A century ago this month, two unique royal weddings were held in London. The first transformed a princess-turned-lady back into a princess—and the second, which we’re discussing today, did exactly the opposite!
To set the stage for today’s royal wedding flashback, we need a quick catch-up on the family of King George V’s sister, the Princess Royal. Princess Louise, the eldest of the three daughters of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, married Alexander Duff, the 1st Duke of Fife, in July 1889. Alexander was eighteen years older than Louise, and he had a less than savory personal reputation before their marriage, but the union seems to have been a happy one regardless.
The couple had two surviving children, Lady Alexandra (born in 1891) and Lady Maud (born in 1893). When Louise’s father made her Princess Royal in 1905, he also upgraded her daughters’ titles, making them HH Princess Alexandra and HH Princess Maud. The young princesses often accompanied their parents on grand royal occasions, attending important moments like the state funeral of their grandfather, King Edward VII, and the coronation of their uncle, King George V. Princess Maud made her formal debut at court in 1911. But for the most part, they spent their days at Mar Lodge in Scotland, or traveling abroad with their parents.
One of those family trips, in December 1911, sadly turned to tragedy. While sailing aboard the SS Delhi en route to Egypt, where they were planning to spend the winter, the Fife family found themselves in the midst of a sudden storm at the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. The liner ran aground near Cape Spartel on the Moroccan coast. The lifeboat that was ferrying the Fifes to shore took on water and sank, sending all four of the family members into the chilly water. All were rescued, but the 62-year-old Duke of Fife eventually developed pleurisy after the ordeal. He died in Egypt in January 1912.
The death of the Duke was an incredible blow to the family, and even more changes were lurking on the horizon. Maud’s sister, Princess Alexandra, inherited her father’s title, becoming the 2nd Duchess of Fife. In October 1913, Alexandra married one of their cousins, Prince Arthur of Connaught. During the war years that followed, Princess Maud resided both in Scotland and in London with her mother in their home at 15 Portman Square. Princess Louise became rather reclusive in her widowhood, but Princess Maud remained an engaged and interested young woman. She reportedly excelled at languages, speaking both German and Italian, and was devoted to outdoor pursuits—riding, swimming, and angling especially. At one point she is said to have held the record for the largest salmon caught in the River Dee.
After the end of the war, when the regular social calendar of visits and weekends began to move more normally once more, Princess Maud’s name is regularly found among lists of those attending shooting parties in Scotland. By 1922, those lists also included another name: Lord Carnegie. Charles Alexander Bannerman Carnegie, born the same year as Princess Maud, was the eldest son of the Earl and Countess of Southesk. Tall and handsome, Charles had served with the Scots Guards during World War I. In 1917, he was tapped to serve as the aide-de-camp to the Viceroy of India, Lord Chelmsford. (Charles was briefly engaged to Chelmsford’s daughter, the Hon. Anne Thesiger, in 1919. There was much commentary in London society when Charles left his post and the engagement was broken a few months later.)
In the autumn of 1922, Charles and Maud struck up a romance in the Scottish Highlands. That September, Maud attended the Braemar Gathering with her mother. They also spent time in September and October with her uncle and aunt, King George and Queen Mary, at Balmoral Castle. Charles and Maud’s relationship developed privately, until June 10, 1923, when Buckingham Palace announced that they were engaged to be married. The Court Circular stated, “It is with great pleasure that the King announces the betrothal of his niece, Princess Maud, second daughter of the Princess Royal and the late Duke of Fife, to Lord Carnegie, captain, Scots Guards, eldest son of the Earl and Countess of Southesk, to which union his Majesty gladly gives his consent.” Hours before the announcement, Maud and Charles had lunched at Buckingham Palace with her mother and the King and Queen.
Preparations for a royal wedding began immediately. By this time, Buckingham Palace was more than experienced. Princess Mary had wed Lord Lascelles in February 1922, and the Duke and Duchess of York had married in April 1923. That summer, the palace was also coordinating with the Swedish royal court to plan the upcoming nuptials of the Crown Prince of Sweden and Lady Louise Mountbatten. As the palace machine kicked into gear, Maud and Charles headed to the studio of photographer Alexander Corbett in Baker Street to pose for engagement portraits. In August in Aberdeenshire, Maud’s new place in the Carnegie family was highlighted when she served as godmother and namesake to Charles’s baby niece, Maud Mariota, daughter of Major Arthur and Lady Katherine Bosanquet.
