30 December 2014

Real-Life Disney Princesses

Recently, The London Telegraph recently published a snarky article ranking some of today's real princesses on a scale of Disney princess-hood. The piece was so unkind that I decided to do my own evaluation of the princesses through my own lens as a fan of Disney princesses.

There are currently 11 animated characters who are officially recognized as part of the "Disney Princess" franchise. (The sisters from Frozen, who will no doubt make the list soon, are not included.) So, which of today's real princesses best matches with the Disney ladies?

Victoria with her Prince Charming
Holger Motzkau 2010, via Wikimedia Commons
Snow White
The first Disney Princess has been characterized by some as an anti-feminist character. Cursed by a jealous stepmother, she awaits rescue by handsome prince. On the contrary, when Snow White finds herself in dire circumstances, she takes charge and makes the best of her situation: tidying up the Seven Dwarves and displays a beautiful spirit. In much the same way, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden was "cursed" by anorexia, but she battled against, emerging stronger and healthier on the other side. She has a beauty and strength of character that belies the struggles of her past.

Catherine and Prince William
John Pannell derivative work: César
via Wikimedia Commons
The next Disney heroine has come to be seen as the ultimate Disney princess. She emerges from a common background where she has faced adversity with a smiling heart and can-do attitude to capture the heart of a prince. Every non-royal lady who marries a prince is called Cinderella, and many of today's ladies could be eligible to earn this designation in my list. For instance, Crown Princess Mette Marit comes from the most unlikely background. However, only one currently and undoubtedly is the ultimate princess of today: Catherine The Duchess of Cambridge. While her past is not filled with tragedy and trudgery, she is THE princess alive today. While you and I are aware of many princesses, most people in the world only know about Catherine and her late mother-in-law, Diana Princess of Wales. Therefore, Catherine is my choice for Cinderella.

Madeleine with husband Chris O'Neill
By Bengt Nyman (Flickr: IMG_2770)
via Wikimedia Commons
In Sleeping Beauty, the plucky Princess Aurora is kept secluded from possible dangers, but she is determined to make her own way. When she ventures into uncharted territory, an evil spell casts her into a deep sleep from which only true love can save her. She has emerged in more recent stories as confident and beautiful. Today's Aurora is Princess Madeleine of Sweden, who I believe is the most beautiful of today's royal ladies. As Madeleine made her own way in the world, she first encountered "evil" when her first fiance cheated on her and she was publicly humiliated. Madeleine went to "sleep" by escaping to New York, where she not only built an independent life but found a new love. Today, she is clearly happy with a second child on the way.

By Alex Black via Wikimedia Commons
We sometimes forget that The Little Mermaid's Ariel was already a princess. She was by no means satisfied with life in her royal family. In her signature song, she boldly declares, "I want more." Not content to stay in the fishbowl of her royal heritage, Ariel seeks out a whole new way of living "out of the sea." For her willingness to leave behind her royal relatives in Europe and seek out a new life as an actor in the United States, Princess Theodora of Greece and Denmark makes my list as Ariel. Not content to make a life among the young royal set of London, where her family settled after leaving Greece, or in Spain, where her first cousin is the King, or Denmark, where her aunt is the Queen, Theodora has decided instead to take to the stage. She most recently completed a three-year stint on the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful.

By Oliver Abels (SBT)
via Wikimedia Commons
My favorite Disney princess is the heroine of Beauty and the Beast. Dissatisfied with the provincial life of her village, Belle seeks escape through her intelligence. When she first meets the Beast, she has no idea that he is a prince and she is not at all sure that his unique lifestyle is what she is seeking. For her real counterpart, I have selected Queen Maxima of The Netherlands. The Argentine-born Maxima sought out an advanced education in the United States and she is one of the three best-educated princesses today--the other two are her very good friends Queen Mathilde of Belgium and Crown Princess Masako of Japan. Like Belle, Maxima had no idea the man she was dating was a prince during the earliest part of their courtship. When they first met in Spain, he introduced himself simply as Alex and only revealed his royal status while visiting her in New York, where she was working at the time. 

By GuitarStrummer
via Wikimedia Commons
The next Disney princess was Jasmine, the love interest in Aladdin. Jasmine is already a princess when she meets the "street rat" of the title. However, she isn't happy with the restrictions placed upon her. She longs to exert her independence and make her own way in life. For her real princess, I have settled upon Princess Eugenie of York. Born sixth in line to the throne, she has been bumped to seventh and will continue to move lower in the line as children are born to her cousins Prince William and Prince Harry and her sister Princess Beatrice. For this reason, it simply makes sense for her to seek a more "normal" life. Her current love is a waiter and she has embarked on a career in the world of high-end auctions, working most recently at the New York office of Paddle8.

By Ernst Vikne
via Wikimedia Commons
In her film, Pocahontas (the only Disney Princess to be based on an historic person) is defined not only by her noble courage, but also by her independence, spiritual nature and playful spirit. For her contemporary doppelganger, I have selected Princess Martha Louise of Norway, the eldest child of King Harald. Born before Norway adopted gender-blind succession, Martha Louise has not had to worry about inheriting the throne, leaving her free to pursue her various interests. A keen horsewoman, she is also a well-trained singer and a children's book author, with three little girls of her own. Deeply spiritual, she unwittingly created controversy by launching a business to help people communicate with angels, a skill that she claims to have. Free-spirited and fun-loving, Martha Louis often draws attention at big royal events for her colorful and unusual fashion choices.

Mary with Crown Prince Frederik
By Frankie Fouganthin (Own work)
via Wikimedia Commons
Another of my Disney favorites, Mulan is unwilling to accept the role that lies before her and she puts herself on the line to go after what she wants. Disguised as a man, she enters the imperial army and overcomes every challenge that is thrown her way. Along the way, she also wins the heart of a prince. Like her, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark had to overcome many obstacles to become
a princess. Like Mulan, Mary left her home to pursue her future, but Mary's move was even bigger for she relocated to the other side of the planet, from Australia to Europe, to be near her prince at a time when there was no guarantee that they would marry. She learned Danish and protocol, changed her wardrobe and calmly stared down paparazzi intrusions and criticisms about her fitness as a royal bride. Today, she is one of the most popular princess on the planet, and the mother of four royal babies.

