30 May 2022

The Queen's Royal Ladies

In celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's 70th Jubilee, here is a quick list of all of the royal women who have lived during her long reign. This list stretches from granddaughters of Queen Victoria born in the 19th century to Her Majesty's own great granddaughters. In Part 1, we look at the British royal ladies who were born during the reign of Queen of Victoria but still alive at the beginning of the reign of her great-great granddaughter Queen Elizabeth II in 1952.

Queen Mary with a young Princess Elizabeth
and Princess Margaret
via Wikimedia Commons 

Princess Mary of Teck
(1867-1953) was the only daughter of Prince Francis of Teck and the British Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, who as a granddaughter of King George III, was a first cousin of Queen Victoria. The Tecks would later adopt the surname Cambridge and be granted new more British-sounding titles when all of the British royals dropped their Germanic names and titles during World War I. By that time, however, Mary had already married the future King George V and mothered six children. Her second son was Queen Elizabeth's father and Queen Mary was always just Grannie to our Queen, who bears a striking resemblance to her. (Click for A Royal Love Triangle, my post about Mary's romances with her husband and with his older brother. )

Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein (1872-1956) A daughter of Queen Victoria's third daughter Princess Helena and the foreign Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, Marie Louise was considered a British princess for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Helena's children all grew up in Victoria's court. Secondly, except for a brief period when Marie Louise was married to a Germanic prince, she and her spinster sister Princess Helena Victoria lived their lives in Britain. In 1917, when the British royals dropped Germanic names and titles, the two unmarried sisters remained princesses but did not adopt an Anglicized name. While her sister had already passed away, Marie Louise was still alive to attend her fourth coronation when Queen Elizabeth was crowned.

Princess Alice of Albany (1883-1981) was the posthumous daughter of Queen Victoria's youngest son Prince Leopold whose earlier death was due to hemophilia. Alice increased her relationship to the primary Royal Family when she married Queen Mary's brother, Francis Duke of Albany, making her King George V's sister-in-law as well as his cousin. She lost her two sons young (one due to hemophilia) while her daughter Lady May Abel-Smith (nee Cambridge) was a bridesmaid for Queen Elizabeth's parents. Until Prince Philip surpassed her, Princess Alice was the longest lived descendant of Queen Victoria. (Click for my post, A Long Lived Princess.)

Princess Beatrice, Duchess of Galliera
via Wikimedia Commons

Princess Beatrice of Edinburgh
(1884-1966) was the youngest child of Queen Victoria's second son Prince Alfred Duke of Edinburgh who later became Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha through his father Prince Albert's family. He moved the family to Germany when Beatrice was a little girl. She married Infante Alfonso of Spain, a cousin of the Spanish king. Having failed to get permission to marry the Protestant princess, Infante Alfonso was stripped of his royal dignities, but was restored a few years later. After his father's death he inherited his Italian title as 5th Duke of Galliera. They lived in England during the Spanish Civil War although one of their sons died in the conflict. They later moved back to Spain.

Princess Alice of Battenberg (1885-1969) was the oldest daughter of Queen Victoria's granddaughter Princess Victoria of Hesse and Prince Louis of Battenberg. The Battenbergs lived in Britain with Louis serving in the British Navy and eventually rising to First Lord Admiral. Due to his German origins, he lost the position in World War I and the family changed its surname to Mountbatten with him taken on the title Marquess of Milford Haven. Well before that, Alice had married a Greek prince. Her youngest child Prince Philip would later marry the future Queen Elizabeth II, making her the Queen's mother-in-law as well as her second cousin once removed. Born deaf, Alice also struggled with mental health and was institutionalized when Philip was a boy. Nevertheless, she was also a hero, rescuing Jewish people in World War II and later earning the Most Righteous Among Nations recognition from Israel.

Princess Patricia of Connaught (1886-1974) was the second daughter of Queen Victoria's third son Prince Arthur. Her sister Margaret had married the Crown Prince of Sweden but had died young. Patricia gave up her royal status when she married Sir Alexander Ramsay. Today, her daughter-in-law is the chief of Clan Fraser, while her great nephew is King of Sweden and her great niece is Queen of Denmark.

Victoria Eugenie, Queen of Spain
by Jose Moreno Corbonaro
via Wikimedia Commons

Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg
(1886-1969) was the daughter of Queen Victoria's youngest child Princess Beatrice and Prince Henry of Battenberg. She grew up in Victoria's homes before marrying King Alfonso XIII of Spain. The hemophilia gene passed through her into the Spanish royal family. That and many other tragedies led to a very unhappy home. Additionally, the King was ousted from the throne and the family went into exile although Victoria Eugenie and her husband lives separately, with her living partly in her homeland of the United Kingdom. She returned briefly to Spain not long before her death of the christening of her great-grandson, who is now King Felipe V. (Read my post, Death to the Queen, about Victoria Eugenie's escape from Spain.)

Princess Louise of Battenberg (1889-1965) the younger sister of Princess Alice above, Louise was created Lady Louise Mountbatten during the Germanic title/name switches of 1917 that sought to erase the German connections within the British Royal Family. It would cause some issues later when the Crown Prince of Sweden proposed to her. The Brits were required to prove that she had always been of sufficient royal rank to marry a future king. Louise had sworn never to marry a king or a widower, but she did both when she and Gustav Adolf wed in 1924. His first wife was her late cousin Princess Margaret of Connaught. Louise became Queen of Sweden in 1950 but remained down to earth, carrying a note that said, "I am the Queen of Sweden," as an I.D. card in case she got run down when crossing the street. (Read my post, Louise of Battenberg.)

