23 February 2018

Royal Lady Flashback: Sophia of Oldenburg

Sophia Charlotte of Oldenburg (1879-1964)
Her Highness Duchess Sophia of Oldenburg
Her Royal Highness Princess Eitel Friedrich of Prussia (1906-1926)

Sophia married Eitel Friedrich of Prussia on the 25th wedding anniversary of his parents, Kaiser Wilhelm and Empress Augusta Victoria in 1906. Her mother had died when she was young and she was a great heiress. However, she was not a "great" princess. She was rumored to have had affairs and was even called as a witness in a divorce case. Her marriage was unhappy and childless. They divorced in 1926. She married a former police officer, Harald van Hedemann, the following year.

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22 February 2018

Meet The Duchess of Kent

Katharine Worsley is a musical Yorkshire lass who married a royal prince back in 1961. Her husband, HRH Prince Edward Duke of Kent, is a grandson of King George V and Queen Mary, and is a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II. The daughter of her baronet, she had spent some time as a nursery school teacher and as a student of music prior to her marriage. Throughout most of her life as a royal, she was a full-time royal carrying out engagements on behalf of Her Majesty while raising her own family. Son George Earl of St. Andrews was born a year after the wedding, daughter Lady Helen arrived in 1964 as part of the quartet of royal babies born in Britain that year, and son Lord Nicholas was born in 1970. After that, she was devastated by a miscarriage followed by a stillbirth. She eventually converted to Catholicism, for which she received The Queen's assent. Her oldest son is married to a Catholic, her youngest son has also converted, and about half of her grandchildren are Catholic.

For decades, the Duchess of Kent was most well-known for her role in handing out the prizes at Wimbledon, but her own passion has always been music. She remained active as a choral perform and now spends most of her time as a music teacher. In fact, she prefers now to remain out of the spotlight and has asked to be addressed simply as Katharine Kent rather than as a royal highness (except of course on the rare official or family occasions that she attends).

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19 February 2018

Losing Her Prince

On February 20, 2018, Denmark's Queen Margrethe II will put to rest her husband of more than 50 years. She is not the first reigning queen to outlive her spouse. A few queens, like England's Elizabeth I and Sweden's Cristina, never married and others like England's two Queens named Mary and the Netherlands' Juliana predeceased their spouses, but most of the others have lived the final years of their lives without a partner. The record-holder is Mary Queen of Scots, who was widowed by all three of her husbands.

Here are the reigning ladies who lived more than a quarter-century after the deaths of their princes:

By Herman Deutmann via Wikimedia Commons
28 Years Widowed
Wilhelmina of The Netherlands (1880-1962) became the first reigning queen of The Netherlands at the tender age of just 10. Just over a decade later, at age 20, she married Duke Henry of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who was four years older than she. She suffered two miscarriages before delivering their daughter Juliana. Two more miscarriages followed and Juliana remained an only child. The Dutch were wary of Prince Henry's German origin, but she was very popular, leading through a difficult neutrality in World War I and leading her German-occupied nation from exile in London through World War II. By WWII, however, Wilhelmina had already lost Henry, who died at age 58 in 1934. Their marriage was not necessarily a happy one, and he apparently fathered several illegitimate children. After WWII, Wilhelmina's health became increasingly fragile. She decided to abdicate in 1948, having reigned for more than 57 years. She lived another 14 years, using that time to write her autobiography.

By Ivan Adolsky via Wikimedia Commons
29 Years Widowed
Anna of Russia (1693-1740) was a niece of Peter the Great by his older half-brother and co-tsar Ivan V, who died when she was a child. Uncle Peter married her off to Frederick William Duke of Courland, but he died just two months after the wedding, before they even left Russia. She continued on to Courland and ruled there for two decades, taking some lovers (as the women in her family are known to have done frequently). When Peter the Great's grandson Peter II died, the only surviving Romanovs were Peter's daughters, who had been born out of wedlock and later legitimized, and Anna and her two sisters, all legitimate daughters of Peter the Great's older brother. As the only one with experience ruling a country, Anna was selected from among the five rulers to become the new empress. She was 37. She quickly did away with a set of conditions that the nobles had required her to sign and embarked upon rule as an autocrat known for her cruelty and quixotic behavior. She did continue many of her uncles westernized ideas, including the continuing development of St. Petersburg and support for the Academy of Science. Nearing death at age 47, she declared her older sister's grandson as her heir, but little Baby Ivan VI was soon overthrown by Peter the Great's daughter Elizabeth.

