Born to Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria
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Born to Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria

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by Julia P. Gelardi
     
 

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Julia Gelardi's Born to Rule is the powerful epic story of five royal granddaughters of Queen Victoria, who reigned over the end of their empires, the destruction of their families, and the tumult of the twentieth century

Here are the stories of Alexandra, whose faith in Rasputin and tragic end have become the stuff of legend; Marie, the flamboyant and

Overview

Julia Gelardi's Born to Rule is the powerful epic story of five royal granddaughters of Queen Victoria, who reigned over the end of their empires, the destruction of their families, and the tumult of the twentieth century

Here are the stories of Alexandra, whose faith in Rasputin and tragic end have become the stuff of legend; Marie, the flamboyant and eccentric queen who battled her way through a life of intrigues and was also the mother of two Balkan queens and of the scandalous Carol II of Romania; Victoria Eugenie, Spain's very English queen who, like Alexandra, introduced hemophilia into her husband's family---with devastating consequences for her marriage; Maud, King Edward VII's daughter, who was independent Norway's reluctant queen; and Sophie, Kaiser Wilhelm II's much maligned sister, daughter of an emperor and herself the mother of no less than three kings and a queen, who ended her days in bitter exile.

Using never before published letters, memoirs, diplomatic documents, secondary sources, and interviews with descendents of the subjects, Julia Gelardi's Born to Rule is an astonishing and memorable work of popular history.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Engaging and lively...highly recommended.” —Library Journal

“Solemn, sometimes frisky, but always captivating.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A diligent researcher who gets her facts straight and documents them properly with footnotes...Born to Rule has much interest in it and can serve as an introduction to these four queens and an empress.” —The Washington Times

Library Journal
Of Queen Victoria's numerous descendents, her five granddaughters ruled the royal roosts of many European countries for decades. While much has been written about the tragic, misunderstood Alexandra of Russia, assassinated with her unfortunate family in 1918, and about that groundbreaking free spirit, Marie of Romania, independent scholar Gelardi gives equal due to the other three granddaughters. It is a delight to delve into the lives of Sophie of Greece, Maud of Norway, and Victoria Eugenie of Spain while also revisiting the better-known women. All five granddaughters lived through the Great War, some even participating in it, which brought them a newfound awareness of the common people. In her engaging and lively book, Gelardi makes real the tragedies that befell Alexandra and Sophie, and the more mundane yet exalted lives of the others. Their well-told adventures make the recent escapades of the Windsors pale in comparison. Including a handy genealogical chart, this is highly recommended for public, academic, and libraries specializing in European history.-Gail Benjafield, St. Catharines P.L., Ont. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Laudatory concurrent biographies trace the intertwined lives of a quintet of princesses. For these comely royal cousins, all granddaughters of England's dear, stately Queen Victoria, it was good-at least for a while-to sport coronets and kind hearts throughout Europe at the start of the 20th century. The five princesses ruled as Alexandra of Russia, Marie of Romania, Victoria Eugenie of Spain, Sophie of Greece, and Maud of Norway. For their thrones, the blue-blooded girls were obliged to adopt new homes, new religions, and new languages. With considerable use of private correspondence and related primary sources, independent historian Gelardi deals with more queens than you'll find in a deck of cards. Naturally, there are kings too, and a few knaves: innocent Tsar Nicholas, Grand Duke Ernie, Prince Frank, the German Kaiser, and naughty King Carol. Tsarina Alexandra is mesmerized by Rasputin, then dies with her family at Ekaterinburg in the oft-told story. Unrestrained Marie cavorts with the smart set, the Astors, and a friendly fellow named Klondike Boyle. Queen Victoria Eugenie ("Ena" for short) deals with Generalissimo Franco. Along with marriage arrangements within the extended family, each memorialized with carefully formulated treaties, the story is marked by funerals, abdications, bombings, revolutions, world wars, and one royal palace lacking a lav or running water. The hereditary red thread of hemophilia surfaces from time to time as the narrative roves from Balmoral to the Winter Palace and the traditional role of the nobility fades. There were rewards, too; Gelardi notes the "paroxysms of elation" and "tumultuous greeting" of loyal subjects who were often "convulsed withexcitement" at the sight of their sovereigns. But by the middle of the century, it was all over. The Excellent Adventures of the Five Royal Cousins: sometimes solemn, sometimes frisky, but always captivating. (16 pp. color photos, not seen)Agent: Julia Castiglia/Castiglia Literary Agency

