08 August 2021

Review: William & Kate, A Royal 10 Years


When Historic Newspapers asked me to review their book commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge earlier this year, I didn't really know what to expect, but it certainly wasn't the incredible book I received. William & Kate: A Royal 10 Years is simply a treasure trove for followers of the royal couple. Having used clipping services before, I guess I thought I would get bits and pieces of newspaper clippings jammed together in a kind of scrapbook. I definitely wasn't expecting to receive full pages from historic papers -- including the ads and other items that might have appeared next to the royal articles. Those bits of "extra" will only grow more valuable and entertaining as even more time passes. Add to that the beautiful binding and this book is a real addition for any royal watcher. (Click here for the direct link to this book.)




 This volume documents Prince William's life with the former Catherine Middleton from their engagement -- including the her historic engagement ring -- right through the pandemic that colored the celebration of their 10th wedding anniversary. In it, you'll find coverage of their gorgeous wedding, their international tours, the births and christenings of their three children: George, Charlotte, and Louis. Unless you've been keeping your own news clippings about the couple, this is a real addition for your Cambridge Collection. Plus, you can have it embossed with your name and/or dedicated to a friend as a gift, as I did with my review copy. And, it comes in a beautiful gift box.

In addition to specialized tomes with a broad appeal like William & Kate, Historic Newspapers offers a variety of newspaper products with headlines from historic events or from dates with personal meaning. They draw from over a century of newspapers on both sides of the pond. You can honor someone's birthday or wedding anniversary. You can also choose one of their specialized sports books for the sports fan in your life. Historic Newspapers provides a broad range of products that many of this blog's readers would enjoy and you can customize them for yourself, your friends, and your loved ones. I highly recommend both William & Kate: A Royal 10 Years specifically as well as Historic Newspapers' other services. 


06 June 2021

A New Lilibet

 

Queen Elizabeth II as a toddler, from the cover of Time Magazine in 1029
The original Lilbet: Princess Elizabeth of York on
the cover of Time Magazine in 1929. Today she is
better known as Queen Elizabeth II.

As the original Lilibet enjoys her twilight years, it seemed the royal nickname would soon cease to exist. Indeed, when Prince Philip died earlier this year the name was already declared dead by some media outlets. Following the deaths of her mother, sister, and husband, it was incorrectly assumed that no one remained to call Queen Elizabeth II by her lifelong nickname. The authors and editors of these articles were apparently forgetting or unaware that Her Majesty has nieces, nephews, and first cousins who have always called her Lilibet and that extended members of the family have also used the name, as demonstrated by King Felipe of Spain's published condolence to "Aunt Lilibet" on the death of his "dear Uncle Philip". (Technically, Felipe is second cousin twice removed to Philip and third cousin once removed to Elizabeth.)

Just when it looked like the name would be lost to history, The Queen's grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan resurrected it for their baby girl, naming the infant Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor. The announcement, which came two days after the baby's June 4th birth in Santa Barbara, California, also revealed that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex plan to call their daughter Lili. The second name honoring Harry's late mother Diana Princess of Wales surprised no one, but nearly everyone was surprised by Lilibet as a first name. In fact, this may be the first time anyone anywhere has actually used it as a given name. (If you know of anyone else actually named Lilibet, I would love to know about it.)

However, no one should be surprised that they would choose to honor Harry's grandmother. Despite a recent interview in which he indicated that he thought The Queen had been a poor parent to his father, Harry and Meghan have often spoken of their admiration for Her Majesty. The use of a nickname and an untraditional name is also not surprising. After all, the couple named their first child Archie, which is also a nickname and an untraditional royal name. (See my post, Strange Royal Baby Names.)

The name Lilibet emerged when The Queen was first learning to speak. Like all infants, she did not emerge with perfect enunciation and was unable to properly pronounce her own name. The family started calling her Lilibet after hearing her attempts to say Elizabeth. The name quickly stuck, probably because her mother was also named Elizabeth making a nickname something of a necessity in the family. By the time her little sister Margaret was born four years later, her father was writing notes "dictated by Lilibet" back to his wife. Many published examples exist of The Queen signing personal messages as Lilibet, including her condolence card to her mother on the death of her father.

