31 March 2015

Today's Princess: Mary Princess Royal, Countess of Harewood

By Bain News Service via Wikimedia Commons
Born during the reign of her great-grandmother, Mary of York (1897-1965) passed through a number of titles as her father rose in rank, then she married and her husband rose in rank, and finally her father gave her the title reserved only for the first daughter of the monarch, Princess Royal, a year after the death of her aunt Louise Princess Royal.

The only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, Mary was painfully shy, especially as a youngster. She grew up somewhat secluded and was educated at home. World War I brought an increased isolation for her that she broke herself out of, first by starting her own charitable drive to support the soldiers and sailors (read my post, The Teenaged Princess & the Soldier) and then by becoming a nurse.

At heart, Mary was a horse-mad country girl, like the niece who so much resembles her--Queen Elizabeth II--and her successor as Princess Royal. She married the much older Henry Lascelles, who later inherited the Earldom of Harewood, and became the mother of two sons, whose extramarital behavior would later scandalize the royal family.

Mary herself never attracted unsavory attention. She was, however, distressed by the abdication and practical banishment of her favorite brother, King Edward VIII, later The Duke of Windsor. It is even rumored that she pled illness to avoid attending niece Elizabeth's wedding because he was not invited.

In addition to becoming an expert on cattle breeding, Mary Princess Royal undertook duties on behalf of the Crown throughout her life. In all, she lived during the reigns of six monarchs--her great-grandmother, her grandfather, her father, two of her brothers, and her niece.

She undertook her last official duty, representing The Queen at the funeral of her cousin, Queen Louise of Sweden, just a few weeks before her unexpected death. She was not quite 68 when she suffered a fatal heart attack while taking a walk with her eldest son and his sons.

For more about Mary:
Adultery, a child, divorce, remarriage on Royal Musings
Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood on Chic Vintage Brides
Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood's Personal Collection Goes on the Block on Architectural Digest
Princess Mary, Princess Royal, Countess of Harewood on Unofficial Royalty
Princess Mary's Fringe Tiara on Tiaras and Trianon
Royal Profile: Princess Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood on Marilyn's Royal Blog
Wedding gifts and presents to Mary Princess Royal on Royal Magazin

Blog about Mary:
Princess Mary Countess of Harewood on Tumblr

Books about Mary:

29 March 2015

Today's Princess: Marguerite de Valois

By Francis Clouet
via Wikimedia Commons
Friday marked the 400th anniversary of the death of one truly unique princess: Marguerite de Valois (1553-1615), whose life has primarily been handed down to us through her scandalous memoirs and through the pens of literary giants like Alexandre Dumas and William Shakespeare. When novelists and playwrights take control of your life's story, there is no telling what reputation history will assign you. A little bit of fact can fuel a lot of fiction.

Born at a turbulent time in French history, Marguerite was the sixth child of King Henry II and Catherine de Medici. She witnessed the dying days of the Valois monarchy and the violence of the Catholic-Huguenot wars, often from the very center of the conflict. By age 19, she had already lost her father in a freak jousting accident and her Italian-born, Machiavellian mother was firmly in control of her brother's throne. Marguerite already had a licentious reputation as the rumored mistress of one of princes of the House of Guise, the bitter rivals of her mother. True or not, the whispers were undoubtedly flamed by her regal brother, Henry III, with whom some allege she had an incestuous relationship while others say they deeply despised each other.

So, when it came time, to reconcile the Catholic Valois with the Protestant Navarre branch of the royal family, there was likely little familial remorse to sacrifice Marguerite to the Huguenot King Henry of Navarre. Amidst rumors that her mother had poisoned his mother, Queen Jeanne of Navarre, the wedding took place with the Protestant groom forced to stand outside of the cathedral. A few days later, with all of the highest-born Protestant still in town to celebrate the wedding, Marguerite's brother and mother (allegedly) unleashed the terror of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, wiping out thousands of French Huguenots. Despite her own dislike for the husband she viewed as something of a country bumpkin, Marguerite protected him and others, saving them from death. They were both kept in Paris, more or less prisoners, for the next several years. Not an auspicious beginning for newlyweds.

Both King Henry of Navarre and his new Queen Marguerite were said to be unfaithful to each other and to argue incessantly. The relationship was so bad that, when he eventually returned to Navarre, he did not initially allow her to return, despite their dynastic need to create heirs. For the next several years, she bounced back and forth between her husband's and her brother's courts, not really wanted at either. She made the best of things, enjoying the best art, culture, and fashion that money could buy. She was a very early fashion leader, who undoubtedly would have enjoyed the attention garnered by today's tabloid princesses. Nevertheless, her romantic adventures even caused her brother to keep her under lock and key for awhile.

When her brother died in 1589, her husband succeeded him and she became Queen of France. The marriage had remained stormy and childless. Henry began annulment proceedings in 1592 and an annulment was finally granted in 1599. Marguerite was allowed to keep her queenly titles and was given a generous income that allowed her to maintain her many charitable activities for the poor and sponsorships of art and culture. She even eventually became close to her former husband and his new wife, Marie de Medici, and was a beloved figure in the lives of their children.

Nevertheless, scandal continued to follow her. (One of her young lovers murdered another young lover in her presence, so she had him beheaded.) It is no wonder that Shakespeare found ample inspiration when he wrote Love's Labour's Lost or that Alexandre Dumas' could dedicate to whole volumes of La Reine Margot to her fictionalized biography.

