Friday, June 18, 2021

Frederica of Hanover: A Passionate & Obstinate Princess

King Georg Vm Queen Marie, Crown Prince Ernst August,  Princess Friederike, and Princess Mary

The messenger arrived in London on the night of January 13, 1848,  having traveled four days from Hanover to bring word to Queen Victoria that the wife of her first cousin, the Crown Prince of Hanover, had given birth to her second child, a daughter.   The new princess, born on January 9,  was named Friederike Sophia Maria Henrietta Amelia Theresa, in honor of her paternal grandmother, Queen Friederike. She is better known by the English spelling of her name – Frederica – as she spent most of her life as a British, rather than a Hanoverian, princess.   

In 1714,  Georg Ludwig, Elector of Hanover, succeeded his kinswoman, Queen Anne, as King of Great Britain.  The two countries were joined in a personal union (Hanover became a kingdom in 1814), with one sovereign on both thrones, but the two countries were never united.  This changed in 1837 when William IV died.   His niece, Victoria, succeeded to the British throne, but due to Salic law (males only) in Hanover, William’s brother, Prince Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, became King Ernst August of  Hanover.   

Ernst August, the fifth son of King George III and Queen Charlotte, accompanied by his wife, Frederica, and their only son, George, newly styled as  Crown Prince Georg, moved to Hanover.   Victoria’s accession to the British throne changed the dynamics of the succession, and the Hanoverians became a collateral branch in the line of succession.   In an attempt to keep the two thrones in the same line, Ernst August had hoped that his son would marry Queen Victoria.  It was not meant to be as she loved another first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and they were wed in February 1840.   Three years later Georg married Princess Marie of Saxe-Altenburg, eldest daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Altenburg.  Their first child, Ernst August, was born in September 1845, followed by Frederica, in 1848, and Marie, who was born in December 1849.

King Ernst August died on November 18, 1851, and his only son succeeded to the throne as   King Georg V of Hanover.  He also succeeded to his father’s British titles: Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale and Earl of Armagh.  

King George and his family returned to England for the baptism of Victoria and Albert's eighth child Prince Leopold, which took place on June 29, 1853, as the king was one of the young prince's godparents.   The King and Queen and their three young children arrived on the evening of June 17 at the Royal Dockyard at Woolwich from Ostend, Belgium.   It must have been exciting for the five-year-old Princess Frederica to travel by carriage to Ostend, where she and her family boarded a ship for the Channel crossing to England.

King Georg V

Queen Marie

The royal guests were welcomed at the dock by the king’s first cousin, the Duke of Cambridge.  Frederica and her older brother, Crown Prince Ernst August, got into the second carriage behind their parents and younger sister, Marie.    En route to London, the carriage procession stopped in Greenwich, where the royal party was met by the Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, and the Hereditary Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (Princess Augusta of Cambridge.)   

The carriage procession arrived at Hanover Legation at Grosvenor Place at 7:00 p.m.   King Georg and Queen Marie “retired for a few moments” before getting into another carriage to visit the Queen and Prince Albert.  The British sovereign and her husband had already received word of the Hanoverians’ arrival, and were already on the road toward the Legation, “hastening to their illustrious relatives.”

Victoria and Albert spent about thirty minutes with the king and queen at the Legation.  The Times does not record if King Georg introduced his three children to Victoria.   It was already late in the evening, and the three young royal children were more likely having baths and being put to bed.

Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, then only 19, wrote  in her diary of the various meetings with the “Hanoverians.”  On June 24, Princess Mary Adelaide accompanied Queen Marie and her children to the Zoological Gardens.  The following day a special dinner and entertainment were held at Gloucester House in honor of the Hanoverian children, whose playmates included several of Victoria’s children and Hereditary Prince Adolphus of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the son of Princess Augusta of Cambridge, who was six months younger than Princess Frederica.     

