22 April 2015

Today's Princess: Marie Louise of Hohenzollern

Although strongly connected by family ties across most of the royal houses of Europe, Marie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (1845-1912) likely never imagined how close she would come to a throne. Born into a non-reigning branch of the Hohenzollern dynasty that ruled Germany, Marie married the youngest brother of the Belgian King, while her sister married the King of Portugal and one brother was selected as the King of Romania. No such crowned fate seemed likely for Marie when Britain's Queen Victoria matched her with her own cousin Philippe Count of Flanders.

Philippe's older brother, King Leopold II, already had an heir, eight-year-old Prince Leopold. This left Philippe and Marie free to pursue their many religious, literary and artistic interests, while starting their own family. This period of their marriage was very brief, for tragedy struck less than two years later. Young Leopold fell into a pond, developed pneumonia and died. Even then it wasn't entirely clear that the throne would come their way. Leopold and his wife Marie Henriette of Austria were young enough to have more sons. When only another daughter arrived, Philippe's role as heir to the throne was certain.

As the wife of the future king, she did her duty by presenting him with five children: two boys and three girls. Tragedy once again struck, as it so often did in the Belgian royal family. Their baby Josephine Marie died at just two months old and years later, their oldest son Prince Baudouin died of influenza at the age of 21.

Marie clung to her faith, and continued her artistic pursuits. She was even known to exhibit her work.

In the end, however, the throne bypassed Marie. Her husband predeceased his brother. Marie lived long enough to see her youngest child become King Albert I, but passed away at age 67 after battling pneumonia. She was remembered by her family for her tender love, playful spirit, and serious religious convictions.

For more about Marie:
Bonne Maman Flandre on The Cross of Laeken
Marie of Hohenzollern on Maria's Royal Collection
Wedding of Philippe Count of Flanders on Unofficial Royalty

20 April 2015

Today's Princess: Adela of Flanders

Statue of Adela's oldest son,
Blessed Charles the Good

via Wikimedia Commons
Nine hundred years ago this month, Adela of Flanders (c. 1064-1115) died in her early forties. Despite what seems a tragically early death to us today, she had led an eventful life. The Europe of a millennium ago was a seething cauldron of small kingdoms, duchies and counties continually jockeying for power and influence; and that is how this Flemish lady became a Danish queen and an Italian duchess.

Born just before the Norman conquest of England, the Norman hold on the island nation was by no means certain during Adela's time. Many foreign princes and English lords were eager to assert their claims. Not the least of these was the Danish prince Canute, whose life goals included becoming King of Denmark, becoming King of England and supporting the Roman Catholic Church. Despite the fact that Adela's aunt, Matilda of Flanders, was married to the Norman William the Conqueror, Flanders was opposed to the growing English-Norman empire. So, when Canute stopped off in Flanders after a less-than-successful raid in England, he likely took notice of the marriageable Adela, daughter of Count Robert II of Flanders.

A rival against his brothers for the Danish throne, Canute eventually succeeded the eldest one and almost immediately cemented his position against England by marrying the teenaged Adela of Flanders. While he continued alternately fighting battles and funding churches, Adela bore him a son named Charles and then twin daughters. The girls were newborns when her husbands twin ambitions merged in an unholy way. In the midst of a rebellion, he and his entourage were slaughtered inside of a church. The movement to canonize began almost immediately.

An agreement was reached to allow Canute's younger brother Olaf, who had been banished to Flanders to stop him meddling in Denmark, to take the Danish throne and Adela returned with young Charles back to Flanders, leaving behind the baby princesses.

A few years later, with the continuing shift in political alliances, Adela married Roger Borsa, the Norman Duke of Apulia in southern Italy. She left her Danish son behind in Flanders, where we eventually became the Count of Flanders, but, much like his father was hacked to pieces in a church and then beatified.

In Italy, Roger was a far less respected and less successful ruler than Adela's first husband, but having a Queen for a wife was no doubt a boon to him. Adela once again produced three children, this time all boys. When Roger died, Adela briefly took over as regent for their teenaged son William, who was an inadequate but popular leader. She saw to his marriage with an Italian countess and then passed away shortly after.

Books featuring Adela: