Wednesday 6 November 2013

The mothers of the queens of England

To mark the completion of my new book on the British royal families (release date, 2014), I thought I'd post on the mothers of the English queens, from 1066 to 2013. It's technically a slightly disingenuous list, because I've also included the mothers of the male consorts, but for ease of titling, I hope no-one will mind recourse to the feminine title. I have also included those men and women who never became royal consorts, despite the fact that their spouses were, at one point, sovereigns.

ADELA OF FRANCE, Countess of Flanders (1009 - 1079) Mother of Queen Matilda of Flanders, the Conqueror's bride, she was the daughter of King Robert the Pious of France and wife of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders. She was briefly married as a young woman to the Duke of Normandy, a fate eventually shared by her daughter Matilda, but the marriage ended without issue. A very religious woman, she was later dubbed "Adela the Holy."

SAINT MARGARET OF WESSEX, Queen of Scotland (left; died 1093) The pious mother of England's queen Matilda of Scotland was herself an English princess who sought asylum in Scotland after the Norman Conquest made her connections to the Anglo-Saxon monarchy a liability. Famed for her devotion to the poor and her love of Holy Scripture, Margaret was canonised in 1250 by Pope Innocent IV. Readers of Shakespeare may remember her husband, King Malcolm III, as the prince whose victory heralds the end of Macbeth.

IDA, Countess of Naumur (1078 - 1118) Mother of the famously beautiful Queen Adeliza of Louvain, whose childless marriage to King Henry I helped precipitate the civil war of the late twelfth century. Ida was a countess in her own right, the first wife of Duke Godfrey the Magnificent of Brabant and mother of his six eldest legitimate children.

MARY OF SCOTLAND, Countess of Boulogne (1082 - 1116) Daughter of Saint Margaret (see above); like her elder sister, the English queen consort Matilda, Mary of Scotland was educated at English convents, first under the watchful eye of her strict aunt Christina. She left the convent in 1096 and married Count Eustace of Boulogne, a very religious man with whom she had one daughter, the future countess in her own right and wife to King Stephen, Queen Matilda.

ELEANOR DE CHATELLERAULT, Duchess of the Aquitaine (?1103 - 1130) Daughter of the vicomte de Châtellerault and mother of the improbably-glamorous Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen of both France and England. Eleanor died whilst both of her wilful daughters, Eleanor and Petronilla, were still children.

SANCHA OF CASTILE, Queen of Navarre (?1139 - 1179) Daughter of the King of Leon-y-Castile and wife of King Sancho the Wise of Navarre, she was the mother of three boys and three girls, including the future King Sancho VII of Navarre and Queen Berengaria of England. Her youngest daughter, Blanca, countess of Champagne later ruled briefly as regent of Navarre, too. After Queen Sancha's death in 1179, her husband remained a widower until his death fifteen years later.

HAWISA DE BEAUMONT, Countess of Gloucester. Sometimes known as Hawise, Isobel, Elizabeth or Isabella, Hawisa was the daughter of the Earl of Leicester and the  mother of Isobel of Gloucester, who was robbed of her inheritance and divorced by her husband, John, weeks into his time as king.

ALICE DE COURTENAY, Countess of Angouleme (1160 - 1218) The French aristocrat's first marriage, to the Comte de Joigny, ended in annulment but her second, to the Comte d'Angoulême, produced the future Queen of England, Isabelle of Angouleme, whose unwilling marriage to "Bad King John" spurred her family into forming an alliance that crippled English control over France.

BEATRICE OF SAVOY, Countess of Provence (above; 1205 - 1267) Fiercely ambitious and born into one of the most powerful aristocratic clans in western Europe, Beatrice wanted, and got, crowns for all four of her daughters. Her eldest, Marguerite, married the future saint, King Louis IX of France, her second, Eleanor, married King Henry III of England, while the younger two, Sancha and Beatrice, wed the future kings of Germany and Sicily. Beautiful and devoted to her family, her promotion of her brothers and other Savoyards was a trait inherited by her daughters and disastrously so by Eleanor, whose devotion to her natal interests and frequent visits to and by her mother helped unite aristocratic discontentment into the Second Barons' War of the thirteenth century. She and her daughters were living proof of the power of female dynasts and of family loyalty in medieval politics.