By Giuseppe Troni or Thomas Hickey
via Wikimedia Commons
30 Years Widowed
Maria I of Portugal and Brazil (1734-1816) The oldest of King Jose I's four daughters, Maria was recognized as his heir from early childhood. At 25, she married a man who was not only 17 years older than she was, but who was also her uncle! He was her father's younger brother Peter. Upon her accession at age 43, he was named King Pedro III although he did not have the right to rule without her and he actually took little interest in governing. By that time, the couple had already had seven children, though only three had survived infancy. Pedro died less than a decade after they ascended the throne and Maria's mental health was showing signs of instability. She was devastated by Pedro's death and then two years later by the death of their eldest son. Within a few years, she was being treated by the same doctor who took care of King George III of Great Britain, and many believe both monarchs were suffering from the metabolic disorder porphyria. Her second son, Joao, took over running the country for her. When the Napoleonic wars threatened Portugal, the entire royal family decamped to their territory in Brazil including Maria, whose wild screams could be heard by others throughout her transportation. Never having recovered, she lived eight years in Brazil, dying at age 81. (Incidentally, the same age as George III was when he died a few years later.) Her body was later returned to Portugal.

By Anna Rosina de Gasc
in the National Museum of Stockholm
via Wikimedia Commons
34 Years Widowed
Catherine II of Russia (1728-1762) Another Romanov lady makes the list, although she was actually born a minor German princess. Brought to Russia to marry the nephew-heir of Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, Catherine was at first very miserable. After nearly a decade without children, Catherine at last gave birth to a son and then a daughter, although many doubt their legitimacy. When her husband ascended as Peter III, he was cruel and ineffective and obsessed with Germanizing everything. Smart and popular, Catherine enlisted the army to overthrow him and was declared empress in her own right in place of her young son. Peter died in captivity, leaving open the question of Catherine's possible complicity in his death. She immediately embarked upon a plan of expansion, reform and westernization that set her up as the true heir of Peter the Great and earned the nickname Catherine the Great. She took a succession of lovers and probably had more children. She considered herself to be an enlightened ruler and was greatly interested in the growing enlightenment ideas coming out of pre-Revolutionary France. Of course, she was horrified when those thoughts helped cause the Revolution. She became decreasingly enlightened and increasingly autocratic over time. She had a terrible relationship with her son and heir Paul (who had been raised by Elizabeth in his early years) and took his two oldest sons to raise herself. When she died in 1796 at age 67, Paul changed the succession laws so that a woman could never again lead imperial Russia.

By Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Royal Collection
via Wikimedia Commons
40 Years Widowed
Victoria of the United Kingdom (1819-1901) Probably the most well-known royal widow of all time, Victoria was only 42 when her cousin-husband Prince Albert died, leaving her with young children at home. Theirs had been a love match, and she had grown deeply dependent on him. During her long widowhood, she often used her sad state as the reason not to do things she didn't want to do, like opening Parliament or making public appearances. She wore black for the rest of her life. However, there are rumors that she might have had inappropriate relationships with her Highland servant John Brown and perhaps with a later Indian servant Abdul Mohammed. Victoria spent much of her widowhood ruling her large and growing family, deciding who could marry whom and demanding that they dance attention upon her. Her daughter Helena was required to live nearby with her family while youngest daughter Beatrice was not permitted to marry until her husband agreed that they would live with Victoria. Nevertheless, the four decades of her widowhood were marked by rapid industrialization in Britain and the even more rapid, global expansion of the British Empire, through which she came to be recognized as Empress of India. Today, every reigning European king or queen is descended from her except the Kings of Belgium and The Netherlands.