By Michael Thaidigsmann (Own work)
via Wikimedia Commons
The heroine of Disney's The Princess and the Frog, Tiana is a beautiful and ambitious young woman. She has set herself a goal and has made a plan for how to attain it, but her plans are thrown off course when she meets a prince who has been turned into a frog. In helping him, she also becomes a frog and they must work together. Today's Tiana counterpart is Queen Mathilde of Belgium. Born into a noble family, Mathilde was not content to lead a life as a socialite. Instead she sought a distinguished education and embarked on a career to help others by becoming a speech therapist. In some ways, her future husband was a bit of a frog. He was nearly 40 when he married 26-year-old Mathilde. Many people--especially the press--wondered whether he would every marry or whether he might even be gay. With their marriage and the arrival of their four children, he was transformed. He became more of an ideal prince and last year was widely acclaimed when he assumed the throne.

By TheMatthewSlack
via Wikimedia Commons
Rapunzel is most well-known for her luxurious loooooooong golden hair. Her contemporary princess comparator is more well known for what she puts on her hair--various fascinators and one infamous hat. In the Disney flick Tangled, Rapunzel leaves her royal tower as a more modern woman than many of the other Disney princesses. Film reviewers have called her witty, intelligent and contemporary. Like her, Princess Beatrice of York has emerged from her royal cocoon to follow a much more modern path. No stranger to the nightclub scene, Beatrice is also now devoted to fitness and is the only British royal to run the London Marathon--but even this she did in an unusual way, training with a team of friends and tied together to form a giant caterpillar to raise money for charity. She was also the first British royal to appear in a non-documentary film, making a brief appearance in the coronation scene of The Young Victoria, which was produced by her mother Sarah Duchess of York. For the last year, Beatrice has been working in the entertainment industry as an intermediate coordinating producer at Sony for the rather low salary of $30,000 as revealed by the recent widespread computer hacking at Sony.

Zara dressed for work
By Richardhubbuck (Own work)
via Wikimedia Commons
The most sporting of the Disney princesses is the lively and determined Merida of the film Brave. Merida has no interest in filling the role of proper royal lady. She is gutsy and willing to take on the world on her own terms. For her real-life twin, I suggest The Princess Royal AND her equally sport-mad daughter Zara Phillips. Both Olympic equestriennes, Princess Anne and Zara Phillips have made their sport their career. However, they can clean up and play their royal roles--but they do it with a no-nonsense flair not often found among princesses. In fact, Princess Anne usually completes more royal engagements every year than most other members of the British royal family. In the meantime, she also runs her estate at Gatcombe Park, which hosts several horse trials each year with courses designed by the Princess herself. As for Zara, whose lack of title also reflects her mother's practical approach to life, she has been able to pursue her riding career even more fully and reinforced her love of sport by marrying a professional rugby player. It will be interesting to see whether her baby daughter Mia becomes an athlete too.

26 December 2014

Princess Round-Up 2014

At the beginning of the year, I gave you a list of Princesses to Watch in 2014. Let's take a look back and see how well my predictions turned out.


Madeleine and Leonore
in traditional costumes
There was no magic involved in predicting that Princess Madeleine of Sweden and Zara Phillips would become mothers in 2014; both of their pregnancies had been announced and were well advanced at the time. Zara Phillips' daughter was born on Jan. 17 and Madeleine's daughter Princess Leonore was born on Feb. 20. What I didn't predict--and frankly did not even imagine was that Madeleine would announce another pregnancy before the end of the year. She will be a mother twice over before her second wedding anniversary.

Instead, I thought we might have another pregnancy from Madeleine's sister Crown Princess Victoria, whose only child Princess Estelle will be three in a couple of months. It looks like we will have to wait for that one.

On the other hand, I thought we would not see another pregnancy announcement for Catherine The Duchess of Cambridge until 2015. You may remember that speculation was high at the end of last year that Kate was already pregnant, just months after giving birth to Prince George (a la Princess Madeleine). I correctly forecast that this was not the case. And, we might not have gotten an announcement about this second pregnancy until around Christmas or New Year except for the fact that Kate once again suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum. The pregnancy was announced earlier than usual to account for canceled engagements, which included what would have been her first solo overseas trip. Instead, her husband went to Malta for her.

The Monagesque princely family
had cause to celebrate!
I also thought we might be blessed with pregnancies in Monaco and Luxembourg. Now more than two years into her marriage, Hereditary Grand Duchess Stephanie of Luxembourg has not yet made such an announcement. Meanwhile Charlene Princess of Monaco awarded our long wait since her 2011 wedding with a double blessing: her twins Hereditary Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella arrived on Dec. 10, just in time for Christmas!

(In this section, I also mentioned Dowager Queen Fabiola's unsuccessful struggles to become a mother. Alas, we lost Fabiola on Dec. 5 at the age of 86.)


Sofia Hellqvist and her prince
Copyright Kungahuset.se
Photo by Erika Gerdemark
With no major engagements announced by the end of 2013, I went out a limb to predict possible weddings for Charlotte Casiraghi, Prince Carl Philipp of Sweden and Princess Beatrice of York. Alas, Charlotte is still with Gad Elmaleh, the father of her year-old son Raphael and Beatrice is still with her longtime partner Dave Clark, but neither of them seems to have plans to wed yet. (Look for them on my list of Princesses to watch in 2015!)

Prince Carl Philipp, however, did deliver with an announced engagement to his live-in love Sofia Hellqvist. The couple plans to wed on June 27, 2015. As expected, her past as a reality star and former glamor model still rankled when the engagement was announced but she has been turning out very princess-like appearances, including at the Nobel Prize events, since the announcement.