In September 1923, a few weeks before the wedding, Princess Maud and Lord Carnegie joined the royal family at the annual Braemar Gathering. Around the same time, a family friend unexpectedly left a major gift to the bride-to-be. Lord Farquhar, one of her late father’s closest and wealthiest friends, passed away. By the terms of his will, Maud stood to inherit £50,000—the equivalent of several million pounds in today’s money. But there was a catch. When Maud married Lord Carnegie, the legacy would be revoked and bequeathed to her new husband instead. The papers made much about the windfall that Charles would inherit on his wedding day, but they should have paused. When Farquhar’s estate went through probate, it was revealed that he was so far in debt that there was nothing left for anyone to inherit at all.
Meanwhile, the wedding date was set, and then set again. The ceremony was planned for October 15, 1923 at the Guards’ Chapel at Wellington Barracks, just steps from Buckingham Palace. (The nineteenth-century chapel was a beautiful building. Sadly, it was bombed three times during World War II. The third bombing destroyed most of the building and killed more than a hundred worshipers during a Sunday morning service. The chapel was rebuilt in the 1960s.) Almost immediately, though, the date had to be moved. Charles’s father, Lord Southesk, accidentally injured his knee seriously during a shoot. To give him time to recover, the marriage date was postponed to November 12, just nine days after the wedding of Crown Prince Gustaf and Lady Louise. Princess Maud and Lord Carnegie attended that royal wedding at the Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace on November 3.
On the morning of Monday, November 12, well-wishers began to gather before ten o’clock along Birdcage Walk near the Guards’ Chapel to wait for a glimpse of the royal bride, who was scheduled to arrive at eleven. The King and Queen arrived with their two youngest sons. As Queen Mary, Prince Henry, and Prince George headed inside, King George—”a cheery, genial figure in uniform as Colonel-in-Chief of the Scots Guards, put on in honour of the bridegroom,” the Liverpool Daily Post wrote—waited outside for the bride, “as any lesser uncle might have done for a bride who was a few minutes late.” The car carrying Princess Maud and her mother, the Princess Royal, pulled up outside the chapel at precisely eight minutes past eleven.
Instead of an organ, music was provided by the band of the Scots Guards and the choir of the Chapel Royal during the wedding service. As the royal bride arrived at the chapel door, flanked by her uncle and her mother, the music quieted. Princess Maud was an “entrancing figure,” reporters noted, as she prepared to walk down the aisle. One writer recalled, “Between the King (who held her hand) and her slender, grey-clad, rather wistful-looking mother, walked the bride—a really pretty girl in gleam of silver cloth and pearls, an unusual cap of silver arranged upon her dark hair.” Onlookers remarked on “the happiness so patent upon her face and sparkling in her dark eyes.”
Lord Carnegie was waiting for his bride at the altar, tall and handsome in his Guards uniform. He was supported by a fellow aristocrat, the Earl of Galloway. The two were classmates at Harrow and had both served in the Scots Guards during the war. As Princess Maud arrived at the altar, she was followed by a group of bridesmaids carrying her train. The principal bridesmaid was the groom’s younger sister, Lady Mary Elizabeth Carnegie. The others were Dorothea Carnegie (the groom’s cousin), Lady Anne and Lady Margaret Cavendish-Bentinck (daughters of the Marquess of Titchfield), and Lady Anne and Lady Joan Hope (daughters of the Marquess of Linlithgow). All six of the bridesmaids wore “gossamer-like” gowns of forget-me-not blue.
The royal family were already seated in the chapel’s choir stalls ahead of the bride’s arrival. While usually numerous members of the family would be in uniform, journalists noted that—since only members of the Guards regiment were in uniform for the occasion—”there were only two splashes of scarlet, where sat the Prince of Wales and Viscount Lascelles.” (David wore the uniform of the Welsh Guards, while Lord Lascelles wore that of the Scots Guards.) David took his seat first, followed shortly afterward by Lascelles and Princess Mary, who wore a brown velvet coat and a gold tissue hat. Autumnal colors abounded in the ladies’ dress at the ceremony. The Duke and Duchess of York were next, with the Duke in morning dress and the Duchess in a brown embroidered frock. Prince Henry and Prince George, both in morning dress as well, accompanied their mother, Queen Mary, as she arrived in the chapel. One journalist described the Queen as “a stately figure in grey chiffon velvet, which shimmered beneath the electric light.” The Sheffield Daily Telegraph reported that the Queen “wore many pearls, and her silver and grey toque had a long brooch of emeralds and diamonds as an ornament in the front.”
