COLLECTION OF LETTERS OF PRINCESS MARY
MARY, Princess, duchess of Gloucester (1776–1857), an archive of 18 autograph letters signed to Charlotte Sophia Selwyn née Murray (1785-1866), mainly concerning members of the Royal Family (especially the King and Queen) and friends, plus one letter (item 18) to Charlotte’s mother. Some of the letters have pencil annotations made by Mary Selwyn (Princess Mary’s god-daughter). The collection comprises the following (the years given are estimations based on watermarks and/or internal evidence) from which just a few extracts are given from the extensive (and quite hard to read) texts:
1. July 14 [1810-1812?], 4 sides, 4to, regarding Charlotte’s sister Louisa and Sir L.H. who Louisa had met while staying at Mr Grant’s and is quoted as saying “my saying I don’t dislike him is very different from making him to be my Husband ……. but he certainly is very agreeable, however I don’t like to have him pushed down my throat”. She continues on the subject of Louisa and Sir L.H, wondering whether it would be appropriate for her to attend the Blandford Ball in his presence.
2. February 7 [wm 1810] 4 sides (signature cut out), 4to, regarding a present: “I have received the Queen’s commands to send you the inclosed little dab [handkerchief] which she hopes you will like. The little Butterfly put me in mind of some of Mr Selwyn's beautiful Drawings….”, with concerns regarding the Queen’s health “Sir Henry Halford & Sir J Pulman attend her they assure us she is in no danger, but that she requires great care and quiet”, and with news of other relations.
3. July 14 , 4 sides (signature cut out), 4to, thanking Charlotte for her letter, expressing her pleasure that “to know you happy is one of my greatest comforts, for believe me whatever may be my own lot, the happiness of others is my principle concern…… I think you both very fortunate in obtaining one another, & rejoice that how such amiable creatures should have come together”, and regarding a conversation she has had with Charlotte’s daughter Louise.
4. March 20  4 sides, 4to, apologising for not replying sooner, but explaining she has “put it off till I could send you the little Mantle I have had so much pleasure in making for your dear little Baby [in pencil: Myself] ….. This box will contain a Piece of Muslin for a Gown for you and enough lace to trim it as a lace cape all of which comes from the Queen a little Christening frock & cape from the D of Cambridge & the mantle from your humble servant”. She makes an offer that “if I can ever be of any use in Mr Selwyn’s promotion to a Stall – I shall be delighted as well as the D of Cambridge” and reports on the health of the King and Queen, and her worries about others, including Lady Chesterfield.
5. February 22  4 sides, 4to, thanking Charlotte for her enquiries after the Queen “who I am happy to say has in no way suffered from the melancholy ….. of her Brothers death – She was in some degree prepared for it as the last accounts said he was very ill”, and reporting on other members of the family and enquiring after Charlotte’s family. A pencil note records: “from my Godmother Prs Mary afterwards Dhs of Gloucester - in 1813 - I have my "Baby Mantle" still ! M. Selwyn 1880”.
6. August 18  4 sides, 4to, thanking Charlotte for her letter, commenting upon her baby daughter, and upon affairs at court: “To our great joy Charlotte [Princess Charlotte Augusta 1796-1817] was persuaded to make her appearance on the 16 which she refused to do on the 12 ….. She looks very ill & out of spirits but as it is highly necessary to get her into society ……the Prince [Regent] could not agree ……until she … appeared properly at one of the Queen’s parties” …... “we are all really unhappy at the strange marriage the D of Cumberland is really going to make with the P. Solms [Princess Friederike Caroline Sophia Alexandrina of Solms-Braunfels] I fear it will take place immediately. The Q is quite miserable about it…..” [from 1818 to 1828 the Cumberlands lived in voluntary exile, mostly in Berlin].
7. Windsor, October 11,  4 sides, 8vo, regarding the forthcoming marriage of Charlotte’s sister Louisa [30 November 1815 to Sir Robert Frankland Russell] – “In this parcel you will find two gowns for yourself which I flatter myself may be useful ….if you are at Louisa’s marriage…….. assure her I wish her every blessing & happiness this world can afford & from all I hear of Mr Frankland she has made a very good choice…”, and asking after Charlotte’s family “I quite long to see your two little girls ….. I hope you intend to make them a present of a Brother when next you are confined as two girls are quite enough”, and reporting on the health of the King and Queen.
8. No date, [pre 1818] 4 sides (end of letter missing), 8vo, replying to Charlotte’s letter despite her illness, regarding their loss in the Bank at Gloucester “I have seen my Sister Augusta who shall in our joint names write immediately to Lord Liverpool & try & see what can be done for Mr Selwyn in the royal -- exchange & we shall be most happy if we are fortunate enough in obtaining what is so necessary for your comfort”.
