Melusine von der Schulenburg, Duchess of Kendal

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Melusine von der Schulenburg, Duchess of Kendal : biography

25 December 1667 – 10 May 1743

Ehrengard Melusine Baroness von der Schulenburg, Duchess of Kendal and Duchess of Munster (25 December 1667 – 10 May 1743) was a long-time mistress to King George I of Great Britain . Her middle name was probably given in reference to the Melusine legends.

Later life and death

Arms of the Duchess of Kendal and Munster After George’s death, she kept a raven she believed to be the dead king returned to visit her.Deary, Terry. Cruel Kings and Mean Queens. London: Scholastic, 1995. p. 42. She died, unmarried (unless George I had wedded her), on 10 May 1743.

Early life

She was born at Emden in the Duchy of Magdeburg. Her father was Gustavus Adolphus Baron von der Schulenburg, Retrieved August 3, 2010 P.C to the elector of Brandenburg, by his wife Petronelle Oddie de Schwenken and a sister to Federic Achatius, Count von der Schulenburg and Hehlen. Her brother was Marshal Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg.

Royal mistress

When a Maid of Honour to the Electress Sophia of Hanover, she became a royal mistress of the Electoral Prince, George Louis. George Louis succeeded as Elector of Hanover in 1698 and King of Great Britain (as George I) in 1714.

Melusine moved with him to England, and on 18 July 1716 was created for life Duchess of Munster, Marchioness of Dungannon, Countess of Dungannon and Baroness Dundalk, in the Peerage of Ireland. On 19 March 1719 she was further created Duchess of Kendal, Countess of Feversham and Baroness Glastonbury, in the Peerage of Great Britain. In 1723, Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, created her Princess of Eberstein. This last creation in particular tended to support the theory that she had married the King in secret. Robert Walpole said of her that she was "as much the queen of England as anyone was" (George’s wife Sophia had been kept in imprisonment since their divorce in 1694).

The Duchess of Kendal was a very thin woman, being known in Germany as "the Scarecrow" and in England as "the Maypole". The Jacobites referred to her as "the Goose," most famously in the taunting Scots ballad Cam Ye O’er Frae France. When in England, she lived principally at Kendal House in Isleworth, Middlesex.

She bore him three illegitimate children:

  • Anna Luise Sophie von der Schulenburg, Countess of Dölitz (1692–1773), who married Ernest August Philipp von dem Bussche zu Ippenburg.
  • Petronilla Melusina von der Schulenburg (1693–1778), who married Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, a leading Whig politician.
  • Margaret Gertrude von der Schulenburg, Countess of Oeynhausen (1701–1726), who married Albrecht Wolfgang, Count of Schaumburg-Lippe.