Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood

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If ever there was a 20th century English princess that did things “correctly,” it would be George V’s daughter, Princess Mary. I say this mainly because the extent of what we don’t know about her could fill a book. She lived a life devoted to public duty, supporting her father, her brothers, Edward VIII and George VI, and later her niece, Queen Elizabeth. Today, however, marks the anniversary of her wedding to Henry Lascelles, Earl of Harewood in 1922, and so we’ll take this opportunity to take a quick look at her life.

Mary was born on April 25, 1897 to George, Duke of York and his wife, Mary of Teck, Duchess of York at York Cottage on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk. She was her parents’ third child, joining her elder brothers, Princes Edward and Albert in the York nursery. At the time of her birth her great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, was still on the throne and her father was second in line to the throne, making her position mirror that of Princess Charlotte today. Notably, she was christened Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary, however Queen Victoria apparently proposed naming her “Diamond” in honor of her Diamond Jubilee which took place that year, marking her 60th year as queen.

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It’s Difficult to Beat Missy of Edinburgh’s Princess Game

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Queen Marie in the early 1920s

I referenced an anecdote from Sarah Bradford’s biography of George VI yesterday and I’m sharing another today. Needless to say I recommend the book, which kept me occupied for the entirety of an eight-hour flight back in December. The most ringing of all my endorsements.

Anyway, this anecdote concerns Marie “Missy” of Edinburgh, eldest daughter of Prince Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and his wife, Marie of Russia. Missy, born on October 29, 1875, was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and would go on to marry Ferdinand I, King of Romania, serving as Romania’s queen from 1914-1927. After her husband’s death she saw the reigns of both her son, Carol I, and her grandson, Michael I, though not in that order (we’ll cover this in a later post), made frequent trips back to England and died just two years shy of the deposition of the Romanian royal family in 1940.

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Marie of Romania in 1893, the year of her marriage

Now, while Marie lived a colorful and eventful life, how she came into contact with the future George VI (then known as Prince Albert) is downright hilarious. Missy was a first cousin of Albert’s father, George V, and a favorite of his – before their respective marriages, George had even been a bit in love with her and she came very close to being the next queen of England.

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That Time Edward VIII Watched the Proclamation of His Kingship…With Wallis Simpson

 

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On January 21, 1936, this happened. Now, I only recently found this out, having given it literally no amount of thought, but monarchs don’t watch the formal proclamation of their accession. In Edward’s case, he not only did it, but he did it publicly from a window in St. James’s Palace next to none other than his  long-time, still-married companion, Wallis Simpson. #Scandal. Well, sort of.

Edward’s father, George V, died on January 20 at Sandringham House in Norfolk after a 25-year reign. Edward was 43, unmarried, childless and had, in certain circles, a reputation for being a bit of playboy, particularly if the women in question were married.

At the time that he became king, his relationship with Wallis Simpson wasn’t well-known to the public – thus, seeing them together wouldn’t raise alarm bells for most people. But it certainly did for those who knew who Wallis was, particularly members of Edward’s government, his family and his courtiers. As Edward was about to find out, what had been tolerated for the throne’s heir, would emphatically not be for its king.

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