Biographies of Marguerite:
Book of Memoirs of Marguerite de Valois
Portrait of Power by Karin M. Armour

For more about Marguerite:
Appel a communication: Marguerite de Valois on ApAhAu 
Female Protagonists Bridget Jones and Marguerite de Valois on A Dribble of Ink
A little gossip - Marguerite de France, Marguerite de Valois on It's About Time  
Marguerite de Valois on Yelena Casale's blog
Marguerite de Valois, known as Queen Margot on Freda Lightfoot's blog
La Reine Margot and the death of her teenage gigolo lover on A World Elsewhere

Fictional depictions of Marguerite:

Film (fiction) depictions of Marguerite:

Books about Marguerite:

23 March 2015

Today's Princess: Eugenie of York

What's a millennial princess to do? For The Queen's Yorkie granddaughters, the question is being answered on a day-to-day basis. In many ways, Princess Eugenie of York (1990- ) and her sister are caught between the past and future. They are subjected to unrelenting public/media attention at the same time general public opinion insists that they get jobs and support themselves. They are expected to behave impeccably but are denied any real royal duties.

As Eugenie celebrates her 25th birthday today, I think she has shown remarkable grace despite the competing tensions in her life. For goodness sake, after her christening, at least one headline labeled her "Hugenie" and declared she was a fat baby. That was followed by the very public demise of the marriage of her parents, Prince Andrew The Duke of York and Sarah Duchess of York. Then, Eugenie had to undergo surgery to correct a severe curvature in her spine. As a young adult, she faced tabloid speculation that she was a lesbian because she enjoyed traveling and hanging with her girlfriends while not having a boyfriend.

Those who have followed her life in the media would likely be surprised to know that she actually seems like a very well-adjusted woman. She is only the second British princess to complete a university degree--her sister was the first. She has successfully launched a career in the world of high-end art auctions. She has represented The Queen in Germany. And, she has taken on her first charitable patronage, serving Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, where she herself underwent treatment for scoliosis.

Eugenie is very much a princess of the new millennium--today, her father even sang "Happy Birthday" to her via Facetime from one of his official engagements.

UPDATE: On January 22, 2018, Princess Eugenie's engagement to Jack Brooksbank was announced. the couple will marry on October 12 at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.

Read Eugenie's official bio.

For more about Eugenie:
10 Facts about the Royal on Hello
Princess Eugenie: A Life in Pictures on Marie Claire

Blogs about Eugenie:
Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie on Tumblr
Princess Eugenie
Princess Eugenie on Pinterest
Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice on Pinterest
The Princesses of York on Tumblr

21 March 2015

Today's Princess: Beatrice Alfonso of Castile

By Antonio de Hollanda via Wikimedia Commons
When arranging most royal marriages, the following is usually true: neither is already married to someone else and neither is illegitimate. Both, however, were true when King Alfonso III of Portugal married Beatrice Alfonso of Castile (c. 1242-1303), daughter of King Alfonso X the Wise and his longtime mistress Mayor Guillen de Guzman. So desperate was Alfonso III to solidify his power as the Portuguese king that he was willing to divorce his wife, Matilda II Countess of Boulogne, and agree to marry the bastard daughter of his overlord--never mind the fact that Beatrice was about 10 years old! At 43, the bridegroom was more than a decade older than his new father-in-law.

Castilian King Alfonso X was attentive to all of his children, legitimate or otherwise, and it is widely believed that Beatrice was his favorite child of all. Of his seven daughters, she was the only one to marry a king. As part of the marriage agreement, he also granted numerous estates to her firstborn son. Beatrice became even richer when her mother died a decade later and she inherited her expansive lands. Despite bride's wealth, many in Portugal found the whole thing distasteful, not the least of which was the repudiated wife, who accused her husband of bigamy. Her complaint made it to the Pope, but it was forgotten when she died a few years later.

Once she was a little older, Beatrice became a very productive queen. She gave her husband eight children, including two who were born in the same calendar year!

Given their great age difference, it is not surprising that Beatrice outlived her husband. Because her oldest son, the new King Denis, was only 17, she assumed some of the royal authority. Denis did not like this and it was not long before the rift between them grew unbearable. Beatrice returned home to Castile and her still-doting daddy showered her with even more lands, including the Kingdom of Niebla, which had been wrested from the Muslims just a few decades before. All of this was in recognition of her unwavering support of her father, when many of her half-siblings had turned against him. Completely devoted, she remained by him even on his deathbed.

20 March 2015

Today's Princess: Margaret Rose

Princess Margaret with her older
sister Princess Elizabeth and 
grandmother Queen Mary
via Wikimedia Commons

"I shall call her Bud," Lilibet is said to have declared when meeting her new sister, Princess Margaret Rose (1930-2002), "because she isn't a real rose yet." Queen Elizabeth II's sister certainly blossomed into a royal beauty and headline grabber from her earliest days. She was THE princess of the 1950s; a media darling and a favorite around the world. 

Part of her allure, besides how gorgeous she was, was that she was seen as a kind of reverse fairytale princess. After her father's early death, when she was only 21, she had hoped to marry one of his aides, a World War II hero named Peter Townsend. However, the great age difference between them was a mild hurdle next to his status as a divorced man. For 1940s and 1950s Britain, divorce was too taboo and the Princess announced after her 25th birthday that, "mindful of the Church's teachings," she would not marry a divorced man. (Read my post, An Affair to Remember.)

Instead, she became the first modern British royal to become a divorcee when her marriage with society photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones (who was raised to peerage as Earl of Snowdon upon their wedding) broke up in the late 1970s amidst rumors of her infidelity. The couple had two children, furniture designer David Viscount Linley (now 2nd Earl Snowdon) and artist Lady Sarah Chatto.

Princess Margaret continued to take on royal duties in support of her sister The Queen, until her downspiraling health overwhelmed her. She was able to continue working even after having a lung removed in her fifties just as had happened to her father. However, a series of strokes began to debilitate her, impacting both her vision and her mobility. She passed away at age 71, weeks before the death of her 101-year-old mum, The Queen Mother.