JOAN OF DAMMARTIN, Queen of Castile and Countess of Aumale and Ponthieu (?1220 - 1279) The mother of Eleanor of Castile, a queen beloved by her husband and deeply disliked by most of the population; Queen Joan was a countess in her own right, who as a young girl was considered as a potential bride for King Henry III of England, her daughter's future father-in-law. It was at her court that Eleanor acquired her love of learning, luxury and literature. Wildly extravagant, Joan had a distinctly mañana attitude to her political duties.

MARIE OF BRABANT, Queen of France (left; 1254 - 1321) The second wife of King Philippe the Bold of France, Queen Marie was pilloried at the court for her non-French birth (a recurring theme in French royal history) and accused of poisoning her stepson on relatively little evidence. But when has that ever stopped a good conspiracy theory? Her daughter Marguerite became the second wife of King Edward Longshanks in 1297; their forty year age difference did not seem to prevent a relatively happy marriage and the birth of two sons. Marguerite inherited her mother's extravagance, but also her charm. Marie of Brabant had the tragedy to outlive all three of her children - Louis, Blanche, Duchess of Austria and Marguerite, Queen of England. She died in 1321 and was buried in an abbey twenty-five miles from Paris.  

QUEEN JEANNE I, Queen of Navarre and Queen of France (right; 1273 - 1305) Queen of Navarre in her own right and queen of France by right of marriage to the notorious King Philippe the Fair, whom she married at the age of ten, like Beatrice of Savoy, all of Jeanne's children wore crowns, but with such a run of disaster that it led to rumours that the Knights Templar had placed a curse upon the French royal line as punishment for their persecution of them. The eldest, King Louis the Headstrong, died after less than two years on the throne, to be followed eventually by his little son, King Jean the Posthumous, who died before he was a week old. Jeanne's second son then became King Philippe V, but he produced only daughters and was followed by his brother, King Charles IV, the last of the line. Jeanne's beautiful daughter, Isabella, married King Edward II of England but was later dubbed "the She-Wolf of France" for the deposition and suspected murder of her husband, the execution of his alleged lovers and her own adulterous liaison with Roger Mortimer.

JEANNE OF VALOIS, Countess of Hainault, Countess of Holland and Zeeland (died 1342) Mother of Philippa of Hainault, Edward III's queen, her daughter's marriage was part of a diplomatic plan to further Queen Isabella's seizure of power in England. Jeanne herself helped negotiate the pact during a visit for a family funeral in France. She visited her daughter in England, was asked by the Pope to help negotiate peace between England and its continental enemies and helped arrange a royal marriage for one of her son-in-law's sister to the Duke of Guelders. She took the veil after her husband's death and died in 1342.

ELISABETH OF POMERANIA, Holy Roman Empress (1347 - 1393) The fourth wife of Emperor Charles IV, Elisabeth was physically robust, vivacious and strong-willed. Her eldest child, Anne, married King Richard II of England and helped him greatly in his aim to introduce imperial imagery to the English court. Despite her joie de vivre, Elisabeth was apparently tormented by unease at her husband's children from his earlier marriages in case they threatened her own children's prospects. As Dowager, she lived to see her son Sigismund assume the imperial crown. She died in Hradec Králové in 1393, one year before her daughter, the Queen of England, died during the plague epidemic of 1394.

ISABEAU OF BAVARIA, Queen of France (left with the blinging head-dress; ?1370 - 1435) Isabeau's extravagance as her husband, King Charles VI, battled increasingly-frequent spells of insanity led to her being detested as a foreign interloper destroying the French crown. Her role in supporting the Treaty of Troyes of 1421 which ended the war with England in England's favour only added more fuel to the proverbial fire, but it's difficult to see how else Isabeau could have behaved given the difficult situation she found herself in. Apart from her troubled political career, she has another claim to fame as the only woman to be the mother to two queen consorts of England - Isabelle, who married King Richard II while still a child, and her sister Catherine, whose marriage to King Henry V helped put the seal on the Treaty of Troyes. Through Catherine's scandalous second marriage to a Welsh servant called Owen, Isabeau also became the ancestress of the Tudor line who took power at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, fifty years after her death.

