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A very special post, on a very special day. Happy Birthday Princess Vicky!

Born Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa, Princess Royal of the United Kingdom, Princess then Queen of Prussia, German Empress, Kaiserin, on November 21, 1840, Vicky was the first child of the Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Her mother was less than amused by her arrival in the world. Moreover that she was not a boy, but quickly stated Vicky would do.

Her father, Prince Albert was absolutely besotted with his daughter. In turn, Vicky adored and idolized her father. Of all the Queen’s children, Vicky was truly brilliant and a quick study. It made life difficult for her eight siblings who could never match her sharp mind. However, she was strong willed but shy; a homebody. She also, unfortunately, looked like her mother. Although palace sources would say she was a little more attractive than the Queen (but never in the Queen’s presence, obviously.).

When Vicky, not yet a year and a half, Baron Christian Friederich von Stockmar, the royal couple’s physician and advisor, issued a memorandum of 46 pages on the enormity of the task facing the royal parents in raising the next monarchs to the thrones of Europe. Stockmar wasted no time stating training starts on the day of birth. The French tutor was hired when Vicky was 18 months and her German language teacher came in when she was three and a half years old.–And you thought getting your kid into a posh preschool was tough!

By the time the English princess turned six years old, education got serious. “Vicky’s day started at 8:20 in the morning with ‘arithmetic, dictation, poetry or questions in history’ and ended at 6 pm with ‘Geography, history or work chronology as far as Edward 6th.” This last class was replaced twice a week by dancing lessons. There was scripture study three times a week and usually with her mother, and reading, writing, German, and French every day.” The Princess Royal was also given music, drawing, and painting lessons. Like her mother, she was quite decent in the later two disciplines. Both of her parents encouraged her natural interest in history, as it would serve well as a future consort.

During this time, her parents and their advisor started plotting suitable royal marriage options. Vicky, of course, had no idea about these schemes. It was not until she was 14 years old when was she introduced the Royal world stage at a grand ball in Versailles, France. Unlike Queen Victoria, Vicky paid heed to some of the fashion advice given to her for such a presentation; wearing a white French gown trimmed in pale peach roses. Queen Victoria fretted because she never thought her daughter pretty enough to attract a handsome prince. Ouch! Although already prettier than the Queen, she was also a bit taller; standing 5’2″ where as the petite Queen of England was merely 4’11.” Vicky also struggled with her weight all her life and “ached to be thin and interesting.”

Yet she did find a handsome prince in the figure of Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Nikolaus Karl Hohenzollern of Prussia, at the tender age of 15. Both parties fell in love and both parents were mostly pleased with the match. She became engaged to Fritz later that year, but Queen Victoria worried about giving her away so young and forbade the wedding to take place until after she was confirmed in the church at 16. While waiting for the confirmation and wedding Baron von Stockmar and Prince Albert delved into an intensive course in political science, particularly the history of Prussia and the Hohenzollerns to prepare her as best they could for her role as possible Queen of Prussia. Albert gave her letters from his various correspondents around Europe to read; he discussed the international situation. “She now comes to me every evening from six to seven, when I put her through a kind of general catechizing; and, in order to give precision to her ideas, I make her work out certain subjects by herself and bring me the results to be revised.”

As Albert and Stockmar were diligently hammering into Vicky’s education concerning the political landscape; Queen Victoria was busy building a trousseau fit only for the Princess Royal of the United Kingdom. It took the Queen a solid 18 months to assemble the enormous array of personal and household items her eldest daughter would take to Prussia with her:

  • 12 evening gowns
  • 6 ball dresses
  • 3 court dress
  • 15 miscellaneous gowns
  • Enough velvet, silk and summer lawn for at least 40 more elaborate ensembles
  • 12 dozen shifts
  • 12 dozen pairs of drawers/underwear
  • 12 dozen handkerchiefs (embroidered and plain)
  • 12 dozen night dresses
  • 8 dozen petticoats
  • 4 dozen dressing gowns
  • quantities of mourning dresses, shoes, stocking, shawls, bonnets, caps, mantillas, mackintoshes, etc
  • 100  packing cases of from furniture, carpets, wallpapers, paintings, linens, and saddles, delicacies from Fortnum and Mason and a carton of Illustrated London News.

