02 December 2017

Brides of St. George's Chapel, Part 2

Now that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have selected St. George's Chapel in Windsor for their May 2018 nuptials, I'm looking back at the other royal weddings that have taken place there since the days of Queen Victoria. It is a less well-known venue and much more intimate space (if 800 seats is intimate) than Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Nevertheless, it has hosted 15 royal weddings in the last 150 years. This is the second of two posts. (Read the first one.) This post starts with the turn of the last century and continues through the recent wedding of one of Harry's first cousins. 

10 February 1904
Princess Alice of Albany and Prince Alexander of Teck

Alice's parents, Queen Victoria's youngest son Leopold Duke of Albany and Helena of Waldeck-Pyrmont were also married at St. George's but her dad died as a result of his hemophilia when Alice was still an infant. Alexander was a descendant of King George III and the brother of Queen Mary, the consort of King George V. The couple's youngest son died as a baby and their oldest son inherited hemophilia, which caused him never to recover from a car crash as a young man. He died two weeks later, and was buried at St. George's. Their oldest child a daughter called May, however, lived into old age and was a beloved member of the British Royal Family. In 1917, Alexander shed his father's Germanic name and titles, adopting instead his mother Mary Adelaide of Cambridge's name. His brother-in-law gave him the title Earl of Athlone. Like so many other couples married at St. George's, this couple ended up in Canada, where he was Governor General during World War II. Before that, he had served in the same capacity in South Africa. So, they lived on three continents for extended periods. They were married 53 years until his death. She survived until the age of 97, dying in 1981 as the longest lived person born into the British Royal Family. Of course, her husband's nieces-in-law  Princess Alice Duchess of Gloucester (102) and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (101) both out-survived her but they were born the daughters of Scottish peers.

15 June 1905
Princess Margaret of Connaught and Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden

Margaret and Gustaf Adolf fell in love at first site in Egypt. After wedding in England and honeymooning in Ireland, they went on to Sweden where she devoted herself to learning Swedish history and language. She became very popular and is especially remembered as a hands-on mother, an odd behavior for women of her class at the time. The couple had four sons and one daughter. In 1920, his father succeeded his grandfather as king and they became the Crown Prince and Princess. He later became king but Margaret, unfortunately, never was his queen. During her sixth pregnancy, she had a mastoid operation following an ear infection. The operation led to widespread infection, since antibiotics had not yet been developed, little could be done to save her and the baby. They had been married slightly less than 15 years. Gustav Adolf married her cousin Lady Louise Mountbatten a few years later. They had no children together but Louise was a good stepmother. He became king in 1950 and lived on until 1973. His and Margaret's descendants currently sit on the thrones of both Sweden and Denmark.

2 September 1919
The Lady Helena Cambridge and Major John Evelyn Gibbs

A descendant of King George III and niece of Queen Mary, Helena had been born Princess Helena of Teck but had her name and title changed in the great Anglicizing of the British Royal Family in 1917. Her father was Adolphus of Teck. later Marquess of Cambridge, and Lady Margaret Grosvenor, a daughter of the Duke of Westminster. Her groom was nearly 20 years her senior and was a veteran not just of the recent Great War (or World War I) but also of the Boer Wars, which happened while she was an infant. The couple had no children and were married 13 years until his death. She lived another 37 years, mainly in the home of her older sister, Mary Duchess of Beaufort.

14 December 1957
Miss Anne Abel Smith and Mr. David Liddell Grainger

Nearly four decades elapsed before another royal wedding at the chapel, and this one was only tangentially royal. Anne was a granddaughter of Princess Alice and Prince Alexander above. Far removed from the throne in the line of succession, she and her family were nevertheless close to the main branch of the British Royal Family, particularly because of their blood relationship to Queen Mary, who had died just a few years before this wedding. David was a Scottish politician, but unfortunately not a loyal husband. The couple had four sons and a daughter in the first 10 years of their marriage, but divorced after 23 years. He married his mistress and fathered more children, leaving his estate to the second family when he died in 2007. Anne became a Christian missionary in Africa for a while and now lives in London.

18 July 1992
Lady Helen Windsor and Mr. Timothy Taylor

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Several more decades passed before the next royal wedding, this time between a great-granddaughter of King George V and an art dealer. Helen is the daughter of Queen Elizabeth's first cousin Edward Duke of Kent. Like her husband, she is also an art dealer. Having had two sons together, the couple faced a a crisis early in their marriage when Tim was diagnosed with cancer. He survived and they soon added two daughters to their family. The couple is often seen at art events and charity events throughout London. You can also catch a glimpse of them on the royal balcony for the Queen's annual birthday celebrations and other major royal events.

