Author Archives: eejm

Friedrich Franz III, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

by Scott Mehl

Friedrich Franz III, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

Grand Duke Friedrich Franz III (Friedrich Franz Paul Nikolaus Ernst Heinrich) was born on March 19, 1851 at Ludwigslust Palace, the eldest son of Grand Duke Friedrich Franz II and his first wife, Princess Augusta of Reuss-Köstritz. He had ten siblings from his father’s three marriages:

A rather sickly child, Friedrich Franz suffered from severe bronchial asthma and a weak heart which would plague him his entire life. Following several years of private education at home, he attended the Vitzhumsche High School in Dresden. He later studied law at the University of Bonn. Despite his health, Friedrich Franz also undertook a military career. He was first created an officer in Mecklenburg’s Grenadier Guards by his father in 1863, following by an appointment in the Prussian army. At the onset of the Franco-Prussian War, he served in the headquarters of King Wilhelm I of Prussia, and later represented Mecklenburg-Schwerin at the Imperial Proclamation in Versailles in 1871. Due to his health, he was forced to step down from his military role in the beginning of 1877.

Friedrich Franz and his fiancé, Anastasia Mikhailovna, 1878

On May 4, 1878, it was announced that Friedrich Franz was engaged to Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia, the daughter of Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaevich of Russia and Princess Cecilie of Baden. Friedrich Franz and Anastasia were second cousins, both great-grandchildren of King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia. They married at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg on January 24, 1879, in both Orthodox and Protestant services. The couple settled at the Marienpalais in Schwerin (link in German), and had three children:

Friedrich Franz III’s wife and children, c1895

Friedrich Franz became Grand Duke upon his father’s death on April 15, 1883. At the time, he and his family were living in the south of France, taking advantage of the milder climate. Unable to return to Schwerin for his father’s funeral, he entrusted his ministers with the management of the Grand Duchy. He eventually returned and took up residence at Schwerin Palace, but the climate was not good for his health. An agreement was reached, by which he would reside in Schwerin for five months of the year, and was free to live elsewhere the rest of the year provided that any further children would be born in Schwerin. Friedrich Franz III and his family spent the summers at their home in Gelbensande, a hunting lodge built in 1886 near Rostock and the Baltic Sea. They then moved on to Cannes from November until May, living at Villa Wenden which he had built there. They also spent time in Palermo and in Baden-Baden.

Villa Wenden in Cannes, France

With his health rapidly deteriorating in the Spring of 1897, the Grand Duke’s family gathered at Villa Wenden, anticipating the worst. On the evening of April 10, 1897, he was found unconscious at the bottom of the villa’s 25-foot retaining wall. He was taken inside, but soon died. Officially, the cause of death was an accident. Likely gasping for air, he had gone out onto the balcony and fell accidentally. However, rumors quickly spread that he had committed suicide.

Interior of the Helena Pavlovna Mausoleum following the burial of Friedrich Franz III.

His remains were brought back to Mecklenburg where he lay in state in the church at Schwerin Castle. In accordance with his wishes, his funeral was held at the church in Ludwigslust, with the funeral procession led by the German Empress, Viktoria Auguste. Following the service, he was buried in the Helena Pavlovna Mausoleum on the grounds of Ludwigslust Palace.

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Wilhelm, Crown Prince of Germany

by Emily McMahon

Photo Credit – Wikipedia

The last German Crown Prince and Crown Prince of Prussia was born in Potsdam on May 6, 1882, a little over a year after the wedding of his parents, the future Wilhelm II, German Emperor and the former Augusta Victoria (Dona) of Schleswig-Holstein.  Christened Friedrich Wilhelm Victor August Ernst but known as Wilhelm, he was born during the reign of his great-grandfather Wilhelm I.

Wilhelm had five brothers and one sister:

Family of Wilhelm I, German Emperor; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

It was expected that Wilhelm would be called Fritz as it was a common nickname of Friedrich, also the name of both of his grandfathers. The fact that he was called Wilhelm instead did not go unnoticed by his maternal grandmother Empress Friedrich (born Victoria, Princess Royal) and great-grandmother Queen Victoria.  During his childhood, Wilhelm and his siblings were kept from Empress Friedrich, as both his parents disliked her.

Wilhelm attended school in Plön and later the University of Bonn. During his teen years and young adulthood, he gained the reputation as a ladies’ man, and he would carry on a number of notable affairs during his lifetime. Wilhelm’s father looked on his son’s promiscuity with strong dislike, at one point more or less banishing young Wilhelm to Danzig to ease the gossip at court. Among Wilhelm’s alleged mistresses were American opera singer Geraldine Farrar and Mata Hari, a dancer and World War I spy.

Wilhelm in 1901; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Wilhelm spent his time in Danzig playing tennis and having affairs with various women. He also developed an interest in football (soccer), which was a new sport in Europe. As he became bored at Danzig, Wilhelm began to speak out publicly against his father’s political acumen (or lack thereof). This did not improve the relationship between father and son.