JOAN FITZALAN, Countess of Hereford (1347 - 1419) Also countess of Essex and Northampton, Joan was the daughter of the earl of Arundel and the mother of Mary de Bohun, the first wife of the man who would one day seize the throne as King Henry IV. Although Mary's premature death in childbirth has left her with the reputation of a gentle soul, if she was anything like her mother, she must have had hidden depths. In 1400, as her former son-in-law seized the crown from his cousin King Richard, Joan coolly gave the order to murder the earl of Huntingdon as revenge for his murder of her beloved brother. Family honour was avenged and Joan lived long enough to see her grandson succeed to the throne as King Henry V.

JEANNE DE VALOIS, Queen of Navarre (1343 - 1373) The daughter of King Jean II of France and queen to King Charles II of Navarre, Jeanne lost her mother, Queen Bona, during the bubonic plague outbreak and she was married at the age of nineteen to the troubled King Charles. Her husband was burned to death by a clumsy servant fourteen years after her death and he was nearly universally un-mourned. The couple had seven children together, including Joanna, the future wife of King Henry IV of England. Joanna was later haunted by her father's reputation for devilment when her stepson accused her of witchcraft during her widowhood and fleeced her of her enormous private fortune.

ISABELLA, Duchess of the Lorraine, Countess of Anjou and titular Queen of the Naples (above; 1400 - 1453) The Lancastrians' fiery queen, Marguerite of Anjou, certainly got some of her zest from her mother Isabella, who was duchess of Lorraine in her own right and helped carry her husband Rene's government for most of their marriage. Mother to ten children, she led an army to rescue her husband from captivity, a scene and tenacity that was to repeat itself many times in her daughter's life as it was engulfed by the Wars of the Roses.

JACQUETTA OF LUXEMBOURG, Duchess of Bedford and Countess Rivers (?1415 - 1472) Often accused of witchcraft in her lifetime, Jacquetta married the younger brother of King Henry V but was left a childless widow. She subsequently married for love to the handsome and passionate Richard Woodville, a supporter of the Lancastrian cause. Their beautiful daughter Elizabeth was herself widowed during the Wars of the Roses but a chance encounter with King Edward IV led to her elevation to the throne as his queen. The Woodvilles were demonised as parvenus, apparently by those who forgot or ignored Jacquetta's own ancestry and previous marriage into the royal family. Twelve years after her death, Richard III resurrected charges of dark magic against her to justify his disinheritance of her daughter and grandchildren.

ANNE DE BEAUCHAMP, Countess of Warwick (1426 - 1492) Daughter of the Earl of Warwick, she was also his eventual heiress and it was this inheritance that helped make her husband, Richard Neville, one of the most powerful men in fifteenth-century England. Her daughter Anne married the future King Richard III, but both of them worked hard to effectively strip her mother of her inheritance during her widowhood. She outlived both, dying in obscurity after the Tudors took power in 1485.

ELIZABETH WOODVILLE, Queen of England (?1437 - 1492) Said to be the most beautiful woman in the British Isles, the gorgeous and glamorous Elizabeth lost three of her sons when they vanished during her brother-in-law's seizure of power as Richard III in 1483. When he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, Elizabeth's eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, was married to the victor and new king, Henry VII, to bring to an end the dynastic conflict known as the Wars of the Roses. Despite this, she died in relative obscurity in 1492 and her funeral at Saint Saviour Abbey was a quiet affair for one of the most divisive and unlucky queens of the Middle Ages.

ISABELLA I, Queen of Castile and Queen of Aragon (right; 1451 - 1504) The queen famous for uniting Spain through her wars of reconquest and her marriage to King Ferdinand V of Aragon, she was dubbed Isabella the Catholic by her admirers. More recent historians have criticised her government's introduction of the Inquisition to Spain and its treatment of the Jewish and Islamic communities during the Reconquista. Beautiful and elegant, Isabella's younger daughter Katherine married the Prince of Wales in 1501 and after his death, she became the first wife of King Henry VIII in 1509. Through her, Isabella was the grandmother of England's first successful queen regnant, Mary I.