On June 25, the king and queen and their children visited the Parliament and Westminster Abbey before returning to the Legation, where the King received the Duke of Nemours and the Duke of Cambridge

The baptism took place on June 28 at the chapel in Buckingham Palace.  When the Archbishop of Canterbury asked for the names of the infant prince, King Georg announced in a “clear, sonorous voice,” Leopold George Duncan Albert.  The other godparents were Princess Mary Adelaide, the Princess of Prussia, and Prince Ernst of Hohenlohe-Langenburg.   The Hanover children were not present at the baptism, but they and their British and Mecklenburg cousins, “appeared before the banquet” and were presented to the guests.

After all the celebrations for the baptism and for dinners and balls in their honor, the King and Queen of Hanover and their children left for Hanover on July 4, returning to Woolwich to board a ship for Ostend.   More than twenty years would pass before Princess Frederica, determined to take control of her life, made the decision to move to England.

As the elder daughter of the King of Hanover, Frederica was not without suitors.  In April 1862, Queen Victoria wrote to her eldest daughter, Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia that she thought "the Hanoverian" would be a good match for her second son, Affie, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh.  When the possibility of such a marriage was broached again two years later, Victoria had changed her opinion of Princess Frederica.  In a letter to her daughter, Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, the queen wrote:   "Affie's sudden predilection for the Princess of H has startled me!  That I would fear to be a doubtful thing."

Vicky concurred:  "It was quite a surprise to see that Affie seemed struck with the elder Princess of Hanover - which he certainly did. Whether or not she would do for him I cannot presume to give an opinion upon.  She is said to be grown into a fine girl and to be very good-natured -but I have never heard more.  I should not think the impression could be very deep - the visit lasted so short a time, but he certainly seemed pleased with her."

Queen Victoria was concerned with “Affie’s affairs,” but “Hanover is out of the question on the score of health alone – and good Sir James has positively declared this.  Three generations of blindness and double relationships which, if you will reflect on, you will see there are – viz. the late Queen was a first cousin to the late King of H. and the present Queen is her great-niece – and Fritz of Strelitz (also blind) is the first cousin of George of H. I have said to Affie positively it cannot be.”

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[The late Queen was Princess Friederike (Frederica) of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a  niece of Queen Charlotte, consort of George III.  Frederica had married as her third husband, Prince Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, and they had one son, Prince George of Cumberland, born three days after his first cousin, Victoria.  He lost sight in one eye in 1828, following an accident, and became totally blind in 1833.   Fritz was Grand Duke Friedrich of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.  He was the nephew of Queen Frederica and married to Princess Augusta of Cambridge, a first cousin to King Georg of Hanover and Queen Victoria.   Fritz and Augusta were also first cousins, as their mothers were sisters.    Georg’s wife, Princess Marie of Saxe-Altenburg’s paternal grandmother, Charlotte, was the sister of Queen Frederica.   Queen Victoria wanted Prince Alfred to marry another Princess Marie of Saxe-Altenburg, whose father, Duke Georg, was Queen Marie of Hanover’s first cousin.  There is also a hint of irony here when one considers that one of Victoria’s sons was a hemophiliac, and two of her daughters carried the hemophiliac gene.  Victoria married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.]

Thus,  Frederica was “struck off the list” of candidates to marry Prince Alfred, although the Queen wrote to her daughter in June 1864: “He is still (I am sorry to say) leaning to Hanover.  However, I think reason will put it out of his head.”

In January 1866, Count Platen-Hallermund, representing Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck, arrived in Hanover to discuss a marriage between Princess Frederica and Prince Albrecht of Prussia.  But the marriage negotiations collapsed as the relationship between the Hanover Royal family and their Prussian cousins disintegrated rapidly after Prussia annexed Hanover, and King Georg V and his families were forced into exile.   

In August 1874, a German newspaper, the Magdeburg Gazette reported on a rumor that the Duke of Brunswick would marry Princess Frederica.   This seemed an unlikely arrangement as Duke Wilhelm, a grandson of Princess Augusta, sister of George III, who married the Duke of Brunswick, was in his late 60s.  He had never shown interest in marriage, although he was the father of several illegitimate children.   

