Sunday, December 22, 2013

Oh December

It's been more than two months since my last post and I feel quite apologetic for not updating. There are many things that has been happening in my life currently and I have got to admit that I have been so busy for the past three months. I'm a full-time teacher and then my Saturdays are spent for my Master's Degree class. So, writing, which I so love to do, is constantly being pushed in the corner. Furthermore, before I write, I want to have a peaceful mind because for me, writing should not be done half-halfheartedly. Thankfully, my two-week Christmas vacation has finally started so I'm hoping that I could have more time to post some articles.

To all the readers of this blog, may you all have a Happy Christmas!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna of Russia, Queen of the Netherlands

In the past, I have already written articles about the daughters of Emperor Paul I of Russia: Alexandra, Elena, Maria, and Catherine. So here is a new one about his youngest daughter, the Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna, the future Queen Consort of the Netherlands.

The Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna of Russia was born in January 18, 1795 as the youngest daughter of Emperor Paul I of Russia and the Empress Maria Feodorovna. Just like any younger children from other families, she was the “pet” of her parents. As she was too young to spend time with her older brothers and sisters, who were already grown up men and women by the time she was born, Anna’s playmates were her two younger brothers, Nicholas and Michael.

It was said that Emperor Paul’s three youngest children, Anna, Nicholas and Michael were his favourite children. This was not far from the truth. Anna was barely one year old when her grandmother, the Empress Catherine the Great, died. As a result, the three youngest children were brought up by their parents themselves. When Paul was assassinated in 1801, Anna was only six years old, but her recollections about her father were full of tenderness. She wrote in later years how Paul loved to have his three youngest children about him and how he told them that he was estranged to his elder children because they were taken away from him soon they were born.

Anna, Nicholas and Michael were very close to one another. They called themselves the "Triopathy" and wore rings as symbols of their bond to one another. They shared each others' secrets and burdens, and even when they were already adults and had families of their own, their correspondence never ceased.

As for Anna (nicknamed "Annette"), her adolescence years were already clouded by different marital prospects. Each suitor tried to win her hand because of the political significance that such an illustrious marriage with a Russian grand duchess entailed. She became the talk of Europe when in 1810, the French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte proposed a marriage between him and Anna.

Anna's vivacious older sister,
Napoleon had divorced his wife Josephine due to her inability to provide him an heir. As he was now on a search for a suitable wife - and a wife that could give prestige to his new empire – his first thought was the Grand Duchess Catherine, Anna’s elder sister. But Emperor Alexander could not possibly consent to a marriage between his favourite sister and his enemy. Likewise, Catherine loathed the French emperor. Conveniently, she was quickly married to Prince George of Oldenburg while the negotiation with the French was ongoing. However, Napoleon was not the type of person who easily gives up. His next choice fell on the 14-year-old Anna who was described as tall for her age, pleasant in appearance, and behaves like an adult princess.

After Alexander found out about Napoleon’s intent to marry Anna, he broke the news to his mother, who was appalled with the idea. She stated that advantages and disadvantages of such marriage for young Anna. On one hand, the interest of the State and the other, the happiness of her daughter. The imperial family gathered together to discuss the matter and in the end, Napoleon's proposal was politely refused - on the grounds that Anna was too young to get married. Later on, the French emperor married the Austrian archduchess, Marie Louise.

After France's defeat in 1813 in the Napoleonic Wars and Napoleon's subsequent exile in Elba, Russia emerged as the leading European power. With the peace in Europe finally restored, different royal courts of Europe were vying for the hand of Anna in marriage. For the second time around, France was offering its candidate: Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Berry. This candidate, unlike Napoleon, came from the illustrious Bourbon Dynasty of France. Charles Ferdinand was a nephew of King Louis VIII of France, but Alexander was not in favour of this match. He felt that the newly-restored throne of King Louis VIII was not firmly established. His opinion was shared by the Dowager Empress. Eventually, Emperor Alexander and the Dowager Empress were right in their observation with France and its king – just a few years later, Charles Ferdinand was assassinated and King Louis VIII was overthrown.

For some time, Alexander had been seriously considering marriage between Anna and his good friend, William, the Prince of Orange. Prince William had been previously and briefly engaged to the Prince Regent’s daughter Princess Charlotte. Their engagement was broken off, however, by Charlotte herself, in 1814 because she did not want to leave England and live in the Netherlands. During the Napoleonic Wars, Prince William distinguished himself to be an able commander and he became one of the war-heroes of the Battle of Waterloo. He was educated at the University of Oxford, and his courage and kind nature made him popular with the British people.

