The first time I ever flew on an airplane was from Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Back then, the sculpture was positioned in front of the airport departure terminal. She stood high on a tall podium, almost daring travelers to leave her fair city.
Over the years, a trip to the airport meant getting a glimpse of the sculpture. Her fierceness enchanted me. Her strong graceful hold on the crown all while balancing perplexed me. I often wondered if she was fleeing, fighting or standing her ground.
My love of the sculpture and our city did not translate to getting to know who Queen Charlotte was or what she represented. It was not until my research on Sister Cities that I wanted to know more.
Born Sophie Charlotte to Duke Charles Lewis Frederick and Duchess Elizabeth Albertina in 1744, she was the youngest of six children. The would-be queen spent her childhood in a castle in Mecklenburg-Strelitz, located in northern Germany.
At the age of 17, she married King George III, becoming the Queen of England. All accounts mention a happy marriage with nine sons and six daughters. Two of their sons became kings of England.
In 1763, just two years after Queen Charlotte came to England, settlers in the American colonies named their community Charlotte and the county Mecklenburg.
Perhaps the most recent scuttlebutt about Queen Charlotte will be her everlasting contribution to the world: Over the past 15 years, Queen Charlotte’s possible African heritage has been cause for discussion both in England and here in Charlotte. In 2009, The Guardian supposed it made the monarchy “much more interesting.” For Charlotte, perhaps it will be a way to bring people together.
Kaskey’s sculpture was moved temporarily in 2013 from its original location at the front of the airport to between the newly designed east and west parking decks in Daily Parking at the airport. Once the renovations are complete, a permanent home will be found.
If you wish to catch a glimpse, park and then walk to the end of the two decks.
She still stands tall on her pedestal amidst a garden and surrounded by flags.
Photos: David Neal, CM Parks and Rec, Vanessa Infanzon