Duke of Cambridge, House of Battenberg, House of Burbon, King Alfonso XIII of Spain, King George III, King George V of Great Britain, Mary of Teck, Prince Adolphus, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, Royal Marriages
My wife Sarah, and our dog Amadeus
I have always been a romantic at heart and the issue of royal marriages has always fascinated me. I robbed the cradle when I got married. My wife is 18 years younger than I am. There have been many marriages between kings and would-be king and princesses where age has been an issue. I can relate to the issues around marriages between spouses when age is a factor. Even when age has not been an issue these marriages were often arranged. For the most part they were arranged for political motivations, to shore up a treaty or to gain an alliance or to end a feud or to pass on the succession. Love was not a consideration although it was a positive side effect if and when it happened. Given the propensity for kings to collect mistresses, even if they did love their queens, the rules of marriage for royalty seem quite different to what the untitled person would expect. As time marched on and arranged marriages for political purposes waned, marriages for social status become the primary focus in selecting a suitable spouse.
Queen Victoria, and her marriage to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, seem to be a mixture of alliances, social obligation and love. Clearly Victoria was in love with Albert and Albert, for his part, does seem to have had fond feelings for his first cousin, but love was something that grew later for him. The Coburg family, Victoria’s maternal family, favored the match. With her uncle King Leopold I of the Belgians leading the charge, there was a desire to maintain some sense of power. Indeed prior to her accession Victoria was used as a pawn by many within the Coburg and Hanoverian families trying to maintain some type of control over her.
Her grandson, King George V, married his dead brothers fiancé, Mary of Teck. This marriage was based solely on the fact that Mary of Teck was seen as a person who would make an excellent queen consort and the British royal family did not want to loose her. The Teck family was “tainted”by the morganatic marriage of Mary’s grandfather, Duke Alexander of Württemberg (1804-1885), so her prospects within on the continent among the various German royal families were not good. In Britain, where she was born and raised, her mother being Princess Mary-Adelaide of Cambridge a daughter of Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge (7th son of King George III of Great Britain), were not against morganatic marriages.
George V’s cousin, Princess Victoria-Eugenie of Battenberg, (called Ena within the family) is a prime example of “rushing” into a marriage. I don’t blame her for this is how royal marriages were conducted many years ago. As royal marriages moved away from being political alliances the need for the marriage to meet social standards was emphasized more. King Alfonso XIII of Spain was one of those rare princes to be born a king. When he reached the age to marry he went bride shopping. He was attracted to Princess Ena and selected her to be his queen and they were wed on May 31, 1906. Princess Ena was the only daughter of Princess Beatrice, youngest daughter of Queen Victoria, and her husband , prince Henry of Battenberg. The Battenberg clan was a morganatic scion of the House of Hesse and by Rhine. This taint of morganatic blood would cause undue suffering in Spain by those courtiers who were prejudiced toward the Battenbergs. The Spanish aristocracy saw the Battenbergs as semi-royal and were used to their queens coming from what was in their eyes the more noble houses of Bourbon and Hapsburg.
This situation paints a picture of what was problematic in these types of alliances. There was a growing allowance in these families that the future bride and groom have some type of feelings for one another prior to the marriage. What would often occur is that the prospective parties would meet and have some type of sexual chemistry between them and develop what we would call either a crush or lust for one-another. Other than social obligations, which required them to marry someone of equal or near equal status, these marriages were often moved forward based on these initial physical attractions. I don’t think a crush or initial sexual chemistry…or equal social rank…is a strong foundation on which to build a marriage. The case of Ena and Alphonse is a good example of this.
I will stop here. I enjoy this topic so I will continue looking at royal marriages on Tuesdays for a while.