26 December 2017

Medieval Queen of Rumors

She abandoned her husband and baby son to make herself Queen of France. She forced her second husband to put away his first wife. She willingly was excommunicated in order to cement her power. She even asked the King of England to kill her stepson.

The alleged misdeeds of Bertrade de Montfort, who died 900 years ago, are legion. Renowned for her beauty, she is remembered more for her sins. However, she lived in an age when women who dared to public life were relegated to one of only two possible roles:  a woman who was not a saintly madonna figure could only be an iniquitous mother of lies and evil. And, a beautiful woman like Bertrade was much more likely to be thought sinful than saintly.

In truth, even a woman of high station had little control over her own life. Bertrade was a daughter of the Simon I de Montfort. Her mother came from the d'Evreaux family. They were highly engaged in the politics of the lands that would eventually become France, but at that time were highly combustible small states and territories with constantly shifting allegiances.

Soon after her father's death, Bertrade was claimed in marriage by the powerful Fulk Count of Anjou, an ancestor of the future Angevin kings of England. More than twice her age, infirm and lecherous, Fulk had already gone through four previous wives, discarding them for political or religious reasons as necessary. (Consanguinity, or being too closely related under church law, often made a convenient reason for annulment, even though such relationships were known at the time of the marriage.) Bertrade soon conceived and gave him a son, also named Fulk, but she did not stay long at his side.

Whether through her own seductive wiles or without her true consent, Bertrade was spirited away by King Philippe I of France. Like Fulk, he had to discard another wife to make room for Bertrade and he didn't seem to care that his new lady had another husband. He married her against church teaching and was summarily excommunicated. Fulk never received compensation for his loss, but he still allied with Philippe when it was expedient for him.

As for Bertrade, she was a frequent companion to her second husband. Romantics might interpret this one way while her critics see it as a sign of her thirst for power. In their 15 years together before his death, they had three sons and daughter, but alas none of Bertrade's children were destined for the French throne. Philippe's first wife has already given him the heir and it was this young man, the future Louis VI, whom Bertrade is accused of trying to have poisoned.

Alas, her life ended rather benignly. Like many noble and regal widows of that era, she retired to a nunnery and died there in 1117 while still in her 40s.

More about Bertrade de Montfort:
Bertrade de Montfort on La France pittoresque
Bertrade de Montfort on Les Royals Favorites

22 December 2017

An Earlier American Princess: Alice Heine of New Orleans

via Wikimedia Commons
Rage burned in Prince Albert of Monaco's eyes. Right there, in front of the entire opera house, his popular wife was whispering with her small, disfigured lover. How dare she humiliate him! He could control himself no longer. Albert slapped the princess violently across her face. The room stilled with shock. The princess fled the opera house immediately, and by the next morning, she had left the country she had done so much to establish as a cultural capital of Europe.

Born in 1858 in New Orleans as the daughter of a Jewish banker and businessman, Princess Alice of Monaco, knew her own value. She was just a toddler when the American Civil War led little Alice Heine's father to move his family permanently back to France, where he already had established strong businesses. As Alice grew, so did his fortune, especially after he helped finance Emperor Napoleon III's war against Prussia in 1870-1871. Alice benefited greatly from her family's extensive connections--ant their wealth didn't hurt her, either.

At just 16, Alice was a popular figure in Parisian society when she attracted a marriage proposal from Armand 7th Duke of Richelieu, who was 11 years her senior. Alice quickly delivered a son and heir, young Armand (who would follow in dad's footsteps by marrying an American, Eleanor Douglas Wise of Maryland). A few years later, daughter Odile arrived, but tragedy soon followed. Before Odile's first birthday, the duke died, leaving Alice a very rich 22-year-old widow with two children.

Alice was just as popular as a widow as she had been as a debutante. Her home attracted many highly placed members of society, including Prince Albert, heir to the throne of Monaco. Divorced with a young son by his first wife, Scottish noblewoman Lady Mary Hamilton, Albert was immediately attracted to the lovely and cultured Alice. His father, Prince Charles III, however, was not at all interested in Albert bringing his American lady friend home, no matter how vast her fortune.

