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Charlotte: The city named after a queen

Why is Charlotte called the Queen City? Let’s explore our city’s namesake and history.

The Charlotte skyline at dusk with an orange sunset in the background of several tall buildings lit up.

Why is Charlotte called the Queen City?

Photo by andres Nino via Pexels

Charlotte wears the crown. Cincinnati may also call itself the Queen City, but Charlotteans know where the real royalty lies. Only one of us shares our name with an actual queen, if you needed affirmation.

Proud locals, historians, and “Bridgerton” fans alike may know that Charlotte got its name from Sophia Charlotte, former queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Our own Mecklenburg County was also named after Queen Charlotte’s home territory of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, located in present-day northern Germany.

But how did a city in the southeastern United States get its name from a queen in England? Let’s dive into the history of our town’s namesake.

Once upon a time... (1768)

The City of Charlotte was incorporated and named in honor of Queen Charlotte in 1768, during the time she was serving as queen and wife to King George III.

Some sources say that before our city was chartered, settlers actually called the area “Charlottetowne” — a decision made in hopes to gain favor with King George III at a time when North Carolina was still a dependent colony. Settlers hoped the name would encourage legislative assembly members to give our city an economic advantage by making it the site of the county’s courthouse.

And it worked — once chartered (and subsequently shortened from “Charlottetowne” to “Charlotte”), assemblymen did entitle the city to a courthouse. Today, our county’s courthouse remains in Charlotte.

Queen Charlotte looking to the side and wearing various items of jewelry: A necklace, earrings, and a crown.

Meet our city’s namesake.

Charlotte, meet Charlotte

Who was the woman behind our city’s name? Before marrying George III at the age of 17 and moving from present-day Germany to England, Charlotte was “unknown and thought to have no political connections or aims” — a trait that made her particularly suitable for George, in his political advisors’ eyes. Though debated, at least one historian has posited whether Charlotte was Great Britain’s first Black or biracial queen.

After her wedding, Charlotte went on to have 15 children and maintained an “unusually happy marriage” with King George. Fun fact: Buckingham Palace was a gift to Charlotte from George. A year into their marriage, George purchased the estate from the Dukes of Buckingham. The “Queen’s House,” as it was known then, is now the official residence of the royal family.

Like our city, Charlotte was known as a champion of the arts. (In fact, she once even invited eight-year-old Mozart to play at the Royal Palace.) And just as the City of Charlotte is more than a banking and finance hub, Charlotte was more than a Queen: She was also an animal lover, a botany enthusiast, a caretaker, and a harpsichord player.

Where to see the queen, locally

While our city’s namesake never got to see its beauty in her lifetime, her spirit — aka a cardboard immortalization created by the Mint Museum and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library — did get the chance to visit city landmarks and attend local events back in 2019. Since then, the library has brought cardboard Charlotte on tours of its different branches and encourages residents to snap a photo if they see her out and about.

You can also see statues of Queen Charlotte at Charlotte Douglas International Airport’s terminal lobby, or in Charlotte center city outside of Wake Forest University.

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