Some have criticized Meghan and Harry for their unconventional name choices but it's important to note that many of The Queen's descendants have un-royal names. Her first granddaughter is named Zara. Her 11 great-grandchildren include Savannah, Isla, Mia, Lena, and Lucas. The Queen herself shook up royal naming conventions. She was the first female descendant of Queen Victoria NOT to have Victoria among her names, which are Elizabeth Alexandra Mary. She stunned many by choosing the "Scottish" name Charles for her firstborn, a child destined to be King when the only Kings named Charles in Britain were from the Scottish House of Stuart. The first King Charles was beheaded in the English Civil War. The second, his son, restored the monarchy, knew how to have raucous good time, and left many children but had no direct heirs. More controversially, "King Charles III" or Bonnie Prince Charlie sparked a rebellion against the Hanoverians to try to regain the throne that was abandoned by (or stolen from, depending on your point of view) his grandfather King James II and VII in the Glorious Revolution. The Queen even introduced a "new" name into the British Royal Family when she named her second son Prince Andrew after her father-in-law, who had been Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark. The name had not been used among British royals before that day in 1960. If The Queen can use surprising and untraditional names for her own children, it is not shocking that her children and grandchildren would, too.

The announcement of Lili's arrival did not include any reference to her title. Brother Archie's announcement specified that he would be known simply as "Master Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor", eschewing his right to use his father's secondary title of Earl of Dumbarton, a long-seated tradition among the Peerage. As the daughter of a Duke and as confirmed by the 1917 Letters Patent, Harry's daughter is entitled to be styled as Lady Lili. It appears, however, that she will simply be called Miss Lili Mountbatten-Windsor.

One last note: Many have incorrectly stated that it was Prince Philip who began calling his wife Lilibet as a pet name. For the record, his romantic pet name for her was Cabbage. 

Long live the Lilibets! (Both Cabbage and Baby Lili!)

As of publication time, no photos of Lili Mountbatten-Windsor have been released.

09 April 2021

Prince Philip and Women He Loved


Just two months short of his 100th birthday, The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh passed away on April 9, 2021 at his home at Windsor Castle. Born a Prince of Greece and Denmark, he was born Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, the youngest child but only son of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. He was the longest-lived descendant of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom (his great-great-grandmother) and of King Christian IX of Denmark (his great-grandfather) and of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia (his great-great grandfather). He was the third longest-lived member of the British Royal Family, after his wife's aunt Princess Alice Duchess of Gloucester and his mother-in-law Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

Before he was two, in the tumult that was the Greek monarchy, his father was charged with treason and sentenced to death. His uncle, King Constantine II, was exiled (again). The British helped get Andrew's sentence commuted and sent a warship to rescue him and his family. As the story goes, an orange crate was used as an improvised cradle. After that, his parents eventually went their separate ways with his father living an essentially bachelor lifestyle and his mother undergoing psychotherapy, and for a time, being committed to an asylum. Young Philip became something like a royal foster kid, bouncing around among his much older sisters, his many royal aunts and uncles, and his maternal grandmother, Victoria Marchioness of Milford Haven, who was the older sister of the Empress Alexandra and Grand Duchess Serge of Russia, both of whom had been murdered by the Bolsheviks just a few years before Philip was born. 

Philip started school in Paris then went to Germany before being enrolled at Gordonstoun in Scotland at age 12. When he was 17, he went to the British naval academy at Dartmouth, and then joined the British Royal Navy just after the start of World War II. He served with distinction, but spent much of his leave time back in England, where his long acquaintance with a distant cousin was turning into something else.

