Sunday, November 3, 2013

Eddy & Hélene

Every once in awhile you read a book that is truly special.  Eddy & Hélene ... an Impossible Match (Rosvall Royal Books) is a rare gem.

Prince Michael of Greece, who is a historian par excellence, was given permission to rummage through boxes of family papers in a relative's garage,   He does not identify the relative, but the letters MCBS are an obvious clue:  Princess Maria Cristina of Bourbon-Two-Sicilies, younger daughter of Prince Amedeo, 3rd Duke of Aosta, and Princess Anne of France.  She and Michael are maternal first cousins.

Prince Amedeo was the elder of two sons of Emanuele Filiberto, 2nd Duke of Aosta, and his wife, Princess Helene of France, whose sister, Isabelle, was the mother of her future daughter-in-law, Anne.  [To complicate the family further,  Prince Michael's daughter, Olga, is married to Prince Aimone of Savoy, the son of the present Duke of Aosta, whose father, the late Prince Aimone, Duke of Savoy, younger son of the 2nd Duke of  Aosta.]

Sitting on the garage floor, Prince Michael came across a file, "written in ink, it had the name 'Eddy'," which did not mean anything at first to him.

He opened to find correspondence between his great-grandfather, the Count of Paris and the Vatican, and letters written mostly in English to Helene and signed by Eddy.  It was only until Michael read a letter from Queen Victoria did he realize that Eddy was HRH Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, second in line to the British throne,  Hélene was Michael's great aunt.

Hélene was raised in exile in England.  Her parents became good friends with Queen Victoria and other members of British Royal Family, so it was not a real surprise that she would come in contact with Prince Albert Victor, then the second in line to the throne,

Albert Victor fell very much in love with Hélene, and she apparently reciprocated.  Marriage was another matter.  Helene was Roman Catholic, and, thus, unable to marry a British prince, according to the Act of Settlement.

The correspondence was largely one-sided:  Eddy's letters to Hélene.  Prince Michael visited the Royal Archives and discovered that correspondence and other papers concerning Eddy have been destroyed.  He was able to enhance the original letters with correspondence between Queen Victoria and Hélene's parents.  The Count of Paris would not hear of his daughter converting to the Anglican faith in order to marry the Duke of Clarence.  He told Queen Victoria that he did not think Hélene's desire to convert was sincere, nor did he think she understood the "gravity of the consequences of it."

The Count of Paris was certainly aware of mixed marriages.  His mother was Lutheran and retained her faith even after her marriage.

Queen Victoria wrote to Hélene on July 1, 1891.  She told the princess that she had wished for the marriage but "feared the difficulties of this marriage ... would be insurmountable.... that in spite of my keen desire to facilitate this union, my hands are tied and I can change absolutely nothing in the laws which prohibit all marriages between English princes and Catholics, because of the succession to the throne."  She added that she had read Hélene's "sad letter" to "my poor grandson, who is also very unhappy about, but there is absolutely nothing to be done.  I believe he will have to accept it."

 The romance and aborted engagement between Albert Victor and Hélene was kept out of the press.  After the final breakup, Eddy's family moved quickly to find him a more suitable bride.  Victoria considered a selection of German princesses, but none were suitable. The attention soon turned to May of Teck, the only daughter of Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge and the morganatic Duke of Teck.  Although May had a German title, she was very much an English Princess.   Eddy appeared "enchanted" with May, and the engagement was announced in early October 1891.  Queen Victoria wrote to the Countess of Paris to inform her of Eddy's engagement, knowing that Isabelle could break the news gently to her daughter.

The  British press "was unanimous in its praises" for the newly engaged couple.  The foreign press, especially the American newspapers, were far less effusive,  On December 11, 1891, the New York Times stripped away illusions that May was Eddy's "persistent love."   The paper reported that "it is known that the Duke of Clarence has long been enamoured of Princess Helene of Orleans."  The paper also reported that Helene returned his love, that her family supported the match, and even went to the Pope for assistance,

The marriage was scheduled to take place on February 27, 1892.  May arrived at Sandringham on January 4.  Her fiancé was suffering a cold, which he had caught while attending the funeral of Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, his father's first cousin.  He went hunting on his birthday, January 8, and he returned to the house with a fever. 

Prince Eddy was confined to his bedroom with a diagnose of influenza, while his family celebrated his birthday downstairs.   Two days later, Eddy was declining.  Influenza developed into pneumonia.  He became delirious. 

Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale died on January 14, just 28 years old.  In one of his final moments, he called for Hélene, not May.  It was Helene who he loved until the end.

Although May, the grieving fiancée (in July 1893, she married Eddy's younger brother, Prince George, Duke of York,) was embraced and supported by her family,  there was also a concern for Helene by Queen Victoria and other members of the family.

Victoria wrote to the Countess of Paris about her grandson's death, stating she thought much of "your poor Hélene, who I am sure will be painfully affected by this terrible disaster which has just struck us."

All three of Eddy's sisters, Louise, Victoria and Maud, also wrote to Hélene.  Maud's letter included "He was buried with your little Coin around his neck."   She ended the letter "sister Harry."

