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FAQ City: Fit For A Queen

QueenCharlotte.jpg
wallygrom
/
Flickr
A statue of Queen Charlotte is seen at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

“Why are there so many streets named Queens?”

“Why is Charlotte called the Queen City?”

“Where did Charlotte get its name?”

There are a lot of questions about Charlotte’s origins, and they all go back to one person: Queen Charlotte.

Who is the city of Charlotte named after?

Charlotte gets its name from Queen Charlotte.

Who is Queen Charlotte?

Queen Charlotte, who you might know from the Shonda Rhimes' Netflix hit "Bridgerton," is the namesake of this town.

Queen Charlotte Netflix.png
Netflix
Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte on Bridgerton, a popular Netflix period drama.

She was born Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and was a princess in what is now Germany.

“Queen Charlotte was born in a small province,” said Sheila Bumgarner, a librarian who works in the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. “This is when Germany was made up of provinces" like Mecklenburg Strelitz.

In 1761, King George III and Queen Charlotte were married. They later had 15 kids together, 13 of whom survived.

How was Mecklenburg County named?

Same as above — from Queen Charlotte.

Mecklenburg comes from her family name — Mecklenburg Strelitz.

At first, Mecklenburg actually was part of another county, according to Stephanie E. Meyers, who wrote the book "Invisible Queen” about Queen Charlotte.

“So a portion of Anson County — I believe it's the southern part of Anson County — was renamed and called Mecklenburg County,” Meyers said.

It wasn’t unusual for colonies and their cities to be named after royals. So, in 1763 — two years after Charlotte's wedding — Mecklenburg County was named. Imagine being not even 20 years old and having places named in your honor.

That’s a queen move — literally.

When was Charlotte named?

In 1768, according to NCpedia, North Carolina’s state encyclopedia, a group of colonists established Charlottetowne — or what is now called Charlotte.

"The story goes is that the locals really wanted to have the county seat here in Mecklenburg County,” said Bumgarner. “They thought they would get an easy royal government approval if they named the city or the town at the time Charlotte after the queen and Mecklenburg after the province from which she originated.”

The queen was not involved in Charlotte. She didn’t come to any opening ceremonies or dedications. It all was in name only. According to Bumgarner, a royal governor appointed by the king really helped with the planning.

Where does the name Tryon come from?

So, the royal governor listed above? His name was William Tryon. He was a governor of colonial North Carolina. Tryon Street was named after him.

What about the hornet references in Charlotte?

Hornets_lightrail.JPG
Michael Tomsic

When British Gen. Charles Cornwallis came to Charlotte, he reportedly said: "Let's get out of here; this place is a damned hornet's nest.”

The name stuck, and hornets are also part of the region’s imagery, most famously with the Charlotte Hornets basketball team.

What else do we know about Queen Charlotte’s background?

Stephanie E. Meyers’ book was titled “The Invisible Queen” because of some of the things people didn’t know about the queen — or what was invisible about her life.

“People don't realize that she had a mixed-race heritage and that she was clearly a woman who had Black ancestry,” Meyers said. “During those days, they refer to it as Moorish ancestry, because one of her mother's ancestors was a Moor in Portugal. And that's where the family line of color came from.”

But Meyers said these weren’t facts that were hidden.

“When she married King George III, when she came to England … when she arrived, there were members of the court who commented, ‘Oh, my, she has a mulatto face.’ Other members of the court commented, ‘Oh, my, her nose is thick, her lips are thick.’”

Who was Queen Charlotte as a person?

A queen in the figurative sense, too.

According to Meyers, Queen Charlotte was a patron and supporter of the arts. One day, a child prodigy came to play for her in England. The queen was impressed by his talent and sponsored him.

But this wasn’t just a one-symphony wonder, this prodigy grew up to be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The queen was also an abolitionist who supported a wide variety of social causes, including assistance and benefits for women in poverty. Meyers says the queen also took an interest in botany and astronomy, too.

Did Queen Charlotte ever make it to Charlotte?

There are no records of the queen coming to Charlotte or North Carolina before her death in 1818. But there are statues and murals around town that feature her likeness. And royal imagery is everywhere, from street signs to crowns on Instagram posts hashtagged Charlotte.

Where did the Queen City nickname come from?

Also from the queen. A lot of the symbols, imagery and nicknames stem from her. According to Bumgarner, the first mention of the term "Queen City" was in 1887 in the Charlotte Observer.

Is Charlotte the only Queen City?

There are other cities with the nickname, most notably Cincinnati. Seattle, Meridian, Mississippi, and Buffalo, New York, are some of the other towns that also hold this nickname.

Where did the name 'Queens University of Charlotte' come from?

Queens University
Debbus

The founders tried to name the school for the queen, but it didn’t work out at first.

“Way back in 1771, the colonial legislature approved the creation of Queens College in Charlotte, and that was done to honor the queen,” said Carolyn Radcliff, director of the Everett Library at Queens University of Charlotte. “Because they needed the king’s approval to operate … so the North Carolina colonial legislature approved it, but they tried to get approval from the king to go ahead with that name of that college. So, they operated for two years before the king said, ‘No, you may not create an institution called Queens College.’ So, they had to stop. That was the end of Queens College. It lasted for two years.”

The school was then renamed Presbyterian Female College. But more than a century later, Radcliff said, historic documents showed the school wanted to change its name to fight anti-Presbyterian sentiments.

So, they decided to honor their original name.

In 1912, there was a move of the institution to Myers Park and a renaming. In 1912, there was a suggestion to rename the institution from Presbyterian Female College to Queens College. The explanation is that it would honor that very early Queens College, so it would honor that very connection,” Radcliff said.

In 2002, the name was changed to Queens University of Charlotte.

When did the crown logo start appearing around Charlotte? Has it been a thing for a long time?

In 1985, the city adopted the crown logo — the logo you see on everything from street signs to garbage cans. According to a WBTV story from 2017, a city survey showed that 53% of residents identified the crown the most with the city.

In 2017, the crown was even incorporated into the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority’s new logo to represent Charlotte not only to residents but to the world.

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Alexandra Watts is an interim assistant producer on Charlotte Talks. Previously, she worked with WFAE as a Report for America corps member, reporting on local government and community issues through a partnership between WFAE and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.