By Juan de Flandes via Wikipedia
49 Years Widowed
Joanna of Castile (1479-1555) has perhaps one of the saddest royal stories of all, and that's even compared to her little sister, Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII. Through the death of older siblings and a nephew, Joanna became heir to both her mother Isabella Queen of Castile and her father Ferdinand King of Aragon. She was deeply in love with her husband, Philip the Handsome, son of the Holy Roman Emperor. He was less enamored with her but did love the fact that their marriage would bring almost all of Spain into the greater Hapsburg empire. The couple had six children, all of whom amazingly lived into adulthood to become queens or emperors. Joanna succeeded her mother as Queen of Castile at age 25, launching a power struggle between her husband and her father, who did not wish to relinquish his authority there. When Philip died less than two years later (while Joanna was pregnant with their last child), Ferdinand took over as regent and her sent away because she was "mad." She likely did suffer from some kind of depressive disorder or other mental illness, but it is difficult to tell how ill she may have been. It was simply easier for her father to put her away. After he died a decade later, her oldest son took over the role as her regent, running Castile and Aragon -- the new Kingdom of Spain -- in both her name and his own. Joanna's stability, like that of her descendant Maria of Portugal above, steadily deteriorated so that there were reports that she refused to even eat or bathe. Nevertheless, she lived a long life passing away at the age of 75.

16 February 2018

Royal Lady Flashback: Alexandrine & Cecilie of Prussia

Alexandrine Irene von Preussen (1915-1980)
Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandrine of Prussia (1915-1980)

Cecilie Viktoria Anastasia Zita Thyra Adelheid von Preussen (1917-1975)
Her Royal Highness Princess Cecilie of Prussia (1917-1975)
Mrs. Clyde Harris (1949-1975)

Alexandrine and Cecilie were the two youngest children (and only daughters) of the six offspring of German Crown Prince Wilhelm and his wife Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Unlike other royal children who were born "different," Alexandrine, who had Down Syndrome, was included in family activities, in public events, and on postcards. However, as a teenager, she was sent to a special school, and after World War II, she lived most of her life in Bavaria, although she remained involved with her family.

The entire family's lives were disrupted and displaced by World War II. Little sister Cecilie was living at the Hesse castle of Wolfsgarten after the war when the U.S. Army's "Monuments Men" arrived. Among them was a young man from Texas named Clyde Harris, who together with young Moritz of Hesse actually put out a fire that threatened the castle. Harris and Cecilie married in 1949, but it took a bit of paperwork to get her back to Texas with him. They made their home in Amarillo and had one daughter, Kira Alexandrine. He passed away from a cerebral hemorrhage shortly before his 40th birthday and she lived for another 17 years after him, passing away in 1975 while visiting family in Germany.

Alexandrine died in 1980 at age 65, a few years beyond even today's average life expectancy for someone with Down Syndrome. She is buried at the ancestral Hohenzollern Castle.

The two princesses were confirmed together in 1934. Alexandrine (left) and Cecilie (right) flank their mother Crown Princess Cecilie.

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-2003-1014-505 via Wikimedia Commons

11 February 2018

The Bernadotte Queens of Sweden

This month marks the 200th anniversary of the House of Bernadotte's reign as Kings of Sweden. Unlike the other royal houses still enthroned today who can trace their lineages back a millennium or more, the Bernadotte's earliest known ancestor lived in the 17th century and they didn't get a throne until 1818 when Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte secured it for his great friend Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, one of his military generals and a Marshal of France. Bernadotte was named heir to the childless King Carl XIII of Sweden and Norway. Upon his accession, he assumed the name King Carl XIV Johan. The two kingdoms remained united for almost a century longer until Norway gained its independence and selected its own king in 1905.

Napoleon had created crowns and titles for everyone in his family, and many of their descendants married into the existing regal families, but only the unrelated Bernadottes still have a throne today. The first Bernadotte Queen of Sweden was Carl Johan's French wife Desiree Clary, an ex-fiancee of Napoleon himself. The next was Napoleon's step granddaughter. After Napoleon's fall, however, the Bernadotte heirs started marrying Dutch, German and English princess to bring more heft to their rather less glorious bloodlines. In fact, they were forbidden to marry "beneath" them until the 1970s, when the new King Carl XVI Gustav change the House Law so that he could marry his commoner girlfriend.