Margaret is remembered for her sparkling wit, musical talents, and bright mind. If she had not been a princess, she certainly could have made a career for herself among the actors, musicians and artists who were among her closest friends.

For more about Margaret:
Behind the Royal Door: Princess Margaret on Royal Central
The Coolest Royal on Retro Kimmer's Blog
Flashback Friday: The Fabulous Princess Margaret on The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor
HRH Princess Margaret on Addicted Diamonds
The Late Princess Margaret on The British Monarchy
Portraits of Princess Margaret on Arrayed in Gold
Princess Margaret on Lifetime
Princess Margaret's Persian Turquoise Tiara on Artemisia's Royal Jewels
Royal Princess, Royal Scandal on Scandalous Women

Blogs about Margaret:
F**k Yeah Princess Margaret on Tumblr
Margaret of Snowdon on Tumblr

Books about Margaret:

19 March 2015

A Royal Baby in April for the Cambridges

By Ricky Wilson
via Wikimedia Commons
Although many of us had already calculated an April due date for the second child of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the information has become "official" as far as the world's media is concerned. It is being widely reported--and is stealing headlines from The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall in the United States, where they are on an official visit--that Catherine revealed the time frame of the much-anticipated birth during one of final prenatal engagements.

While "mid to late April" is not at all a surprise, I do find the nature of its revelation a bit suspect. According to a volunteer at the charity Kate was visiting, Kate casually provided the information just because the lady asked her when she was due. Perhaps it really did happen that way, but I'm sure this was not the first time the duchess has been asked this question. I'm certain many people, including the media, have asked it during walkabouts, during other royal visits, and even in official press requests of the palace information officers.

Nevertheless, one lady's declaration was certainly enough to set the world a-Twitter (pun intended). Don't even get me started on the political commentators who are predicting what this will mean for British general election on May 7...

from the cover of Time magazine
via Wikimedia Commons
So, what does an April baby mean? There are already a couple of key dates in late April for the British Royal Family. The most significant is The Queen's actual birthday on April 21. Her official birthday is celebrated in June to take advantage of more reliable whether, but Queen Elizabeth II was born in a somewhat unremarkable house at No. 17 Bruton Street on April 21, 1926. The house, which belonged to her maternal grandparents the Earl and Countess of Strathmore, is no longer there. At the time, she was a celebrity baby but no one expected her to be the monarch, so her mother chose to have her among her own family rather than in a royal palace. Her parents also discontinued the royal family tradition of giving descendants the name of either Queen Victoria or her husband Prince Albert. For 85 years until her birth, every new baby had a version of one of these names included among a long list of names. The new princess also received a rather short name for a royal highness; only three names although they were all regal: Elizabeth (for her mother) Alexandra (for her great-grandmother) Mary (for her grandmother).

By Bassano
via Wikimedia Commons
The 26th of April was the wedding anniversary of The Queen's parents. Born the second son, Prince Albert The Duke of York, had to ask the vivacious Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon to marry him several times before she finally accepted him. It was not because of a lack of affection but because she did not want to live her life amid the restrictions placed on royals. Once she finally said yes, they formed a lovely partnership and a lovely close-knit family of four with their daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. Those restrictions his bride had feared became even more onerous when the abdication of Albert's brother brought them to the throne as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Together, they helped keep morale high during World War II, but his early death from cancer in 1952, and her legendary long life meant that she was a widow for 50 years. She became known as The Queen Mother and was beloved as nation's granny. She maintained royal duties until almost the very end of her 101 years.

By Cesar via Wikimedia Commons
The 29th of April is, of course, the wedding anniversary of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge themselves. (See my post Favorite Royal Wedding Photos.) It is also the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena, and some have speculated whether the couple chose that date in honor of the saint with whom the duchess shares her name. If William and Kate like saints, perhaps they will let the day of the child's birth inspire the child's name. That could mean Princess Bernadette (April 16), Prince Apollonius (April 18), Prince George (April 23)--oops already taken, Prince Mark (April 25), Prince Simeon (April 27), Prince Peter Chanel (April 28), and, why not, Prince Pius (April 30).

(Guessing British royal baby names based on saints days makes more sense than using royal baby birth dates to predict the outcome of national elections. Just sayin'.)

Today's Princess: Helena of Denmark

Royal lines can stretch deep into history. While many of us cannot trace our genealogy back more than a few generations, our royal ladies can tell you the names of ancestors from the last millennia. This is why I have selected an image of the 20th century's Queen Frederica of Greece to represent the 12th century Danish Princess Helena Valdimarsdottir (c. 1180-1233). They represent the beginning and the end of a line. Helena is the ancestress of the House of Welf, which ruled Brunswick and Hanover for centuries. The Welfs or Guelphs even sat on the British throne from 1714 until the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. Frederica of Hanover was the last Welf to sit on a throne, when she served as Queen Consort of Greece from 1947 to 1964.

Helena doubtlessly could not imagine that her descendants would be looking back to her 800 years later. Her own immediate family was complicated enough. One of eight children of Valdemar the Great of Denmark and the Swedish-raised Russian Princess Sophia of Minsk, Helena lost her father when she was only five. Her mother remarried a German prince and then was repudiated and sent back to Denmark. Two of Helena's brothers became Danish kings and two sisters become Queen Consorts: one in France and one in Sweden.

Helena did not marry until the ripe old age of 22 when she became the wife of Duke William of Luneburg, the English-born son of Henry the Lion of Saxony and his English wife Matilda. Their only son Otto became the titular ruler Brunswick-Luneburg at age nine when Duke William died. Helena lived another two decades as a widow, passing away in her early fifties.

