The Duke of Cambridge was in Amiens yesterday to commemorate World War I’s Battle of Amiens. Also representing the Brits was Prime Minister Theresa May, and while I wasn’t planning on covering this engagement by itself, there’s been enough news coverage focused on a very specific – and ridiculous – issue that, well, here we are.
The Queen Mother is a figure who we probably haven’t spent enough time on. In the past she’s primarily popped up in relation to the Abdication Crisis, or in her capacity as George VI’s wife or Elizabeth II’s mother, but I’ve been remiss in covering her on her own, save a post from last year focused on her courtship with her future husband. Today we’re going to take a look at her upbringing and the years preceding her marriage.
As noted on Monday, we’re taking a look at the daughters of Empress Frederick (eldest daughter of Queen Victoria). Today we’re going to cover the second of four German princesses: Victoria of Prussia.
In the middle of World War I, Queen Marie of Romania wrote to her first cousin, King George V of Great Britain: “I never imagined that it would be the lot of our generation, we who are children together, to see this great war and in a way to have to remodel the face of Europe.”
Grandchildren of Queen Victoria alongside the Kaiser of Germany, the Queen of Norway, the Queen of Spain, the Tsarina of Russia, the Queen of Greece, the Crown Princess of Sweden and countless German royals, that is in fact very much with what George and Marie were tasked in the 20th century. For the royal men, they at least had something approaching an education and training to complement such a job, but for Queen Victoria’s granddaughters, born and raised in the height of the Victorian Era, it was by far easier to stumble as they were dropped in the midst of increasingly politicized foreign courts with few tools to leverage.
As for Marie, Bucharest was far from home and her husband a far cry from her first love (George V), but despite a tyrannical father-in-law, an unstable mother-in-law, a series of affairs, illegitimate children, proximity to Russia and a shared heritage with Germany, she established herself as a popular and effective queen consort to the Romanian people.
The Prince of Wales joined the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for a second day of engagements acknowledging the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium. Today’s event was held at the Tyne Cot cemetery located just outside of Ypres, the largest Commonwealth burial ground in the world. The site contains the graves of 11,971 servicemen and is an important stop in remembering Passchendaele given the sheer volume of casualties from the summer of 1917.
Ninety-nine years ago today, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, alongside his wife and four children, was brutally executed at Ekaterinburg in the midst of the Russian Revolution and before the close of World War I. The extermination of the Romanov line impacted not only the course of Russian history, but that of Western Europe and Great Britain, in particular, with whom the two ruling families were closely tied.
Personally, it was would deeply affect George V who had been forced to deny his cousins refuge in England out of political necessity.
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.”
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.
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.
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.