28 February 2015

Cambridge Baby #2 Names

By See Li via Wikimedia Commons
I am going to be honest: I have no idea when The Duchess of Cambridge is due to have her second child. Of course, I know it is this year but I couldn't tell you if it is supposed to be March, April or May. I have just not been on top of all things Cambridge. But there are PLENTY of blogs to provide you with Kate updates. That's not what readers of this blog are looking for. Instead, I am here to try to provide some historical perspective on princesses, including why today's princesses do what they do--including what they name their babies!

For my perspective on possible names for Cambridge Baby #1 from before he was born, check out my post, What Will Kate Name the Baby?

First things first, the name of the new baby is not as dynastically important as the name of the Cambridge's first child. After all, Prince George of Cambridge is expected to be king some day so it is entirely possible that only the names of former monarchs were even considered for him. His full name is George Alexander Louis. George is the name of six British kings (including The Queen's beloved father and grandfather). Alexander is the name three Scottish kings, and Catherine and William did meet in Scotland. It could also be a tribute to one of William's godmothers, The Queen's cousin Princess Alexandra. Louis is the name of The Duke of Edinburgh's favorite uncle Earl Mountbatten of Burma, whom The Prince of Wales called his "honorary grandfather." Louis is also among William's four names.

However, this doesn't mean that all bets are off with this "less important" baby. William and Catherine are still fairly conservative people, so they are not likely to choose unusual names or hipster names and don't expect a Prince Middleton of Cambridge. While they may not select a regnal name, they will likely choose a notably royal name with some family connections. I do suspect that this baby could end up with just two names and that at least one of its names will be a clear tribute to Kate's side of the family. After all, the Cambridges spend quite a bit of time with the Middletons. Don't be surprised to see some variation of Carole or Michael in honor of the maternal grandparents.

Victoria ordered that all her
descendants be named 
her or her husband Albert.
By Alexander Passano via
Wikimedia Commons
Since Queen Victoria, British princes have carried the names Albert, Edward, Alfred, Arthur, Leopold, Victor, George (already taken by big brother), Alexander, John, Charles, Henry, William, Richard, Michael, Andrew, Edward, Henry (uncle Prince Harry), and James.

Their choice of George may indicate a penchant for less contemporary names. Also, all of these names are currently in use by members of the BRF except Victor and Alfred. Could these two characteristics make them front runners?

We could also see a tribute to William's grandfather Prince Philip or his own godfathers: King Constantine of Greece, Norton Lord Romsey and Sir Laurens van der Post.

I'm still liking Scottish tributes, which could add Robert and David to the list as appropriate royal names. (I'm a descendant of the Bruces so these are my faves. LOL)

Elizabeth would honor The
Queen Mother, The Queen,
Catherine and her mother.
By Richard Stone
via Wikimedia Commons
Going back to Queen Victoria again, British princesses have been named Victoria, Alice, Helena, Louise, Beatrice, Marie, Melita, Alexandra, Patricia, Margaret, Alice, Maud, Elizabeth, Anne and Eugenie.

Most of these names are not currently in use in the BRF, so perhaps Alice (Prince Philip's mother), Louise, Marie, or Maud could make the cut. Melita and Patricia would be longer shots. The choice of either Margaret or Elizabeth could be sentimental favorites. Margaret for The Queen's sister and for its ties to historic Scottish queens. Elizabeth for The Queen and her own mother, William's beloved great granny, The Queen Mother.

For a girl, tributes to William's godmothers could include Alexandra (for Princess Alexandra), Susan (for Lady Susan Hussey) and Natalia (for the Duchess of Westminster.

Almost the entire world, I think, is longing for a baby named Diana in honor of William's mother. I don't like the idea of hanging that legacy on a little girl but I also thought Diana's engagement ring had bad juju, but William didn't ask me for my input on that one either. Nevertheless, they could opt for a tribute to Diana's Spencer relations with Frances for his gran and Jane or Sarah for his aunts. (Although since Sarah is also the name of the controversial Sarah Duchess of York, I think they'll steer clear of that.)

In addition to Carol, the baby's maternal family could also yield the tribute names of Catherine, Philippa, Elizabeth and Dorothy. Beyond its regal connections, Elizabeth is also the middle name of both Kate and her mother. Kate's own nan Dorothy could be honored with Dorothea, which was a fairly common name among the Georgian princesses of Britain.

Don't bet money on these! (But if you do AND you win anything please contact me to share the spoils!!)

