Monday, January 11, 2021

Marie of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Marie and her daughter

Marie was the eldest of four children.  She had one sister, Jutta, and two brothers, Adolf Friedrich, and Karl Borwin.  Court life at Neustrelitz was dull and strict.  
 The two young duchesses "were in the hands of their governesses, who formed a screen between them and their parents."   Neither the Hereditary Grand Duke Adolf Friedrich nor his wife, Elisabeth, had an active role in their children's lives.  The only door out of the palace was to marry and marry well. 


The Duchess of York, a first cousin to Marie's father, described Marie as a "nice girl, but oh! so badly dressed, so very German which is scarcely a pretty fashion, " after meeting the young Duchess and her grandmother, the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.  

The Grand Duchess was the Duchess of York's maternal aunt, Augusta, born Princess Augusta of Cambridge, the second of three children of Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, and his wife, Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel.

The Mecklenburg-Strelitz children were raised with what the late James Pope-Hennessey called the "inflexibility of mind." Court life was very rigid, and "the result was so much stiffness in their surroundings" that Marie and her younger sister, Jutta, were "supervised but not looked after.  In 1897,  it was "brought to the attention" of the very incredulous Hereditary Grand Duchess Elisabeth that her elder daughter was in the final months of pregnancy.  Her duties as the wife of the heir to the grand duchy obviously did not include providing moral guidance and support to her daughters.   Marie and Jutta were totally unaware of the facts of life. 

One of the very "inflexible rules" at the Grand Ducal Court allowed for footmen, and not the maids, to carry the lights into all the bedrooms, including the young Duchesses' bedrooms.  Marie was very naive and probably knew nothing about sex or intimacy.   The footman responsible for taking advantage of Marie was a married man named Hecht.   After Marie's parents learned what had happened, Hecht was dismissed without receiving a reference.  He applied for another job in the area, but when his prospective employers wrote to the Hofmarschallernt for a reference, they were told that Hecht had been dismissed for stealing. 

A furious Hecht traveled to Berlin by train, found a lawyer, who happened to be a Social-Democrat, who eagerly released the story to the "eager anti-monarchical press."  The scandal was now news throughout the courts of Europe.
Marie's parents had no choice but to give into Hecht's blackmail.  He was "pensioned off," and told he must leave Strelitz.  Instead, he remained in the small town, hoping to gain further funds from Marie's family.

 Queen Victoria wrote Grand Duchess Augusta, that she had heard about Marie's situation from Empress Friedrich.  "I believe she has done much harm in writing to all the Courts."Marie's parents showed no concern nor care for her situation, and they kicked her out of the palace.

"It is two awful  & shameful & almost sinful to send poor Baby away.  I hear fm a reliable source that the family have forbidden that poor unhappy girl's name ever being mentioned ... I think it is too wicked," Queen Victoria wrote.

Young Marie found a champion in her grandmother, Augusta, who believed Marie was innocent.  She was convinced that Hecht had terrorized Marie.  Queen Victoria thought she may have been drugged by the footman.

After the baby was born -- Augusta made arrangements for the adoption -- Marie and her grandmother traveled to France.  Marie's English relations were astonished by how Marie was treated by her own family.  The Duchess of York made a very public visit to Augusta and Marie, and every day went out driving with Marie, which was seen to be "a very noble and protective gesture."   Mary also advised her young cousin to meet with Queen Victoria, who was staying at Cimiez, where the young girl blurted out her entire story to a very sympathetic queen.

The Prince of Wales also provided emotional support to Marie.
"He has been very kind about it,"  Mary wrote to her husband, George.   She added: "At. A is so grateful to her English family."

"I certainly think the English relations have behaved better & and are more sensible about it.  The parents are the worst & ought to be ashamed of themselves," George responded.


It was in France that the young, impressionable Duchess met Georges Jametel.
 According to the Marquise de Fontenoy, Count Jametel was " a good looking man but of plebeian extraction."  His father ran a pharmacy "before making a large fortune by the discovery and exploitation of some patent medicine." He managed in "some way to attach himself to the train of Infanta Eulalia," who was very much like her mother, Queen Isabel, and "has the mania for picking up and admitting to her intimacy all sorts of strange people without regard to their status and antecedents, providing they are amusing and presentable."

By all accounts, he was amusing and presentable, as he soon was welcomed by Eulalia into her bed. She also introduced the count to the young Marie, then living under an assumed name at a "seaside resort with a duenna." The Marquise de Fontenoy, always one to rather stretch the story, wrote that the unfortunate young duchess had allowed herself to be compromised "by a foolish indiscretion in which an unscrupulous domestic," who later tried to blackmail the duchess and her family. Marie found herself pregnant, and in 1898, gave birth to a daughter. Her grandmother, the Dowager Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, made arrangements for the child to be adopted.