I also downplayed the idea that Prince Harry's relationship with Cressida Bonas was very serious. The couple has since split with Cressie continuing her boho lifestyle without her high-flying prince.


The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
with Prince George in Australia
Another very easy prediction was that The Duchess of Cambridge would continue to eclipse all other royals in terms of media coverage. Wherever she went and whatever she wore she made headlines. Add in an extensive tour (with Prince George!) in Australia and New Zealand and a few days in the United States, and we were set for many new clothes and new hairstyles. This along with glimpses of her shopping on the High Street and pushing a pram in the park, made for instant internet sensations. Plus, she moved into her new home at Anmer Hall and got pregnant again. All delicious news for the millions of Kate fans around the world.


Two other royal descendants made their debut in 2014. Princess Amalia of Luxemburg was born on June 15. She was born almost exactly nine months after the marriage of her parents Prince Felix and Claire Ladermacher. She is the third grandchild and first granddaughter for The Grand Duke of Luxembourg. In Britain, a minor royal birth occurred on May 27 when Lord Nicholas Windsor's wife, Paola, had their third son at the age of 44. Lord Nicholas is a great-grandson of King George V. He is the youngest son of The Queen's first cousin, The Duke of Kent, but, as a Catholic convert married to a Catholic, he is no longer in the line of succession.

In addition to Queen Fabiola, we also lost a dynastically important but not very widely known Russian Prince, Nicholas Romanovich Romanov, a great-great grandson of Tsar Nicholas I. He was recognized as head of the Imperial Family by those who discount the claims of Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna (because the throne was barred to women.) He was not interested in reviving the old autocracy, however, and was considered a republican. His obituary in the London Telegraph quoted him as saying, “I have always said that not only were we burying the tsar and those who died with him, but we were also burying the most bloodstained pages of our past. Leave them to scholars. Russians should look forward.”

With no major royal weddings in 2014, we did have one minor one when Prince Amadeo of Belgium, grandson of King Albert II married Elisabetta Maria Rosboch von Walkenstein on July 5. He is the nephew of Belgium's current King Philippe.

22 December 2014

Gorgeous Granddaughters of Victoria

Left to right: Princess Alix of Hesse; Princess Irene of Hesse (back row);
Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein; Princess Charlotte of Prussia;
and Princess 
Helena Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein.

Charlotte of Prussia
A recent discussion on the Facebook page, Queen Victoria's Granddaughters,  asked which of Victoria's numerous granddaughters was the most beautiful. It was a well debated subject that I thought I would share with my readers. Born between 1860 and 1887, there were 22 granddaughters, including one who did not live to adulthood. There is a strong Coburg family resemblance among many of them. Few of them would be rated as stunning beauties today but many of them were quite lovely while a few had the unfortunate "horse face" still associated with some of their kin today.

Beautiful or not, these women left their mark on the world. Five of them married kings/emperors and in total they gave birth to 71 children, including five kings and four consorts. Today, their descendants include Queen Elizabeth's consort Prince Philip, King Harald V of Norway, ex-King Constantine of Greece, ex-King Michael of Romania, ex-King Peter of Yugoslavia, former Queen Sofia of Spain and her husband former King Juan Carlos of Spain, Russian Imperial claimant Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden, and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

Viktoria of Prussia
Eight of Victoria's nine children had daughters; her sixth child Princess Louise had no children. The oldest set of granddaughters were the offspring of Victoria's bright eldest child, Victoria Princess Royal, who married as a teenager and was briefly Empress of Germany before her husband's early death. Vicky's most famous (infamous?) child was Kaiser Wilhelm II, often vilified as one of the most vile and evil leaders of World War I--although nothing he did came close to the evils of the second World War. Among her daughters, the most historically notable was Sophie, who became Queen of Greece, and mothered many children, three of whom eventually sat on the Greek throne due to the turbulence of that crown. Sophie may also have been the most lovely of Vicky's daughters. (See my post about Sophie, entitled Fire at the Palace.)

Sophie of Prussia
As to who was the happiest of the sisters, it would be hard to say. Tragedy struck when one of their brothers died of meningitis before the age of two and another brother died at age 11 from diptheria. Their youth was also marred by interpersonal disturbances in their family. Although their parents, Vicky and Friedrich, loved each other deeply and were happy in their marriage. Friedrich's parents never understood or approved of the intelligent and progressive English princess. This eventually resulted in a kind of split among the children, with the oldest two Wilhelm and Charlotte, often in open conflict with their parents and openly hostile after the death of their father. Meanwhile the youngest three daughters adored Vicky and identified with her English heritage. Vicky called them "my three sweet girls," and left her own beloved home to the youngest one, Margaret. Nevertheless, this early rift in the family continued to cause heartache throughout their lives. Sophie was even banned from Germany for a time because her brother did not like that she changed religions after her marriage.

Margaret of Prussia
Even after their marriages, it would be hard to know which of these girls had a better lot. Sophie faced down both the Great War and revolution in her adopted country, where her status of sister of the German Kaiser drew unwarranted hatred and fear, despite her brother's hostility toward her. Margaret, who was known as Mossy, had a happy marriage, but two of her sons were killed in WWI and the other two became Nazis. In addition to her terrible relationship with their mother, Charlotte had an even more difficult one with her only child, Feodora, who eventually committed suicide after a lifetime of misery. Viktoria, who had no children with her first husband, re-married against her family's wishes. Her scoundrel second husband burned through what little money she had, and practically abandoned her. She was about to divorce him when she died of pneumonia

Louise Princess Royal
The Wales sisters had a much less stressful childhood. Raised in the raucous and somewhat less-disciplined household of the party-hearty Prince of Wales and his Danish wife Princess Alexandra, they grew up surrounded by fun and games and outdoor activities. Queen Victoria did not approve of these goings-on, and the family was referred to as the "wild Waleses."

