ADELAIDE, Queen Dowager (1792–1849). Amelia Adelaide Louisa Theresa Caroline, eldest child of George, duke of Saxe-Coburg Meiningen, and of Louisa, daughter of Christian Albert, prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, was born 13 Aug. 1792. Brought up by a widowed mother (her father died 1803), her reputation for amiability determined Queen Charlotte to select her as a wife for William Henry, duke of Clarence, whose marriage, with that of his three brothers, took place when the death of the Princess Charlotte made it desirable to provide heirs for the crown. A temporary difficulty, caused by the refusal of parliament to raise the duke's allowance of 18,000l. a year by more than 6,000l. instead of the 10,000l. demanded, was got over, and the princess and her mother arrived in London for the marriage, 4 July 1818. It took place at Kew, simultaneously with that of the Duke of Kent, on 18 July, and proved a happy one, despite the disparity in years (the bride was in her twenty-sixth, the bridegroom in his fifty-third year) and the absence of any preliminary courtship.
The Duke and Duchess of Clarence passed the first year of their marriage in Hanover, where, in 1819, a daughter was born to them, to live only a few hours. Their second child, the Princess Elizabeth Georgina Adelaide, born 10 Dec. 1820, died in the following year. Their principal English residence was Bushey Park, where they lived in comparative retirement until the accession of William to the throne on the death of George IV, 26 June 1830. By a bill passed in the following November, the queen was nominated as regent, in case a child of hers should survive the king, and provision was made for her widowhood by a settlement of 100,000l. a year, with Marlborough House and Bushey Park, of which she was immediately constituted perpetual ranger. The royal coronation took place on 8 Sept. 1831.
Her supposed interference in politics rendered the queen very unpopular during and after the reform agitation, and her carriage was once assailed in the streets by an angry mob, who were only beaten off by the canes of her footmen. On the dismissal of the whig (Lord Melbourne's) ministry in 1832, the words of the ‘Times,’ ‘The queen has done it all,’ were placarded over London. The dismissal of her chamberlain, Lord Howe, for a vote adverse to the ministry, caused her much annoyance, and she refused to accept any one in his place, which he continued to fill unofficially.
In the spring of 1837, Queen Adelaide was summoned to Germany to her mother's deathbed, and had not long returned, when the commencement of the king's last illness entailed a long and arduous attendance. He died in her arms on 20 June, and was buried at Windsor on 8 July, the queen, contrary to precedent, assisting at the funeral service. Her health was shattered by the fatigues she had undergone, and her subsequent life was that of an invalid seeking relief by change of climate. She spent a winter in Malta (1838–39), where the church of Valetta, erected by her at a cost of 10,000l., remains a permanent memorial of her stay, visited Madeira in 1847, and died from the rupture of a blood-vessel in the chest at Bentley Priory, near Stanmore, 2 Dec. 1849. Her written requests that she should be buried simply, and her remains borne to the grave by sailors, were complied with at her interment at Windsor on 13 Dec.
She had long lived down her unpopularity, and won universal esteem by her blameless life and royal munificence in charity. She subscribed about 20,000l. yearly to public institutions, and her private donations were equally liberal. Her domestic life was overshadowed by the loss of her children, a blow no less to ambition than to affection.
[Doran's Memoir of Queen Adelaide, London, 1861; Maley's Historical Recollections of the Reign of William IV., London, 1860; Molesworth's History of England from 1830 to 1874, London, 1874; Greville Memoirs, ed. by H. Reeve, 4th ed., London, 1875.]