‘My dearest dear Lady Cha…’
As governess to the many children of George III and Queen Charlotte, Lady Charlotte was a long-serving member of the royal household and considered a personal friend by many of the royal family. Even after her retirement on the grounds of ill-health in January 1793, the royal family maintained contact with both ‘Lady Cha’ and her daughter’s family, the Feildings. These feelings of mutual respect and admiration can be clearly seen in the documents preserved in the Royal Archives.
The papers of Lady Charlotte Finch comprise two distinct collections in the Royal Archives: letters to Lady Charlotte from members of the Georgian royal family dating 1771 to 1818, the majority of which were acquired at auction in 1975; and papers that appear to have been collected by Lady Charlotte and her descendants. The latter include the warrant appointing Lady Charlotte as ‘governess in ordinary’ to George, Prince of Wales the day after his birth on 12 August 1762; a letter from George III on the eve of the birth of Prince William in 1765; and birthday wishes from Queen Charlotte, among many others.
Most poignant is a letter from Queen Charlotte presenting a lock of Prince Alfred’s hair and a locket as an acknowledgement of Lady Charlotte’s ‘very affectionate attendance upon my dear little Angel Alfred’ during his last illness and instructing her to ‘wear the inclosed Hair, not only in remembrance of that dear Object, but also as a mark of esteem from Your Affectionate Queen’. This locket is described as an ‘Urn Locket of Amethyst & Pearl with Prince Alfred’s Hair – now belonging to Augusta Sophia Hicks [Lady Charlotte’s granddaughter] since 1813’, a note presumably in Augusta’s own hand. A memorandum by Queen Mary in 1934 further traces the history of the locket noting that she bought ‘this little pearl & amaethyst urn in a Bond St shop about 10 years ago’ and that it was originally displayed in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle (now displayed at Buckingham Palace).
These documents were also acquired around this time as revealed in a memorandum by former Royal Librarian Owen Morshead. He records that these papers ‘together with a number of trinkets and souvenirs, were contained in a cabinet; and this cabinet with all its contents, was presented to H.M. Queen Mary in 1934’. Queen Mary directed that the documents should be deposited in the Royal Archives where they have been stored ever since. The cabinet is likewise still held in the Royal Collection (RCIN 20880) and is displayed in the York Tower at Windsor Castle.