9. Kew, August 7 [1818?], 4 sides, 4to, thanking Charlotte for her letter asking after the Queen “I am happy to assure you is all the better for change of air ….. Lady George told the Queen concerning Louisa … the Q to inform us of her having at last decided for herself ---?---- us not to name it as they had --?---- received her --?--- from Scotland”. She reports that the Duke of York has fractured his arm “coming out of the shower ….. his foot slipped & down he came. Thank God he has had a good night ….. & suffered very little pain” and on her having seen Sir Henry & Lady Neal.
10. Windsor, December 9,  4 sides, 8vo, on mourning paper, regarding the death of her mother the Queen “thank God Augusta & me have been most mercifully supported……. the last 12 hours we have every reason to believe she did not suffer at all …… consolation that was to us as her sufferings during the whole of the long illness was dreadful to witness ……. Her last act was that of kindness to her Daughters as she only signed her will on Monday the day before she died (though the will had been written some months before) & I think we are all as grateful as we ought to be ……. as to myself I can only say that no child ever loved a mother more tenderly”. [Queen Charlotte died at Kew Palace on 17 November 1818, and was buried in St George's Chapel, Windsor, on 2 December].
11. January? 7 [c 1819?], 4 sides (with repairs), 8vo, expressing great pleasure in the receipt of her letter and news of Mr Selwyn, and with news of Eloise, Charlotte and others.
12. October 7 , 3 sides, 8vo, reporting “I am desired by Augusta to say she is prevented seeing you today as well as all of us”, and making alternative arrangements. “I send you the …?.... for the Christening from the Duke of Cambridge ….. & myself – I likewise inclose fifty pounds from myself…”.
13. Windsor Castle, July 12 [1819?], 8 sides, 4to, thanking Charlotte for her letter, hoping she likes her house and is happy, and reporting upon the King’s illness “The state of things of course since this fit leaves the King in a more precarious situation for it is to be suffered a Paroxysm when ever it comes on will be attended with are other fits which if it does not destroy the K the next time must in the long run – And as this last attack came on with so much rapidity it adds much to our anxiety”. With extensive further news about friends and family.
14. February 26 (on mourning paper) , 4 sides, 8vo, thanking Charlotte for her letter, reporting how all are being supported in their suffering, and asking after her own health and that of the family. [George III had died on 29 January 1820].
15. Bagshot Park, September 13 [wm 1821] 3 sides, 4to, thanking Charlotte for her letter, and giving news about Augusta and the Duke of Cambridge and his family, and asking after Mr Selwyn and the children.
16. January? 22, no year  3 sides, 4to, sympathising regarding the news that Charlotte’s eldest son has had an accident (a pencil note reads: Frederick who broke his leg at 12 yrs old) and responding to a request “I would apply for what you are so anxious about but in the first place this Government has from much too short a time in power for one to mature to apply for any friend of mine”.
17. White Lodge, Richmond Park, September 16,  6 sides (crest (?) cut out from 2 leaves), 8vo, expressing pleasure at having heard from her, saying she has given the card she enclosed to Col.Liddell; commenting on family matters and her health; and concluding on the subject of hostilities [in the Crimea] “…..all been engaged in this attack & after so much illness it makes me tremble for them all but I put my trust in God who knows best what is for our future….” Mentioning “our dear George”who “was able to go with Lord Raglan”.
18. No date, [pre 1812] 1 side, 4to, incomplete (with signature), thanking her for her stay and the happy times she has spent there. Overleaf in another hand: “written by Princess Mary (afterwards Duchess of Gloucester) on leaving Weymouth where we had passed three months together” and with a further note in pencil “My Godmother afterwards, to my dear Mother, then Charlotte Murray”.
Princess Mary, duchess of Gloucester was born on 25 April 1776, the 15th child of George III (1766-1857) and Queen Charlotte (1744-1818). The king was highly emotionally attached to his daughters and was reluctant for them to marry, a situation which worsened following his illness when it became even more difficult for them to broach the question of marriage with either the King or Queen. Mary resented the imposed household restrictions like the rest of her sisters, and finally married her cousin Prince William Frederick, second duke of Gloucester on 22 July 1816. Their married life at Bagshot Park was not an entirely happy one, and the marriage was childless. (ODNB)
Her correspondent Charlotte Sophia Murray (1785-1866) was the daughter of Lord George Murray (1761-1803), Bishop of St Davids, and Ann Charlotte Grant (d 1844) who was lady in waiting to Queen Charlotte (Lady George in the letters). Charlotte’s siblings were John (b 1782), George (b 1784), Caroline (1788-1819) and Louisa (1790-1871), and Edward (1798-1852).Charlotte married the Rev. Townshend Selwyn (1782-1853), Canon of Gloucester on 16 June 1812. They had at least ten children, of whom the elder were Mary Elizabeth Adolphine (1813-1881), Charles George (b 1816, died in infancy), Frederick Leopold Augustus (1817-1881), Jasper Henry (1819-1901) and George Sydney (b 1821). Princess Mary was the godmother of Mary Elizabeth Adolphine, and it is Mary’s pencil notes that are found in many of the letters.
An interesting group of letters with much potential for further research.