Wilhelm and Cecilie’s engagement photo; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Wilhelm married Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, daughter of Friedrich Franz III, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia, on June 6,  1905, in Berlin. The couple had met at the wedding of Cecilie’s brother the previous year. Cecilie had been effectively selected for Wilhelm by his father due to her close associations to Russia through her mother and because of her noted beauty. Although he did initially take interest in his wife, Wilhelm soon resumed his affairs with other women.

Wilhelm and Cecilie had six children:

Wilhelm with his wife and children, circa 1925; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Princess Alexandrine had Down’s Syndrome, but unlike most disabled royal children of the time, she was not separated from the family nor was her education neglected. Alexandrine appeared in most family photographs and attended a special school for girls with learning difficulties.

Despite his place in the German militaristic culture, Wilhelm had little interest in the military. He was named commander of the 5th Army at the outbreak of World War I in the summer of 1914, a post he held for two years. He was also the commander of the Army Group German Crown Prince until the end of the war. For the most part, Wilhelm remained under the tutelage of more experienced military commanders during his tenure.

Wilhelm went into exile in the Netherlands with much of the rest of the German imperial family following the ending of the monarchy in 1918. Wilhelm and Cecilie returned to Germany five years later after promising to remain out of politics. The family was able to retain much of its wealth and even some former residences, allowing them to live a comfortable life in Germany. By this time Wilhelm and Cecilie had separated but did maintain friendly relations and reunited during family events.

Wilhelm did not entirely remain out of politics despite his promise, as he met with and supported Adolf Hitler in his early days of power. He also joined Stahlhelm, a German paramilitary organization, and considered a run for President of Germany until he was discouraged from doing so by multiple individuals. Following the Night of the Long Knives in which many political figures were murdered, Wilhelm stayed out of politics permanently.

Wilhelm became head of the House of Hohenzollern in 1941, upon the death of his father. He did not support Hitler’s activities after 1934 and lived a quiet life. After Cecilienhof, the family home, was seized by the Soviets following World War II, Wilhelm moved to a small house in Hechingen, near Stuttgart. He died of a heart attack there in 1951. Wilhelm is buried with his wife at Hohenzollern Castle.

Wilhelm and Cecilie’s graves; Photo Credit –

Wikipedia: Wilhelm, Crown Prince of Germany

Irene of Greece, Duchess of Aosta

by Emily McMahon

Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Born in Athens on February 13, 1904, Irene was the second of the three daughters and the fifth of the six children of King  Constantine I of Greece and Sophie of Prussia, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. The name Irene is derived from the Greek word for peace and the princess may have been given that name due to the so-called Macedonian Struggle, a period of violent skirmishes, guerilla warfare, and political assassinations in the Balkans that began the year of her birth. 

Irene had five siblings:

Photo circa 1910, Top left: Constantine holding Irene, Top right: the future George II, Left: Sophia, Center: Helen, Right: the future Alexander I, Front: the future Paul I, Katherine is not yet born; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

The Greek royal family spent a significant amount of time in exile during Irene’s childhood. After her father’s death in 1922, Irene moved with her mother and younger sister permanently to Italy. Irene lived in Florence with her mother and younger sister in a somewhat ordinary villa. During Irene’s time in Florence, she trained as a nurse in a local hospital. She was also seen out at local dance halls and cafes and generally living the life of a typical young adult of the time. She was fond of the Scottish Highlands, regularly taking trips there with Helen. In late 1926, Irene and Katherine simultaneously came down with appendicitis, but both made quick recoveries.

Irene was linked for some time to Boris III of Bulgaria. Following her sister Helen’s disastrous experience as the wife of Carol II of Romania, Irene was said to have declared that she would not marry a Balkan royal. Irene was engaged to Christian of Schaumburg-Lippe, her distant cousin, in October 1927. The engagement was broken off reportedly due to Irene’s dislike of Germany.

Irene and her sister Katherine served as bridesmaids for their cousin Marina when she married George, Duke of Kent in 1934. As royal weddings tend to encourage gossip about other possible couples, talk of a future husband for Irene began to simmer again. She was mentioned as being linked to Nicholas of Romania, a family with whom her own already had two links (her sister Helen and brother George both married into the Romanian royal family). In the late 1930s, Irene was named as a possible bride to the widowed Leopold III of Belgium. Neither of these prospective marriages progressed beyond talks.

Irene was also instrumental in encouraging “Green Week” in Athens, a time when many trees were planted on the streets of the city to encourage natural beauty and shade. Her brother George II liked the idea and appealed to ambassadors of several different countries for donations of trees.

Irene again became engaged in May 1939 to Prince Aimone of Savoy, 4th Duke of Aosta. Aimone was the son of Emanuele Filiberto, Duke of Aosta and Hélène of Orléans, once a potential bride for both Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Nicholas II of Russia. Aimone was descended from Ferdinand VII of Spain, Louis-Philippe of France, and Victor Emmanuel II of Italy, and was at one time thought to marry Infanta Beatriz of Spain. The engagement between Irene and Aimone was considered to be “a love match without political significance,” although there was some speculation that the marriage was arranged to ease tension over Italian troops being stationed near the Greek border. The two had known one another for some time, as the Greeks in exile in Italy had become close with the Savoy family.