The "scandal made an immense noise," and Marie couldn't remain in Germany.

A royal marriage was also "out of the question." Her family tried to arrange a match with her second cousin, Prince Francis of Teck, but the arrangements fell through. So when Jametel "made an offer for her hand," and managed to win Marie's affections, her family in Germany and in England, after some hesitation, was "eventually countenanced."

Infanta Eulalia was certainly aware of Marie's situation, and she "manifested a good deal of sympathy for her, and knowing the "social aspirations" of her lover and his "craze for association with everything pertaining to royalty," encouraged the marriage.

Jametel was "enchanted with the idea" of becoming the son-in-law of a reigning Grand Duke. With the scandal and the birth of her child  Marie became "exceedingly unhappy and broken-spirited, " and she knew that given the scandal "in which her name had become involved would be beyond her reach." She and her parents believed that this marriage was Marie's only option.

Marie and Jutta

On June 1, 1899, the Court Circular published: "The betrothal is announced of the Duchess Marie, elder daughter of the Hereditary Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, to Count Charles Francey von Jametel [sic].  The marriage is expected to take place in four weeks."

The wedding of Duchess Victoria Marie Augusta Louise Caroline Leopoldine of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Count Georges Jametel was "solemnized quietly" at St. Elizabeth's Roman Catholic Church in Richmond on June 22.   The Duchess and the Count then drove to the "parish church of Kew" where they were married according to the rites of the Church of England.  Duchess Marie was raised a Lutheran.  Among the guests at the latter ceremony included the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the Hereditary Grand Duke and Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz,  Princess Jutta and Prince Karl Borwin of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the Duchess of Anhalt-Dessau, the Duke of Cambridge, the Duke and Duchess of York,  Prince and Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, Prince and Princess Edward of Saxe-Weimar, Prince and Princess Adolphus of Teck, Princes Francis and Alexander George of Teck.

The wedding breakfast was given by the Duke of Cambridge at Cambridge Cottage, Kew.  Afterward, the newlyweds "left to spend their honeymoon on the Continent."   The bride "received numerous presents," including a "handsomely fitted dressing bag" from Queen Victoria and a "diamond aigrette for her hair" from the Princess of Wales.

Jametel soon managed to "offend the kind-hearted Alexandra" through "his letter published in the London Times by the present Archbishop of Westminster," saying that he had been 'forced against his will by the royal relatives' of his wife, to consent to the Anglican marriage at Kew, after having "pledged his word to the archbishop that no Protestant celebration" should follow the Roman Catholic service at Richmond.

The rector at Kew, who had officiated at the wedding declared that the Anglican wedding had been arranged beforehand, and "agreed to by the count," and the "full Anglican marriage service had taken place," with the count's consent.
Marie's English relatives, "who had consented for her sake to honor his marriage with their presence," and were angered by the Count's insinuation that they had "jockeyed him into a Protestant ceremony by deceit and against his will," decided to not "have anything more to do with him."

The Duke of Cambridge died in 1904.  Among his many bequests, he left a portrait of is his sister, Augusta, hanging in the drawing-room of his house, to his great-niece, Marie, Countess de Jametel.

After five years of marriage, Marie gave birth to a son, who was named after his father.  The married life of "Count Jametel and of his German wife has not been entirely free" from unpleasantness," according to a report by the Marquise de Fontenoy, who added that "all difficulties seem now to have been smoothed away, and the couple are living in apparent happiness" at Villa Marie at St. Germain-en-Laye, on the "outskirts of Paris.

The Marquise de Fontenoy noted that Jametel had not been received at his father-in-law's court nor at the courts on the continent or in Great Britain.
The announcement of Marie's intention to file for divorce was reported on January 31, 1908, in the New York Times and other newspapers, although the New York Times noted that there was no confirmation of the report.

The New York Times noted on February 8, 1908, that "another sensational divorce, involving a reigning German royal house, is soon to come before the courts"  when Countess Georges Jametel "will seek her freedom.
Marie and Georges had been living in "a rather humble fashion in the Faubourg St. Germain," on the interest "from the capital of about $200,000" which Marie's father had settled upon her after the wedding.
The grounds for the divorce suit against Jametel "have not been made public," the New York Times noted.

Marie was born on May 8, 1878, at Neustrelitz and died on October 14, 1948, from pneumonia in Oberkassel in Bonn.  On August 11, 1914, she married Prince Julius Ernst zur Lippe.  The couple had two children together, Princess Elisabeth Caroline, who was born in 1916, and Prince Ernst August (1917-1990.)

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Bea said...

This was a very interesting article on this woman. I was curious did Jametel really kill her brother, I have read some before about her and this was sometimes said to be a rumor.

Jason said...

Thank you for an excellent article about this german princess. I am fascinated by these families.

John said...

How interesting, thank you.

J said...

Great article, Marlene :)