The Death of Princess Charlotte of Wales
An Obstetric Tragedy

Charles R. Oberst, .D.
Spring 1984

Sir Richard Croft

Sir Richard Croft, born on the 9th of January, 1762, son of Herbert Croft, a chancery clerk and receiver at the Charter House. Sir Richard Croft did his medical pupilage with Mr. Chawner, a brother of his step-mother. He studied at St. Bartholamew Hospital (London) and afterwards became a partner with Chawner at Tutberry at Stanfordchire. He then practiced at Oxford: ultimately moving to London, where he married the elcer of the twin daughters of Dr. Richard Denman, the leading accoucheur of London.

When Croft was 28 years old (1790), he attended Georgeanna, Dutchess of Devonshire’s third confinement.

In 1792, Dr. Richard Croft was appointed physician and man-midwife at the Royal Maternity Charity (In London). At that time he produced: 1. A diploma from the University of Aberdeen dated July 27, 1792. 2. Certificates from Dr. Osburn and Denman on having attended lectures on mid-wifery. 3. From Dr. William Hunter attended his lectures anatomical and chirurgical lectures. 4. Dr. Fordyce lectured on chemistry and material medica and from the COMPANY OF SURGEONS LONDON dated the 17th of May 1791, being him a proper person to act as a surgeon.

In 1816, Richard Croft succeeded to the title of Baronetcy when his brother Sir Herbert Croft died. This was given to the Croft family by Charles II. Dr. Denman, his farther-in-law had died suddenly on the 25th of November 1815 and he inherited this large obstetrics practice. Eighteen months later after taking Dr. Denman’s practice he was asked to look after Princess Charlotte with her first pregnancy.

Croft has been described as a diffident (lack of self-confidence), and sensitive man. Despite his skill and experience, he was pedantic, and not the sort of man who would deviate from the rules of the practice by doing something unconventional and perhaps dicey. He was an overly anxious and a lonely man. Two terrible traits for an obstetrician. Sir Richard Croft was not a member of the Royal College of physicians and is not known to have contributed anything to the Medical Literature. He was however, a man of high social position and perhaps this had to do with his getting the Court appointment.

Dr. Croft was 55 years old.

In attending Princess Carlotte’s confinement, Crofts responsibility was enormous and unique. He was attending the accouchment of the dynastically, more important young woman in the world, the princess who was to be the queen of the most powerful country in the world and supreme among the nations. This baby would inherit the throne of England (and be the most important and powerful person in the world).

DR. MATTHEW BAILLIE—PHYSICIAN OF THE ORDINARY

Dr. Matthew Baillie was a sage physician and a highly respected man and this was his reason to be the consulting accocheur. That Dr. Matthew Baillie was married to the other twin daughter of Dr. Denman and hence Dr. Croft’s brother- in-law was probably inconsequential. Much Information about this fateful night comes from his letters.(2)

DR. JOHN SIMMS

Dr. John Simms was 69 years old and was Croft’s senior colleague from the Royal Maternity Charity. He was the consulting accoucheur whenever labor became prolonged.

In addition he was a distinguished botanist and Editor of THE BOTANICAL MAGAZINE. Dr. John Simms had published many important papers on Botany. There is a Mexican Genus—composite plant that is named Simsia after him. He was an original member of the Linnaean Society and established a herbarium at Kew, England.

One wonders about Simm’s ability as an obstetrician, because of his widespread interest. But a review of the Royal Maternity Charity Records where he was on staff shows that doubts about his ability were unfounded.(3)

Dr. Simms was the consultant for prolonged labors and since he was not introduced to the Princess during her pregnancy, it was awkward to explain his presence during her labor, so he stayed in the next room. His consulting advice was based on Dr. Croft’s exams.

PRINCESS CHARLOTTE
PARENTS

I am going to list the parents of Princess Charlotte. George the IV married Princess Caroline of Brunswick, sight unseen. This marriage was made by his father, King (former) George III, because of George IV’s mounting debts of over 500,000 pounds. His secret marriage to a Roman Catholic was simply annulled by invoking the ROYAL MARRIAGE ACT, which stated that he could not marry under 25 years of age without the Kings permission. This was probably one of his happier relationships. Also under the “Act of Settlement” he forfeited his right to the crown by marrying a Roman Catholic.

