While the British royalty is all over the news, maybe it’s time to take a look at the royal family member that our beloved county is named for – Prince George of Denmark (1653-1708), consort to Queen Anne of Great Britain. The name was chosen at the time of the county’s creation by “English Council of Maryland in the Province of Maryland in April 1696 from portions of Charles and Calvert counties.” Source.
Here’s what I’ve been able to find out about Prince George from the Wiki page about him:
- Charles II, Anne’s uncle, famously said of Prince George, “I have tried him drunk, and I have tried him sober and there is nothing in him”. He was quiet and self-effacing. John Macky thought him “of a familiar, easy disposition with a good sound understanding but modest in showing it … very fat, loves news, his bottle & the Queen.” In making fun of George’s asthma, Lord Mulgrave said the Prince was forced to breathe hard in case people mistook him for dead and buried him. By the time of Queen Victoria, George had a reputation as a dullard, and was the target of disdain. Victoria hoped her own husband, Prince Albert, would never fill the “subordinate part played by the very stupid and insignificant husband of Queen Anne”. In the 1930s, Winston Churchill said he “mattered very little”, except to Anne.
- Winston Churchill wrote that he “was a fine-looking man, tall, blond, and good-natured … He was neither clever nor learned—a simple, normal man without envy or ambition, and disposed by remarkable appetite and thirst for all the pleasures of the table. Charles’s well-known verdict … does not do justice to the homely virtues and unfailing good-humour of his staid and trustworthy character.
- George was not ambitious, and hoped to live a quiet life of domesticity with his wife. He wrote to a friend: “We talk here of going to tea, of going to Winchester, and everything else except sitting still all summer, which was the height of my ambition. God send me a quiet life somewhere, for I shall not be long able to bear this perpetual motion.”
But he made time for….
- Anne’s seventeen pregnancies by George resulted in twelve miscarriages or stillbirths, four infant deaths, and a chronically ill son, Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, who died at the age of eleven. Despite the deaths of their children, George and Anne’s marriage was a strong one. George died aged 55 from a recurring and chronic lung disease, much to the devastation of his wife, and he was buried in Westminster Abbey.
WAS he a feminist?
The previous husband of a British queen regnant, William of Orange, had become king, refusing to take a subordinate rank to Mary.
George and Anne, however, reversed the roles: George was the dutiful husband and it was Anne who exercised the royal prerogatives. William had assumed incorrectly that George would use his marriage to Anne as a means of building a separate power base in Britain, but George never challenged his wife’s authority and never strove to accrue influence. Anne occasionally used the image of wifely virtue to escape unpalatable situations by claiming, as a woman, she knew “nothing except what the prince tells me”, but it was an artifice. Husbands had a legal right to their wife’s property, and it was argued that it was unnatural and against the church’s teachings for a man to be subject to his wife. George made no such claim or demand; he was content to remain a prince and duke. In the words of historian Anne Somerset, “the fact that Prince George was widely regarded as a nonentity helped reconcile people to his anomalous status, and so, almost by accident, George achieved a major advance for feminism.”
“Prince George’s” or “PG?
You know the controversy over what we call the county. It’s even mentioned on the county’s Wiki page:
Prince George’s County is frequently referred to as “PG” or “PG County”, an abbreviation which is the subject of debate, some residents viewing it as a pejorative and others holding neutral feelings toward the term or even preferring the abbreviation over the full name.
After learning more than I really want to know about Prince George, I think I prefer the anonymity of PG, myself. Though looking at the big picture, I’d rather live in a county named for a “stupid, insignificant” queen consort than for a Confederate general. (And I write as a native of Richmond, Va!)
How about the Seal?
There’s still more royalty enshrined in our county’s seal: Source.
Prince George’s County’s seal was designed in 1696 by Charles Beckwith of Patuxent. The coat of arms in four quarters symbolizes Queen Anne, France and England in the first and fourth grand quarters; Scotland in the second grand quarter; and Ireland in the third. The banner below depicts the county motto, “Semper Eadem,” which means “Ever The Same.”
“Ever the same”? How inspiring!
In Nearby Queen Anne County…
Royalty is a hot topic right now but I had a curious epiphany about royal names recently on a visit to Kent Island, just across the Bay Bridge. I noted a sign declaring the land to be in Queen Anne’s County and my immediate reaction was along the lines of “Oh, I wouldn’t want to live in a county named for British royalty.” That was followed a beat or two by “Oh wait! My county is named after a prince!”
Montgomery County, Named for a General in the Continental Army
I wondered about who our neighbor Montgomery County was named after – General Richard Montgomery – and Wiki’s answer left me a little jealous.
When the American Revolutionary War broke out, Montgomery took up the Patriot cause, and was elected to the New York Provincial Congress in May 1775. In June 1775, he was commissioned as a brigadier general in the Continental Army. After Philip Schuyler became too ill to lead the invasion of Canada, Montgomery took over. He captured Fort St. Johns and then Montreal in November 1775, and then advanced to Quebec City, where he joined another force under the command of Benedict Arnold. On 31 December, he led an attack on the city, but was killed during the battle. The British found his body and gave him an honorable burial. His remains were moved to New York City in 1818.