Their home was not devoid of the kind of tragedies that often touched Victorian-era. Their baby brother Prince Alexander John died the day after he was born. Then, their beloved eldest brother Prince Albert Victor died of the flu just after his 28th birthday. His death stunned the family and the nation. He left behind a fiancee whom his younger brother dutifully fell in love with and married. (See my post A Royal Love Triangle for more about that.)

Victoria of Wales
The three Wales sisters are often considered to be among the least attractive of Queen Victoria's granddaughters. This was quite surprising because their mother was thought to be one of the most beautiful princesses of her day. But Princess Alexandra had a few physical shortcomings that impacted her daughters. First, she had a scar on her neck, which greatly influenced all women of her era. Princess Diana's short, fringed hair caused a sensation in her day, while Alexandra's penchant for high-necked collars and choker necklaces--all designed to hide that scar--rocked the women of the 19th century, including her daughters. Alexandra also had a limp and suffered from increasingly acute hearing problems. This (and perhaps her husband's infidelities) may have contributed to her desire to keep her daughters close to her; so close that middle daughter Victoria never married, although she might have been the Queen of Portugal, and remained Alexandra's companion until her mother's death in 1925. Only then, at the age of 58 was she able to exert a level of independence.

Maud of Wales
Louise of Wales married the much older Earl of Fife, who was soon created a Duke by her grandmother Queen Victoria. The couple's first child was a stillborn son, followed by two daughters, who were initially styled as the daughters of Duke but were later made royal princesses when their grandfather became King Edward VII. They are the only female-line grandchildren to have received royal titles in modern British history. Another exception had been made for Louise's girls, when their great-granny Queen Victoria made it possible for the eldest to become Duchess of Fife in her own right after her father's death. Louise was eventually named Princess Royal, a title reserved for the eldest daughter of the British monarch.

The youngest Wales daughter Maud married at age 27, a bit older than the average princess. She selected an unassuming younger son of the Danish royal house. She struggled to have a child, producing only one son. Then, her life was turned upside down when her husband was selected as the first king of the newly independent Norway. Shy Maud never counted a queenship in her future, and her health suffered in the cold Norwegian winters, leading her to spend considerable time in her native England. On the upside, part of Antarctica was named Queen Maud's Land in her honor.

Victoria of Hesse
Several of the Hessian granddaughters are often thought to be among the most beautiful. Unlike their vivacious and earthy mother, Princess Alice, they tended to be a bit shy. This is perhaps because they lost their youngest sister Marie and their mother to typhoid when the eldest Victoria was 15 and the next-to-youngest Alix was only six. (Read about this tragedy in my post The Kiss of Death.) They also lost their brother Friedrich at the age of two. The first of Queen Victoria's grandson's to be diagnosed with hemophilia, he died of a brain hemorrhage after falling from a second-floor window. After Alice's death, Queen Victoria saw herself as their surrogate mother and all of the Hesse children spent considerable time in England. Victoria took great interest in all of their activities, even after they married and had children of their own.

Elizabeth of Hesse
Victoria of Hesse married for love but her choice was a bit controversial. Her husband Prince Louis was one of the famously handsome Battenberg princes, a morganatic branch of the Hessian royal family. Their marriage helped ease the way for Victoria's higher ranked aunt, Princess Beatrice, to marry Louis' younger brother Henry. Louis was in the British navy, and their children grew up more English than German despite their Hessian roots. Louis eventually rose to be Britain's First Sea Lord. However, anti-German sentiment during World War I not only caused him to lose his position but also led him to anglicize the family name to Mountbatten and drop his princely title in exchange for being named the Marquess of Milford Haven. Their oldest daughter Alice married Prince Andrew of Greece and became the mother of Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh. Their second daughter Louise married the Swedish king while their sons became quintessential English lords, with the youngest Lord Louis Mountbatten serving as the last Viceroy of India and gaining the title Earl Mountbatten of Burma. He and several members of his family were assassinated by the Irish Republican Army in 1979.

Irene of Hesse
Assassinations were all too common for this branch of Victoria's family. The two most beautiful of the Hessian granddaughters were assassinated during the Russian Revolution. The youngest and most shy Alix, who became Empress Alexandra of Russia, was first held prisoner with her husband Tsar Nicholas, their four young daughters and their son, Tsarevich Alexei, who has become the most famous hemophiliac in history. The entire family and a few of their devoted staff were murdered together at Ekaterinburg on July 17, 1918. The next day, Alix's sister Elizabeth was killed elsewhere along with several Romanov princes. The execution of the Tsar's family is far more famous, but Elizabeth's death is perhaps more grisly. Beaten and shoved into a pit, Elizabeth and her imperial relatives were still alive. So first one grenade and then another was tossed into the hole. When she could still be heard singing hymns, brush as thrown in and set on fire. Before her death, Elizabeth had become an Orthodox nun. Widowed without children at an early age when her husband Grand Duke Sergei was assassinated by being blown up in the streets of Moscow, Elizabeth had taken to religious life. She, Alix, Nicholas and the five imperial children are now recognized as saints of the Russian Orthodox church.

Alix of Hesse
Their sister Irene was considered the least pretty by their mother Princess Alice, but she had a much less turbulent life than her gorgeous sisters Elizabeth and Alix. She married her Aunt Vicky's second son, Prince Heinrich of Prussia. In fact, the couple was among the most popular members of the extended international royal family because they were always so very pleasant and kind. This does not mean that they never suffered, however. Like so many of Queen Victoria's granddaughter's, Irene passed the gene for hemophilia to two of her three sons, the youngest of whom died from a bump on his head when he was only four. The first World War separated her from her Russian sisters and the second separated her from her one surviving son, who refused to return to Germany. She disinherited him and settled her estate on his daughter instead. Irene was one of the members of the family to actually meet Anna Anderson, the Polish impostor who famously claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia having allegedly escaped the cellar in Ekaterinburg. Irene knew immediately that Anderson was not her beloved niece and was always deeply troubled by the woman's ongoing claims and notoriety.

