Thursday, January 7, 2010

Victoria, Empress Frederick

Well it is a few days past "tomorrow" but I would like to continue with highlighting queen Victoria's children, beginning with her eldest daughter Victoria, called "Vicky" within the extended royal family. But first a little set-up if I may.

When I say the "extended" royal family, I refer to the royal houses in Europe at the time, all pretty much related, and thus all "family".

There were many countries in Europe in the 19th century that still had monarchs, or constitutional monarchs, but (Since this series of posts is about Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom) I will be referencing mainly the royal households of the UK, Austria, Germany, Denmark, and Russia. These were the big players in the 19th century, and up until World War I.

Born in late 1840 at Buckingham, Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa was soon created Princess Royal by her mother, since there were real prospects the little girl might become queen. As it turned out, she would become an Empress, but not of the British Empire.

Unlike her younger brother, who would become king of the United Kingdom, Vicky was intelligent and vivacious. When she was only 14, her mother and father arranged for her to be married to prince Frederick William of Prussia (Fritz) who was then second in line to the Prussian throne (and later the German Empire) behind his father. They were married 2 years later when Vicky was 17 years old.

Their marriage was, of course, a dynastic alliance, but (happily) it was a love match as well. Off to Germany the young girl went with her young husband. Soon thereafter, his father became king (Kaiser William I) and she suddenly found herself Crown Princess of Prussia.

These were war years as Prussia fought to consolidate all the German states into one Germany. Some of the fighting was with Denmark, and this caused strife within the British royal family because of their close ties to Denmark, but life went on. The monarchs of Europe never seemed to let wars stand in the way of family reunions.

Germany became a very militaristic state, run by aristocrats with saber scars above their eyes from fencing at university - quite the rage, even though sometimes self-inflicted. Otto von Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor, was the real power, overseeing the unification of Germany, and the old king went along, keeping his nose clean, sleeping in his metal soldiers' cot, pretending he was in charge, honestly believing his crown came from God, listening to Bismarck whisper visions of grandeur in his ear. He would be another Frederick the Great, would the old soldier. But Bismark called the shots.

When William I died, much of the country envisioned the dawn of a new era. Fritz and Vicky were modern-minded and forward-thinking, a much-needed breath of fresh air. Finally, change would come to Germany.

But by then it was too late. By the time he took the throne, Frederick III had advanced throat cancer and was already breathing through a tube. His reign lasted only 99 days.

When Vicky's son took the throne as Kaiser Wilhelm II, there was no doubt about there being any peace and quiet in Germany. Forget that dream.
William was an odd child. His grandmother, queen Victoria, never seemed to really like him. Vicky tried to exert a proper British influence on him through his early childhood teachings, but his heroes and final influences were the German aristocracy and the military. He would wear a uniform as long as he was in power. When the other royal children would visit - from England, from Russia, they would recall Cousin Willy as always bossing them around, deciding what they would play, making them sit while he read the Bible to them. A psychopath? You be the judge. He was the last king of Germany.

The Dowager Empress lived out her life in relative seclusion, known officially as the Empress Frederick. Vicky had 8 children and lived to 60 years old, dying just 7 months after her mother. She died of inoperable breast cancer. Her servants and maids asked to be moved farther away from Vicky's room so that her screams would not disturb them in the night.

Vicky always kept in close touch with other members of the British royal family, especially her younger brother, the future king Edward VII. There are some 3777 letters cataloged to her from her mother, queen Victoria, and over 4000 letters from Vicky to the British queen.

Queen Victoria's precocious firstborn was buried at Potsdam, next to her beloved husband and her two children who had died in childhood.


  1. I read somewhere that during the great period of fashionable sabre scars, the prussians would wear helmets that protected pretty much everywhere but the upper cheek, and also limited the possible depth of a cut.
    These days of course, there'd be anaesthetics and a swift procedure done by a very highly paid platic-surgeon. No duel required.

  2. I believe Vicky had a very difficult time giving birth to Wilhelm and he was born with a damaged arm. There's even some suggestion that there may have been some brain damage which could have explained why he seemed "odd". On the other hand he may merely have been totally unpleasant.

  3. Soubriquet - I had read that too. I also read that the more soldierly or "manly" these aristocratic military officers pretended, the more likely they were to be homosexual. In the UK, this became known by the Soubriquet of "The Prussian Disease." Not that it mattered, of course, since "The Prussian Disease" was widespread among all the royal families, and still is, probably. Shifting gears to REAL "H" diseases, I will be wanting to talk about hemophilia before this is over. Thank you for your comment, sir.

  4. Dear Travelling Spouse: Let's not be making excuses for this charming man. True, his left arm was WRENCHED by the physician at birth, but was not PULLED OFF like a BUG'S LEG.

    He did try to compensate of course. He fell off big horses in front of his hero Yunkers and, true to Prussian tradition, had to immediately mount the same horse that had threw him. Again and again as his mother watched in tears.

    He had tailored uniforms to cover it. None of the treatments worked. So he built up his right arm so he could make other men drop to their knees when he shook hands with them. And turned his rings inward for extra pain.

    And he was the crown prince so what could you do about it. Spoiled brat. Kick his goose-stepping ass, that's what.

  5. Indeed the arm was a major part of Kaiser Bills problems. It turned him against his mother and her 'English liberal' approach, and left him dallying with soldiers who used him.

    Underneath it all he was an insecure man, and therefore a bully. His weakness and stubbornness led to the Greta War more than anything else.

    Good item this one!

  6. Thank you Adullamite. I am having great fun gathering information on these most interesting people.

  7. You know, I know about the British side of Victoria and the aspects surrounding her descendants and Russia's revolution, but I never paid much attention to the other children, even though they were clearly in high up places.

    I guess I didn't really think about the significance since so many of the royal families involved dissolved during the two world wars. I'm desperately uneducated on Germany and Prussia and, actually, have no clear picture of either/both.

    Poor Vicky. I'm sure many a poor person died equally ignored and left to their own pain, but it's not a fate I would wish on anyone.

  8. Even then, breech births were often deadly for child and/or mother. He was lucky to live through it.

    Or unlucky as the case may be.



Related Posts with Thumbnails