Saturday, August 2, 2008

Princess Alexandra of Cumberland weds

Only three days before the marriage of Princess Alexandra of Cumberland and the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Alexandra's aunt, Princess Mary of Hannover died at Gmunden on June 4, 1906.

It was decided that Alexandra and Friedrich Franz's marriage would not be postponed "but the illuminations and processions were canceled and the street decorations were removed."

Although Alexandra was officially styled HRH Princess Alexandra of Han0ver - her father, Ernst August, was the de jure king of Hanover, but he preferred to use his British title, Duke of Cumberland, as the family had lived in exile since 1866.
Ernst August was married to Princess Thyra of Denmark. Alexandra - named for Thyra's oldest sister, the Princess of Wales.

Alexandra's engagement to the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin took place at Gmunden, and was announced on December 20, 1903. The engagement was not a surprise, and the couple were able to celebrate their own forthcoming marriage, and Alexandra's parents' 25th wedding anniversary on the 21st.

The Duke of Teck, who was accompanied by his wife, Margaret, represented King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, at the Hanover royal wedding. Their Serene Highnesses were among guests at a private pre-wedding family dinner at Gmunden.

Although Alexandra had spent little time in the United Kingdom, she was a British princess, and, thus, was required to seek permission to marry. On March 7, 1904, King Edward VII "was pleased to declare His consent to a contract of matrimony between Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra Louise Maria Olga Elisabeth Therese Wera, born Princess of Great Britain and Ireland, Duchess of Brunswick and Luneburg, daughter of His Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, and His Royal Highness Prince Friedrich Franz IV, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, which consent His Majesty has caused to be signified under the Great Seal and to be entered in the Books of the Privy Council."
There was not a lot of media attention in England largely due to the fact that the Princess was not really known in the country. Her older sister, Marie Louise, faced the same situation in 1900 when she married Prince Max of Baden. As a British princess, she was required to seek permission - and it was granted - but the wedding was not a major news event in London.

But was Friedrich Franz a second suitor for Alexandra? In 1903, there were rumors in Denmark and in Germany that Kaiser Wilhelm II wanted Alexandra for his eldest son, Crown Prince Wilhelm. It was suggested that a proposed marriage was going to be discussed when the Kaiser made an official visit to Copenhagen. The Duke of Cumberland, understandably still resentful because of Prussian aggrandizement toward Hanover, left Copenhagen before Wilhelm arrived. The Kaiser considered the duke's departure to be a personal affront, and nothing further was said. According to one German newspaper, "the duchess (of Cumberland) favored an alliance with the Imperial family and tried to win the duke's support, therefore, but without success because a deputation from Hanover opposed a marriage with the Prussian royal family."

The Los Angeles Times' correspondent noted that Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria was working behind the scenes to arrange a reconciliation between the Hanover and Prussian royal houses by encouraging a marriage between Alexandra and Crown Prince Wilhelm. It certainly would have been an arranged marriage because Alexandra and Wilhelm had "never met each other."
The princess was described as a "tall, pleasant-looking girl, but not particularly beautiful. She is an enthusiastic yachtswoman and sails her own boat over the waters of the treacherous Gmunden Lake. She has been very much at the Austrian court, where the Cumberlands take precedence over everyone and are treated as a reigning family."

In an editorial in the New York Times in June 10, 1903, the newspaper commented that Alexandra's marriage would have given satisfaction to her late grandmother, Queen Marie of Hanover, who held a great resentment toward the treatment that her husband and her son received from Otto von Bismarck. She would have been delighted that her granddaughter "disdained an imperial throne which was offered with the drawback of an alliance with the hated Hohenzollerns."

Alexandra now had the chance for happiness with the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, but "no happiness could have been hers if she had taken the glittering bait and married the imperial Crown Prince. It would have been as cold-blooded a marriage for State reasons as was the wedding of the present Emperor.
"But unless appearances and rumors are wrong, Alexandra is not the woman to submit meekly to domestic tyranny or stand indifference without a struggle to assert herself."
I am not convinced that the former Princess Thyra of Denmark would have encouraged a marriage between her daughter and the future German emperor. She, too, resented the Prussian royal family due to Denmark's loss of Schleswig-Holstein.