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312324247
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
02/07/2006
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
496
Sales rank:
420,140
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

Born to Rule

Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria


By Julia P. Gelardi

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2005 Julia P. Gelard
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-0455-1



CHAPTER 1

"MORE MOTHER THAN GRANDMOTHER"


The story of queen victoria s five special granddaughters begins with the birth of the eldest of the group, the future Queen Maud of Norway. As the third daughter and youngest surviving child of Edward, Prince of Wales, and his wife, Alexandra of Denmark, Maud was not expected to occupy the same vaulted position as her eldest brother, Albert Victor ("Eddy"). But like her other brother, George, Maud came to occupy a throne unexpectedly, becoming in 1905 the first Queen Consort of a newly independent Norway. Maude was born on 26 November 1869 in Marlborough House, her parents' palatial London home; her siblings included Eddy (b. 1864), George (b. 1865), Louise (b. 1867), and Victoria ("Toria," b. 1868).

When Maud was christened (Maud Charlotte Mary Victoria) in the inner hall of Marlborough House, her aunt and godmother, Vicky (the Crown Princess of Prussia), was not in attendance as she was already enceinte with her seventh child. A little more than six months after Maud's birth, on 14 June 1870, Vicky presented her mother, Queen Victoria, with another grandchild, Princess Sophie Dorothea Ulrike Alice of Prussia. Vicky gave birth amidst the marble splendor of the Neues Palais, her Potsdam home. The newborn Sophie was to bring much joy to the her parents, Crown Prince Frederick of Germany ("Fritz") and his wife, Victoria, the Princess Royal. At the age of seventeen, the highly intelligent and forthright Vicky had married Fritz and made a new life for herself in the vapid and antagonistic Berlin court. Surrounded by suspicious and reactionary relations of the ruling House of Hohenzollern, the liberal-leaning Fritz and Vicky sought valiantly to raise their children in a loving atmosphere.

At Sophie's christening in July 1870, Prussia had just declared war against France in what became known as the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, a conflict that had great ramifications for Prussian and German history. Most of the men present at Sophie's christening were dressed in their uniforms, prepared to go to the front, including Fritz. Describing the occasion to her mother, Vicky noted that "the Christening went off well, but was sad and serious; anxious faces and tearful eyes, and a gloom and foreshadowing of all the misery in store spread a cloud over the ceremony, which should have been one of gladness and thanksgiving." Among those present was the chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, largely responsible for the upcoming conflict with France, who was dressed as a major of the dragoons.

The crown prince returned home from war in 1871 after Paris had surrendered to the victorious Germans. As Bismarck predicted, the South German states united with the North German confederation, led by Prussia. Bismarck's dream of a Prussian-dominated Germany was born. To cement this major accomplishment, Bismarck engineered an impressive ceremony to take place at Versailles, the former palace of France's Louis XIV There, amid a sea of military uniforms resplendent with shining medals, Princess Sophie's paternal grandfather, King Wilhelm I of Prussia, was solemnly proclaimed Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany in the Hall of Mirrors. The House of Hohenzollern became the preeminent power of continental Europe.


The English environment in which the young Princess Maud of Wales thrived was far less constricting and certainly far less militaristic than the one in which her cousin, Sophie, was immersed. Nevertheless, all was not bliss in the Wales household. The marriage of Maud's parents was far from ideal. For all her famed beauty and feminine charms, Princess Alexandra found herself unable to compete for her husband's undivided attention. The Princess of Wales had to tolerate an unending string of mistresses who streamed in and out of her husband's bedroom. But while she endured the pain of her husband's constant infidelities in private, there were never any acrimonious fits of jealous outrage from Alexandra in public, for she knew that duty came above all else. Decorum must be maintained.