For a boy, Philip Michael Charles or Robert Andrew Michael.

For a girl, Alice Carole Elizabeth or Margaret Alexandra Elizabeth.

Today's Princess: Daisy Greville

By The Lafayette Studio via Wikimedia Commons
Queen Victoria was not always the best character judge. When she selected Frances Evelyn "Daisy" Greville (1861-1938) as a potential bride for her youngest son Prince Leopold, she evidently overlooked some potential flaws that would have made Daisy a very poor member of the British Royal Family. Fortunately, Leopold already had determined to marry Princess Helen of Waldeck, and Daisy was free to pursue her life among the "fast" women of late Victorian and Edwardian ages. Among her chief claims to fame was that she was a longtime mistress of Leopold's brother, Albert Edward Prince of Wales--the future King Edward VII. (That would have made family get-togethers rather uncomfortable.)

Daisy was an heiress; she inherited a vast fortune from her father's family at the age of three. At 19, she married Lord Brooke, future Earl of Warwick. She earned the nickname "Babbling Brooke" for her notorious indiscretions: she just could not keep her mouth closed about who her lovers were. She was also extremely jealous. When she found out one of her lovers had impregnated his own wife, she wrote a threatening letter that was only kept out of the public eye through the intervention of The Prince of Wales.

She had three children with her husband and two more with one of her lovers. (She could easily inspire a Downton Abbey character!) Although fabulously wealthy, she was also extremely extravagant. She eventually ran herself into debt and tried to bribe the Royal Family to pay her off to keep her from publishing letters she had received from The Prince of Wales.

Daisy was definitely one of the It Girls of her day. Her fashions and pastimes were the subject of society and media attention. So much so that she is said to have inspired the dancehall song (now children's song) Daisy Belle:

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do

I'm half crazy all for the love of you
It won't be a stylish marriage
I can't afford a carriage
But you'll look sweet upon the seat
of a bicycle made for two

In fact, bicycles were not just a fashion that Daisy embraced, they were also one of her social/feminist causes. She supported the new fad of bicycles as a means for women, the poor and rural people to find more freedom and to improve their ability to work. Among the other causes, which she used her fortune to support, were schools for girls and trade unions. Opposed to World War I, she later joined the Labour Party.

Her potential mother-in-law Queen Victoria might have been more horrified by her politics than by her morals.

For more about Daisy:
Countess of Warwick on Sheila Hanlon's blog
The Many Scandals of the Marlborough House Set on Edwardian Promenade
Portrait of the Week: Daisy, Countess of Warwick on Madame Guillotine
Daisy Greville's Lovers on Royal Favourites
When Daisy Met Harold: An Edwardian Marketing Ploy on The Iron Room

Her Autobiography:

More Books about Daisy:

14 February 2015

Today's Princess: Charlotte Helene von Schindel

A man of many wives: Frederick IV of Denmark
Via Wikimedia Commons
While England's King Henry VIII may have set the record for total number of wives, Denmark's King Frederick IV tried to set the record for most wives at once. When he met today's lady, Charlotte Helene von Schindel, he already had two wives: his Queen Louise of Mecklenburg-Gustrow and a morganatic wife, Elizabeth Helene von Vieregg, whom he married to protect her reputation notwithstanding laws against bigamy. Citing the multi-wived patriarchs of the Bible, Frederick had no qualms about the situation.

He was still fathering children by his Queen when he got Elizabeth pregnant. As a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth, Charlotte watched her pregnancy grow and, perhaps was already fending off (or yielding to) advances from the King. Certainly, after Elizabeth died in childbirth, the King was ready to make Charlotte his new Number Two Wife. This time, however, the church leaders decided polygamy wasn't legitimate.

Charlotte, now the Countess of Frederiksholm, settled in as the King's mistress but she was soon replaced by a slightly younger, prettier girl, Anne Sophie Reventlow, whose attractions were strong enough to cause the King to again become a polygamist once again. Charlotte was retired to they countryside at the grand old age of 21.

Fearful of the King's possible reaction, she embarked upon an affair with Ernst G. Bulow. When they were unable to conceal the child they had together, Frederick discovered their tryst. He made them leave Denmark but not before allowing them to marry. After Bulow's death, Charlotte moved around a bit before finally returning to Denmark, where she died at the age of 60.