ELIZABETH HOWARD, Countess of Ormonde and Wiltshire (?1480 - 1538) Poets praised Elizabeth Howard's beauty and her father single-handedly clawed his way back to the family's title of dukes of Norfolk after their support for Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth saw them demoted when Elizabeth was five or six years-old. She was apparently close to her youngest daughter Anne Boleyn, who became Henry VIII's second wife and the mother of Queen Elizabeth I. She was her daughter's chosen chaperone at court before her marriage, but she lived long enough to endure the double tragedy of seeing two children executed on the King's orders over the course of three days in May 1536. She died in 1538 and was buried in the Howard family's church in London.

MARGARET WENTWORTH (?1478 - ?1550) Not much is known of Jane Seymour's mother, except that she was said to be very pretty. Her husband Sir John was alleged to have carried on a quasi-incestuous affair with his daughter-in-law Katherine, which may account for the family's relative obscurity at court before their daughter Jane rose as a rival to Queen Anne Boleyn in 1536. Jane's sisters Dorothy and Elizabeth seem to have been at her side far more frequently than her mother during those tumultuous weeks and there is no evidence of her playing much of a role in the life of her grandson, King Edward VI. She saw two of her sons, Thomas and Edward, acquire aristocratic titles for themselves but both perished on the executioner's block. Margaret may still have been alive at the time of Thomas's death, but it is likely she was already dead by the time Edward met a similar fate in 1552.

MARIA, Duchess of Jülich-Cleves-Berg (1491 - 1543) A strict but seemingly virtuous German aristocrat who did not support the marriage of her daughter, Anne of Cleves, to Henry VIII of England in 1540. She said that she loved her daughter so much that she was "loath to suffer her" absence. Maria died three years after her daughter's divorce, but they were never reunited as the terms of Anne's divorce settlement required her to remain in England.

JOCASTA CULPEPPER (?1480 - 1531) Not much is known of Catherine Howard's mother, but she married the under-sheriff of London, Ralph Legh or Leigh, and had five or so children with him. Her marriage to Lord Edmund Howard produced five or so more, of which the future queen appears to have been one of the youngest. Edmund's financial troubles and spells of incontinence seem to have riled Jocasta's temper and in a surviving letter to Lady Lisle, we can see that she even beat her husband on occasions when he did "bepis" his bed. She died in 1531 and young Catherine was sent to live with her step-grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk.

MAUD GREEN (1492 - 1531) Katherine Parr's mother was a lady-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon, who may have stood as godmother to Maud's daughter. Her grandmother Alice had been one of Elizabeth Woodville's ladies-in-waiting, making the Greens a family with a long connection to the queen's household. Wealthy, elegant and self-possessed, Maud's will reveals her to have been a strong-willed woman who arranged the marriage of her eldest daughter Katherine while she was still quite a young girl and who left a sizable trove of beautiful possessions to her children.

JANE GUILDFORD, Duchess of Northumberland (?1508 - 1555) Jane Grey's mother-in-law does not enjoy a bumper reputation, but although she was married to the questionable John Dudley who rose through numerous dubious machinations to become Edward VI's confidante and duke of Northumberland, Jane deserves credit for rescuing the family after her daughter-in-law's brief reign ended in imprisonment and death. Jane's son Guildford was beheaded on the same day as his young wife and her husband had already been executed for his part in trying to oust Queen Mary I from her place as queen. With a sense of desperate maternal pragmatism, Jane buried the past and set out to befriend the new Queen's husband, Philip of Spain, and used that friendship to secure the release of many of her family from the queen's gaols. Another of her sons, Robert, found fame in the next generation for his rumoured love affair with Queen Elizabeth I and the tragic death of his wife, Amy Robsart.

ISABELLA OF PORTUGAL, Holy Roman Empress (right; 1503 - 1539) The charming and pious wife of the powerful Emperor Charles V was the mother of Philip II of Spain, Queen Mary I's husband from 1555 until 1558. Isabella died long before the marriage took place, when her son was only eight years-old. However, the resignation and piety with which the thirty-six year-old Empress met death so impressed one of her courtiers, Francesco Borgia, that he subsequently joined the priesthood and was later canonised by Pope Clement X. After the Empress's burial in Spain, Francesco took a vow that he would never again serve a mortal master, because none could be found to match Isabella. Having helped her husband in the task of ruling, Charles did not re-marry and it was Isabella's blood which helped justify her son's annexation of the Portuguese crown in 1580.