The Prince of Wales, at this time had been surrounded by the most cultured and wealthy people in the world, and he enjoyed for many years, the beauty and favors of the best looking women of the court and they did not come cheaply. In contrast, the Princess Caroline of Brunswick was brought up in a minor, German court where manners and morals were coarse, and although she was personally quite pretty, she was plain and badly dressed. When the Prince saw her, he demanded a brandy and it is said that after the first night in bed with her he never again slept with her. Most of that first night was spent in a drunken stupor. From that night’s encounter came Princess Charlotte. After Princess Charolette’s birth, Princess Caroline, her mother, (was banished from England at daughters age 12 because of her poorly disguised affairs because it is said she was ugly, coarse, and refused to bathe.

People remember George the IV from this nursery rhyme,--which says “Georgey porgy, pudding and pit, kissed the girls and made them cry.” George the IV was the sad and unpopular Prince of Wales, but from that single night’s encounter came Princess Charlotte.

FINALE OF GEORGE IV
House and Garden Magazine—February 1983

As he grew older he grew extraordinarily vain. Prince Regent was given to the use of wigs, false whiskers and heavy greasepaint. He weighed as much as 250 pounds.

Wags (opposing party) dubbed him the “Prince of Whales”.

PRINCESS CHARLOTTE
CHILDHOOD

Princess Charlotte was born on the 7th of January, 1796, in London, at Carlton House, the town residence of the Prince of Wales. She was the only child. Because of the ill feeling between her parents, she was cared for by a governess. Princess Charlotte was a young lady of more than ordinary personal attractions. Her features were regular and her complexion was fair. She had youthful beauty and blue expressive eyes. Her hair was abundant with a lite, golden brown color. She was taller than the ordinary woman, but finely proportioned and well-developed. Princess Charlotte created universal admiration wherever she went and there was a distinct feeling of national pride about her. She had a radiant outgoing vitality but had behavioral and unpredictable mood swings, which were felt at that time to be due to the bitter and intractable quarrel between her mother and father. She had no parental love and was totally dependent upon her governess and tutors. It is stated that she was lonely and secluded. Princess Charlotte was strange, farouche and complicated. There were no musical lullabys in her childhood----only the strident sounds of familyquarrels. She was an impulsive warm-hearted girl that demanded affection but never got it until she married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg.

She married the prince on the 2nd of May, 1816, at the Carlton House. Princess Charlotte had a year and a half of marriage with Prince Leopold, which was said to be “indescribably happy.”

THE PRENATAL COURSE OF PRINCESS CHARLOTTE
Came from the personal records of the Croft family
(not made public until 1949)

According to the accepted rules, she was carefully dieted almost to the point of starvation. Bleeding was undertaken regularly and she was purgd daily and given an aperient (mild laxative) daily. This was called a “lowering system of treatment.”

A review fo Doctor Croft’s personal records concerning the Princess’ prenatal course: that the princess was to rise at 9:00 a.m.; take breakfast before 10:00; lunch at 2 p.m. (eat a little cold meat or some fruit and bread) and at dinner to take plainly cooked and easily digested food. She is to exercise both on walking and on horseback on days that weather permitted. She should bathe daily with warm water and to have her loins washed daily with cold water. She was advised to avoid any animalistic appetites.

Princess Charlotte wrote to Dr. Croft on the 10th of August ( 7mo. Pregnant) of that year. She stated: “I am certainly much better for the bleeding.” It was reported in the court newspaper on the 22nd of October (near term) that she had some slight headaches at which time it was necessary to extract blood (toxemia). It was also noted on one occasion that they had to incise her arm four times before they could find a vein as they were quite deep and ultimately, after consultation, the back of the hand had to be used to let out blood. (Either she was gaining a lot of weight or was edematous)—The Princess became so immense it was thought she might have twins.

Mrs. Griffiths, the nurse arrived at Clarmont on the 1st of October, and about one week later Dr. Croft arrived at the Clarmont and took residence and waited for labor to begin.

The Labor

About 7 o’clock on the evening of Monday, the 3rd of November, at 42 weeks and 3 days gestation, the membranes spontaneously ruptured and labor pains soon followed. The contractions were coming every 8 to 10 minutes and were very mild. Examination of the cervix at that time revealed the tip of the cervix to be about a half penny dilated. On Tuesday morning, around 3 a.m., the 4th of November, Princess Charlotte had a violent vomiting spell and Dr. Croft thinking that delivery was eminent, sent for the officers of the state and Dr. Matthew Baillie. The Archbishop of Cantebury, the Bishop of London, The Lord Chancelor, the Home Secretary, the Secretary of war and Dr. Baillie, all arrived in their coaches and four before 8:00 a.m. But alas, the Princess was only three centimeters dilated at this time.

