Report of General Monthly Meeting - Tuesday 11th February 2020
Queen Victoria: Grandmother of Europe by Sarah Marsden
Queen Victoria with her total of nine children and forty-two grandchildren well deserves the above title that she is often given. Remarkably, the last surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria – Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone - died aged 97 as recently as 1981. I do hope that someone interviewed her before she died as she would have been able to tell a remarkable story.
But all of the story of Queen Victoria and her family is quite remarkable. She was so clever in marrying off her children to princes and princesses in Europe (she would definitely have been a ‘Remainer’) that by the time of the following generation, most of the crowned heads of Europe (or their spouses) were first cousins.
The marriages of her children included:
Princess Victoria married Prince Frederick William of Prussia (later Emperor Frederick III)
Princess Alice married Prince Louis of Hesse (Germany)
Prince Edward (‘Bertie’) married Princess Alexandra of Denmark (even though Denmark were at loggerheads with Germany at the time, and many of the Queen’s relatives were German)
Prince Alfred married Grand Duchess Marie of Russia
Princess Helena married the German Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein
Prince Arthur married Princess Louise Margaret of Russia and
Princess Beatrice married Prince Henry of Battenberg (in spite of her mother’s opposition)
So the European stage was set to play out with considerable British influence. Family gatherings were not easy with children and their spouses holding widely different political views; it is said that Queen Victoria banned discussion of any topics likely to be contentious.
Relationships between the 42 first cousin grandchildren must have been intriguing and they have been the subject of many books, films and documentaries. Sarah gave us a fact-filled talk which whetted our appetites and made us curious to know more.