Royalty, Race and the Curious Case of Queen Charlotte

On a gloriously sunny May day in Windsor, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exchanged vows in a ceremony that embraced the bride’s heritage and the pomp of British monarchy. For those alert to the symbolism of the occasion, there was a certain irony in watching an American mixed-race bride gliding elegantly over the tomb of George III, buried in the vault below, under whose watch the American colonies were lost.

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Old Bridgwater Bridge, lithograph by John Chubb © Bridgwater Heritage Group

The Bridgwater Petition – The Tide Turns

On 2nd May 1785 a petition from the people of Bridgewater was presented to Parliament calling for the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The petitioners stated that “they most ardently hope to see a British parliament, by the extinction of that sanguinary traffic, extend the blessings of liberty to millions beyond this realm, hold up to an enlightened world a glorious and merciful example, and stand foremost in the defence of the violated rights of human nature”. With over 1,000 signatories, it represented the views of most of the adult population of the small Somerset market town. It was also the first petition in which a town declared it was implacably opposed to slavery.

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