18 March 2015

Today's Princess: Elizabeth of York

Via Wikimedia Commons
The firstborn child of England's King Edward IV, Elizabeth of York (1466-1503), played a critical role in history, but her quiet personality has been overshadowed by the boisterous personalities of her relatives: her beautiful mother Elizabeth Woodville, her villainized uncle King Richard III, her ambitious husband King Henry VII, her domineering mother-in-law Margaret Beaufort, not to mention her larger-than-life son Henry VIII, her self-willed daughters Queen Margaret of Scotland and Mary The French Queen, her all-powerful granddaughters Bloody Mary and the Virgin Queen, and her incredibly dramatic great-granddaughter Mary Queen of Scots. In the midst of these historical giants it's no wonder that Elizabeth's most famous trait is that she has been commonly depicted as the queen on playing cards. And, if you didn't know that was her, that is not all surprising.

If she had been born a century or two later, Elizabeth would have certainly been more memorable. As the first daughter of the late King, she would have followed her two younger brothers to the throne after their untimely deaths. In 15th Century England, however, women were not generally considered as royal heirs.

Elizabeth was born into a happy marriage, although her father's hold on the throne was still a bit tenuous after ousting the Lancastrian King Henry VI. When he was temporarily deposed, Elizabeth, her mother, and three younger sisters went into sanctuary, where her first brother was born. Once her father regained his crown, Elizabeth had a stable and probably happy childhood. As with most princesses, her marriage was a constant issue of political discussion. More than one potential husband--including the French dauphin--was pursued. Somehow, Elizabeth reached the ripe old age of 17 without husband.

Then, tragedy struck. Her father suddenly died, then both of her younger brothers, under the protection of their uncle, disappeared. They became known to history as the Princes in the Tower. Elizabeth was summoned out of sanctuary by that same uncle, name King Richard III, who incidentally had found a way to have Elizabeth and her siblings declared bastards and not royal heirs. Nevertheless, after the death of his queen, rumors spread that he intended to marry the beautiful Elizabeth herself. Some evidence exists that she even acquiesced.

Her mother, however, had other plans. She teamed up with the Tudors, who as Lancastrians had been bitter enemies of the late king. If young Henry Tudor would defeat Richard, he could claim the throne and Elizabeth for himself. Henry defeated Richard, took the throne, had Elizabeth un-bastardized, and married her--although he made it quite clear that he, not she, was the rightful ruler. He ruled by right of conquest not by right of his wife.

By Anonim via Wikimedia Commons
Despite the miserly and cold reputation of Henry VII, it appears that he and Elizabeth had a good and affectionate marriage. She seemed contented to allow him to sideline her mother while placing his own in a place of authority that was even greater than her own. She spent much of her time focused on her growing family. They had at least seven children, although only four survived infancy.

When their oldest son, Arthur Prince of Wales, died at the age of 15, both Elizabeth and Henry were grief-stricken. She comforted her husband with the thought that they were both young enough to have more sons. Almost immediately, she conceived again, and early the next February gave birth to a short-lived daughter called Catherine after Arthur's widow. Nine days later, Elizabeth died of childbed fever. It was her 37th birthday.

For more about Elizabeth:
The Birth and Death of Elizabeth of York on Conor Byrne
Birth of Elizabeth of York on Richard III of Society of NSW
The Death of Elizabeth of York on History Today
Elizabeth of York on Philippa Gregory
Elizabeth of York on The Tudor Blog
Elizabeth of York on Tudor History
Elizabeth of York, Mother of a Dynasty on English Historical Fiction Authors
Elizabeth of York, Queen of England on About Women's History
Elizabeth of York, Queen of England on The Freelance History Writer
Elizabeth Plantagenet, Queen of England on Tudor Place
Judith Arnopp Guest Post: Elizabeth of York on Nancy Bilyeau
The Marriage of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York on The Tudor Enthusiast

Books about Elizabeth:

Fiction about Elizabeth:

17 March 2015

Today's Princess: Maud of Fife

By Lallie Charles via Wikimedia Commons
Princess Maud of Fife (1893-1945) was not born a royal princess. Her mother Princess Louise of Wales had married the Earl of Fife, whom Queen Victoria quickly made the Duke of Fife. However, because children usually take their styles and titles from their father, Maud and her older sister Alexandra were styled simply as Lady, despite their numerous royal relatives. That changed, however, after their granddaddy became King Edward VII. He thought his grandchildren should all be princes and princesses. So, when he made his oldest daughter Louise the Princess Royal, he used his kingly prerogative to make her daughters princesses. It was unprecedented and it has never been repeated.

The Fife family lived a somewhat retired life on the edges of the royal family. They were a tight foursome. Educated at home, Maud and her sister were somewhat sheltered, even for ladies of high birth. They enjoyed ladylike artistic pursuits like painting and music and more country pursuits like fishing. Their father was extremely wealthy, so that and their numerous royal connections meant they were also well-traveled. When Maud was 17, the family began making annual trips to Egypt, so that her somewhat sickly mother could avoid the chill of the British winter. During their fourth such voyage, however, disaster struck. The family was shipwrecked. All were rescued and seemed unharmed. It soon became clear that Maud's 71-year-old father was not faring so well in the aftermath. He developed pleuriscy and died a few weeks later.

Upon returning to England, Maud stayed close to her mother throughout the years of World War I and remained a quiet member of the extended royal family. Her eventual engagement to Lord Carnegie, the future Earl of Southesk at the age of 30 came as a surprise to many. The couple lived a typical British aristocratic life on their model farm in Scotland. They were blessed with only one child, James, who arrived nearly six years after their wedding.

Maud's royal status remained an awkward question for others, although seemingly not for her, throughout her life. The 1917 changes to royal titles and names had impacted nearly everyone except her, nevertheless, her cousin King George V didn't like the fact that his father had created more princesses. He refused to let the Fife girls be attired like princesses for his 1910 coronation and he insisted that Maud stop using the title when she married. She was unofficially known thereafter simply as Lady Carnegie until her husband's accession made her Countess of Southesk in 1941.