19 June 1999
The Prince Edward and Miss Sophie Rhys-Jones
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The next truly royal wedding at the chapel joined the Queen's youngest child with his longtime love. At the time, Edward, who was given a newly created title as The Earl of Wessex, had opted for a private career as a film producer while Sophie kept her career, managing her own PR agency. Unfortunately, they both encountered controversy in their commercial careers for having misused their royal connections. They gave up their jobs to become full-time royals with income provided by the Queen. At first, they struggled to have a family. Sophie's first pregnancy was ectopic and had to be terminated when it became a severe threat to her life. Her second pregnancy delivered prematurely following a placental abruption. Their daughter Louise was delivered by emergency C-section while Edward was overseas and the baby was immediately moved to a special neonatal hospital. She and Sophie both survived. Their next and last child James was delivered without serious issues four years later. Although Louise and James are entitled to royal styles and titles, the couple has opted to have them styled as children of an earl. Sophie and Edward are full-time royals now and often represent that British Royal Family at foreign royal weddings and other royal events outside of Britain. 

9 April 2005
The Prince of Wales and Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles

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St. George's Chapel hosted a special religious service of blessing for the marriage of Charles Prince of Wales and his very longtime love Camilla, which had taken place earlier in the day at the local town hall. The couple were not able to marry in a Church of England ceremony because Camilla's ex-husband was still living. Charles and Camilla's romance, however, had started  before either of their first marriages. In their youth, they allowed duty and other obligations to end their affair. She married and had two children and then he did the same. Once they had reconnected, their affair helped contribute to the very public breakdown of his marriage to Lady Diana Spencer. Camilla divorced in 1995 and Charles did the same in 1996. The death of his ex-wife in 1997 likely delayed their marriage while they continued to deal with public outrage over their affair and Diana's tragic, though unrelated, demise. At the time of their wedding, it was announced that Camilla would not use her husband's primary Wales title out of respect for the late Diana and would use only his secondary titles (Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Rothesay, etc.) and that she would be called Princess Consort rather than Queen upon his accession. Public feeling has been softening toward Camilla since then as she has proven herself to be a solid asset to the family and the people. We may yet raise a toast to Queen Camilla one day, if Charles has his way.

17 May 2018
Mr. Peter Philips and Miss Autumn Kelly

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At first glance, the names of this bride and groom don't sound royal at all. However, Peter is the oldest grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II and the first of her grandchildren to marry. Peter's mother, Anne The Princess Royal refused royal titles for her children. Born Catholic in Canada, Autumn met Peter through their shared interest in Grand Prix auto racing and married two years later. Their wedding sparked a bit of controversy. Firstly, Autumn chose to convert from Catholicism because, at that time, heirs to the throne could not keep their place if they married Catholics. (This has since been changed.) Secondly, they were highly criticized for making a deal to have their wedding photographed by Hello! The fact that they used the money to pay for the wedding, instead of relying on public money, did little to ease concerns. When his sister Zara wished to make a similar arrangement for her own wedding, she was not allowed to do so. Peter and Autumn provided Her Majesty with her first two great-grandchildren, little girls named Savannah and Isla, who are often seen on the sidelines of polo fields and horse shows with their horse-mad relatives. 

28 November 2017

The Brides of St. George's Chapel, Part 1

With the announcement that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will wed in May 2018 at St. George's Chapel in Windsor, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the other royal ladies who have married there. St. George's is over 600 years old and it serves as the chapel of the Order of the Garter. It is part of the Windsor Castle complex and therefore is one of the "home" churches of the British Royal Family.

Since Queen Victoria's time, 15 royal weddings have been held there. In fact, five of Victoria's nine children were married at St. George's. In Part 1, we look at the royal weddings of the 19th century. (Read Part 2)

28 November 1863
The Prince of Wales (future King Edward VIII) and Alexandra of Denmark
Bertie and Alix had six children. The youngest, Prince Alexander died as an infant and the oldest, Prince Albert Victor, died in his 20s. Their second son became King George V and one of their daughters became Queen Maud of Norway. They were married 46 years until his death. She survived another 15 years.

5 July 1866
The Princess Helena and Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg
Lenchen and Christian also had six children although one was stillborn and another died as an infant. Only one of their children married, Princess Marie Louise. Helena and Christian were frequently called upon to support Queen Victoria, who kept them housed close at hand, although they did not live with her like Lenchen's sister Beatrice and her husband. When the extended royal family changed their names in 1917, this branch of the family simply dropped the long name of its house and were just called by their first names. The couple was married 51 years until his death. She lived another six years.

21 March 1871
The Princess Louise and the Marquess of Lorne (later the 9th Duke of Argyll)
Louise and John had no children. He was named Governor General of Canada, so they lived in that country for five years. Louise was active as an artist, particularly working in clay sculpture. They were married for 43 years until his death. His nephew succeeded to the title. Louise lived for 25 years as a widow, dying just months after the start of World War II.