SOPHIE OF MECKLENBURG-GUSTROW, Queen of Denmark and Norway (left; 1557 - 1631) A German aristocrat whose daughter, Anne, became Queen of Scotland through her marriage to James VI and later, queen consort of England and Ireland, too. Sophia, who married her cousin King Frederick II, was also the mother of eight children, but she had little political power during her husband's lifetime. After his death, Sophie came into her own by ruling as regent for her son, King Christian IV, and arranging marriages and dowries for her daughters, against the will of the regency council. In her widowhood, she also developed a passion for science, investment, banking and money-lending. She outlived her daughter Queen Anne, who died in England in 1612; Sophie died in Sweden in 1631, at the age of seventy-four. Thanks to her financial acumen, she was one of the richest women in the world when she died. 

MARIE DE MEDICI, Queen of France and Navarre (right; 1575 - 1642) The daughter of the Grand Duke of Tuscany and his Austrian wife, Marie was picked as the second wife of King Henri IV of France when he divorced his childless first wife, Marie's distant and notorious cousin, "La Reine Margot." Marie had much to endure in her marriage, including her husband's numerous mistresses and tribe of bastards. When he was assassinated by a knife-wielding maniac during a carriage ride in 1610, many suspected Marie of complicity in the plot. She exerted great influence over her young son, Louis XIII, but she failed to adjust to his growing maturity; her numerous plots to restore her former power and oust Louis's chief adviser, Cardinal Richelieu, led to her disgrace and banishment. She grew enormously fat in her widowhood and indulged her taste for fine food. A great patron of the arts, her youngest daughter Henrietta-Maria married King Charles I, while her eldest, Elisabeth, married King Philip IV of Spain. Marie's prolonged visits to London heightened anti-Catholic paranoia in the city on the eve of the civil war; today, Rubens' cycle of portraits to celebrate her life are among her greatest surviving pieces of patronage.

MARIA-LUISA OF GUZMAN, Queen of Portugal (left; 1613 - 1666) In Portuguese history, Luisa is often remembered for her defiance when she said, "Better a queen for a day than a duchess all my life." Luisa's husband, King John IV, was the Braganza duke who restored Portuguese independence from its union with Spain and when warned that secession would bring down the wrath of Spain, Luisa, who was herself Spanish by birth, apparently made her declaration, indicating that it was better to risk everything for one moment of glory than to spend the rest of their lives living by Spain's command. The so-called Braganza Restoration worked and Luisa was tireless in supporting her family's right to rule and supported the execution of nobles who plotted against her husband. During her widowhood, she ruled the kingdom for her young son, King Afonso VI, and negotiated her daughter Catherine's marriage to King Charles II, after the restoration of the monarchy in Britain in 1660. She died in Lisbon four years after Catherine's marriage.

FRANCES AYLESBURY, Countess of Clarendon (left; 1617 - 1667) Heiress to a baronet, Frances's husband Edward was an Oxford graduate, lawyer and politician who opposed the policies of King Charles I in the years before the civil war, but sided with the royalists when the war came due to his conviction that taking up arms against the monarch constituted treason. Edward and Frances's marriage seems to have been happy, if private. In his will, Edward referred to her as "my dearly beloved wife" and said she deserved a better man than him for her husband. Shortly before the restoration of the monarchy, their daughter Anne caused a scandal by sleeping with the King's younger brother, the Duke of York, and the couple then hastily married due to her pregnancy, much to the Queen Mother's fury. (Not a force to be discounted lightly in Henrietta-Maria's case.) The couple went on to produce two future queens-regnant, Mary II and Anne, but Anne Hyde herself died of breast cancer before her husband became King James II in 1685.

LAURA MARTINOZZI, Duchess of Modena (right; 1639 - 1687) One of the seven nieces of Cardinal Mazarin and cousin of the notorious Hortense and Olympia Mancini, one of whom found notoriety for her bed-hopping ways and the other for involvement in the Affair of the Poisons that rocked Versailles, Laura was raised under the eye of her uncle's patroness, the Queen Mother of France, Anne of Austria, and she married the Italian Duke of Modena, Alfonso d'Este, in 1658. Like most women of her family, Laura was strikingly beautiful and she passed this on to her gentle and elegant daughter Maria-Beatrice, who became the second wife of the future King James II. Laura died shortly before her daughter and son-in-law were driven into exile by the Glorious Revolution.