Marie of Hesse
Three of the four Edinburgh sisters are often included in lists of the Queen Victoria's prettiest granddaughters. Only Princess Alexandra never, ever makes the cut. Through their forceful and imperious mother, the Edinburghs were also granddaughters of the Russian Tsar Alexander II. This means that their mother was an Imperial Highness not a mere Royal Highness like their father and technically outranked him. Queen Victoria however thought all of this was humbug since she was Empress of India, after all, and the British Empire was (of course) the greatest nation on earth. Nevertheless, the less-than-harmonious relationship between Victoria and her Russian daughter-in-law meant that the Queen was not quite as close to her Edinburgh granddaughters as she was to many of the others.This was especially true after their father Prince Alfred Duke of Edinburgh inherited his German uncle's duchy in Coburg and the young family moved to Germany as its primary home. For this reason, these princesses are also often referred to as the Coburgs or Saxe-Coburgs. Their only brother Alfred died under somewhat unclear circumstances; it has been attributed to consumption, syphilis, and suicide.

Marie of Edinburgh
The eldest of these princesses, Marie, who was called Missy by the family, is almost always at the top of my list of royal beauties. (I change my mind sometimes.) Married off at the age of 17 to a man she barely knew and shipped off to live on the edge of Europe in Romania under the watchful and jealous eye of her husband's eccentric aunt Queen Elisabeth, Marie grew from a timid girl into a tough and determined advocate for her adopted country. She dutifully bore her husband six children--although many believe that the youngest was the son of her lover. As Crown Princess and later Queen during World War I, she often positioned herself as the patriotic center of her nation's hopes, rallying the troops, inspiring the people, and traveling abroad after the war to raise funds to rebuild the nation. When her oldest son became king and then abandoned the throne, it was Marie who emerged as the symbolic grandmother of the country and the real grandmother of the boy King Michael. Petite with bright blue eyes paired with dark curly hair, Marie was very vain about her beauty and often crowned herself as the most beautiful royal lady. She was also willing to share her thoughts and views like no other royal lady. Her loveliness and candor captivated Americans who liked a Queen with gumption and this attracted financial support for Romania. Her own daughters were a mixed blessing with moody Elisabetha helping to drag down the Greek throne, marrying and later divorcing Sophie of Greece's son King George II. Marie's namesake daughter, Marie, married the King of Yugoslavia, who was assassinated in 1934, leaving the young Queen to help guide her underage son as a time when the Balkans were once again falling apart. When WWII finished off their throne, Marie the younger and her sons fled to Britain. Missy's youngest daughter married and divorced twice, joined an Orthodox religious order as Mother Alexandra and eventually founded the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Pennsylvania. As for Missy's sons, the two eldest married "inappropriate women" while the youngest died of typhoid as a toddler.

Victoria Melita
of Edinburgh
Missy's taller younger sister, Victoria Melita, known as Ducky was also quite pretty and she also married as she was told--the first time. When her marriage with the Hessian granddaughters' only brother fell apart, Ducky did not do the acceptable and honorable thing expected of her. She divorced him and when their only daughter died of typhoid, she cut all of her ties with Hesse. Soon thereafter, she married the Tsar's cousin Grand Duke Kyril Vladimirovich without the Tsar's permission. The controversial couple spent their first married years in exile in Paris before finally being allowed back in Russia. When the revolution came, her husband hoped to save the monarchy by swearing his allegiance to the Duma but this failed, and the pregnant Ducky with her husband and two young daughters escaped across the Finnish border. After the Tsar's assassination, Kyril declared himself head of the family and claimant to the throne. When he died, Ducky clung to this claim for their son Grand Duke Kyril Vladimirovich, whose daughter Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna is now one of the Romanov claimants. Ducky was initially buried in Coburg but her body was moved to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Alexandra of Edinburgh
The least attractive Edinburgh sister also had the least exciting life. As with her sisters, her mother pushed Princess Alexandra into an early, loveless marriage. Alexandra obediently complied and didn't raise a ruckus by taking lovers or divorcing her husband. Instead she gave him five children and became even more thoroughly German as the Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. Her youngest child died in infancy. Her oldest daughter married a German prince and her oldest son married an older sister of today's Duke of Edinburgh. He did cause a bit of stir, however, by first becoming engaged to Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt and then giving testimony in the notorious custody battle of over her daughter Gloria Vanderbilt (the mother of Anderson Cooper.) Like her husband and son, Alexandra joined the Nazi party but she did not live to see that party's downfall at the end of WWII.

Beatrice of Edinburgh
One of Queen Victoria's youngest granddaughters, Beatrice of Edinburgh was born in 1884, nearly six years after her nearest sister. For some reason the granddaughters born in the 1880s--all from different parents--are among the most beautiful. Somehow, Beatrice was spared her mother's overwhelming pressure to marry young although her heart led her to begin a young romance with Tsar Nicholas II's younger brother, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich. The Tsar forbade the marriage just as he had done with her sister Ducky, and for the same reason--they were too closely related for the Orthodox church. Beatrice did not follow the same path as Ducky, however. Although heartbroken, she ended the romance and instead traveled to ease her broken heart. When her cousin Ena (see below) married the Spanish king, Beatrice finally recovered when she met the Spanish Prince Alfonso de Orleans y Borbon. This time, when the Spanish king objected--this time because Beatrice refused to convert to Catholicism--she married her chosen groom any way and lived in exile for the first few years, moving to Spain at last in 1912. A year later, she converted. Her marital choices had spared her from the Russian Revolution but not from the Spanish Civil War, which claimed most of the family's fortune and the life of one of her three sons.

