Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Duchess of York - and her duties in her first two years of marriage

Princess May of Teck married Prince George, Duke of  York on July 6, 1893.   The Duke of York was second in line to the British throne, after his father, the Prince of Wales.

The Duke of Cambridge is in the same position as the Duke of York, who succeeded to the throne in 1910 as George V.

Thus, it might be interesting to see what the Duchess of York's role was during her first two years of marriage.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge jetted off earlier today for holiday in Mustique.  This would not have happened in 1893.  Jetting to the Caribbean did not exist.  There was no social media or 24 hour news. No radio, no TV.

The newly married Duke and Duchess of York did not travel abroad for their honeymoon. They spent their honeymoon at Sandringham at York Cottage, their new country home, a gift from the Prince of Wales.

Queen Victoria thought the choice of Sandringham was odd.  She wrote to her eldest daughter, Empress Friedrich: "The young people go to Sandringham to the Cottage after the Wedding wh. I regret & think rather unlucky & sad."

The newlyweds arrived at York Cottage late at night, exhausted, and their clothes covered in dust as they traveled in an open carriage from Wolferton station to York Cottage.

May was keen on the decoration of her new homes, but, apart from several pieces for the drawing room, which were being made in Edinburgh, York Cottage came furnished and decorated by the Duke of York, who had been assisted by the Prince of Wales and by his sister, Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife.

York Cottage did not afford the young couple a lot of privacy.  May's biographer, James Pope-Hennessy, described May as living "cheek-by jowl" with George's family.

The young couple  had thirteen days of privacy before the Prince and Princess of Wales, their younger daughters, Victoria and Maud, the King and Queen of Denmark and Prince Valdemar of Denmark descended on Sandringham House. For the next eight days, the Duke and Duchess of York were subject to frequent visits by the Princess of Wales and other members of the family. 

May kept her views to herself. Her two sisters-in-law, royal backstabbers, were sweet to her face, but would talk about her behind her back.  Princess Victoria described May as "deadly dull," which was far from the truth. May  was "a woman of super intelligence," well-read, and an intellectual.   Victoria and Maud were not.

The first weeks of the honeymoon were difficult for the bride and groom.  Prince George has been spoiled by his mother and sisters.  He was now married to a "highly sensitive and cultivated girl who did not care for naval manners."  May would never "indulge in flattery," but she would pretend to agree with her husband even if she didn't. 

It was during the honeymoon that George "fell deeply in love" with Mary, and he remained devoted to her throughout his life.

The honeymoon was abruptly altered when May had to go into mourning after receiving a letter from her mother, who told her that her Aunt Amelie, her father's sister, had died.

She would have to put her mourning aside when another letter arrived.  Queen Victoria expected the newlyweds to join her at Osborne in early August to help entertain George's first cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm II.

The elderly Queen was delighted with her grandson's new wife.  "I cannot say how pleased I am  & we  are all are with dear May. She is so unaffected & sensible  & so very distinguished & dignified in her manner."

Victoria was so enchanted with May that the younger woman found herself being thrust to the fore.  The Queen "deliberately made a fuss" over May.  Pope-Hennessy wrote that the Queen's action "implicitly indicating" to May what her new position meant.

They were home by the end of July as the Times noted that the Duke and Duchess of York got on a train from Victoria to Portsmouth, where they boarded the Alberta to sail to the Isle of Wight for a visit to the Duke's grandmother, Queen Victoria.

The newlyweds stayed with Grandmamma and other family members until August 16, when they returned to London with the Prince and Princess of Wales and Princess Victoria and Princess Maud.

The young couple spent a day or so in London before traveling to York House at Sandringham.  It was also announced that their wedding gifts would be on display at the Imperial Institute until September 2. 

By early September, the duke and duchess were at Balmoral, where they would stay for the rest of the month.

The Court Circular announced on September 5 that the duke and duchess "will arrive in Edinburgh on the evening of Monday, October 2 and will leave for the south on the afternoon of the following day."

On September 12, the Duke and Duchess were present when  Queen Victoria laid "the foundation stone at the new church at Crathie."  Two days later, the Duchess of York and Princess Beatrice "honored Mrs. Farquarharson with a visit."

During their time at Balmoral, the duchess drove out with the Queen, visited other family members, including Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife, and her family at Mar Lodge in Braemar.

The schedule for the couple's visit to Edinburgh was released on September 20.  The visit would include a drive down Princes Street to see the "illuminations."  At the Royal Hotel, they would receive a few wedding gifts, a visit to Council Chambers, where the Duke would receive the freedom of the city, and in the afternoon, there would be visits to the Royal Infirmary and attend the opening of a new wing at the Longmore Hospital for Incurables.

The Duke and Duchess of York's official visit to York was on October 5, where they would receive the freedom of the city, and the Duke opened the new free library.

The Duchess of York, along with the Dowager Duchess of Northumberland and the Marchioness of Londonderry and the Marchioness of Zetland, became the patronesses of a bazaar "to be held at Middlesborough" to raise funds for a seamen's church and institute.

On October 4, the couple opened  Ropner park in Stockton.  They were also the guests of the Marquess of Londonderry at his residence, Wynyard.

After the completion of their first official engagements in Yorkshire, the Duke and Duchess of York returned to their London home, York House, in St. James's Palace.   On October 9, the Duke laid the foundation stone for a new residence in Poplar, London, for the Seamen and Sailor Lads.  He was accompanied by the Duchess who "received purses in aid of the building fund."

The Duchess did take a brief holiday on October 10, when she traveled to Richmond Park, to visit her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Teck, who lived at White Lodge.  This may have been the first time that May had seen her parents since her wedding.  But she did not shirk her royal duties.  On October 13, she was driven from White Lodge to London to visit the Imperial Institute.

On October 16, the Duchess and her mother went into London, and spent "a few hours at York House," before returning to White Lodge.

By late October, the Duke and Duchess of York were back at York Cottage at Sandringham, where they were visited by the Prince of Wales.

The Duchess of York also agreed to become the patron of the Surrey Convalescent Home in Seaford, Sussex, and her husband was named as the charity's vice president.

At the end of October, it was back to White Lodge, where Mary visited with her parents.  The Duke of York arrived a few days later.  The Duke and Duchess of Teck hosted a shooting party in Richmond Park.   The Yorks returned to York Cottage on November 6, and visited the Prince and Princess of Wales, who were staying at Sandringham House.  They were present for the Prince of Wales's 52nd birthday held at Sandringham House.

They spent several weeks at Sandringham, and were back in London by mid-December before traveling to Windsor to visit Queen Victoria and to attend the memorial service at the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore "in memory of the late Prince Consort and the late Princess Alice."

The Duke and Duchess of York returned to York House, where they met an"influential delegation" from Wales.

The Prince of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of York attended a performance of Captain Swift at the Haymarket Theatre on December 19th.

On December 22, the Duke and Duchess returned to York Cottage to spend Christmas at Sandringham.  The Duchess was already pregnant with her first child.

On December 27, they received an invitation to visit Australia in 1894.

The young couple's first New Year's together was spent at York Cottage, where they were visited by the Duchess' brother, Prince Francis of Teck.

The visit to Australia was declined "with deep regret."

The Duchess added another patronage in mid-January when she consented to become the a "patroness and life member of the London Invernessshire Association.  Her husband, "who is also the Earl of Inverness, is already a patron and life member."

The Duchess did not return to York House until February 26.  There were no reports of a royal bump.  On February 28, the Duke and Duchess of York received the Countess of Derby, who presented the wedding gifts from  Canadian women.  The American ambassador and his wife called on the couple at York House on March 2.

The Duke and Duchess of York gave a dinner party at York House on March 7.  Several days later, they went to the theatre.  On March 22, they traveled to Sandringham to be with the Princess of Wales.

On April 2nd, they left Sandringham to visit the Earl and Countess of Coventry at Croom Court, Severn Stoke.  The Duchess then traveled to White Lodge.  The day later, the Duke of York carried out engagements in Worcester, and he regretted that the Duchess could not be with him.

During the final months of the Duchess' first pregnancy, she and husband went to the theater, sometimes accompanied by the Prince of Wales or the Duchess of Teck, and also hosted dinners at York House.  The Duchess did not carry out any official engagements, and her pregnancy was not announced in the Court Circular.

On April 25, the Duchess and her parents visited an exhibition of the Society of Lady Artists in Piccadilly.  The next day, the Duchess of York visited the Royal Botanic Society's Gardens in Regent's Park.

The Duke and Duchess of York were present at a "dramatic performance" at the Theatre Royal in Richmond in aid of the Kew Vicarage House Fund.  They stayed with the Duke and Duchess of Teck at White Lodge before traveling to Windsor to see the Queen, and then returned to London.

The Duchess of York was now in her final month of pregnancy. On May 15th, the Duchess traveled to White Lodge for a few days. It was also announced on that day that the Duke and Duchess would make a "prolonged visit" to the Duke and Duchess of Teck at White Lodge. The reason for that visit was not given.

They were the guests of honor at a dinner hosted by the Marquess of Londonderry at Londonderry House  in London, and then it was back to Windsor in mid-May.  The Duke opened the new foot bridge at Richmond, and was accompanied by his wife on the 20th.

It was back to London where the couple visited the horse show in Islington on the 22nd, and later in the evening, they joined the Prince and Princess of Wales and Princess Victoria and Princess Maud at the Royal Opera House, where they saw Cavalliera Rusticana.   A few days later, the Duke and Duchess saw a performance at the Garrick Theatre.  Before she began her "long visit" to White Lodge, the Duchess managed to squeeze in a few visits to art exhibits and the theatre.  On June 2, the Duke and Duchess were again at the Royal Opera House to see Faust.   They were accompanied by the Duke's parents and two sisters.

May's "prolonged visit" to her parents began on June 6.  Family members came down from London to visit, and May often went out for a drive, usually in the morning and again in the evening.  On June 19, the Duchess and her parents visited Syon House.  

On the 21st of June, the Court Circular noted that the Duchess of York did not go out for her "usual" afternoon drive but she did take a short walk with her husband in White Lodge's private gardens.  She also eschewed the drive on the following day, and remained at White Lodge with her mother. She "simply took a walk in the garden."

The Court Circular also noted on the 22nd that "a large number of personages assembled in the vicinity of White Lodge under the mistaken impression that the Queen was to pay a visit to the Duchess of York."

[Translation: the Duchess of York was about to have a baby.]

The Duchess of York gave birth to a son at White Lodge on June 24. The Duchess and her son "were doing well."

Queen Victoria visited the new parents and her new great-grandson on June 26.

Bulletins for the condition of the new mother and her son were issued every day.  The Court Circular also noted the visitors who came to call on the Duchess, and offer their congratulations.

The final bulletin was issued on July 3. "Her Royal Highness the Duchess of York is convalescent and infant Prince is quite well."

The Court Circular reported on July 9th that the baptism of the new prince would take place at White Lodge on July 16.  The Queen "will be present."  It was also noted that the Duchess "continues to make rapid progress," and "will be able to leave her room in a day or two."

The baptism of the future Edward VIII took place at White Lodge.  The infant prince was baptized by the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Queen Victoria traveled by special train from Windsor to Richmond, and she was accompanied by Tsarevich Nicholas of Russia, Prince and Princess Henry of Battenberg, Prince Alexander and Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg and Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine.

The Queen held her great grandson and gave him to the Archbishop for the baptism.  The baby was named Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patric David.

By July 22, the Duchess was well enough to take daily drives with her mother or husband.  The family also traveled to a photographer in Richmond where the new parents and grandparents had their photos taken with the new baby.

The six weeks that May spent at White Lodge turned out be a trying experience for the Duke of York.   Mary Adelaide was as difficult a mother-in-law as the Princess of Wales.  George unburdened himself to his wife in a letter, which she received during her trip to St. Moritz.  "....but I assure you I wouldn't go through the six weeks I spent at White Lodge again for anything she used to come in & disturb us & then her unpunctionality used to annoy me dreadfully."

The Duchess returned to York House on the 27th.  The next day, the Duchess was "churched" at the Chapel Royal in St. James's Palace.  The service was performed by the Subdean, and the duchess was accompanied by her husband.

The Duke of York left for Osborne on August 3, while his wife and her mother left Victoria Station for a month's long trip to St.Moritz, Switzerland.   The infant prince remained at White Lodge with his nurse.  My returned on the 30th.  Prince Edward was brought from White Lodge to York House after his mother's return.

With the baby firmly in the care of his nurse, the Duke and Duchess were able to resume a more public life, which include nights out at the theatre.  The Duchess's first official engagement since the birth of her child was on September 9, when she accompanied her husband to Birmingham, where he laid the foundation stone for the new General Hospital in St. Mary's Square.  The next day they traveled by train to Liverpool to carry out engagements.

And then it was back to Balmoral.  In early October, the couple paid an official visit to Leeds in Yorkshire.  On October 23, the couple were present for the opening of a museum at the castle in Norwich.

Most of the royal family were at Sandringham when Alexander III of Russia died, and the Duchess of York was one of the mourners at a memorial service for the late Emperor at the church at Sandringham.  She also spent some time with Lady Margaret Grosvenor, who was engaged to marry her brother, Prince Adolphus.

The late emperor was married to the Princess of Wales's sister, Dagmar, known as Marie Feodorovna.  The Prince and Princess of Wales left immediately for St. Petersburg to attend Alexander's funeral, which would be followed by the new emperor's wedding to Princess Alix.

George and May were at Sandringham when they received a message from the Prince of Wales, who asked his son to come to St. Petersburg.  George returned from Russia in the first week of December.  He traveled to Windsor to see his wife, who had been summoned to Windsor by the Queen by telegram.  "She hoped  I would join sisters at Windsor on 29th  & and that we would all stay there until Uncle  & you returned,"  May wrote to George.

During the fall of 1894,  the Duchess of York spent time at Sandringham, Windsor and at York House in London.  There was also a visit to Eaton Hall, the home of the Duke of Westminster, father of Lady Margaret.  Christmas and New Year's was spent at Sandringham.  They returned to York House in early February.  During the winter and early spring, the Duchess and her husband often attended the theater and began preparing for more official visits.  They visited the annual Hackney show in Islington and dined with Queen Victoria at Windsor.

In early March, the Duchess visited the Chelsea Hospital for Women where she distributed flowers to all the patients. She also became the hospital's patron.   Several days later, the duke and duchess were back in Islington for the Hunters's Improvement Society show.

On March 15, the couple spent about 90 minutes visiting St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington.   There were also visits to and electric light fitting shops, the Princess Mary Village homes in Addlestone, the Great Northern Central Hospital, and to the St. Martin High School for Girls, where the Duchess presented the prizes to the students.

The Duchess was also carrying out more engagements on her own.  In early May, the Duke and Duchess of York met the young Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who was visiting London with her mother, Queen Regent Emma, whose sister, was the Duchess of Albany.

On May 10, the duke and duchess left London for Sheffield to visit the Duke of Norfolk.  They also carried out engagements during an official visit to Sheffield.  Eight days later, the Duchess was handing out prizes on behalf of the Royal Society of the Prevention of the Cruelty to Animals at the Crystal Palace.

At the end of May, the Duchess visited the gardens of the Royal Botanic Society. The Duchess of York was a Fellow of the Society.  She also attended the opera with her aunt, the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and the Distressed Irish Ladies' work, which was held at Grosvenor House

The Duchess of York was always accompanied by her lady-in-waiting Lady Eva Greville.

There were also official dinners at Buckingham Palace and invitations to private homes.   By the summer of 1895, the Duchess of York was pregnant with her second child.

The Duchess and her husband loved the theater and the opera, and were often reported as having attended a performance.  In early June 1895, the Duchess brought her nearly year old son, Prince Edward, to spend the afternoon with the Duke and Duchess of Teck.  The family had lunch, and afterward, the Duchess and her son returned to London.

During the summer, there would be sales and bazaars to open.  The Duchess of York accepted new patronages.  In July, she acquired a second lady-in-waiting, Lady Mary Lygon.

One the same day as this announcement was made, the Duke and Duchess of York, who accompanied the Princess of Wales and the Princesses Victoria and Maud, attended the Empire of India exhibition at Earls Court.  They were joined by the Crown Prince of Denmark, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Greece, Prince Maximilian of Baden, Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife and Prince Adolphus of Teck.

They also received a "deputation" that morning at York House from the Victoria Hospital for Children, and in the evening, the Duke and Duchess attended the Gaiety Theatre where they saw a performance of The Shop Girl.

On July 3rd, the Duke and Duchess were among the many royals who attended the Garden Party at Clarence House, hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.   The Queen hosted a state ball at Buckingham Palace, where the duke and duchess were among the more prominent of royal guests.  

