The brief relationship between Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Mary of Teck is a nice little tale of what could have been, except that how events unfolded was better for all. Albert Victor was the eldest son of the Prince and Princess of Wales, and, as such, second-in-line to the throne on which his grandmother, Queen Victoria, sat. Born two months prematurely on January 8, 1864, he grew into a young man of questionable virtue and value, a fact which opened the opportunity for a penniless young woman with fading ties to the British monarchy to find herself primed to become the UK’s next queen consort.
Queen Victoria is rightfully known as the “Grandmother of Europe” thanks to how many of her descendants found themselves on European thrones by the dawn of World War I. The role of her junior male counterpart rightfully belongs to King Christian IX of Denmark. Less well-known than his British peer, four of Christian’s six children would end up crowned heads, while the remaining two played equally as important roles in the makeup of Western Europe as it careened into the 20th century.
Like I mentioned in the post on Philippa of England, we’re continuing our coincidental trend of covering Britain’s ties to Sweden. Today we’re taking a look at a much more recent individual: Margaret of Connaught, Crown Princess of Sweden. A granddaughter of Queen Victoria and first cousin of the more famous Queen Maud of Norway, Margaret’s tenure in the Swedish Royal Family was tragically cut short by her early death before World War II, though her husband remarkably married yet another British woman, Lady Louise Mountbatten.
If there was one element that impacted the psychological makeup of Edward VII more than any other it was the fact that he was a disappointment to his parents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. That’s not conjecture – it was something they took pains to verbalize to him, write to him and discuss about him to others. His complete and total failure to meet their exacting and lofty standards for a perfect prince and heir was so plainly understood by the entire Royal Family and the Queen’s government that it practically howls off the historical record.
Recently we discussed changes to the succession laws in 2013 that allow the eldest child, not just the eldest male, to inherit the crown. Because the rules aren’t retroactive, Princess Charlotte is the female member of the British Royal Family to directly benefit from the rule change, meaning that even if she is followed up by a younger brother, he won’t trump her in the line of succession.
So, in honor of that, we’re going to go back and look at the elder daughters who could have ruled if absolute primogeniture had been in place from the get-go – well, from the Norman Conquest.
Some of Queen Victoria’s children are burned into history books via their dynastic importance. Others are referenced as mere links between Britain and the continent, becoming the parents of later European rulers who were key to World War I. The middle of these nine children, Princess Helena, was not one such person. To me, she stands out as the child who looks the most like her mother.
Queen Victoria’s youngest child, Princess Beatrice, essentially grew up as a parental afterthought. The last of nine children, she was both the beneficiary and victim of a mother who had more pressing issues on her mind than paying close attention to a young child, particularly when her eldest were approaching marriageable age and causing so many more problems.
In honor of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia’s upcoming trip to the UK for an official state visit at the invitation of the Queen, we’re taking a beat to take a look at the ties between the two royal families, of which there are a few. While French and German blood have permeated the English line far and above everything else, there have been a few notable Anglo-Spanish alliances over the course of history.
The first was that of Eleanor of Castile to Edward I in 1254. Then there was the famous union of Katherine of Aragon and Henry VIII, cemented in 1509. Finally, there was the inauspicious marriage of their daughter, Mary I, to Philip II of Spain in 1554. These were supplemented by the reverse, too – English princess who became Castilian or Spanish queen consorts. Henry II’s daughter, Eleanor, married Alfonso VIII in 1177. And Edward III’s granddaughter, Katherine of Lancaster, ended a civil war by marrying Henry III in 1388.
The last of these matches worth noting was not between an “English princess,” per se, but she was an Englishwoman all the same, and one with deep-rooted familial ties to the Houses of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Windsor. Her name was Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg and she was the only daughter of Princess Beatrice, youngest daughter of Queen Victoria. She was born on October 24, 1887 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, the same year her grandmother was celebrating 50 years on the throne. Victoria referred to her as “my little Jubilee grandchild.”
And so we pick up with yet another of Queen Victoria’s children: Princess Alice, her third child and second daughter. Alice is less famous than her two elder siblings, Vicky and Bertie (aka Empress Frederick of Germany and Edward VII), but that fact doesn’t necessarily align with her dynastic importance.
Have you ever heard it said the Queen and Prince Philip are cousins? Well, they are, albeit distantly. Queen Elizabeth is descended from Queen Victoria through her son, Edward VII, while Philip is descended from her via Alice. Alice’s eldest daughter, Victoria of Hesse, married Prince Louis of Battenberg and her eldest daughter, Princess Alice of Battenberg, is Philip’s mother. So, there you go.
Louise has always been my second-favorite of Queen Victoria’s daughter (the first being Vicky) and all of her daughters hold a special place in my heart since they’re some of the first figures in British history in which I became interested. I still distinctly remember reading Jerrold M. Packard’s book on all of them for first time when I was about 10 and it’s been re-read many times since. The length of their mother’s reign and the unprecedented change that Western Europe went through over the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century put them at the epicenter of the dramatically changing role that Europe’s Royal Families held (if they made it through without being abolished). Indeed, many of Queen Victoria’s daughters would make dynastically significant marriages, their own children ruling or taking places of prominence at courts around the globe.
Louise wouldn’t be one of them, but her uniqueness in shying away from that fate, frankly, makes her interesting.