The future Queen Elizabeth II spent her adolescence at Windsor Castle, referred to as an undisclosed location in the countryside, during the war. Philip was an occasional guest. They became penpals while both she and some members of his family hoped this would prove a royal match. After the war, Philip remained in the Royal Navy while a romance blossomed. The couple were engaged in 1947 after he surrendered his Greek titles and citizenship. With no realm surname of his own, he adopted the one used by his mother's British family: Mountbatten. For a brief time before his future father-in-law King George VI created him Duke of Edinburgh and a British Royal Highness, he was known simply as Lt. Philip Mountbatten, R.N. (Read my post about their romance The Moonstruck Princess and Her Greek God.)

Elizabeth and Philip were married at Westminster Abbey on November 20, 1947. They spent much of their early marriage in Malta where he was posted with the Navy. By the time she unexpectedly became Queen on the early death of her father, their first two children, Charles and Anne, had been born. Her accession brought his naval career to an end, and Philip struggled for a bit trying to figure out what exactly the job of the Queen's husband was supposed to be. Within a decade, he had settled into and/or created his role leading to a more stable period in his marriage, which resulted in the births of two more children, Andrew and Edward.

He remained a loyal supporter to his wife, while adding his own stamp on things -- creating the Duke of Edinburgh awards, modernizing the royal homes and the royal operations. Along the way, he received much criticism for his sometimes brash manner or insensitive remarks, but he also received much praise for his dedication to service, to the nation, and to his wife. In November 2020, they celebrated 73 years of marriage. He is survived by his wife, four children, eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

I had been planning a series of posts in honor of his 100th birthday focused on the Women He Loved. I am now launching the series two months too soon. Please come back to read about the women who shared Prince Philip's life, including:

Princess Alice of Battenberg, mother
Princess Victoria of Hesse, grandmother
Grand Duchess Olga Constantinova of Russia, grandmother
Princess Margarita of Greece, sister
Princess Theodora of Greece, sister
Princess Cecile of Greece, sister
Princess Sophie of Greece, sister
Princess Marie Bonaparte, aunt
Countess Nadejda de Torby, aunt
Edwina Ashley, aunt
Queen Elizabeth II, wife
Princess Anne Princess Royal, daughter
Princess Beatrice of York, granddaughter
Princess Eugenie of York, granddaughter
Zara Phillips Tindall, granddaughter
Lady Louise Windsor, granddaughter

28 February 2021

Birthplace of a Queen

Princess Elizabeth of York
from Time Magazine via Wikimedia Commons
Once upon a time in a rather unremarkable townhome, the future Queen of England was born in the middle of the night. Although it was indeed a royal birth -- Home Secretary Sir William Joynson-Hicks was officially in attendance to ensure no changeling was smuggled in to replace the royal baby -- but no one expected this child to inherit the throne. This was the child of the Duke of York, second son of King George V. His older brother was certainly father the heir. When the newborn turned out to be a girl, her distance from the throne seemed even further in an era when younger brothers would supersede older sisters in the Line of Succession. The royal parents even opted not to include Victoria among their daughter's names, breaking a royal tradition for all of the previous descendants of Queen Victoria. King George made note of it in his diary only to declare that it probably didn't matter. 

But, fate has a funny way of doing what it will. And so it was that 25 years later, when this baby girl became Queen Elizabeth II, she also became the first British monarch not to be born in a palace or on a royal estate since King George came over from Hanover two centuries earlier.

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born at 2 a.m. by Caesarean section on the 21st of April in 1926 in her maternal grandparents home located at 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair, London. (See my post about her birth, A Princess Is Born.) Although her parents, Prince Albert The Duke of York and the former Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, were less than week from celebrating their third anniversary, the couple was still essentially homeless. They had been offered White Lodge in Richmond Park but declined it. Originally a hunting lodge built for King George II, its previous royal residents included his daughter Princess Amelia, George III's daughter Princess Mary Duchess of Gloucester, and George III's granddaughter Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge. Mary Adelaide raised her own family there, including her daughter Mary, who had married King George VI and was therefore Princess Elizabeth of York's paternal grandmother. Unfortunately, the house had not been updated in decades and was a bit of a wreck when the Yorks decided against living there. Instead they had bounced around from rental to rental in search of their "forever home". As the Duchess prepared for the birth of her first child, she longed to be somewhere more familiar than a temporary rental or a stodgy royal palace. She opted instead to have her baby in her parents' London home.