SOPHIA-AMALIA OF BRUNSWICK-LUNEBERG, Queen of Denmark and Norway (right; 1628 - 1685) A minor German aristocrat, Sophia-Amalia married her husband, Prince Frederick, when his chances of succeeding to the throne seemed slight. Their comparatively humble lifestyle was transformed when he became King Frederick III in 1648. A Francophile with a passion for hunting and masquerade balls, Queen Sophia-Amalia also enjoyed acting, dancing and music. Within the court, she was the subject of much admiration for her vivacity and charm, with the exception of her sisters-in-law, who disliked her intensely and with whom she frequently quarreled. Outside the palace, the Queen was often criticised for her extravagance and her support for absolutism. During the war with Sweden, her popularity increased and the Danish royal family's current winter residence, the Amalienborg Palace, stands on the site of Sophia-Amalia's dower home, the Sophie Amalienborg. Her third son, Prince George, was the consort of Britain's Queen Anne, who ruled between 1702 and her death in 1714. Prince George did not inherit his mother's passion for living - British courtiers used to joke that the only reason he snored was to remind people that he was still alive.

ELEANOR-MARIE D'ESMIER D'OLBREUSE, Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneberg and Countess of Wilhelmsburg (right; 1639 - 1722) Born into one of the few Huguenot families of the French nobility, the Edict of Nantes meant that she eligible to serve at the French court as a young woman and she served in the entourage of the Duchesse de Thouars before her marriage. It was there that she met the visiting Duke George-Wilhelm, a Protestant like her, who fell in love with Eleanor-Marie and seduced her. The couple produced a daughter, Sophia-Dorothea, before their marriage, but she was subsequently legitimised after her parents' nuptials and later married the Elector George of Hanover, the future King George I of Britain, in one of the most notoriously unhappy royal marriages of the century. Eleanor-Marie lived long enough to see her daughter imprisoned in Hanover and she spent years unsuccessfully trying to negotiate her release. With her eyesight almost gone, the Duchess died in 1722, at the age of eighty-three and, generous and warm-hearted to the last, she left bequests for over three hundred people in her will. 

ELEANOR-ERDMUTHE-LOUISE OF SAXE-EISENACH, Margravine of Branenburg-Eisenach and Electress of Saxony (left; 1662 - 1696) George II's mother-in-law lived in relative poverty with her two children, Wilhelm and Caroline, after their father, Johann of Brandenburg-Eisenach, died at the age of thirty-one. To secure her family's position, Eleanor-Erdmuthe remarried to the Elector of Saxony, Johann-Georg IV, who humiliated her by flaunting his mistress, Magdalena-Sibylla von Neidschutz, and abused her terribly. In one of his attacks on his wife, Eleanor-Erdmuthe's life was only saved when her brother-in-law leaped in front of her as Johann-Georg came at her with a knife. The brother-in-law's arm was handicapped for the rest of his life, but the Electress luckily escaped unharmed. One of her few friends in Saxony was an English diplomat, George Stepney. She left Saxony after her second husband's death from smallpox in 1694, but died two years later, thirty-three years before her clever and opinionated daughter Caroline became the British queen consort.

ELISABETH-ALBERTINE OF SAXE-HILDBURGHAUSEN, Princess of Mirrow and Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (above; 1713 - 1761) Elisabeth-Albertine's daughter Charlotte was the devoted queen to King George III, whose six-decade long reign saw him battle ill health and endure the loss of the American colonies. Like her daughter, Elisabeth-Albertine was mother to a large family - ten children in all, including her youngest, George-Augustus, who went on to serve in the armed forces of both the British and Austrian crowns.

AUGUSTA OF GREAT BRITAIN, Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneberg (left; 1737 - 1813) George III's sister, Augusta, found life in Brunswick too provincial for her liking and she spent as much time back in her native Britain as she possibly could. Given her patriotism, it is perhaps appropriate that the princess's third birthday saw the first public performance of Thomas Arne's iconic Rule, Britannia! Augusta was described as "a typical English woman" by a visitor in the 1790s, who also wrote that she was "full of wit and energy and very amusing". Her daughter Caroline married her first cousin, the future King George IV, and the marriage was miserable, with Caroline spending most of her married life abroad. Augusta's granddaughter, Princess Charlotte, died tragically in childbirth before she could succeed her father as Queen.

