23 March 2016

Jewel History: Englishwoman Tells of Many Royal Brides (1922)

"Englishwoman Tells of Many Royal Brides"
(originally appeared in the Winnipeg Tribune, 18 Mar 1922)

LONDON -- Following the Princess Mary's nuptials, Muriel, Viscountess Helmsley [1] writes the following account of state weddings of the past:

Everybody is delighted at the marriage of the British royal princess to a gallant English soldier [2]. Memories of many royal weddings come to me when I look back over the years of my life. A union akin to this was that of the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, the Princess Louise, who on March 21, 1871, was wedded to the Marquis of Lorne [3]. Not since 1515, when Mary Tudor, youngest daughter of King Henry VII, became the wife of Charles, Duke of Suffolk [4], had an English princess married anyone not of princely birth; and in a letter to the Queen at the announcement of the Princess Louise, Disraeli [5] wrote words that are well worth recalling today:

"What is about to happen seems to me as wise as it is romantic. Your Majesty has decided with deep discrimination to terminate an etiquette which had become sterile, and the change will be effected under every circumstance that can command the sympathy of the country."

Eight years later, in St. George's Chapel at Windsor, amid a scene of pageantry that can never be repeated in this changeful age, the Duke of Connaught wedded the Princess Louise Marguerite of Prussia [6].

The tragic death of the Duke of Fife after shipwreck in 1912 ended one of the happiest and most romantic of royal marriages. When, in 1889, the 21-year-old Princess Royal wedded the Duke [7], all who were present felt, and indeed, knew, that it was a marriage of true affection. Very beautiful and charming was the princess on that day. The marriage was sanctioned by the state, but it was indeed free from any attempt to serve state purposes.

A few years elapsed. Then the present King and Queen [8] were wed in the July of 1893, and the nation rose again to acclaim the royal bride and bridegroom and wish for them the happy years Their Majesties have since enjoyed in full measure.

That wedding was a truly English one -- as English as that of Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles will be. All the silk for the trousseau came from England, all the flannel from Wales, all the tweeds from Scotland, and every yard of lace from Ireland. The beautiful wedding dress of white and silver brocade was, I remember, woven at Spitalfields, the design being silver roses, shamrocks, and thistles, while the veil was the one worn at her mother's wedding.


1. Muriel Duncome, Viscountess Helmsley (1859-1925), born Lady Muriel Talbot, was the daughter of the 19th Earl of Shrewsbury. Her first husband was Viscount Helmsley (1852-1881); after his early death, she remarried to Hugh Darby Annesley Owen (d. 1908).

2. Princess Mary of the United Kingdom (1897-1965), the only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, married Henry Lascelles, Viscount Lascelles (1882-1947) in 1922. He succeeded to the Harewood earldom in 1929; in 1932, her father created her Princess Royal. We recently discussed her wedding jewels here.

3. Princess Louise of the United Kingdom (1848-1939), the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, married John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne (1845-1914) in 1871. He succeeded to the Argyll dukedom in 1900. Queen Victoria supported Louise's marriage to a non-royal British subject, suggesting that it would bring "new blood" into the family; Louise's brother, the Prince of Wales, reportedly was opposed to the idea. Lorne served as Governor-General of Canada after the marriage, and several Canadian places still bear Louise's name. She was a sculptor; one of her most famous works is a status of her mother that stands outside Kensington Palace in London.

4. Mary Tudor (1496-1545) was the third daughter of King Henry VII of England and his wife, Elizabeth of York (who was the daughter of King Edward IV); this, of course, means that she was a sister of King Henry VIII. Mary's first husband was King Louis XII of France; she was his third wife, and he died only three months after the wedding. Following her first marriage, which was a political arrangement, Mary believed that she should be able to marry whomever she liked, and her choice was one of her brother's friends, the Duke of Suffolk. They wed secretly in France; this enraged Henry, who considered imprisoning or executing Suffolk. He didn't, and the couple remained married until Mary's death. They had four children, and one of their granddaughters was the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey.

5. Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield (1804-1881) was the British prime minister in 1868 and again from 1874-1880. He was the Leader of the Opposition (and a best-selling novelist) at the time of Princess Louise's marriage.

6. Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught (1840-1942) was the third son of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. He married Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia (1860-1917), a great-niece of Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany, in 1879. Their eldest child, Margaret, became the crown princess of Sweden; her descendants include the current monarchs of Sweden and Denmark.

7. Princess Louise of the United Kingdom (1867-1931) was the eldest daughter of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra; she married Alexander Duff, Earl of Fife (1849-1912) in 1889. Louise's grandmother, Queen Victoria, upgraded the Fife title to a dukedom two days after the wedding; Louise was created Princess Royal in 1905. The Fifes were sailing to Egypt in 1911 when their ship wrecked off the coast of Morocco; the family were rescued, but Louise lost a box of jewels and Alexander fell ill shortly afterward and died at Aswan.

8. King George V of the United Kingdom (1865-1936) married Princess Mary of Teck (1867-1953) in 1893. You can read more about their wedding (and Mary's wedding jewels) here.