The Duchess of York, better known to posterity as the long-lived Queen Mother, was the youngest daughter of the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and Nina Cavendish-Bentinck. Their ancestral home was Glamis Castle (of Macbeth fame) in Angus, Scotland. They also had an English estate at St. Paul's Walden Bury in Hertfordshire. Both of those homes had been in the Bowes-Lyon family for centuries. Number 17 Bruton Street, however, had no ancestral connections. The Earl had acquired the house less than five years earlier to serve as the family's base during the London social season. Although located in tawny Mayfair between Regent Street and Berkeley Street, the house was fairly typical of the neighborhood. A five-story 18th Century house large enough for the extensive Bowes-Lyon family (Elizabeth was one of 10 siblings) and their servants.

By the time they moved to Bruton Street from previously rented London addresses, their daughter Elizabeth had already made her society debut and had earned herself many suitors. The more serious young men were outpaced by the Prince, not because he was more handsome or more charming, and definitely not because he was royal. He had to propose three times before Elizabeth finally said yes during a weekend visit to St. Paul's Walden Bury. That Monday, he drove her to 17 Bruton Street before taking her to lunch at sister Princess Mary's London home, Chesterfield House, where they were joined by their older brother, the Prince of Wales. Prince Albert, or Bertie as he was called, returned Elizabeth to Bruton Street while he dashed off to Sandringham House to see his delighted parents. The Bowes-Lyon home was then besieged by telephone calls from "hundreds of reporters clamouring!" she wrote, "Last day of peace I suppose."

Embed from Getty Images

A few months later, the eyes of the world were on Bruton Street as the "commoner" royal bride departed for her wedding as Westminster Abbey. It was a cold rainy day in the middle of economic troubles that would soon erupt into strikes, but the tiny little Lady was a ray of sunshine for the crowd that had gathered. On her father's arm, Lady Elizabeth departed the town home at 11:12 a.m. in a state landau escorted by Metropolitan Police on horseback. 

Three years later, Bertie and Elizabeth moved into 17 Bruton Street ahead of their child's arrival. Queen Mary longed to be present for the birth, but feared her arrival would draw attention from the press, writing to her son, that's "the last thing one wants is for any inkling of this to appear in the papers, so I hope you will both understand & will not think me a heartless wretch." Elizabeth own mother was ill at the time and so could not be in the room either. Queen Mary recommended that they send for Elizabeth's older sister, Rose Countess Granville, because having someone who has been through childbirth already is "such a comfort."

Elizabeth undoubtedly needed such comfort. It was a long a difficult labor. The doctors had anticipated a breech birth and knew that the petite duchess might struggle to deliver the baby. They planned ahead for the caesarean delivery, but the procedure was still considered risky. It was also thought that it could hinder future pregnancies and deliveries. The Duke and Duchess decided that it was worth the risk. If one child was all they had, they would be content. 

So, while the Duke paced the entire house, the Home Secretary waited patiently, the little princess finally emerged by a "certain line of treatment", as the official bulletin stated. The King and Queen were awakened at 4 a.m. to hear the news. Later that day, they drove up from Windsor to meet their first granddaughter, whom Queen Mary "too sweet & pretty." Grandmother and granddaughter would develop a very close relationship over the years.

By Spudgun67 via Wikimedia Commons
The York family remained in residence at 17 Bruton Street for several more weeks as the Duchess recovered from the birth. The future Queen didn't visit a royal palace for the first several weeks of her life, finally being taken to Buckingham Palace for her christening on May 29 by the Anglican Archbishop of York before being whisked back to Bruton Street.

Today, a Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant stands at 17 Bruton Street in the heart of a bustling commercial district. Although some reports say the old house was destroyed in the London Blitz other say it and the neighboring home were actually taken down in 1937. Whatever the fate of the house itself, a blue plaque at Hakkasan restaurant now reads, "On the site stood the townhouse of the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne where Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, later to become Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, was born on 21 April 1926."


