Thursday, December 6, 2012
Vicky as heiress apparent
Every time the subject of succession of the first born regardless of sex comes up in the United Kingdom, one of the newspapers feels it is important to include Queen Victoria and her children. Her eldest child, Princess Victoria, was born in November 1840, just nine months after the young Queen married the man of her dreams, Prince Albert.
After being told that the child was a girl, Victoria apparently said: "never mind, next time a boy." She was right about that. A year later, she gave birth to a son, who would succeed her as Edward VII.
Prince Albert adored his eldest child, and he had other plans for her Pussy -Princess Victoria's nursery name - would not be succeeding her mother. But she would make a marriage that would change the face of European politics, although the change was not what Prince Albert would have sought for Germany.
Vicky first met her future husband, Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, when he and his parents, Prince and Princess Wilhelm came to London to attend the Great Exhibition. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had invited the Prussians to come to England, not only to see the Great Exhibition, but also to consider Friedrich as a possible husband for Vicky. Four years later, when Princess Victoria, whose official title was Princess Royal, and Friedrich became engaged at Balmoral. The young prince was 24 years old, ten years Vicky's senior.
An official announcement of the couple's betrothal was made on May 19, 1857. The Prussians wanted the marriage to take place in Berlin. Queen Victoria put her foot down and vetoed a Berlin marriage. Prince Friedrich was marrying the eldest daughter of the Queen of the United Kingdom.
So the wedding took place at St. James's Palace on January 25, 1858. The 17-year-old Princess Victoria had become HRH Princess Friedrich of Prussia. Friedrich became the Crown Prince in 1861 when his father succeeded to the Prussian throne as King Wilhelm I.
The marriage between Vicky and Fritz was certainly an arranged marriage for political reasons. It was also a love match.
The marriage was designed to strengthen relations between the United Kingdom and a united Germany. But that's not what happened. Enter an evil fairy named Otto von Bismarck who had no desire for a politically liberal Germany or a Germany that was allied with Great Britain. Fritz and Vicky were largely isolated because of their views ... and dreams for a more liberal Germany.
When Fritz succeeded his father in March 1888, he was already dying from throat cancer. He reigned for 99 days, succumbing to the cancer on June 15, 1888. The new King of Prussia and German Emperor was Vicky and Fritz's eldest son, Wilhelm II.
Although Vicky and Fritz had hoped to imbue their son with their views, he eschewed the ideas of British democracy and liberalism, preferring a more authoritarian rule as taught by his German tutors.
We know how this story turned out.
As the author of the book, Queen Victoria's Descendants, I know a lot about the descendants. It has largely been my life's work. It has been rather silly - and yes -- frustrating when journalists write articles about what if Vicky had been heiress apparent and who would now be the British sovereign.
Following gender equality, the succession would have been Victoria-Wilhelm-Wilhelm-Wilhelm-Felicitas-Friederike von der Osten.
There is something wrong with this picture. If Vicky had been the heiress presumptive, her parents would not have arranged a marriage for her with the future king Prussia (and German Emperor.). It would not have happened.
A husband, perhaps a German prince, a younger son, would have been found for Princess Victoria. He would have come to England, as did Prince Albert, in order to be Victoria's consort.
My book (and my bookshelves) would have been very different. The German political situation might have been very different. No Kaiser Wilhelm II. No Prince Henry to marry his cousin Irene. No Princess Sophie to marry the Crown Prince of Greece.
Vicky and her mother would not have conspired to bring about a marriage between Princess Alexandra of Denmark and Bertie. As the second child whose place in the succession would drop a notch each time Vicky had a child, Bertie would have less value as a royal husband. Without the burden of being the heir, he may have chosen a less acceptable spouse, following his mother's first cousin, Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, who married in contravention of the Royal Marriage Act, and fathered a line of FitzGeorges Would Bertie have done the same as the father of FitzEdwards?
Princess Alexandra's father, Prince Christian, became king of Denmark is 1851. The family was not rich, but his children made several grand marriages. But would these marriages have taken place if Alexandra had not married Bertie. Her marriage put Denmark on the map for brides. Her younger sister, Dagmar, won the hand of Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich of Russia, heir to the throne, and following his death, she married his younger brother, the future Alexander III. (This was the precedence that led Princess May of Teck to marry the future King George V after the death of her first fiance, the Duke of Clarence.)
Would Alexander II have considered Dagmar as a bride for his eldest son if her older sister had not married the heir to the British throne? Alexander and his wife, Marie of Hesse and by Rhine, might have chosen a more traditional bride, a German princess, and their son might have grown up differently, less vacillating, less prepared for the throne. This son might not have fallen in love with Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine.
Alexander III's successor might have been able to bring about a positive change within Russia. His heir would not have been worried about a hemophiliac son. [Vicky was not a carrier so the main line would have remained free of the disease unless her heir -- if her first child was a son -- married his first cousin, Alix of Hesse and by Rhine.]
And what about Alexandra and Dagmar's younger brother, Prince Vilhelm? Would the British have supported him as their candidate for the position of King of Greece if Alexandra was married to someone other than Bertie?
The European wars of the mid and late 19th centuries would still have happened, but the results would have affected Queen Victoria's family in different ways. It is also entirely possible that the marriages of Queen Victoria's younger children would have remained the same.
Hanover would still have been sucked into the Prussian empire, sending the royal family into exile. The feud between the Duke of Cumberland and the Prussians ended when his son, Prince Ernst August married Princess Viktoria Luise, Kaiser Wilhelm II's only daughter.
Viktoria Luise would never have been born because her grandmother would not have married her grandfather.
Certainly, the Greek monarchy would have been very different. No George, no Sophie, nor Frederika and Paul. King Michael of Romania's mother would not have been Princess Helen of Greece and Denmark.
Juan Carlos of Spain might have married one of the Savoy princesses. Lady Diana Spencer might have had a different troubled marriage.
It is difficult to say or even assume that the Balkan wars or the first world war would not have happened if Vicky had not married Fritz. Lenin would still have fomented revolution, but the Russian emperor might have saved the Russian empire from falling to the abyss.
There are so many ifs about the succession of the first born if applied to Queen Victoria's children. Vicky's life would have been very different.
So would have mine as my book would have had a different set of characters, different family trees.
One thing is certain, however. The British sovereign would not be named Friederike von der Osten.