Helena Victoria of
Like the Wales sisters, the two Schleswig-Holstein princesses are also thought to be among the least attractive of Victoria's granddaughters. However, they were very popular among the extended family and were considered members of the British Royal Family, despite their Germanic origins. Queen Vic liked to keep her daughters close to her whenever possible, so when her daughter Helena married a minor Germanic princely, Victoria gave him a job as Ranger of Windsor Great Park, and their children grew up there on the grounds of that most historic English castle. When the extended British Royals dropped their Germanic surnames and titles, these two simply became Princess Helena Victoria and Princess Marie Louise (of nowhere in particular). Their brothers' stories were more complicated. The two youngest boys died as infants. The oldest brother Prince Christian Victor maintained his British ties, and served with the British Army in the Boer War, contracting malaria and dying of typhoid at the age of 33 having never married. The second brother Prince Albert went to Germany in preparation for becoming the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein. He served in the German army although the Kaiser excused him from fighting against the British in World War I. He became Duke in 1921 and died in 1931, never having married to secure heirs for the title. However, he did father an illegitimate daughter, who was raised in Germany by Jewish foster parents. During World War II, when she wished to marry a German noble, the Nazis presumed she was Jewish and would not allow her until her father's sisters gave testimony as to her true parentage. Always charitable and honorable, Helena Victoria and Marie Louise did not hesitate to claim their illegitimate niece.

Marie Louise of
Schleswig Holstein
Older than her sister by just two years, Helena Victoria lived long enough to attend the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II in 1947 while Marie Louise survived to attend the Queen's Coronation in 1953. Both of them were devoted to numerous charitable causes including the YMCA, YWCA and various nursing organizations. Marie Louise even adopted a Wolf Cub Pack. Unlike her sister, Marie Louise did marry. At 19, she agreed to a marriage arranged by her cousin Kaiser Wilhelm to Prince Aribert of Anhalt. It was a miserable coupling (it has been alleged that he was gay) and they had no children. Nevertheless, they stayed together for nine years until, without Marie Louise's permission or even knowledge, her father-in-law used his prerogative as reigning Duke of Anhalt to annul the marriage. The princess, however, believed her vows to be indissoluable, so she never married again. This doesn't mean she wasn't happy to be rid of him. Reading her memoir, My Memories of Six Reigns, remains on my bucket list...so, if anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas...

Margaret of Connaught
The first of those 1880s granddaughters, Margaret of Connaught, known as Daisy, and her younger sister Princess Patricia were considered among the most eligible princesses of their day. When their parents took them to Portugal, everyone hoped that meant one or both of them would marry Portuguese princes, but the girls weren't interested. Like many of their cousins, Daisy and Patsy, were determined to make their own marital matches. When Margaret fell in love with the Crown Prince of Sweden during a holiday in Egypt, people were delighted. The artistic and athletic princess quickly won popularity in her new land, as much for her personality as for producing five children in ten years. Her only daughter Ingrid later married the Danish king and her oldest son died in a plane crash never having become Crown Prince much less king, and passing the throne instead to his son, the current King Carl XVI Gustav. Her other three sons followed their hearts into relationships with "unequal" partners. Two of them married their "lesser" brides without royal permission and lost their royal rank. Prince Bertil, however, lived with his Welsh-born love without marrying her for nearly 30 years until his nephew became king and allowed her to become Princess Lilian.

Patricia of Connaught
Crown Princess Margaret served as an intermediary between her extended family members living across enemy borders during WWI, passing letters and assistance. Her numerous charitable activities during the war and her strong support for full democracy after the war helped preserve the Swedish monarchy. Tragically, however, she never became Queen. Heavily pregnant with her sixth child, she died suddenly at the age of 38 from a failed operation to relieve an infection behind her ear. The infant did not survive. Sweden was plunged into deep mourning. Three years later, the Crown Prince married her cousin's daughter, Lady Louise Mountbatten, who became a stepmother, but never had children of her own.

Margaret's sister Patsy also married a man of her choosing, but only after traveling quite a bit with her parents, spending two years in India and several more in Canada, where a lake and a regiment are named for her. Despite numerous royal matches being suggested for her, Patsy chose instead to marry The Hon. Alexander Ramsay when she was 32. She also voluntarily dropped her royal title, although not her membership in the royal family or place in the succession. She gave birth to her only son within the year, and her daughter-in-law, Lady Saltoun is still considered a member of the British Royal Family.

Unlike all of their royal cousins, Daisy and Patsy experienced no difficulties or heartaches because of their brother. Prince Arthur happily married their cousin Louise Princess Royal's oldest daughter, served as Governor General of South Africa, and fathered his required heir.

Alice of Albany
Perhaps the plainest of the lovely 1880s granddaughters, Princess Alice of Albany's life was touched by tragedy when her father, the hemophiliac Prince Leopold died when she was still an infant. (Read her mother's story in my post Young Royal Widows.) And again, when her only brother was separated from the family to go to Germany where he succeeded his uncle The Duke of Edinburgh as the boy Duke of Saxe-Coburg and was officially made a persona non grata in their homeland during the first World War. And again when her youngest son Maurice died as a baby. And yet again when her other son died in a car accident at age 21. Nevertheless, Alice was a trooper. She was a well-respected member of the British Royal Family, dying only months before the wedding of Charles and Diana. Alice solidified her ongoing ties within the family by marrying the future Queen Mary's brother, Prince Alexander of Teck. During the great name change of 1917, they adopted his mother's family's ducal title as their surname and became the Cambridges. He was later made Earl of Athlone. Their only daughter, Lady May Cambridge included a five-year-old Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth among her bridesmaids when she married Sir Henry Abel-Smith.

Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg
Rounding out our 1880s girls, the only daughter of Victoria's youngest daughter is often at the very top of people's lists of most beautiful granddaughters. Born in 1888, Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, called Ena, was the youngest granddaughter and the only one actually raised in the Queen's own household although others lived nearby on the various estates or visited quite frequently. After the Queen's death in 1901, the teenaged princess moved into Kensington Palace with her mother and three brothers.

