Monday, March 27, 2017

The Kaiser's Confidante Mary Lee, the First American-born Princess



Richard Jay Hutto included Mary Lee in his book, Crowning Glory: American Wives of Princes and Dukes (2008), and noted that her entry ran for only three pages.  He remained fascinated by the American woman, whose two marriages brought her great wealth and great connections at the Prussian court. This fascination led to further research and discovery of papers and other documents relating to Mary's live

Mary Esther Lee was born on October 3, 1837, the youngest child of David Lee, a New York merchant, and Ann Phillips.  Lee died in 1852, leaving a large fortune to his widow and five children.  Ann took her family to Europe, where her daughters would find noble husbands.  Mary was living in Paris with her sister, Josephine, the wife of Baron August von Waechter, the King of Wurttemberg's ambassador to Napoleon III, when she met Prince Friedrich of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg (1800-1865).

Friedrich was the the third child of  Friedrich Christian II, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg, and Princess Louise of Denmark. His elder brother, Christian, renounced his rights in favor of his son, Friedrich, who married Princerss Adelheid of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, a niece oof Queen Victoria.  This couple's eldest daughter, Auguste Viktoria, was the wife of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

One of Friedrich's nephews, Prince Christian, was married to Princess Helena, third daughter of Queen Victoria.

Friedrich was  nearly 37 years Mary's senior.  She had numerous suitors, but it was the Prince was smitten by her "charm and beauty."  He also appreciated that she was unconventional -- for the mid-1800s.   Nor did he need to marry her for her bank account.  He was immensely wealthy in his own right.

The marriage did not receive the approbation from Friedrich's family.   As the marriage would be morganatic,  Friedrich renounced his princely titles (which he would not have been able to share with Mary), and was created Prince of Noer by Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, a good friend.     Mary would be the Princess of Noer.

The couple were on an extended honeymoon, when in Beirut, eight months later, Friedrich became ill and died.   Mary became a very wealthy widow, inheriting the modern day equivalent of $60 million, from her husband's estate.   She remained a widow for nearly eight years, until April 1874, when she married Count Alfred von Waldersee.

Devoutly religious, Mary used her wealthy for largely philanthropic purposes.  She also had developed friendships with Friedrich III of Germany and his British wife, Victoria, whose sister, Helena, was married to Mary's late husband's nephew, Prince Christian.   During this time, Mary became a mentor to her great-niece, Auguste Viktoria, the daughter of the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein.   In 1881, Auguste Viktoria married Kaiser Wilhelm II, the son of Friedrich III.

The American-born Mary became one of the Empress' closest confidantes, although Mary preferred to be in the background.

Richard Hutto's research led him to Lee family papers, diaries and correspondence that provided the majority of the research.

I enjoyed The Kaiser's Confidante very much, although I though the book could have had a better editor.  A few times, Hutto writes the same thing twice, separated by several paragraphs.

This little quibble should not deter anyone.  The Kaiser's Confidante is excellent reading, and well-worth the price  -- and most important, a book you will want to add to your royal book collection.

Mary Lee,  Princess Noer,  Countess von Waldersee, was certainly known to her contemporaries on both sides of the Atlantic, but her personality, her friendships, her philanthropy, her conservative religious beliefs, have been largely shunted aside.  Her mentoring of Princess Auguste Viktoria, easing the way toward marriage with Wilhelm II, led her into the inner sanctum of the Imperial Court.

It is the research that stands out which makes this book fascinating reading.  After finishing this book, I thought about how unique Mary was  -- to be a rich American woman, married into the German aristocracy, who had the ear (and friendship) of the  German Emperor and Empress.

The Kaiser's Confidante is published by McFarland ($35.00)



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Now out: The Romanovs by Coryne Hall and Arturo Beeche








From Amazon:

"This is an illustrated history of the Russian Imperial Family between 1845-1917. The book's selection of photographs, 621 images in total, handsomely spread over 296 pages, ends immediately after the fall of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917. This work is unique in that it chronicles all branches of the Romanov dynasty, including some of the female lines that did not settle abroad. Using several photographic collections previously owned by various Romanovs, the authors took special interest in providing the reader with an amazing pictorial history of the famed Russian Imperial Family. All branches of the family are covered: the descendants of Tsar Alexander II, the descendants of Grand Dukes Nicholas, Konstantin and Michael Nikolaievich, as well as the descendants of Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich and his niece Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaievna, Duchess of Leuchtenberg. Many of the images used by the authors have not been used in any of our prior books. The vignettes and text included in every chapter provide the reader with a keen and insightful microscope into the lost world of the Romanovs! With over 620 images!"