LOUISA-ELEANOR OF HOHENLOHE-LANGENBURG, Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen (right; 1763 - 1837) The daughter of Prince Charles and Princess Elisabeth of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, Louisa-Eleanor's daughter Adelaide married the future King William IV in a union that helped smooth over the public relations scandal caused by the prince's youthful womanising. Special taxes had to be introduced in Saxe-Meiningen to pay Adelaide's dowry, with Louisa-Eleanor supporting the tax hikes; she was a devoted mother who remained close to Adelaide for the rest of her life. Sadly, none of Adelaide's own daughters ever lived to maturity and Louisa-Eleanor died in 1837, the same year as Adelaide's niece by marriage succeeded to the British throne as Queen Victoria. Louisa-Eleanor's other daughter, Ida, married Prince Bernard von Saxe-Eisenach, and her son Bernhard succeeded his father as Duke of Saxe-Meiningen. During his infancy, Louisa-Eleanor had maintained the duchy's independence for her young son, overseen her children's education with great care and expanded the education reforms and innovations started during her husband's reign. 

LOUISE OF SAXE-COBURG-ALTENBURG, Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield (left; 1800 - 1831) Queen Victoria never met her beautiful mother-in-law, who she once wrote was said to have been "very small... fair, with blue eyes", but Prince Albert's famous sense of marital morality was seen by many as a reaction to his mother's private life. His parents' marriage was not a happy one; despite the fact that Louise has been described as "young, clever, and beautiful", her husband Ernst was persistently unfaithful to her and there were rumours, perhaps unfounded, that she had an affair of her own, with a Jewish courtier, leading to the slightly ludicrous story that Albert and his brother were both illegitimate. Ernst and Louise eventually divorced and Louise married Baron von Hanstein. She suffered a miscarriage and died at the age of thirty; her first husband had prevented contact with her sons since the divorce.

LOUISE OF HESSE-KASSEL, Queen of Denmark (right; 1817 - 1898) Louise was sometimes nicknamed "the Grandmother of Europe" thanks to her children's marriages - her son, Frederick VIII, became King of Denmark after his father; her daughter Alexandra married the future King Edward VII; her son George became king of a recently-independent Greece; Dagmar, christened Marie after her conversion to Russian Orthodoxy, was the consort of Tsar Alexander III of Russia; Thyra married the Crown Prince of Hanover, and Valdemar married a princess of the fallen French royal line. Proud of her lineage and close to her children, Queen Louise died with grandchildren in line to inherit, or already on the thrones of, Russia, Greece, Denmark and the British Empire.

MARY ADELAIDE OF CAMBRIDGE, Duchess of Teck (left; 1833 - 1897) Mary Adelaide was a granddaughter of Britain's King George III; she was born in Germany, daughter of the Duke of Cambridge, but baptised in England. Her father Adolphus spent much of Mary Adelaide's early childhood acting as Viceroy of Hanover for his brothers, George IV and William IV, but after the accession of Mary Adelaide's cousin, Queen Victoria, in 1837, the Duke moved back more permanently to London. Mary Adelaide grew fat in her teenage years and she had little to speak of in terms of a dowry. Miserable at remaining single at the age of thirty, she was helped by her cousin the Queen who arranged her marriage to Prince Francis of Teck. As a married woman, Mary Adelaide's love of food, wine, parties and holidays incurred massive debts and the couple had to spend time abroad to avoid their creditors. Their daughter, the prim and restrained Mary, married the future King George V in 1893, a move that caused Mary Adelaide great joy and fulfilled the Queen's criteria that her grandson should marry a British girl with royal blood. Sadly, health problems meant that Mary Adelaide died at her home in Surrey after an emergency operation went wrong, thirteen years before her daughter became queen.