Queen Mary took her place in the stalls beside another royal consort, Queen Olga of the Hellenes, who wore her usual flowing, dark robes and cap. A reporter noted that Olga was “almost unknown to the assembled guests”—even though the tumultuous goings on surrounding the Greek crown, recently settled on her grandson, King George II, would have been much in the news. (Olga was joined at the wedding by her granddaughter, Princess Nina Georgievna, and her husband, Prince Paul Chavchavadze.) As the royals settled in their seats, Queen Alexandra, the bride’s grandmother, arrived with Princess Victoria, who wore gray velvet and furs. Journalists noted that Alexandra, wearing purple velvet and an ermine cape, “walked slowly down the aisle, repeatedly stopping to shake hands with guests whom she recognized.” Alexandra’s youngest daughter, Queen Maud of Norway, arrived with them as well, wearing paisley print as a nod to the bride and groom’s Scottish roots. The roster of monarchs, current and former, was rounded out by the deposed King Manuel II of Portugal and his wife, Augusta Victoria of Hohenzollern. She wore “superb sables” and brown lace.
Numerous other members of the extended royal family were also present in the chapel for the ceremony. Lady Patricia Ramsay, wearing brown velvet, was there with her husband, Alexander. So were two of the bride’s great-aunts, Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll and Princess Beatrice. Numerous cousins were present, too, including Princess Helena Victoria, Princess Alice (wearing beige and a fur coat) and Lord Athlone, Lord and Lady Carisbrooke (wearing “nut brown”), and Infanta Beatriz of Spain (wearing purple velvet with a pearl headdress). Fresh off the royal wedding of Lady Louise a few days earlier, the Mountbattens were well represented, too: Lord and Lady Milford Haven, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, and Princess Andrew of Greece (in black and white) with Princess Margarita and Princess Theodora. Nada Milford Haven’s parents, Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia and the Countess de Torby, joined them in the pews as well.
The Western Mail correspondent wrote that the “setting in the church was exquisitely beautiful, yet there was a real homeliness about the ceremony,” adding, “When the bride arrived at the altar steps the picture presented was one of great beauty. All around were white flowers, fresh from the Princess Royal’s own gardens, while intermingled were white heather and the soft blue of the Scotch thistle.”
The ceremony that followed was a simple one, essentially the same as any other wedding of a Guardsman, regardless of the status of his bride. But, befitting a royal wedding, a quartet of clergymen participated in the ceremony: the Chaplain of the Guards’ Chapel, J. Allan James; the Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson; the Bishop of London, Arthur Winnington-Ingram; and the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Walter Robberds. During the vows, Princess Maud responded “I will” in a clear, ringing voice, coolly repeating her long list of names, “Maud Alexandra Victoria Georgina Bertha.”
The band and choir provided a selection of hymns during the ceremony, including “Gracious Spirit, Holy Ghost” (played during the bridal procession), “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” (following the address given by the Primus of Scotland), and a new wedding hymn, “Fount of All Life,” written by Marshall Wood and played to the tune of Mendelssohn’s Number 9. While the wedding register was being signed, “O Perfect Love” was sung as an anthem. The National Anthem was included, of course, and the couple left the chapel under an archway of swords to the tune of “Hieland Laddie,” performed by the regimental pipers of the Scots Guards. One writer reported that the newlywed aristocrat and his princess bride “were absolutely radiant, and distributed smiles to friends on every side” as they exited the chapel.
But though she’d had a wedding filled with royal relatives, and had been escorted to the altar by the king, the princess was a princess no more after the ceremony’s conclusion. Princess Maud had decided to follow the example of her cousin, Lady Patricia Ramsay, and demoted herself back to the style and title of a duke’s daughter after her marriage. She would afterward be known as Lady Maud Carnegie instead of Her Highness Princess Maud. The choice was apparently entirely her own.
The new Lord Carnegie and Lady Maud Carnegie left the Guards’ Chapel and traveled by car to St. James’s Palace, where their official wedding portraits were taken. Nearby, in the Tapestry Room, the lavish wedding gifts offered to the couple were arranged. The jewelry gifts received by Lady Maud included a diamond bandeau from the King and Queen, featuring “a design of diamond leaves, with larger diamonds as berries.” Queen Alexandra, Lady Maud’s grandmother, also offered a tiara, described by the Telegraph as “a high pointed tiara, graduated from a very tall point in the centre, tipped, as is every alternate point, with a large round pearl. The others are tipped with diamonds, and each has some fine turquoises set in it. With this present is a card which bears in her Majesty’s writing, ‘For my beloved grand-daughter Maud, for her marriage, from her loving grandmother Alix.”