The future King William II of
the Netherlands, portrayed
here as a young man in 1815.
On December 1815, Prince William came to St. Petersburg to meet his intended bride. Two months later, on February 21, 1816, they were married in Orthodox rites at Pavlovsk. A Protestant wedding was performed at the White Hall of the Winter Palace a few days later. Anna was allowed to retain her Orthodox faith, but it was agreed that her children must be raised as Protestants. She and her husband stayed in Russia for six months and afterwards they travelled to the Netherlands. They lived in Palace Kneuterdijk in The Hague, but Prince William did not have a very good relationship with his father, which impelled the young couple to establish their court in Brussels, which was then under the Dutch crown. Anna loved living in Brussels than in The Hague because Brussels’ bustling and sophisticated court life reminded her more of the Russian court. When the Belgian Revolution broke out in 1830 which established Belgium’s independence from the Netherlands, William and Anna left Brussels for good and spent the rest of their lives in the Netherlands.

Anna and William had five children: William, the future King (1817-1890), Alexander (1818-1848), Henry (1820-1879), Ernst Casimir (1822), and Sophie (1824-1897).

As Princess of the Netherlands and later Queen, Anna immersed herself in the study of the Dutch language, history and culture. She became fluent in Dutch more than her French-speaking husband and occupied herself in establishing various charities. However, she never forgot that she was a Grand Duchess of Russia and thought herself of high rank. Her love of pomp, strong adherence for etiquette and old traditions, and unsociable behaviour did not make her very popular with the people. As a result, she was filled with feelings of sadness, longing and resentment.

Anna had a complicated relationship with her husband. William liked to associate with people who had questionable virtues and he gambled his way to debt. He kept mistresses which greatly infuriated Anna. When several pieces of her jewellery were stolen, she suspected her husband to be involved. Nevertheless, she loved William, and her letters to her family in Russia were filled with love and loyalty for him.

She also had a turbulent relationship with her eldest son, William and his wife, Sophie. Anna intensely disliked her daughter-in-law even though she was her niece, being the daughter of her sister Catherine. Anna did not have a particularly warm relationship with her sister and it was widely speculated that this was due to Anna being jealous of Catherine's intellect and magnetism.

Anna Pavlovna wearing the
Russian court dress.
In 1828, Anna received the news that the Dowager Empress Maria had died. She wrote to her brother, the now Emperor Nicholas I, that the death of their mother was like "a chasm that opens up" before them all and that with her death she "felt quite alone in the whole universe". In 1849, she also had to deal with the sudden and unexpected death of her husband. After King William’s death, his valuable and enormous collections of paintings were sold by Anna to her brother Nicholas to pay for the late king’s debt. She retired from court life and became a sad and solitary figure until her death on March 1, 1865 at the age of 70.

Note: A detailed version of this article appears in the latest issue of Royal Russia Annual.

Read about her sisters:
Alexandra | Elena | Maria | Catherine

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Wedding Portrait

Wedding of Edward, Prince of Wales and
Princess Alexandra of Denmark, by
William Powell Frith, 1878.
From the BBC website.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert begun their search for a bride for Edward, Prince of Wales in 1858. They believe that an early marriage to "Bertie" would settle their 'difficult' son. But the bride should not be a Roman Catholic and preferable, a German. So they enlisted the help of their daughter, Victoria, Princess Royal, recently married to the heir of the Prussian throne to draw up a list of eligible princesses in Europe.

Alexandra was only 13 at that time, and being a Danish, she was not their first choice. Queen Victoria also did not like the princess's family - she thought them to be "flighty". However, Alexandra was exceedingly beautiful, charming and devout. Vicky was very delighted of her, writing to the Queen that "Alix" was "a sweet creature", and after further reports about Alexandra's good looks and general demeanor, the Queen became convince that she was "a pearl not to be lost" and the perfect bride for the Prince.

The Princess Royal arranged the meeting between the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra at Speyer in 1861. Bertie thought Alexandra "charming and pretty", but it took a year (after his affair with an actress) before he proposed to her on their second meeting which took place at the Palace of Laeken in Belgium. She accepted, to the clear delight of the Prince: "I really don't know whether I am on my head or my heels," he told the Queen.