“Separated from each other, the newly engaged couple corresponded in the way of lovers, others weren’t amused. Fritz’s aide-de-camp, Count Moltke, reported that the Prince received a 40 page letter from the Princess Royal written just one day after he left, “How the new must have accumulated!!” Moltke remarked.”

The Princess Royal of England and the Crown Prince of Prussia wed the following year when Vicky was just 17. Her wedding dress was of “white silk moire over a petticoat flounced in lace and wreathed in sprays of orange blossom and myrtle. Her long train was trimmed in white satin ribbons and lace. Her lace veil was held in place by a matching wreath, and she wore a diamond necklace, earrings, and brooch.” Her mother wore “lilac silk moire with a velvet train, royal diadem of diamonds and pearls.” All eight of her bridesmaid donned white lace dresses over pink satin. Even her brothers were decked out in the formal Highland attire. The Groom looked splendid in his dark blue tunic and white trousers of the Prussian Guards.

The wedding was one for the ages, including

  • 18 carriages
  • 300+ soldiers
  • 220 horses
  • Many musicians
  • Fireworks
  • Cannons
  • Guard honors

The wedding cake, alone, was six feet tall with three tiers, separated by rows of pearls and festooned with garlands of orange blossom, jasmine and silver leaves! “The top tier formed a dome, rested on columns contained an alter with two cupids holding medallions of Vicky and Fritz, busts of Victoria, Albert, Wilhelm and Augusta (The groom’s parents). The second tier had niches with allegorical statues, Wisdom, Innocence, etc. The final tier was decorated with the arms of Great Britain and Prussia.

The newlyweds only went on a two day honeymoon at one of the Queen’s residences before heading to the yacht for Prussia and into the most abominable treatment of a Royal government and court for the rest of her life. Vicky’s life as an English princess was idyllic and carefree. Her life in the court of Prussia was a living nightmare.

I have never in my life read just an infuriating nor frustrating biography. Otto von Bismarck made it his life goal to undermine and thwart anything and everything Vicky loved; by using her Englishness against her. LIFE LONG torment. This is a whole other class of mental abuse. Turning her son against her, the Prussian people against her, encouraging Fritz’s family/in-laws to hate her, blaming her for all the political foreign issues that went horribly wrong. Blocking, stifling, and smothering her at every turn. Just to make clear, Otto von Bismarck paved the way for Adolf Hitler, by prepping the national psyche via fear, oppression, patriotism,  and win at all costs attitude. I am in shock Vicky survived in the court as long as she did.

My disdain for Bismarck aside, Vicky produced eight children through her marriage with Fritz. Her progeny were unfortunately a sorry lot. She was the mother of the bi-polar, insecure, egomaniac that was Wilhelm II, who more or less detested his mother and father, but idolized his grandfather and Bismarck. Her eldest daughter went mad. She lost her two youngest sons to diseases. –She was only Empress for three months. THREE MONTHS!! Despite the insurmountable obstacles placed before her, she still managed to build some hospitals, nurse soldiers during the war years, and give to charity. She remained her mother’s confidant and devoted daughter until the end of their lives. Both Queen Victoria and Empress Frederick died the same year in 1901 about eight months apart; but Vicky died in excoriating pains due to breast cancer.

It is so sad to see such good potential overwhelmed by the greed and hatred of the Prussian court. I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it was to read the 602 pages of her biography. I was fuming! I growled and lamented, and even threw the book across the room at one point. Seriously, Bismarck!  I have a few choice words for him.–Victoria, the Princess Life is a cautionary tale and I would never wish her life in Prussia on anyone.

So here is to the forgotten, the misunderstood, and those who refuse to break in the face of blatant hatred with their little ray of hope and determination.

Happy Birthday Empress Fredrick, may you always be remembered! Cheers! *clinks glass with others*