The couple married in Florence at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore on July 1, 1939, in the company of numerous other royals. The ceremony was said to have been gorgeous, with the streets filled with flowers and scores of spectators. Aimone’s and Irene’s wedding was one of the last royal weddings before the outbreak of World War II in Europe.

The couple had one son:

  • Prince Amedeo, 5th Duke of Aosta (1943 – ), married  (1) Princess Claude of Orléans, divorced 1987, had three children  (2)  Silvia Paternò di Spedalotto, no children

Prince Aimone; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Aimone was named King of Croatia in 1941. Croatia had been established as a puppet monarchy in control of Italy and Greece. He intended to rule under the name Tomislav II, but Aimone accepted the throne mostly out of duty. The region was unstable due to border disputes and the war in Europe; the theoretical monarch of Croatia also held little power as the Ustaše fascist organization controlled the country. Aimone abdicated the throne in 1943 on the orders of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy.

At the beginning of World War II, Irene began serving with the International Red Cross in the Soviet Union. In July 1944, after the Allies’ armistice with Italy, Irene, her infant son, her sister-in-law and her two nieces were interned by the Germans at the Hotel Ifen in Hirschegg, Austria, They were liberated by the French in May 1945.

After the fall of the Italian monarchy in 1946, Irene and Amadeo escaped to Switzerland while Aimone fled to Argentina. The couple was effectively separated after this time, having spent little time together during the preceding years. Aimone died in Buenos Aires in 1948.

Irene with her son Amadeo in 1959; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Following her husband’s death in 1948, Irene established herself in Villa Domenico (Fiesole) in Italy, near her sister Helena, who lived in Villa Sparta. Irene died on April 15, 1974, at her home in Fiesole, Italy. She is buried at the Basilica of Superga in Turin, Italy.

Wikipedia: Irene of Greece, Duchess of Aosta

Anna Pavlovna of Russia, Queen of the Netherlands

by Emily McMahon

Credit – Wikipedia

Born on January 18, 1795, at the sumptuous Gatchina Palace just south of St. Petersburg, Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna was the eighth of the ten children and youngest daughter of Emperor Paul I of Russia and his second wife, Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg.

Anna had nine siblings:

Like her siblings, Anna received an excellent education in the arts, mathematics, foreign languages, and sciences. Once Anna hit adolescence, stiff competition began for her hand in marriage. She was considered as a possible wife for both Napoleon I of France and of the future William IV of the United Kingdom, but Anna’s family rejected them as being unsuitable. Anna was instead engaged to the future King Willem II of the Netherlands, then Prince of Orange. The marriage had been arranged by Anna’s brother and sister, Emperor Alexander I and Catherine, Queen of Württemberg.  William and Anna married at the Chapel of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg on February 21, 1816. With no pressing need to immediately return to the Netherlands, the couple spent about a year living in Russia after their marriage.

Anna and Willem had five children:

Willem II and Anna Pavlovna with their family. From left to right: Willem III, Alexander, Willem II, Anna Pavlovna, Sophie, and Hendrik; Credit – Wikipedia

Anna and William moved to the Netherlands shortly before the birth of their first child. She became known in the Netherlands (which at that time included present-day Belgium) by the Dutch version of her name, Anna Paulownia. Although she took an interest in Dutch history and learned to speak the language quite well, Anna was very homesick for her family and for Russia. She compensated by remaining in constant contact with her family and recreating bits of Russia in the Netherlands.

Anna became especially dismayed when in 1840 the family was forced to leave Brussels due to the revolution and formation of Belgium. Always very observant and proud of her impressive position, Anna found the more relaxed social constraints in Amsterdam very tough to weather. Anna and William also separated around this time due to differences in personalities and his affairs with both men and women.

Anna became Queen of the Netherlands in October of 1840 after her father-in-law’s abdication. She and Willem II came to something of an understanding in their relationship early in his reign and lived together after that time. However, Anna never really connected with the Dutch public and was not a popular queen. She did found several orphanages in the Netherlands and did not meddle in politics.

Willem II died in 1849 and was succeeded by his son, Willem III. Anna had already disliked court life for years and during her son’s reign, she left it completely. Although she discussed returning to her native Russia, Anna stayed in the Netherlands. She died on March 1, 1865, in The Hague and was buried at the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft.

Queen Anna Pavlovna as a widow, next to the bust of her husband King Willem II; Credit – Wikipedia

Anna is remembered particularly for her association with a genus of plants named in her honor by a Dutch botanist. Paulownia, which is native to Southeast Asia, is a fast-growing plant; its wood is used in making musical instruments and some furniture. Charcoal made from Paulownia wood is used in fireworks, cosmetics, and by artists for sketching.

