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

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