ALICE MONTAGUE, Mrs. Simpson (left; 1869 - 1929) The Southern socialite whose daughter became the most famous figure in the Abdication Crisis of 1936 was born into a Virginian family whose pedigree hadn't prevented them from falling on hard times. Alice never let go of the manners, attitudes and beliefs of the old Southern gentry. One of Wallis's biographers described her childhood as one of "deprived propriety", with Alice doing everything to ensure that her daughter was able to progress upon the path a Southern belle or debutante might expect. Although she died seven years before her daughter received fame, notoriety and a title from her marriage to the the king who abdicated for her, Alice's ancestry remained a source of pride to Wallis; in her autobiography, she wrote that her mother was "a Montague of Virginia" and, "I consider myself a Southerner. Now I am aware that the idea of a Southerner's being a special type of American is rapidly losing validity. In fact, I would be hard pressed to explain today precisely what makes a Southerner different. But to be a Southerner was a matter of life-and-death importance in my formative years".

CECILIA NINA CAVENDISH-BENTINCK, Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne (right; 1862 - 1938) The current Sovereign's grandmother was a socialite and chatelaine who instilled patriotism, a sense of duty and a deep Christian faith in her nine children. During the First World War, she turned her husband's famous Scottish castle at Glamis into a convalescent home for wounded soldiers, despite her own personal battle with cancer at that time. Her eldest daughter Violet died of diphtheria at the age of eleven and three of the countess's sons predeceased her - Fergus was killed in action on 26 September 1915 at the battle of Loos, Alexander died of a brain tumour at the age of twenty-two, and John died of pneumonia at the age of forty-four in 1930. Despite her personal heartbreaks, she was noted for her charm, generosity, kindness and good sense. During the Abdication Crisis, when it looked increasingly likely that her son-in-law and daughter would become the next king and queen, Cecilia was hounded by press photographers before she turned to one of them and said, "I shouldn't waste a photograph on me." One guest at Glamis remarked, "She threw such lovely parties." And soldiers stationed in the care of her family remembered her with great fondness for the rest of their lives. She died a year after her daughter's coronation and Queen Elizabeth's letters to, and about, her mother reveal how devoted they were to each other. She taught her children the practice of kneeling at their bedsides to pray every evening, a practice that Queen Elizabeth apparently maintained until her own death at the age of one hundred and one in 2002.

ALICE OF BATTENBERG, Princess of Greece and Denmark (1885 - 1969) The mother-in-law of the current Sovereign and mother of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh was born in London in 1885. All her life, the beautiful Princess Alice suffered from hearing problems; her mother, Princess Victoria of Battenberg, was tireless in her determination to help Alice lip-read and speak in English and German. Later, she mastered French and Greek, too. She married Prince Andrew of Greece in 1903, but later married life was marred by turmoil. Two of her aunts, the Empress Alexandra and the Grand Duchess Elisabeth, were murdered by the Bolsheviks during the Russian civil war, along with five of Alice's Romanov cousins. The Greek monarchy was also affected by the continent-wide trauma that came in the aftermath of the First World War and Alice gave birth to her son, Prince Philip, on a kitchen table in Corfu as the royal family endured uncertainty and exile. In 1930, Alice was diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent prolonged period of times in institutions, while her husband took a mistress and lived on the French Riviera. In 1937, Alice's pregnant daughter Grand Duchess Cecilia was killed in an aeroplane crash, along with her husband and two of their children. Alice recovered her mental health in later years and despite her disability, she threw herself into charity work and during the Second World War, her opposition to the Nazi persecution of the Jews and the help she gave to many Holocaust victims earned her the sobriquet of "Righteous Among Nations" from the state of Israel after the war. Her son Philip married the future Queen Elizabeth II and after the fall of the Greek monarchy in 1967, they offered her a home at Buckingham Palace. By this stage, Alice had become an Orthodox nun and nineteen years after her death, her remains were transferred to the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene on Mount Gethsemane in Jerusalem to lie alongside those of her murdered aunt and godmother, who had also taken the veil later in life, Grand Duchess Elisabeth of Russia. The Grand Duchess's remains had been smuggled out of Russia after her murder by the Bolsheviks and buried in the Jerusalem church built by her brother-in-law, Tsar Alexander III. In the 1930s, Alice had visited the church and asked one day to be buried alongside her godmother.


  1. Wonderful, Gareth, and I look forward to your book's release next year.


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