She was taken quite ill in her early fifties and was placed in a London nursing home to convalesce in late 1945. Her sudden death came as a surprise to everyone, particularly her 16-year-old son, who learned the news from a policeman while traveling home by train for the Christmas holidays. Maud's husband outlived her by nearly five decades.

For more about Maud:
The Death of the Countess of Southesk on Royal Musings
Princess Maud, Countess of Southesk on Unofficial Royalty

Relatively Royal on the Royal Fringes on The Esoterica Curiousa

16 March 2015

Zorka of Montenegro

By Miguelemejia via Wikimedia Commons
On March 16, 1890, a young princess lost her life. Born Princess Ljubica of Montenegro (1864-1890), she is better known to history as Princess Zorka, wife of Peter of Serbia, the future King of the land that would later be known at Yugoslavia.

Zorka was the oldest child of King Nicholas I of Montenegro. She and her sisters were educated in Russia, by invitation of the Russian czar, who saw himself as the head of all Slavic princes. Zorka returned home at age 18 to marry the exiled Prince Peter Karageorgevich of Serbia. The couple settled in Montenegro, while Peter remained one of the contenders for the Serbian throne. Within a year, Zorka gave birth to her first child, a daughter, followed quickly by another daughter, who lived only a year. Then, followed two sons.

Zorka's personality has been described as "exuberant"--her sisters also were high-spirited. Two of them married Russian grand dukes, cousins of Czar Nicholas II, and it was they who introduced Rasputin to the Imperial family. Another sister is remembered for her impassioned reign as Queen of Italy. Zorka would leave no such claims to infamy or fame.

Instead, it is said, she had yet another stormy argument with her husband, while heavily pregnant with her last child. The fight caused her to fall down the stairs and pushed her into labor. She died that day. She was 25. Her new baby, a son named Andrew, died before the day was through.

Prince Peter stayed in Montenegro for a few more years before taking his surviving children to live in Paris. In 1903, he finally became King of Serbia. He never remarried.

Books about Zorka:

15 March 2015

Today's Princess: Frederica of Schleswig Holstein Sonderburg Glucksburg

Via Wikimedia Commons
Born amidst the intertangling geneaology of Danish royal and noble lines, Frederica of Schleswig Holstein Sonderburg Beck (1811-1902) was born with relatively minor rank. On her father's side, she was the great-great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of King Christian III of Denmark. On her mother's, she was a great-granddaughter of a King Frederick V of Denmark, but these tenuous connections became increasingly important.

When she was a teenager, the extinction of the more senior Glucksburg branch of the dynasty, led the current king to grant the Duchy of Glucksburg to her father, thus raising the status of the whole family. Later, a series of royal divorces and childless marriages left the royal house itself without the hope of an heir. In 1852, Frederica's younger brother was selected as the next King of Denmark, and in 1863, he became King Christian IX. Through him, Frederica was the aunt of a Danish king, a Greek king, a Hanoverian crown princess, an English queen, and a Russian empress.

Frederica's life was somewhat less regal than her illustrious familial connections might suggest. At age 23, she married Alexander Karl Duke of Anhalt Bernburg. However, the couple had no children and their home life was undoubtedly tumultuous as it became more and more apparent that her husband suffered from an aggressive mental illness. Some have speculated that it was schizophrenia. After 21 years of marriage, authority over the duchy was transferred to Frederica as regent. Alexander Karl spent the last eight years of his life under close medical supervision. The duchy then passed to a distant cousin.

Frederica survived him by nearly forty years. She died at the age of 90 shortly after the turn of the 19th Century.

14 March 2015

Today's Princess: Dorothy Jordan

One might not expect to find the illegitimate daughter of an Irish stagehand and a second-rate actress among the ladies on this blog, but the woman born Dorothea Bland, sometimes called Dora Phillips, and better remembered as Dorothy Jordan (1761-1816), is a perfect fit for our Saturday post--reserved exclusively for royal mistresses and offspring from the "wrong side of the blanket." In fact, I find Dorothy one of the most fascinating of all royal mistresses.

Dorothea came from a large family of bastards; her parents had six children together before he ditched them and ran off when Dorothea was 13. Impoverished with a large family to feed, her mum quickly placed her pretty daughter on the stage, where she caught the attention of theater manager Richard Daly, who fathered her first child, Fanny.

After that, 21-year-old Dorothy set off for England, adopting the name Mrs. Jordan to give the illusion of slight respectability as a married woman although she never married any man. She lived with a series of lovers and gave birth to three more children (one of whom died at birth) before she attracted the attention of King George III's third son, William Duke of Clarence.

Though royal, his personal history was no more pristine than hers. The set up house together and started a family. Even crusty old King George seemed to approve; he even gave them a house for their growing brood. In their 20 years together, they had 10 children, all of whom took the surname Fitzclarence. Always broke--like his brothers--William depended upon Dorothy's income from the stage. I wonder how she managed to continue working in the theater through fourteen total pregnancies!!

As William moved closer to the throne and his spendthrift habits did not subside, he gave up his happy domesticity with Mrs. Jordan in exchange for greater income from Parliament and a promise to seek an appropriate royal wife. In their separation, he kept their five sons and she got their five daughters--the children were aged four to 17 at the time. She got generous support payments but she had to promise not to continue acting. Within a few years, her first child's husband had misused her name and credit with his debtors and she was forced to return to the stage. William cut her payments and took their daughters from her.

Heartbroken and destitute, Dorothy fled to France and died there a year later at the age of 54. While he did not grant them legitimacy, William found an unbelievably good royal stepmother for this Fitzclarence children. The boys had access to good careers and the daughters made good marriages. After he became King William IV, he commissioned a sculpture in memory of his partner of 20 years; it remains part of the collection at Buckingham Palace today.

