- Dundee History Archive, Myths & legends
- 19th century, Broughty Ferry, memorial, mystery, Plaques, Princess Charlotte, Queen victoria
There’s a fairly curious tale concerning a certain metal plaque erected on a wall in Victoria Road in Broughty Ferry; a tale filled with sadness which alludes to the altering of the course of history itself. How could such a wee place like Broughty Ferry lay claim to a tale of such magnitude, we hear you say?
Let’s go back to 1816, when Princess Charlotte, daughter of the soon-to-be King George IV, became married to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (later King of the Belgians). News of a pregnancy soon followed – an heir to the throne – but it was quickly cut short when Princess Charlotte gave birth to a stillborn male and tragically died the following day in November 1817, aged just 21. This dark sequence of events has been written in the history books as occurring at Claremont House in England, but here’s where the twist comes in…
Local Dundee legend has it that Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold were not at Claremont, as the story suggests, but were, in fact returning from a trip to Leopold’s homeland of Belgium when a mighty storm took hold of their ship. With their lives in perceived mortal danger, and with Princess Charlotte heavily pregnant, they sought refuge in the Tay in the hope of waiting out the terrible weather, and ended up in Broughty Ferry.
Unfortunately, the situation had proven too stressful for Charlotte and she began to go into labour. Getting her onto land would have proved difficult at best, but it is alleged they alighted at West Broughty Ferry and managed to secure lodgings at a nearby cottage where Charlotte gave birth and subsequently died. If Charlotte and Leopold’s child had survived, Queen Victoria would never have risen to the throne, and history as we now know it would be completely different.
So, could there be any truth to the story? There was certainly a headstone in memory to her, of which the current metal plaque bears reference, which surely must mean something? The inscription bears reference to her being 22 years of age, but, upon looking at her dates of birth and death, she was actually 21 when she died. She was only a few months away from her 22nd birthday, but is this just a simple error, or signs of prefabrication? If we look at where Belgium is on the map, it’s hard to imagine why their ship would have been so far up the North Sea to have reached Broughty Ferry if their intention was to return to England from Belgium – even if there was a freak storm.
Whilst a few of the facts don’t quite add up, it’s a mystery that some historians have spent a lot of time researching and looking into, and, quite frankly, we think the tale adds a certain richness to our local history, regardless of whether any of it is based in fact or not. The next time you’re in Broughty Ferry, have a look at the plaque for yourself and let us know whether you think Princess Charlotte really did give birth to a would-be king in a wee cottage near the shore. We’d like to think that she did, but we’ve got to admit, even we’re a bit sceptical about this one.
FDCA website: www.fdca.org.uk