13 February 2015

Today's Princess: Richilde of Hainaut

Baldwin VI and Richilde
By Edmond de Busscher
via Wikimedia Commons
History has often shown that uncles are dangerous people; it is a lesson that Richilde of Hainaut (c. 1018-1086) learned all too well when her sons' uncle Robert the Frisian made war against them. As the widow of Baldwin VI Count of Flanders, Richilde was the guardian of their two sons and of their heritage. Baldwin had divided their patrimony: the elder, Arnulf, would inherit his County of Flanders while the younger, Baldwin, would receive Richilde' County of Hainaut. If either boy died without heirs of his own body, his brother would get the other's county, too.

Unfortunately, Baldwin VI's brother Robert thought he should be the Count of Flanders, despite the King of France's support for Arnulf. Many of the Flemish nobles sided with Robert because they did not like the taxes that Richilde had imposed in the name of her son. A bloody war ensued. Richilde did everything she could to strengthen her position, even offering herself in marriage to William FitzOsbern, a cousin and counselor to William the Conqueror, and one of the most successful soldiers of the day. When Richilde's forces faced Robert's at the Battle of Cassel, all of her ambitions fell to pieces. Her new husband was killed. More horribly, her 15-year-old son was killed. She herself was captured.

Once she was released, she retreated with her younger son to Hainaut from whence she tried and failed several more times to regain Flanders for him. Interestingly, Richilde always upheld young Baldwin's claim to her territory even though she had a surviving son from an earlier marriage. That son, Roger, became a Bishop. He was apparently lame, which may have made him unsuited for battle in an age where lands were claimed and held more by force than by inheritance.

Richilde lived into her late sixties, dying at the Abbey of Messines.

12 February 2015

Today's Princess: Marina Ricolfi-Doria

Via Pinterest
Happy 80th birthday to the only princess in history to have ever starred in a water skiing show in Florida! Modern princes have been known to find their wives in some unusual places but this is definitely one of the more outstanding examples of a young lady who likely never dreamed of wearing a tiara.

Swiss-born Marina Ricolfi-Doria was already a world championship water skier when she first met Prince Vittorio Emanuele, the heir to the last King of Italy. In fact, she had already won four consecutive European championships. King Umberto strongly disapproved of his son's chosen bride due to her low social status (former kings and heirs to defunct thrones seem to be more particular about marrying women with high rank.) So in the 1960s, while other heirs to existing thrones were marrying school teachers and seamstresses and Britain's Princess Margaret married a photographer, Vittorio was not allowed to marry Marina.

The couple was very patient and persistent. In 1971, after 11 years of waiting, they finally married and she took on his title as the new Princess of Naples. They had one son, the gorgeous Emanuele Filiberto, who now has two daughters with his French actress wife.

The family was not allowed to return to Italy until 2002 when he formally forfeited his dynastic rights; they now make Italy their main home. They are a colorful couple on the great European royal circuit--she for her colorful sartorial choices and he for his arrest record (although charges have been dropped or he has been acquitted of all accusations of corruption, exploitation of prostitution, murder, etc.)

Marina stands by her man, through it all. After all, she learned how to withstand turbulent waters while smiling at the top of a pyramid a long time ago.

11 February 2015

Today's Princess: Matilda of England, Duchess of Saxony

Portrait of Matilda from the tomb
created by her sons
By Acoma via Wikimedia Commons
The life of the oldest daughter of England's King Henry II shared some parallels with that of her paternal grandmother. Both were named Matilda. Both were the first daughter of a king named Henry. Both were sent to Germany to marry men named Henry. But today's Matilda had many, many brothers, so unlike her grandmother she never had the opportunity to fight for the English throne. (Read her grandmother's profile.)

However, today's Matilda was as strong-willed as Empress Matilda and, apparently, as romantic as her mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. When faced with challenges she took them head on, but that did not stop her from enjoying a little courtly love along the way.

As a girl, Matilda often accompanied her mother as she traversed the Angevin empire created by the marriage between Aquitaine and England/Normandy. She was not sent away to marry until age 12,  when she was wed to Henry the Lion Duke of Saxony to strengthen the ties between her parents' domains and the Holy Roman Empire, and give them a stronger hand against France.

When she was 16, and already a mother, Matilda's husband left her in charge of his territories while he went on Crusade for a couple of years. After his return, they continued building their family, but he had a falling out with his overlord the Emperor. Fortunately, they were able to flee to her father's Norman lands. It was here that Matilda enamored the famous troubador, Bertran de Born, but who wouldn't love a beautiful, rich and powerful princess?