Princess Alexandra was not without her faults. In order to compensate for her unhappy marriage, she lavished affection on her offspring, prompting the Prince of Wales to admit to Queen Victoria that his wife's "whole life is wrapt up in her children." The Princess of Wales, in turn, expected her children to reciprocate her love unequivocally. "Motherdear," as she was affectionately called by them throughout their lives, saw to it that her own children were raised to be as dependent on her as possible. And to enforce this dependency, Alexandra treated all of them as if they had never left the nursery. The princess also encouraged her daughters' insularity. Outside of an intimate circle of friends and family, no one knew how fun-loving and unpretentious the Wales girls could be. At seventeen, for instance, Maud wrote to a childhood friend in a distinctly juvenile, jocular, and self-deprecating tone: "my darling little Evie, how dare you call me 'dear Madam' you nasty little monkey ... I am sending you a horrible little photograph of myself which I thought you might like. Ever your loving little friend, Maud."

For Maud, growing up with her brothers and sisters in the 1870s meant fun, interspersed with schoolwork, amidst a variety of homes. In London, home was a massive redbrick pile, Marlborough House. Located near Buckingham Palace, Marlborough House proved a suitable setting for a future queen. Whenever Princess Maud and her parents were in residence there, no less than eighty-five servants attended them; in addition, at the stables, which held forty-five stalls, some forty individuals worked full-time maintaining the horses and paddocks.

In the autumn, the family went off to their well-loved Norfolk estate at San-dringham. Of all her homes, Sandringham was to hold a special place in Maud's heart. Like her brother George, Maud would come to love Sandringham and the surrounding flat landscape which the children knew so well. They also enjoyed playing with the many animals that roamed the grounds, including an elephant, a bear, and a favorite miniature Indian pony.


* * *

Since her marriage in 1862 to Prince Louis of Hesse, Princess Alice (Queen Victoria's second eldest daughter) had given birth to a succession of children: Victoria in 1863, Elizabeth ("Ella") in 1864, Irene (1866), Ernst ("Ernie," 1868), and Friedrich ("Frittie," 1870). On 6 June 1872, another girl — Victoria Alix Helena Louise Beatrice — was born, named after all of Queen Victoria's daughters. But this princess would always be Alix. So cheerful was young Alix's disposition that she was known too as "Sunny" and "Alicky"

Alicky's home centered on the cobblestoned medieval city of Darmstadt, its buildings decorated with elaborate wood carvings. There, the Hesse family had possession of the New Palace, where Alice ensured that they were surrounded by reminders of England. Alice was very proud to have inserted touches of her native land; she boasted to Queen Victoria that "the decoration and domestic arrangements were so English that it was hard to realise one was in Germany"

Alix's childhood was not too dissimilar from that of her cousins Maud of Wales and Sophie of Prussia; all three enjoyed playing outdoors, amusing themselves with a menagerie of animals. Alix's congenial childhood did not last long, however, for in 1873 tragedy intruded. While playing with his brother, Ernie, two-and-a-half-year-old Frittie fell out of a second-story window. Frittie, who suffered from hemophilia passed on to him by his mother, died soon afterwards. This bitter loss resigned Alice to the fact that "all is in God's hands, not in ours." Hemophilia, the painful bleeding disease that strikes males but is passed to them by their mothers, was marked by its high mortality rate. The defective gene made its appearance in Queen Victoria, who passed on the disease to her son, Leopold, who died in his early thirties in 1884. Victoria also passed the deadly gene to two of her daughters, who became carriers.

When Maud of Wales was almost six, Sophie of Prussia five, and Alix of Hesse three, another child joined the rarefied circle of Queen Victoria's granddaughters. This time, a beautiful baby girl had been born on 29 October 1875 to Victoria's second eldest son, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, and his wife, the formidable Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna, daughter of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. The baby, born at her parents' home, Eastwell Manor in Kent, was given the names Marie Alexandra Victoria. But this fair-haired baby would be known to her intimates all her life as "Missy," while to the rest of the world she would come to gain fame as Queen Marie of Romania.

Upon arriving at Queen Victoria's court in 1874, after her marriage, Marie Alexandrovna found to her horror that as Duchess of Edinburgh, she ranked low in precedence among the immediate family. Because of her husband's position as the second son in the British royal family, Marie had to give way to other more senior members. The duchess despised what she perceived to be a humiliating position. Proud of being the powerful Tsar of Russia's daughter, Marie never forgave the British court, and in time this perceived snub developed into a lifelong antipathy toward all things English. Her own marriage to Prince Alfred degenerated into an unhappy union, and the Duchess of Edinburgh soon yearned to flee from England. Because she refused to hide her true feelings, Marie gained a reputation for being haughty and difficult. But Marie, a strong and forceful character, did not care what anyone thought, including her mother-in-law.

