On September 8, 1761, Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a teenage bride, married King George III. Two weeks later, Princess Charlotte was crowned Queen Charlotte of Great Britain and Ireland. We refer to Charlotte, NC as the “Queen City” because our city is named in the honor of Her Majesty. During the past three decades, in small circles, Queen Charlotte’s ancestry has been the subject of intense debate. If you talk to African-American intellectuals, they will tell you that based on Queen Charlotte’s “Negroid” facial features and Moorish ancestry, she certainly had African lineage. On the other hand, if you check with local historians and educators, they deny that Charlotte’s Queen had any connection to Africa. In 2012, The Mint Museum (Charlotte, NC) celebrated the 250 year anniversary of Queen Charlotte’s Coronation which showcased the museum’s permanent Queen Charlotte collection which included paintings, decorative arts, and examples of royal items purchased by Queen Charlotte. No mention of Queen Charlotte’s possible African ancestry was made on the Mint Museum’s website or on the Mint Museum’s YouTube video to commemorate Queen Charlotte’s Coronation. Prior to The Mint Museum’s Queen Charlotte Coronation (March 2009), in The Guardian, a London-based newspaper in an article entitled Was this Britain’s First Black Queen, Cheryl Palmer, Mint Museum Director of Education said the following about Queen Charlotte: “As a woman, an immigrant, a person who may have had African forbearers, a botanist, and a queen who opposed slavery, she speaks to Americans, especially in a city in the south like Charlotte that is trying to redefine itself.”
In honor of Black History month, I contacted African-American experts in an attempt to gain more insight about Queen Charlotte’s possible African ancestry. I interviewed Anthony Browder, a well respected African-American cultural historian and author; Tommy Robinson, an accomplished African-American artist; and Joy McLaughlin, an African-American hair stylist, educator, and salon owner, to inquire about Queen Charlotte’s possible African lineage, artistic renderings of Queen Charlotte, and her hair type.
Anthony Browder, Author & Cultural Historian
Phillips: Are you aware of any historical evidence that indicates if Queen Charlotte had African ancestry?
Browder: In 1987, at a presentation by Dr. Edward Nichols, founding member of The Association of Black Psychologists and an expert on race issues, I was introduced to information about Queen Charlotte Sophia and her African genealogy. Since then, I’ve conducted my own investigation into Queen Charlotte Sophia, which confirmed that Dr. Nichols was absolutely correct about her African lineage.
Dr. Ivan Van Sertima published similar research in an issue of The Journal of African Civilizations entitled “Blacks in Early Europe” which documented that many royal family members in England (United Kingdom), Germany, France, Scotland, Ireland, and Spain are decedents of people of African ancestry. The word “Moor” was a common name and term used in Europe, which referred to Black people. Also, the term “Blackamore” was used by William Shakespeare to refer to a person of African ancestry. Any person in The United Kingdom who has the name “Moore” in their last name such as Agnes Moorehead or Roger Moore is an indicator that they are a descendant of a person of color. This information has been written about for hundreds of years but it’s been ignored because it serves to remind Whites that many among them were “passing.” As a matter of fact, U.S. statistics indicate that some 23 percent of Whites have black roots, unbeknownst to them.
Phillips: How could African DNA intermix with European royal lineage (specifically Queen Charlotte)?
Browder: It’s called sex. When two people have sex, the parents’ DNA is passed on to the child. Based on the Human Genome Project, the oldest DNA known is the DNA of the first humans who were Africans. The truth is that every person on earth is a decedent from African Homo-sapiens who lived over 200,000 years ago in East Africa. The latest genetic and archeological evidence proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the people classified as White are a recent genetic phenomenon and have been on this planet less than 30,000 years. Within every European or person of European descent is African DNA. The same holds true for every person on the planet. The truth is, there is only one race, the Human race which originated in Africa and then (thousands of years later) migrated out of Africa and populated every nation on the planet. As these Africans migrated further away from home, their skin, hair, and eyes changed as they adapted to different climactic conditions around the globe.
The geneticists working on the Human Genome Project concluded that 97 percent of human DNA is the same. The small differences in human DNA that determine human skin color, hair texture, the shapes of noses, the size of lips, and things that we identify with race are insignificant in terms of human DNA. On a larger scale, skin color or the melanated uniform that we wear is a false identifier of our humanity.
Phillips: Why do you think American historians avoid discussing Queen Charlotte’s African lineage?
Browder: If they told the truth about Charlotte then that would lead to other truths that many people are not psychologically prepared to accept. Queen Charlotte Sophia who married to King George III of England is an ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II, the current Queen of England. If American historians agree that Queen Charlotte was black then that would lead to inquiries about the lineage of the rest of the royal family of England. White folks in power don’t want to go there and the easiest thing for them to do is to avoid the truth or lie about their history. We would do well to remember the words of the French philosopher Voltaire who said, “History is fables agreed upon.”
Tommy Robinson, Artist
Phillips: Do you think the artistic depictions of Queen Charlotte are representative of her appearance?
Robinson: I’ve seen the statue of Queen Charlotte and I don’t think that represents how she looked. I’ve also seen the portrait in the Mint Museum, which is a better portrayal of Queen Charlotte but her skin color appears really white yet she had some very distinctly Negroid features.
Phillips: During the time of Queen Charlotte, was it common for artist to make bi-racial people appear more European in their portraits?
Robinson: During that time, it was according to what the family requested. Many families requested that some of the non-European features be downplayed by the artists. Royal families hired a court painter, who was usually one of the most talented artists in the area to paint family and individual portraits. The court painter followed the family’s instructions because the family commissioned the artwork. If the family told the artist that the nose is too big or the lips are too big, the artist didn’t object because he was getting paid. He followed the instructions to make the nose or the lips smaller.
Joy McLaughlin, Salon Owner, Hair Stylist, & Educator
Phillips: Based on the images you reviewed of Queen Charlotte, what is your professional opinion of her hair type and texture?
McLaughlin: After looking at Queen Charlotte’s pictures, her hair appears to be medium-coarse and her curl pattern is a tighter than Caucasian hair or other non-African-American ethic groups. For your readers who aren’t familiar with the science of hair, a tight curl pattern is typical of African-American hair. In the picture where Queen Charlotte appears to be older, with grayish hair, pearls around her neck, and pearls in her hair, Queen Charlotte’s hair looks very similar to African-American women who straighten their natural hair without chemicals and pull it back which makes their hair poof up. During Queen Charlotte’s time, chemical relaxers weren’t an option but she did have brushes and personal attendants to manage her hair. So Queen Charlotte or her personal attendants brushed her hair to straighten her curls to give her the Afro-like look.
Phillips: If Queen Charlotte walked into your salon, what do you think the people in your salon would say about her hair?
McLaughlin: In my salon, I could hear the stylists and the clients saying “Oh Yeah! She’s got some black in her.” Ninety-nine percent of the time, when people sit in my chair with hair like Queen Charlotte’s, they tell me that one of their parents is African-American. Based on the pictures that were provided and other pictures that I viewed of Queen Charlotte, her hair looks like the hair from a woman of color.