The Duke of Brunswick’s relationship with Prussia was strained as Prussia refused to recognize Frederica’s brother, Ernst August, as the Duke’s heir because of his claim to the Hanover throne.  

There was also talk of a Danish marriage, but nothing came of this rumor or the report that the Prince of Orange, the heir to the Dutch throne, wanted to marry Frederica.  (Alexander had also been linked to Frederica's future sister-in-law, Princess Thyra of Denmark. He died unmarried in 1884.)

  Known as Lily to her family, Frederica was said to be  “passionate and outspoken,” especially after her father lost his throne, as she defended her family’s honor, and then sought emancipation from her family.  King Georg  (and the majority of other German sovereigns) sided with Austria in its war against Prussia in 1866.  Prussia was victorious,  and King Wilhelm I of Prussia and Chancellor Otto von Bismarck exacted revenge on the King by annexing Hanover as a part of Prussia.  King Georg V was now without a throne. He and his son, Crown Prince Ernst August, headed for their home in Austria, while Queen Marie and the two princesses remained in Hanover for another year.  Frederica saw her father once during that period when they met at her maternal grandfather’s palace in Altenburg.

The Prussians put immense pressure on the distaff members of the Hanover royal family to leave Schloss Marienburg, and in the summer of 1867, they joined Georg and Ernst August in Austria.   Frederica’s “experiences of defeat and exile” would shape her political views and her immense distrust of Prussia and von Bismarck.    She also found her voice, making it clear that she would not succumb to a “potential political marriage” with Prince Umberto of Italy.  

The Hanoverian royal family settled in Austria as King Georg purchased homes at Gmunden, near Lake Traunsee, and Penzing, near Vienna.  The family also owned a home in Paris.   But there would be financial issues for the king and queen and their three children, as Prussia had sequestered the Guelph Fund, which was the family’s largest part of their income.   He had also moved some of his to England before the war.

Queen Victoria’s relationship with her Hanoverian cousins was fraught with tension, especially after Georg lost his throne.   The Duke of Cambridge wrote to Victoria about providing assistance to their Hanoverian cousins, and Victoria “claimed she would do anything in her power” to save her dynasty, but she did not want the king to be “allowed to come to England,” even for a visit, and there was no question that the exiled king and his family would be permitted to live in England.

In the spring of 1876, the elderly Duchess of Cambridge invited King Georg and his family to visit her in England.  Queen Victoria was furious with her aunt for extending the invitation without asking her first.  But the Duchess was not the first member of the British royal family to show compassion for the Hanoverians.   In March, Prince Leopold, Victoria's youngest son, sought a warmer climate by traveling  to Cannes, stopping  in Paris for a few days to visit his godfather, King Georg V.  The Hanoverian royal family was happy to welcome the young British prince, and Leopold enjoyed meeting the king's two daughters, especially the younger Princess Marie, "who reminded him of his sister, Louise."  The question of marriage was not discussed, although one can assume that the king would have been delighted to see one of his daughters marry Queen Victoria's youngest son.

King Georg and his family arrived in London on May 16, and shortly after their arrival, they called upon the Duchess of Cambridge at her residence at St. James’s Palace. They stayed at Claridge’s Hotel, spending time in London’s cultural sights, visiting family in London and in the country.  The Duke of Connaught invited them for tea at Buckingham Palace, and they had dinner at Marlborough House with the Prince and Princess of Wales.  Several of Queen Victoria’s children called upon King and Queen at Claridge’s, but the Queen herself was at Balmoral, thus avoiding meeting her cousin.   

Queen Marie, accompanied by her son and her youngest daughter, left England on June 5.  Georg and Frederica remained in England for several more weeks.  This was a time where Frederica could attend social events,  become more acquainted with her British cousins, and, perhaps, finally find a husband.  They were invited to the Dowager Duchess of Cleveland’s garden party at Osterley Park, near Brentford, and left Claridge’s in an open carriage.  There was also a shopping excursion for the 28-year-old princess, attended by Countess Bremer, in London.  One evening, Georg and Frederica were invited to dine with Lady Poulett at her Hanover Square home, where a “select company” was invited to meet the king and his daughter.    Princess Frederica accepted an invitation to join the Prince and Princess of Wales at Ascot.

