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Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales (1796-1817)

Giving birth in the 1800s could be very dangerous for both mother and baby. Birth was seen as a natural process that should be allowed to take its course and medical intervention was rare.

Princess Charlotte was the only legitimate daughter of King George IV (at the time Prince of Wales) and Caroline of Brunswick. She married when she was 20 and within a year she was pregnant - royal families required many children to ensure a line of succession as royal children were not immune from the effects of illness and disease. Charlotte's labour lasted over 50 hours, but the baby was stillborn and Charlotte died the next day of post-partum complications. She had been ‘bled’ several times during her pregnancy, so she would have been in a weakened state. Her obstetrician, Sir Richard Croft (1762-1818), was criticised for not intervening in the difficult labour by using forceps during delivery - their use might have saved both the princess and the baby. The speculation and criticism were more than Croft could bear and he shot himself early in 1818.

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J Schneid Lewis, ‘Charlotte Augusta, Princess (1796–1817)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: OUP, 2004)