Let's take a quick look at the Bernadotte Queens of Sweden.

by Robert Lefèvre via Wikimedia Commons
Desiree Clary (1777-1860)
The daughter of a well-born merchant, Desiree and her family faced danger in the French Revolution. When her brother was arrested, she went to plead for his release and met Joseph Bonaparte to whom she soon became engaged. Joseph's little brother took a liking to her and convinced Joseph to choose her sister Julie instead. Nevertheless, he discarded her when he fell in love with Josephine Beauharnais. He tried to arrange several marriages for Desiree, o
f whom he was still fond, before things finally led to the altar with Bernadotte. Desiree was often separated from her husband because of his military career and when he moved to Sweden, she tried her best not to go with him. She officially adopted the name Queen Desideria, but never used it personally. She was not necessarily well-loved in Sweden partly for her haughty attitude and partly because she was Catholic, but at least she didn't interfere in politics. Carl Johan died in 1844, and Desiree focused more on her charities. She died in 1860.

by Fredric Westin
via Wikimedia Commons
Josephine of Leuchtenberg (1807-1876)
Josephine was the daughter of Napoleon's stepson Eugene Beauharnais, who he had created Duke of Leuchtenberg and married to a Bavarian princess. Napoleon gave Josephine her own title, Princess of Bologna. When the emperor fell, Josephine and her family went to her maternal relatives in Bavaria and she received an excellent education. Carl Johan and Desiree's only son Oscar fell in love with the beautiful young woman, but he did not remain faithful to her. Although Catholic, Josephine was a success in Sweden where she was considered to be a good influence on her husband. She is credited for helping advance social issues including equal inheritance rights for women (though not in the royal family) and prison reforms. Josephine was queen from 1844 to 1859. Two of her five sons became kings. She died at age 69 in 1876.

via Wikimedia Commons
Louise of the Netherlands (1828-1871)
As the granddaughter of both a Dutch king and German one, Louise brought a lot of royal gravitas to the Bernadotte dynasty. She married the oldest son of Oscar and Josephine, who eventually became Carl XV. Shy and not terribly attractive, Louise was devoted to her husband, but he was a serial philanderer and insensitive to boot. He once publicly toasted a mistress in Louise's presence. Their first child was a daughter who later became Queen of Denmark. Her second pregnancy left her unable to have more children, and when that baby boy died a year and a half later, it was devastated for the mother and the marriage. She offered to let Carl divorce her so he could remarry but this time he did the honorable thing and stayed with her. Louise was the first Bernadotte queen to also be crowned in Norway, which had not wanted to crown her Catholic predecessors. Louise was devoted to social reforms, philanthropy and the arts. Louise, who had suffered with very poor health all of her life, died in 1871 at the age of 42.

By Anders Zorn
via Wikimedia Commons
Sophia of Nassau (1836-1919)
Sophia, who eventually became the longest serving Swedish consort until the current queen surpassed her, married Oscar, the third son of Queen Josephine and King Oscar. Upon the death of his little nephew, young Oscar was identified as the next heir after his oldest brother and so he was sent touring about European courts to find a suitable royal wife. He passed on many of them before finding Sophia, a true love match for both of them. (Of course, this did not mean he was faithful.) Sophia was athletic, academic and artistic. Although she already spoke several languages, she quickly added Swedish and Norwegian to her repertoire. Like a few other contemporary princesses, she made the controversial choice to breastfeed her own children and she was a strong proponent of the professionalized nursing. Later in life, she became deeply evangelical in her religious views. She gave Sweden four princely sons, and nearly all of today's European monarchs are descended from her. She was the last Swedish queen to also be queen of Norway.

By Gösta Florman
via Wikimedia Commons
Victoria of Baden (1862-1930)
Victoria of Baden swung the Swedish crown away from the liberalism of her mother-in-law Sophia toward a conservatism that closely aligned the country with Germany before World War I, although Sweden remained officially neutral in the war. Although closely related to German Kaiser Wilhelm II, Victoria was also a descendant of the Vasa kings of Sweden, Her marriage to King Gustav V commingled the Bernadotte blood with the more ancient Swedish royal house for their three sons. However, their marriage did not go smoothly; there were rumors that she was unfaithful and that he was not only unfaithful but also bisexual. Victoria frequently suffered from poor health and was particularly plagued by various lung ailments. This led her to spend more and more time abroad, where she could live in warmer climates. She predeceased her husband, dying in Rome at age 67.