Charles III is the Monagesque prince who began turning the tiny Mediterranean principality into a play place for the pre-jet age jetset, for it was he and his mother Princess Caroline who created the renowned Monte Carlo Casino to bring money into the poor country's coffers. Despite Prince Charles' objections to a marriage for his son, Alice was hardly less eligible than Charles' late wife, a mere Belgian noblewoman much less his mother Princess Caroline, who had been an actress in Paris. Nevertheless, he had his way.

After his death in 1889, the new reigning Prince Albert I waited only weeks to marry his second wife, Alice Heine. Alice brought her two children, a massive $6 million dowry, and her sense of culture to Monaco with her. While her oceanography-obsessed second husband pursued his maritime interests across every ocean, she had plenty of time ashore to use her wealth and taste to polish up the rougher image of a town built upon gambling. It was she who brought opera, theater, and ballet to the tiny seaside country, while Albert created the Oceanographic Museum, another renowned Monagesque attraction still operating today. Albert even named an undersea mountain near the Azores the Princess Alice Bank in honor of his wife.

The marriage, however, was not as glossy on the inside as the outside. The couple never had children together and both are known to have taken lovers. Albert's attack on her at the opera that fateful night in 1901 was likely the culmination of much frustration, albeit hypocritical considering his own behavior. Alice decided to sue for divorce. She was unsuccessful in recovering half of her dowry, but she did gain her freedom.

The lived out the rest of her life in London and Paris, still as a great and popular social hostess. She even became close friends with Queen Alexandra. The two women died within weeks of each other in 1925. Today, Dec. 22, marks the 92nd anniversary of Alice's death. She was buried in Paris.

Her son became the last Duke of Richelieu having produced no children of his own. Her daughter Odile became a noble Princess of Bavaria and had one child, a daughter named Anne de La Rochefocauld, who had no children. So, while Prince Albert's descendant Prince Albert II reigns in Monaco, no descendants of his American wife Princess Alice are living today.

Alice's birthplace in New Orleans houses the Princess of Monaco Courtyard and Carriage House. It is located on Royal Street in the French Quarter. Yes, they do book weddings...

More about Princess Alice:
Alice Heine on Jew or Not Jew
Alice Heine on Know Louisiana
Alice Heine, Princess of Monaco on Unofficial Royalty
The First American Princess of Monaco on Arrayed in Gold
HSH Princess Alice of Monaco on Mad for Monaco
Our History on Cafe Amelie
Princesses Consort of Monaco: Alice Heine on History of Royal Women

12 December 2017

Silver Salute to Anne and Timothy

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Twenty-five years ago, Queen Elizabeth's only daughter set a kind of record by becoming the first British royal to have remarried following a divorce. The last had been her second cousin three times removed, Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh, who married her second husband, Grand Duke Kyril Vladimirovich of Russia, in 1905. Today, Anne sets a new record as the first of the Queen's children to celebrate a Silver Anniversary. Her older brother, The Prince of Wales was married to his first wife Lady Diana Spencer for 15 years and has been married to his second wife Camilla Parker-Bowles for 12 years. Her second brother The Duke of York was married to Sarah Ferguson for 10 years and has not remarried. Meanwhile, baby brother The Earl of Wessex has been married to his only wife Sophie Rhys-Jones for 18 years.

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Anne's first major to Army Captain and fellow equestrian competitor Mark Phillips was celebrated in November 1973 and produced two children. Mark declined a noble title, so their two children and now their three grandchildren have no titles either. Their marriage ended just over 18 years later in the spring of 1992 amidst rumors of infidelity on both sides.

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On Anne's side, she had been subjected to a great betrayal. Some personal love letters to her from a royal equerry had been stolen from her brief case and sold to the media. This was how the world first came to hear the name the Timothy Laurence. Just eight months after her divorce, Anne and Tim were married in a very small and very private ceremony in Scotland. It was attended only by their closest family members and no cameras were allowed inside.