The lying-in chamber, or Charlotte’s bedroom, was a corner room with large windows on two sides, and it was at the back of the house. There were two doors, one opened into Prince Leopold’s room which was not occupied by Sir Richard Croft and the other into the breakfast room, where the archbishop and other ministers sat awaiting the event. This room in turn led into the big gallery and the other principal rooms. One wonders how much peace and quiet Princess Charlotte and Dr. Croft had during the some 40 hours of labor.

The pains continued. They were weak and ineffectual but still sharp enough to be distressing, occurring about 8 minute intervals with little progress in the labor. Around 11:00 a.m. that morning after 16 hours of labor the cervix the size of a crown piece (probably 4 cm.) with think margin (effacement). At this point Dr. Croft began to worry that the uterus was acting irregularly and that some assistance might be necessary to bring about delivery. Thus a consultation was desireable. It had been agreed before that Dr. John Simms would be the consulting physician. He therefore wrote a note to Dr. John Simms, but put off sending it because he felt like contractions were beginning to improve. At 6:00 p.m., Tuesday, she was noted to have just an anterior lip of cervix, and by 9:00 p.m., she was completely dilated. At this point, she had had about 26 hours of the first stage of labor.

At this point, Cr. Croft must have felt some relief for he could feel the ear for the first time; the head was noted to be low in the pelvis and Princess Charlotte was well. Nevertheless, the pains continued to be of poor quality and he sent his note to Dr. Simms summing him to immediate attendance. Dr. Simms arrived at 2:00 a.m., on the 5th of November after the second stage had been going on for 5 hours. Charlotte’s progress was discussed with Dr. Baillie and Dr. Simms and a “hands off”, watch and wait type policy was agreed upon.

Labor was advancing, but the progress was very slow. The patient was in good spirits; pulse was calm; the “instruments were in readiness;” but the use of them was never considered a question. At noon, on Wednesday, the 5th of November after the second stage of labor had gone on for 15 hours, the uterine discharge became a dark green color, which made the medical attendants fear that the child might be dead.

Between three and four p.m. after the second stage had gone on for 18 hours, the childs head began to press on the external parts, and by 9:00 p.m., was born by the action of Charlotte’s pains only.

The child, a 9 lb. Boy was dead and had evidently been dead for some hours. The umbilical cord was very small and was of a dark green or black color. Attempts were made by Drs. Simms And Baillie for a good while to reanimate the child by inflating the lungs, use of friction, hot bathes, and other methods, but with effect. The heart could not be made to beat not even once. This written by Dr. John Simms many years later.

About ten minutes after the delivery, Sir Richard Croft discovered that the uterus was contracted in the middle in an hourglass form. The consultants agreed that nothing should be done unless hemorrhage should start. Approximately 20 minutes later, the princess began to hemorrhage. The uterus had contracted down so as to only admit the tips of three fingers, but with some pressure he was able to pass his hand with tolerable ease and peeled off the remaining two-thirds of the adhering placenta without difficulty and before much blood appeared to be lost. (Excellent move.)

At this, Charlotte complained of this being the hardest part of the whole labor. Croft grasped the placenta; brought it down into the vagina and left it there. The Princess complained of pain in the vagina because of the placenta being left there, stating it was giving her great inconvenience and that it was protruding considerably. Thus the doctor removed the placenta from the vagina and this was followed by a moderate discharge of fluid and coagulum. At this time as well as he could feel from the abdominal wall, the uterus appeared to be moderately well contracted.