(In June 1905, Crown Prince Wilhelm married Princess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who was the younger sister of Grand Duke Friedrich Franz.)

So how did Alexandra meet the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin? Family connections, of course. The Grand Duke's older sister, Alexandrine, was married to Prince Christian of Denmark, second in line to the Danish throne. Prince Christian was Thyra's nephew.

It is interesting to note that Alexandra's first cousins included the future King George V, King Constantine of the Hellenes and Tsar Nicholas II, although she probably had less contact with due to age differences. All three of her cousins were approaching adulthood when Alexandra was born.

The wedding was considered a grand affair because it united the houses of Hanover and Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Alexandra was, after all, the daughter of a king -- in exile -- as well as the granddaughter of King Christian IX of Denmark.
Princess Cecilie noted in her memoirs that when she and her husband arrived in Gmunden for the wedding "we found the whole family there in the deepest grief. Aunt Mary had died quite suddenly from appendicitis. As some of the wedding gifts had already arrived, it was decided not to postpone the ceremony, in spite of the great sorrow." It would have been a mournful time, preparing for Mary's funeral - and trying also to celebrate the joy of Alexandra and Friedrich Franz's wedding. Cecilie wrote that "the day of the ceremony itself passed in solemn mood without gaiety."

Not an auspicious start for a newly married couple.

The Grand Duke and his new Grand Duchess made their entry into Schwerin in early July, and they were greeted by residents and royal guests alike. One of the large number of royal guests including Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, who was representing his father, the Kaiser, and who presented the newlyweds with his parents' wedding gift - a china service made at the royal porcelain factory in Berlin. It was on this day that the young Cecilie met her future husband, who, if things had been different, might have married Alexandra Cumberland.

The British-born Princess Daisy of Pless was a close friend of the Grand Duke's mother, Anastasia, who was born a Russian Grand Duchess. Daisy and Anastasia were visiting the latter's family in Mecklenburg -- the Grand Duchess hated Mecklenburg and preferred to live in France. They spent an afternoon with the young Grand Duke and Grand Duchess. Princess Daisy noted that Alexandra "is a pretty thing, but stupid," and her husband "nice and intelligent ... rather stiff in manner and so is not popular in his country."

Franz Friedrich and Alexandra reigned as grand ducal sovereigns until November 1918. The Grand Duchess died in 1963, some weeks after the British government planned a secret operation, which was made public more than 40 years later, to rescue Alexandra and other German royals because of their British connections. This plan had been prepared in case of a Soviet invasion of West Germany. Alexandra, whose ties to the United Kingdom were largely based on genealogy, was a British princess.


Cabri said...

Interesting article Marlene!

One can properly safely say that Princess Alexandra escaped an unhappy marriage as the German Crown Prince Wilhelm (another Wilhlem) was not a devoted husband and his marriage was with her sister-in-law Cecilie was pretty unhappy.

There were indeed many attempts to bring about a reconciliation between Prussia and Hannover. 8 years later, on 24 May 1913 the Emperor's only daughter Viktoria Luise married Alexandra's younger brother Ernst Augustwho became reigning Duke of Braunschweig 1913-1918.

Alexandra's mother and aunts (Alexandra of England and Maria Feodorovna of Russia) were very, very anti-Prussian. Maybe 1905 was still to early...

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

and you will find my article about Viktoria Luise's wedding further down!

Anonymous said...

speaking about alfred,duke of edinburgh and saxa coburg gotha : marlene,please can you post the obituary of his granddaughter, princess elizabeth of romania (1894-1956),queen of greece,which appeared in the times,on 16th of november 1956?I know she died at cannes and I'd like to know much about her life there (where she resided there)and about how she died.I only know frim that period that she had a youger lover,marc favrat.thank you very much !

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

I cannot post the full text of the obituary for Queen Elisabeta due to copyright restrictions. The Times owns the text. John Wimbles wrote a series of articles (4 parts) on Elisabetha, which was published in Royalty Digest in 2003. This magazine is not available electronically. The final article covers Elisabeta's life in exile - and how she met Favrat, and how she adopted him, etc.

Anonymous said...

Marlene : how did she met marc favrat ? where did she live in cannes ?