The wedding was supposed to take place in London in the summer of 1863, but the Prince did not wish to wait that long. The Queen was against a May wedding, considering it an unlucky month to get married. April was reserved for the birth of the Queen's grandchild, and so they settled on March. The Prince of Wales and Alexandra were married on March 10, 1863 at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle. The groom was resplendent in his general's uniform and the Garter robes, while the bride was lovely in her satin and Honiton lace dress decorated with garlands.

The Queen, still in deepest mourning after the death of Prince Albert did not want a public wedding and female guests could only wear secondary mourning colors like grey, lilac or mauve. Few days after the wedding, the couple set out for their honeymoon at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.

Throughout her life in Britain, Alexandra was a popular and well-loved consort. Her popularity did so much to also increase the monarchy's popularity and she gave shine and glamour to the gloomy atmosphere that pervaded the court since Prince Albert's death.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Rose of the World: Rosamund Clifford

One of the most enigmatic royal mistresses in English history was Rosamund Clifford, the favorite and long-time mistress of King Henry II of England. But she has always been surrounded in mystery, and her life and relationship with the king and his jealous wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, has always been the stuff of legends.

Fair Rosamund painted by Herbert Sydney

Often called "the Fair Rosamund" or "the Rose of the World", Rosamund Clifford was famed for being both very beautiful and desirable. She was born sometime in 1150, one of the six children of a marcher lord named Walter de Clifford and his wife Margaret de Tosny. The family resided at the Clifford Castle in Herefordshire, England, and it was here on a visit that King Henry met the teenage Rosamund for the first time. From there, a passionate affair began between England's king and the beautiful Rosamund.

King Henry II of England possessed an energetic and fiery nature. He was also described to be very good-looking and to have possessed a piercing glance. He was an intimidating and formidable warrior-king, a trait necessary for a King of England at that time. He was married to the equally beautiful and formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine, Europe's wealthiest heiress. But their marriage was turbulent. When Henry met Rosamund, she was a breath of fresh air for the rambunctious king. She was gentle, pliant, and feminine, the complete opposite of the passionate and dynamic Eleanor.

It was said that Rosamund was the great love of Henry's life. Their affair started around the time when Queen Eleanor was pregnant with her last child, and as a result, Rosamund earned the Queen's hatred. Henry installed Rosamund at the Woodstock Palace and she lived quietly there while he was away in his continental possessions.

Although little is known about Rosamund, she was frequently mentioned in works about Eleanor. Nevertheless, there were countless stories and legends concerning her. There was a story that Henry constructed a labyrinth surrounding Woodstock Palace to protect his mistress from the wrath of his jealous wife. Another tale, which was certainly untrue, was that Queen Eleanor poisoned Rosamund.

Fair Rosamund and Queen Eleanor
by Frank Cadogan Cowper, 1920.
Henry's affair with Rosamund became public knowledge in 1174. It ended when she entered to a nunnery at Godstow in 1176. She died there in the same year and was believed to be also buried there. Her tomb was carefully maintained by the Clifford family and became a popular local shrine until 1191. After Henry's death, the Bishop of Lincoln, calling Rosamund a harlot, ordered her remains to be removed from the church and be buried outside. Her tomb was moved to the cemetery by the nuns' chapter house where it could be visited until it was destroyed in the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII of England in the 16th century. The Latin inscriptions were still partly legible in 1599 and it read: "Let them adore ... and we pray that rest be given to you, Rosamund." It was followed by an epitaph, also in Latin: "Here in the tomb lies the rose of the world, not a pure rose; she who used to smell sweet, still smells - but not sweet."

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Empress Maria Ludovica of Austria

Queen Louise of Prussia was not the only female sovereign to intensely dislike Napoleon Bonaparte. The Empress Maria Ludovica of Austria was also one of his sworn enemies. She had enough political influence to encourage her husband and Austria to go to war against France.

Maria Ludovica of Austria-Este,
Empress of Austria.

The beautiful and gentle Empress was the third wife of Emperor Franz I of Austria. Born on December 14, 1784 in Monza, Italy, she was the youngest daughter Archduke Ferdinand of Austria (a son of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria) and Maria Beatrice d'Este. Having brought up in a strict atmosphere, Maria Ludovica received a good education. She inherited her parents' talent for organizing and appreciation for the arts.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Daughters of King Maximilian I of Bavaria

Maximilian I Joseph was the first King of Bavaria and he had 13 children from his two marriages. His first wife, Princess Auguste of Hesse-Darmstadt, bore him five children, two of them were daughters, but she died after giving birth to her last child. One year after Auguste's death, Maximilian married the 20-year-old Princess Caroline of Baden, and together they had eight children - two sons and five daughters.