Works Consulted

"A Look at 17 Bruton Street." The Royal Post. 16 November 2014. theroyalpost.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/a-look-at-17-bruton-street/ Accessed 18 January 2021.

Bradford, Sarah. Elizabeth. Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1996.

Johnstone, Anna. "The Queen's SURPRISING birthplace is now a Chinese takeaway." Hello! 26 March 2019, www.hellomagazine.com/cuisine/2019032671328/queen-elizabeth-birthplace-mayfair-hakkasan-chinese-restaurant/. Accessed 18 January 2021.

Murphy, Victoria. "Homes fit for a Queen: From her birthplace to her current Royal residence of Buckingham Palace," The Daily Mirror,  10 June 2016. https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/homes-fit-queen-birthplace-current-8145399 Accessed 18 January 2021.

Shawcross, William. The Queen Mother: The Official Biography. Vintage Books, 2009.

Timms, Elizabeth Jane. "The Queen's London Birthplace: 17 Bruton St." Royal Central. 20 April 2017, royalcentral.co.uk/uk/queen/the-queens-london-birthplace-17-bruton-st-59298/ Accessed 18 January 2021.

Williams, Kate. Young Elizabeth: The Making of a Queen. Pegasus Books, 2015.

18 January 2021

Henry VIII's Most Beloved Wife

Henry VIII had six wives, but did he love any of them? After I recently re-shared my 20009 post, The Most Neglected Princess, in which I assert my belief that he loved Catherine of Aragon, a Twitter dialogue was sparked. While some agreed with me, others offered up different views. So, I decided to put the question to a Twitter poll, asking people to name Henry's most beloved wife. Since Twitter polls only allow up to four options, I opted not to include his fourth wife Anne of Cleves, whom he rejected upon first sight, as well as his last wife Catherine Parr. Although I told respondents they could "write in" either of these two, no one did.

Here are the results of this very unscientific survey:

Coming in fourth place is Henry's fifth wife the teenaged Catherine Howard, whose nubile youth attracted the lecherous older man. Alas, the girl's flirtatious and flighty nature proved her downfall. She (unlike her first cousin Anne Boleyn) likely was guilty of the infidelity that cost her her head. She garnered only 2.5% of the votes. 

In third place is said older cousin Anne Boleyn, the woman for whom Henry changed the nation's relationship with God. His infatuation for the sophisticated young woman, who had been trained in the continental courts of France and Burgundy, burned for years as she denied him access to her person while he remained married to his first wife. Unable to secure an annulment from the Pope in Rome after trying everything he and his advisors could conceive. He broke with Rome, declared himself the head of Church of England, and (not surprisingly) agreed when his new Church decided that his first marriage was invalid. Despite his long wait and indefatigable battle to marry her, Henry quickly grew tired of Anne's screeching demands and inability to quickly manufacture a son for him and believed the very likely trumped-up charges of infidelity that were brought to him. Anne was the first of his queen's to be executed. This complex affair led 22.5% of respondents believe Henry loved Anne more than his other wives.

To Royal Bearing (@RoyalBearing), Henry's relationships seemed "More like lust with Anne B and Catherine H."

Second place, with 27.5% of the votes, went to my personal favorite Catherine (read my post The Love Story of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon). Widowed by his older brother when Henry was just a child, Catherine lived in a kind of limbo waiting for their father's to decide her marital fate. She was engaged to Henry and then unengaged. When he inherited the throne as a teenager, he imagined himself as her knight errant and, having rescued her from genteel neglect, married her in a fit of romance. The daughter of Isabella of Castile, Catherine made a fit political partner for him. However, unlike her mother, she was unable to produce more than one living child. Over the years, Henry started to grow concerned about the fitness of that child, the Princess Mary, to succeed him because of her gender. After decades of marriage with a generally pleasant and obedient wife, he expected Catherine to agree that God was punishing him for marrying his brother's widow. She shocked the devil out of him when she didn't and went even further, using all of her political and familial connections to oppose him. By the time, he finally declared himself free of her, his once abundant love had become a seething rage.