Currently available from Amazon.  Soon to be available on Amazon.uk

Hope to be reviewing it soon.

[Please use this link to order the book. It will help provide me with a few pennies per order!]





Wednesday, February 15, 2017

HRH Princess Sophie of Romania's photographs - as postcards







HRH Princess Sophie of Romania is a gifted photographer, and she specializes in the landscapes and people of Brittany in France.  Now you can order 36 of her photos (as postcards) in gift boxes, which are for sale in Romania.  The postcards are available from Curtea Veche publishing house.  Yes, you can order from the Bucharest-based firm without any problems.  I have ordered several royal books from the publisher.

The postcard collection is titled Ultramarine.
The postcards are approiximately 5x7 inches in size.


This coming spring Princess Sophie will be having her first Romanian exhibition  of her photographs.   The exhibition will take place in Bucharest.  The postcard collection will be available for sale at the exhibition (and is also on sale at bookstores in Romania.)

The exact date and place of the exhibition has not been announced.

The price of the postcard gift box is 40 Lei.  This is about $10.00 plus postage.




 http://www.curteaveche.ro/carti/noi-aparitii/postcards-ultramarine-principesa-sofia-a-romaniei.html



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Coloring Kate




Do you like the Duchess of Cambridge ... do you like to Color?

http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/princess-kate-coloring-book-sale-kensington-palace/story?id=45443633




Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Royal Magazine collection for sale

A longtime friend of mine, Susan Grindstoff is downsizing and selling her "extensive collection of Royalty Digest issues from 1993-2001 available for sale. Also for sale are copies of The Imperial Russian Journal, The European Royal History Journal, Atlantis Magazine, Royalty magazine, and Majesty magazine." You can contact Susan at heronblue92@gmail.com Update: the copies of Atlantis have been sold. UPDATE: This is what is left for sale --Royalty Digest: issues from 1993-1998, Vols. III-VII. ( $1 each) --Imperial Russian Journal: four issues from 1997-2001 ($5 each) --Royalty Magazine: six issues from 1989-1992 ($5 each) --Majesty Magazine: July 1989 issue ( Vol. 10, No. 3) @ $5

Albany One Dynasty, Two Destinies




Eurohistory's latest book, Albany One Dynasty, Two Dynasties focuses on the the descendants of Prince Lepold, Duke of Albany, the youngest son of Queen Victoria,

Prince Leopold. a hemophiliac, married Princess Helen of Waldeck und Pyrmont  in  April 1882.  The following February, the Duchess of Albany, gave birth to a daughter, Princess Alice.  Prince Leopold was in Cannes for his health in March 1884, when he slipped and fell, hurting his knee.  He died on March 28, leaving behind a year old daughter and a young widow, who was five months pregnant with their second child.

Charles Edward was born posthumously four months after Leopold's death,  He succeeded to birth to Leopold's peerages, and was the 2nd Duke of Albany.  The two young Albany children were raised to be loyal members of the British royal family.  Alice and Charlie were firm favorites of their grandmother, Queen Victoria.

Charlie's life took a new path after the death of his first cousin, Hereditary Prince Alfred of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who committed suicide in early 1899.  Young Affie was the only son and heir apparent to his father, Prince Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and his British peerage, Duke of Edinburgh,

The next in line in the Coburg succession was the Duke of Connaught, Victoria and Albert's second son, who had one young son, Prince Arthur.   Neither the Duke nor his son professed any enthusiasm for Coburg so they chose to renounce their rights in favor of the young Duke of Albany, then a student at Eton,

The decision was made for the young man,  No say.  But it was a decision that was made for him, and it was a decision that would change his life.  The Duchess of Albany noted that she would have to turn her very English son into a good German.

