19 January 2018

Royal Lady Flashback: Sophie of Isenburg's Wedding

Sophie Johanna Maria of Isenburg (1978-  )
Her Serene Highness Princess Sophie of Isenburg (1978-2011)
Her Imperial and Royal Highness The Princess of Prussia (2011-  )

Today we are flashing back just six and a half years to the wedding of the young head of the Imperial House of Hohenzollern, Georg Friedrich The Prince of Prussia, claimant to the German throne that was lost by his great-grandfather Kaiser Wilhelm II nearly 100 years ago, and Princess Sophie of Isenburg. The couple wed on August 25, 2011. Sophie grew up in her family's castle in Hesse. She was educated at the University of Freiburg and the Humboldt University of Berlin. She completed overseas internships in London, Shanghai and Hong Kong. She is a consultant for nonprofit businesses. The couple's civil ceremony took place in the city hall of Potsdam followed by a religious ceremony at the Church of Peace. The service also marked the 950th anniversary of the Hohenzollern dynasty. The reception was held in one of the dynasty's former palaces, Sanssouci. Sophie's gown was designed by Wolfgang Joop. She wore one of her family's tiaras, replacing it later with the Prussian Meander Tiara from the Hohenzollern vaults.

Since the wedding, the couple has had four children. Twins Carl Friedrich and Louis Ferdinand were born in 2013, Emma Marie in 2015 and Heinrich in 2016.

Sophie will celebrate her 40th birthday on March 7, 2018.

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14 January 2018

A Successful Young Queen: Margaret of France

Via Wikimedia Commons
Like so many princesses, Margaret of France, half-sister of King Philip IV, was a pawn in a game over which she had no influence. War was always simmering between the French and English kings. The widowed English King Edward I controlled Gascony and Philip wanted it back. To keep the peace, a double marriage was proposed between the 51-year-old Edward and 11-year-old Margaret and between Edward's only surviving son, the six-year-old Edward Prince of Wales and Philip's three-year-old daughter Isabella. In return, Edward would surrender Gascony. Turns out an 11-year-old bride was not enough to warrant the loss of territory and war broke out before the marriages were completed.

But, Edward had other problems: the Scots. He could not fight wars on two ends of his kingdom. After five years, he finally agreed to sacrifice Gascony so he could focus on Scotland. The marriage to Margaret, now old enough to be a useful Queen, helped make it more palatable. By that time, she was finally old enough to be a wife.

Not a very auspicious beginning for a marriage. The fact that Edward and his first wife Eleanor of Castile had been deeply in love and nearly inseparable also did not bode well for Margaret. (Read my post Eleanor's Crosses: A Royal Love Story.) However, the enviable Eleanor had let Edward down by producing only one surviving son. Of 16 children, only 5 had been boys and only the youngest of these sons was still living. The king's new wife was expected to produce a backup plan in case the young Prince Edward followed his brothers to the grave. Margaret quickly succeeded, first giving birth to Thomas of Brotherton nine months after her marriage and Edmund of Woodstock just 14 months later. A little girl, named Eleanor, was born several years later but died at age five.

King Edward was often away, usually fighting the Scots; he's not remembered as the "Hammer of the Scots" for nothing, but Margaret quickly became indispensable to him and traveled with him as much as possible. He called her a "pearl of great price." She seems to have possessed a wisdom beyond her age that helped her became an important center of the royal family's life. She often served as emissary between the irascible and aging king and her stepchildren, most of whom were older than she was. She had a particularly close relationship with Edward Prince of Wales who addressed her as "my very dear lady and mother," even though she was only a few years his senior. The warrior king and the pleasure-loving prince never saw eye to eye and it was Margaret who helped keep the peace between them.

Margaret was deeply grieved when the king died suddenly on his way yet again to battle in Scotland. Only 27 years old, she refused ever to marry again but she did not put aside her royal role. Within months, she traveled with the new King Edward II back to her native France for him to complete the marriage his father had arranged for him with Margaret's niece, Isabella, and she was present when the couple's first child, the future Edward III, was born a few years later.

Despite the close bond between Margaret and her stepson, his actions soon began to trouble her. He took away lands granted to her by her husband and gave them to his favorite Piers Gaveston. Margaret also fought to protect the inheritances of her own sons against their half-brother. Only seven and five years old when their father died, Thomas and Edmund had no one else to safeguard their interests against a king who had a rapidly growing reputation of taking from others to enrich his friends. In fact, the rising prominence of Gaveston led Margaret to embark on the only intrigue in her life when she helped fund a movement to oust him from power.

Otherwise, Margaret's widowhood was uneventful. When she died 700 years ago on January 14, 1318, her teenage sons were at the mercy of their half-brother. Tensions among them continued to grow, with both Thomas and Edmund joining Margaret's niece Isabella and Isabella's lover Roger Mortimer in the rebellion that dethroned Edward II.

Margaret was no longer there to keep the peace in the family.

More about Margaret of France
Margaret of France on Elizabeth Norton Historian and Author
Margaret of France on English Monarchs
Margaret of France, Queen of England on Unofficial Royalty
Margaret of France, Second Wife of King Edward I on e-Royalty
Marguerite of France (1) on Edward II
Marguerite of France (2) on Edward II
Marguerite of France, Queen of England on The Freelance History Writer
Marguerite of France, Queen of England on Royal Descent
An Unexceptional Man in Exceptional Times on English History Fiction Authors

12 January 2018

Royal Lady Flashback: Donata of Castell-Rudenhausen

Donata Emma of Castell-Rudenhausen (1950-2015)
Her Illustrious Highness Countess Donata of Castell-Rudenhausen (1950-1975)
Her Imperial and Royal Highness Princess Donata of Prussia (1975-1991)
Her Highness Duchess Donata of Oldenburg (1991-2015)

Born into a large German princely family, Countess Donata grew up in Rudenhausen Castle and later trained as a nurse. At age 24, she married the younger Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, son of the Head of the former German imperial House of Hohenzollern. Since his older brothers married dynastically unacceptable women (see my post on Unequal Marriage Equals Happy Marriage?), the imperial line would pass through Donata and Louis Ferdinand to their son Prince Georg Friedrich, who was born 13 months after their wedding. The following summer, Louis Ferdinand was crushed between two vehicles while on military maneuvers with the West German Army. An emergency amputation of his leg failed to save his life. Six months after his death, Donata gave birth to their second child, Princess Cornelie-Cecile, who has developmental disabilities. For the next 13 years, Donata was a single mother until 1991 when she married Duke Friedrich August of Oldenburg. Fourteen years her senior, he was also the ex-husband of her sister-in-law Princess Marie Cecile of Prussia, who had divorced just over a year earlier. He had three children of his own, who were just a a few years older than their cousins, Donata's children. Unfortunately, Donata grew ill and died at the age of 65.

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