Vice-Reine of Italy and Duchess of Leuchtenberg
Augusta was the eldest daughter of King Maximilian and Princess Auguste. At an early age, she was betrothed to Prince Karl of Baden, but the engagement was broken at the instigation of Napoleon Bonaparte, who wanted a Bavarian princess as a wife for his stepson, Eugene de Beauharnais. This was a political marriage - because of Augusta's marriage to Eugene, Bavaria became a kingdom and her father became King of Bavaria. Fortunately, Augusta and Eugene's marriage turned to be a happy one, and they were very loving and devoted to each other. With her beauty, charming manners, and high sense of duty, Augusta became a favorite of Napoleon, who affectionately called her, "my beloved daughter".

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Grand Duchess Anna Feodorovna

A miniature portrait of Grand Duchess Anna Feodorovna nee Princess Juliane Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld from the Royal Collection. She was the first wife of Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich of Russia, and an aunt of Queen Victoria.

Anna was around 15 to 16 years old when this portrait was painted. This was how her sister-in-law and close friend, the future Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna of Russia, described Anna:
"Julie is such a wonderful child: kind, polite, trustworthy, and she is the best friend I could ever dream of. She is cheerful and amusing... She has brown hair, brown dazzling eyes, and a pretty mouth..."

Monday, March 4, 2013

Ella's Portrait

A lovely photo of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth ("Ella") from the Royal Collection. The photo was taken in 1899, and Ella was wearing a low-cut gown and her favorite chain necklace. Isn't she stunning? :D

This particular photo reminds me of one of Heine's poems which I think perfectly describes the grand duchess:

You are so lovely as a flower
So sweet, so beautiful, and so pure;
Looking at you, and sweet sadness
Comes stealing over me.

I feel I should be folding
My hands upon your hair,
Praying that God may keep you
So pure, and beautiful and charming.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"The Four Lovely and Noble Sisters on the Throne"

"Aphrodite, Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia once looked down into the clear-obscure of earth, and, weary of the ever-bright but cold Olympus, yearned to enter in beneath the clouds of our world. ... Then they determined to take the earthly veil, and to clothe themselves in our mortal form. They came down from Olympus...and our nightingales fluttered to meet them out of the bosom of May. But, as they touched the first flowers of earth...Fate raised her eternal scepter and said: "The immortal becomes mortal upon the earth, and every spirit becomes a human being!" So they became human beings and sisters, and were called Louisa, Charlotte, Theresa, Frederica... And the dream was ended and fulfilled... Therefore, be it consecrated to the four fair and noble sisters..."  
--Jean Paul Fr. Richter.

This was how German Romantic writer Jean Paul dedicated his work, Titan, to the four beautiful daughters of Charles II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The sisters were Louise, Queen of Prussia, Charlotte, Duchess of Saxe-Hildburghausen, Therese, Princess of Thurn-Taxis, and Frederica, Queen of Hanover. 

Charlotte, Therese, Louise and Frederica were all born and raised in Hanover, where the princesses's father served as governor. Their mother, Princess Friederike, died when the princesses where still very young. Grand Duke Charles remarried, and his second wife was the princesses' maternal aunt, Charlotte. Princess Charlotte was a loving and devoted stepmother, and her stepchildren dearly loved her. Unfortunately, she died a year later, shortly after giving birth to her son. 

With no mother to look after his daughters, Charles decided that his daughters would received proper education and have better upbringing if they live with their grandmother in Darmstadt. And so in 1785, all sisters, except the eldest, Charlotte, went to Darmstadt to be brought up by their grandmother, Princess George. There they were given the kind of education suitable for their position, and this would be of great use to them once they married into the different royal houses of Europe.

Charlotte Georgine, Duchess of Saxe-Hildburghausen

Born in 1769, Charlotte was the eldest of the four sisters. At the 16, he married Frederick, Duke of Saxe-Hildburghausen, and together they had 12 children! It was not a happy marriage, however. Charlotte was far more intelligent than her husband, and he treated her with indifference. The couple was also plagued by financial problems, and had to live in a reduced civil list. When Charlotte's grandmother came over to Hildburghausen, she noticed the cold relationship between husband and wife. She wrote: "Of all his duties, he only fulfills his marital duties with zeal. Charlotte, who never loved this man, is always pregnant." Despite her country's financial problems, Charlotte gave half of her annual income to charity and educational institutions, and she provided support to poor families and women. Under Frederick and Charlotte, Saxe-Hildburghusen prospered, and its cultural life reached its peak. As a result, poets and artists called Hildburghausen "little Weimar". Charlotte had a beautiful singing voice, and her remarkable talent for singing earned her the nickname "Singlotte". Writer Jean Paul Richter wrote about Charlotte to a friend: "Paint to yourself the heavenly Duchess, with her childlike eyes, her whole face full of love and the charm of youth, her voice like the nightingale's..."