The Duke of Saxe Coburg and Gotha died in August 1900.  Charlie was the new duke, although he was a minor, and would reign under a regency until his 21st birth in July 1905, when he reached his majority,  Shortly afterward, he married Princess Viktoria Adelheid of Schleswig-Holstein, a niece of Empress Auguste Viktoria,  The marriage was arranged by Wilhelm II.

Alice and Charlie remained close, although their lives diverted after Charlie succeeded in Coburg.  In 1904, Alice married Prince Alexander of Teck, a brother of the Princess of Wales.  Close family connections.  Alice's first  cousin, the future George V, was also now her brother-in-law.

As Charlie settled into marriage, fatherhood, and the duties as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha,  Alice and her husband became active members of the British royal family, representing the Crown at home and abroad.

The first world war placed the siblings on opposite sides.  In November 1918, Charlie lost his throne,  but would soon find a new purpose:  national socialism.   By the early 1930s, Charlie was a committed Nazi, and Hitler used him to cultivate friendships in the UK, including the future King Edward VIII (who was Alexander and Alice's nephew.)

The two writers - Robert Golden (Alice) and Arturo Beeche (Charlie) - offer the largely familiar histories of the two royals, as this book does not pretend to be a biography of either Alice or Charlie.   Alice's royal life and sense of duty is on view here, but her own role as a hostess for Charlie during his visits to England -- he would stay at her country home where he entertained British fascists.  (Alice left out a lot in her autobiography.)

The book also focuses on many of Alice and Charlie's descendants.  Alice and Alexander, who was created Earl of Athlone in 1917 after giving up his German titles, had three children, two sons, Rupert, a hemophiliac, who died at age 20, and Maurice (who lived for only a few months) and Lady May who married Henry  Abel Smith.  Charlie was the father of three sons, Johann Leopold, Hubertus, and Friedrich  Josias and two daughters, Sibylla and Caroline Mathilde.

It was Sibylla who made the grandest of marriages.  In 1932, she married Hereditary Prince Gustav Adolf of Sweden,  Their son is Carl XVI Gustaf, the present Swedish sovereign.)

This book, as the frontispiece proclaims, a "photographic history of the descendants of TRH The Duke and Duchess of Albany." Although most of the photos come from Arturo Beeche's magnificent royal photograph archives, many of the photos of Alice's descendants were provided by Robert Golden. It is nice to see a varied selection of photos  Lady May's three children - their weddings and their growing families.

I am disappointed that the two writers did not include information on all of the living descendants or even mention  that Alice's great grandson, Ian Liddell-Grainger is the first descendant of Queen Victoria to be elected to the British Parliament.  I enjoyed seeing the photos of Elizabeth Abel Smith's marriage to Peter Wise,  She preferred to be out of the limelight, and be a mother,  Tragically, the couple's only child, Emma, was born severely disabled, and lived for only a few months.  This is noted in the text, but what is not included is how Emma died.  She was killed by her mother (more precisely, Elizabeth ended her daughter's suffering.)

The Wise marriage ended soon after Emma's death.  A true tragedy.

The chapters on Charlie and his children are well-written and documented with more photographs, many previously unpublished.  Far less detail (text and photos) on Charlie's eldest son, Johann Leopold's whose morganatic marriage led to losing his right of succession and inheritance of the estate, and his younger daughter, the thrice married Caroline Mathilde.   Most of Calma's descendants live in the US, with nary a mention.

Quibble aside, I can recommend Albany One Dynasty, Two Destinies, with some reservation, as I quietly vent that the text could have been better if the authors had included all of the descendants.   This could have been easily accomplished with several sentences, and this would have made the book inclusive and a bit more comprehensive.

The purchasers of this book will be more interested in the photos -- and let me add that the photo selection is outstanding -- but one final vent:  it would not have been difficult to include citations or footnotes for the quotes as well as a bibliography of source material consulted.

The easiest way to purchase the book is through Amazon, as there are only a limited number of bookstores that carry Eurohistory's titles.



Friday, January 13, 2017

Antony Armstrong-Jones (1930-2017) : A selection of books


Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon,  has died at his home in London. He was 86 years old.

Here is a selection of books about and by him. Lord Snowdon was one of the great photographers of the 20th Century.