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After becoming a royal in-law, Tim continued to keep a low public profile and continued his upwardly mobile career in the Navy. He retired as a vice admiral in 2010 after four decades of service. He holds a few charitable positions, particularly as chairman of the English Heritage Trust and as vice chairman of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Media interest in him is rather low, particularly as his wife carries out most of her grueling schedule as a solo royal. However, he can be spotted as her escort at diplomatic and state events, on the balcony for royal celebrations and at various equestrian events hosted on their estate at Gatcombe Park.

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02 December 2017

Brides of St. George's Chapel, Part 2

Now that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have selected St. George's Chapel in Windsor for their May 2018 nuptials, I'm looking back at the other royal weddings that have taken place there since the days of Queen Victoria. It is a less well-known venue and much more intimate space (if 800 seats is intimate) than Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Nevertheless, it has hosted 15 royal weddings in the last 150 years. This is the second of two posts. (Read the first one.) This post starts with the turn of the last century and continues through the recent wedding of one of Harry's first cousins. 

10 February 1904
Princess Alice of Albany and Prince Alexander of Teck

Alice's parents, Queen Victoria's youngest son Leopold Duke of Albany and Helena of Waldeck-Pyrmont were also married at St. George's but her dad died as a result of his hemophilia when Alice was still an infant. Alexander was a descendant of King George III and the brother of Queen Mary, the consort of King George V. The couple's youngest son died as a baby and their oldest son inherited hemophilia, which caused him never to recover from a car crash as a young man. He died two weeks later, and was buried at St. George's. Their oldest child a daughter called May, however, lived into old age and was a beloved member of the British Royal Family. In 1917, Alexander shed his father's Germanic name and titles, adopting instead his mother Mary Adelaide of Cambridge's name. His brother-in-law gave him the title Earl of Athlone. Like so many other couples married at St. George's, this couple ended up in Canada, where he was Governor General during World War II. Before that, he had served in the same capacity in South Africa. So, they lived on three continents for extended periods. They were married 53 years until his death. She survived until the age of 97, dying in 1981 as the longest lived person born into the British Royal Family. Of course, her husband's nieces-in-law  Princess Alice Duchess of Gloucester (102) and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (101) both out-survived her but they were born the daughters of Scottish peers.

15 June 1905
Princess Margaret of Connaught and Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden

Margaret and Gustaf Adolf fell in love at first site in Egypt. After wedding in England and honeymooning in Ireland, they went on to Sweden where she devoted herself to learning Swedish history and language. She became very popular and is especially remembered as a hands-on mother, an odd behavior for women of her class at the time. The couple had four sons and one daughter. In 1920, his father succeeded his grandfather as king and they became the Crown Prince and Princess. He later became king but Margaret, unfortunately, never was his queen. During her sixth pregnancy, she had a mastoid operation following an ear infection. The operation led to widespread infection, since antibiotics had not yet been developed, little could be done to save her and the baby. They had been married slightly less than 15 years. Gustav Adolf married her cousin Lady Louise Mountbatten a few years later. They had no children together but Louise was a good stepmother. He became king in 1950 and lived on until 1973. His and Margaret's descendants currently sit on the thrones of both Sweden and Denmark.

2 September 1919
The Lady Helena Cambridge and Major John Evelyn Gibbs

A descendant of King George III and niece of Queen Mary, Helena had been born Princess Helena of Teck but had her name and title changed in the great Anglicizing of the British Royal Family in 1917. Her father was Adolphus of Teck. later Marquess of Cambridge, and Lady Margaret Grosvenor, a daughter of the Duke of Westminster. Her groom was nearly 20 years her senior and was a veteran not just of the recent Great War (or World War I) but also of the Boer Wars, which happened while she was an infant. The couple had no children and were married 13 years until his death. She lived another 37 years, mainly in the home of her older sister, Mary Duchess of Beaufort.

14 December 1957
Miss Anne Abel Smith and Mr. David Liddell Grainger

Nearly four decades elapsed before another royal wedding at the chapel, and this one was only tangentially royal. Anne was a granddaughter of Princess Alice and Prince Alexander above. Far removed from the throne in the line of succession, she and her family were nevertheless close to the main branch of the British Royal Family, particularly because of their blood relationship to Queen Mary, who had died just a few years before this wedding. David was a Scottish politician, but unfortunately not a loyal husband. The couple had four sons and a daughter in the first 10 years of their marriage, but divorced after 23 years. He married his mistress and fathered more children, leaving his estate to the second family when he died in 2007. Anne became a Christian missionary in Africa for a while and now lives in London.

