Victoria Mary (1867-1953), even though she had the German title of Princess of Teck, she was born and raised in England. Her mother, Mary Adelaide of Cambridge belonged to the English Royal family, she was cousin of Queen Victoria while her father Francis Duke of Teck, was born from a morganatic marriage which would exclude him from any type of succession to the Kingdom of Württemberg, as well as from setting up a convenient marriage with most of the Royal princesses of Europe.
Francis of Teck
Mary’s mother, Mary Adelaide, was known as “Fat Mary” for her not so lean physique and at the age of 30 she was still single. She was not exactly what people would consider as a catch but the marriage with Francis was in any case set up without overlooking the not so attractive look of hers and not very well off position of his.
Mary Adelaide of Cambridge
The couple got married in 1866 and in 1867 Victoria Mary was born, in family called “May”.
Mary Adelaide and her children. On the right Mary
When it was time to find a wife for Albert Victor, firstborn of Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark, initially Mary was not taken into account.
Albert Victor, duke of Clarence and Avondale
Before her they asked to the princess Alix of Hesse, niece of Victoria and future wife of Nicholas II of Russia, who rejected him. Then he also proposed to the beautiful Princess Hélène of Orléans, later on future wife of Emanuele Filiberto of Aosta. But Princess Hélène and Albert fell in love: he was ready to renounce his succession rights in order to marry her and her, as a Catholic, was willing to convert to the Anglicanism. Queen Victoria had nothing against it but Hélène’s father as well as the Pope himself were inflexible about it, a change of faith would have led to excommunication.
Mary of Teck was a minor member of the Royal family but Queen Victoria had good opinion of her and so in 1891 the two got engaged and the wedding was set for the following year.
Victoria Mary of Teck
Albert Victor was a rather controversial figure. Many were the rumours about his alleged homosexuality or bisexuality, on his suspicious relationships and the suspects of him being the real Jack the ripper (accusation unfounded for the impracticability since he was not in London when they had been committed). Rumours aside though, he was neither brilliant in studies nor in the military career and his uncle defined him “a slacker”.
Maybe that was not too bad for Mary. In January 1892 Albert Victor, six weeks after his engagement, died due to an influenza caused by the pandemic of 1889-92, which developed into pneumonia. For this event other rumors started to spread: some said he fell for syphilis, others saw him killed to be excluded by the succession for his obscure fame.
Below: picture of Mary in 1889
During her stay at court in the engagement time, George, younger brother of Albert Victor, fell in love with the girl so the Queen made use of the fondness to set up a new engagement which bloomed into marriage in 1893.
Mary was not exactly a beautiful girl, but she was pleasurable, with a good physique, very reserved, apparently cold and severe. The couple was perfect as George was shy and reserved too.
The spouses gave birth to six children but the last one, John, was kept away from family and official pictures because epileptic. The guy had a short life and eventually died at the age of 14.
George was a severe father that his children would fear a great deal. As for Mary, she was described by their son Edward as very sweet while she was still alive and then he said of her “..the fluids in her veins have always been as icy cold as they are now in death”, in some private letters after her death.
Certainly, although the affection, the sovereigns were absent parents, perhaps distracted by the many duties that the crown would entail. For example they realised very late that the nursemaid was mistreating their older children.
Their sons, most likely due to the severe education and lack of affection, grew up with some issues. Edward, with a somewhat compromised virility, was always looking for women, very often married, with strong behavioural features where to seek refuge. Albert, later George VI, apart from the insecure character, he also had a stutter, like his brother Henry, who had an inclination for alcohol and then George, bisexual and cocaine addict, who collected plenty of relationships, some of them scandalous, despite his marriage with Princess Marina of Greece.
Below: picture of the wedding between George and Mary
The obligations of George and Mary were so many already just as Dukes of Cornwall and York. To the death of Queen Victoria, George became Prince of Wales and with it the tasks expanded further. In January 1901, the couple started a trip throughout all the territories of the Kingdom, which lasted eight months. The children remained home with their grandparents.
In the following years Mary followed her husband in almost all his trips and in 1905 they left for another 8 months tour, this time in India, followed straight away by others to Spain and Norway for the coronation of George’s sister Maud and King Haakon.
Official duties aside, the future sovereigns led a quiet life, far from the court.
Mary and George have always been a close and loving couple. There are no reports of any extramarital relationship or flirt from either side. In the little periods spent divided, he used to write letters to her on a daily basis where he would express better than face to face his feelings for her. He certainly was very different from his father, who gathered loads of lovers in his life.
In 1910, to the death of King Edward VII, George and Mary became the new Monarchs and were crowned in 1911
The coronation ceremony of His Majesty George V in the Abbey of Westminster. 22th June 1911, incision of John Henry Frederick Bacon, 1912
Mary always supported her husband, helping him out with his speech and her knowledge of English history, but always by remaining back in the shadow. She had an inflexible character and would take her role as Queen Consort very seriously; always calm and assured in her official tasks, even in the hard times of the 1st postwar. However she never gained the affection that her mother in law Alexandra had before her, perhaps for her cold severe look.
She never became an example of elegance either: the years went by, but her style did not change at all. She tried to rise the hem of her skirts, revealing her ankles after the war, but George did not like that whatsoever so the hem went back all the way down for never to rise again.
Towards the end of the 1920 George’s health started to deteriorate as he had lungs issues so she took care of him with love and dedication. The two were so attached that in the speech of the Silver Jubilee, in 1935, George admitted that “I cannot trust myself to speak of the Queen when I think of all I owe her”.
George died on the 20th of January 1936 after an injection of morphine and cocaine, maybe one of the very first forms of euthanasia.
Mary became the Queen Mother, but for her it was always used the name of Queen Mary
With the death of Mary the worst crisis in the Royal Family history happened. The heir to the throne Edward VIII declared he wanted to marry the American divorced woman Wallis Warfield Simpson. An impossible marriage which put him before a choice:
either the love or the crown
Edward chose love, abdicated after barely a year, was exiled and the following year he got married with the woman of his dreams.
Mary never forgave Edward for his abdication and his surrender to his duties in favour of his personal desires. Mary had met Wallis but after the crisis she refused to meet her anymore. From Edward abdication, all her attention went to Albert, become King with the name of George VI, and her nieces, Elizabeth and Margaret.
In 1952 George VI died as well: it was the third son that Mary was seeing dying after the little John as well as George, died in 1942 in an airplane crash. Let alone Edward, perhaps way more dead than the others for Mary. To the throne, the little Elizabeth succeeded.
George VI with his wife, Queen Consort Elizabeth
Mary died in 1953, shortly before the coronation of her niece. In her last will she wrote that the ceremony should have not been postponed: the Queen was committed to her duty until her last breath. Edward, now Duke of Windsor, attended the funeral, one of the rare occasions in which he came back in England.
Mary was buried in Windsor, in the Chapel of St George along with her husband.
Curiosity on Queen Mary: she was a great collector and lover of jewels. Most of the jewels coming from the Russian crown of Maria and Alexandra Fedorovna, respectively mother and wife of Nicholas II of Russia, were bought by Mary. Furthermore she was passionate about miniatures which she would showcase in dollhouses: they are still quite famous the “Queen Mary’s Doll Houses”.
She also had a peculiar vice: when she was visiting someone and noticed something she liked, she would write thank you-letters to the owners of the house, making sure to mention how much she had admired such a particular object. The owners at that point were quickly sending the object to her as a gift.
She also asked to all the Museums to return the objects that throughout the years the Royal Collection had lent them. And who could say no to the Queen?