Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Duchess Marie talks to her daughter about sex

I am currently reading Dearest Missy, a wonderful compilation of letters between Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia and her eldest daughter, Marie, the future Queen Consort of Romania. 

Mother and daughter corresponded for most of their lives.  Duchess Marie's letters proved to be a lifeline for the young Marie, the wife of Prince Ferdinand, the heir to the Romanian throne.

Princess Marie, known as Missy, was very close to her sister, Victoria Melita, Ducky, who was married to their first cousin, Ernie, the Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine.

On October 4, 1896 Marie wrote to her daughter:  "....Ducky arrived here in great spirits and brought  her very sweet and well-behaved baby.  But naturally, she is terribly disappointed that she cannot have any amusements, no theatre even till after the funeral and they are just giving nice plays!    Happily it is freezing again, so there will be some skating today and this is at least a pleasure, with her sejour in Russia and is enjoying life fully.  She is too comic, for she discusses quite calmly the best time for her having again a baby and at what season of the year it would be less disagreeable. Fancy, the utter happiness off having a husband who is ganz damit einverstanden, as she says I really never have any children at all, as he is perfectly happy  like we are now.  Yes. Ducky, I said you would never find a man in a thousand, in ten thousand like this and you cannot appreciate enough or be grateful for it.  How different my whole life  would have been if I had been a happier youth and had not eternally to labour under maternal duties.  From 74 to 85 I had been 8 times in family way and my youth and enjoyment in life was over forever then!  I have very little to relax, as you can imagine how quiet our life is now."

Royal wives had few options regarding marital duties.  Abstinence was largely the only form of birth control.

Duchess Marie's comments about her daughter and son-in-law are telling, especially about Ernie's lack of interest in sex.  But this was not the first time that Marie wrote to Missy about Ernie's attitude toward sex.  She wrote "what luck" for Ducky that Ernie is so little sinnlich, that he doesn't mind at all, is even utterly contented with the present state of things."

What is also interesting is Marie's comment about being pregnant eight times.  She was the mother of one son, Prince Alfred, who was born in 1874, followed by three daughters, Marie, Ducky and Sandra, and then a stillborn son in 1879.  The youngest child, Beatrice, was born in 1885.

Five full term pregnancies and one stillbirth.  That leaves two previously unknown pregnancies, which were probably miscarriages and  not full term pregnancies.

The reason for the lack of entertainment was death of Prince Henry of Battenberg, the husband of Princess Beatrice, youngest daughter of Queen Victoria.  ganz damit einverstanden translates to wholly in agreement about it.

I will be reviewing Dearest Missy on the RBN - Royal Book News blog by the end of November.


tjmooney said...

Personally, I am amazed the Duchess of Edinburgh had sex ONCE let alone eight times.

Rex said...

In a bio of Queen Marie of Roumania it said that she had little or no advice about sexual matters from her mother prior to her marriage. It seems that young royal women were kept ignorant of such matters, and it was only after they were married women that sex could be discussed with them.

Ernest of Hesse was homosexual so he was "ganz damit einverstanden" for that reason.

Timooney - Marie of Russia was an attractive woman before her marriage. I doubt she experienced any sexual fulfilment with Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, who married her for her fabulous dowry and jewels.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Dear Rex, You do realize that I know these things. You do know that Ernie was bi-sexual, and not homosexual, that he fathered at least one natural child. The complete details are not known, but he did apparently play for both teams.

Alfred certainly would not have married Marie for her jewels. The couple first met at Jugenheim in 1868. Within 2 years, Alfred was pushing for a marriage, but it took some delicate negotiations. Victoria was never excited about the marriage. Merritt Abrash wrote a excellent scholarly article about the marriage. "A Curious Royal RomanceL The Queen's Son and the Tsar's daughter in the Slavonic and East European Review in 1969

Rex said...


I certainly realise that you know these things!

I was writing for your readers who may not have been familiar with this family.

I beg to differ with you about Alfred not marrying Marie for her jewels (and her fabulous dowry). Alfred was well known for his avarice by his family and was known for charging for introductions to his relatives including his brother, King Edward vii.

During his visit to Australia (where he survived an assassination attempt in Sydney) in 1868 it was said that he wore so many gold rings on his fingers and thumbs that his hands had a crablike appearance because he could not close them. He also caused a public scandal by consorting with a high class prostitute, who followed his ship to New Zealand.

Regarding Ernest of Hesse's sexuality, from my readings I would say that he most certainly played more for the homosexual team. He had dynastic obligations to father an heir and I'd say he would have, like many Victorian women, have "thought of England or Darmstadt during the procreative acts"!

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

I am sure a lot of my readers are also very aware of royal history. For another, there is nothing in the negotiations about Jewels or dowry. It was not a done deal, as Alexander and Marie looked for other husbands for Marie, but no one was suitable. After all, Marie was known in the UK as Her Royal & Imperial HIghness. She did come with jewels and an appanage but the jewels were of no interest to Alfred. He did not wear them. Ernie had relationship with women besides Ducky and Eleonore - and fathered at least one illegitimate child ...

Rex said...

It was some appanage, Marlene.

Gelardi's "From Splendour to Revolution" states that by 1869, Alfred made clear his intention of marrying the Grand Duchess. Some thought that the prince's interest in Marie Alexandrova stemmed mainly from the fact that she was immensely wealthy.

Alfred's secretary "maintained that his concern for money amounted to a disease."

Gelardi goes on to say that the bride's dowry was 1,000,000 roubles invested in Russia at 5% per annum and as a mark of the Emperor's peculiar affection the Duchess was granted an annual sum of 75,000 roubles for life.

The Emperor also assigned a special marriage portion of 1,000,000 to be dealt with in the same manner as the ordinary marriage portion.
and Marie was to retain her private capital of 600,000.

No wonder Alfred married her!