Curiously, though the Edinburgh marriage turned sour, it nevertheless produced a healthy number of children. Besides Missy, there were four others: Alfred (b. 1874) and the Princesses Victoria Melita ("Ducky," 1876), Alexandra ("Sandra," 1878), and Beatrice ("Bea," 1884).

Missy's arrival did not cause much discomfort for the duchess. Her husband told a family friend, two weeks after the happy event, that "The confinement itself was of the shortest possible duration barely over an hour in all, although warnings about three hours before. The baby was born in the most natural and easy manner without any sort of assistance and nobody was with Marie but Mrs. Johnson and myself; we had not even time to call the Doctor from the other room. Dr. Farre did not arrive from London till half an hour after it was over." As for Missy, the proud father added that his new daughter "promises to be as fine a child as her brother and gives every evidence of finely developed lungs and did so before she was fairly in the world."

The Duchess of Edinburgh also described Missy's birth. "Everything has happily ended," she reported to her former governess. Writing in French, the proud mother continued: "La gentille petite j'ai produit, avec de grands yeux et un grand nez, et une petite bouche, et beaucoup de cheveux et un appetit monstre. En un mot, je suis très fière de ma production et une fille, après tout et surtout après toutes ces predictions!" And she added, in a tender tone, "la petite faisant un concert épouvantable et messant ses dix doigts dans la bouches, car elle avait déja faim. J'étais stupefaite et ne voulais pas croir à mes oreilles!"


* * *

When Princess Alix of Hesse was five, her paternal grandfather died, making her parents the new reigning Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Hesse. This thrust Alix's mother into the much more visible position of first lady of the land. Even though she derived some satisfaction from implementing improvements in the health and welfare of her subjects, Princess Alice did not really enjoy the role of Landsmutter Like Vicky, her sister in Berlin, who always pined for England, Alice never could feel completely at home in Darmstadt — a place she found to be dotted with "narrow-minded ... intolerant interfering people."

Though comfortably off, the grand ducal family was never extravagantly wealthy, and economizing was high on the agenda. The children's holidays inevitably took them annually to their grandmother in England. In time, Victoria's homes became familiar places for Alix. The princess grew up moving between the sweet-smelling roses and sea breezes of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, the thick walls and towers of Windsor Castle, and the heather-clad hills and gray baronial castle of Balmoral in Scotland.

These visits gave Alix the chance to get to know her English cousins. She became fast friends with the Wales family, including Maud. "Do you like little Alix?" Maud wrote to her cousin, Tsarevitch Nicholas, in 1884 about her friend and relative from Hesse who was then visiting Russia. "She is my best friend, we always go for walks together when we meet. They say I am very much like her, but I do not think I am like her at all."

Presiding over the everyday rearing of Alix, who grew up on a staple of rice puddings and baked apples, was the inevitable English governess. Princess Alice brought other English traditions to Darmstadt, such as the consumption of mince pies and plum puddings at Christmas. Sadly, the family was rent asunder in November 1878 when a virulent strain of diphtheria struck. Nearly everyone in the family, including Alicky, came down with the illness, which killed Alix's three-year-old sister, May. When Alice broke the news of his sister's death to Ernie, she was so overcome by his grief that contrary to doctor's orders, she clasped the little boy in her arms as any loving mother would be moved to do. It was literally a fatal move. Within a fortnight, Princess Alice was dead.

The deaths in quick succession of her youngest sister and mother shattered Alix. The distraught girl could not even take comfort from her favorite toys: to prevent the disease from spreading, they were burnt. In one fell swoop, everything that had been familiar and comforting to the six-year-old Alix was suddenly and permanently wrenched from her. Alicky withdrew into herself — setting a pattern that would mark her propensity to withdraw and brood. From then on she was always cautious with her affections. Alicky would find comfort solely among a small and select group of family members and friends; only then would she show any semblance of that once cheerful girl who had earned the nickname "Sunny."


