This remarkable Corinthian style helmet from the Battle of Marathon was reputedly found in 1834 with a human skull still inside. It now forms part of the Royal Ontario Museum’s collections, but originally it was discovered by George Nugent-Grenville, who was the British High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands between 1832-35.


Queens of England + Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818)

Charlotte was born in 1744, the youngest daughter of Duke Charles Louis Frederick of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Prince of Marow and Princess Elizabeth Albertine of Saxe-Hildburghausen. According to diplomatic reports at the time of her engagement to George III, she received “a very mediocre education.”

George III was unmarried when he succeeded to the throne in 1760 and his family and advisors were anxious for him to marry. The seventeen-year-old Princess Charlotte appealed to him because she had been brought up in an insignificant German duchy and wouldn’t have experience of power politics of party intrigues. He instructed to Charlotte on her arrival in London “not to meddle” and she easily acquiesced.

Charlotte and George were married in September 1761 in the Chapel Royal by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Charlotte spoke no English on her arrival but quickly learned the language. She gave birth to her first child, the future George IV, in August 1762. She and her husband would eventually have 15 children, 13 of which survived into adulthood.

Along with her husband, Charlotte was a music connoisseur and specially honored German artists and composers to whom they were partial. Together they patronized a variety of craftsman including silversmiths, landscape designers, and painters. Charlotte herself was an amateur botanist and the explorers Captain James Cook and Sir Joseph Banks constantly brought her new species and varieties of plants which she ensured would be enriched and expanded. Her interest in botany led to the South African flower, the Bird of Paradise, being named Strelitzia reginae in her honor.

Besides her interest in patronizing the arts, Charlotte also founded orphanages and in 1809 patronized the General Lying-in Hospital for expectant mothers. It was later renamed the Queen’s Hospital and today is the Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital. The education of women was also important to her and her daughters were educated better than was usual for women of the time.

In 1788, her husband fell ill with what is thought to be porphyria and grew to be mentally unstable. His behavior was erratic and violent and though Charlotte’s visits to him were limited, he remained in her care. While her son George wielded the royal power as Prince Regent, Charlotte was her husband’s legal guardian from 1811 until her death in 1818. His illness became so severe that he could not know or understand when she died. He died a little over a year later.

After her death in 1818, Charlotte was buried at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. She is the second longest-serving consort in British history after the present Duke of Edinburgh. Today, there are places named after her in Canada, New Zealand, and the United States of America. (x)

Portrait of Berenike II

Greek, Hellenistic. 

Mid-3rd century BC

The features of this exquisite sculpture suggest that it is not an idealized goddess, such as Aphrodite or Artemis, but rather a portrait. Medium and style indicate a royal context. Comparison with coin portraits suggests that this may well be a portrait of Berenike II, wife of Ptolemy III Soter.

Berenike II was a famous beauty and patron of the arts in her day. A number of poems dedicated to her by court poets such as Callimachus and Theocritus have come down to us. None is more famous than one concerning a lock of her hair that she dedicated in a temple to ensure the safe return of her husband from war in Syria. When he returned safely, the lock of hair was nowhere to be found, and it was only the ingenuity of the court astronomer Conon who discovered that the lock had been taken up into the heavens and turned into a constellation, the Coma Berenikes (a group of eight stars that continues to bear her name). Callimachus’ poem is only preserved in fragments, but a Latin translation of it by Catullus gives a sense of the original.

Garnets, which in classical antiquity came from India, suddenly enter Greek glyptic in the third century, in the wake of the conquests of Alexander the Great. Their Greek name, “anthrax”, means burning charcoal, a reference to their intense, translucent, glowing red color. Physical attractiveness apart, garnets were thus a perfect gemstone to complement the literary images of the fiery passion of love. The present portrait may originally have been part of an elaborate jewelry setting in gold.

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