The bride’s mother, the Princess Royal, offered her daughter several pieces of jewelry, including a sapphire and diamond bracelet and a fashionable platinum sautoir featuring an aquamarine, diamond, and seed pearl tassel. Jewelry gifts were also presented by Maud’s new parents-in-law, Lord and Lady Southesk, who gave her a diamond and cabochon emerald bandeau-style tiara, a diamond locket containing a portrait of Lord Carnegie, and a gold bracelet set with diamonds and emeralds. The bride and groom also gave each other bejeweled wedding presents: a pearl, diamond, and platinum sautoir from him, and pearl and enamel waistcoat buttons from her.
The members of the bridal party also joined the couple for the official wedding portraits at the palace. From left to right: Lady Joan Hope; Lady Anne Cavendish-Bentinck; Lady Margaret Cavendish-Bentinck; Lord Carnegie; Lady Maud Carnegie; the Earl of Galloway; Lady Mary Elizabeth Carnegie; Dorothea Carnegie; and Lady Anne Hope.
The wedding portraits show off the details of Maud’s luminous, fashionable wedding gown. The dress, by Madame Barolet, a court dressmaker with a workshop in Knightsbridge, was made of silver tissue and lace and featured an Art Deco-style geometric design of lines and panels. The gown’s long train featured a pale blue lining that matched the dresses worn by the bridesmaids.
The long train had initially been a challenge for the youngest members of the bridal party. Charmingly, the Mirror reported that, when the bride had arrived at the chapel, King George had stepped in to act as “unofficial chief bridesmaid,” taking the fur wrap that Maud had wrapped around her shoulders and showing the littlest bridesmaids where to stand, “smiling at their difficulties with the long train and guiding the baby fingers that were afraid to clutch the shimmering stuff.”
Rather than wearing a tiara, Maud secured her veil with a cap of silver fabric and pearls. One reporter noted that the princess wore unusually high heels—a concession to the height of her groom. Her jewelry included bracelets and rings, as well as a pearl and diamond sautoir. (Perhaps the one gifted by her new husband?)
Maud wore her fur wrap once more as she traveled from St. James’s Palace to her mother’s home at 15 Portman Square, where the wedding breakfast was held. Here, the bride and groom beam at photographers as they pose outside the house that Maud had long shared with her mother in London. The groom was still in uniform, but other members of the royal family had taken the opportunity to change into morning suits for the wedding breakfast.
When Maud and Charles headed off later for their Italian honeymoon, numerous members of the family were pictured outside the house, seeing the couple off on their journey. You’ll note that flower petals are scattered on the steps of the house and the pavement below, as the family had showered the couple as they departed.
Here’s a closer look at the royals in that charming photograph. King George V is waving to his niece here, standing beside his youngest son, Prince George (later Duke of Kent), and his second son, the Duke of York (later King George VI). Also: can you spot the member of the household staff smiling as he looks on from a window?
Here’s the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII, later Duke of Windsor) with his aunt, Princess Victoria, and his brother, Prince Henry (later Duke of Gloucester).
And here, standing behind Prince Henry, are the Earl and Countess of Southesk, Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary, and Lady Mary Carnegie, still in her bridesmaid dress.
And with that, the year of three royal weddings had officially concluded. Charles and Maud were married for more than two decades. They welcomed their only child, a son named James, in September 1929. A decade later, in 1941, Charles’s father passed away and he and Maud became Earl and Countess of Southesk. Sadly, Maud passed away quite young, dying at the age of 52 in 1945 from acute bronchitis.
After Maud’s death, Charles remained a part of the extended British royal family. He marched in the state funeral procession for King George VI in February 1952. A few months later, Charles quietly married his second wife, Evelyn Campbell. Charles and Maud’s son, James, became Duke of Fife on the death of his aunt, Princess Alexandra, in 1959, and he also inherited the Southesk earldom from his father when Charles passed away in 1992. After James’s death in 2015, his descendants decided to donate the grand Fife Tiara to the government in lieu of tax. The tiara, along with several other family jewels, is now on display at Kensington Palace in London.
I’ll be back here during the day on Thursday to share details about the jewels worn by the Crown Princess of Sweden and the Princess of Wales in Windsor and at the Royal Variety Performance. See you all then!