17 July 2017

A Long Hanoverian Tradition

Feuds between the Kings of Hanover and their heirs have been so common that it's almost inevitable that the current head of the house, Prince Ernst August, has publicly announced that he does not support his oldest son's marriage. Nevertheless, Prince Ernst August Jr. pushed forward 10 days ago to marry his longtime love, Ekaterina Malysheva. Daddy may not have attended, but Ernst August Jr.'s siblings and step-siblings all showed up to show their support.


Of course, for just over a century the person who sat on the throne of Hanover also sat on the British throne as Kings George I, II, III, and IV and William IV. The personal union was split when Victoria inherited the British throne--because she was a woman, the restricted Hanoverian throne went to her uncle, a man not surprising named Ernest Augustus. In honor of our newest Hanoverian princess, let's take a look at the Hanoverian brides who came before her.

Sophia Dorothea of Celle
via Wikimedia Commons
Sophia Dorothea of Celle
The product of a morganatic marriage that wasn't made official until she was 10, Sophia had no desire to marry the Electoral Prince of Hanover. He didn't much care for her either. Nevertheless, she came with a hefty dowry and the two were married just days after her 16th birthday. Despite a volatile relationship, they produced a son, George, in 1683 and a daughter, Sophia Dorothea, in 1686. Then, he took up a mistress. She took on a lover, too. Soon, the fights between the couple became physical. Then, suddenly, her lover disappeared. George divorced her and imprisoned her in the Castle of Ahlden. She spent the last 30 years of her life there, never seeing her children again. She did not become Queen of Hanover when he ascended that throne, not Queen of the United Kingdom, when he ascended that throne. Incidentally, he traveled to England with his two mistresses at his side. Just two years ago, bones were discovered under the Leineschloss castle; they are believed to be the hidden remains of her murdered lover.

Caroline of Ansbach
after Geoffrey Kneller via Wikimedia Commons
Caroline of Ansbach
Caroline was the first Hanoverian bride to become a British queen. She had a much better relationship with her husband than his parents had had. She was much brighter than her George and many believe she greatly influenced his government--she was the brains under the crown. On a personal front, however, all was not as it should be. When the family moved to England in 1714. George and Caroline were forced to leave their oldest son Frederick behind in Hanover. He blamed them and never forgave them. Frederick quarreled often and publicly with her mother, especially when she (instead of he) was named regent when his father was traveling abroad. Caroline had eight children with King George II plus a stillbirth and a miscarriage. She was able to keep two daughters at home with her, but the other three married abroad. She suffered for 13 years after the birth of her last child and died after her womb ruptured at the age of 54.

Augusta of Saxe-Gotha
Sixteen-year-old Augusta married the unhappy Frederick Prince of Wales but spoke no English. He was pleased with the marriage because of the increase in allowance that Parliament awarded him. Frederick was determined that his wife would not dominate him as his mother had his father, so he did all he could to keep her naive and to foment discontent between his wife and mother. He even sneaked Augusta out of the palace while she was heavily in labor so that Queen Caroline could not witness the birth. After bearing nine children, Augusta was widowed by Frederick's sudden death. In order to avoid criticism, she increasingly isolated herself. However, when her oldest son became King George III at the age of just 22, she had great influence on him, even keeping his first bout with mental illness a secret from his own wife. When she died of throat cancer at age 52, crowds gathered not to mourn but to shout insults at her.

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Charlotte was not only the most prolific of the Hanoverian brides--15 children!--she was also probably the most beloved. When he married the 17-year-old, George told her not to meddle in politics and she only ever did so discreetly. She busied herself with childbearing, botany and the arts instead, particularly music as a sponsor of Mozart and Bach. He even bought her her own house in London (Buckingham Palace) and built her a lodge at Windsor. When her husband's illness led to their son becoming regent, she acted as his first lady since he was estranged from his own wife. She died at age 57, a year before her husband, whose severe illness meant that he did not even know she was gone.

Caroline of Brunswick
By Thomas Lawrence
via Wikimedia Commons
Caroline of Brunswick
Arguably, the biggest mess of a marriage in the Georgian era was that of Caroline and the future George IV. In fact, he even banned her from his coronation, literally turning her away at the door. Like his grandfather, Frederick, George had married to get more money for Parliament. Unlike Frederick, he remained with his wife just long enough for one child to be born and then the two went in opposite directions, always taking any opportunity to snipe at the other. She spent most of her time on the Continent. In fact, she was not event in England when her only child, Princess Charlotte of Wales, died in childbirth. Caroline died less than a month after her husband's crowning.

Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen
Adelaide married George IV's brother William so that he might beget legal heirs when George's only child died. William already had 10 children by his former mistress, and Adelaide welcomed them in her home. Even after her own little children died in infancy, good Queen Adelaide continued to serve as a mother to William IV's children and was a trusted friend to William's successor, his niece Queen Victoria. She outlived her husband by 12 years. Although she had no descendants, her name lives on today as the capital city Adelaide, South Australia.

Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
By Johann Tischbein
via Wikimedia Commons
Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
As a twice-widowed princess with children, Frederica seemed a perfect choice when George III's fifth son, Prince Ernest Augustus, decided to roll the dynastic dice. He was the first of the princes to figure out that because his oldest brother's heir Charlotte was a girl, that he might just become King of Hanover, where ladies were banned for the throne. A princess with proven breeding experience played into his plans. His other brothers didn't really get into the game until Charlotte died. When only another girl (the future Queen Victoria) survived the royal race to beget an heir, Ernest Augustus received his crown in 1837 when his brother William IV died. The connection to Frederica was deeper than that though--they had fallen in love while her second husband still lived. His untimely/timely death opened the door for them.  Their first two children together were stillborn girls, but a son, Prince George followed in 1819. All together, Frederica delivered 13 children for her three husbands and managed to live to age 63.

Marie of Saxe-Altenburg
Marie had reached the ripe old age of 25 when she married the future King George V of Hanover. A year younger than Marie, George was also completely blind, having lost the sight in one eye due to illness and the other in an accident. As the only son, indeed the only surviving child, of King Ernest Augustus, he was still deemed fit to inherit the throne, which he did upon his father's death in 1851. However, he was not to keep the throne for long. He made the mistake of siding with Austria instead of Prussia, which was seeking to create a German Empire. In 1866, Prussia occupied Hanover and the king fled with Marie and their family. He refused to renounce his throne, but he was the last official King of Hanover. Therefore, Marie's son Ernest August was always called the Crown Prince and the subsequent heirs of been head of the House rather than Kings of a nation. Marie outlived her husband by nearly 30 years, passing away at the genuinely old age of 88 in 1907.

Thyra of Denmark
via Wikimedia Commons
Thyra of Denmark
Thyra came from a prolific royal family. A daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark, her sisters were Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom and Empress Marie of Russia. One of her brothers inherited the Danish throne while another was made King of Greece. Of course, Thyra might have been a queen too, but the loss of the Hanoverian throne meant her husband Crown Prince Ernest August never claimed the title. But a prince without a throne was about as much as Thyra could hope for since she had indulged in a bit of "youthful indiscretion" that had resulted in a pregnancy. Most of the Danish royal family were involved in covering up the pregnancy and the baby girl was placed with an ordinary Danish family while Thyra recovered from her jaundice.They had six children, but when their eldest son was killed in a car accident, their youngest boy, yet another Ernest Augustus became the hope of the House. Thyra and her crownless prince lived outside of Germany, mostly in Austria, and were very welcome in Britain where he still was recognized by the title Duke of Cumberland, which had passed down for King Ernest Augustus.

Victoria Louise of Prussia
Then, as now, the father Ernest Augustus objected to the son Ernest Augustus' choice of bride. As the daughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Victoria Louise embodied her father-in-law's hatred for the country that took his throne. He forced his son to renounce his claims to the defunct throne, but allowed him to keep his claim to the Duchy of Brunswick, which was also a dubious claim. Their 1913 wedding was one of the last big royal gatherings before World War I brought so many monarchies, including Germany's, to their ends. At the end of the war, her husband formally abdicated any claims he had to the defunct Hanoverian throne. His father had managed to keep his British title as Duke of Cumberland when George V revoked titles held by Germans, but Victoria Louise husband did not inherit it because he had actually served in the German army in the war. The family actually lived in Germany, raising their five children, and they remained there despite both World Wars. Ernest Augustus died there in 1953 and Victoria Louise died in 1980.

Ortrud of Schleswig-Holstein-Glucksburg & Monika of Solms-Laubach
Ortrud married the fourth Ernest Augustus, whose birth in 1914 was a strange prelude to World War I. Among his numerous godparents were the monarchs who were just weeks from going to war against each other: Wilhelm II of Germany, Franz Joseph II of Austria, Nicholas II of Russia, and George V of the United Kingdom. By the time of their marriage in 1951, however, there was very little left of Hanoverian glory. Their titles and claim had been rendered null by two World Wars. Then, as now, they were still surrounded by royal cousins. They produced six children, including the fifth (and current) Ernest August. Ortrud died in 1980 and her husband remarried a close cousin, Countess Monika of Solms-Laubach before passing away in 1987.

Chantal Hochuli & Caroline of Monaco
Unlike so many Hanoverian father-son relationships, the fourth and fifth Ernst August did not have a big, public feud, even when the son decided to marry a commoner. Instead, dad approved the marriage as "equal". The heiress of a Swiss chocolate fortune enjoyed the royal status her husband provided and turned a blind eye to his innumerable love affairs. Having given him two sons, the next Ernst August (the recent bridegroom) and Christian, she spent her time hanging with a glamorous set of people that included Grace Kelly's oldest daughter, Princess Caroline of Monaco. Despite their close friendship, the widowed Caroline didn't seem to have quibbled over starting her own affair with Chantal's husband, and Chantal appears not to have noticed until photos of the lovers together in Thailand surfaced. After 16 years of marriage, Chantal called it quits. A year and a half later, Ernst August married Caroline, elevating her from a Serene Highness to a Royal Highness. Six months after the wedding, their daughter Alexandra was born. For the last several years, Alexandra has spent most of her time in Monaco and France with Caroline while Ernst August has openly cavorted with other women, been caught drunk and urinating in public, and brawled with reports. It is he who has deemed his son's bride unacceptable for the fine House of Hanover.






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