The Duke of Clarence has been portrayed as a dullard, poorly educated, certainly a prince not suited to be king.  This book proves otherwise:  his letters are surprisingly cognizant, full of details, and showing a growing passion and love for Helene. He seemed certain he would be able to marry the French princess.

In one letter, he writes: "Tomorrow I have a very tiresome function to go through, as I have to go to Cardiff and do all sorts of things,  What a difference it would make I only had you my darling to go about me with these places..."

The couple was most certainly engaged, at least unofficially, as the engagement (and the ring) are referred to numerous times in Eddy's letters.

In the end, it was Hélene who broke off the engagement, knowing full well that the religious issue was insurmountable,  She ended her letter, written from Lisbon (visiting her sister, the Queen of Portugal, on May 1, 1891), "Do your duty as an English prince without hesitation and forget me.

That one was the one thing Eddy could not do.

Christmas is coming.  Treat yourself.  You won't regret it.  I wonder what Prince Michael will find next in his garage.

The book can also be ordered directly from the publisher, Rosvall Royal Books.  Click on the link for more information.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Princess Marie Jose Entre Belgique et Italie

Princess Marie-José of Belgium (1906-2001) was the only daughter of King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians.   In 1930, she married Umberto, Prince of Piedmont, heir to the Italian throne. 

The marriage was an arrangement that failed abysmally.  The couple were the parents of three daughters and one son.  In May 1946, Umberto succeeded to the throne after his father, King Vittorio Emanuele abdicated.  After a reign for a mere 44 days, the monarchy collapsed in a public referendum, where the majority voted for a republic. Umberto and Marie Jose went into exile, going their separate ways. 

The marriage between the only daughter of the King and Queen of the Belgians and the only son of the King and Queen of Italy was a political coup, a dynastic arrangement, long planned between two of the most prominent Catholic monarchies.

In 2012, an exhibition of Marie Jose's clothes and the preparation for the marriage opened in Brussels at the Musées royaux d'Art et d'Histoire under the patronage of Queen Paola.  

The exhibition was supported by the La Fondation Humbert II and Marie José de Savoie.  Belgian publisher Lannoo published a French-language companion book,  La Princesse  Marie José Entre Belgique et Italie  Une garde-robe royale written and edited by Marguerte Coppens.  (The title translates to Princess Marie José between Belgium and Italy. A royal wardrobe.)

Marie José's marriage was a marriage of state ... and a marriage of the heart.  Her trousseau would be a combination of Belgian and Italian designs, and as the Princess of Piedmont, wife of the heir apparent, Marie-José would become the standard bearer for Italian fashion, 

This book also is the exhibition catalog so there will are photographs and descriptions of the clothes, jewels, photographs and other items that were included in the exhibit.

128 pages.  French text.  Plenty of illustrations.   The book can be ordered from the museum's shop.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Shopping on Amazon helps me out!

Full transparency:  if you click on one of my Amazon links and purchase the book, I earn a few pennies.  Seriously a few pennies.  You can also purchase books or anything else on Amazon if you use my search boxes (for US, UK & Germany)  -- and readers have stepped up to the plate and ordered some interesting things. 

The extra pennies don't come from you, but from Amazon sharing their good fortune with people who want to spread the good word about their company.

It does not matter whether you purchase the product direct from Amazon or from a third party.  It does matter, however, that the item(s) be ordered from a link, using one of the search boxes (make sure you are already logged into your own Amazon account) or my Stores.

Every little bit (and I mean little) is going toward my 60th birthday blow out next spring.  The actual birthday is in June, but prices are a little less expensive in May.  The plan -- for now -- is to fly to London for a few days, then fly to Dubrovnik, spend a few days there, take a bus into Montenegro and see more of that beautiful country, and perhaps get to Albania for a day or so, and return to London for another day or two.

I only wish one could also earn air miles on Amazon.

All you need to do is shop, using the links on Royal Musings and here on Royal Book News. 

A new biography on Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll

Several years ago I was able to attend Lucinda Hawkley's lecture on Princess Louise at the National Portrait Gallery in London.  Hawskley mentioned she was writing a book on Princess Louise. 

I am looking forward to reading her new book, The Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria's Rebellious Daughter (Chatto & Windus: £25.00).

It will be interesting to see how this book stands up to the largely definitive biography, Princess Louise, Queen Victoria's Unconventional Daughter by Jehanne Wake.  I can certainly recommend adding this book to a royal library.  One of the best royal biographies ever written.  Also recommended Darling Loosy: Letters to Princess Louise, 1856-1939.  This compilation of letters was edited by the late acclaimed royal biographer, Elizabeth Longford.


A must have Christmas present .

Public librarian Helen Azar's fluency in Russian comes in handy for this Romanov specialist.  She recently translated Grand Duchess Olga Nicolaievna of Russia's wartime diaries.  The Diary of Olga Romanov: Royal Witness to the Russian Revolution is due for release on December 1.  The publisher is Westholme. 


The Camera and the Tsars: translated in to Danish

British royal author Charlotte Zeepvat's fabulous book, The Camera and the Tsars (2006) is now available in a Danish-language translation, Kejserinde Dagmars russiske familiealbum. The publisher is Forlaget Rosenkilde & Bahnof.  The price is 299.95 DK.