Monday, October 16, 2023

Alfons and Frederica: a forgotten romance

Baron Alfons von Pawel-Rammingen recently suffered a fracture of the skull in a carriage accident, and he is not expected to survive, writes the Marquise de Fontenoy.  His death, she says, " would mark the close of an almost forgotten royal romance," that began in the final years of the life of King Georg V of Hannover, and "reached a climax a couple years after the demise of this dethroned and exiled monarch, when his favorite daughter, the most beautiful princess of her day, bestowed her hand upon his faithful and devoted aide de camp and secretary,"  Baron Alfons von Pawel-Remmigen.

The Princess, who is now in her late 50s, "remains the stateliest and most impressive figure of old-world royalty."   Her "snow-white hair" lends "additional distinction to the classic outlines of the features, while years have not impaired the superb carriage nor the elasticity of her bearing."

As a young Princess of Hannover, Frederica received numerous offers of marriage "from royals and imperial personages, Austrian archdukes, Russian Grand Dukes, German sovereigns and princes of every description, the late King Alfonso of Spain, the Duke of Connaught, and his brothers, the late dukes of Coburg and Albany, all vainly endeavored to win her hand.

> Queen Victoria, who was very fond of her first cousin's daughter, wanted very much to see Frederica wed one of her sons. but Frederica declared that she would not marry while her father was still alive.

Georg V of Hannover became blind after a childhood accident.  Princess Frederica was devoted to her father and she "made it her special mission" to take care of him.   She "guided him through the rooms of his numerous palaces and when he walked abroad."  The princess was always by her father's side when he went for drives.  She comforted him "with advice and sympathy" following the loss of his kingdom and a "greater part of his fortune, both of which were taken by Prussia in 1866."

Frederica was her father's favorite, and Georg "showed but little affection for his other daughter, Marie, for his son, the duke of Cumberland, or even for his wife," Queen Marie.   All three were said to be resentful toward Frederica.

Two years after her father's death, Frederica, a "great favorite in Vienna, especially with the emperor and empress," was at Windsor when she announced that she would marry Baron von Pawel-Rammingen, "whose principal merit in her eyes and title to her affection, was the devotion he had shown to her father."

Baron Alfons was very handsome, some years older than the princess, and did not have a large fortune.  He belonged to the "lowest rank but one of the nobility.  He had never been a favorite of Queen Marie or her son and younger daughter, Marie.   Thus, it was only natural that they "should strongly object to the match."

Frederica's brother, the Duke of Cumberland,  stated publicly that if Frederica disobeyed him and married the baron, he would stop her allowance "from the family fortune to which she was entitled by her father's will and by the statutes of the house of Hanover.

It was then that Queen Victoria stepped in.  She had a "soft place in her sympathetic heart," and came to Frederica's rescue.   She announced that if the Duke of Cumberland would not provide for her sister, she, as the head of the reigning house of Great Britain, of which Frederica is a member, would give her an allowance of $20,000 a year.   Victoria also gave the princess a residence at Hampton Court, "the major portion of its gardens and of the game preserves being reserved for her use."

Queen Victoria gave the bride away at the wedding at Windsor.   The Duke of Cumberland was furious and protested strongly, describing Victoria's "encouragement of disobedience" of him as head of the House of Hanover.   For many years, he "refrained from holding any intercourse with Windsor Castle."

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Eventually, King Edward VII and Emperor Alexander III of Russias, whose wives were sisters of the Duchess of Cumberland,  effected a reconciliation between the Duke and his sister.  He restored Frederica's allowance, and "turned over to her the back payments."  He also persuaded Queen Marie to forgive Frederica, but neither the Duke nor his mother, would "consent to receive, recognize, or to hold any intercourse whatsoever with the baron."   Each summer, when Frederica would visit her brother and her mother at Gmunden in Austria, she would leave her husband at home.

This has given the impression that the Princess "did not find in her marriage quite all the happiness which she had anticipated."  Perhaps she had time to consider all the sacrifices she had made in order to marry, and marriage to the baron was not what she thought it would be.  The couple's only child died as an infant. 

Baron Alfons, "as a husband, assumed a different tone" to which he had been accustomed to as the King of Hannover's ADC.   No one would have been "quicker to resent this" was Princess Frederica, "high spirited and keenly conscious of her birth and rank as a member of one of the oldest royal houses of Europe."

Frederica has always been a favorite in England, but her husband "never succeeded in getting himself liked there."  There was never an "actual estrangement" between the couple, but they did not appear, in later years, to be "deeply attached" to each other. 

Some years ago, they gave up their residence in England and divided their time between a house in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, and a villa in Biarritz.

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