Here is a North Carolina history question: Which North Carolina counties were named in honor of women?
Dare, of course, in honor of Virginia Dare, the first child of English parents born in America.
Wake was named for Margaret Wake, wife of Governor William Tryon.
And then, Mecklenburg, named in honor of the wife of King George III, Charlotte, who grew up in the Mecklenburg region of Germany.
German Mecklenburg was part of the old East Germany. There was almost no connection between the two Mecklenburgs until the Wall came down.
Last month in Mirow, a small town in German Mecklenburg, important people from all over the world gathered to celebrate a “Queen Charlotte” connection that binds Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Perhaps the most important person there was British Ambassador to Germany Simon McDonald, who reported, “I was puzzled at first to find the place teeming with Americans; until I realised they were from Charlotte, North Carolina. The delegation was headed by the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Mecklenburg County, and included the Deputy Mayor of Charlotte …. Charlotte, NC, was founded in 1762, the year after Charlotte became Queen. Its symbol is still Charlotte’s crown; the Deputy Mayor proudly pointed out that a crown tops Charlotte’s tallest building, the Bank of America HQ.”
What brought all these Charlotte-connected people together? In the words of the ambassador, it was “to take part in ceremonies to mark the 250th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III.”
And why was this tiny town, population about 3,500, chosen to host the event? The ambassador explained that the future queen “was born at Mirow on 19 May 1744.”
Charlotte was living in the schloss, the German word for castle or palace, in Mirow when, at age17, she departed in August, 1761 for England to marry King George.
When I first visited Princess Charlotte’s schloss in 1990, it was lovely, but in bad repair. It seemed way too small to be a real castle. But, as the ambassador explained, that was a blessing. “Its small size and intact roof saved it during the DDR [East German] time when the authorities systematically demolished princely palaces.”
After the unification of Germany, it took the heroic efforts of a group of Mirow residents and the support of wise officials of German Mecklenburg’s government to keep the schloss from being sold to private owners.
The schloss, though small, turned out to be something very special because, as the ambassador explained, its first owner, Charlotte’s grandmother, “built beautifully on a modest scale; the final touches were provided by Italian painters and sculptors …coaxed north from Berlin when Frederick the Great could not afford to pay their fees during the Seven Years War (1756-63).”
The government of German Mecklenburg, with support from the European Union, is pouring millions of euros into restoring the schloss. One special small room, by itself, will cost almost a million euros. Expected completion date: 2014.
Speaking to his fellow British citizens, the ambassador continued, “I recommend a visit in three years to see what you’re investing in as an EU taxpayer: it promises to be spectacular.”
I agree. But don’t wait. With the lovely grounds on the small castle island, a special gatehouse with a room dedicated to a partnership with North Carolina, a hotel, a marina, restaurants, and the historic church where Charlotte was baptized, all within sight of each other, and less than two hours from Berlin, Mirow cries out for a visit by North Carolinians—right now.
For British Ambassador Simon McDonald’s complete report on the events in Mirow, see
For a video of my search for Princess Charlotte see: