Thursday, July 28, 2022

Princess Mary of Hanover

These photos of Princess Mary of Hanover (1849-1904) probably provide a clue to what her life was like. The youngest child of King Georg V and Queen Marie of Hannover, Mary shared many similarities with other youngest daughters, including her second cousin, Victoria of Wales. Marriages are discussed but never agreed upon. Eventually, the suitors drop away, and the youngest daughter is largely confined as her mother's helpmate, a glorified servant, always at the mother's beck and call. 

Such was the case of Princess Mary of Hanover. In 1866, the Hanover royal family was forced into exile after Bismarck annexed Hanover into the kingdom of Prussia. This action was largely due to the King of Hanover's decision to side with the Austrians in the Austro-Prussian war.

The family moved to their home in Gmunden, Austria, but there were also visits to Britain, as the Hanovers were also British princes and princesses. Although von Bismarck controlled the bulk of the Hanover fortune - the Guelph fund - the Hanovers were not short of cash due to investments outside the country.

In 1875, Prince Arthur, Queen Victoria's favorite son, was visiting a selection of German courts, where there might be an eligible princess. He traveled onto Gmunden, where he would stay to meet the Hanovers. King Georg and his elder daughter, Frederica, known as Lily, were away, but Queen Marie, Crown Prince Ernst August, and Princess Mary were at home."Mary is quite charming, so handsome and unaffected & so unselfish, I feel quite sure that you would like her," Prince Arthur wrote to his mother. This letter was unlike earlier letters to his mother. Arthur appeared to be smitten. His ADC wrote to Victoria that he thought that Mary resembled Arthur's sister, Louise. Queen Victoria believed that Arthur's visit would lead to "decided results."

Unfortunately, for Prince Arthur, the desired results did not happen. Princess Mary had been on the top of Victoria's list. Several months earlier, Arthur had dined with the king and queen of Hanover in Paris, but pursuing Mary might prove to be a delicate operation.

In May 1875, Arthur returned to Paris to meet again with the Hanovers and Princess Mary although he found he was unable to spend time with her. One evening, at dinner with the Duke de Monpensier, Prince Arthur struck up a conversation with the duke's attractive daughter, Christina, who sat opposite Princess Mary, who had remained silent throughout the meal. Yet Victoria was assured that Arthur still preferred the Hanoverian princess.

The Hanovers came to London at the end of May. A perfect time to announce an engagement. But when the family was ready to return to Gmunden, Queen Marie confided to Victoria that Princess Mary did not want to marry Arthur. Victoria was "grieved" by the announcement, and could not believe that Mary did not want to marry Arthur.

While Arthur's ADC tried to find out why by contacting members of the Hanoverian household, Victoria wrote to Queen Marie, who responded that Mary could not reciprocate Arthur's feelings. The king and queen would respect their daughter's wishes. But as it turned out there was more to the story. Mary would not marry a man unless they were well suited. Mary's brother, Ernst August, let it be known that several years earlier Mary had an affair with a man she could not marry, and she still needed time to get over it. There were various views about why the relationship did not take off, but a family confidante of the Hanovers believed that if Mary had remained in London for one more week, the engagement would have been announced. But Arthur was not about to give up.

In early 1877, he met once more with the King of Hanover, hoping for a positive response. King Georg told him that Arthur would have to guarantee that if Mary married him, she would not have any contact with his uncle the Duke of Saxe-Coburg, or with his brother-in-law, Crown Prince Friedrich of Germany. The agreement was made to "hardly ever," and Georg wrote to Mary, telling her of this solution.

Mary responded, diplomatically, that as she did not love Arthur, she could not marry him. Queen Victoria could not understand why Mary would refuse such a great marriage. She called the Hanoverian royal family "really stupid."

Her cousin, Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck considered the rejection as an insult, and wished that Arthur had chosen Lily instead of "that selfish idiot."Arthur took a more relaxed attitude. He wrote to Victoria: "Poor Mary, she is so conscientious that I have no doubt she has passed a very anxious time quite as much as I."

Princess Mary never married. She remained with her mother (King Georg died in 1878) at Gmunden, where she died in 1904 at the age of fifty-four. The German court announced eight days of mourning for a princess whose hatred of the Prussians was well-known.

While Arthur was trying to court Mary, another princess hoped that he would pay attention to her. Princess Thyra of Denmark, youngest sister of the Princess of Wales, was very much in love with Arthur, although he did not learn of this until several years later. In 1878, Thyra married Mary's brother, Ernst August, who was styled as the Duke of Cumberland.

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Anonymous said...


Are there books about the Hannovers in this article?


Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Mary of Hanover did not do much to qualify for a biography. The family does get mentioned in Huset Glucksborg, the superb 2 vol book in Danish. I think there is a book in German about Georg V

Anonymous said...

Do you know maybe the book?

Anonymous said...

Do you know the title of this book you mentioned?

jason said...

d it seems that a generation later in the Hanoverians it happened again with Princess Olga.

Emerald said...

Questions will remain about Mary's reluctance to marry.