Cäcilie (Cecilie) of Baden, Dagmar of Denmark, Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine, Emperor Alexander III of Russia, Germany, Grand Duke Friedrich-Franz IV of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia., Kings and Queens of England, Princess Marie of Greece and Denmark, Prussia, Wilhelm II of Germany
Today I wanted to continue my discussion on royal marriages. As I mentioned in in the last post, by the mid to late 19th century royal marriages were conducted based on a need to marry within a specific social class rather than for political alliances. Also, with there being a relatively large amount of royal and noble families within Europe, there was a considerable pool to select from. Marriages were arranged to a certain degree at this time. Royals would browse the Almanach de Gotha, the Blue Book for Blue Bloods, looking to select a suitable match for their children or siblings. The royals themselves had some say in the matter at this juncture of time and did not have to always marry those who were suggested for them. Royals met and fell in love very similarly to how commoners such as myself meet and fall in love with our spouses. We meet them while engaging in our lives. In the 19th century, when royalty thrived, this class of people, although greatly interrelated, interacted with one another around a social calender. It was very easy to meet and fall in love with a potential spouse that met the criteria for this social class.
Even with royals meeting and falling in love with one another didn’t always mean that love would be returned. Here is a prime example. In the late 1870s future German Emperor, Wilhelm II, fell in love with his cousin, Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine while attending the University of Bonn. He would meet with her and other royal cousins. He tried to win the affections this young and beautiful princess but she would not have anything to do with him. Rejected, he moved on and married Princess Augusta-Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein in 1881. A woman who was devoted to Wilhelm and although I think Wilhelm developed some level of love for his wife I do question to what degree those feelings were reciprocated. From what I have read he came to depend on her but at times he appeared to merely tolerate her. From my readings of the last German Empress she has been depicted as being rather dull and religiously zealous to the point of bigotry. Wilhelm’s brother, Prince Heinrich of Prussia, had better luck with the Hessian princesses by marrying Elizabeth’s sister, Irene in 1888.
Sometimes meeting a royal mate can come as a relief for royal parents. I understand that people may not always fall in love with the people our peers or family or society may approve of, and this was the same for royals. German Emperor Wilhelm II,’s son, Crown Prince Wilhelm, certainly liked the ladies but to the exasperation of his parents he would often select the objects of his affections from women of the lower classes. In 1904 Grand Duke Friedrich-Franz IV of Mecklenburg-Schwerin married Princess Alexandra of Hanover and the Crown Prince was selected by his parents to deliver a wedding present to the new bride and groom. It was during this trip that Crown Prince Wilhelm met and fell in love with Princess Cecilie, sister of Grand Duke Friedrich-Franz IV, to the relief of his parents. The two were married in 1905 and despite having six children together the marriage was not a happy union. Although they never divorced, they did drift apart and Wilhelm continued on with his string of affairs.
Another sad story to me was the marriage between Princess Marie of Greece and Denmark and Grand Duke George Mikhailovich of Russia. Princess Marie was a daughter of king George I and queen Olga of Greece (Olga herself was born a Russian grand duchess). Grand Duke George was a first cousin of Emperor Alexander III of Russia and the son of Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich of Russia and Cäcilie (Cecilie) of Baden. Marie was close to her Russian cousins as was her sister, Princess Alexandra of Greece and Denmark. So it is of no surprise that the two sisters grew up to marry Russian royal cousins that they had known for years. Alexandra married Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia. Grand Duke George often called Marie “Greek Minny” to distinguish her from the Dowager Empress Marie of Russia, herself born a Danish princess (Dagmar of Denmark wife of Emperor Alexander III of Russia). George pursued his Greek Minny for years. She finally, and reluctantly, agreed to marry him although she admitted to George she was not in love with him. He accepted that she did not love him and he hoped that marriage would change her heart. It did not. The had two daughters, Nina and Xenia, but Marie never did develop much love for her husband and George was not happy knowing he was with a woman who could never return his. One of her daughters grew ill and Marie took their children to a different climate as a means to improve her daughter’s health and to get away from her husband. The marriage ended tragically when Grand Duke George was murdered in 1919 at the hands of the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution. Marie moved on and remarried a Greek Admiral, Pericles Ioannides, in 1922 and died in 1940 at the relatively young age of 64.
It seems very sad for both of them to be stuck in a loveless marriage. I guess loveless marriages are not just the domain of the common people. In fact it seems loveless marriages were too common in royal circles. Love doesn’t seem to come any easier to royals than it does for the rest of us. Money, property, titles and wealth is no guarantee of happiness in this life.