Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Girl Who Swallowed a Glass Piano

Princess Alexandra of Bavaria was born on August 26, 1826, the fifth daughter of the eccentric King Ludwig I of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. Ever since she was a child, Alexandra had been suffering from psychological problems. She was so obsessed with cleanliness (a case of obsessive-compulsive disorder) that she insisted on only wearing white clothes. In her early 20s, her eccentricities intensified. One day, she was observed walking awkwardly sideways down the corridors and through the doors in their palace. When she was asked by her family, she told them that she had swallowed a glass grand piano. Apparently at this time, Alexandra was suffering from delusion. This made her convinced herself that she had swallowed a grand piano made of glass when she was a child, and she was walking sideways through doors because the piano was still inside her and she was afraid of getting stuck. Despite her mental and emotional issues, Alexandra was an intelligent woman and could boast many literary accomplishments. She lived her life to the fullest, She was also a beauty; her portrait was painted by Joseph Stieler for her father's Gallery of Beauties.

Princess Alexandra and her delusion was the subject of a BBC Radio program, The Glass Piano written by Deborah Levy.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Royal Portrait: Princess Margaret

Today is her 82th birthday! 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Carola of Vasa, Queen of Saxony

Carola of Vasa, Queen of Saxony

Today marks the anniversary of the birth of Princess Carola of Vasa, last Queen of Saxony. She was born in Vienna in 1833, the only daughter of Gustav, Prince of Vasa and Princess Louise Amalie of Baden. Carola's father was Crown Prince of Sweden until 1809, when, following a military coup, the Swedish Parliament denied him the chance to become king. The prince and the royal family were forced into exile and settled in Austria. He also lost his title as Crown Prince of Sweden, but he was given the title Count of Itterburg and Prince of Vasa by the Emperor of Austria because of his military merit. As an exiled royal, Gustav settled in Vienna and served as an officer at the Austro-Hungarian Army.

While staying with his relatives in Karlsruhe, the Prince Gustav met his cousin Princess Louise Amalie of Baden, and they got married in 1828. The young couple were given apartments at the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna and these became their home. Their first child, a son named Louis, was born a year after their marriage but he died soon after he was born. Their second child, Carola, was born and baptized in Schonbrunn Palace a year later.

The marriage of Carola's parents was not happy. When she was ten years old, her parents divorced. Her mother returned to Baden bringing little Carola with her. She spent her early childhood in the home of her grandparents in Karlsruhe, and her grandmother Stephanie de Beauharnais exerted great influence in the spiritual and character development of Carola.

Despite her parents' separation, Carola grew up to be a lively and amiable girl, with melancholic eyes. By the time she was an adolescence, she went to live once again in Austria with her father. Under the elegant and intellectual atmosphere of the Viennese court, she received an excellent education, and became fluent in French, German, English and Swedish. By the time she was 13 years old, Carola was a brunette beauty, with luminous large blue eyes, and an elegant, slender figure. She was regarded by many as one of the most beautiful princesses in Europe, and suitors flocked in her home to obtain her hand. There were proposals to marry her to Emperor Napoleon III of the French, but her father was totally against the match because of the tense political situation in France during that time.

In 1852, Crown Prince Albert of Saxony visited Vienna. The Prince was a good-looking and clever young man, and he was able to meet and make Carola's acquaintance. The couple soon fell in love, and Prince Albert asked Carola's hand for marriage. However, her father was against the marriage because he did not want Carola, a Lutheran, to convert to Catholicism. Nevertheless, Carola went ahead and converted, and she and Prince Albert where married six months later in Dresden, the capital of Saxony.

Carola and Albert settled for a happy and peaceful married life in Dresden. Her affectionate and generous nature won her the affection and support of her husband, her parents-in-law and her future subjects. When she was homesick, her husband and her parents-in-law proved to be a great support for her. As Crown Princess of Saxony, she took a keen interest in her new homeland, and became involved in different charities. During the war of 1866, she visited the Saxon field hospitals in Vienna, where she became known as the Good Samaritan. In 1867 she founded the Albert Commission, which supplied medical equipment and services to the German army hospital during the war between 1870-1871. For her magnanimous work, Carola was awarded the Prussian Order of Louise and the Saxon Order of Sidonia. She accompanied Albert to Compiegne in 1871 at the victory over France, and was a well-liked hostess when she presided over the entertainment for the victorious armies.

When Prince Albert's father died in 1873, Albert and Carola became the King and Queen of Saxony, and they took up residence at the Dresden Castle. With her new position, she continued her charity and other social issues that she had started when she was still Crown Princess. She also made significant contributions for the improvement of health care in Saxony. She helped established a school for nurses in Leipzig, the Carol-Haus Hospital, a women employment agency, and women's school in Schwarzenberg, a home for the handicapped. She was a popular queen in Saxony.

In 1884, the new Bernadotte dynasty of Sweden and the Vasa dynasty made an official reconciliation. The remains of Carola's grandfather and father were transferred to Sweden and interred at the royal crypt. King Oscar II of Sweden came to visit Dresden, and became in good terms with Carola. King Albert died in 1902, and Carola five years later, in 1907. They were buried at Katholische Hofkirche. Carola's funeral is said to have been the finest and most elaborate that Dresden has ever seen.

King Albert and Queen Carola were childless, and after the King's death, he was succeeded by his brother George.

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