Therese, Princess of Thurn and Taxis

Therese was the second daughter, and she was born 4 years after Charlotte. While she and her sisters Louise and Frederica were living in Darmstadt, they received as their guest the Prince Carl of Thurn and Taxis. His parents were planning to marry him off to a British princess, but upon meeting Therese, he declare that he would not marry no one else but her. They were allowed to get married, on the condition that after marriage, Therese would not convert to Roman Catholic and remain a Lutheran. She was married to Carl at the age of 16 in Neustrelitz, and together they settled down in the Palais Thurn und Taxis in Frankfurt. Therese was very interested in the arts and literature. Possessing political acumen like her sister Louise, she made efforts to reinforce the sovereignty of the Princely House of Thurn and Taxis, and staunchly defended its interest at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Therese's marriage with Prince Carl was greatly strained by her husband's "political incompetence". He was far more interested in hunting than in the affairs of the government. As a result, she embarked in an affair with a Bavarian diplomat, Count Maximilian von Lerchenfeld, and Therese gave birth to two illegitimate children: George and Amalie, Baroness von Krudener. Because of her contributions to her adopted country, historians viewed Therese as "one of the great women of Thurn and Taxis".

Louise, Queen of Prussia

The most famous of the four sisters, Louise was destined to be a queen and a legend. She married the heir to the Prussian throne, Frederick William, and when he became king, and she, a queen, she used her beauty, influence, charm, determination, and political savviness to ensure Prussia's honor. Her love and devotion to her husband, family, country, and people greatly endeared her to the masses, and she was regarded as the personification of German nationalism. Her influence was greatly feared by even Napoleon Bonaparte who called her his "beautiful enemy". She openly encouraged her husband to declare war on France, and favor a Russian alliance. The queen had many admirers, and it was said that the Prussian soldiers were ready to sacrifice their life in war for their beautiful queen. Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun described Louise in her memoirs: "...but here my pen must remain powerless for it cannot convey the impression that my first meeting with the Princess made upon me. her charming and heavenly face shone with an expression of gentle virtue and she possessed the finest and most regular features. The beauty of her figure, her neck, her arms, the dazzling freshness of her complexion, everything about her surpassed the most perfect ideal. She was in deep mourning and wore a crown made with spikes of jet which, far from unbecoming, gave her palid cheeks a certain radiance."

Frederica, Queen of Hanover

Frederica was the youngest of the sisters, and the closest to Louise. As a young girl, she caught the eye of Prince Louis of Prussia, the younger brother of the Crown Prince of Prussia. They had a double wedding; her sister Louise married the Crown Prince. But while Louise's marriage was happy, Frederica's was not. Prince Louis had many mistresses and preferred their company to that of his wife. The neglected wife was hurt and soon tried to find solace elsewhere. Three years later, Prince Louis died, and Frederica was now a young widow with three children. Still very beautiful, she was unofficially engaged to her cousin, Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, but she later became pregnant by the Prince Frederick of Solms-Braunfels. To avoid a scandal, the Prince married her, but after their daughter died, he became disappointed and embittered, and soon resumed his usual dissipated lifestyle of alcohol and mistresses. The couple lived  separate lives, and by this time, Frederica had become notorious in Europe for her life and affairs. When the Duke of Cumberland came to Mecklenburg on a visit, he met Frederica and fell in love with her. She and the Prince of Solms-Braunfels were allowed to divorce, but before divorce proceedings could start, the Prince suddenly died. His death was regarded as a "little too convenient", and some suspected Frederica that she had something to do with his death. Nevertheless, Frederica and Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland were married in 1815. They traveled back to England and had a place of their own, Carlton House. Queen Charlotte, Ernest Augustus's mother, didn't like her new daughter-in-law and refused to receive her. When Ernest Augustus became King of Hanover, he and Frederica, now Queen of Hanover, moved to Hanover where they held court at Altes Palace. Despite Ernest Augustus's difficult personality and Frederica's checkered past, fortunately for the couple, they had a happy and harmonious marriage.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year

New beginnings, new hopes, new challenges, new life... 
A Prosperous and a Happy New Year to all! 

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