08 June 2013

Second Princesses

Reigning queens are somewhat rare, so younger sisters of reigning queens are even rarer. With the future Swedish queen's younger sister, Princess Madeleine, marrying in Stockholm today, it seems like an appropriate moment to highlight some of these ladies who were always a princess but never a queen.

Elizabeth and Margaret on a 1927 stamp.
The most famous younger sister of a queen is undoubtedly Princess Margaret of Britain. Four years younger than her much steadier regal sibling, Queen Elizabeth II, Margaret was a lively young girl who grew into an even livelier young woman. However, both girls led a very sheltered life due both to their status and to the onset of World War II. The somewhat cloistered environment helped foster a situation where Margaret fell in love with one of her father's, later her sister's, equerries, Peter Townsend. Although a decorated war hero, he was 16 years older than she and married to someone else. His divorce did not make the romance easier, since the Church of England does not accept divorce and society was much more strict about such things. Margaret chose not to risk her Civil List payments and, after years of painful consideration, did not marry him. She then went on a bit of Harry-esque tear about society, mixed in with Bohemians and selected to marry a photographer. With "indiscretions" on both sides, they later divorced. She continued picking questionable lovers--she was an original Cougar. Her smoking, drinking, etc. took a toll on her health. She died the same year as her beloved mother, at the age of 71. (Read more about her and Townsend in my two-part post, An Affair to Remember.)

The royal family before Christina's birth.
In The Netherlands, Queen Beatrix actually had a trio of younger sisters, a couple of whom caused a barrel of concerns in their time. Princess Irene nearly caused a diplomatic catastrophe by her choice of groom. Not only was Prince Carlos Hugo a Catholic (once again a bigger issue with religion then than now) but he was a pretender to the Spanish throne. At that time, Spain was under the dictatorship of General Franco, with whom the couple seemed too close. The Dutch government did not wish to be seen to be supporting either Franco or one pretender over another. (Ultimately, the Spanish throne was restored, but to Juan Carlos.) Irene's very political behavior led to a government denunciation of her actions. Less than 20 years later, the couple divorce. The youngest sister, Princess Christina, caused great heartache for her family through no fault of her own. Her mother contracted German measles during her pregnancy, which led to Christina developing serious vision problems. Her parents, particularly her mother, relied on nontraditional, faith healers. This caused issues in their marriage, and the influence of these unconventional advisors distressed the public. Modern medicine ultimately helped restore most of her sight. Like her sister, Irene, Christine chose to marry a Catholic and was required to give up her right to the throne. Also like Irene, she eventually divorced him. Only the middle sister, Princess Margriet, has caused no public scandal, has remained happily married, and is still considered part of the royal family. (Read my post about Princess Margriet.)

Few people realize that Queen Victoria actually had a sister, too. She is often portrayed as a lonely, only child, locked away in her palace, but she actually had an older half-sister and half-brother from her mother's first marriage. Like her sis Victoria, Princess Feodora of Leinengen is actually a great-great-great-great grandmother of today's royal bride. Twelve years older than Victoria, they only lived together for a few years as Feodora married and moved back to Germany when Victoria was just eight. Both sisters did not like the restrictive atmosphere of their mother's home in Kensington Palace, but they remained close throughout their lives and Victoria often gave her money to visit her in England. However, Feodora died nearly 40 years before her royal sister.

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