Across town, one of their 900+ descendants makes his home at 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister David Cameron.

More about Dorothy and her family:
The Actress Dorothea (or sometimes Dorothy) Jordan on Georgian Gentlemen
The Delectable Dora Jordan on Jane Austen
Dorothy Jordan on Edmondson Blog
Dorothy Jordan on National Portrait Gallery
Mrs. Jordan's Children on Freda Lightfoot'

Books about Dorothy:
The Story of Dorothy Jordan by Clare Jerrold (full text online)

13 March 2015

Today's Princess: Frances Brandon

Portrait tentatively identified as Frances
Via Wikimedia Commons
Being a relative of the Tudors could be a very dangerous thing. However, the childhood bond between Henry VIII's niece France Brandon (1517-1559) and his oldest daughter Mary saved her head a couple of times.

Frances was the first daughter of Henry's beloved little sister, Princess Mary, who had been forgiven for marrying the king's friend Charles Brandon Duke of Suffolk without permission, after her first husband the King of France died. Pretty and charming Mary won over King Henry and continued her friendship with his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Their children were raised in each other's company. As Anne Boleyn gained ascendancy, the women's dislike for her did not cause them to fall into disfavor during the King's divorce--Princess Mary must have been charming indeed. She died before the birth of Anne Boleyn's daughter but her own children still grew up despising Princess Elizabeth.

When Boleyn fell, the Brandons' love for Mary was not as dangerous for a time. Frances married Henry Grey Marquess of Dorset when they were both 16. After two children who did not survive, they had three girls: the precocious Lady Jane, the beautiful Lady Catherine, and the dwarf Lady Mary. In an age when women's education was still radical and any kind of deformity was feared, all three girls were given a superior education and were raised on an equal level with the daughters of the King. In his will, the King Henry VIII even skipped over the Scottish children of his older sister in favor of Frances and her daughters--they were in line right after his own daughters.

It was around this time that everything became complicated for Frances and her family. With such high rank and a potential throne at stake, her girls, especially the eldest Jane, were prized commodities. Seeking the highest possible position for them, they placed Jane in the household of the King's admired and ambitious brother-in-law Thomas Seymour, who promised to secure a marriage for her with the King Edward VI's after Henry's death. When this came to nothing, it was arranged for her to marry Guilford Dudley, son of the new Lord Protector, the Duke of Northumberland. It was he who launched a plan to replace Frances' dear cousin Mary and hated cousin Elizabeth and even herself in the succession to the throne. Northumberland convinced the dying teenaged king to set aside his father's will, to skip over the first three in line to the throne, and choose Jane as heir.

Jane's reign last nine days before Mary's forces overwhelmed Northumberland. Frances' husband and her eldest daughter were imprisoned. Frances successfully convinced Mary to release her husband. When he quickly took up arms in a new rebellion both his and his daughter's fate were sealed. They lost their heads.

Frances, however, secured positions for herself and her surviving young daughters in Mary's court. She was even permitted to remarry well below her rank: she married her horse master. After Queen Mary's death, Frances's position was less secure in the court of Queen Elizabeth. However, Frances avoided this problem by dying just 12 months after her cousin and childhood friend. They both died at the age of 42.

More about Frances Brandon:
Frances Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk on Westminster Abbey
Frances Brandon on Tudor Place
The Maligned Frances Grey Duchess of Suffolk on History Refreshed by Susan Higginbotham
Frances Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk on The Anne Boleyn Files

12 March 2015

Louise of Battenberg

By Philip de Lazslo via Wikimedia Commons

In the waning decades of the nineteenth century, yet another great granddaughter of Queen Victoria was born. The second child of the former Princess Victoria of Hesse, Louise of Battenberg (1889-1965) grew up thinking of herself as a British girl. Even though both of her parents were born German, her father Prince Louis of Battenberg was in the British royal navy. Louise spent her childhood bouncing between his military postings around various British outposts, staying with Queen Victoria at Osborne House, living in a family home in Germany, and visiting her illustrious relatives, like her aunt, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia.

Born prematurely, Louise was always challenged by a weaker constitution. She also was a bit shy. However, neither of these conditions stopped her from mucking in. She sponsored various charitable programs to support soldiers and sailors during World War I. She even qualified as a nurse and served in France.

As with many princesses of her generation, the international politics and the lingering class prejudices of the day made her marriage options complicated. Add to that Louise's decision to marry only for love (and to avoid becoming a queen), and you have a recipe for spinsterhood. Early on, she rejected a proposal from the King of Portugal. Her secret engagement to her sister's brother-in-law Princess Christopher of Greece came to nothing because the couple was too poor and their parents did not wish to support them. Her next proposed engagement, to a Scottish artist she met in France during the war, was called off not because of their class difference but because her parents had realized that he was gay.

Class was still major issue after the war, but Louise's status had changed because of the war. Her father had been forced to resign as Britain's First Sea Lord because he was perceived as German.
Nevertheless, when King George V asked his relatives to change their German names and drop their German titles, she became plain Miss Louise Mountbatten for a few months until her father was made Marquess of Milford Haven and she became the slightly less plain Lady Louise Mountbatten.

Her status had already been a bit iffy in the royal world: the Battenbergs were descendants of a morganatic line of a minor German house. Thus, when her cousin's widower, Crown Prince Gustav Adolf of Sweden proposed and she accepted, there was some serious debate over whether he could marry her under Sweden's royal marriage laws.

Once it was finally determined that she was of equal enough rank, the couple married and she became the stepmother of five children at the age of 34. A little over a year later, her only pregnancy ended in a stillbirth.

From Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons
With her democratic personality, Louise became popular in Sweden and abroad. She disliked the stiff protocols and was uncomfortable being addressed by her royal titles, especially after she became Queen of Sweden. She was also an early advocate of women's rights, asserting that women were intellectual equals to men and transforming the courtly presentation of young ladies into lunches for businesswomen. She also went out of her way to help people, through projects like providing candles for poor people who had no light during the war and knitting gloves for soldiers at the front. Using her position in a neutral country, she even acted as a go-between messenger for loved ones who found themselves on opposite sides of the war.

Her weak health finally caught up with her in 1965, when surgery for a blocked artery did not go well. On her deathbed, she was surrounded by her husband, by her sister (who was by then the mother-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain), and several of her stepchildren. She was buried next to her cousin, Gustav Adolf's first wife, Princess Margaret of Connaught. Gustav joined them eight years later.

For more about Louise:
Royal Profile: Queen Louise of Sweden on Marilyn's Royal Blog
Queen Louise of Sweden on Unofficial Royalty

Books about Louise:

11 March 2015

Today's Princess: Duchess Amalie in Bavaria

By Rudolf Krziwanek via Wikimedia Commons
Amalie in Bavaria (1865-1912) started life sadly and ended it in a sadly similar way. The only child of Empress Elisabeth "Sissi" of Austria's beloved brother Duke Karl-Theodor and his wife Sophie of Saxony, Amalie had struggled to come into the world. Sophie developed respiratory issues during her pregnancy. The baby was born safely, but Sophie had become so weakened that she could not fight off a bout of influenza a year later. Baby Amalie lost her mom when she was 14 months old.

Seven years later, Karl Theodor married Infanta Maria Josepha of Portugal, providing Amalie with a stepmother and very soon with a growing number of half-siblings. One half-sister became the Crown Princess of Bavaria and another became Queen of the Belgians.

Amalie never got a crown, but not for lack of her husband's trying. In fact, when she married Wilhelm 2nd Duke of Urach and Count of Wurttemberg, he was the rightful heir of the Prince of Monaco. France, however, did not like the idea of German prince inheriting the Monagesque throne--albeit Wilhelm grew up in Monaco and was a native French speaker. In 1911, France strongly encouraged Monaco to change its succession laws enabling the Prince to pass the throne to his illegitimate granddaughter Charlotte, grandmother of the current Prince of Monaco.

By that time, Amalie and Wilhelm had eight children. They soon discovered that they were expecting a ninth. It had been five years since her last child and Amalie was 47 years old when she went into a labor. Little Princess Mecthilde made her way into the world, as Amalie made her way out.

Now widowed, Wilhelm was still aiming for a throne. First, he tried to become King of Albania. In the waning months of World War I, he was offered the crown of the newly independent Lithuania, based in part on his late wife's descent from a long-ago Lithuanian princess. However, when it became clear that Germany would lose the way, Lithuania changed its mind. A few years later, upon the death of King of Wurttemburg, that throne too slipped through his hands, even though he was the senior male heir--his parents' morganatic marriage six decades earlier had made him ineligible.

10 March 2015

Today's Princess: Elizabeth de Scales

Woodville's Coat of Arms
Despite the fact that her father Thomas 7th Baron Scales died supporting the Lancasters, Elizabeth de Scales (d. 1473) became the sister-in-law of the Yorkist Queen Elizabeth Woodville. Upon her father's death in 1460, Elizabeth de Scales became 8th Baroness Scales, thus enriching her husband, Henry Bourchier, son of the powerful 1st Earl of Essex.

When Henry died in 1462, she became a great prize for King Edward IV to award--every single man around the king would likely have been thrilled to be granted her hand in marriage. (Her feelings about the matter were likely not considered.) It is this moment in her life that is immortalized by Shakespeare. In Henry VI, Part 3, the Edward's brothers bemoan the fact that they have been overlooked as grooms in favor of the brother of the upstart Queen. Whether The Duke of Clarence and the future King Richard III actually resented this particular snub or not, Edward did indeed allow his brother-in-law, the capable Anthony Woodville, to marry Elizabeth and Anthony wasted no time claiming his right at the new Baron Rivers by right of that marriage. In 1469, Anthony succeeded his father as 2nd Earl Rivers, making Elizabeth Countess Rivers.

She herself died only a few years later. With no children from either of her marriages, Anthony kept her titles and her lands after she her death. The Scales title died with Anthony in 1483, while the lands passed to his brother and heir, who liked to style himself as Lord Scales. The title has remained vacant over the centuries but not without claimants; the most recent claim was made in 1857.

09 March 2015

Today's Princess: Anne Catherine of Brandenburg

via Wikimedia Commons
Many future queens have benefited from having a royal gentleman travel to her country. Remember Mary Donaldson met the future King of Denmark when he visited Australia. His ancestor King Christian IV of Denmark and Norway found his wife the same way on his travels to Germany. Although it is safe to say that Christian did not meet Anne Catherine of Brandenburg (1575-1612) in a bar like Frederik met Mary.

Twenty-year-old Anne Catherine caught the eye of the 18-year-old king and he invited her family to attend his coronation the next year. He had been king since the age of 11 but he was only just assuming personal power. The Margrave of Brandenburg took his daughter to Denmark and an engagement was soon announced.

Despite her husband's vivacious Renaissance personality, or perhaps because of it, Anne Catherine seems to have left few visible marks on the blossoming culture, architecture, and history of her day. Christian is renowned for economic reforms and for sponsoring new cultural institutions, buildings and towns. He even renamed Oslo for himself; it was called Christiana for 300 years. He was also known for womanizing and burning witches.

All in all, perhaps it is better that Anne Catherine seems to have lived a quiet existence. She gave birth to seven children with three boys, including the future King Frederik III, surviving to adulthood. Anne Catherine did not live a long life, dying at the age of 36. Her husband went on to reign for a total of 59 years, the longest reign in Danish history. His next marriage was a doozy, but that's a story for another day.