Princess Alexandra of Fife (1891-1959) was the daughter of Louise Princess Royal and Alexander Duff, an Earl whom Queen Victoria promoted to first Duke of Fife on their wedding day. Alexandra and her younger sister Maud were merely styled as Lady during their early years. After their grandfather became King Edward VII, he raised them to the rank and style of Princess. Alexandra succeeded her father as 2nd Duchess of Fife in her own right. She married a royal cousin, Prince Arthur of Connaught, but their only son predeceased her and the Fife title passed to Maud's son. Unfortunately, in her last decade, Alexandra was crippled by rheumatoid arthritis but was able to write some autobiographical stories. Her sister Maud had passed away in 1945.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor
by Vincenso Laviosa via Wikimedia Commons

Wallis Warfield Spencer Simpson
(1896-1986) Born into a merchant family in Maryland in the United States, Wallis was married to her second husband when she began a love affair with the Queen's uncle Edward Prince of Wales. After he ascended the throne as King Edward VIII, she and Ernest Simpson quietly divorced. However, a divorced royal consort was unacceptable in the 1930s. Edward chose love over the throne, abdicating after less than one year after becoming king. His brother, the new King George VI made him Duke of Windsor. When the pair married the following summer, Wallis became a Duchess but neither George nor his daughter Queen Elizabeth II granted her the right to be addressed as Her Royal Highness. The Windsors spent most of the rest of their lives living in Paris. (Read my post, The American Queen That Never Was).

Mary, Princess Royal (1897-1965) was born during Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee and there had been some talk of naming her Diamond. (If the current Queen has any great-grandchildren this year, I hope the poor child won't be called Platinum!) The only daughter of the future King George V and Queen Mary, she married the much older Earl of Harewood. She took up many royal patronages and served as chief commandant of the Women's Royal Army Corps. An expert in cattle breeding, she enjoyed many country pursuits and oversaw the renovation of her husband's family seat of Harewood House. (Read my post, Mary Princess Royal, Countess of Harewood.)

Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (1900-2002) was the youngest daughter of the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. When she married Queen Elizabeth's father in 1923, she became a darling of British public. She is credited with guiding her more mercurial husband through his battle with stammering and through his unexpected succession to the throne when his brother abdicated in 1936. After cementing her role at the heart of the nation as Queen Consort during World War II, she was devastated by her early widowhood at the age of 51. It took her a few years to figure out her new role as Queen Mother but she lived another 50 years as Britain's favorite grandmother. She had a close relationship with both of her daughters. (Read my post, In Memoriam: HM Queen Elizabeth.)


23 May 2022

A Dutiful Royal Sister

by Stefano Chiolo via Wikimedia Commons

Britain has Princess Anne -- a highly capable, reliable and hardworking princess devoted to the well-being of the nation and the monarchy. Belgium has Princess Astrid, second daughter of the former King Albert II and his Italian wife Paola. Currently fourth in the line of succession, Astrid was born with no right to the throne due to her gender. It was also expected that her uncle King Baudouin would have children leaving younger brother Albert's children, especially his daughter, to fade into the background of the royal tapestry. But things changed.

In 1962, Albert and Paola chose to name their baby daughter after his mother, Queen Astrid, a former Swedish princess who had died in a car accident on holiday when Albert was barely a toddler. She grew up sandwiched between her older brother Prince Philippe and younger brother Prince Laurent. She went to school in Brussels before enrolling for a year to study at Leiden University in The Netherlands, then on to the Institute of European Studies, and finally to the University of Michigan in the the United States. She returned to Belgium and soon announced her engagement to a scion of the former Imperial House of Austria. 

Archduke Lorenz of Austria-Este is a grandson of the last Emperor of Austria, Karl I, and is the head of his branch of the family. Seven and a half years older than Astrid, Lorenz has already established himself in a banking career with postings in several major European capitol. He was warmly welcomed into the Belgian royal family when the couple wed in 1984. Over the next 19 years, they had five children, each of whom carries princely Belgian titles and archducal Austria-Este ones. In birth order, they are Amedeo, Maria Laura, Joachim, Luisa Maria, and Laetitia Maria. Now that the older children are grown, they are also Astrid and Lorenz are also proud grandparents.

Embed from Getty Images

In 1991, the succession laws were changed not only to allow female inheritance but to adopt absolute primogeniture, allowing birth order to dictate position. This placed Astrid at the time behind her father Albert and her older brother Philippe but ahead of her younger brother Prince Laurent. When her uncle King Baudouin died in 1993 and her father became King, Astrid moved to number two, but she only held that position until Philippe starting having children and pushing her down the line.

Nevertheless, Astrid and Lorenz have been devoted to the nation and the monarchy, which led his father-in-law to make him a Prince of Belgium in 1995. Astrid's interests lie particularly in medical areas and landmines. She served for many years as the head of the Belgian Red Cross and was a Special Envoy of the Ottawa Treaty, traveling the world to encourage nations to sign on to the agreement to ban the use of anti-personnel landmines. She also is a colonel in the Belgian military's medical branch and serves on the board of the country's Paralympics committee.

Although a broken vertebra sidelined her in 2021, she soon returned to royal duties. Pleasantly and calmly representing king and country.


Meet the Very Stylish Royal Family of Belgium on Glamour
Princess Astrid on The Belgian Monarchy
Princess Astrid of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este on Unofficial Royalty
Princess Astrid of Belgium Fractures Vertebrae on Royal Central