Once the Emperor finally allowed them to return home, it wasn't long before Henry angered him again. This time, Matilda did not accompany him into exile. Instead she stayed to demand his rights, but her early death a few months later at age 33 prevented her from being successful. She left behind at least five children, one of whom eventually became the Emperor. So, perhaps she was successful after all.

10 February 2015

Today's Princess: Queen Victoria

By Franz Xaver Winterhalter
via Wikimedia Commons
On this day 175 years ago, the tradition of white wedding dresses was born when the young Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Before that brides had often worn cloth of silver or gold, or whatever was their nicest dress.

Victoria's journals and letters made it quite clear that she thoroughly enjoyed her wedding night. She also had hoped to keep her handsome groom to herself for several years before their relationship had "consequences" Alas, even Queen's don't always get their way, and the couple soon had nine consequences, but Victoria was not used to having a large family around her.

Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent was born after her middle-aged father, fourth son of King George III, finally went looking for a suitable wife. Like his brothers, he was galvanized into action by the death of their only legitimate niece, Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales. (Read about her in my post A Tragic Royal Birth.) After Charlotte their were no heirs in that generation and each prince hoped to father the next King. The Duke of Kent married the widowed Victoria of Saxe-Coburg, who had proven her childbearing abilities. Their only daughter together was born shortly before the Duke died. Baby Drina, who would eventually adopt her second name, grew up in the palace where she was born, Kensington Palace.

Barely 18 when she ascended the throne, she thwarted her mother's attempts at a Regency, determined to make her own way. She soon chose her own husband and became completely devoted to him. When Albert died suddenly of typhus, Victoria was a 42-year-old single mother of nine children, although her oldest had already married and moved to Germany.

Victoria was a tiny woman with a giant presence. She dominated her family with an iron fist, meddling in the activities of her children, grandchildren and great-children with incessant letters filled with demands and advice. While some of them adored her, others were intimidated by her. (Meet her granddaughters in my post, Gorgeous Granddaughters of Victoria.)

Her long reign came to be associated with the best of Industrial Age England and its allegedly prim and proper ways. She herself was undoubtedly the most famous woman in the world, as the head of the British Empire, which spread across every continent.

When she died at the age of 81, the 20th century had already dawned and the frictions within her own family fueled by the social, political and military tensions of the 19th were about to break loose and change forever the world that Victoria had known, but Victoria's legacy lives on in the person of her great-great granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, who seems to live by the words that Victoria uttered when she learned that she would one day be queen: "I will be good."

For more about Victoria: 
Victoria's Secrets on Princess Palace
Queen Victoria Revealed blog
Descendants of Queen Victoria on All About Royal Families
Queen Victoria Biography on Biography Online

Just for fun:
New Adventures of Queen Victoria comic strip

Best films about Victoria:

Books about Victoria:

09 February 2015

Today's Princess: Aénor de Châllerault

Aénor's lusty father-in-law, William IX
via Wikimedia Commons
Not much is known about this French noblewoman. We know that Aénor de Châllerault was the daughter of the Viscount Châllerault, a vassal of the Duke of Aquitaine, who was in turn a vassal of the King of France. We know that she married William X Duke of Aquitaine. We know that she had three children and we know that she died at about the age of 27, around the same time that her only son died.

That we know so little about her is not unusual for a 12th century lady. What is remarkable is that we know so much more about the women around her. After all of these centuries, she still exists in the great shadows created by her infamous mother and her powerful daughter.

Aénor was one of three or four children born to the beautiful and vivacious Amauberge de l'Isle Bouchard and Aimery I de Châllerault. Better known by the nickname "Dangereuse" or "Dangerosa," Aenor's mother was renowned as a seductive beauty. She caught the eye of her husband's equally sensuous overlord, William IX of Aquitaine. With a reputation as a ladies' man and as a poetic troubador, William took the opportunity of his own wife's absence to abduct Dangerosa. This was a fairly common practice of the day. Even the highest-born ladies might be kidnapped and raped and/or ransomed by high-born lords, but Dangerosa seems to have been a willing victim.

Over the protests of William's wife (although not of Dangerosa's husband) and under excommunication by the Pope, the risqué couple set up castle together with her taking on the role although not the title of Duchess. This caused a great rift between William and his teenaged heir, the future William X. Dangerosa healed the father-son rift by offering the younger William her only daughter as his bride. Aénor left her father's court to live with her mother and her mother's lover, as the wife of her de facto stepfather's son.