Like so many of her cousins, Ena's life was touched by many tragic losses. Her father died on his way to serve in the Boer War when she was eight. Her youngest brother was killed in action in World War I and her hemophiliac brother Leopold died during a hip operation. Her wedding day with her beloved King Alfonso XII--who many people thought would marry her cousin Patsy--was marred by a deadly bomb attack on the carriage procession. When she passed the hemophilia gene to two of her sons, they both died in minor car accidents. One of her other two sons was deaf. With her marriage deteriorating even faster than the Spanish political situation, the couple made no pretense of living separately when they were forced into exile by the Second Spanish Republic ahead of the Spanish Civil War. (Read more about that in my post Death to the Queen.) Ten years later, her husband died of a heart attack. Soon thereafter, she was forced to abandon her new home in Italy because she was too pro-Allies in World War II.

The Spanish throne was finally restored to her grandson King Juan Carlos. Victoria Eugenie returned to Spain briefly in 1968 to attend the christening of her great-grandson, Spain's new King Felipe.

04 December 2014

The Unfaithful Wives of Windsor

Headlines around the world are questioning whether Queen Elizabeth II is the legitimate queen of England based on DNA taken from a 500-year-old corpse. Who knew that the much maligned (or purely evil, depending on who you ask) King Richard III would become such an important monarch? Depicted as a crippled, maniacal madman by Shakespeare five centuries ago, he now has an entire organization devoted to rehabilitating his reputation and, even more critically, his recently discovered skeleton (in a carpark, of all places) is providing all kinds of information. First, researchers confirmed that he did indeed have a "hunchback" due to an extreme curvature in his spine. Then, forensic modeling demonstrated that he actually looked like his portraits. Now, DNA testing has shown that he had the blue eyes and blonde hair often associated with the Plantagenets.

Whose the mama?

Anne of York and her
second husband

The DNA scientists also took several more steps to try to confirm his identity, testing his paternal Y-DNA and his maternal mitochondrial (mT) DNA lines and comparing with modern descendants. Since Richard himself has no living descendants, the skeleton's DNA was compared to that of people descended from collateral lines. In the case of mT, which is passed directly from mother to child through each generation, they used the great-great-great-etc grandchildren of Richard's older sister, Anne of York, from whom the Earls of Rutland, Earls of Westmorland, and Dukes of Buckingham, among other noble lines descend. This testing showed that Anne and Richard definitely shared the same maternal ancestors; their mother being documented as Cecily Neville, daughter of the 1st Earl of Westmorland. According to the scientists, maternal DNA rarely ever is mistaken. This is because it is usually very easy to tell whether a child belongs to the mother--until very recently, the person who gave birth to a child was always its genetic mother.

He is NOT the father...

Edward III, an ancestor?
Determining the father of a child is not so straightforward. Ask anyone who watches daytime television and you will quickly learn that even a mother is sometimes unsure of exactly who the father is. And, the modern DNA testing on Richard III has opened the door to who's-the-daddy speculation that some are outrageously claiming means the Queen might not deserve the crown. More on that later...

In testing Richard's male-line DNA, which should be passed from father to son over the generations with only minor variations between generations, the scientists found that his DNA did not match that of today's male-line descendants of his great-great-grandfather, King Edward III. (By the way, they had to look to such an earlier ancestor because the Wars of the Roses and the Tudors did an excellent job of killing off nearly every Plantagenet male and making it difficult for any descendants to make it to the 16th century, much less the 21st.) The DNA was not even close; no relationship whatsoever.

Did Philippa love a butcher?
Clearly, at least one mother had an affair and foisted a false child on her unsuspecting husband. This woman could have been any of the wives of the Plantagenets in the Yorkist or Lancastrian lines starting with the mother of both the Edmund of Langley Duke of York and John of Gaunt Duke of Lancaster. Some of the articles lob the accusation directly at her, stating that there were contemporary rumors that Philippa of Hainault's son John was fathered by a butcher. Now, I'm not sure how often royal ladies encountered butchers in the 14th Century, but it seems a bit unlikely to me that Queen Philippa, who produced 14 children for King Edward III, is the naughty one. Her reputation has been unimpeachable over the centuries.

This means that some other lady was naughty. (Or, was she? As one intrepid Tweeter pointed out, any of these women could have been raped, a crime that is still under-reported today. The raped wife of a royal or noble would very likely have kept that information to herself because it would have severely damaged her station in life.) The problem is that the geneaologists and the DNA experts have no idea whether it was one of Richard's grannies or some lady in the line to which his DNA was compared.

The accused: York brides

Isabella of Castile, who was the wife of Edmund of Langley Duke of York, was an illegitimate daughter of the King of Castile. This doesn't necessarily taint her character--she was certainly deemed worthy enough to marry a royal son, as was her sister Constance, who married Edmund's older brother John of Gaunt. However, her behavior does make her a likely candidate. Contemporary chroniclers noted her loose morals and she was said to have had affairs. The paternity of her son Richard Earl of Cambridge had been questioned long before this DNA study was conducted.

Cecily Neville, one or more
 bastard boys?
Young Anne Mortimer, wife of Isabella's son Richard Earl of Cambridge, seems a less likely suspect. The couple married without parental consent and the match brought no financial benefit to the husband; these things simply were not done in those days, which could mean they genuinely wanted to marry each other for affection. (She was, however, a descendant of Edmund Duke of York's older brother, the Duke of Clarence, and it was through her that the Yorkist claim to the throne was alleged, so...maybe that was a strong enough motivation.) Anne died at age 20 after giving birth to Richard Duke of York.

Interestingly the reputation of Richard Duke of York's wife, the aforementioned Cecily Neville, was impugned during her own lifetime. When her older son became King Edward IV, rival factions, especially his own cousin, alleged that he was illegitimate. Some historians believe the claim could be correct. If one son was not a true royal heir, could that mean her younger son King Richard III was also illegitimate? Just how loose was this royal lady, who by the way, never dignified the accusations with a response.