Acc. 90-105 - Science Service,
Records 1920s-1970s, Smithsonian
Institution Archives
via Wikimedia Commons
Louise of Battenberg (Louise Mountbatten) (1889-1965)
Born into a legitimized minor German house that became Anglicized by marrying into the British Royal Family, Louise started life as a princess, but lost her Germanic names and titles when the BRF decided to adopt more English ones during World War I. As Lady Louise instead of Princess Louise, there was some question as to whether she had a high enough rank to marry the widowed Crown Prince Gustav Adolf, who had been previously married to her cousin. Having overcome this hurdle, she became a beloved stepmother to his five children, but her only baby was stillborn. Her siblings Princess Alice (mother of Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh) and Louis Earl Mountbatten of Burma are more well-known today outside of Sweden, but Louise was very accomplished. Before her marriage, she served as a nurse and even earned a medal from the British Red Cross. As Crown Princess, Louise took on many of the queen's duties while her mother-in-law Victoria traveled abroad for her health. Louise even visited the United States and is one of the earliest (and few) queens to vocally support equal rights for women. She continued her work with the Red Cross during World War II and used Sweden's neutrality to pass news between relatives whose countries were on opposite sides from each other. Her father-in-law lived to be 92, so Louise did not become queen until 1950. Her own husband, as King Gustav V Adolf lived until 90, but she predeceased him in 1965 at age 75.

By Frankie Fouganthin derivative work:
Elinnea via Wikimedia Commons
Silvia Sommerlath (1943-  )
Now the longest serving Swedish queen (almost 42 years), Silvia met her husband in 1972 but had to wait to marry him, because his grandfather King Gustav V Adolf would not relax the house rules so Prince Carl Gustav to marry a commoner. Once Carl Gustav succeeded his as king (his father having died many years earlier), he changed the rules so that he could marry Silvia and his uncle Bertil could marry his longtime Welsh love. Silvia was born in Germany to a German father and a Brazilian mother. With six spoken languages plus some sign language, she worked professionally as a translator, which is how she came to meet her husband at the 1972 Winter Olympics. Swedish supergroup ABBA wrote the song "Dancing Queen" in her honor as part of the lead up to the wedding celebrations. Silvia supports many charitable and international initiative, particularly those related to health, elderly, drug abuse, and crime. She is a co-founder of the World Childhood Foundation, which raises awareness and fights against the sexual exploitation of children. She and the king have three children and six grandchildren with one more arriving in March of this year.

09 February 2018

Royal Lady Flashback: Lady Brigid Guinness

Brigid Katharine Rachel Guinness (1920-1995)
The Honourable Brigid Guinness (1920-1927)
The Lady Brigid Guinness (1927-1945)
Her Royal Highness Princess Frederick of Prussia (1945-1967)
The Lady Brigid Ness (1967-1995)

A daughter of the 3rd Earl of Iveagh, Lady Brigid Guiness met her royal husband, Prince Frederick of Prussia, while working as a nurse during World War II. He had been briefly interred as a German national living in Britain, but he had been released and was learning about farming in her family's neighborhood when they met. The couple had five children, the youngest of whom is now the Duchess of Wellington. In 1966, Frederick when missing while staying at his castle in Germany. His body was later found drowned in the Rhine although it was never clear whether he had died by suicide of accident. Fourteen months later, Brigid married Major Anthony Ness. They were married 26 years until his death. She survived him for about two years.

These photos are from the 1952 christening of her second daughter Princess Victoria Marina, whose royal godmother is Princess Alexandra of Kent, cousin of Queen Elizabeth II.

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02 February 2018

Royal Lady Flashback: Kira of Prussia

Kira Auguste Viktoria Friederike von Preussen (1943-2004)
Her Royal Highness Princess Kira of Prussia (1943-2004)
Also Mrs. Thomas Liepsner (1973-1984)

The fourth of seven children born to German pretender Prince Louis Ferdinand and his Russian wife Grand Duchess Kira Kirillovna, Princess Kira was born in a part of East Prussia that is now in Poland. She married Thomas Liepsner in 1973 and divorced him in 1984, having had one daughter, Kira-Marina. She died in Berlin in 2004. The funeral was attended by hundreds of people. Her ashes were buried at the imperial family's ancestral home, Burg Hohenzollern near the town of Hechingen.

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