portrait of the Queen,
      he was already, by marriage, uncle to Dido Elizabeth
      Lindsay, the black grand niece of Lord Mansfield. 

      Thus, from just a cursory look at the social awareness
      and political activism at that level of English society,
      it would be surprising if the Queen's negroid physiogomy
      was of no significance to the Abolitionist movement.

      Lord Mansfield's black grand niece, for
      example, Ms. Lindsay, was the subject
      of at least two formal full sized portraits.

      Obviously prompted by or meant to appeal
      to abolitionist sympathies, they depicted
      the celebrated friendship between herself
      and her white cousin, Elizabeth Murray,
      another member of the Mansfield family.

      One of the artists was none other than Zoffany,
      the court painter to the royal family, for whom
      the Queen had sat on a number of occasions. 

      It is perhaps because of this fairly obvious case of
      propagandistic portraiture that makes one suspect
      that Queen Charlotte's coronation picture, copies
      of which were sent out to the colonies, signified
      a specific stance on slavery held, at least,
      by that circle of the English intelligencia to
      which Allan Ramsay, the painter belonged.

      For the initial work into Queen Charlotte's genealogy,
      a debt of gratitude is owed the History Department of
      McGill University. It was the director of the Burney
      Project (Fanny Burney, the prolific 19th century
      British diarist, had been secretary to the Queen),
      Dr. Joyce Hemlow, who obtained from Olwen Hedly,
      the most recent biographer of the Queen Charlotte
      (1975), at least half a dozen quotes by her
      contemporaries regarding her negroid features.

      Because of its "scientific" source, the most valuable
      of Dr. Hedley's references would, probably, be the
      one published in the autobiography of the Queen's
      personal physician, Baron Stockmar, where he
      described her as having "...a true mulatto face." 

      Perhaps the most literary of these allusions to her
      African appearance, however, can be found in the
      poem penned to her on the occasion of her
      wedding to George III and the Coronation
      celebration that immediately followed. 

      Descended from the warlike Vandal race,
      She still preserves that title in her face.
      Tho' shone their triumphs o'er Numidia's plain,
      And and Alusian fields their name retain;
      They but subdued the southern world with arms,
      She conquers still with her triumphant charms,
      O! born for rule, - to whose victorious brow
      The greatest monarch of the north must bow.

      Finally, it should be noted that the Royal Household
      itself, at the time of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation,
      referred to both her Asian and African bloodlines
      in an apologia it published defending her
      position as head of the Commonwealth.

      More about Research into the Black Magi: 

      In the Flemish masterpieces depicting the
      Adoration of the Magi, the imagery of the
      black de Sousas had been utilized as
      both religious and political propaganda to
      support Portugal's expansion into Africa.

      In addition, the Flemish artists had drawn
      from a vocabulary of blackness which,
      probably due to the Reformation and the
      Enlightenment, has long since been forgotten.

      There was a wealth of positive symbolism
      that had been attributed to the black
      African figure during the Middle Ages.

      Incredible as it would seem to us today,
      such images had been used to represent
      not only Our Lady - evidence of which
      can be found in the cult of the Black
      Madonna that once proliferated in
      Europe - but in heraldic traditions, the
      Saviour and God the Father, Himself. 

      Researched and Written by Mario de Valdes
      y Cocom, an historian of the African diaspora. 

      Some of these articles in the series are
      from the
      spartacus educational web site.
      They first appeared, and are
      currently present, on the PBS Web site.
      For more articles see the
      PBS Web site.




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