The Edwardian Princess Royal: Louise of Wales, Duchess of Fife

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The title “Princess Royal” was introduced to England by Charles I’s wife, Henrietta Maria, in the 17th century, a spin-off of France’s “Madame Royale” title given to the monarch’s eldest unmarried daughter. The first Princess Royal was Henrietta Maria and Charles’s daughter, Princess Mary, and it has subsequently been handed out to the monarch’s eldest daughter at their discretion. A key point of distinction with the French title, however, was that the princess’s marital status was irrelevant to her holding the title.

In 1905 King Edward VII named his eldest daughter, Louise, the Princess Royal and also moved to style her two daughters as princesses despite the fact that as daughters of a duke, they would not have otherwise. This allowed Louise’s children to have precedence immediately after other members of the British Royal Family styled as “Royal Highness.” It was an interesting move that protected the prestige of Louise in comparison to the families of her brother, the future George V, and her younger sister, Maud, who became queen consort of Norway the same year.

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Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Britishness (And Left Arm)

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On January 27, 1859 Queen’s Victoria’s eldest daughter, Victoria, gave birth to her first child at the Crown Prince’s Palace in Berlin. The birth was difficult: There was a delay in alerting doctors that the princess was in labor, doctors were hesitant to physically examine her and the baby was in breach. After a long and complicated labor, during which the lives of both mother and child were in danger, a son was delivered.

Unfortunately, it soon became clear that the baby’s left arm had been badly injured at birth due to Erb’s palsy, a condition that causes paralysis from nerve  damage. Victoria, known as “Vicky” to her family, and her husband, Prince Frederick of Prussia, “Fritz,” were horrified – delivering a less than physically perfect heir to the Prussian throne was viewed as a personal failure by Vicky and raised concerns about the ability of their son to thrive in a masculine, militant court atmosphere.

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The Death of Queen Victoria

Today, January 22, in 1901, Queen Victoria died at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight after 63 years on the throne. Victoria had been at Osborne since Christmas, as per her tradition, however by the New Year she didn’t feel well enough to leave. Within three weeks she had passed away at the age of 81.

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Three days later, her body was lifted into her coffin by her eldest son and successor, Edward VII; her eldest grandson, Kaiser Wilhelm II; and her third and favorite son, Arthur, Duke of Connaught. Per instruction written out by the Queen in 1897, the funeral was white, she was dressed in a white gown with her wedding veil, and within her coffin was placed a dressing gown that had belonged to her long-dead husband, Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; a lock of her Scottish servant’s, John Brown, hair; a ring from the Brown family that Brown had given to her; and various other mementos. The trinkets related to Brown were placed so as to be concealed by her left hand in the hopes they couldn’t be viewed by her family, the majority of whom detested the deceased servant.

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