Wikipedia: Anna Pavlovna, Queen of the Netherlands

Alexandrine of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Queen of Denmark

by Emily McMahon

Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Born on Christmas Eve in 1879 in the city of Schwerin in Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (now in Germany), Alexandrine Auguste was the eldest daughter and the eldest of the three children of the sickly Friedrich Franz III, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna, a granddaughter of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia.

Alexandrine had one brother and one sister:

Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia with her three children, circa 1890; left to right: Cecilie, Alexandrine, Friedrich Franz, Grand Duchess Anastasia; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

It was in the French city Cannes, located on the French Riviera, that Alexandrine met her future husband, the future King Christian X of Denmark.  Because of the poor health of Alexandrine’s father, the family spent much time in warm climates including Cannes where they had a large estate, Villa Wenden.  Grand Duchess Anastasia had a poor reputation for her dislike of her adopted country and her extravagances.  She also had an illegitimate child during her widowhood. Although concern there were concerns for Alexandrine’s and Cecilie’s futures due to their mother’s lifestyle, both made impressive marriages. It was Anastasia who urged Alexandrine to marry the future King Christian X of Denmark, to which Alexandrine complied. The two were married in Cannes, France (her mother’s preferred residence) in 1898. Christian and Alexandrine were married in Cannes, France on April 26, 1898.

Alexandrine of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Christian of Denmark; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

The couple had two sons:

Prince Frederik and Prince Knud, 1912; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Christian and Alexandrine received the newly built Marselisborg Palace in Aarhus as a wedding present from the Danish public, but it was not completed until 1902. The couple made Christian VIII’s Palace at Amalienborg their Copenhagen base. The couple also spent a considerable amount of time at Sorgenfri Palace just outside Copenhagen. It was at Sorgenfri that both of the couple’s children, the future Frederik IX and Knud, were born.

Marselisborg Palace; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Christian and Alexandrine were devoted to one another and enjoyed a happy marriage. The couple became king and queen of Denmark in 1912. While their popularity waxed and waned throughout Christian’s rule, he and Alexandrine are generally viewed as a successful king and queen. Prior to the World Wars, Alexandrine and Christian traveled extensively, often returning to Cannes where they met and married.

Alexandrine was somewhat shy and disliked the ceremonial and public aspect of being queen. She preferred more solitary activities and was known for her talents in needlework and for her avid interest in gardening. She also had a deep appreciation for music and was the patron of several musical organizations. Her eldest son Frederik shared his mother’s passion for music.

At the start of the German occupation of Denmark during World War II, it was unknown whether Alexandrine’s sympathies would ally with her native country or her adoptive one. Alexandrine proved herself loyal to Denmark by working with various relief organizations to bring aid to Danes affected by the occupation. She also received General Kaupisch, the German head of the occupation, with a less than warm welcome. Alexandrine and her husband were lauded by the Danish public for their devotion to the country during wartime. Alexandrine was also able to save the sizable Danish royal jewel collection from Nazi looters by hiding it in churches and even farmhouses.

King Christian X with his wife Queen Alexandrine and grandchildren – Standing in back, from left to right: Princess Elisabeth, Prince Ingolf, Princess Margrethe (later Queen Margrethe II), Front, from left to right: Prince Christian, Queen Alexandrine hold Princess Anne-Marie (later Queen Consort of Greece), Princess Benedikte, King Christian X


Alexandrine was widowed in 1947. During her time as dowager queen, she devoted most of her time to charitable causes, particularly those dedicated to children. She was known simply as Queen Alexandrine until her own death in 1952, being the first former queen to forgo the title of Dowager Queen.

IN 1952, Alexandrine died in her sleep four days after her 73rd birthday. She had undergone an intestinal operation a week and a half before her death. At her funeral, her son Frederik conducted her favorite song, Edvard Grieg’s “Springtime.” Alexandrine is buried with her husband in the Glücksburger Chapel at Roskilde Cathedral.

Tombs of King Christian X and his wife Queen Alexandrine, Photo Credit – Susan Flantzer, August 2011

Wikipedia: Alexandrine of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Queen of Denmark

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Maria de las Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Countess of Barcelona

by Emily McMahon

Maria de las Mercedes, Countess of Barcelona at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Source: Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor

Princess María de las Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies was born in Madrid on December 23, 1910, the daughter of Carlos of Bourbon-Two Sicilies and his second wife, Louise of Orléans. Maria Mercedes had a very impressive royal lineage – on her father’s side she was descended from multiple branches of the Bourbon-Two Sicilies family who ruled in Italy until the late 19th century. On her mother’s side, Maria Mercedes was descended from both recent Spanish and French royalty. Maria Mercedes’ father had previously been married to Mercedes, Princess of Asturias (a sister of Alfonso XIII of Spain), giving the family a further tie to the Spanish monarchy. These connections made Maria Mercedes a very desirable potential royal bride, particularly to the Spanish royalty.

Maria Mercedes spent a large part of her childhood in Seville, and she remained fond of the city for the rest of her life. However, like her future husband Maria Mercedes and her family were exiled from Spain at the start of the Second Spanish Republic. During her time in exile in France, Maria Mercedes studied art and nursing.