In late July, it was announced that the Duchess and her son would spend a few weeks at White Lodge.  The Duke soon joined them, and the entire family returned to York House on August 19, in time to have lunch with the Prince and Princess of Wales at Marlborough House. The Princess of Wales and her two daughters were leaving for Denmark that evening.  The Prince of Wales accompanied his son and daughter-in-law to a performance of The Passport at the Trafalgar Theatre

The Duke and Duchess of York traveled to Portsmouth on August 21 to attend the ceremony commemorating the launching of a new battleship, the Prince George,  The ship was named in honor of the Duke of York.

The christening ceremony was conducted by the Duchess, who broke a bottle of champagne on the ship's bow, named her, and wished her well.

In late August, the duke and duchess returned to Sandringham. The Duchess was about six months pregnant.  They were able to spend a few days at Sandringham before it was time for the annual month long visit to Balmoral.  En route home on October 7, the duke and duchess stopped for a visit to Dunrobin Castle in Invernessshire.  They received an official welcome at the train station.

The Duke said: "....It is a great satisfaction to me to have this opportunity of meeting the citizens of this ancient burgh, with which I have the honor of being connected as Earl of Inverness. I need hardly assure you that I take a lively interest in your welfare, and I sincerely wish you continued prosperity.  I shall not fail to convey to the Queen the loyal sentiments you express towards her Majesty, and on behalf of the Countess of Inverness and myself, I thank you for your good wishes."

When the Duke was a guest at a weekend shoot at the Norfolk estate of the Earl and Countess of Albemarle,  the Duchess traveled to White Lodge to spend the weekend with her parents.

There were very few engagements in November for the Duchess, but on December 5, she and her husband attended the ladies international cycling tournament at the Royal Aquarium, Westminster.

It was the Duchess' last public appearance in 1895.  She and her husband returned to York Cottage, on the Sandringham Estate, where on December 14 at 3 a.m., the Duchess of York was "happily delivered of a Prince at York Cottage, Sandringham."

The Duchess of York certainly carried out more engagements than the Duchess of Cambridge, and she gave birth to two sons within less than two years.  The Duchess of York was close to her mother, and often spent weekends with the Duchess of Teck at White Lodge.  The only time May traveled abroad was in August 1894 for a trip to Switzerland with her mother.  This trip occurred two months after the birth of her first child. 

The Duchess of York certainly did not spend a lot of time shopping as she was more likely to employ dressmakers.  After the tension-filled stay at White Lodge when David was born,  May chose to have her second child at White Lodge.  Princess Mary Adelaide was not present for this birth, and she did not invited to see her new grandson until the first week of January 1896.

The Duke and Duchess of York lived "in the shadow of the shadow of the Throne."  Their royal engagements calendar was not as filled as they would have liked, especially the Duke.  Their engagements were kept to "every few weeks," until the Boer War in 1899.  May was frustrated at times because she wanted to do more.  [May's first official visit to Europe was not made until the spring of 1896, when she and George traveled to Coburg and Copenhagen to attend the weddings of Princess Alexandra of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the Hereditary Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg and  Princess Louise of Denmark, eldest daughter of the Crown Prince, to Prince Friedrich of Schaumburg-Lippe.  The brides were the Duke of York's first cousins.]

Even though the duke and duchess were underutilized during the first years of their marriage, the number of engagements carried out by the Duchess of Cambridge pales by comparison.

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Royalty & Enneagram Type said...

Hello, Marlene,

Even Tom Sykes, usually a rose-glasses wearing Kate and William fan, agrees with you.


k said...

Queen Mary was a fabulous Royal. As I recall, even Pope-Henessey stated that she was not a good mother. Bertie's stutter was likely the result of a nanny's abuse. Of course, in those days, kids saw their parents at tea time for about an hour.

My conclusion is this: you can be a good member of The Firm OR you can be a good parent.

That said, Kate truly missed the mark on St. Pat's Day. And why did they put out such a lame excuse? There is only one acceptable reason for her breaking a 125 year tradition: severe illness.

If the Duke and Duchess are serious about keeping their public and private lives separate, they must particate in enough events to give the public a feeling of receiving value for money.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

K, first and foremost, Queen Alexandra did the first presentation in 1901 - 115 years, as the Irish Guards was formed in 1900. For another, did you see my post from several days ago - where I completely destroyed the 115 year tradition statement by showing that Queen Alexandrsa and Princess Mary often delegated (and 2 wars made things difficult as well).