13 March 1879
The Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia
Arthur and Louise had three children, all of whom were very popular among their royal cousins. The eldest, Princess Margaret married the Crown Prince of Sweden, but died before he became king. Their youngest, Princess Patricia, lived in Canada while her father was Governor General there and was a public favorite. Their son Arthur married his cousin Princess Alexandra. Young Arthur predeceased his father, but the title passed on to his son Alistair. Louise and Arthur were married 38 years until her death. Arthur died 25 years later, in 1942, as the last surviving son of Queen Victoria.

24 April 1880
Princess Frederica of Hanover and Baron Alfons von Pawel-Rammingen
Frederica was the daughter of Queen Victoria's cousin, King George V of Hanover, who had been deposed. She was close to her British cousins. In fact, Victoria's youngest son was infatuated with her, but her heart was set on Alfons, a German nobleman. Victoria welcomed the couple to Britain and gave them an apartment at Hampton Court Palace. There they raised their only child, a daughter called Victoria (of course). They were married 46 years until her death. He outlived her by about six years. They and their daughter are buried in St. George's Chapel.

27 April 1882
The Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany and Helena of Waldeck-Pyrmont

Determined to live a normal life despite his mother Queen Victoria's protectiveness, the hemophiliac Prince Leopold was probably more earnest to marry than most other young princes. He pursued several prospects before landing Helena. Their daughter Princess Alice was born 10 months after their wedding. Helena was expecting their second child, a son, when Leopold died at the age of 30. They had been married less than two years. Helena was separated from her son when he was 16 because he was sent to Germany to be the heir to his uncle, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The family was further splintered by World War I. Helena passed away in 1922 after 38 years as a widower.

6 July 1891
Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein and Prince Aribert of Anhalt
As mentioned above, Marie Louise was the only one of Princess Helena and Prince Christian's children to marry. However, it was a very unhappy experience perhaps because her husband was likely homosexual. As ruler of his own territory, Marie Louise's father annulled the marriage nine years later while she was overseas in Canada. She returned to the UK and never remarried. She and her sister Helena Victoria were very popular members of the extended British Royal Family until their deaths in 1957 (Marie Louise) and 1948 (Helena Victoria). Marie Louise's ex also did not remarry. He died in 1933.

27 November 2017

An American Princess for Harry

The Prince of Wales has announced the much-anticipated engagement of his youngest son Prince Harry to his American girlfriend, Megan Markle. Born on the late Queen Mother's 81st birthday (Aug. 4, 1981) in Los Angeles, Meghan comes from a family of divorce like her future husband. She is three years older than Harry.

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Meghan graduated from a Catholic high school in LA before completing a bachelor's degree in theater and international studies. She launched a career as a model and actress appearing in several small parts before landing a role as a series regular on the show Suits, which films in Toronto, in 2011. For the last seven years, she has lived in Canada for work while moving back home to Los Angeles during hiatus.

Never a member of tabloid celebrity set, she instead focused her energy on the kinds of charitable activities that have helped prepare her well for her future job as a member of the British Royal Family. She has championed causes from safe drinking water in Africa to gender equality to antislavery issues.

Previously, Meghan was in a nine-year relationship with film producer Trevor Engelson, including two years of marriage, which ended in 2013. She and Harry met through a mutual friend in the summer of 2016. They were able to keep their rapidly developing romance a secret for several months before the news broke about a year ago. At that time, Harry responded with a strongly worded statement against the harassment that she, her family and friends began receiving from the media and others. Some of the nastiness she endured was due to people's objections to prince dating a "black" woman. Meghan is of mixed Caucasian and African American heritage. She actually will be the second person of color to marry into the British Royal Family: Harry's cousin Lady Davina Windsor has been married to Gary Lewis, a New Zealander of Maori ancestry for 13 years. In the engagement interview, Meghan commented that it is a shame that people would focus on ethnicity or wish to discriminate. She said, "I'm really just proud of who I am and where I come from."

The ring was designed by Prince Harry in yellow gold, which he said was her favorite. It features a large cushion-cut diamond sourced from Botswana, where they camped under the stars early in their relationship. The smaller diamond on either side comes from Diana Princess of Wales' personal collection. Harry wanted to the ring to help ensure that Diana was part of the celebration.

No wedding details have been released yet except that the wedding will take place in spring 2018. If Meghan is in the UK on a fiancee visa, as many speculate, they must wed within six months of her visa. It is hard to know when she officially moved to London (certainly within the last two weeks) because she has been living with Harry at Nottingham Cottage of Kensington Palace for many months, whenever she was not working on her television program.

In the engagement interview, Meghan confirmed that she has ended her acting career, but doesn't look at it as losing anything. Instead, she looks forward to be able to work more intently on the causes that are important to her. (Harry also revealed that although the Queen's corgis have been barking at him all of his life that they just love Meghan.)

For more about her possible future, view my post FAQs about Prince Harry's Future Wife.
For other royal engagement announcements, view my post Royal Engagements.