It was into this environment that Aénor's own daughters Eleanor and Petronilla were born and raised. The two girls were quite young when their mother died, but Dangerosa lived until Eleanor was almost 30. In fact, it was shortly after Dangerosa's death that Eleanor escaped her first marriage to King Louis VI of France, evaded kidnappers, and eloped with the future King of England.

What would Aénor have thought of all of this? That's the most fascinating thing that we don't know about her.

08 February 2015

Today's Princess: Margaret of Denmark and Norway

via Wikimedia Commons
The country we know as Scotland today, was largely completed in 1468 with the marriage treaty between Margaret of Denmark and Norway and King James III of Scotland. In addition to a new Queen, Scotland also received the Orkney Islands and Shetland, and permanently secured the Hebrides and Isle of Man--for which they had previously been paying a hefty annual sum to the Norwegians.

Margaret was 13 when she married, and her 15-year-old husband was just leaving the control of regents to rule Scotland on his own. As was often the case in Scotland, his reign was a bit rocky. His ineffectual leadership did not help. So, it should come as no surprise that his younger brothers teamed up with those traditional enemies, the English, to oust James from his throne. The displacement was temporary--one brother was mysteriously killed and the other fled the country.

The big question is where Margaret fit into all of this family squabbling. Their relationship, although it produced three sons, had always been somewhat cool. Many believe that Margaret was more interested in preserving the rights of her children than assisting her husband. James seems to have gone a bit further, believing that Margaret was consorting with his enemies. Whatever the truth, their cool marriage turned even colder. It is not even clear whether they ever saw each other again after his restoration to power.

Margaret died only four years later, aged 30. She had been very popular among the Scots, who felt she was beautiful and sensible--and might have made a better king than her husband. Whispers of poisoning surrounded her death; an unpopular king is thought capable of many evil things, after all. Guilty conscious or not, James did apply to have his later wife canonized, an odd move considering his lack of affection during her life.

When James died following a battle two years later, their eldest son became King James IV at the age of 15, continuing a long line of childhood accessions in Scotland.

For more about Margaret: 
Margaret of Denmark, Queen of Scotland on The Freelance History Writer
Margaret of Denmark, Queen of Scotland on Scottish Monarchs

1923 Book about Margaret:

07 February 2015

Today's Princess: Mayor Guillén de Guzmán

The dashing Alfonso X
via Wikimedia Commons
Although he wrote about the proper behavior and role of women, King Alfonso X of Castile and Leon was not very particular about applying these rules to his own life. In fact he had several famous affairs, including one with his own aunt. The most famous mistress of his youth, however, was a Castilian noblewoman named Mayor Guillén de Guzmán.

Often characterized as his most romantic relationship, the affair started when he was just a teenager. She was about 16 years older. It continued while he waited for his child-bride Violante of Aragon to grow up. Born into an extremely aristocratic family, Mayor seems to have suffered little ill-will because of the affair. Instead, she was showered with lands. She and Alfonso even founded the Monastery of Santa Clara de Alcocer together. Decades later, after her death, he even erected a beautiful sepulchre in here memory. It survived until the Spanish Civil War in 1936.

The couple's only child together, Beatrice, was one of Alfonso's favorite children--he had 11 with his wife and a smattering of other bastards. In fact, Beatrice made a better marriage than any of her legitimate sisters: she married the King of Portugal.

Lest you think, that Alfonso and Mayor's relationship kept him completely satisfied, however, it is worth mentioning that Beatrice was born the same year as her illegitimate brother Alfonso Fernandéz de Castilla.

More about Mayor (both in Spanish):
Amante del Ray Sabio, Doña Mayor Guillén on Mujeres en la Historia
Doña Mayor Guillén y Alfonso X el Sabio, el amante on La Aventura de la Historia

06 February 2015

Today's Princess: Isabella of Villehardouin

By Gustave Léon Schlumberger (Sceau de l'Orient latin)
via Wikimedia Commons
So what happens if a princess is her father's only heir and her father dies? In the case of Isabella of Villehardouin, her father-in-law inherited her father's lands. Now that's a nice political move: disinheriting your daughter in favor of her husband's dad. (Her sister, Margaret, suffered the same fate. The girls had the same father-in-law, Charles of Anjou King of Sicily.)