Maria Mercedes attended the wedding of her second cousin, Infanta Beatriz of Spain (a daughter of Alfonso XIII of Spain) to Italian Count Alessandro Torlonia of Civitella-Cesi in January 1935. It was there that she became reacquainted with Beatriz’s brother Juan, Count of Barcelona, also the heir to the defunct Spanish throne. The two quickly began a romance and married the following October, settling initially in Cannes and later in Italy, Switzerland, and Portugal.  Maria Mercedes and Juan had four children:

Maria Mercedes’ adult life was dominated by the actions of Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator. It was Franco who kept the family from living in Spain, Franco who was constantly at odds with Don Juan, and Franco alternately named Juan Carlos his successor and refused to consider the monarchy restored. In 1949, when Maria Mercedes’ father was terminally ill in Seville, Franco denied her entrance into Spain. Maria Mercedes’ father died before she could visit, and she was said to have never forgiven Franco for this action.

Still, the family lived in relative comfort in Estoril, Portugal, alongside other deposed royalty. Maria Mercedes represented the Spanish royal family at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Maria Mercedes and her family were among the royals who sailed on the 1954 Agamemnon cruise through Greece, where her son Juan Carlos first met his future wife Sofia. It was also Maria Mercedes’ nursing training that saved Juan Carlos who, while sailing home after the trip, developed appendicitis. While the crew wanted to keep Juan Carlos warm, Maria Mercedes knew that an inflamed lower right quadrant should be iced until medical help could be sought. Juan Carlos had his appendix removed during an emergency stop in Algeria.

In 1969, Franco ultimately decided that the Spanish monarchy should be restored following his death. As suspected, Franco passed over the Count of Barcelona for his successor in favor of Juan Carlos. The Count was furious and cut off all communication with his son. It was up to Maria Mercedes to enable communication between her husband and son for several years. The two finally reconciled in 1976, the in which Maria Mercedes and her husband finally returned to live in Spain.  In 1977, the Count of Barcelona formally renounced his rights to the Spanish throne.

The last twenty years of Maria Mercedes’ life was spent in rerelatively ill health due to a broken hip and femur. She still attended family events whenever possible, including the marriages of her grandchildren and baptisms of her great-grandchildren. Maria Mercedes died at La Mareta at Lanzarote in the Canary Islands of a heart attack on January 2, 2000. In accordance with her son’s wishes, Maria Mercedes was buried in El Escorial with the rites of a Queen of Spain.

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King Willem I of the Netherlands

by Emily McMahon

Credit – Wikipedia

King Willem I of the Netherlands was the fourth of the five children and the eldest surviving son of Willem V, Prince of Orange, the last stadtholder of the Dutch Republic and Wilhelmina of Prussia.   He was born August 24, 1772, at Huis ten Bosch in The Hague, Dutch Republic (now The Netherlands).

Willem had four siblings, but only two survived infancy:

  • Unnamed son (born and died 1769), lived only one day
  • Louise of Orange-Nassau (1770 – 1819), married Karl, Hereditary Prince of Brunswick, no issue
  • Unnamed son (born and died August 6, 1771)
  • Frederick of Orange-Nassau (1774 – 1799), unmarried, no issue

Willem’s parents with their three children (left to right) Frederick, Willem, and Louise by Pieter le Sage, 1779; Credit – Wikipedia

Willem was descended from the British Hanoverian kings through both his mother and his father. He received an education with a strong military focus, something that would aid him when he later had to fight to win back control of the Netherlands.

Wilhelmine in the 1790s; Credit – Wikipedia

Willem married his first cousin Wilhelmine of Prussia, daughter of  King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia and Frederica Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt on October 1, 1791, in Berlin. Although it was a political match intended to strengthen Dutch ties to Prussia, the marriage was also a very happy one.

The couple had three surviving children and two stillbirths:

Wilhelmine and Willem’s family life was disrupted by the Napoleonic Wars. The French invaded the Dutch Republic in 1795 and the family went into exile first in England and then in 1796 in Prussia where they lived until 1813. In 1806, Willem’s father died and he inherited the title Prince of Orange. In 1813, after Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Leipzig, the French retreated all over Europe including the Dutch Republic.

On November 13, 1813, Willem returned to his homeland, landing only a few yards from the place where he had left with his father 18 years before. The provisional government offered Willem the title of King, which he refused, instead proclaiming himself Sovereign Prince. He was also made Grand Duke of Luxembourg, receiving that territory in return for trading his hereditary German lands to Prussia and the Duke of Nassau. When Napoleon escaped from Elba, his place of exile, Willem felt threatened. Urged on by the powers who met at the Congress of Vienna, Willem proclaimed the Netherlands a monarchy on March 16, 1815. After Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo and his second exile, the Congress of Vienna formally confirmed Willem as the hereditary ruler of what was known as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Inauguration of Willem I of the Netherlands, Credit – Wikipedia

Willem worked toward furthering economic progress in the Netherlands, concentrating on the industry in present-day Belgium. He also increased educational opportunities, founding the University of Leuven, the University of Ghent, and the University of Liege. The increase in industry and knowledge along with flourishing trade in the north and from the colonies resulted in great wealth for the new kingdom – and resentment in the south (Belgium), which saw the fewest benefits from the economic growth. This eventually led to a revolution in the south and the creation of the Kingdom of Belgium in 1831.