Princess Charlotte appeared quite amazingly well as women commonly do after so tedious and exhausting a labor and much better than they often do under other such circumstances. For the next 2 hours Croft felt no apprehension. The patient took plenty of nourishment, made only a few complaints and had a pulse less than 100. It was felt by Dr. Simms (in his letters) that the patient had lost less blood than usual at this point. About 11:45 a.m., Charlotte became nauseated and complained of a singing noise in her head. She was treated with a camphor mixture. Shortly afterwards she vomited. She took a cup of tea and went to sleep for about a half an hour. At that point she became more irritable and more restless and began to talk somewhat incoherently. She was given at that point 20 drops of laudenum in wine and water. About 12:45 am. on the 6th of November she complained of great uneasiness in her chest and great difficulty in breathing. Her pulse became rapid, deep and irregular, and she extremely restless and was not able to remain still for a single moment. Attempts were made to give her cordials, nourishment, and anti-spasmotic and opiates. Dr. Matthew Baillie requested that Dr. Barren Stockmore (personal physician of Prince Leopold) see the patient towards the end of her illness. He was reluctant but at last went with him. Dr. Stockmore describes in his “Memoirs” that the princess was “suffering from spasms in the chest and had difficulty in breathing and was in great pain and very restless.” She threw herself continuously from one side of the bed to the other, speaking out to Baillie and Croft. Baillie said to her, “here comes an old friend of yours.” She held out her left hand to me hastily and pressed mine warmly, twice. I felt her pulse, it was going very fast, the beats now strong, now few, now intermittent.” She commented to him, “They (meaning the doctors) had made me quite tipsy.” Near the end, Dr. Stockmore noted that the death rattle continued. The pretty Princess turned several times upon her face, threw up her legs, they the hands grew cold and she died.

An autopsy was done by the King’s physician which revealed the princess to be sound in all organs. She had approximately 2 ounces of fluid in the pericardium, and 3 pints of liquid in her stomach, probably from all the cordials, and a uterus that contained somewhere between 12 ounces & 24 ounces (360 ccs)--& 24 ounces (850 ccs- there is a discrepancy among those attending the autopsy) uterus was extended to her navel. It is stated that cause of death of the ROYAL HIGHNESS was somewhat obscure. The symptoms were of such as to attend the death from hemorrhage, but the loss of blood did not seem to be sufficient to account this fatal issue. (We were not able to interpret the significance of the effusion into the pericardium.)

Dr. Baillie states in his letters that despite the pint of blood being found in the uterus that she probably could not have lost more than 12 ounces (360ccs) above the usual quantity.

An autopsy was also done on the baby “The child was well formed and weighed 9 lbs. Every part of its internal structure was quite sound". A famous statue by Matthew Wyatt stands today in the St. George’s Chapel of Winsdor Castle, depicting the Princess Charlotte and her dead son ascending together into heaven.

These dual deaths were a great national tragedy, and there was universal mourning. George III had 15 children, but Charlotte was his only legitimate grandchild. The poet, Lord Byron, reflected the prevailing feeling, when he inserted these words into the Fourth Canto of Childe Harold
“…..in the dust The Fair haired daughter of the Isle is laid The love of millions, how we did entrust Futurity to her.”
With these lines Lord Byron summarized the double theme. How the people loved her, and how their hope for the succession was destroyed.

The day after the death of the Princess, Sir Richard Croft wrote to Baron Stockmore, personal physician of Prince Leopold. “My mind is in a pitiable state.” God grant that you yourself, or anyone dear to you should ever have to suffer what I experienced at this moment.”

After the death of the princess, a public inquiry was done because of a rumor from the nurse midwife that all three physicians were asleep when the baby was born. However, a letter by Dr. John Simms who was present stated that Dr. Baillie retired at 11:00 p.m. and I layed down in my clothes at 12:00, but “Dr. Croft never left her room.” A path is still shown at the Claremont house where Sir Richard Croft had walked up and down in agnony not knowing what to do for the best, and the statement that he went to bed is a liable. By order of the King, a postpartum examination was made by Sir Everard Home and Sir David Dundas, “reported to the King that there was no evidence of neglect, “but that everything had been done which “human science could devise or human skill could effect.”

For a few months Croft continued miserably with his work. Then on the 18th of Februrary, 1818 (about 3 months later), he was attending the labor of the wife of the Royal Chaplin on Wimpole street and retired at 11:00 pm to rest. About 2:00 am the chaplain heard a noise like the falling of a chair. When the wife’s labor became active at 3:00 am, the chaplin went to awake Dr. Croft. He was in bed with a pistol in each hand the the muzzles at the side of his head.

By contemporary account, “he was quite dead.” The obstetrician, roundly criticized and depressed, had taken his own life.

His father-in-law Dr. Thomas Denman, was buried at St. James Church Picadilly. There is a simple marble tablet to his memory, beneath it there is a similar one for his unfortunate son-in-law, Sir Richard Croft.