On their final day (June 17) in London, the king and his daughter hosted a luncheon at Claridge's, where the guests included the Duke of Connaught, the Duke of Cambridge, Princess Mary Adelaide, and the Duke of Teck.  After the luncheon, the King and Princess Frederica said their goodbyes to Mr. and Mrs. Claridge and were driven to Victoria Station in one of the Queen's carriages to start their journey back to Paris.   

One of the king’s attendants was his secretary, the Coburg-born  Baron Alfons von Pawel-Rammingen.

The young princess enjoyed her visit to England as she got to know better her Cambridge cousins and her aunt (who described Frederica as her favorite niece), and she was included in numerous invitations with the British royal family.   She was also keeping a secret from her family as she was in love with her father’s secretary.

Prince Leopold was visiting Italy and France when the Hanoverians came to England.   He, too, was harboring a secret.  He had fallen in love with the "tall woman, stately, rather than beautiful" Princess Frederica.   It did not matter to Leopold that Frederica was five years his senior.   He confided his feelings about Lily to his sister, Alice, the Grand Duchess of Hesse and By Rhine.  Leopold wanted to marry her, but Frederica asserted that she had more pressing concerns that included the political and financial issues facing her family.  

Although Victoria had sided with Hanover and not with Prussia, she didn’t approve of “Georg V’s political efforts to restore the king of Hanover by insurrectionary means.”

Financial arrangements for the Hanover royal family were included in the peace treaty between Hanover and Prussia.  It was seen as a generous offer on the part of the Prussians, as Georg would receive the interest on his income on the condition that he left the “administration of the funds and the total of his remaining property to the Prussian state.”  The King accepted this offer, but he made a fatal mistake when he used some of the  money to “finance separatist opposition to Bismarck’s confederation.”   A very angry Bismarck chose to freeze all of Georg’s assets in Hanover, and he used the money to fight insurrection in Hanover until the royal family renounced their rights to the kingdom.

Their financial security was again shaken when King Georg V died suddenly at his home on the Rue de Presbourg in Paris on June 12, 1878.  He was buried in the Royal Vault at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.

Georg’s son, Ernst August, did not take the title king of Hanover, choosing instead to be styled by his British ducal title, Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale.  He did not renounce his claims to the Hanover throne, which was made clear in a letter he sent to the other European sovereigns announcing his father’s death. 

  Queen Victoria referred to Ernst August’s letter as “injudicious.”  She knew that Ernst August would not make a formal renunciation of his rights to the Hanover throne, and she believed that if he chose not to interfere with Prussian influence in Hanover, his fortune would be restored.   But the “ill-advised” (according to Queen Victoria) Duke of Cumberland did not hold back with his vitriolic statement about Prussia.   

In March, the Prince of Wales asked his elder sister, Victoria, and her husband, Crown Prince Friedrich of Prussia, to visit Frederica, who wanted to broach the matter of her family’s money.   Although Queen Marie and her younger daughter were content with their lives at Gmunden, Princess Frederica was determined to live her own life.   Her brother pressured her to accept the Prussian annuity, as he felt she should also contribute to the family’s finances.  Frederica was defiant, standing up to the Prussians in defense of her family.  Disappointed by her brother and mother, Frederica felt too confined by life in exile in Austria, especially after her brother’s marriage to Princess Thyra of Denmark in December 1878. 

Princess Thyra was the youngest daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark, and whose sisters, Alexandra and Dagmar were married respectively, to the heirs of the British and Russian thrones.  

Suffice to say that the Duke of Cumberland and Queen Marie were overbearing in their treatment of Frederica.  Princess Marie may have been content to remain at her mother’s beck and call, as she had no suitors.  Still keeping her love for Alfons close to her heart, Frederica began to consider her options to leave Gmunden.  She also had to face the wrath of the Prussians as she would not agree to new financial terms proposed by the Prussians.

Part II

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