During the Middle Ages, the Eastern Mediterranean was incredibly important in European politics. Since the start of the Crusades, the Christian rules of Europe had been setting up kingdoms and principalities throughout what is now the Balkans, Turkey, and the Holy Lands. And the ties were still strong between the western and eastern Empires. Isabella's father ruled an area called Achaea but his hold on it was tenuous. In fact, he had been captured (after he was found hiding under a haystack) and was more or less forced to concede.

As part of the subsequent agreements, Isabella was married at age 12 to Charles' son Philip, who died before the teenaged couple had any children. Isabella remained under Charles' authority. He finally died when she was in her mid-20s, and her brother-in-law Charles II escorted her to a new marriage with Florent of Hainaut a few years later. He gave them back her father's titles as Prince and Princess of Achaea. When Florent died a decade later, she married Philip of Savoy and was able to keep Achaea only as long as Charles allowed. Philip, who was at least 14 years younger than Isabella, nearly ran the place into the ground, which caused Charles to revoke their leadership.

Once they got back to Italy, Isabella left her wastrel husband and took her only child, the daughter of her second husband, to live in Germany. She died about four years later in her late forties.

For more about Isabella:
Isabella of Villehardouin on Medieval and Early Modern Women

05 February 2015

Today's Princess: Agnes of Hohenstaufen

Berlin Opera House, where Agnes was immortalized
via Wikimedia Commons
What's girl to do? Her powerful cousin, the Emperor, wants her to marry the King of France. Her daddy said she could marry the man of her heart but is unwilling to challenge the Emperor. The only recourse she has is to throw herself on the mercy of her mother.

Agnes of Hohenstaufen pleaded with her mother, Irmengard of Henneberg, to help her escape this plight and fortunately for her, her tears fell on a tender heart. Irmengard waited for her husband to leave town before sneaking Henry of Guelph into the castle to secretly marry Agnes.

When the Emperor found out, he was enraged. He commanded that the marriage be annuled. This time, however, Agnes's father stood up for his daughter and turned lemons into lemonade. He convinced the Emperor that this marriage between a Guelph and a Hohenstauffen could end years of dynastic rivalry. Soon, the Emperor was reconciled with Agnes's new father-in-law and internal peace returned to the Holy Roman Empire. Young Henry became the heir of his new father-in-law, and they all lived happily ever after (in a 12 century sort of way).

This true story went on to inspire a 19th century Romantic opera, Agnes von Hohenstaufen, about a young girl's battle to marry the man of her own choosing. Written by Italian composer, Gaspare Spontini, it premiered in Berlin in 1829.

The opera Agnes von Hohenstaufen:

Download the aria, O re dei cieli, sung by either Anita Cerquetti:

O re dei cieli from Agnes von Hohenstaufen, aria sung by Anita Cerquetti:

04 February 2015

Today's Princess: Margaret of Scotland Queen of Norway

In many ways, Margaret of Scotland's life is very typical of a 13th century princess. She was born as a result of a political union. She was married to secure peace between warring nations. And, she died for too young as a result of childbirth.

Strangely for the firstborn child of a king, Margaret was not born in her father's kingdom. Instead, she was born within the borders of Scotland's frequent enemy among the bosom of her mother's family, the English royal family. Margaret's parents, Alexander III of Scotland and Margaret of England had been visiting the royal in-laws when Margaret realized she was pregnant. Unhappy in Scotland and perhaps desperate to be near her own very loving mother, she begged to be left behind when Alexander returned home. He agreed, but only after making his father-in-law formally swear that he would not hold on to the newborn Scottish heir or his queen.

Mother Margaret and baby Margaret finally returned to Scotland a few months after the birth. A son and heir arrived son thereafter and another son many years after that. Not long after that, the youngsters lost their beloved mother. Young Margaret was not yet 14. She had undoubtedly grown up knowing that, like her mother, she would be forced to leave home one day to make a political marriage; the continual war with Norway made it clear which direction her fate would follow. However, she may not have been too keen, at the age of 20 to be married off to a 13-year-old boy, King Eric II of Norway. Nevertheless, she put a good face on things, writing to her uncle the new King Edward I of England, that she was happy and healthy.

Margaret was well-received in Norway. Despite her husband's extreme youth, she became pregnant. Early in 1283, she gave birth to a baby girl, named Margaret (just to make things even more confusing for future royal bloggers and their readers). Soon after, Margaret of Scotland died. Back in Scotland, things were not going well for her family. Her youngest brother had died years earlier. When her only other brother died less than a year after her, their father had no children to succeed him. He named his only grandchild, the infant Margaret, called "The Maid of Norway," as his heir. She inherited the Scottish throne when she was three years old.