King Willem I abdicated in 1840 due to constitutional changes he did not agree with, anger over the loss of Belgium, and his desire to make a morganatic second marriage with Henriëtte d’Oultremont after the death of Wilhelmine in 1837.  His eldest son succeeded him as Willem II.  After his abdication, Willem was styled King Willem Frederick, Count of Nassau.

Henriette d’Oultremont, Credit – Wikipedia

In 1841, Willem morganatically married Henriette, who received the title Countess of Nassau and the couple lived in exile in Berlin. Willem died on December 12, 1843, at the age of 71 and is buried in Nieuwe Kerk in Delft, the Netherlands. He was the first modern-day monarch of the Low Countries to abdicate. Although not all monarchs following Willem have abdicated, the trend became more accepted than in other parts of the world. Willem’s descendants Wilhelmina, Juliana, and Beatrix of the Netherlands have all abdicated, as well as non-descendants Charlotte and Jean in Luxembourg and Albert II in Belgium.

Wikipedia: William I, King of the Netherlands

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Prince Peter of Greece


October 15, 1980 – Death of Peter of Greece and Denmark

Wikipedia: Peter of Greece and Denmark

With its many overthrows and exiles during the 20th century, the Greek royal family does not lack for interesting stories or unusual characters. However, history has largely forgotten Peter, a French born Greek prince who was a cousin to Kings George II, Alexander, and Paul as well as the current Duke of Edinburgh. But Peter led a very unusual life that led him from India to Egypt to Denmark (with several stops in between), studying various foreign cultures. Peter weathered a morganatic marriage that left him estranged from much of his family, and in his later life shot criticism at his cousin Constantine II for what Peter felt was an illegal change to the Greek succession laws.

Peter was born in Paris, France on December 3, 1908. He was the first child of George of Greece, the second son of George I of Greece, and his French wife Marie Bonaparte. Peter’s sister and only sibling Eugenie was born a little over a year later. The family divided their time mostly between homes in France and Denmark, spending little time in Greece. Peter was educated in London and Paris, where he had planned to study law and politics but instead became interested in anthropology and cultural studies. Peter finally returned to Greece in the 1935 following the restoration of his cousin George II. He served in both the Greek and French armies during his young adulthood.

Due to his royal heritage and place in the line of succession to the Greek throne (he was third in 1935), Peter was considered as a possible husband for at least two European princesses. Peter was said to be a favorite of Juliana of the Netherlands, but Queen Wilhelmina desired a Protestant son-in-law and disliked that Peter’s mother’s fortune had been made through the development of the Monte Carlo casinos. Frederika of Hanover was also suggested as a possible wife for Peter, but she eventually married his cousin Paul in 1938.

Around this time Peter entered into a relationship with Irina Aleksandrovna Ovtchinnikova, a divorced Russian woman separated from her second husband. Peter’s family greatly disapproved of the relationship due to Irina’s commoner status and marital history. Nevertheless, Peter embarked on a trip through present-day India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Sri Lanka with Irina, studying the various groups of people they met. Peter was particularly interested in the polyandry practiced in some areas of the region. Peter and Irina were civilly married September 1939 at the Danish consulate in Madras, India.

The marriage cost Peter both his dynastic rights and his relationship with his father, who swore off contact with his son. Peter maintained contact with his mother and sister, but the onslaught of World War II prevented a long reunion. Peter escaped Greece with the rest of the royal family, settling in Cairo with Irina. The two married religiously in Jerusalem in 1941.

Peter hoped to return to Greece after World War II and the 1944-5 Greek civil war. Peter’s cousin Paul, now king, recognized Peter’s marriage to Irina and offered to let the two return to Greece, but only if Peter renounced his right to the Greek throne, something he had not done despite his marriage to commoner Irina. When Peter refused, Paul barred him from re-entering the country.

After spending a short time in both Denmark and the United States, Peter and Irina returned to India in 1949. The two spent nearly a decade collecting data and traveling around India, Tibet, and Sri Lanka. The two settled for several years in Kalimpong, India, near the borders with Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Tibet. During that time, Peter accused the government of India of helping Communist China in its attempt to overthrow Tibet. Peter was asked to leave India in 1957 after some of his activities were, according to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, “considered undesirable.” Peter resumed his studies in London upon his return, and received a doctorate in anthropology in 1959. His thesis focused on his interest in polyandry and was published as A Study in Polyandry in 1963.