RoyalistSupporter (@ProRoyalFamily) called Henry's relationship with Catherine of Aragon real love that wasn't colored by the kind of ulterior motives of his other marriages. "Also I felt he still cared about her after the divorce."

Royal Bearing (@RoyalBearing) wrote, "Catherine of A definitely the closest he seemed to come [to love], especially for reciprocated love."

The Royal Watcher (@saadsalman719) agrees. "I think C of A was the most compatible wife for him and he truly loved her. Had he accepted that she wasn't going to have sons and trained Mary to be a capable ruler then history would have certainly been different today!" (Indeed, imagine new Elizabethan Age.)

Henry VII, Elizabeth of York, Henry VIII and Jane Seymour
by Remigius van Leemput (after Hans Holbein the Younger)
from the Royal Collection via Wikimedia Commons

Earning nearly half of the votes, Henry's third wife, the docile Jane Seymour earned the crown as his most beloved. Calmer and much more complaisant than her two predecessors, Jane did something both of them had failed to do: she gave Henry a son. Then, she promptly succumbed to childbed fever leaving Henry to grieve her loss just 18 months after he had married her. He himself seemed devoted to her sanctified memory, even painting her into a family portraits for years after she had died.

As Cheryl Shifflet (@cheryl_shifflet) commented, "Jane Seymour for sure. She gave Henry his much desired and needed son. I also read her mourned her quite a bit." 

Royal Bearing (@RoyalBearing) sees it differently: "Jane S might have been love but giving him his heir & her early death turned her into a saint so difficult to tell his feelings beneath for her."

So, what do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

10 January 2021

The Love Story of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon

By Joannes Corvus via Wikimedia Commons

Few people today realize that England's King Henry VIII actually enjoyed a long marriage with his first wife. The couple had been engaged after her first husband, Henry's older brother Prince Arthur died. At the time of their engagement, Catherine was 17 and Henry was a precocious 11. Over the next several years, Catherine was a pawn in the political wrangling between her father, the King of Aragon, and Henry's father. For a brief moment, it was even possible that she might be married off to her father-in-law while other European princesses were sought for Henry. The princess was often low on funds and left alone in the country side. She struggled under the strain of her uncertain situation.

(For more about the "courtship" of Henry and Catherine, see my earlier post, The Most Neglected Princess.)

Nevertheless, Henry married Catherine within two months of ascending the throne at the age of 17. Deeply in love with each other (okay, he was probably in love with the idea of being her hero), Catherine and Henry had a happy marriage for the first several years, marred only by the death of a premature daughter. Their next child was a little boy named Henry. The king threw elaborate parties and held tournaments in honor of the newborn but the baby only lived a few weeks. In the meantime, Catherine was also devastated to discover that Henry had a mistress. He is believed to have been very discreet about such matters and it was certainly normal for men to engage in such things, but Catherine was heartbroken. They had a huge fight and Catherine did not emerge the winner. It damaged their relationship, but they still continued to have a stable and happy married life.

In fact, Henry had so much respect for Catherine that he left her as Regent while he traveled to fight in France. While he was gone, the Scots invaded England. At Flodden, the English thoroughly destroyed the Scots and the Scottish king (husband of Henry's sister Margaret) was killed. Catherine ordered the Scottish king's head to be sent to her and she forwarded it on to Henry in France. Henry was proud of Catherine's actions in his absence but may have been a bit jealous because he had less military success. Shortly before his return, she delivered another premature child who died shortly after birth.

Catherine finally had a healthy child, the future Queen Mary, in 1516. Henry was a doting daddy who, for a short time, began to view Mary as his heir, but later he became increasingly concerned about having a son. As Catherine neared menopause, Henry was still young and virile. As a deeply religious and philosophical person who was also receiving outside encouragement, he started to wonder whether his marriage to Catherine, his brother's widow, was invalid despite the dispensation they had received from the Pope, and that's why he had no sons.