For more about Margaret:
Margaret of Scotland, Queen of Norway on Edward the Second

03 February 2015

Today's Princess: Berengaria of Castile

Doña Berengaria from a stained

glass window in the Alcazar
via Wikimedia Commons
When Berengaria of Castile was nine years old, her husband left her. Not because of anything she had done but because she finally had a brother. This meant that she was no longer heir to the Castilian throne. But, Conrad of Swabia was short-sighted: she was still the eventual Queen of the Spanish kingdom. Berengaria sued for an annulment but Conrad got his just rewards before the annulment was granted. The stories are mixed but he was apparently murdered either during or after raping a woman.

Several years later, Berengaria's parents arranged for her to marry her cousin King Alfonso IX of Leon. The church had already forced him to leave his first wife, another cousin, because they were too closely related. He and Berengaria persisted, however, staying together for seven years after the Pope placed them under interdict. This was more for political reasons than romantic ones: their marriage had finally brought peace to the neighboring kingdoms. Their separation reignited hostilities. They were not the world's happiest divorced couple.

Berengaria took their five children back to Castile with her. When her father died and her underaged brother was killed by a falling roof tile, Berengaria became Queen of Castile. She soon positioned her son, Ferdinand, to take the throne of Castile and abdicated in his favor, remaining his most important advisor. One of her chief goals was to get his father's throne for him, too. Alfonso had other ideas. He decided to settle his kingdom on his daughters from his first marriage. Berengaria blocked these plans from every angle. When he tried to marry one of these daughters to a powerful prince who could support her claim, Berengaria persuaded the prince to marry one of her daughters instead. Then, she basically bought off her former stepdaughters, promising them money for life if they would cede their rights to their younger half-brother. When their father died, Ferdinand III became king of Castile and king of Leon. The thrones would remain united from thenceforth and were eventually merged with the other Spanish kingdoms over the centuries.

Spain, in essence, got its start because of the sheer determination of Berengaria.

For more about Berengaria:
Berengaria of Castile on Royal Women
Berenguela of Castile on About.com

Books about Berengaria:

02 February 2015

The Daughters of Eleanor of Aquitaine

Many contemporary historians, bloggers and royal watchers enjoy reading and writing about the daughters and granddaughters of Queen Victoria, who is the most recent royal matriarch and is an ancestor of nearly every contemporary European monarch.  However, Victoria has a deep ancestress whose political influence on the lives of her daughters and granddaughters is perhaps even greater: Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Eleanor was a great leader in the 12th century with an indomitable personality. She became the Duchess of Aquitaine in her own right when she was a young teen. Soon thereafter, she married King Louis VII of France. A greater royal mismatch has hardly ever existed. Nevertheless the spiritual king and his spirited queen managed to have two daughters. After which, Eleanor convinced him that God did not approve of the match. They received an annulment and she immediately eloped with the much-younger soon-to-be King Henry II of England, by whom she had not only five sons but three more daughters. Henry controlled the French territories of Anjou and Normandy. Together, the new couple was a powerful counterbalance to her ex-husband.

The French Daughters:

Marie of France was left in the custody of her father when she was seven. When he married his third wife, the marriage contract also included an agreement that his daughter would marry his new brother-in-law, the Count of Champagne. The couple had four children. The Count left her in control while he went on Crusade, and she again assumed control as regent for her son when her husband died a few years later. Marie inherited her mother's love of culture, especially poetry. She was also very close to her younger half-brother, the celebrated Richard the Lionheart.

Alix of France was only two when her parents split, but like her sister, she was married to a brother of her stepmother, the Count of Blois. Her husband had been among the prince's who attempted to abduct and marry her mother after the annulment, but she had eluded him. Also like Marie, Alix served as regent for her husband's territories when he went on Crusade and when he also died leaving an underage heir. Alix had seven children.

The English Daughters:

Named for her formidable paternal grandmother, Empress Matilda (see my profile of her), Matilda of England was sent to Germany to marry the Duke of Saxony when she was 11 years old. As with her half-sisters, Matilda controlled her husband's territories while he went Crusading. She was only 16 at the time. When he returned, he fell out with the German Emperor, forcing them to seek refuge at her father's court in Normandy for several years. When her husband was thrown out of Germany again, Matilda stayed behind to fight for their interests. Inheriting both her mother's toughness and her sensuality, Matilda was the object of the courtly love poems of the troubadour Bertran de Born. She had at least five children and perhaps as many as eight.