Prince Leopold of Belgium was the only survivor of the tragedy. Because he was foreign born, he could not be in line for the throne of England. He returned to native country, remarried later in life and died in 1965.

Pachel Burch – Victoria’s and Albert – by David Duff.
Berkley Publishing Corp.
1972, 1973

Christian: Fredrich Von Stockman + “Stocky” 24 year old Doctor and the Prince’s physician
He was a Colburg man and his father a lawyer. He ran a military hospital from 1812 – 1815 at Coburg – Pioneering in fresh air and cleanliness. His appointment as personal physician to the prince – was criticized by the British Medical Community because Stockman was a foreigner. Refused to be involved with Princess Charlotte childbirth – would get no credit if results were favorable. Would get all the blame if results were not favorable. The dislike foreigners xenophobic.

Stockman He ignored: 1) his affection for the princess 2) the warm reception England gave him. 3) His debt to the Prince; but obeyed his political instincts and avoided any medical involvement with the princess till it was too late. He was perhaps the cleverish and most “ahead of his time “ doctor available that fateful night.

Miscellaneous

When George the IV died on the 26th of June, 1830, his brother William the IV assumed the throne. William the IV had two older brothers and then it was unlikely that the succession to the throne would ever come to him. Consequently, he spent his life on the sea. He was known as, “Sailor Billy”. He became King at the age of 64. Although, he did not have “great intellect”, he did have courage and common sense. Politically, he was somewhat naďve and developed another nickname of “Silly Billy”. He did not like the sumtumonous Duchess of Kent or her mentor, Sir John Conroy. This animosity gave him the willpower to live until his niece, Victoria, should turn 18 years of age and this was the age of rule. This gave him the satisfaction knowing that her mother would not rule as Regent. On the 20th of June, 1837, “Sailor Billy” died at the age of 73, just one month after Victoria’s 18th birthday.

George IV, nicknamed, “Prinny”, was gifted, full of style and wit as a young man, but was fat and voluptuary as an old King. He was reknown for his immorality as his father had been for rectitude. George IV was a costly show-off, but an intelligent patron of the arts, collector of pictures second only to Charles I. His 17th century Dutch and Flemish masterpieces alone are priceless. His Regency reign was outstanding for their fashions, furniture, and architecture. He developed Windsor Castle as we know it today.

Prince Regent was the last of the medieval Kings of England when he died in 1830. If his impact on British history as King George IV’s was negligible, then his sovereignty in all manners of taste as Prince Regent was supreme.

Although his reign was technically a part of the Georgian period, it was his princely title that provided the name for the luxurious style that we now call“The Regency.”

The future George IV was born in 1762, but as Prince of Wales, he was kept out of any meaningful rule in the affair of state until his father, George III, was declared incurably insane in 1811. The Prince of Wales was therefore proclaimed, Prince Regent, at the age of 48. And at last, on his father’s death bed nine years later, he became the King.

Prince Regent had many vices, sex was not cheap among them: he had a most urxorious attraction the men’s middle-aged wives, much like that of his descendant, Edward VIII, who gave up the throne to marry one.

It was money that proved to be Prince Regent’s greatest weakness and for the most of his life, he had an enormous burden of debt that even several remunitive acts of Parliament could only temporarily diminish. But unlike most of the rakes of the day, his money was not squandered on women and gambling, but upon the purchase of rare, rich and beautiful things to which he was addicted.

The Prince Regent was not a man who believed in simplicity as being the highest form of refinement, but he liked his possessions to be opulent and ostentatious. The Prince Regent’s style was calculated to display wealth and image.

In London, he had everything from a tempory Chinese pagoda in the St. James Park at Kew and to the ambitious development of the city scheme that included Regent Street and Regent’s Park even to the extensive remodeling of Buckingham Palace as we know it today.

As the Prince Regent grew older, he was extraordinared, he was even more extraordinarily vain. He used wigs, false whiskers, heavy grease paint, and weighed as much as 250 pounds. The opposition political party referred to him as the “Prince of Whales”. He was obviously fond of good food and the great French chefs worked for him.

When he was declared Prince Regent, that is the ruling figure in England, he threw a party that cost at that time 120,000 pounds, or the equivalent of $4 million in today’s money for one night’s entertainment of 2,000 guests. As he grew older, becoming self conscious of his bloated appearance and becoming increasingly infirm, he became a virtual recluse at the Windson Castle where he died at the age of 67, unmourned by his people.