Duke of Teck, Francis of Teck, King George III of the United Kingdom, King George V of the United Kingdom, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, Queen Consort, Queen Mary, Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Victoria Mary (May) of Teck
Mary of Teck (Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes; May 26, 1867 – March 24, 1953) was queen consort of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Empress consort of India as the wife of King George V.
Princess Victoria Mary (“May”) of Teck was born on May 26, 1867 at Kensington Palace, London, in the same room where Queen Victoria, her first cousin once removed, had been born 48 years earlier. Queen Victoria came to visit the baby, writing that she was “a very fine one, with pretty little features and a quantity of hair”. May would become the first British queen consort born in Britain since Catherine Parr.
Duke and Duchess of Teck with Princess Victoria Mary
Her father was Prince Francis, Duke of Teck, the son of Duke Alexander of Württemberg by his morganatic wife, Countess Claudine Rhédey von Kis-Rhéde (created Countess von Hohenstein in the Austrian Empire). Her mother was Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, a granddaughter of King George III through his the seventh son Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, and Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel. Therefore technically she was a Princess of Teck, in the Kingdom of Württemberg, she was born and raised in the United Kingdom.
May’s upbringing was “merry but fairly strict”. She was the eldest of four children, and the only daughter, and “learned to exercise her native discretion, firmness, and tact” by resolving her three younger brothers’ petty boyhood squabbles. They played with their cousins, the children of the Prince of Wales, who were similar in age. She grew up at Kensington Palace and White Lodge, in Richmond Park, which was granted by Queen Victoria on permanent loan, and was educated at home by her mother and governess, as were her brothers until they were sent to boarding schools.
Although May was a great-grandchild of George III, she was only a minor member of the British royal family. Her father, the Duke of Teck, had no inheritance or wealth and carried the lower royal style of Serene Highness because his parents’ marriage was morganatic. Prince Francis was deeply in debt and moved his family abroad with a small staff in 1883, in order to economise. They travelled throughout Europe, visiting their various relations. For a time they stayed in Florence, Italy, where May enjoyed visiting the art galleries, churches, and museums. Princess Victoria Mary was fluent in English, German, and French.
In 1885, the family returned to London and lived for some time in Chester Square. May was close to her mother, and acted as an unofficial secretary, helping to organise parties and social events. She was also close to her aunt, Princess Augusta of Cambridge, who was the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, via her marriage to Grand Duke Friedrich Wilhelm of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and wrote to her every week. During the First World War, the Crown Princess of Sweden helped pass letters from May to her aunt, who lived in enemy territory in Germany until her death in 1916.
HSH Princess Victoria Mary “May” of Teck
In 1886, May was a debutante in her first season, and was introduced at court. Her status as the only unmarried British princess who was not descended from Queen Victoria made her a suitable candidate for the royal family’s most eligible bachelor, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, her second cousin once removed and the second in line to the British throne and eldest son of the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII.
On 3 December 1891 Prince Albert Victor proposed marriage to May and she accepted. The choice of May as bride for the Duke owed much to Queen Victoria’s fondness for her, as well as to her strong character and sense of duty. Sadly, Prince Albert Victor died six weeks later, in a recurrence of the worldwide 1889–90 influenza pandemic, before the date was fixed for their wedding.
HRH Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale
Albert Victor’s brother, Prince George, now second in line to the throne, was created Duke of York, Earl of Inverness and Baron Killarney by Queen Victoria on May 24, 1892, became close to May during their shared period of mourning. Queen Victoria still thought of her as a suitable candidate to marry a future king. The public was also anxious that the Duke of York should marry and settle the succession. In May 1893, George proposed, and May accepted.
They married on July 6, 1893 at the Chapel Royal in St James’s Palace, London. Throughout their lives, they remained devoted to each other. George was, on his own admission, unable to express his feelings easily in speech, but they often exchanged loving letters and notes of endearment.