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.