* * *

In England, Princess Maud and her siblings thrived. Their parents sparkled as the leaders of society, while the children settled into a routine, receiving an adequate but unspectacular education at home. Thanks to Princess Alexandra's influence, paramount in the Wales household was a strong sense of merriment, which suited the boisterous Maud. Her fearlessness earned the tomboyish Maud the nickname "Harry," after her father's friend, Admiral Sir Henry Keppel.

Visitors to Sandringham were startled to find the Wales brood on the warpath, sliding on tea trays downstairs and ringing bells to call the servants needlessly. Invited to a formal dinner at their Norfolk home, Benjamin Disraeli was surprised to feel one of the princesses pinching his legs under the table. These shenanigans were sedate when compared to the time when astonished visitors were greeted by ponies inside Sandringham. It was a prank very much to Princess Alexandra's liking. After all, "I was just as bad myself," exclaimed their amused and indulgent mother.

To the queen, Maud and her siblings seemed too unruly. A much more disciplined atmosphere reigned for the Wales children when it came time to visit their grandmother; in fact, Maud once refused to visit Queen Victoria. Princess Alexandra related how just before her daughters were due to set off for Balmoral, "they all cried floods." "Little Harry," noted Alexandra, "declared at the last minute 'I won't go,' with a stamp of her foot."

Maud's fearlessness among her young relations and her tomboyish ways did not abate as she grew older. Though sickly, the sports-mad princess delighted in riding horses every day, and cycling became another favorite sport. When she insisted on riding out in public — the first British princess to be seen doing so — Queen Victoria was unamused. The queen reprimanded her granddaughter for such a daring move. Maud replied simply, "But grandmother, everyone knows that I have legs!"

Maud's intransigence was never allowed to get the better of her. For despite their unruliness, Princess Alexandra had also instilled good qualities into her children, as Queen Victoria acknowledged and praised, saying there is "one thing, however she [Alexandra] does insist on, and that is great simplicity and an absence of all pride, and in that respect she has my fullest support."

As a child and young woman, Maud regularly visited her mother's native Denmark and so became close friends with her first cousins, the Tsarevitch Nicholas and his younger brother, Grand Duke George, sons of Alexandra's sister, Empress Marie of Russia. As teenagers, Nicholas and George corresponded with Maud. She addressed Nicholas as "Mr. Toad" or "Darling little Nicky" (often underlining the "little"). George took on the more lyrical nickname of "Musie," while Maud often signed off as "Stumpy."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Born to Rule by Julia P. Gelardi. Copyright © 2005 Julia P. Gelard. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author


Julia Gelardi was born in Manila, Philippines, and educated in the United States and Canada. An independent historian and author, she lives with her husband and two daughters in Plymouth, Minnesota.

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Born to Rule 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
'Born to Rule' is a fascinating look at five queens who were also granddaughters of Queen Victoria. Each of the five found themselves trying to learn the language, customs and religion of a thoroughly foreign country with husbands who were virtually strangers. This is a great look at history through the eyes of women who were thrust into extraordinary situations in a time of great wars and greater historical upheavals. Lots of good photos too.
RoadQueenAnne More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed this book. Gelardi's research was magnificently portrayed in this book. If you like Victorian Aged history, this is a book for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed the in-depth look into these mothers and daughters from history. Great insight.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this was a very good book containing enteraining info about queen victoria and her family. I loved it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author really did her research, and it results in a easy to read in-depth look at the lives of five of Queen Victoria's grand-daughters who all went on the become Queens/Tsarina/Princesses of foreign countries. From the haunting story of Tsarina Alexandra and the Romanovs to the scandalous reign of Queen Marie of Romania, the book covers these women from their childhood, through romances and up to their introduction to the countries they habited after their marriages and the trials, tribulations and love they endured. A great historical book about some women that people probably wouldn't have read about until this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not put the book down my only negative comment is the book has too many notes. It makes the e version hard to read as the notes are not linked
kaejones More than 1 year ago
It is a biography, but reads like a novel. Would recommend this to any of my friends.
KealaniAlexandra More than 1 year ago
Cousins. Crowns. Martyrdom-- at the beginning of the end of the world.
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emma62jay More than 1 year ago
Terrible book, disjointed, all over the place, impossible to follow. Do not waste your money