Following his cousin Paul’s death in 1964, Peter entered into a feud with Paul’s son and successor Constantine, who had named his younger sister Irene his successor should he die childless. Peter, who was Constantine’s nearest male relative, was livid and lashed out at Queen Frederika for influencing Constantine into making decisions that (Peter believed) violated Greece’s constitution. Peter called a press conference to air his grievances, also accusing the royal family of extravagance with public money. He continued his fight to be recognized as crown prince of Greece until the birth of Constantine’s son Pavlos in 1967. Peter later apologized for his actions.

After the fall of the Greek monarchy, Peter sold his Greek properties and divided his time between London, Paris, and Copenhagen. He and his wife Irina
separated in the mid-1970s when she relocated to Hong Kong. Peter received an invitation from the Chinese government to resume his studies in Tibet in 1978, which he accepted. Peter was planning a second trip when he died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage in London.

Peter’s memorial mass was held at St. Sophia’s in London. No one in his family reportedly spoke to Irina before or after the service. He requested in his will to be buried at the family cemetery at Tatoi Palace only if Irina could be buried there as well. Although the Greek royal family agreed, the Greek government prohibited a burial at Tatoi. Peter is buried at his Danish home, Lille Bernstorff. Irina was buried next to him after her death in 1990.

Many of the objects Peter collected during his studies in Asia are now held at the National Museum of Denmark and in the Danish Royal Library.

List of Peter’s publications available through the Danish Royal Library

Thyra of Denmark, Crown Princess of Hanover

by Emily McMahon

Credit – Wikipedia

Thyra was the youngest of the three daughters and fifth child of the six children of King Christian IX of Denmark and Louise of Hesse-Kassel. She was born on September 29, 1983 at the Yellow Palace in Copenhagen where the family was living at the time in relatively humble circumstances. Her father Christian had been chosen as the heir to the childless King Frederik VIII shortly before Thyra’s birth.

Thyra had five siblings:

Christian IX, King of Denmark and his family by Georg Emil Hansen, albumen carte-de-visite photomontage, 1862, NPG x74402 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Encouraged by the prominent marriages her elder daughters had made, Louise had the same hopes for Thyra. However, before any serious marriage negotiations could take place, Thyra had fallen in love with a Danish cavalry officer, Vilhelm Frimann Marcher. Louise evidently knew of Thyra’s attachment to Marcher but considered it a harmless adolescent flirtation. However, by the summer of 1871, it was clear that the “flirtation” had blossomed into a full-blown affair and that Thyra was pregnant with Marcher’s child.

News of Thyra’s pregnancy was restricted to the family as it could be lethal to her reputation. Arrangements were made to send Thyra to Greece to visit her brother George, where she could have the baby in relative anonymity and then the baby could be given to a Greek family. Thyra gave birth to a daughter in Greece (some claim Glücksburg Castle in Germany) on November 8, 1871. It is believed that Thyra convinced her family to let the baby be adopted by a Danish couple, rather than a Greek one.

Marcher was allegedly distraught over losing Thyra and his child. Although he was said to have told Thyra’s father he would marry Thyra, this was refused due to Marcher’s low rank. Marcher may have had a second confrontation with Christian in early 1872 that resulted in a verbal altercation. Whatever the case, March committed suicide on January 4, 1872. There is no record of Thyra’s reaction to his death.

Following her involvement with Marcher, Thyra was one of the leading candidates for a bride for Arthur, Duke of Connaught, the third son of Queen Victoria. The two had met as children in the early 1860s when Thyra’s sister Alexandra married Arthur’s brother, the Prince of Wales. Thyra’s sister and brother-in-law strongly supported the match, with Alexandra cleverly mentioning that Thyra treasured a note Arthur had given her in 1863. Although Thyra and Arthur met a few times in preparation for a possible engagement, Queen Victoria eventually decided that a second British-Danish union would interfere with her pro-German leanings. Arthur went on to marry a Prussian princess in 1878.

Thyra traveled to the United Kingdom during the winter of 1875 to spend Christmas with the family of her sister Alexandra at Sandringham. Also visiting the family was Ernst Augustus, Crown Prince of the defunct throne of Hanover. Although he was without a throne and not considered handsome, Ernst Augustus had a kind and easygoing manner. He was also lucky enough to keep a large amount of his fortune despite his exile from Hanover. However, the Prussians did not view a union between Denmark and Hanover favorably at that time. Both had lost considerable (or all, in the case of Hanover) territory to Prussia in the aftermath of the war.

After meeting Ernst Augustus, Thyra was considered as a second bride of King Willem III of the Netherlands. Willem’s first wife, Sophie had died in 1877, leaving him with two surviving sons who had not (and would not) produce children. In his sixties at this time, Willem needed a younger princess who could bear him further children. Willem, however, had a reputation as a shameless womanizer. His questionable moral character coupled with his age led Thyra to refuse William. He did find his younger princess in Emma of Waldeck and Pyrmont, who married Willem and became the mother of his successor Queen Wilhelmina.

