Friday, December 4, 2009

Princess Waldemar of Denmark dead

Both images from the Marlene A. Eilers Koenig collection

December 4, 1909

Princess Waldemar of Denmark died today at her home, Bernstoff, in Copenhagen. She had suffered from influenza and had taken a critical turn on Wednesday. Her husband, Prince Waldemar, and their three sons are currently in India.

Princess Waldemar was born Princess Marie Amelie Francoise Helene d'Orleans, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Chartres. She was born in Ham, England, on January 13, 1865. At the age of 20, she was betrothed to Prince Waldemar of Denmark, a younger son of King Christian IX of Denmark.

 The engagement took place on September 14, 1885, at the Castle of Fredensborg in Denmark. The celebration was attended by all the members of the Orleans family, the King and Queen of Denmark, the Emperor and Empress of Russia, the Tsarevitch, the Duke of Cumberland, who is married to Waldemar's sister, Thyra, and other European royals related to both houses.

Prince Waldemar and Princess Marie were married one month later in France. The civil marriage took place in Paris on October 20, and a Roman Catholic wedding was performed two days later at the Chateau d'Eu. The ceremony took place in the castle's private chapel and was attended by Queen Louise of Denmark, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Denmark, the Prince and Princess of Wales and their three daughters, Louise, Victoria, and Maud, the Prince de Joinville, the Duc d'Aumale, the late Duke of Decazes, and the Duke and Duchess of Chartres.

Although some had predicted that the new Princess Waldemar would become "one of the most popular women of the Court," as Danish newspapers had been describing her with typical Court stock phrases: "charming, fascinating, majestic, beautiful." But here was the newly married princess "with her half-closed eyes, receding chin, and a pathetic expression." She did have a "lithe and slender figure and a fresh complexion," but there was little else "the grumbling inhabitants of the Danish capital" could say in praise. She certainly did not have the "classical regularity" of her sister-in-law, the Princess of Wales.

The princess did not convert to the Lutheran faith. The Vatican granted a dispensation to allow that marriage, whereby sons would be raised Lutheran, and daughters be raised Catholic.

After their honeymoon, the couple moved into the Yellow Palace in Copenhagen, which had been the residence of Waldemar's father, King Christian IX, until he succeeded to the Danish throne in 1863. They eventually moved into Bernstorff, another royal residence in Copenhagen.

The princess "fascinated the Danish court with her charming character," but "it was only after her long list of eccentricities" that Queen Louise "became cold to her.

The Princess had an anchor tattooed on her arm after being told that this was a tradition for the wives of Danish soldiers. "I am a Danish sailor's wife, and I want to do just as the others do."

Queen Louise was horrified by what Marie had done, but Princess Waldemar "showed no compunction by displaying her tattooed arm at court functions when she appeared in evening dress," according to the New York Times' obituary.

She was also a favorite of Emperor Alexander III, who was married to Waldemar's sister, Dagmar. She had obtained important political documents that showed that "Prince Bismarck was carrying on negotiations with the anti-Russian party in Bulgaria and was working against the Czar." Marie turned these documents over to her brother-in-law.

It was never made clear how the Princess obtained the letters, but the contents "created a great sensation throughout Europe," and nearly caused a war between Russia and Germany, which was averted after the Czar was shown the "fraudulent character of the letters."

Marie caused a further scandal when she "publicly ridiculed" Queen Louise. She was confined to an asylum and then placed under the care of a doctor. Princess Waldemar "disobeyed the latter entirely," and fled to her family in France, where she remained for several years before she was persuaded to return to Denmark.

The Princess is survived by her husband, Prince Waldemar, and their five children, Prince Aage, Prince Axel, Prince Erik, Prince Viggo, and Princess Margrethe.

In 1895, the New York Times reprinted a profile of the Princess, which had been published in the Philadelphia Evening Tribune. Princess Waldemar's eccentricities were described as "unbearable." At the time, there were rumors that the princess was to be divorced from her husband, Prince Waldemar. Some of her eccentricities - and growing mental instability - were based on the frequent intermarriages among European royals. Marie's parents were first cousins. One of her brothers died insane, and like Marie, a "victim of the law of science." At the time of her wedding, Marie showed no signs of the "eccentricities that have by this time developed into undoubted insanity." She was a "bright, lively rosy-cheeked French girl of twenty, with a penchant for doing rather risque things, but perfectly sane," when she married Prince Waldemar.

