Some say that when Prince Harry and Meghan got married, they bowed to Queen Charlotte.

CHARLOTTE, NC – The hit Netflix series Bridgerton draws attention again to the mixed-race British queen for whom our city is named.

Tom Hanchett, public historian in Charlottesaid: “Queen Charlotte is, of course, the namesake of our city.”

He told WCNC Charlotte’s Sarah French that Queen Charlotte was a German-born princess from Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Germany. However, its ancestral roots can be traced almost 500 years back to King Alfonso III of Portugal.

“Before her German ancestry, she had roots in the Portuguese royal family, the family of King Alfonso III,” Hanchet said.

By the 1100s, Portugal was occupied by Arab and African states. Here King Alfonso III found his wife, who was a Moor. In those days, the word Moor was used to describe people of Arab or African descent.

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French spoke with Tekla Johnsonhistorian of African American studies.

Referring to King Alphonsus III., Johnson said, “He is as it were marching with his troops to a Moorish town called Faro, and demands the governor’s youngest daughter.”

“It was not a marriage. It was more like concubinage, but it comes from a very high order,” Johnson said.

Their son, Martin Alphonso (born 1250), then married into a family of African descent – the Susa family – further cementing Queen Charlotte’s black heritage when she was born in 1744.

“Remember, in the 1300s we didn’t have a slave trade, so there wasn’t the stigma that came later,” Johnson explained.

“Shonda Rhimes is casting a black actress as Queen Charlotte, and now everyone is talking about history,” French said.

“I think it’s great! I also think it’s a good thing because it’s getting these conversations going,” Johnson replied.

Queen Charlotte, born Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, was born on May 19, 1744, in a small area in northern Germany ruled by her parents: Duke Carl Louis Frederick of Mecklenburg, Princess Elisabeth Albertina of Sase-Hildburghausen, according to official royal archives.

Queen Charlotte married King George III, the British monarch who lost the revolution and the colonies.

“He is marrying a teenager. She’s 17 years old,” Johnson said of Queen Charlotte’s marriage to King George III.

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Portrait of Queen Charlotte by Sir Alan Ramsay, 18th century, was used as propaganda in the colonies to drag enslaved blacks into Britain during the Revolutionary War. It is now in the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Any schoolboy who comes to the museum remembers seeing the portrait of Queen Charlotte.” Jonathan Stuhlmansenior curator of American art at the Mint Museum, said.

In 2007, artist Ken Aptekar was commissioned by the Mint Museum to research Sir Alan Ramsay’s portrait of Queen Charlotte.

This sparked a dialogue that led to six images and different interpretations of the queen.

“The six panels are what Aptekar created in response to Queen Charlotte. His work is really community-oriented,” Stulman said.

“Can you talk about what people saw when they saw her portrait,” French asked.

“One of them has phrases like ‘Black, white, other.’ There is another one that just says immigrant,” Stulman replied.

When Prince Harry and Meghan got married, some say it was a nod to Queen Charlotte: they married on her birthday and took the title of Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Queen Charlotte’s son was the very first Duke of Sussex.

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Queen Charlotte is a mainstay of the North Carolina town that bears her name and birthplace.

Charlotte, North Carolina, located in Mecklenburg County, has long wanted a statue Statue of Queen Charlotte at Charlotte Douglas International airport. Her portrait remains on display at the Mint Museum in downtown Charlotte.

Other resources recommended by Johnson:

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