For her part, Catherine had always been a highly obedient and untroublesome wife. When Henry informed her that he believed their marriage was against God's wishes, Henry fully expected that she would comply. He underestimated both her religious piety and her deep love for her daughter (Henry's plan would--and did--make Mary a bastard).

The Pope, who was being held captive by Catherine's nephew, supported her. And that is why Henry VIII created the Church of England and made himself the head of it. Contrary to popular belief, he remained an ardent Catholic. Several of his future wives, particularly the last one, had to hide their Protestant beliefs from him in order to avoid the executioner.

Henry divorced Catherine and declared their marriage null, he made Mary a bastard and married Anne Boleyn, who soon gave birth to the future Queen Elizabeth. When Anne also failed to produce sons (and acted like a total pain in the arse), he had her executed, annulled their marriage and made Elizabeth a bastard, too. At about the same time, a lonely Catherine, still devoted to Henry as her true husband, passed away. With both of his first wives safely deceased, Henry felt he could finally make a valid marriage. When Wife #3, Jane Seymour gave him a son, the future Edward VI, it reaffirmed all of his beliefs.

He was sentimental about Jane, who died soon after her son was born, and thought her his best wife. Nevertheless, I think that the bride of his youth, Catherine, was his favorite. He certainly loved her for a longer time than he did any of the others. They were married nearly 20 years before he decided to end it and almost 24 years by the time of the annulment. Their marriage was longer than his other five marriages combined.

03 January 2021

A Long-Lived Princess: Alice of Albany

from Canada national Archives via Wikimedia Commons
Having another grandchild was not generally an extraordinary moment for Queen Victoria, who already had 33 when a new little princess arrived at Windsor Castle on Feb. 25, 1883. Indeed a grandson had been born there just six weeks earlier, but this new little girl, named Alice after her aunt who had died in 1878, was unexpected: Queen Victoria had assumed that the baby's father could not have children due to his health. More amazingly, Victoria, who often called babies ugly and froglike, thought the new baby was beautiful.

Princess Alice of Albany was born just 10 months after her father Prince Leopold Duke of Albany married Princess Helena of Waldeck-Pyrmont. The youngest of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's four sons, Leopold had grown up overprotected and on a much shorter leash than his older brothers. Victoria thought him and handsome and clever but she fretted that any activity could lead to his death. He was the first member of her family to exhibit the dreaded hemophilia that would come to haunt the Russian Imperial Family, the Spanish Royal Family and other royal families through Victoria's daughters and granddaughters. Victoria thought fathering a child would prove too rigorous for him, but Leopold and his bride proved her wrong. By the end of 1883, Helena was expecting again, but Leopold's health was troublesome. On the advice of his doctors, he decided to escape the British climate as he had done many times before. With one young infant and an advancing pregnancy, Helena opted to stay home while Leopold traveled to Cannes. In late March, the prince slipped on the stairs, banging his knee and his head. Injuries which would be mere annoyances for most people proved deadly for him: unable to stop internal bleeding he died in less than 24 hours.  

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Baby Alice was 13 months old. Her little brother, Prince Charles Edward was born four months later and became Duke of Albany upon his birth. The widowed Helena was 23, but determined to take a strong role in her children's upbringing. (Her sister Emma was widowed a few years later and left to raise her daughter Wilhelmina, who had become Queen of the Netherlands at age 10. See my posts Abdicating Queens and End of the Queen Streak.) Helena's efforts to raise her children as "good Englishmen"--even sending Charlie to Eton--were thwarted when her son was selected as the heir to his uncle, Prince Alfred the Duke of Saxe Coburg and Gotha, who had himself inherited it from his Uncle Ernst, older brother of Prince Albert. It was heartbreaking for the family to have to uproot and move to Germany where the teenaged Charles Edward could now learn to be a "good German." The family was separated permanently when Helena and Alice returned to live in England in 1903, believing that the 19-year-old Duke was well-established. The pain of their separation grew even more during the first World War, when Charles Edward fought on the German side and had his English rights and titles revoked even after the German Revolution of November 1918 forced him to abdicate his ducal role. As Alice would later write in her 1966 memoirs, For My Grandchildren, the war "shattered" her brother's life as "he was denounced in Germany for being English and in England for being German." By World War II, he was nationality was clear: he was a full-fledged Nazi. Despite Alice's pleas on his behalf, his American captors would not release him. At his trial, he was exonerated of crimes against humanity (which saved his life) but was order to undergo de-nazification and fined to the point of near bankruptcy.