The accused: Lancaster/Beaufort/Somerset brides

The much-married
John of Gaunt
The five men to whom Richard III's male-line DNA was compared all descend (allegedly) from Henry Somerset 5th Duke of Beaufort, the 13th-great grandson of John of Gaunt. That means that a "false-paternity" event could have occurred in any of 15 generations. (Apparently a false-paternity event also occurred in a subsequent generation because one of the five men was also not a match to the other four.)

So, let's take a look at these potential cheating ladies.

Katherine Swynford (read my post about her, Kate and Pippa: Sisters on the Rise), was the longtime mistress of John of Gaunt before he married her. All of their children, surnamed Beaufort, were born before their marriage and were later legitimated. The Dukes of Beaufort and the House of Tudor descend from this match (the Tudors through Henry VII's mother Margaret Beaufort.) Despite being the "other woman" through John's second, loveless marriage and be called an "infamous whore," I don't think Katherine was unfaithful to him. She waited quite a long time to get her man to herself. Plus, she was raised in the court of John's mother and named governess to his legitimate daughters, hardly a role that would be given to a woman of questionable reputation.

Margaret Holland, daughter of Thomas Holland and granddaughter of Joan the Fair Maid of Kent, whose third marriage to Edward the Black Prince (first son of Edward III) raised much ire because she had a second husband while still secretly married to her first husband, Mr. Holland. Her second husband imprisoned her for a while but that marriage was eventually annulled and she went back to the first husband, who died before she married the Prince. Got that? Margaret married John and Katherine's son John Beaufort 1st Earl of Somerset. She had six children including the 2nd Earl, the 1st and 2nd Dukes of Somerset, a Count, a Countess and a Queen of Scotland.

Eleanor Beachamp, daughter of the 13th Earl of Warwick. A widow with three children, she married Edmund Beaufort 1st Duke of Somerset in an unlicensed marriage that was later pardoned. She had least ten more children, two of whom became the 2nd and 3rd Dukes. After so many children, she was still up for a third marriage after Edmund died.

Elizabeth Hastings
Joan Hill, mistress of Henry Beaufort 3rd Duke of Somerset. He never married and had no legitimate children. Their son Charles Somerset was legitimized and created the Earl of Worcester. From him descends the only remaining male-line descendants of the Plantagenets--unless the apparent infidelity happened before this point, in which case, there have been no Plantagenets since the 16th century.

Elizabeth 3rd Baroness Herbert, sole heir of her father the 2nd Earl of Pembroke, held extensive lands in Wales. She married Charles Somerset 1st Earl of Worcester. Her only child was the 2nd Earl.

Elizabeth Browne, a courtier's daughter, second wife of the 2nd Earl of Worcester, mother of nine or 10 children including the 3rd Earl. She was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne Boleyn and was one of those who testified that Anne had had several lovers, including the Queen's own brother. Although her testimony helped send the Queen to her death, she still named the daughter she bore later that year Anne.

Christian North, a baron's daughter, wife of the 3rd Earl of Worcester, mother of three children including the 4th Earl.

Elizabeth Hastings, a descendant of the York branch of the Plantagenet family and daughter of the Earl of Huntingdon, wife of the 4th Earl of Worcester, mother of 15 children including the 1st Marquess of Worcester.

Mary Capell
Anne Russell, a baron's daughter, wife of the 1st Marquess of Worcester, mother of 13 children, including a Catholic priest and the 2nd Marquess.

Elizabeth Dormer, sister of the 1st Earl of Carnarvon, first wife of the 2nd Marquess of Worcester, mother of three children including the 1st Duke of Beaufort.

Mary Capell, who as the wife of 1st Duke of Beaufort (her second husband), was renowned as a botanist and gardener. She had seven children with her second husband, or did she?, one of whom was Charles Marquess of Somerset.

Elizabeth Berkeley
Rebecca Child, daughter of a baronet, wife of Charles Somerset Marquess of Somerset (who predeceased his father), mother of two children, including the 2nd Duke of Beaufort. Her daughter married an illegitimate grandson of King Charles II.

Rachel Noel, second wife of the 2nd Duke of Beaufort, mother of two sons, each of whom became the 3rd and 4th Dukes of Beaufort in turn.

Elizabeth Berkeley, sister of a royal governor of Virginia, wife of the 4th Duke of Beaufort, mother of six children including the 5th Duke.

Elizabeth Boscawen, daughter of an admiral, wife of the 5th Duke of Beaufort, mother of 13 children.

All of the men used in the DNA study are presumed to be the direct male descendants of the 5th Duke of Beaufort.

Is she the Queen or not?

So, what does all of this have to do with the question of Queen Elizabeth's legitimacy. Not a thing. In fact, earlier versions of the DNA story have even been updated by reliable news agencies like the BBC to better explain why none of this matters to today's Royal Family. To start with, Richard III lost his throne to Henry Tudor, whose mother was a Beaufort descendant of John of Gaunt Duke of Lancaster. Especially since the Beauforts had been barred from succession to the throne at the time that they were legitimized, his bloodline claim was extremely thin--imagine an unknown great-great-great grandchild of Queen Victoria coming forward to displace Prince Charles as the heir. Henry Tudor became King Henry VII by right of conquest--he defeated the King and seized the throne. He solidified his place by marrying Richard's niece, Elizabeth of York. This gave Yorkist supporters the ability to support him for her sake and united the two warring houses so that their descendants were both Lancasters and Yorks.

However, the House of Tudor lasted only three generations before passing through the female line to the Scottish House of Stuart. Due to centuries of fighting between Catholics and Protestants, the rightful Stuart line, which happened to be Catholic, was eventually thrown out by Parliament in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in favor the Protestant children of King James II. When these children failed to produce living children of their own, Parliament again intervened with the 1701 Act of Settlement, which barred all Catholics from the throne and declared that only the heirs of the distant Stuart cousin Sophia Electress of Hanover could reign in Britain. (Read my post, When Protestant Princesses Have Catholic Daddies.) The current Queen derives her legitimacy from those decisions, not from any Plantagenet blood that may or may not be flowing in her veins.