Eleanor of England got to stay home a bit longer than her older sisters: she was 14 when she married the King of Castile. This marriage eventually led to warfare as her husband claimed part of her family's Gascon territories as part of her dowry. He was unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the marriage agreement did grant other extensive territories to Eleanor, granting her authority in her own name. The marriage was a familial success, too. They had 11 children and were extremely close for a political marriage. She died less than a month after him--many say she died of a broken heart.

The youngest daughter, Joan of England, was probably the most high-spirited of them all. She was sent to marry the King of Sicily at age 11. When he died, the childless widow was only 24 and her husband's heir imprisoned her. Fortunately for Joan, her brother King Richard just happened to be in the neighborhood on his way to the Holy Land. He demanded the return of both Joan and her dowry, and added Joan to his wife's party on their continuing eastward journey. When the Queen and Joan's ship became stranded after storms on Cyprus, Richard had to come to their rescue again. After returning from the Crusades, Joan married the Count of Toulose and bore him two children. She died in childbirth bringing forth a third who died soon thereafter.

Book about Eleanor's motherhood:

Today's Princess: Margherita Maria Farnese

It is intriguing that the fates of closely related royals can be so different. While her sister-in-law, Mary of Modena rose to great heights as the Queen of Great Britain's King James II and fell again as the exiled mother of the "warming pan" baby that lost him the throne, Margherita Maria Farnese is almost completely forgotten by history.

Married to Mary's brother, Francesco II d'Este Duke of Modena, she was widowed after only two years. Her husband died of gout and severe arthritis; the pain of these conditions could explain why the couple had no children.

Margherita Maria returned home to Parma and was soon faced with the death of her father, Ranuccio II Farnese Duke of Parma. Her mother had died when she was not quite two. Her only full sister was a Benedictine nun. Her only full brother died while she was in Modena (leaving behind an infant daughter, Elizabeth Farnese, who would marry King Philip IV of Spain).

She lived the rest of her life subject to her much younger half-brother Francesco, the new Duke of Parma, who had quickly married Margherita Maria's late brother's widow so that he wouldn't have to return the dowry. For the next 24 years, she remained in the bosom of her family, passing away at their summer palace in Colorno at the age of 53.

01 February 2015

Today's Princess: Stephanie of Monaco

Palais Princier de Monaco
Previously recognized as the adorable child in family photos of Hollywood royalty-turned-actual-princess Grace Kelly, Princess Stephanie of Monaco shot onto the world stage in 1982 when the car she was riding in plunged over a cliff in their mountainous principality. All the globe mourned the death of Princess Grace. Although the glamorous new Princess of Wales attended the funeral, Stephanie could not. She was still seriously injured in the hospital. She was only 17.

Sometimes called the "wild child"--an affectionate nickname given to her by her mother but misappropriated by the tabloid press--it is easy to imagine her as a reality TV star if reality TV had existed in the 1980s. Stephanie launched many careers in her youth: she was a swimsuit designer and model, a pop singer (even performing on the Michael Jackson track, "In the Closet" on his Dangerous album), perfume designer, cafe owner, and magazine guest editor.

As if her career adventures were not unusual enough for a princess, her romantic hijinks have drawn even more attention. She dated international heartthrobs Paul Belmondo, Anthony Delon and Rob Lowe, before mothering two children by her bodyguard, Daniel Ducruet, whom she later married and divorced. The father of her third child, Jean Raymond Gottlieb, was another of her bodyguards.

In the meantime, Stephanie also ran away with the circus, literally, when she and her children moved in with a married elephant trainer. She then married and divorced a circus acrobat.

Nevertheless, the currently single Stephanie has always maintained her princessly duties in the field of charity and philanthropy. She is the president of several charities devoted to children and others supporting the arts. She was also one of the first royals to step forward in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and is still an ambassador of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.

For more about Stephanie:
Her official biography of on the Prince's Palace of Monaco site
Princess Stephanie of Monaco on Hello!
Royal Profile: HSH Princess Stephanie of Monaco on The Mad Monarchist
Princess Stephanie of Monaco on Unofficial Royalty
Princess Stephanie on Beyond Grace Kelly

Princess Stephanie's Music: