Friday, January 20, 2023

Hanover vignettes

Marlene A. Eilers-Koenig collection

Princess Mary Ernestine Josephine Adolphine Theresa Elisabeth Alexandrine of Hannover.  Mary (1849-1904) was the younger daughter of King George V and Queen Marie of Hannover.  She never married, but she had the opportunity to marry Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught.

Prince Arthur spent January 1875 in Egypt, and when he was en route home, he stopped in Paris to call on King George V of Hannover.  Noble Frankland, the author of Witness of a Century, a biography of the Duke of Connaught, noted that the visit might be "taken as a normal courtesy" or the opportunity of an "opening gambit" in a "routine inspection of Princesses.

Princess Mary was on Queen Victoria's list of candidates for Arthur's wife.  He confided to his Governor, Maj General Sir Howard Elphinstone that he preferred Mary to all the other princesses he had seen.   But this was a complicated situation, as Queen Victoria wrote to Elphinstone, warning him that Arthur needed to proceed quietly.    The Prince of Wales favored Princess Thyra of Denmark, the younger sister of his wife, Alexandra.  Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia was pushing one of Prince Friedrich Karl's daughters.    Empress Augusta of Germany did not like either candidate. She favored one of the Queen of Sweden's relatives.  The  Queen of the Belgians was sympathetic to the Hannover match.

Queen Victoria was eager to obtain "as much intelligence as possible," but she would not allow herself to be influenced by others.  She wanted to obtain a daughter-in-law "who would be agreeable to herself and a wife to make Prince Arthur happy and domesticated."

It was decided that the Hanover match would be pursued further.  Prince Arthur would be sent in the autumn to observe German army maneuvers and then travel to Vienna to attend a royal wedding, where he would have the opportunity to meet various Princesses, including Mary.

Unfortunately, for Arthur, the most important day for the maneuvers was the same day as the wedding.   The Germans would be insulted if Arthur left early, but Victoria would have none of that.  She wrote to the German empress, and it was decided that Arthur would go to Berlin and then travel to Vienna. 
In Vienna, Arthur had the opportunity to meet a few Princesses, but the primary goal was to head to Gmunden to see Mary.   King George and his older daughter, Frederica, known as Lily, were away when Arthur arrived, but Queen Marie, Mary, and Crown Prince Ernst August were all present.  

Arthur wrote to his mother: "Mary is quite charming, so handsome so unaffected  & so unselfish. I feel quite sure you will like her."

As the weather was "lamentable," the couple had to remain in the drawing room.  It seemed to be going well.  Arthur confided to his mother that he had "a great deal to tell her."

But Arthur did not leave Austria with a fiancée.  He went back to London without the good news.   He returned to Paris in May 1876, where he dined several times with the King and Queen of Hannover and their family.  

Unfortunately for Arthur, he did not have an opportunity to talk with Mary.  He felt it would be better if she and her family came to London.  But when the family traveled to London at the end of May, "things progressed no further."

Queen Marie told Queen Victoria that she would welcome another visit to Gmunden by Prince Arthur, but she did not "believe that his wishes had any chance of fulfillment."

Victoria asked Queen Marie if there was any "insuperable objection to the match."  The Queen of Hanover said Mary did not "reciprocate" Arthur's feelings for her, and she and King George would not force her to marry Prince Arthur.
Elphinstone learned from Mary's former governess that Mary would not marry a man unless she liked him and that "their characters were suited."   Crown Prince Ernst August also offered a little nugget of information to Elphinstone.  Several years earlier, Mary "had a little affair with a man she could not marry."   Ernst August believed that this disappointment "could be cured by a little more time."
Mary and her family returned to Paris at the end of June.  Arthur was invited to Gmunden, which gave him hope, even though he was "depressed" that Mary had not yet accepted his proposal.  He wanted to believe that Mary's family was in support of the marriage.

Sir Henry Ponsonby did not think that the marriage would take place as he told his wife that Princess Mary "thought Prince Arthur a fool and pined for some more decided man."

Princess Mary's governess believed that if Mary had stayed for two more weeks in London, the engagement would have taken place.

Prince Arthur remained undeterred.  In early 1877, he traveled again to Paris to meet with  King George.  

The king mentioned to Arthur that he wanted a "guarantee that if Princess Mary married him" she would never have to meet Arthur's uncle, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, or the Crown Prince of Prussia, who was married to his eldest sister, Vicky.  Both men had fought against Austria and Hanover in the war of 1866.

The agreement was amended to "hardly ever" meeting, and with this agreement, the King wrote to his daughter asking her if she desired to marry Prince Arthur.

The response was not what Arthur wanted to hear.  Mary did not love him, and she would not marry him.
Queen Victoria was not pleased.  She described her Hanoverian cousins as "really they are too stupid," and she was convinced that 'some thing at the bottom wh (what) we don't know."

Victoria's first cousin, Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck, was said to be outraged by Princess Mary's decision.  She wondered why Arthur did not ask Lily to marry him, instead of that "selfish idiot?"

Throughout all of this, Prince Arthur remained a gentleman.  He wrote to his mother: "Poor Mary, she is so conscientious that I have no doubt she has passed an anxious time quite as much as I."

Victoria was not so forgiving.  She wondered why "the foolish girl" could not return Arthur's love.

Princess Mary never married. She died at the age of 54 in 1904.

The other loser in this matrimonial game of chess was Princess Thyra of Denmark, who was in love with Prince Arthur, but it was several years later that Arthur learned of Thyra's feelings for him.

In 1878, she married Mary's brother, Prince Ernst August.

Victoria continued to seek a bride for Arthur, and she was willing to consider a marriage with a daughter of the Duke of Westminster and two daughters of the Duke of Bedford. "Nothing but a good fortune & good looks & education wld of course counterbalance the difficulties of position.  The granddaughter of Lord Maynard was also considered, but Arthur was not going to be rushed into the marriage.

Although she was unsuccessful with Prince Friedrich Karl's two elder daughters,  Crown Princess Victoria now championed the youngest daughter, 17-year-old Luise Margarete.  To appease Vicky, Arthur was sent to Berlin.  He reassured his mother that he was not going "to be talked into an engagement with Prince Charles's daughter. I have no wish to be married at present & I quite agree with you that a Prussian princess would be inadvisable."

Prince Arthur fell for the young Princess Luise Margarete.  They were married on March 13, 1879, at St. George's Chapel, Windsor.

Marlene A. Eilers Koenig collection

This four generational photo may have been taken at the time of the baptism of Princess Marie Alexandra of Baden, who was born on August 1, 1902.
The photo shows Queen Marie of Hanover holding her great-granddaughter, with the v baby's grandmother, the Duchess of Cumberland standing behind her, and Princess Maximilian of Baden (Marie Louise) looking proudly at her adorable baby.

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