A True Mulatto Face: Kimba Hudson: Amazon.com: Kindle Store
The mulatto in question is Queen Charlotte, consort to England's King George III. My novel is an attempt to show how a mulatto wound up the wife of the most powerful monarch of her time (1761). When I first heard of this story, my initial question was, "How were her Negroid features not immediately detected and her wedding to King George called off?”
You'll have to read the book to find that out – but the evidence she was mulatto is so compelling that as I began encountering it, I could not help wonder why no one else had written a book about this amazing woman.
Indeed, the evidence Charlotte was half-black is all over the internet. At the top of the list is a description of her made by her grandson-in-law's physician, Baron Stockmar:
"Small and crooked, with a true Mulatto face."
--Baron Christian Stockmar, MD
Memoirs of Baron Stockmar - Ernst Alfred Christian Stockmar (freiherr von), Georgina Adelaide Mόller - Google Books
Please note two things about Stockmar's choice of words: first, the word true; second, the capital M. Clearly, Stockmar meant to idiot-proof his meaning — let the world know for posterity Queen Victoria's grandmother was half black.
When I posted this quote in one of the forums several people replied Stockmar was only trying to say Queen Charlotte was ugly; that is, "mulatto" was a term for ugly during her day. But my research revealed its meaning is identical to its meaning today: a person of white and black parentage. The word "mulatto" is of Latin origin and seems to have taken the original meaning as early as 1593. Consider:
Origin of MULATTO:
Spanish mulato, from mulo mule, from Latin mulus
First Known Use: 1593
A mule, of course, is a hybrid, a cross between a horse and donkey. The Latin word for mule is "mulus" and from that we can see how some enterprising Spanish-speaker used it to mean a cross between the white race and black race — mulatto. Below is a painting made by a South American painter in 1780 graphically showing usage of the word during that time:
In other words, all available evidence shows Stockmar meant exactly what we mean when he used the mulatto in his memoir. Stockmar was born in 1787 and died in 1863. He arrived at the English court in 1816 two years before Queen Charlotte (by then Queen Mother) died. As Physician-in-Ordinary to her granddaughter, Princess Charlotte, and grand-son-law, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, he was considered part of the royal family. His memoir, in fact, describes taking meals with the huge brood (Queen Charlotte and King George had 13 children who survived).
Therefore, we must conclude that when Stockmar described Queen Charlotte as "a true Mulatto" he most surely meant she had Negroid features.
Stockmar went on to become a respected diplomat and confidant of Charlotte's granddaughter, Queen Victoria. We have several letters from Queen Victoria discussing political matters with him. Stockmar was not only a physician, but one who while serving as a doctor during the Napoleonic wars, set up a military hospital in which wounded from both sides were treated. The man was no flake given to inexact descriptions; in fact, we could hardly expect there existed anyone better qualified than he to describe Charlotte's features.
His description was part of a dozen others describing members of the royal household. In each we see the same exacting language as in Charlotte's description:
The Regent: 'Very stout, though of a fine figure; distinguished manners; does not talk half as much as his brothers; speaks tolerably good French. He ate and drank a good deal at dinner. His brown scratch wig not particularly becoming.'
The Duke of York: the eldest of the Regent's brothers. 'Tall, with immense embonpoint, and not proportionately strong legs; he holds himself in such a way that one is always afraid he will tumble over backwards; very bald, and not a very intelligent face: one can see that eating, drinking, and sensual pleasure, are everything to him. Spoke a good deal of French, with a bad accent.'
The Queen Mother (Charlotte, wife of George III.): 'Small and crooked, with a true Mulatto face.'
Memoirs of Baron Stockmar VOL. I. E pp. 50
Another argument offered against Charlotte being a mulatto is that that no one else said she was, and that all the paintings of her show a decidedly Caucasian-looking woman. Not so! There are many references to her mulatto features in literature and many paintings and mezzotints that support Stockmar's description. In the series directly below the first portrait was painted by Royal Painter Allan Ramsey on Queen Charlotte's Coronation Day in 1761. The face and curly hair are clearly that of a young woman of African descent. The second portrait has kept the hair but substituted a Caucasian-looking face. The third dispenses with the hair altogether and gives a face wholly unlike the original. But please note, the brush-work is finer and more expertly done in the first portrait—and, more tellingly, it's the identical brush-work and technique seen in Royal Painter Ramsey's tens of other royal family portraits.
Many of the other Queen Charlotte portraits come in two flavors as well: one in which she appears to be mulatto; the other in which she is Caucasian. In the first portrait below Charlotte's hair is unquestionably an Afro; in the next the Afro is covered and her features whitened.
My book is an attempt to weave together all the bits and pieces of the woman into an engaging tale that explains how her marriage to George III might have happened. Since her supposed African ancestry has never been admitted by the British Royal family the book best falls under the heading of speculative fiction. But in the great tradition of the genre, the reader will find no liberties are taken with fact – where actual historical people and events are used, the facts are faithfully rendered.
Finally, the language used is modern. Shakespeare of course did the same thing in Anthony and Cleopatra. His players spoke the language of the day, not the spoken Latin vernacular (which no one alive knows much about). Likewise, I see no reason for my characters to say things like “Hoisted by my own petards, sir!” when it can simply be “I fouled up, sir!” I think the latter easier to read and more fun. In fact, I recently saw a gladiator movie where one gladiator says to the other, “I won't fight you!” The second gladiator replies, “Wait a minute – that's not the way it works.” I laughed my head off – a hip gladiator! -- because it struck me as exactly the sort of thing the second gladiator would say were his Latin vernacular known and used. My dialog attempts this same kind of hipness (and humor). I've translated a 250 year-old vernacular into something closer to our own. Some readers will like this; others won't.
As to literary reports of Queen Charlotte's mulatto features here are a few, after which our roller-coaster ride of 18th century fun and frivolity begins... Enjoy!
– Kimba Hudson
References in Literature:
“She was undoubtedly a plain young girl with a large mouth, with a rather swarthy complexion and, her nostrils spreading wide, with something of the appearance of a mulatto.”
George III A Personal History
by Christopher Hibbert 2000
George III A Personal History - Christopher Hibbert - Google Books
J.A. Rogers Writes:
From Crisis Magazine Feb 1940
“her portrait by Ramsay in the National Gallery shows her to be decidedly Negroid. I have a copy bought in London which I have been showing to both colored and white persons without saying who she was and they invariably take her for a colored woman…”
The Crisis - Google Books
The Princess Royal Geoffrey Wakeford
page 110 “her mulatto looks”
The Princesses Royal - Geoffrey Wakeford - Google Books