As for Alice, she lived a decidedly British life -- though not without further tragedies. Shortly before her 20th birthday, she married the dashing Prince Alexander of Teck, a member of a morganatic branch of the Hessian Grand Ducal Family which had been granted titles by the King of Wurttemberg. Alexander's mother was Queen Victoria's popular cousin, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, the youngest grandchild of King George III. More importantly, Alexander or Alge as he was affectionately known, was the brother of the Princess of Wales, better known to us today as Queen Mary. Therefore, Alice's children were first cousins of King Edward VIII and King George VI and Alice herself was a beloved aunt to Queen Elizabeth II.

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Alice and Alge's three children (May, Rupert and Maurice) were born as Princess and Princes of Teck in 1906, 1907, and 1910. Unfortunately, as the daughter of hemophiliac (see Unofficial Royalty's information about hemophilia), Alice was a carrier of the gene, which she passed to her sons. Maurice died as an infant. Rupert died of otherwise survivable injuries following an auto accident in France when he was 20. He was buried at Frogmore, Windsor. Having lived with the knowledge that their son could die for any small injury at any time, Alice and Alge were nonetheless devastated even more so because they were in South Africa and unable to attend his funeral during an age when even air flight could not have brought them to England quickly enough. 

In 1917, when all of the extended British Royal Family relinquished their German styles and titles, Alice as a male-line granddaughter of British monarch remained a royal highness and princess, but her husband and children no longer had princely rank and changed their surname to Cambridge. A British Army officer on active duty in the war, Alge was simply Sir Alexander Cambridge for a few months until his brother-in-law King George V created him 1st Earl of Athlone and Viscount Trematon. From then on, his wife was styled as HRH Princess Alice Countess of Athlone.

Alice traveled widely on behalf of the Crown throughout Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and North America during the early years of her marriage. Later, Alge served as Governor General of South Africa from 1924 to 1930 and Governor General of Canada from 1940 to 1946. During both appointments, Alice was a popular and active vicereine. In Canada, she was particularly busy helping the many displaced royal cousins who had fled to Canada ahead of Nazi invasions. Her three grandchildren, like many other British youngsters, also came to Canada. They and their mother stayed with Alice and Alge. So did Alice's cousin Queen Wilhelmina's daughter then-Crown Princess Juliana and her children, who had fled The Netherlands ahead of the Nazi invasion. 

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After the war, Alice and Alge returned to Britain to take up residence again at their Kensington Palace apartment and their country home Brantridge in West Sussex. Like other British princesses, she remained actively engaged with honorary military appointments, university chancellorships, and charitably patronages at home and in the Commonwealth. Alge passed away in 1957 at Kensington Palace. His widow maintained an unofficial role in the British Royal Family as a kind of protocol advisor and participated in major public royal events including the Trooping the Color balcony appearances. Privately, she was often seen around the Kensington neighborhood to attend church and visit the shops.

When she passed away on January 3, 1981 seven weeks shy of her 98th birthday, she was not only the last surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria but the oldest surviving member of the British Royal Family. She has since been surpassed by two of her nephews' wives, The Queen Mother and Princess Alice The Duchess of Gloucester, as well as by The Duke of Edinburgh, but they all married into the family. She remains the oldest person born as a British Royal. The first person who could surpass her is Queen Elizabeth II, who will not reach the same age until April 2024.

For more about Princess Alice, Countess of Albany:
Birth of Princess Alice of Albany, Countess of Athlone on European Royal History
Dear Leopold's Child on History of Royal Women
Frankness and Candour on History of Royal Women
Princess Alice, Countess of Albany on Unofficial Royalty

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