08 March 2015

Today's Princess: Anne Morgan

By Henry Bone via Wikimedia Commons
If you have ever read or seen The Other Boleyn Girl, then you know that King Henry VIII had a son with Anne Boleyn's older sister Mary. Actually, this is historical fiction and it is debated whether Mary's son, named Henry Carey was the son of the king or of her husband. One thing is certain: even if he was not Queen Elizabeth I's half-brother, he was definitely her first cousin. So, it is not surprising that we should find his family among her close courtiers and ladies.

Henry married Anne Morgan (c. 1529-1607) when she was about 16. Of Welsh descent, she hailed from Herefordshire. About a dozen years later, Carey was raised to the peerage, and Anne became the Baroness Hunsdon. Anne was made a lady of Queen Elizabeth's bedchamber and Carey was appointed to her personal bodyguard.

Their family seemed to have thrived under these conditions. They had a total of 12 children, seven of whom survived to adulthood. Their daughters all married into the peerage and one of their sons was created a peer himself.

Despite the many honors Elizabeth heaped upon Carey, including a generous annual pension, Carey died penniless in 1596. On his deathbed, The Queen offered to give him the Boleyn family title of Earl of Wiltshire, but he refused it. Instead, she paid for his funeral and continued paying a pension to Anne. Together with her oldest son, Anne erected an elaborate family monument in Westminster Abbey, where she was buried next to her husband about ten years later, having survived through four Tudor monarchs (five if you count Lady Jane) and well into the reign of the first Stuart king. A feat in itself for many Tudor courtiers.

For more about Anne:
A Historical Novelist's Confession by P.F. Chisholm on Reading the Past
Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon & Family on Westminster Abbey

Historical fiction featuring Anne:

07 March 2015

Today's Princess: Mary Bagot

By Sir Peter Lely via Wikimedia Commons
American entrepreneur and showman P.T. Barnum once said, "I don't care what they say about me, just make sure they spell my name correctly." These sentiments might well have been shared by Mary Bagot (1645-1679), about whom much scandal has been assumed but whose name has been frequently handed down as Elizabeth thanks to a silly mistake.

In her late teens, Mary, the daughter of an Army officer was one of the ladies at the randy court of King Charles II. At age 19, she married Charles Berkeley 1st Earl of Falmouth and became Countess of Falmouth. Some alleged it was a love/lust match because she had no money, while others proclaimed that she was not such a great beauty to to inspire that. Falmouth was a 15 years older, however, and a pretty young thing is a pretty young thing in any era. In his book, The Fair Ladies of Hampton Court (written centuries later), Clare Jerrold declares that their marriage must have been happy because it was "disinterested." (Secret to a happy marriage: don't care about your spouse.)

Shortly after the marriage, Mary was painted by Sir Peter Lely as one of the Windsor Beauties. It was in this portrait that she came to be misidentified as Elizabeth and so the error has been passed down for 150 years. Soon after that, she was widowed when Falmouth was killed by a cannonball during the Battle of Lowestoft fighting with The Duke of York (the future King James II).

Mary, who was pregnant at the time, did not rush into a second marriage. Since the child was a girl, the Earldom of Falmouth went extinct and his landed estates and secondary title of Viscount Hardinge went to his father. Mary and the baby were left with a smaller portion.

Mary continued at the Court, where it is thought that she aimed to marry the widowed Duke of York and it is thought that she likely became the mistress of his brother, King Charles II. He certainly gave her significant sums of money, although unlike so many of his other mistresses, she never bore him a child.

After about a decade of widowhood, Mary married the poet Charles Sackville 6th Earl of Dorset and became the Countess of Dorset. This marriage also lasted barely a year, but this time it was Mary who did not survive. She died in childbirth; the baby also did not survive.

Read more about Mary and her contemporaries in:

06 March 2015

Today's Princess: Mary Donaldson

By Frankie Fouganthin via Wikimedia Commons
Say what you want about Lady Diana Spencer, she was not actually a Cinderella bride. The true Cinderellas did not come about until this century when a single mum, a girl from Argentina, a television journalist, and a lass from Australia became the future queens of Europe. There is no way that Professor John Donaldson of the University of Tasmania and his executive assistant wife imagined a royal future for their youngest child when they gave her the very regal name of Mary Elizabeth; those just happened to be the names of her Scottish grandmothers.

Mary Donaldson (1972- ) spent part of her early childhood in Texas, while her father was working there. The family soon returned to Australia, having immigrated from Scotland shortly after her parents' 1963 wedding. Mary went on to university and graduate studies, before launching a career in marketing. She held positions through a progression of firms. After her mother's death, she took a break and traveled to the United States and Europe, working briefly on a contract in her parents' native Scotland.

Upon returning home, it was not long before she met Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark at a party while he was attending the Sydney Olympics in 2000. The two began a secret romance with many transoceanic phone calls, emails and visits. By 2002, Mary moved to Paris to be closer to him and then moved to Denmark. The following year their engagement was announced and they were married in May 2004.

In fairly quick succession, they had a son and a daughter, Christian and Isabella. Then, they rounded out their family with the birth of twins Vincent and Josephine in 2011.

Mary has become a style icon around the world, and is especially popular in Denmark and in her homeland, to which she pays frequent official and private visits. She is a patron of many causes and organizations including those devoted to anti-bullying, health, sciences and sport.

More about Mary:
Official Biography on Kongehuset.dk
The Crown Princess on Denmark's Official Website

Blogs about Mary: (not all are favorable)

Crown Princess Mary 
Crown Princess Mary of Denmark
Frederik et Mary de Danemark (French)
Frederik Loves Mary
Ksieznamary (Polish)
Mary from the Start
Princess Mary of Denmark
Style of Mary
Unofficial Crown Princess Mary Message Board

Books and Other Media about Mary: