Charlotte Howe, Viscountess Howe

(Mary Sophia) Charlotte Howe, Viscountess Howe (23 September 1703 – 13 June 1782) was a British courtier and politician.

Early life

Born Baroness Sophia Charlotte Mary (the order of her baptismal names were later changed after her marriage) von Kielmansegg (probably in Hanover), she was the eldest daughter of the Baron and Baroness von Kielmansegg (later Countess of Leinster and Darlington), the half-sister of George Louis, Elector of Hanover. When the elector became King of Great Britain in 1714, her family followed him to London.


On 8 August 1719, Charlotte married Emanuel Howe, 2nd Viscount Howe. Lord Howe's uncle, Emanuel Scrope Howe, had been the English Minister to Hanover in 1706–9, and the husband of Prince Rupert of the Rhine's illegitimate daughter Ruperta. The Howes were thus already known to the Hanoverian nobility. Lady Howe's close relations with the Royal Family encouraged gossip in Britain that her mother was a mistress of the king and that she was his daughter, but has since been rejected by modern historians. Lady Howe brought a dowry of £5000 and an annuity of £1500 per year. In addition, the king gave the couple £750 per annum, which was later raised to £1250. This helped relieve pressure on the Howe estate at Langar, Nottinghamshire and supported the family's attempts to extend their political patronage. The couple had ten children, among whom were Hon. George Augustus Howe, Hon. Richard Howe and Hon. William Howe (successively Viscounts Howe).


Lady Howe travelled to Barbados after her husband was appointed governor in 1732. Following his death in 1735, Lord Howe's sister, Mary Herbert, the Dowager Countess of Pembroke, lobbied for Lady Howe to be appointed a Lady of the Bedchamber to the Princess of Wales, and she was eventually appointed in 1745, perhaps as a consequence of the political alliance between the Howe family and the Pelhams in Nottinghamshire.

Lady Howe then assumed management of the family's political interests in Nottingham. In 1758, following the death of her eldest son, the 3rd Viscount Howe at the Battle of Carillon, the Duke of Newcastle proposed that her next son, Richard, take the former's parliamentary seat. John Plumptre, who had earlier been Newcastle's choice as Whig member for the seat (but had been manoeuvred out of the seat by the Howes), was compensated with Richard's seat for Dartmouth. Instead, Lady Howe accepted a petition asking that her youngest son, William take the seat, and so ensured that the family would still hold two seats in the Commons.

As the influence of the Smith banking family in Nottingham politics grew after the 1758 election, that of the Howe family diminished and Lady Howe returned to court where she held some influence over access to the now Dowager Princess of Wales. She remained active at court well into old age and appeared in the same circles as Walpole and Lady Mary Coke and defended her family's actions during the American War of Independence. She died in 1782 at her home in Albemarle Street, London and was buried at Langar.


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