18 July 1992
Lady Helen Windsor and Mr. Timothy Taylor

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Several more decades passed before the next royal wedding, this time between a great-granddaughter of King George V and an art dealer. Helen is the daughter of Queen Elizabeth's first cousin Edward Duke of Kent. Like her husband, she is also an art dealer. Having had two sons together, the couple faced a a crisis early in their marriage when Tim was diagnosed with cancer. He survived and they soon added two daughters to their family. The couple is often seen at art events and charity events throughout London. You can also catch a glimpse of them on the royal balcony for the Queen's annual birthday celebrations and other major royal events.

19 June 1999
The Prince Edward and Miss Sophie Rhys-Jones
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The next truly royal wedding at the chapel joined the Queen's youngest child with his longtime love. At the time, Edward, who was given a newly created title as The Earl of Wessex, had opted for a private career as a film producer while Sophie kept her career, managing her own PR agency. Unfortunately, they both encountered controversy in their commercial careers for having misused their royal connections. They gave up their jobs to become full-time royals with income provided by the Queen. At first, they struggled to have a family. Sophie's first pregnancy was ectopic and had to be terminated when it became a severe threat to her life. Her second pregnancy delivered prematurely following a placental abruption. Their daughter Louise was delivered by emergency C-section while Edward was overseas and the baby was immediately moved to a special neonatal hospital. She and Sophie both survived. Their next and last child James was delivered without serious issues four years later. Although Louise and James are entitled to royal styles and titles, the couple has opted to have them styled as children of an earl. Sophie and Edward are full-time royals now and often represent that British Royal Family at foreign royal weddings and other royal events outside of Britain. 

9 April 2005
The Prince of Wales and Mrs. Camilla Parker Bowles

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St. George's Chapel hosted a special religious service of blessing for the marriage of Charles Prince of Wales and his very longtime love Camilla, which had taken place earlier in the day at the local town hall. The couple were not able to marry in a Church of England ceremony because Camilla's ex-husband was still living. Charles and Camilla's romance, however, had started  before either of their first marriages. In their youth, they allowed duty and other obligations to end their affair. She married and had two children and then he did the same. Once they had reconnected, their affair helped contribute to the very public breakdown of his marriage to Lady Diana Spencer. Camilla divorced in 1995 and Charles did the same in 1996. The death of his ex-wife in 1997 likely delayed their marriage while they continued to deal with public outrage over their affair and Diana's tragic, though unrelated, demise. At the time of their wedding, it was announced that Camilla would not use her husband's primary Wales title out of respect for the late Diana and would use only his secondary titles (Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Rothesay, etc.) and that she would be called Princess Consort rather than Queen upon his accession. Public feeling has been softening toward Camilla since then as she has proven herself to be a solid asset to the family and the people. We may yet raise a toast to Queen Camilla one day, if Charles has his way.

17 May 2008
Mr. Peter Philips and Miss Autumn Kelly

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At first glance, the names of this bride and groom don't sound royal at all. However, Peter is the oldest grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II and the first of her grandchildren to marry. Peter's mother, Anne The Princess Royal refused royal titles for her children. Born Catholic in Canada, Autumn met Peter through their shared interest in Grand Prix auto racing and married two years later. Their wedding sparked a bit of controversy. Firstly, Autumn chose to convert from Catholicism because, at that time, heirs to the throne could not keep their place if they married Catholics. (This has since been changed.) Secondly, they were highly criticized for making a deal to have their wedding photographed by Hello! The fact that they used the money to pay for the wedding, instead of relying on public money, did little to ease concerns. When his sister Zara wished to make a similar arrangement for her own wedding, she was not allowed to do so. Peter and Autumn provided Her Majesty with her first two great-grandchildren, little girls named Savannah and Isla, who are often seen on the sidelines of polo fields and horse shows with their horse-mad relatives.