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According to Prince Waldemar, Marie developed a morphine habit, which would have "brought her to her present condition," but "medical men of authority have declared her condition to be due to the close relationship of her parents."

She developed a "fervent passion for a sailor's life, and for the firemen of Copenhagen." Princess Waldemar loved to chase fire trucks.

The marriage with Prince Waldemar was arranged "before she met him," but the couple, it was said, fell in love at first sight.

One of the first scandals happened shortly after the marriage. Prince Waldemar was at sea, and Marie was involved in an "escape" with her husband's nephew, Prince Carl, who was the second son of the Crown Prince. Carl and Marie were of a similar age, and the two "formed a firm friendship." One afternoon, they "slipped away from the castle one cool Fall afternoon," and roamed around Copenhagen "wheresoever their fancy led them." They stayed out for more than five hours and never left word about their departure.

This led to more gossip, and "a tremendous scolding from Queen Louise." Prince Carl and his aunt spent the afternoon "shopping in all sorts of stores, drinking chocolate at a cheap cafe, and peeping through the doors of saloons and concert halls," having a "glorious time."

Queen Louise invited several young aristocratic women to a reception, so Marie could meet other young women her age, to form friendships with suitable noblewomen. But the result was disappointing. After every introduction of a countess or a baroness, Marie, seated next to Queen Louise," would give a wave of her hand, and say in French, "please move on." This sort of behavior did not endear Marie to her mother-in-law or to the Danes. At the time, Marie cared primarily for her husband, and then for Waldemar's fellow officers in the Danish Navy. The officers "idolized her."

It was during the winter of 1886 in Copenhagen, that Marie "made her first appearance among the heroes of the hose." A great fire had broken out, and Marie soon appeared on the scene. She "ran everywhere through the burning houses, often getting so near the dangerous places that the firemen had to warn her."

Princess Waldemar did not care, as she showed "the same reckless courage which she had always shown horseback. She asked the Chief of the Fire Department if she could wear the uniform, and he agreed. She was photographed wearing the uniform and helmet of the Fire Brigade, and copies of the photograph were presented to each firehouse in Copenhagen.

She also acquired an interest in riding locomotives. She would chat with the engineer, "covered with coal dust and choked with smoke, but smiling, charming, fascinating as ever."

It can be said that Princess Waldemar of Denmark suffered from a form of mental illness that was never properly treated. She wasn't maternal. She remained in France for several years after bolting from the care of her doctor. Her four children remained in Denmark, nor did she return to Copenhagen to attend the Crown Prince and Crown Princess' Silver wedding celebrations. Marie did not even send a present or a "message of congratulations." At the time -- in 1895 -- the breach between Marie and "the royal family of Denmark seemed final and irreparable."

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Was Marie troubled by something else? She didn't fit in with the Danish royal family, and her marriage was not a true love match. Her husband, Prince Waldemar, was bi-sexual and was involved in an intimate relationship with his nephew, Prince George of Greece, who was only ten years his junior. Prince Waldemar was the main witness at Prince George's marriage to Princess Marie Bonaparte in 1907. When George brought his pregnant wife to Bernstorff for his annual visit, it was left to Princess Waldemar to explain the deep intimacy between Waldemar and George to the younger Marie. After the end of the annual visit, George would break down in tears at leaving his beloved Waldemar, and Waldemar would become ill at the loss of his lover.

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Bea said...

Princess Waldemar sounds like a complex character. Though is it really true her husband and nephew were "lovers" and that she accepted the relationship. I know it was different times but even now this part of the story sounds strange. Bea

John said...

What a fascinating story. The princess sounds like a real character. Very unconventional interests for a woman of her day, but why not? I also liked firetrucks and trains!

Lynn said...

Thank you for this post. I have had so many different variations of this princess from my family. My grandmother polished silver in their palace and greatly admired her. I think I would have liked this gal!