Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The death of Britain's oldest princess

December 5, 1916

A telegram from Neu Strelitz, Germany, to Amsterdam, announces the death of the Dowager Grand Duchess Augusta of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, according to a dispatch to the New York Times.

The late Dowager Grand Duchess was born a Princess of Great Britain and Ireland and Hanover.  She was the last surviving grandchild of George III.

She was 94 years old, and the oldest Princess in Europe. 

Princess Augusta was the second of three children of Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, and his wife, Princess Augusta of Hesse Cassel.  She was born at Hanover, where her father served as the Viceroy for his older brothers, George IV and William IV.

Augusta's younger sister, Mary Adelaide, married Duke Franz of Teck.  Their only daughter, is Queen Mary, the wife of George V.  The Queen consort had a very close relationship with her Aunt Augusta.

She was born at Schloss Monbrillant in Hannover on July 19, 1822.  Her full names were Augusta Caroline Charlotte Elizabeth Mary Sophia Louise. 
Augusta married her first cousin, Friedrich Wilhelm, Hereditary Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz on June 28, 1843, at Buckingham Palace. Her husband succeeded his father as Grand Duke on September 6, 1860.

The Grand Duchess had two sons, Friedrich Wilhelm, who died shortly after birth on January 13, 1845, and Adolphus Friedrich, who was born on July 22, 1848.  He succeeded his father in 1904 and died on June 11, 1914, less than two weeks before the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.

Grand Duchess Augusta received a pension from the civil list until September 1914, when the annuity was suspended by the British government.  She received $15,000 a year.  The annual annuity was stopped because she lived in "an enemy's country", even though the arrangement was made in 1843 as a part of her marriage contract. 

After her mother died in 1889,  Grand Duchess Augusta purchased a house in Buckingham Gate in London.  She visited London each year until her age made it too difficult for her to travel abroad.

As the oldest living member of the British royal family,  Augusta was an invaluable source of information on royal etiquette.  The Duke of Norfolk relied on her knowledge of the coronations of King William IV and Queen Adelaide and Queen Victoria. 

Augusta was only nine years old at the time of her Uncle William's Coronation, but she remembered many details including having kissed Queen Adelaide's hand.  She was sixteen when she attended Victoria's coronation.


Ron said...

Was Queen Mary also close to her Teck aunts, Claudine and Amelia?

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

They died in the early 1890s Claudine only went to England once. James Pope Hennessy's bio includes details about the Teck aunts. Mary did not have the same type of relationship that she had with Aunt Augusta

Matthew Plooster said...

Such a great post! I really enjoy the James Pope Hennessy bio of Mary as it really paints a vivid picture of the Grand Duchess's role in the life of Mary. Particularly, when George and Mary came to the throne followed by great unrest throughout Europe, her aunt became her strength and stay, the ever vigilant supporter and advisor. Even during the war when letters couldn't be directly exchanged between the two, the Queen of Sweden kept their connection so strong.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Thanks. I believe it was crown princess Margaret who was the mediator.

Rex said...


Was it Augusta's grand-daughter who became pregnant to one of the household staff? I recall reading that Queen Mary made a public show of support for this young girl by riding out in her carriage with her.
And, I think her parents disowned her. Am I right?

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

yes. Augusta was also supportive

JayV said...

I have always been fascinated by Princess Augusta of Cambridge after reading about her in the Pope-Hennessy biography of her niece. Cantankerous is a description of her personality, but I suspect she had an incorrigible streak, too. Thanks for this post and the others after, related to HRH.