Thyra’s hopes of marriage kept coming back to Ernst Augustus, who apparently knew of Thyra’s illegitimate child and still wished to marry her. Thyra’s parents, along with Princess of Wales, were able to arrange a meeting in Frankfurt between Thyra and Ernst Augustus in early 1878 and the two became engaged.

Schloss Cumberland, Thyra and Ernst Augustus’ home in Gmunden, Austria; Photo Credit – By Pepito Tey – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 at,

On December 21, 1878, Thyra and Ernst Augustus were married at the chapel in Copenhagen’s Christianborg Palace. Following the wedding, Thyra and Ernst Augustus made their home in exile in Gmunden, Austria, where they raised six children:

Thyra with her husband and children; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

According to some sources, Thyra struggled with periodic bouts of mental illness during her marriage. Additionally, Ernst Augustus was somewhat asocial and disliked gatherings, which isolated the family. Nonetheless, the marriage was a happy one that lasted until Ernst Augustus’ death in 1923.

Thyra in the 1900s; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Although she never officially became a queen like her sisters, Thyra was the titular queen consort of Hanover as her husband had never renounced his rights to the throne. She also counts among her descendants King Constantine II of Greece and his sister Queen Sofia of Spain. Thyra died in Gmunden, Austria on March 7, 1933, and is buried with her husband in the family mausoleum in Gmunden.

Wikipedia: Thyra of Denmark, Crown Princess of Hanover

Feodora of Leiningen, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg

Feodora of Leiningen, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg in middle age. Photo credit:

September 23, 1872 – Death of Feodora of Leiningen, Princess consort of Hohenlohe-Langenburg

Feodora’s Wikipedia page

Anna Feodora Auguste Charlotte Wilhelmine was born in Amorbach, Germany, in December 1807. Her parents were Emich Carl, 2nd (ruling) Prince of Leiningen and Viktoria of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Feodora (as she was known) had a brother, Carl, who was three years older.

Feodora’s father died in 1814. The family stayed in Amorbach for the next few years, where Viktoria served as regent for Carl. Viktoria’s brother Leopold and his wife Charlotte of Wales, the only legitimate grandchild of George II of the United Kingdom, began working in early 1817 to marry Viktoria to Edward, Duke of Kent (Charlotte’s uncle). Both parties were somewhat lukewarm to the idea of marriage, as Viktoria had a comfortable and secure position in Amorbach and Edward had a long-time mistress.

In November 1817, the British were facing a succession crisis as Charlotte died after giving birth to a stillborn son. George’s unmarried sons took to continental Europe to find brides to sire children and secure the succession. Not to be left out of the race, Edward convinced Viktoria to marry him in May 1818. Leaving her brother Carl in Amorbach, Feodora traveled with her stepfather and pregnant mother to the United Kingdom in early 1819. Feodora’s sister, the future Queen Victoria, was born at Kensington Palace that May.

Feodora’s stepfather died in 1820. Victoria’s close proximity to the throne made it unwise for Viktoria to leave Britain and return to continental Europe. Yet restricted funds and poor English kept the family isolated and Feodora bored. She later lamented that the only enjoyment she had was going on her daily rides with Victoria and Victoria’s governess, Baroness Louise Lehzen.

In the meantime, Feodora was growing into a rather beautiful young woman. During the mid-1820s, she began attracting the attentions of her stepfather’s brother, George IV of the United Kingdom. Viktoria realized that if this marriage occurred and produced children, young Victoria’s place in the succession would be jeopardized. Besides, Viktoria despised her gluttonous, arrogant brother-in-law. The idea of becoming his mother-in-law horrified her. Additionally, Feodora did not get along with Sir John Conroy, the Welsh army officer who controlled Viktoria’s finances – and had a Svengali-like influence over her.

Viktoria hurriedly searched for a suitable husband for her eldest daughter. In February 1828, Feodora married Ernst I, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg at Kensington Palace. Ernst was the cousin of Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, the consort of William IV of the United Kingdom, giving Feodora an additional tie to the British monarchy. For her part, Feodora was glad to leave home and return to Germany. Her departure left Victoria lonely and at the mercy of her mother and Conroy.

The principality of Hohenlohe-Langenburg was controlled by Württemberg, giving Ernst little to do. Additionally, Feodora and Ernst barely knew each other at the time of their marriage. Nevertheless, the marriage was a happy one that produced six children.

Despite their eleven year age difference, Feodora and Victoria were quite close. They sent each other letters and sketches frequently, discussing mostly their children, their mother, and their upbringing. Feodora visited the United Kingdom as often as she could. After she became queen, Victoria also granted her sister a small allowance.

Feodora died in Baden-Baden in 1872. Victoria, who long lamented her lack of a large family of origin, was crushed by the loss of her sister. Victoria continued to take a great interest in her sister’s family, promoting the marriage of Feodora’s granddaughter Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein to her own grandson, the future German Emperor Wilhelm II, in 1882. Among Feodora’s other descendants include Regina of Saxe-Meiningen, the wife of Crown Prince Otto of Austria and Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg, the mother of Swedish king Carl XVI Gustav.