A Royal Rebel: Princess Amelia

October 12, 2022
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A formerly British island baptized in the hope of currying favor from a King, Amelia Island still carries the name of the Princess who never saw it. Discover the hidden history of a most original royal.

She was born in a German palace. Amelia Sophia Eleanor was born on June 10th 1711 in Hanover, Germany. At the age of three, she sailed to England when her grandfather became King George I.  Her father ascended the throne in 1727. 

She was meant to marry the Warrior King of Prussia- but never married at all.  Amelia's aunt Sophia Dorothea, Queen of Prussia suggested Amelia as a wife for her son Frederick (later known as Frederick the Great)  - but he married Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Bevern instead.

She was her father's favorite. Not only was she not compelled to marry someone else, Amelia's father made her the ranger of Richmond Park, the largest royal park in London. King George II's final words, upon falling to the floor in a heap were: "Call Amelia." 

She closed the gates and caused a public uproar.  Immediately after assuming control, Princess Amelia  closed  Richmond Park to the public, allowing just a few close friends and those with special permits.  This created controversy that continued until a local brewer took the Park's gatekeeper to court and won. Princess Amelia was forced to lift the restrictions.

She presided over a country retreat famous for parties, politics - and pants. Following her retreat from Richmond Park, Princess Amelia purchased Gunnersbury Estate (close to where Heathrow Airport is today,) undertaking ambitious landcscaping and commissioning a bath house that still stands today. She hosted numerous soirees and became involved in political and family rivalries.  Amelia refused to dress in traditional attire of the time, preferring masculine riding fashions, which at times included a round hat and German style clothing. Her nephew, who became George III (known to Americans as 'Mad King George') called Amelia "that odd and hearty lady."  The Dukes of Grafton and Newcastle were both interested in her, and the three frequently hunted together.

She had a grand city home that was regarded as the homeliest in London.  Princess Amelia's residence on Cavendish Square, now home to a grand French restaurant, was regarded as ill-kept, badly decorated, and often full of dogs.  

She was generous and helped young women. The Princess donated £100 to the society for educating poor orphans of clergymen to help pay for a school for 21 of these orphaned daughters.

She may have had a musical love child. Samuel Arnold, born in 1740 in London, began writing music for the theatre at a young age.  He became one of the great British composers and the organist of Westiminster Abbey, where he was buried.  It is generally accepted that Amelia was his mother, though it was never officially recognized.  

Princess Amelia shares a geographical connection to a 20th-century iconoclast.

She is buried in Westminster Abbey - and for an evening had a living companion.  During Amelia's funeral preparations, fhe central stones in the nave floor were removed to insert a false floor. The day before the service, an antiquarian,  one Mr. Tuffin, bribed a workman to allow him to enter the vault so that he could transcribe some of the coffins' inscriptions.  Unknown to anyone, a soldier had hidden himself down below as well and, while Tuffin was quietly making his notes by light of a wax taper, began to wrench the silver handle from a neighboring coffin. Tuffin tackled the soldier, who quickly escaped. Tuffin returned to his research when, to his horror, he heard the trap door above him being shut, followed by the sound of the chapel's great bronze doors being bolted. No one heard his cries for help, and he was soon entombed in complete darkness with only the dead for company.
He stayed there until the next morning when the vault was opened, a great surprise to the workmen that we imagine the quirky Princess would have appreciated.

She has modern-day relatives with similarly free spirits.  Lady Amelia Windsor, cousin of William and Harry and 42nd in line to the throne, regularly attracts attention for her modeling career, tattoos, clothing choices, and political activism.  Today, Amelia is one ot the three most popular baby names in the UK.

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Located just off the coast of northeast Florida, Amelia Island is easy to reach, but hard to forget. With 13 miles of beautiful beaches, abundant native wildlife, and pristine waters, this barrier island has long been a beloved destination for visitors and residents alike.