Historical Royal of August: Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein

  August 12, 2013 at 6:00 am by

August 12th, 1872. Queen Victoria is marking the birth of another grandchild, her thirteenth granddaughter. Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, the Queen’s fifth child, had given birth to her fourth child. Princess Franziska Josepha Louise Augusta Marie Christina Helena, to be known as Marie Louise – Louie to her family, has been born at Cumberland Lodge.

Princess Marie Louise as a child

The infant Princess had two elder brothers – Princes Christian Victor and Albert – and an elder sister, Helena Victoria (two younger brothers – one who died shortly after birth and one stillborn – followed). She was christened on September 18th, with the Emperor of Austria, Franz Joseph I (her namesake), and the Queen of Hannover, Marie (another namesake), as her godparents. She and her siblings were raised in England, where her parents resided at the behest of Queen Victoria.

Princess Marie Louise is a remarkable character in more recent royal history for several reasons: she witnessed the reigns of six British monarchs, the circumstances surrounding the dissolution of her marriage, and the fact that after 1917, she was simply Princess Marie Louise of, well, nowhere.

Princess Marie Louise with her husband, Prince Aribert of Anhalt

Let us begin with her marriage. A match between Princess Marie Louise and Prince Aribert of Anhalt, the youngest son of the Duke of Anhalt, was pushed by Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, the Princess’s first cousin. They had first met in autumn 1889 at the wedding of a Prussian cousin, and according to Marie Louise’s memoirs, she fell “completely under his charm”. The pair were married at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, on July 6th, 1891 shortly before Marie Louise’s nineteenth birthday. The marriage was a disaster. The Princess severely disliked living in Anhalt, with its strict court etiquette, and her initial fondness of her husband quickly dissipated.

No children were born of the marriage, and while Princess Marie Louise was on an official visit to the United States (where she met President McKinley) and Canada in 1900, it came to a dramatic end – her father-in-law annulled her marriage. Queen Victoria was said to be furious at the treatment of her granddaughter, and fired off a telegram immediately reading, “Tell my granddaughter to come home to me. V.R.” Marie Louise returned to England, where she lived for the rest of her life, never remarrying as she believed her marriage vows to be solemn and binding according to the Church of England.

Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig Holstein

After her annulment, the Princess spent much time working with charitable organisations in England, most notably the Princess Christian Nursing Home in Windsor which was founded by her mother in 1904. She also was interested in the arts, to the extent that she set up a small workshop where she created enameled pieces of jewellery. To showcase British design, Princess Marie Louise commissioned Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House to be made for her cousin-in-law.

The Great War saw changes within the family dynamic of the British Royal Family – many of their relations were German, and subsequently they found themselves on opposing sides of the war (Marie Louise’s own brother Albert was a member of the German Army). As there were a number of the family living in England with German titles, and the Royal House itself fell under a German moniker, King George V decided in 1917 to change the House name from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor, and ordered the disuse of German titles by members of the family. As such, Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein became no more, from then on forward, she was known just as Princess Marie Louise, with no designation of a royal house.

Princess Marie Louise dressed to attend the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953

A poignant memory written by Marie Louise in her memoirs relates to the summer of 1918. She volunteered to deliver the news to Victoria, Marchioness of Milford-Haven of the murders of the Tsar and Tsarina of Russia and their children. The Tsarina, Alexandra, was the Marchioness’s younger sister. Victoria’s response to the news was to garden: “I soon realized that the only thing that could in some measure lessen her agony and sorrow was to employ every moment of the day with definite hard work.” So, the two Princesses gardened every day for three weeks.

Princess Marie Louise lived to see six reigns of British monarchs: Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, King George V, King Edward VIII, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II; attending four coronations. At these coronations, she wore “pink powder” to give her face some colour, make-up which the Princess found to be quite vulgar. Her fond memories of each of these monarchs are shown in her memoirs, in which she says of the current Queen – “I do wish Queen Victoria could have known this great-great-grandchild of hers; they would have had so much in common.”

The Princess passed away at the age of eighty-four on December 8th, 1956. She is buried at the Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore.

Filed under Germany, Historical Royals, The United Kingdom
Tagged , , , , .

6 Responses to Historical Royal of August: Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein

  1. Anne Randall says:

    Marie Louise lived in the reign of Edward VII, not Edward VI. I think she found her marriage vows binding, rather than bounding. But otherwise, very interesting.

  2. David Novak says:

    The 2 volume work entitled “The Book of the Queen’s Dolls’ House” edited by A. C. Benson & Sir Lawrence Weaver (1924) is a wonderful telling of the making of the Dolls’ House and the unique contents of its Library. This work is illustrated. The texts of the library are printed in full if they are not found elsewhere. This makes the Library significant as it contains Ms copies (very tiny of course), usually in the hand the authors. Princess Marie Louise should be credited with commissioning some of the most interesting contributions to 20th century English literature. She wrote to each of the authors and requested these contributions. The only one to turn her down (rather rudely she later wrote) was G. B. Shaw.

  3. Nan55 says:

    I read her book memories of six reigns, although short, was very informative. I would have learned more about where she lived out her married life.

  4. Diana says:

    “marriage vows to be solemn and binding according to the Church of England.” Unless it has been corrected-it was ‘binding’-not bounding?

    Very interesting-would love to read her memoirs- Thankyou for writing.

  5. James Canning says:

    Very interesting.

  6. JessRulz says:

    Yes, the entry has been corrected – thank you to Anne for the pick-up (need to stop typing on an empty stomach 😉 )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Royal News to your Email

Royal News Delivered to your Email!

You can get the latest Royal News right in your inbox. Just sign up below and we will send you an email when the latest royal news is posted.

Close [X]